It seems like an easy question until you try to write it. There is always the cover, the blurb and, of course the competition of a favoured best seller author’s new book compared to yours to overcome. However, it can also be those first few lines glanced at as a reader browses the shelves of their local book store or library. These are the most worked on, pondered and despaired lines by authors. They must capture a reader’s attention so completely that they are compelled to continue reading. Sounds easy doesn’t it? It is far from easy it though.
There are some key elements that draw a reader in:
Make them wonder.
Begin with a pivotal moment.
Create an interesting scene.
Intrigue them with a character.
Begin with an unusual instance.
Use a compelling narrative voice.
Begin with a conflict.
Use a life changing moment.
Here are a couple of my first lines:
Celeste watched her daughter, Maralynn; grow over the years while seeing her power increase. She could see her own mother, the previous Eldenma’s movements and expressions reflected in her daughter. Since her own mother, Juliana and her lover, Guillem’s transition to the other realm, Celeste and her lover, Michael, were her daughter’s only protectors in the earthly realm. They knew in time their ability to protect her would end as Maralynn learned how to control and manipulate her powers.
“Come back, here, Bubble – you’ll get stuck up there.”
Lenni called to her pet in vain. Bubble climbed up the bark of the tree in her usual wobble side-to-side manner, getting higher and higher. As she watched her pet, Lenni could see the two moons begin to converge in the magenta evening sky. Once they were one moon, she would need to be safely at home behind the dome wall. Lenni realized there was only one thing she could do, climb up the frackist tree and carry Bubble down.
These are the first lines from a book I re-read quite often. It was the first book I found that centred around reincarnation, a fascination of mine.
Ferney by James Long.
As he looked for the bones of his long-dead wife, old Ferney came close to death. Caught in the traffic jam that resulted, Gally Martin’s life changed.
As published authors, we soon realize that writing the book is only half the story – literally! Now we have to promote it in order to sell it. When I published my first children’s picture book, Rumble’s First Scare this became clear quite quickly, when I was asked where my author platform was. As a new author, I had not heard of or experienced an author platform, never mind created one.
It was a steep learning curve for sure and I began this blog, with a lot of trepidation as I did not have a clue what I was doing. It has, over the past ten years, morphed into a site for support, sharing and encouragement for the writing community and I am proud to be a writing community advocate. However, I am refocusing in 2020 to get back to posting about my writing life as well. So back to the point in hand.
An author platform can range from a just a website or blog highlighting your books to being present on a multitude of social media sites and promoting your novels but also your writing life.
So what are the first steps to creating a platform?
1. Put up a website and/or blog and purchase a domain name for it.
2. Write articles and publish them online, utilizing your ‘expertise’ on whatever topic you know. It can be parenting, traveling, baking etc.
3. For fiction writers find literary magazines where you can publish short stories then share the links.
4. If you have a book ready for publication, there are numerous ways to gather interest. Post excerpts, the new cover, a character interview, events you are attending etc.
6. Start webinars and/or interviews online. And organize a blog book tour.
7. BLOG!! Make your posts interesting and make sure you edit! It also allows you to acquire an email list.
8. You do not need to be on every social media site – apart from anything else it is a lot of work! Decide which ones you are comfortable maintaining and how your theme/topic/message can be related on them.
9. Create a newsletter to send to your email list – giving glimpses into the narrative, special offers etc.
What author platform tips can you share?
What has your experience been creating your platform?
I do most of my writing in the morning, but after a shower. I get up just after 5 am and get an early start at the day. It energizes me, and gets my brain and body going. I find that by doing this, I can go to my day job and be extremely productive. If I’m on a push, or am doing NaNoWriMo (writing 50K words in a month) I’ll write right after work as well, before dinner. I am not a late-night writer.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
I don’t get writers block. I have very specific projects, and for the most part they are outlined, at least as bullet points, with the tighter plot in my head. I made writing part of my daily routine last summer, and when you do that, you get trained to need that time. But if I have to choose something, I’ll say golfing. In the summer I love to go golfing once or twice a week, and that can end up taking out some desk time.
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
My novels are all currently under my real name, but I do have a series coming out late this year that will be using a pen name. It’s a collaborative project, and it works out better that way.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
I’ve been lucky enough to make a really close-knit group of author friends that I talk to on a daily basis. Without them I wouldn’t be the same writer today. I also interact with a wide net of amazing indie science fiction authors. Being able to bounce ideas off them, whether its marketing or cover ideas is priceless. They are all virtual friends, but I’m heading to a 20bookstoVegas event this November where I’m going to meet a bunch of them.
Do you want each book to stand alone, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
I’ve written two stand alone’s so far. Sleepy Grove is a supernatural thriller about a woman who works at a cemetery and see spirits. It was a great experience but I don’t think it will see the light of day. Red Creek is out May 18th, and is a hometown horror. It may be my best novel to date (according to me) and I had such a great time writing it.
That leads to what I’ve done with my Sci-Fi series, The Survivors. It starts with The Event, and so far it’s a three book series with the first two out, and book three out May 29th.
They say splitting genres isn’t ideal, but I have so many stories to tell, that I will break conventions to get them out there if necessary.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
Covers and editing. A book needs professional editing, and when I was publishing my first Explorations anthology, I found the artist many of the top selling SF authors were using and had him custom make the cover. I’ve used him for nearly all of my Woodbridge books, and all 4 of my own novels. Tom Edwards is amazing!
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
I was a reader from a young age. My mom claims to have taught me to read when I was 3, and I loved to read. I remember winning the book award in grade one, which was basically a construction paper bird travelling around the room on a scale of books read. I still have little stories from grade 3-4 I wrote.
What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
I read a lot of books, mostly fantasy and science fiction. I also have read a ton of indie stuff, so I could name far too many that are under-appreciated.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
I’d be a duck. Calm on the surface, but flailing around under the water.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
I have Sleepy Grove sitting there, and me and my writing partner are working on a 3 book series to release this fall. Book one is done, and I’m currently writing book 2.
What does literary success look like to you?
I’ve never wanted to write that masterpiece high school students read in a hundred years. I want to write books people can enjoy, and move on to the next one. My first book only came out two months ago, and I still have a best-seller tag on Amazon, so I’ve already surpassed any life-time goals on that front.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
Depends on the project. I use google maps a lot, and to be honest, I try to write what I know. You’ll see a lot of New York in my writing, and that’s because I’ve been there on vacation four times, and love the place. I find that life experience is the best research for writing you can find.
How many hours a day/week do you write?
I write almost every day of the week, and would say I spend at least 20 hours on book stuff a week. (Plus the time thinking about it…)
How do you select the names of your characters?
Some of the names are nuggets for people I know, and some are random. I try to fit a name with the vibe of the character or location. Not a lot of science to it for me.
What was your hardest scene to write?
I’ve written some heavy scenes. The Event has a particularly emotional one. The main character’s wife died a few years before the book, and I have a few flashbacks of them together at the start of the book, which are relevant to the plot of the series. Here’s an excerpt:
Janine was in bed sleeping soundly when I stepped into the room. The hot soup cup was burning my hands, and I just stood there with the pain. I felt like I needed the distraction, like the burning would make my other pain go away somehow. Even though we were in our own house, the smell of the hospital still stuck in my nostrils, and I wasn’t sure if the chemical scent would ever be gone.
It was time, and Janine demanded to come home for the end. How could I deny that beautiful woman’s wishes when she was so small and frail, her life slipping away in hours and minutes instead of decades and years like someone her age should have left?
I put the soup down, sat at the foot of the bed, and just watched her breathe. The sounds lulled me, and I felt my own eyes getting droopy. I lay down and curled up beside my wife like I always did when we went to bed. Even if it was too warm, I needed to feel her body next to mine to fall asleep. I’d become dependent on her in so many ways, and I had no idea what I was going to do when she was gone. As I closed my eyes, I thought about dying and wondered if we would be together in some sort of afterlife if I ended my own life when she was gone. My last thoughts were of a bottle of whiskey and a vial of pills before sleep took over my exhausted body.
I woke to her touch. A soft kiss on my lips; her hair cascading down on my face. I cried and felt shame in my pain. She was the one dying and I was the one crying about it like a baby constantly. The worst part was, it seemed like she was okay with having a husband who couldn’t stop blubbering.
“Janny, I love you so much. I’m so sorry this happened,” I blurted between sobs.
She looked me in the eyes, and for the first time in weeks, I saw her own eyes well up. A single tear fell slowly and splashed on my cheek. It mingled with my own, and somehow, I felt better for it.
Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? If you write more than one, how do you balance them?
I love science fiction, and always have. It was natural for me to write there. I also have a long-time love of horror, and needed to write in that genre too. My main focus will be in Sci-fi now that I’ve found success there, but hope to still do some passion projects.
How long have you been writing?
I used to dabble, but really only for the last 4 years. I started to write, and the floodgates opened up inside me. There was no turning back.
What inspires you?
A lot of things. The outdoors, trees, green grass, the smell of autumn, the energy of a big city…so many things inspire my thought process, and I take them all and use it in my writing.
How do you find or make time to write?
Routine. I get up early to do it. No excuses.
What projects are you working on at the present?
I’m working on my final final final proof read of Red Creek, and about to send New World (Survivors book 3) to my formatter.
What do your plans for future projects include?
I’m going to be releasing a 3 book pen name series this fall, as well as book 4 of The Survivors. From there, I have many plans for 2019!
Share a link to your author website.
You can follow along at www.nathanhystad.com I haven’t been around it to blog much lately, but you can follow my newsletter from there, and see what I’m up to. I also run www.scifiexplorations.com with some friends where we promote the best indie authors and their deals and new releases. Follow along there for some amazing promotions.
Nathan Hystad is an author from outside of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. He lives there with his wife, dog and piles of books. He runs Woodbridge Press, and is the series editor and creator of the Explorations series of anthologies.
Historical Fiction are novelswith an historical setting in which fictional characters and events take place. Although some narratives do center around real historical figures this might be why definitions vary. The Historical Novel Society defines the genre as works written at least fifty years after the events described, while critic Sarah Johnson has defined the genre as being set before the middle of the last century (20th century). Her definition is based on the author having written from research rather than personal experience. Another view by Lynda Adamson states that some people read novels written in the past i.e. Jane Austen as if they were historical novels.
What is your definition of an historical novel?
No matter which definition you agree with, historical fiction is a literary fiction where the plot takes place in a setting in the past. These major historic events mostly take an ‘off stage’ part, while the characters inhabit the world in which they take place. Used as an umbrella term it can also be applied to works in other narrative formats, such as performing or visual arts like theater, cinema, television, opera and in more recent times video games and graphic novels.
The essential part of an historical novel is that it pays attention to the manners and social conditions that the era depicted ensuring the readers can understand why the characters respond in the manner they within their environments. Unfortunately, not all novels are accurate in their details and this causes tension about the historical authenticity between readers and critics and even scholars.
Some sub-genres insert speculative or ahistorical elements into a novel such as alternative history of historical fantasy.
Other sub-genres include:
These novels incorporate not only historical characters and events but reports of everyday events found in 20th century newspapers.
A fictional biography of a historical figure.
Also known as historical whodunits, this sub-genre’s plot involves solving a mystery or crime with a setting in the distant past.
Historical romance and family sagas
Novels with a background detail set in a particular period, but that does not play a key role in the narrative. They can also contain more modern-day sensibilities, and more conventional characters in the novels would point out the heroine’s eccentricities, such as wanting to marry for love – not a true reflection of how the society worked at that time in most cases.
Alternative history and historical fantasy
Where the established history is changed with dramatic results or modern day characters return to the past and change it. And also narratives are loosely based on historical events but fantasy elements are added including sorcery and supernatural creatures.
Children’s historical fiction
This has become a prominent sub-genre resulting in narratives exploring other time periods via time travel or time portals transporting modern day characters. It allows children to learn and understand about different eras.
My medieval fantasy novella, The Rython Kingdom has elements of history through its characters but it is not historically correct in regards to the monarchy at that time.
Have you written historical fiction?
Was it strictly historically accurate or was it in one of the sub-genres?
There is no author interview this Friday, however I have a fantastic list already of writers & authors who have signed up! This is a wonderful way to get to know a plethora of authors.
Lisa de Nikolits
Jeannie JB Richards
Lorna Schultz Nicholson
Linda J Pedley
Phyllis H Moore
Obviously I am more than happy with the response but please feel free to contact me via the contact form if you would like to be included during 2018 or know an author/writer who would like to participate! There are a lot of Friday’s to fill.