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.
As writers and authors, we all daydream of the day our novel is made into a movie. The thrill of seeing our story come to life on the big screen (or even a smaller one!) is something we all crave at one point or another. When we are writing our stories, we get images of our characters in our heads, sometimes it is actors we already know or we create an inspiration board from photos found on the internet.
Forgetting for the moment the practicalities of actually getting the actor you want – who are your chosen ones? Who is on your wish list?
I am sharing a couple here and would be interested to know if you ‘saw’ them the same way I do, when you read the books.
1. What inspired you to write books for children to aid with reading and writing?
For about 15 years, I worked as a library programmer, so every week I had two or three programs for preschoolers. My favourite group was the 5-6-year-olds, who were just learning to read. They have such active imaginations and often like to see themselves as players in the story. I loved working with them, finding great children’s books, and then reading the stories aloud to them. After a few years, it felt very natural to start writing for this age group. Also, a writer-friend Alison Lohans had an opportunity to give a workshop in writing for children. I took that, and it put me on the path. Eventually, I got my MFA in Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia with a major in writing for children and young adults.
2. Do you think reading is the gateway to learning and life skills?
Yes, absolutely. It’s also a lot of fun!
3. How does the construction of the content aid understanding in children?
I’ve been lucky to work with several top-notch traditional publishers on the books I’ve written for children and middle-grade readers. I don’t self-publish so I am not usually involved in the construction of the book, but a writer can always help by inspiring the editors with punchy writing and ideas. As a journalist, I had always suggested backgrounders and sidebars, or short related articles, so I was on the watch for that. And I’ve noticed that surrounding a non-fiction narrative with fact-boxes and short in-set articles can really grab the attention of readers. When I was writing Dragonflies are Amazing, for instance, the editor asked me for some “fun facts” to create a fact-box. I put together about 20 facts, and worked on them so they had an engaging style to activate a kids’ imagination. The editor ended up putting the facts in a graphic format that looks like dragonflies flying around the page. You actually have to turn the book around to read them. Very cool! She also put the images in puzzle pieces. The overall effect of that book is as amazing as the dragonflies, and it really works to attract reluctant readers.
4. Where can schools access your books?
Schools order the children’s books directly from the publishers, but I also distribute some of them locally to schools and libraries in my home town and area during readings and workshops. My young adult series Last of the Gifted is available everywhere, from Amazon to local independent bookstores, through publisher Wood Dragon Books.
5. Did your Welsh heritage influence your stories?
My Welsh heritage influences my young adult series, Last of the Gifted. My grandfather was had been born in Wales and I knew he was a Welsh speaker. All of my grandparents had died before I was born. When I was a kid, my friends had grandparents but not me, so I guess I became a little obsessed by them. But my dad died young, and it was hard finding out much about my dad’s parents. Since I was a journalist, I wanted to get into travel writing, so I planned a trip to Wales to do double duty and find out more about my own heritage at the same time. I had rented a cottage on a sheep farm in north Wales, so one day I went to see Dolwyddelan, a castle built by the last true Welsh princes. Inside, there were placards showing the history, and how losing a war in 1282 caused them to lose their language and their way of life. I started thinking about what it would be like to actually live through something like that, and that led to writing about it. It’s been my “heart” project ever since.
6. How did your magical characters evolve from idea to story?
I actually started out by free writing the scenes in Spirit Sight. I had covered an article on a falconer and I was very intrigued by his falcon demonstrations. One day, while I was doing research on North Wales, I started wondering what it would be like to see through the eyes of a bird. I started free writing and the opening scene came together. I’ve revised and refined it since, but that’s still the opening of the book. From there, I started reading about Welsh legends and myths, and my magical world evolved from that.
7. Is imagination important for children?
It’s important for everyone. There are a lot of ways to use and grow our imaginations, but reading is definitely one of the best ways. And writing helps, too!
8. Are there other subjects/topics you want to write about?
Yes, lots. I have a couple of contemporary fantasy novels on the go as well, as well as short stories. My writing is speculative fiction with some connection to ghosts or the past influencing the present. I still write articles for magazines as well, and that inspires me in different ways.
9. Where is your favorite place to write and why?
I write at my kitchen table, actually. I have a perfectly good office and I fully intend to use it, but the kitchen has better light and a lovely window looking out at the park across the street. I always wrote in the kitchen when my kids were young, and that tends to be where I end up.
10. Do you have upcoming projects? Can you talk about them?
I have a lot of projects on the go. I’m working on one more book now in the Last of the Gifted series, and I have started another related series. Last NaNoWriMo, I wrote a novel from the same time but unrelated to the series, more medieval romance, just for fun. I’d like to do something more with that, too. And there are the contemporary novels as well.
11. How can readers find you?
My website is the best place, and I’m on social media too. Here are some links:
Marie Powell Bio:Marie Powell’s castle-hopping adventures across North Wales to explore her family roots resulted in her award-winning historical fantasy series Last of the Gifted. The series includes two books to date, Spirit Sight and Water Sight (participation made possible through Creative Saskatchewan’s Book Publishing Production Grant Program). Marie is the author of more than 40 children’s books with such publishers as Scholastic Education and Amicus, along with award-winning short stories and poetry appearing in such literary magazines as Room, subTerrain, and Sunlight Press. Among other degrees, she holds a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Creative Writing from UBC. Marie lives on Treaty 4 land in Regina, Saskatchewan. Find her at mariepowell.ca
I have two nieces that live in two different states and created my adventure loving main character to stay in contact with them. It started as a poem and I later developed that into my story.
How did you come up with the title?
Because my character loves traveling and adventures the title seemed natural.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
My purpose for this first book is to normalize disability for children. I use simple concepts like dancing on feet or wheels and singing out loud or signing with happy hands to accomplish this. I am a disability advocate and saw this as a way to connect my message with children.
How much of the book is realistic?
Other than disability being a normal part of life, the rest is a complete work of fantasy fiction.
Are your characters based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Close friends call me Jellibean because they can see how much of myself I put into that character. She is positive, upbeat, and always ready to make a friend and learn something new.
Where can readers find you on social media and do you have a blog?
Do you have plans or ideas for your next book? Is it a sequel or a stand alone?
Oh yes! I have completed four Princess Jellibean books that are under publishing contract. The second is currently being illustrated. I have plans to write this series indefinitely and have a list of things I want my character to encounter including traveling around the world and experiencing other cultures.
Of the characters you have created or envisioned, which is your favorite & why?
Princess Jellibean is definitely my favorite. I love her wide-eyed wonder and insatiable curiosity.
Do you favor one type of genre or do you dabble in more than one?
I love writing fiction because it allows me to create something that didn’t exist before. I started with poetry and have written that since I was 10 years old. I do want to try to write some self help in the future since I have several ideas in mind.
Do you plan your stories, or are you a seat of the pants style writer?
I am a mix of both. For some stories I like to plot out what I want to happen and for others I just let the story flow. I just finished writing a bed time story that I had so much fun with because it just poured out.
What is your best marketing tip?
Find ways to connect with your readers and know your audience. My audience is children, so I think of things that they would connect with and have colorful, plastic cat ear headbands to hand out when they purchase a book. I also make necklaces that feature images of my main character they can purchase separately.
Do you find social media a great tool or a hindrance?
Social medical is a brilliant tool when leveraged correctly and often. You can build a fan base this way when you put in the effort and time.
What do you enjoy most about writing?
It allows me to express myself and provides a creative outlet which recharges my batteries.
What age did you start writing stories/poems?
I wrote my first poem at 10 years old.
Has your genre changed or stayed the same?
No, I thought I would always write only poetry and could not have fathomed becoming a children’s book author.
What genre are you currently reading?
I have been reading self help type books for creatives.
Do you read for pleasure or research or both?
Both! I love to read for fun and I love to dig into a topic that intrigues me.
Who is your best supporter/mentor/encourager?
My husband, Glenn, is my muse and biggest supporter. Behind him is my parents and his mother.
Where is your favorite writing space?
Right now, I write wherever I can since I don’t have a desk. We are currently planning to convert our unused dining room into a creative writing space.
Do you belong to a writing group? If so which one?
Yes, I belong to the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and just applied to be a member of the Cat Writers Association.
If you could meet one favorite author, who would it be and why?
Elizabeth Gilbert. Her book Big Magic is full of such wonderful sage advice about being fearlessly creative.
Do you see writing as a career?
I see writing as being my next level. I call it my retirement plan.
Cindi Handley Goodeaux is a Florida resident who lives with her husband and muse. She is a proud mom, graphic designer wannabe, rescue dog lover, and a sometime poet. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.
1. Does writing energize or exhaust you? A bit of both, honestly. I feel energized while I’m actually doing the writing, however if I get into it for any more than about an hour then my brain doesn’t like resetting itself and I spend the rest of a day in an exhaustive haze, as if I’d been napping, and I hate naps!
2. What is your writing Kryptonite?
Time, or the lack thereof. I have very little personal time to write, embrace whatever I can get. I don’t have enough, and what I get can be taken away from me so easily.
3. Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym? I flirt with it from time to time, but only because there’s already a Marc Watson author (who is a really great guy who is a thrill ride engineer from Florida), as well as one who is a British comedian, and another is the Content Lead for everything Minecraft. All industries I’m involved in. Hmm… maybe I do need one. If I did, it would likely be just adding my middle initials or something simple. I like my name.
4. What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer? Seeing as I’m relatively new to this world, my list of writer friends is sparse at best. I’ve met a few times with Edmonton horror writer Konn Lavery. I’m currently teamed up with an old friend Patrick Yokan Persaud, who is the lead writer at Hardmode Games. Konn has been great as he lives nearby and sees a similar world to what I see, books and sales-wise, and Patrick and I grew up together, so if something plays well with him then I know it works for me and the audience I’m trying to reach.
5. Do you want each book to stand alone, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book? Why not both? I’ve written an interconnected universe with my ‘Ryukyu’ series which will start in March with ‘Catching Hell Pt. 1’, plus I have other stories that loosely tie into it such as my debut novel ‘Death Dresses Poorly’ which makes vague references to the ‘Ryuujin’ world, and then I have works in progress like ’12:13’ that completely stand alone. I don’t think there’s any reason why I can’t be known for stand-alone works as well as my epic fantasy world.
6. What was the best money you ever spent as a writer? Certainly the cost of attending my first When Words Collide writer’s conference. I only began taking writing seriously on February 29th, 2016. When WWC hit in August, that was my first exposure to a collection of other writers, agents, and like-minded individuals. The experiences and connections I took away from that weekend still resonate with me today.
7. What was an early experience where you learned that language had power? My ‘words have power’ moment really didn’t come until I was in my late teens. I’d been an avid reader all of my life up to that point, but in a grade 13 English class (reminder I grew up in Ontario, so that’s not weird) we were assigned ‘The Shipping News’ by E. Annie Proulx. The book remains my favorite of all time. I read that book three times during that few weeks of study. However, while I was getting my mind transformed by this heartbreaking and utterly beautiful story, many in the class admitted repeatedly to not understanding it, not reading it, and generally not caring about it at all. I was simply baffled because I was so engrossed and moved to the point of tears, and all these other kids my age just let it pass them by. It was there that I saw the real power of words: that they mean different things to different people and they always will.
8. What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel? Well I could say ’The Shipping News’ and I’d stand by it, but it won a Pulitzer Prize so I guess no level of recognition will be enough for me. So I’d have to say that ‘Wizard and Glass: The Dark Tower 4’ by Stephen King would fit the bill. As a middle part of a monstrously over-arching Dark Tower story, it can be so easily overlooked, but the individual story of a young Roland and his friends encountering the true evil in Roland’s life from that point forward face to face, while also being a beautiful and realistic story of young forbidden love. I just love it. It’s very tight, while offering massive expositional dumps into the mind of such an iconic and enigmatic protagonist.
9. As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal? A great question, and a popular one so I’m ready for it! I really have two, and it completely depends on what I’m working on. For my epic fantasy works, I’m very much a house cat. Lazy, slow, methodical, with random fits and starts of energy when I write the action pieces. When writing something like ‘Death Dresses Poorly’, which I smashed out in a tight six weeks, it’s a squirrel: high-energy, fast paced, with no time to slow down.
10. How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have? Too many… I’m sporadic when it comes to my writing, so I have no issues dropping something for another project I want get into. On the up side, I never ever suffer from writer’s block! My ‘Ryuujin’ stories in various stages of completion number eight. Side stories are another three. My standalone stories are at two right now, so doing the math I have thirteen actual and legitimate works in progress. Not just ideas on a napkin. I’m talking works with real words on a page.
11. What does literary success look like to you? Buying my family a dinner from the profits of my works. Since ‘Death Dresses Poorly’ just came out, and ‘Catching Hell Pt. 1’ is still more than a month away, the checks aren’t rolling in yet so I’m not there. Whether it’s a lot or a little, when I take my beautiful wife and kids out for a meal (be it Wendy’s or the best steakhouse in town) I’ll feel complete. The goal will be achieved. Not very exciting, is it? I like to say I’m the anti-author. I’m not planning my movie trilogies or bigger houses. I don’t have time for that kind of thing. I need to walk the path of reality, and reality says I’m a 38 year old man with responsibilities and a job to do every minute of the day. The day I provide for my family based solely on the profits of my brain musings, how glorious will that be!
12. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book? None! The great thing about being a fantasy writer with a penchant for massive global extinction is that I get to start fresh with ‘facts’ all the time! In truth, I’ll do a bit when dealing with realistic place like in ‘Death Dresses Poorly’, which takes place in the Seattle area (which I’m admittedly not terribly familiar with). I want to make sure I get place names correct, or travel times between locations. Mundane stuff like that.
13. How many hours a day/week do you write? Four or five, usually. My lunch hours at work are the extent of most of my writing time, and sometimes I need to use those for things like this! Not that I’m complaining. I’m thankful for the chance, but it’s taken me two lunch hours to answers your questions. Once I get home, it’s kids kids kids, and I’ve never been good at writing in silence after they go to bed. I’m not complaining. ‘Catching Hell’ was original 225k words, written over lunch hours for a year. Anything is possible with patience, especially if it’s a story you really want to tell.
14. How do you select the names of your characters? Unlike most authors I speak with, naming things, be it people, places, or things, is one of my favorite things to do! When I was asked to create a huge list of names and places for my work with Hardmode Games, I practically wet myself in joy! Much of it I simply can’t answer. I find names I like, do an ounce of research to make sure I didn’t inadvertently recreate a famous Nazi death camp general or something, and go from there. Some I’ve known forever like Aryu, one of my protagonists in ‘Catching Hell’, and others I just threw in like Ethan from ‘Death Dresses Poorly’. Fun fact: Ethan originally had my oldest son’s name, but after some conversations with my wife, we agreed we perhaps didn’t want to stigmatize the kid with the same handle as this unenviable character I’d written, so I changed it. I can’t live without Ethan now.
15. What was your hardest scene to write? Well I’ll avoid spoilers as much as possible, but the ending of ‘Catching Hell Pt. 2’ wins for sure. From the beginning I wanted to write a scene I’d envisioned for as long as I can remember. Something different. Something that discards the fiction clichés and tropes we’re all familiar with, while also making it believable and earned. When the conclusion is reached, the reader says “That’s realistic. That’s what should happen.” I like to think I did that, but only time will tell.
16. Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? If you write more than one, how do you balance them? I’m a man awash in fantasy. From a young age I gravitated to fantasy stories and imaginative science fiction. I absolutely have a hyperactive imagination and these genres fill that brain-hole so perfectly. When I entered into my formative writing years, anime and manga became a huge part of my life. The Japanese were telling stories with such heart and depth and unbridled creativity that I couldn’t help but get wrapped up in them. In the end, the answer to your question is a terribly simple one: I write what I know.
17. How long have you been writing? Although I like to think I’ve always been creative in my writings, the commitment really took hold when I was 15 and 16 years old. I had this mental vision of a long, epic fantasy story and I just started writing it down with a pen and paper. It consumed me so much that I wrote a trilogy entirely by hand, which became the basis of my ‘Ryuujin’ world. I still have the dent in my finger from the pen to this day. When I pulled my head up from the binders, I’d almost flunked out of high school. After some hard work and creativity, along with the help of a teacher or two that I was lucky to have, I pulled through, but the fuse was lit.
18. What inspires you? Life. Life is the greatest inspiration of all. I have a favorite saying that I unashamedly admit I came up with: I don’t like good books, I like good stories. The medium is not important. When I look at the struggles of my loved ones, or the triumphs of strangers on the other side of the world, I see so many stories that give me a reason to keep talking. They’re not all victories. There are enough tragedies to remind ourselves that there’s bad with the good, but that’s the cost of living. I see my kids do things that move me to tears with their bravery, so I better get to telling what stories I can in order to help show them the things I’ve seen and how I see them.
19. How do you find or make time to write? I don’t. I just take the time when I get it. I don’t believe in forcing myself to write by setting daily goals. Challenges like NaNoWriMo are great for some, but for me it can go walk off a cliff. My best writing comes when I don’t pressure myself to actually write. I just need to accept that I may have to go for days or weeks without writing, and I’m ok with that.
20. What projects are you working on at the present? Right now I’m helping market ‘Death Dresses Poorly ’alongside publisher Fluky Fiction, I’m getting ‘Catching Hell Pt. 1’ ready with its publisher Double Dragon Press for the March launch, and I’m doing a decent amount of writing work with the Hardmode team on their original IP, which is a secret but hopefully you’ll see the results of that work later this year.
21. What do your plans for future projects include? Well the biggest one is ‘Catching Hell Pt. 2’, since just having the first part of a duology is no fun for anyone. It’s a finished work (I wrote it all at one time, but it was too big so I had to split it up) but it hasn’t been edited and prepped to my liking, so I want to get that done and hopefully find it a home before people forget my name.
Marc is the author of genre fiction (primarily Fantasy and Science Fiction of all lengths). He began writing at the age of 15 with a pen and paper, and never really stopped, even though until recently it was more of a background to him than my defining trait. He has been published on flash fiction site www.101words.org, as well as comedy site www.thecorrectness.com. Marc has been a student of the excellent writing classes at Athabasca University for a number of years.
He lives in Calgary, Alberta, and was spawned out of the depths of Southern Ontario. Marc is a husband, proud father of two, and can be sometimes found at an actual job. An avid outdoors-man, martial artist of some high repute, baseball player of very little repute, and lover of all Mexican foods. One day ‘World Famous Poutine Aficionado’ will be on his business cards.
You can also find Marc on Facebook at www.facebook.com/marcwroteabook, and on twitter at @writewatson. For public appearances and interviews, he is proudly represented by Creative Edge Publicity.