Mandy Eve-Barnett's Blog for Readers & Writers

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Author Interview – J.E. McKnight – New Book Launch – Virtual Age

May 16, 2020
mandyevebarnett


Joe photo

1. Please tell us about your new YA novel – Virtual Age

A- Virtual Age takes place in a distant future. Our world is no longer able to support life so, in preparation for this, indoor cities were built where air and water is purified. The technology of virtual reality was adapted so people can work, play, travel, and enjoy a version of the outside world within the system. When you live your lives within a computer, you become susceptible to hacking – which could drain you of all your money as all money is accessed through computers – and your whole world could be altered and flipped upside down.

My main character is a thirteen year-old boy by the name of Aiden Murphy. He enjoyed the simple life of a teen – going to birthday parties, occasionally standing up to the school bully, and going with his family on vacations or trips to the beach. It was on one of these outings where Aiden finds himself trapped in the system, lost and all alone; unable to get home. He doesn’t know who to trust. He doesn’t know where to go. He doesn’t know what he is going to encounter within someone else’s program. He will be tested every step of the way.

Virtual Age

2. How did you come up with the idea?

A- I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of virtual reality and wanted to come up with a story centres around that concept. Actually, I remember when I came up with the idea and some points within the plot while at work. I was working for a commercial insulating company a few years ago. One day I was sent to a job and there was no material there for me to do any work so I spent 3 hours waiting around for the material and while I did, I came up with the concept and title of my book.

  1. Did you decide on writing a YA from the start?

A- I have had ideas for YA novels that I still want to write, however, this wasn’t one of them. I started it off as any of my other novels but then realized as I was writing that it was better suited as a YA.

  1. Of the characters you have created or envisioned, which is your favorite & why?

A- There are so many but one that stands out is Dimlyn – an inhabitant of the planet Seledania – she is strong, determined, stubbourn, kind, and generous. Her loyalty to her society is put to the test when she encounters a visitor from beyond the stars –a human – who is feared and hated by the whole of the society besides Dimlyn. She is willing to overlook his outer appearance despite the backlash she receives from the rest of the society. She was probably the most fun to write because she isn’t human.    

Arrival

  1. When did you write the manuscript?

A- I wrote the manuscript in November of 2018. I participate in NaNoWriMo every year. November is National Novel Writing Month and authors who sign up are challenged with writing 50,000 words of a novel in 30 days. 

  1. How many books have you written?

A- I have published 8 books so far. Book #9 is in editing and book #10 is ready to be edited.

  1. Which genre interests you the most?

A- I mostly write in the sci-fi/supernatural genres.

  1. Have you written more than one genre?

A- Aside from sci-fi/supernatural I have also written a psychological thriller, a superhero story and a collection of Christmas stories.

STOCKING

  1. Do your books have a specific message for your readers?

A- I don’t often think in terms of messages within the story but when I thought about my stories I began to realize most of them did carry a similar message- that being of tolerance. We need to treat each other with the love and compassion we want for ourselves. And don’t be too quick to judge.

  1. How many other writing projects do you have in progress?

A- Like I said I have two books in various stages of the editing process as well I have a prequel for my first novel – Time’s Hostage – I’m working on.

hostage

  1. Where can readers connect with you?

A- They can connect with me on my Facebook page: J E McKnight – author

Twitter: @jemcknight1975

And they can check out all my books on my website: jemcknight.com

E-books available on all sites.

ebook-sites

Bio:

Joe McKnight was born in Fort Saskatchewan and raised in the small Alberta farming community of Partridge Hill. He started his schooling in Ardrossan, where he developed a love of story-telling. His love of writing continued to grow throughout his school years. In 2004, while upgrading his English 30, Joe’s passion increased. It was during that same year he stumbled upon a writer’s circle (offered by the Writers Foundation of Strathcona County) that provided the support and encouragement he needed. He continues to grow in his writing and looks forward to many future literary ventures.

Joe has published several books: Time’s Hostage, Fly on the Wall, The Arrival, Powerless, The Other Secret, Stocking Stuffers, Unnatural Selection, and Virtual Age. He is currently working on a new manuscript.

Joe is also an accomplished artist and his artwork also appears on the cover of From a Solitary Drop – he was commissioned to design the illustration featured on the cover. 

Solitary Drop

VIRTUAL

New Book

Bibliophile’s Collective Tuesday – What is Your Favorite Book(s)?

April 7, 2020
mandyevebarnett


With ‘time’ on our hands many of us have been reading – which is great. However, have you returned to a favourite book (or even books?)

I have several that I have returned to over the years but one seems to be above the others. It is Ferney by James Long. When I think of the story the characters come back like old friends, which is why many of us love a book. If a character spills into your normal life then the author has done their job.

In such narratives we want the characters and their lives to continue, we imagine what happens next and where they are now. It is the same with these characters as it is with long lost friends.

FERNEY

If you are interested in reincarnation (as I am) then this novel is for you but it is also a lovely love story too.

Summary:

When Mike and Gally move to a new cottage in Somerset, it’s to make a new start. But the relationship comes under strain when Gally forms an increasingly close attachment to an old countryman, Ferney, who seems to know everything about her.

What is it that draws them together? Reluctantly at first, then with more urgency as he feels time slipping away, Ferney compels Gally to understand their connection – and to face an inexplicable truth about their shared past.

***

In fact James did write a sequel some 13  years later and although the characters are following on it did not grip me like the first one. However, please don’t be put off by my thoughts. It is still a great story.

It is interesting that the first book was published in 1998 and James didn’t write the sequel until 2011…! That’s some wait for a sequel.

The Lives She Left Behind

The other book which I reread some 35 years later (yes I know showing my age) was The Stand. I picked it up at the airport prior to flying to Canada for the first time (a long time ago) because it was a nice thick book. We’ve all been there prior to a long haul flight – right? Anyway, once I started reading I was completely hooked. This was my introduction to Stephen King and his storytelling. When I read the special complete & uncut edition all those years later, it was still gripping and sucked me into the narrative.

stand

Just a quick sidebar – I had watched the movie Carrie years before but had no idea it was by Stephen at that time.

Why not share your favourite with everyone?

Wordsmith’s Collective Thursday – Writing Inspiration Boards

February 13, 2020
mandyevebarnett


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When in the midst of creating a new narrative, inspiration boards, whether physical or digital, can help immerse us in a particular time period, allow us to ‘see’ our characters, and are a great aid to making the story come alive. This board will evolve over time as ideas, images, quotes, magazine and newspaper clippings, photos, found objects, handwritten quotes, font samples, buttons and badges etc. influence our writing.

There are options for an inspiration board:

  1. A full wall
  2. A large poster
  3. A notebook
  4. A digital folder of images
  5. A Pinterest board
  6. A collage

Find an option that works best for you and that can be arranged and rearranged easily. As you delve into the narrative new characters may form or there is a twist in the plot that takes the story somewhere unexpected – change the board accordingly.  Physically moving papers, photos, objects, and ephemera triggers different parts of our brains than moving digital information…and that can help us create new connections and come up with even more fresh ideas.

There are options for the type of board you create but all of them should allow change as the story develops.

  1. Book Cover Board – what images appeal?
  2. Character Board – what do they look like?
  3. World Board – where are they?
  4. History Board – what events have taken place?
  5. Problem Board – what is the protagonist’s problem?
  6. Quote Board – which evoke the story?

As I am writing a steampunk novel currently, my boards are filled with physical and digital images. There is a plethora of images available so that has made it easy to some extent but also difficult as too much input can detract from my focus. Here are some examples.

Physical:

Digital

 

What does your current inspiration board look like?

Wordsmith’s Collective Thursday – Author Platform

January 9, 2020
mandyevebarnett


new banner author group

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.

I am sharing a really good definition of an author platform, written by Jane Friedman. It certainly gives us a guide as to what to include and not. https://www.janefriedman.com/author-platform-definition/

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?

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The Hub of Your Narrative – Characters

November 19, 2019
mandyevebarnett


Without characters our stories would have no real impact on our readers. We write to engage and intrigue them and hopefully make our protagonist the character our reader cares about. If your experience is anything like mine, there is usually one, or possibly two characters, that make their presence known in no uncertain terms. They want the starring role in our narrative. These characters are usually more defined in our minds and are ‘easier’ to relate to, whether because of a personality trait or that they are more fun to write. When creating the protagonist and antagonist in our stories, we give each opposing views and/or values. This is the basis of the conflict that carries our readers along their journey. Each character, whether major or minor, needs to have flaws and redeeming features, motivations, expectations, loyalties and deterrents.

character-development

This leaves us with the problem of developing our supporting characters with as much attention to detail as the main antagonist and protagonist. When creating characters we must remember to ensure that each character acts and responds true to their given personality. Character profiles are a good way of ‘getting to know’ our characters, this can be achieve mainly by utilizing character’s names, personality traits, appearance and their motivations. A name is a vital part of creating a mental image of our character for readers. The right name can give them a quick visualization of our character’s age, ethnicity, gender, and even location, and if we are writing a period piece, even the era. For example if I say the girl was called Britney, you would probably picture a young girl because of the association with Britney Spears. However, if a female character were called Edith or Edna, you would imagine someone born several decades ago. So you see a name is not just a name.

A burly man would be called something like Butch but not Shirley, unless of course you are going to tell the story of his struggle throughout childhood to overcome the name.  There are plenty of web sites available, which list the most common names for each decade and locations around the world.  These are great resources for writers, who require particular names for period stories or want to stay true to a certain decade.

Character Cube

The use of a nickname will also give your character an identity, be it an unkind one given by a bully or one of respect or fear for the bully. You would expect Big Al to be just that, a large person, however, Little Mikey would be the exact opposite. Nicknames, or sobriquet’s can work very well in defining an ethnicity as well but care must be taken not to offend a person of color. Obviously there are certain words that were in common usage decades ago that are not politically correct now, so we need to be diligent in their use.

We should also consider giving our characters a conscience. Will the hero question his actions if they are extreme to his morals? Does the villain have a deep-seated angst? What motivates them? Some flawed characters can be difficult to write on occasion as they are far removed from our own personality (well I certainly hope so!) but with care we can accomplish a believable character.

How do you set about building a character?

Do you write out a full description of your characters?

Have you based a character on someone you know, a famous personality or mixed up several people’s traits to make a new one?

 

 

 

 

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