This past weekend was special for me as I attended an online interview hosted by Bloody Scotland between Stephen King and Linwood Barclay. As you all know by now, I am a huge King fan – his ability to immerse his readers into a story immediately is such a skill. You become invested in his characters and their plight.
This interview is one of many I have watched with Mr. King, and in all of them it is his sense of humour that makes them such a delight. Obviously, his words of writing wisdom are also gratefully received too. In this interview, Stephen did mention a slight revision to his latest work, Billy Summers, as the book was originally set in 2020 and we all know what happened then! So he backtracked a year to avoid difficulties in the protagonist’s journey.
I read half the novel over the weekend! It is really good and not the ‘horror’ that many believe is all Stephen can write. It is a character study of an assassin and his last ‘job’ and the unexpected events he finds himself coping with.
In other news my publicist, Creative Edge Publicity, has been spreading the word about me and my novels. I have been highlighted in these places, if you care to take a look.
We have looked at how book covers change from country to country, but how many titles have changed? Do you know?
I have altered a couple of my own titles as the story evolved and a better title came to mind. Initially, when I was writing my YA novella, Creature Hunt on Planet Toaria, the main character, a robotic protector was my focus. The working title was Bubble the Grubble as the initial story concept was for a younger audience. As the narrative formed it was obvious that the story would appeal to an older readership. So I changed the title to reflect that.
The other title, I changed was The Commodore’s Gift. Initially, this story was a writing exercise prompt on a writing retreat, using a random title. I was assigned ‘The Toymaker’ and wrote about Marcus, an exceptional toy-maker, and his capture by the Commodore. The completed story was 7900 words. Although, Marcus is still part of the completed novel, his role is significantly reduced.
Did you know the former titles for these famous novels?
First Impressions Became Pride and Prejudice. All’s Well That Ends Well Became War and Peace. The Un-Dead Became Dracula. The High-Bouncing Lover Became The Great Gatsby.Tomorrow Is Another Day Became Gone with the Wind. The Last Man in EuropeBecame 1984. The Return of the ShadowBecame The Fellowship of the Ring. Strangers from Within Became Lord of the Flies. Second Coming Became ’Salem’s Lot.
Can you add to this list?
I attended an in-person event on Friday, the first since the pandemic began with members of my writing group. It was a local fun day for culture and sport. The main focus was to present the winner’s of our annual children’s writing contest with a book, which included their stories. As you can imagine it was a fun watching these young writers see their writing in a published book. We also promoted the monthly children’s writing workshop, so they can continue writing and improving their skills. Currently, the event is held virtually, so it is not limited to who can attend. Details are on the calendar. https://www.wfscsherwoodpark.com/ The workshops are held the second Thursday of every month. 6.30 pm MST
Do you know a young writer that would be interested?
As you well know I write in multiple genres, so how do you choose which one to read? There are several options on where you can research a book and decide if it will engage you.
Local Bookstore Staff Picks
Friends and Family Recommendations
Purchase sites – compare reviews in the genre sections
As a last resort you can try:
Best Sellers, Prize Winners or Best Books Ever Lists – just remember these can merely succeed on an authors name, or through a massive advertising campaign. I know I was extremely disappointed in one ‘famous author’ book, which was badly edited because it was rushed into production.
Here are a few other things to think about. It maybe that there are certain writing styles that appeal to you or you find more enjoyable to read. These can be due to:
Pacing: How quickly does the narrative move? Is it a page-turner or is it a slow burn?
Characterization: Do you become engaged with the characters?
Story line: What is the orientation of the plot – character-driven, action-oriented, complex, fantastical or inspirational?
Frame and Tone: What is the mood of the book – heartwarming, thrilling, quirky, or dark?
Style: What is the author’s writing style – descriptive, expository, persuasive, narrative, technical or poetic.
How do you choose a book to read?
Do you have a ‘favorite’ genre?What draws you to it?
There are a number of ways that stories come to me, one is using writing prompts because they always spark ideas or images in my mind. Some result in a short story or, occasionally a poem, but others have become full blown novels.
I recently responded to the prompt below and the character emerged complete in my mind. I could see him walking along the sidewalk, and the effect he had on the people he passed. He may appear in a future novel – who knows. Some characters stay with me and after a time begin to demand attention. This one is mysterious and I am keen to know his backstory and his future plans.
Heads turned, chatter ceased and whispers began as the tall, dark clothed man strode along the high street. His focused gaze ahead, never glancing at the store fronts, or the recoiling of other pedestrians as he passed by. The summer atmosphere cooled as an ominous air pervaded his very being. The holiday town was used to many visitors but this one was different and dangerous.
Would you like to ‘meet’ this character?
One prompt that resulted in a published book was my novella, The Rython Kingdom, which was actually a series of prompts that combined into the basis of the story. The prompts were – blue beads, a beast and a medieval town. You can read the full story (and its sequel if you want) here:
Another inspiration are dreams. And the reason, I have a small notebook on my bedside table. If I don’t write it down immediately, the dream dissipates never to be remembered again. The opening sequence of The Commodore’s Gift was a snippet of a dream that just needed to be used in a story. At the time, I had no idea that Owena, would become such a integral part of the story and evolve into it’s central character.
Do you have questions about my writing inspiration? Please ask on the comments, I will be happy to answer them all.
My daughter asked me to find certain photographs for her recently. As I went though hundreds of photos (not the digital kind either!) in this large tea chest, that belonged my Mother, it was quite apparent that the numerous family day trips and vacations all had one common thread – nature and wildlife. We went to zoo’s, safari parks, wildlife parks, and even family walks ended up at farms or in fields and forests. This interest has been passed down from parent to child and grandchild. It is a family interest to this day.
My narratives reflect this fascination, even if a location is ‘off world’ there are always references to the natural inhabitants of that world. In Ockleberries to the Rescue, although there are magical woodland sprites caring for forest animals, it is based on Earth. Each chapter allows a child to learn about a specific animal or bird on Earth. These sketch’s by J.E. McKnight illustrate some of the chapter headers.
In Clickety Click there is a hidden world within our own and in Creature Hunt on Planet Toaria there are fantastical plants and animals of my imagination. The initial spark for the story behind Creature Hunt was a chance encounter with this enormous mullein plant on one of my road trips. As can see it was taller than me! You will have to read the book to find out what character it plays.
In The Twesome Loop, an Italian olive grove is a fundamental part of the story. Olive trees can grow for hundreds of years and their gnarly trunks give them character. The story is set between England and Italy, two places I love very much, having lived in one and visited the other.
I used my new found knowledge of my new home, Canada, for the setting of my novel, Life in Slake Patch, which has a prairie location. And The Commodore’s Gift has my protagonists living in a forest cavern, while I take my readers back to medieval England in The Rython Kingdom and Rython Legacy.
As you can see the settings for my stories are as much a character as the protagonists are. It allows my dear readers to imagine the surroundings and the flora and fauna. I personally love discovering the natural world, while letting nature relax and inspire me. There is always something new to learn and see from a bug to a bison, from a flower to a tree.