I want to extend a hearty welcome to thriller writer Mary Deal, my guest blogger today! Mary is a native of Walnut Grove in California’s Sacramento River Delta, has lived in England, the Caribbean, and now resides in Kapaa, Hawaii. (I’m insanely jealous). She has published three novels: The Tropics: Child of a Storm – Caught in a Rip – Hurricane Secret, an adventure suspense; The Ka, a paranormal Egyptian suspense; and River Bones, a thriller, which was a winner in the Eric Hoffer Book Awards competition. A sequel is being written. Down to the Needle, her next thriller, is due out early 2010. Mary is also a Pushcart Prize nominee. Read More
Tag Archives: everything
MA: I’m joined today by author Shelley Workinger. Shelley was born in Maine, educated in New Orleans, currently resides in New Jersey, and considers all of them home. She’s here to talk about her latest release, Settling. She has a few websites I want to recommend my readers check out where you can discover more about her and her novel series.
What did you do before jumping into the world of writing?
SW: I graduated magna cum laude from Loyola double-majoring in English and Sociology – majors I initially chose to avoid math, which I detested and thankfully placed out of. However, I ended up running a small real estate office and doing all of the accounting – a job I actually loved. What I love even more is how many people think they know everything about the world, when most of us don’t even know our own selves.
MA: With a degree in English, I imagine you had a burning passion to write someday…was this a path you set out to be on some day?
SW: I would never have chosen this path! For me, writing is all-consuming; I can’t sleep, I lose interest in eating, and I can’t quiet my mind enough to ever relax. But the idea behind the “Solid” series was one I couldn’t let go of, and that, combined with my concern that early teens become so overwhelmed with required reading that many lose the love of leisure entirely, made me sit down and expand my idea into a fun, fast read that would be approachable for reluctant readers.
*In choosing to write to the tween age group, I also committed to keeping “Solid” clean – i.e., no drugs, cursing, sex, or gratuitous violence – and I’ve been commended by sites like Reading Teen and Litland for doing so.
MA: What’s your elevator pitch?
SW: The briefest synopsis is: Teens who discover they were secretly genetically altered before birth are brought together at a classified site where they forge new friendships, find love, develop “super-abilities,” and even unearth a conspiracy.
Many readers have called it an “X-men” for girls, focusing more on the relationships than the superpowers.
MA: Probably a good thing you didn’t call it “X-Girls,” then! How did you go about creating your characters?
SW: I began with a tagline – What if you discovered you were the product of a secret government experiment? – and then looked at my premise through the eyes of a 17-year-old girl to create what I felt would be a natural reaction/path.
The second layer to developing Clio’s character was my concern for her actual character values; as a mother of small children and a product of American society, I had a few “requirements” for a female character I’d introduce to young readers:
1. She had to eat real food. (No dieting, unhealthy body issues.)
2. Her life would not revolve a boy. (There is a romantic interest, but Clio can function without him.)
3. She *gasp* had to have a great relationship with her mother. (Specifically, a mutual respect.)
MA: Those seem like healthy traits, so what are Clio’s strengths and weaknesses?
SW: I believe her biggest strength is her weakness – that she is not worldly and experienced, so her actions and reactions are real and relatable. She makes mistakes, she sometimes trusts too easily, but she learns from them.
MA: And does she have to do battle with any particular bad guys or girls?
SW: There isn’t one antagonist per se; it’s really the unknown that challenges the characters. They’re trying to find answers without even knowing where to begin; the revelation of the experiment done on them before birth not only throws their entire pasts into question, but they can no longer even be sure of their own bodies. There are also “bad guys,” but the self-discovery is the bigger hurdle in book one. (There’s a killer on campus in book two, but that has not been released yet.)
MA: I understand you were a military brat (raising three of my own!). Did that experience inform your writing?
SW: My father was a career Army officer, but not in the traditional sense – we never moved. I absolutely romanticized the life of the constantly-moving Army brat since I didn’t get to experience it, so my characters are “living the dream” in that sense.
MA: So what’s next?
SW: I have two very different ideas (from “Solid” and from each other) – a futuristic dystopian YA novel and a football-related horror for adults – but I can’t put any time into those until “Solid” is complete.
MA: I am currently waiting for the release of my third novel, Child Finder: Revelation, so I know what its’ like to write a series. I assume many of your characters migrate from book to book?
SW: Clio and her circle are the whole basis for the “Solid” series, so all of the books will revolve around them. As their “world” continues to grow, new people do come in and/or take on larger roles – book two brings in four new characters, and book three will add at least that many more. I also initially only planned this to be a trilogy, but as I work through book three, I’m starting to think I may have to write a prequel to tie up some loose ends. I’ve also just decided to re-release a slightly-extended version of “Solid” at the same time “Settling” comes out, so I’m working furiously to put that together!
MA: It sounds like you are busy – a good thing to be! Thanks for stopping by to visit with me today and for telling us all about your stories.
SW: Thank you so much for your interest in “Solid” and giving me the opportunity to speak with your blog followers; I know we all have dozens of books on our TBR lists and I am so appreciative for your consideration of mine!
MA: I’m joined today by author Ellen Brazer. Before getting published, Ellen did just about everything but write. She was in business. She worked for the State of Israel, and she was involved with the community. She actually did not begin to write seriously until she was in her forties. So tell us, Ellen, with no real writing background, how was it that you came to pen novels?
EB: I was waiting for some medical test results to come back. I was extremely successful in business when I was very young and while waiting for that phone call I asked myself what mountain had I yet to climb. The answer for me was writing a book. I have a dear friend who is a Pulitzer Prize winner. When I wrote my first draft of Hearts of Fire I pressed the Caps Lock key on the computer and wrote the entire first draft in capital letters with almost no punctuation. It was my writing friend who said, there is something here and you must keep going. That first book took me 10 years to write. The manuscript went from under the bed to the closet and then back under the bed again. A doctor friend took it on a ski vacation and he was the one that finally got me to become serious about getting the book published.
MA: I can’t even imagine going more than a full sentence with the Caps Lock Key on! Tell us about what you write.
EB: I write historical fiction. Let me tell you about Clouds Across the Sun. Before the end of WWII, Hitler charged a group of his most trusted and brilliant comrades with a mission—educate your progeny and then elevate them to positions of power throughout the world. Steeped in fact and impeccably researched, Clouds Across the Sun is the story of just one of these children.
From Naples, Florida, New York City, and Washington D.C., to Israel and then the killing grounds of Vilnius, Poland (Lithuania) this story is one of great romance, discovery, redemption, and enlightenment as Jotto Wells unravels the intrigue surrounding a plan to take over the government of the United States.
MA: How did you develop your characters? Was there a great deal of research involved into the lives of people from this era?
EB: I am not sure as writers that we develop our characters. I think they are born to the page and then they develop us. Whenever I have a new character I find myself sitting back and watching their personality emerge. Sometimes I have to rein them in when it feels like they are doing something out of character but most of the time they are in control of me. In Clouds Across the Sun I have more than one protagonist and I was always amazed that they each had their own distinct voice.
MA: More than one protagonist? Tell us about one of them.
EB: I will focus on Jo for this question. She is very independent and self-assured. As the first woman Senator from New York she is intelligent and opinionated. Her greatest weakness is that she falls prey to her family’s influence over her.
MA: Any unique antagonists, other than the obvious?
EB: I think I do bad guys really well and in this book there are some really evil people. When creating an antagonist in the Holocaust time period it is challenging to show all sides of the personality. My antagonist is a Nazi doctor from the Concentration Camps. We see him as a dangerous monster but we also see him as a loving father. The danger is constant when he comes to America after the war with one goal: placing someone under his influence as President of the United States
MA: Do your novels ever fool people into thinking more of the fiction is actual fact?
EB: I write historical fiction that is so based in fact that when people finish my book they tell me that they are chilled and always ask themselves: Could this happen? Is it happening? I talk about IBM, The Red Cross, Hitler and Henry Ford’s close friendship and how the U.S. allowed thousands of known Nazis into the U.S. in exchange for information about our new enemy, Russia.
MA: Interesting…so what’s next?
EB: I am writing an historical novel that takes place in the year 135 of the Common Era. It was a time period when the Jews believed that Shimon Bar Kockba was the Messiah. Following him, they managed to defeat Rome and for a three year period Israel was under the control of the Jews. And So It Was Written is the story of two brothers, one who becomes a famous physician in Rome and the other becomes a commander in the Jewish army. There are some very unique and controversial elements to this book that I am keeping close to the vest so stayed tuned. I am in the process of rewriting and I hope to be finished within the year.
MA: Well thank you, Ellen. I encourage everyone to visit Ellen’s website for more information: http://ellenbrazer.com/Home_Page.html Read More
Sex…with Finesse by Mary Deal (Contains Adult Content: That Ought to Bring in a Few Extra Visitors!)
One way to ruin a good story is with a lackluster sex scene or bedroom scene.
As I edit writers, one of the most important problems I find is that fledgling writers have great difficulty writing the obligatory sex scenes, love scenes, bedroom scenes, whatever. Men and women have different types of difficulty. Some women seem afraid to put their feelings and emotions on paper for the entire world to see. Men write withholding or censuring words, or they express the idea of sex without emotion.
What I tell both men and woman is to secretly write down – commit to paper in longhand – everything they know about sex – everything beautiful or every lewd act they know of. Writing with pen and paper keeps a person connected to their concentration. These can be quick notes or the whole scene in paragraphs. Write every dirty word that comes to mind. (Are there really any dirty words anymore?) In committing to paper, something they must do is to additionally write from the POV of the opposite gender. Too, the writer should describe the sex act from the first gleam in the eye all the way to orgasm. Since no one will ever see what is being written, they are to use any words or any language to describe the scene they wish to express.
Another exercise is to write a column of one-word descriptions. When finished, begin again at the top. Only this time, write a complimentary word from the POV of the opposite sex. This provides not only an idea of how well you understand the opposite gender’s POV but also provides a measure of how well you’ll be able to write a response from the opposite sex into the story.
Write everything you know about sex. Take the time to do the exercise just once. When I once ask a guy how much he knew of his real life partner’s ability to respond to him, his response was, “I just keep trying to —- her. She’ll come around.” Needless to say, he wrote some of the most worthless and incomplete sex scenes I have ever read.
One writer reached a point of having finally written a sex scene so well that she went on to write more. I know what her motivation was, considering when you write thorough love scenes, it has the potential to keep you rocking on the edge of your seat!
The simple rule is just once; write everything you personally know about sex. Every bad word and every phrase. When it’s all written down, for sure, you won’t want anyone seeing it or pre-reading some juicy love scene you’ve decided to include in your next story. Heaven forbid they might get to know you better!
This is only an exercise. To keep your thoughts private till you’re ready to do some serious writing, destroy your notes when the exercise is completed. But don’t just simply tear them up and flush them. Celebrate. Burn ’em! Tear them up into fine little pieces and burn them in a bowl much like a funeral pyre. Celebrate the end of frustration and inability to write about sex.
What one gains from the exercise is this: Once completed in privacy, with the repressed thoughts on paper, you will have brought yourself in touch with sex as you know it. You will have faced the fact that you’re either too shy about sex or too brazen, or anything in between. The simple act of committing your knowledge to paper in private seems to allow us to better write about the act when it must be included in stories. For once, you will have written all you know about sex. The initial reason for clumsily stumbling through the obligatory scenes is gone. Committing your views to paper that first time only once is, for the writer, like the first step on the moon. Once you take that first step, you overcome hesitation and apprehension.
You needn’t analyze your responses to these exercises and try to convince yourself that you understand yourself sexually. All this exercise accomplishes is to help you find easier ways of expressing sexuality through writing. It’s almost like saying, “Never mind who you are. Just get in touch with it.” The premise is that once you have written all you know about sex, you will not hesitate to write about it again.
You may not be happy with the very next love scene you write but now you will be able to examine and critique the scene in first draft. Having already written something you know conditions the mind, and the Muse. Now you’ll want to improve upon your scene and your Muse will happily comply. After all, you’ve already written out far more than you need.
Most critics say that in writing sex scenes that we are to suggest, or imply the action. Tantalize your reader with only suggestions of what people do in the sex scenes. Suggest. Writing out every last detail of the sex act becomes nothing more than pornography. That could ruin the image your story needs to convey. You will know exactly what you wish to include in your descriptions and what to leave out after having completed this simple exercise.
This is a good sex scene, leaving something to the imagination:
With all the teasing they had done through dinner – subliminal foreplay – he was already too excited when he slipped between the sheets beside her. He seemed hesitant. The moment she pressed her body against his, he pulled away suddenly and his breathing changed. He clutched a handful of sheet and drew it to himself as he struggled to maintain his composure. Then he said, “I-Im sorry. We’re going to have to wait a while.”
At first she was disappointed. Then she realized she had teased him mercilessly and kept him waiting right through coffee and desert and had herself, brought on his great embarrassment. She smiled, nibbled his ear then prodded his shoulder. “Roll over,” she said. “I’ll give you a feather massage.”
This, to me, is what I call porn writing:
With all the teasing they had done through dinner – subliminal foreplay – he was too excited as he slipped between the sheets. He pressed hard against her and his body felt coarse and clammy. He clutched at her buttocks and breathed heavily and immediately lost it on her thigh.
She felt dirty and frustrated. Her super stud was a dud. In disgust, she threw back the sheet and made a dash for a hot shower where one potential evening of good sex slid down the drain.
Did the coarseness of the second version destroy the sensuousness you felt from the first?
While I realize both versions will appeal to different audiences and that both versions have their places in appropriate plots, it’s still better to leave something to the imagination even if you have your character purging her disappointment in the shower.
Learn to write sex scenes with finesse. It’ll work in every plot.
Please visit Mary Deal’s website for more wonderful articles like this one: Write Any Genre. Read More
MA: My guest today is Susan Whitfield, a life-long resident of North Carolina and the author of the Logan Hunter Mystery series. She also authored a unique cookbook, Killer Recipes, after inviting many mystery writers across the country to submit recipes in exchange for publicity. She lives in eastern North Carolina with her husband and near her two sons. Susan, welcome! Please tell me a little bit about your professional or personal background.
SW: I taught English for 13 years and moved into high school administration once I completed my doctorate. I retired in 2005 after a 30-year career.
MA: I see, so I take it writing has been a part of your life for some time?
SW: I have been writing since I was a child and actually still have a 40-page outline I wrote in high school. I never wrote that book, but thought about it for years. When I finally got serious about writing a novel in 2004, I decided to start fresh.
MA: I dabbled in short stories and poetry in high school. My short stories seemed well-received back then, but my poetry…not so much! Tell us about your novels.
SW: I wrote Genesis Beach about a strong woman whose name is Logan. She’s over 6 feet tall, determined, and doesn’t take any crap. Her first murder case was on the Crystal Coast of North Carolina. I have to admit I liked her so much, I started Just North of Luck before I finished Genesis Beach. I set that novel in the Blue Ridge Mountains, because by that time I’d decided that this would be a series of books, all set somewhere in the state I love. Hell Swamp took Logan and me back to where I grew up along Black River. The most recent book, Sin Creek, is set along the Cape Fear River at Wilmington, where I cruised as a teenager. My publisher is L&L Dreamspell, based in Houston, Texas. They are in the process of printing a second edition of Genesis Beach, which was previously self-published. I look forward to seeing the new edition.
MA: You’ve received some excellent reviews, and I thank you for bringing them to the interview. I have them posted at the end of our interview, and I encourage my readers to look over them all. Now, I am burning with curiosity about Logan. Tell us more about how you crafted this woman.
SW: That’s a great question. I physically patterned her after a super tall, rail thin literary agent I’d met. I wanted her to be smart, quirky, determined and have a little baggage she carries around with her. Fans of the series say Logan shows her “human-ness” when she makes mistakes or blurts out occasional profanity. She does manage to solve her own problems though, and I admire that.
MA: You told me that you really imbued in her genuine human traits, strengths and weaknesses. Tell us about them.
SW: Logan is intelligent and determined to be the best investigator on the force. She does make mistakes in judgment occasionally, but as I’ve said, she works everything out and gets the bad guys to boot. She is a loyal friend, tries to be a good daughter to a demanding mother, and has no life outside the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation. She basically works 24/7. She has no love life at all in Genesis Beach. Perhaps that’s because she was a victim of date rape in high school. In Genesis Beach, she has sleep terrors and eventually realizes she may have been molested as a toddler. I love the way she deals with this problem near the end of the book.
MA: While Logan is a constant in the series, what about her antagonists? Do you have a returning, pesky nemesis she must contend with?
SW: While Logan remains a tough and more experienced agent throughout the series and some of the Genesis Beach characters move along with her, the cast of villains changes with each book. For example in Just North of Luck, Logan chases a serial killer who is targeting teachers. In Hell Swamp, deer hunters are prime suspects, and Sin Creek takes Logan into the porn industry, quite uncomfortable for her and for me.
MA: Any of your real life in your stories?
SW: Yes, there’s a little real life in each book, but I’ve never been involved in porn. LOL. I’d rather let readers try to figure out what came from my personal experience.
MA: Fair enough. So what’s next?
SW: Currently I’m writing a non-series book entitled The Goose Parade of Old Dickeywood. It’s about two middle-aged women with weight, marital, and health problems. I do plan to write more Logan Hunter though. My fans have already chewed me out for trying something else. They love Logan as much as I do. Isn’t that a wonderful compliment?
MA: That’s a fantastic compliment and a great affirmation of your work. Besides Logan, will you carry other Logan Hunter characters over to new stories?
SW: Pepper Ellis, a chef, is in three of the four books. I’ve thought about building a book around her, but Logan won’t leave me alone. I also like Taryn Kosterman, an artist, very much and she’s a colorful character, but not sure I’ll build a book around her either. I’ll probably continue with Logan and have them tag along for support and adventures.
MA: Will you ever write anything other than the mystery genre?
SW: I have plans to write an historical novel about an ancestor of mine, a Knight of the Bath. I’ve already started research but I know it will be a while before I get to it. That will be my biggest challenge yet.
MA: Where can readers learn more about you?
SW: I have a web site at www.susanwhitfieldonline.com and there’s a PayPal account for those who want to purchase books there. I also blog and interview authors and industry experts at www.susanwhitfield.blogspot.com
MA: Susan, thank you for guesting with me today. I encourage my readers to visit Susan’s websites and stick around to read her wonderful book reviews that follow.
Susan Whitfield Book Reviews
~~Just North of Luck–Whitfield’s excellent writing skills transport you into a hellish movie from which you cannot close your eyes, even through the most gruesome and scary scenes. Whitfield’s skill at “expectation and reversal” will leave you saying “OMG!” at the unexpected ending. Excellent read. Bravo Susan. This second book is most definitely a must-read.
~~Hell Swamp– I could just about feel the humidity and almost taste the vinegar-based barbeque. And her usage of colloquialisms (expressions such as “dang nabbit” or “dadgum”, and “yonder”) are scattered perfectly. Logan, the protagonist, is tough and competent, yet feminine, romantic and vulnerable. And the supporting cast of colorful characters literally leaps off the page. One’s body is described as “a corpse of corn”, another has a “navel mouth”, and yet another has “piranha teeth and a nose like a bull’s hairy gonad”. Someone grins ”like a mule eating briars”. Whoa! Is that vivid imagery or what? We’ve got a well-written, suspenseful mystery with a likeable protagonist, vivid imagery, a taste of horror, a little tongue-in-cheek humor and even romance. What’s not to like?
~~Hell Swamp solidifies Whitfield’s status as a true master of mystery. Her prose is tight and engaging, and her suspenseful writing style leaves the reader no choice but to turn page after page in anticipation of the latest unexpected twist. Followers of Susan Whitfield will surely not be disappointed with her latest effort, and it will most certainly be successful in drawing even greater numbers to her ever-growing fan base. An enjoyable, recommended read.
~~Hell Swamp–Peculiarities abound as you meet the suspects. Whitfield has drawn a cast of characters from ‘down by the Black River’ that rings delightfully true, scary and injected with just enough humor to make HELL SWAMP stand out from the pack. Read this book. It’s a good ‘un.
~~Sin Creek-I’ve followed SBI Agent Logan Hunter as she tracked down killers in Genesis Beach, Just North of Luck, Hell Swamp and now in Sin Creek. Author Susan Whitfield has created an amazingly `normal’ character with Hunter. She has feelings and isn’t afraid to cry, she takes on danger and doesn’t mind showing her fears, but when she takes on the world of porn, she shows a caring side that has been glimpsed in all of her stories but with more strength than ever in Sin Creek. Read Sin Creek as a book of murder and suspense but also read it as a book that opens your eyes to the problems our young adults are faced with, where these problems can take them and what the end results can be. It opened my eyes and I believe it will yours too. It has helped to educate me to the underworld of the Internet.
~~Sin Creek follows Logan Hunter’s murder investigation of college student, Maeve Smoltz, through many twists and turns as she sifts through a college town chock full of colorful and morally shallow characters, all with something to hide. This includes the victim herself, not innocent at all.
~~Whitfield offers a strong commentary on some of the dangers of college life. Her character, Logan Hunter, gives a strong telling of the story from the initial meeting with the dead girl’s parents to ending up on “The Fearless Ferry,” a happening spot that would bring shivers to any parent with a kid in college. Lickety-split pace and effective descriptions give the reader the feeling that they are conducting the investigation right along with Logan. If you’re a fan of mysteries, this one is guaranteed not to disappoint. If Mystery’s not your genre, make an exception with Sin Creek. Like the Cyclone at Coney Island, Sin Creek is gripping and intense, yet an enjoyable ride.
~~Sin Creek, new in the Logan Hunter mystery series by Susan Whitfield, is an eye-opener and a heart-breaker, but with the sweetest redeeming ending. Having had a long-standing friendship with a detective, when reading Sin Creek, I felt a sense of déjà vu about events I know to be true. These foul crimes do exist and are proliferating all over the world, both promoted by and brought to law enforcement attention by the Internet. Whitfield portrays the underpinnings of one man’s vile world of pornography with researched accuracy. Though this story is fiction, the very same types of exploitation continue to happen and escalate. If you never understood how lewd and dangerous the world of porn is, read Sin Creek. It’s fiction but true to life. It’ll make you shudder.
Years ago, I took a couple of weeks of oil painting lessons. The instructor, a world-renown artist, always said that I worked from the subconscious.
That was a compliment because she always said it in the same breath when saying I had talent. But after a while, she would pick up a brush, dip it into a color I wouldn’t think of using, and commence to leave her telltale marks on my painting.
I never understood how she could compliment me and then enhance my work with her touches and still call it my art. Soon, I left her and went on to produce paintings that sold in spite of the lack of professional input.
Yet, after all these years, her words about working from the subconscious stuck with me.
In recent times, as a writer instead of a painter, I hear writers being told to write from the subconscious. Sometime during the last two decades that I’ve written seriously, I’ve come to fully understand the meaning of that advice.
When I write, I type as fast as I can to keep up with my thoughts. I ignore any mistakes. Hand writing is much too slow for me. Those little squiggly red or green lines that pop up under words and incorrect punctuation drive me nuts, but I’ve learned to live with them because they help in the editing phase later. I just wanted to get my words and concepts committed, but it wasn’t always like that.
Several times, I also tried to create by slowing down and perfecting every paragraph, every sentence and every word before going on to the next.
Writing this way seemed very cumbersome. It stops my creative flow. If I must censure everything that comes out of my mind – correct it before I actually get the complete idea or premise written – it seems my creativity is put on hold while I detour to perfect only a portion of an idea. The whole scene needs to be gotten out of my mind so I can see it written and relate any changes to the whole.
When I know my story, even have a chapter or paragraph firmly fixed in my mind, my thoughts sometimes wander. When I look again at the screen and read what I produced, I find myself asking, “Did I write that?”
To write this way is to allow my mind to free-flow. This method allows creativity to create, without censure. This is what writing from the subconscious is all about. After all, it is the conscious mind, the left-brain that censures, edits, tears apart and reforms what it thinks we should write to suit some future reader or publisher. Creativity, from the right-brain, never cares about those aspects. It just wants to kick out the important details, the major threads, while they are hot and felt in all their strength and emotion. Once the story is written to first draft, creativity is free to do the one and only thing it should, and that is to conjure another scene, maybe another story. The conscious left-brain then perfects the written piece.
You may be one of those people who need to perfect one line before going on to the next. This may be where your strength lies, but it is all left-brain work, logical and, to me, requires little of the creative Muse.
If you wish to put your Muse to work, try it sometime. Just sit and write your story without looking at what you’ve written. If you must keep your gaze on the keyboard (I have to watch my hands a lot), then do so. You’ll find your story flowing faster than you can keep up with. Or should I say you’ll find yourself writing as fast as your mind can think. Editing after the fact is not bad at all when the whole idea smiles back at you from the monitor screen.
Writing from the subconscious definitely gives full rein to creativity to get the story out, and can cut down on unnecessary rewriting of any work you thought you had already laboriously perfected.
Please visit Mary Deal’s website for more wonderful articles like this one: Write Any Genre.
Prologue, Denouement and Epilogue
First let me quote from the Oxford Dictionary before we discuss usages.
Prologue: 1) A separate introductory part of a play, book or piece of music. 2) An event that leads to another.
Denouement: The final part of a film, play or narration, in which matters are explained or resolved.
Epilogue: A section at the end of a book or play which comments on what has happened.
A Prologue can set up the rest of a story. That is, it can relate a brief occurrence that led to the present action of the story that we then jump into the middle of in Chapter One. Used this way, a prologue becomes a bit of back story, should not take up any more than a few paragraphs, and definitely should not be as long as a full chapter. Too, anything that isn’t foreshadowing for the rest of the story should be cut.
The longer the Prologue, the more it seems the writer is, again, quoting back story when, in reality, back story should be incorporated into the present of the telling. This is done through conversations between characters or brief remembrances of the main character. Providing too much life story in the prologue, keeps the reader bogged down in the past when you really want them immersed in the action of the now that starts with the first word, sentence and paragraph of Chapter One.
Completely opposite of that, the Prologue can also be used to show the outcome of the entire story up front before Chapter One begins. In other words, your story has a problem the main character needs to resolve. The story goes on to show the character resolved those issues and then shows the climax and denouement, which led to the information first presented in the Prologue.
My preference is not to read a book where I know up front that all ends well. I want to feel all the indecision, fright and other emotions that the characters may endure. Then I want the relief of learning how their situation is resolved. If I read up front that their lives went back to normal after something drastic had happened to them, I won’t feel their emotions as I read.
Part of reading is to experience what the characters endure. First reading that everything came out okay seems, in my opinion, to diminish the thrill of suffering with these story people. So what? I ask. I already knew these people would prevail.
The Denouement tells how the characters are affected once the climax of the action is made apparent. If a mystery, the climax happens when the perpetrator is caught or gets his or her comeuppance. You cannot end the story at that point. You must tell how this climactic revelation affected all the other characters. That portion after the climax is the denouement.
The denouement need not be lengthy. It can be a few sentences or a couple of paragraphs. It can also be one or more brief chapters.
In my thriller, River Bones, after the perpetrator is caught and people realize just who the serial killer is, many more additional clues are found to cement his guilt. Too, a few subplots needed to be wrapped up that did not really affect catching the perpetrator, but which followed through and fed into the action of the entire story. That wrap-up, my denouement, took two additional brief exciting chapters. But that wasn’t all….
An Epilogue is best used to show how the story resolution affected the characters after a period of time has passed. Yes, it’s enough to catch a perpetrator and everyone return to their normal lives in the denouement. However, in River Bones, I used an Epilogue to not only wrap up the strongest subplot, but to create a situation where it leaves the story open for a sequel.
Another example might be a romance. After the lovers settle their differences and end up together in the denouement, the Epilogue might be used to show that a year later they parted. What caused them to part must be something already written into the story beforehand. The Epilogue is not a place to introduce new information – ever. Whatever happens in the Epilogue is a result of some action already dealt with in the story.
Between prologue, denouement and epilogue, the denouement is the only part necessary to any story. Think hard about using Prologues and Epilogues and have good reason for doing so.
Please visit Mary Deal’s website for more wonderful articles like this one: Write Any Genre. Read More
MA: I’d like to welcome today’s guest blogger, K. Sawyer Paul. Mr. Sawyer is the author of the novel, No Chinook. Please tell us about you and your writing.
KSP: I think my first few stories were all plagiarisms and remixes. When I was in junior high and high school, I’m not sure I had a single original thought. I’d take characters, stories, and plots from various books and movies and video games that I’d enjoyed and play with them in different environments. It was basically the equivalent to playing with action figures from different cartoons. I didn’t know why I wrote, but I always had it in my head that I could write well if I just stuck at it for long enough. You know, the idea that perspiration would eventually lead to inspiration. So I wrote a lot. I wrote a short novella in high school, printed it out, and sold it for a couple of bucks. I sold it for a dollar if the person wanted it on a CD. I basically had my first ebook in 2000, in the form of a Word 98 file. I went to the University of Toronto and decided to take professional writing as a minor. It was a great experience, and it taught me many things about what not to do. I felt I was a little allergic to preconceived ideas of success in writing, especially Canadian writing, where the expectation is that you’ll never really make any money and you sort of make people suffer through your work. I’m very against that. If my story isn’t gripping, put it down, you know? There’s more books being published every year than anyone could ever read. Why waste time if you’re not enjoying it?
MA: Well, amen to that! Why did you choose to write short novels?
KSP: I write short novels, because I don’t like to waste people’s time, but I like novels because even if they’re short, they feel like an accomplishment to read and write. I generally hit the 50 or 60 thousand word mark in the first draft, then cut it down to 45 or so. That makes for a 200-220 page book, which I think is enough. I’m a big fan of not wasting time, wasting words. I’m a big fan of Cormac McCarthy’s style in that respect, where he purposefully leaves out areas of his stories that really could use a sweeping emotional explanation. Hemmingway, too. I like that I can go back and read A Farewell to Arms or Francis Macomber and I’m done in a weekend and better for it. There’s something really crisp and biting about a terse novel.
MA: How did you approach your two novels?
KSP: I made a really set decision when I started writing Everything We Haven’t Lost and then No Chinook to never get unbelievable, so I write about relationships because I think I know my way around them pretty well. So you can say I do romance, but if you read my books you know they’re not typical romances. The fight scenes are uglier. The sex scenes are rougher. The dialogue that connects the exposition seems pulled from real people. At least, I’d like to think so. That’s what people tell me. I want it to feel like you’re actually peering in on a real conversation between real people in a contemporary setting, and while these people are adults they still have emotional hiccups and can really hurt one another.
MA: Tell us about your hero in No Chinook.
KSP: With No Chinook, I developed Scott out of how I saw myself out of the kind of guy I saw a lot of at college: someone who’s grown in every way, but still has a few hang-ups regarding his scars. He’s not a finished adult yet, and No Chinook is in many ways him working his way out of that. So Scott is still hung up over a girl from high school, and he thinks he’s over it until she comes back into his life and they sleep together. What’s interesting about Scott is he sees how immature this girl is, and still can’t eject himself from the drama, because he’s fighting the urges of his younger self.
MA: What should we know about Scott? What makes him strong, and what makes him weak, if at all?
KSP: Scott’s big strength is that he’s a truly nice guy, who’s capable of going a long way for a friend, a lover, and even an ex-lover. His weakness is pretty well as I said above, his inability to really break free of a toxic situation. The relationship he has with Shawn is pretty toxic, and the only way he’s really capable of breaking free is by removing the love he has for this man and just using him. Basically, by figuring out how to cure himself of his biggest weakness, he has to rid himself of his greatest strength. That might seem like a convenient plot progression, but I don’t know that I’ve ever even thought of it that way until recently, now that the book has been out for two years.
MA: Interesting. And what about an antagonist?
KSP: Kate, Scott’s girl from the past, is definitely the antagonist. She’s in many ways Scott’s Tyler Durden or Ferris Bueller, a free character that helps him out of his shell. But she also crushes him over and over. Also, she never reveals where she works. Would you date someone who kept their job from you?
MA: Uh, oh…do I detect an old flame influencing the “bad girl” in No Chinook?
KSP: Yeah, there was definitely a girl I was into who didn’t like me back. But who doesn’t have that? I tapped into other people’s stories more than my own, and built conversation after conversation on the pain of my friends and colleagues. It’s a writer’s job, I think, to plaster those sorts of things together, to make sense of it.
MA: Since No Chinook has been out for two years now, what’s next on your plate?
KSP: I sent my next novel off to my editor just recently. The editorial process always takes longer than you want it to, but it’s in the pipeline. It’s called A Record Year For Rainfall. It’s about a paparazzi and a celebrity blogger who live in Las Vegas. I’m a big fan of Las Vegas, but I’m young so I’ve only ever seen the modernized Disney-like Vegas, so my characters exist in it, in 2006. It’s still sleazy, but there’s all these ironic angles where it’s family friendly now. But there’s still girls in sexy outfits everywhere, and celebrities still go there to go crazy. It’s a fun book that’s about trying to escape yourself and the things you love but not really being able to. There’s a lot of comedic violence and sex and there’s a gay governor and I think people will think the book is a lot of fun.
MA: Are your novels all standalone types, or will you write using some of the same characters in the future?
KSP: There aren’t any continuations of character, but A Record Year For Rainfall and No Chinook definitely exist in the same “universe.” You can think of it like the Kevin Smith movies or Final Fantasy video games, where there’s a new cast, but there’s a lot of familiar aspects. In Rainfall, you’ll find that Bret, the main character, used to work at a job that he’s not allowed to talk about. It’s the same place Kate from No Chinook works, but that’s not obvious from reading either book necessarily. To sum up, I guess: I don’t do sequels, but I do enjoy planting Easter eggs.
MA: I happen to love Easter eggs J. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
KSP: I think I want to talk about publishing here. There isn’t any stigma in being an independent graphic artist, an indie band, an independent charity, an independent chef, or almost any other art form or business. Lawyers go into business for themselves all the time. Doctors open up their own private practices. Soon, in less than ten years, people will absolutely not care who published your book. I don’t think readers care who published your book now. If you design a book properly, if you edit it professionally, if the package looks and smells and registers like a real book, then I don’t see the difference between an indie book and something by Harper. There’s a big difference between vanity publishing and independently publishing. Gredunza Press is a business. We publish books. I publish my books through it. Does Dave Eggers get slack for publishing his books through McSweeney’s, a press he built? The only people who care these days are authors who are more swept up in the “industry” than in writing their own books, publishers who want to stay on top, and pundits looking for a juicy story. Readers and writers don’t care, and soon enough nobody else will either. You can buy my book on your Kindle or Nook or whatever, and you can order the physical copy from me and soon from Amazon. You read it, and you’d never know I didn’t get published by one of the big guys. Not every author is capable of completely going into business for themselves. They need help editing, designing, and promoting their novels. That’s where publishers like ours come in. We offer services to authors trying to make it. We’re the future.
MA: Thanks, K. Sawyer. Folks, please visit his website and the site for his press: www.ksawyerpaul.com, and www.gredunzapress.com. Read More
MA: Today I am delighted to welcome Charles S. Weinblatt as my guest author. Charles was born in Toledo, Ohio in 1952. He is a retired University of Toledo administrator. He is the author of Jacob’s Courage and Job Seeking Skills for Students. His biography appears in the Marquis Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who in American Education. Charles was a frequent Toledo television news guest, providing business, economic and labor-management insight. He received the 2004 Douglas Frasier Swift Award and he was awarded a certificate of achievement by Chrysler Corporation.
Charles, welcome! Please tell me a little bit about your professional or personal background, and what you did before writing professionally.
CW: I was born in Toledo, Ohio in 1952; raised the only child in a middle-class home. My father was a pioneering Toledo (OH) psychiatrist, starting his practice in 1932. He was well known in the professional community. He was also a football star at The University of Toledo in the 1920s and again at Michigan, while in medical school. Tremendously intelligent and gentle, he was the perfect role model. My book is dedicated to my dad, who gave me all of the tools to become a good person. It is also dedicated to the six million lost souls murdered by The Third Reich. They are gone, but will never be forgotten.
I am a graduate of The University of Toledo, with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology. My post-university career spanned 31 years; the first 15 years devoted to psychiatric and vocational rehabilitation counseling, followed by 16 years at The University of Toledo. During my last nine years at the University, I created and led The Division of Organization Development. My division helped businesses improve their performance. We generated consulting opportunities for faculty and earned considerable revenue for the University.
My biography appears in the Marquis Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who in American Education. I continue to live in Ohio with my wife, who is a retired special education teacher. We have two adult children.
MA: So what brought you to writing fiction?
CW: I’ve been writing as long as I can remember. As a child, I wrote short stories and even some poetry. After college, my focus turned to family and career. Writing was pushed away for a while. Yet, the interest never departed and I was happy to return to it in earnest in retirement.
I had to retire at age 51 due to disability. Since I retired at a fairly young age, I decided that I should remain as mentally productive as possible. I decided to pursue writing. I had already been published for non-fiction in 1986, for a textbook called Job Seeking Skills for Students (Kendall-Hunt Publishing Company). After my University career, I turned to fiction. Three years later, my Holocaust novel, Jacob’s Courage, (Mazo Publishers), was published.
I made no conscious decision to write novels. Perhaps, as Mozart once described for his composition, the words were already within me. With Jacob’s Courage, I sometimes felt as though I was taking dictation.
I had known as a young adult that members of my maternal extended family were Holocaust victims. Only after I retired did those thoughts rise to the surface in a way that I could harness. I could not tell the story of my lost ancestors in any other format than a novel. No member of my current family knew enough about our lost relatives to write a memoir or a non-fictional account. No amount of research could produce an explanation for their disappearance into the darkness of Nazi-occupied Russia. Like millions of other innocent Europeans, they disappeared, without a trace. Perhaps they were shot and bulldozed into a trench, as at Babi-Yar, or maybe they were gassed in a death camp, such as Auschwitz, or possibly they perished from starvation, forced labor or the ubiquitous disease that existed in Nazi concentration camps. So, it was to be a fictional account.
I committed myself to creating a story of young lovers who became trapped within the horror and brutality of the Holocaust, as I imagined happened to countless young Jews, although not necessarily my ancestors. My hope was also that this story would be inspirational, perhaps as holocaust education for young people. Nowhere else today is it more important to teach about the Holocaust than with our children and grandchildren. A novel is a good choice for Holocaust education. Rather than dry historical accounts that go in one ear and out the other, a coming-of-age love story can engage youthful minds in a way that non-fiction does not. In the words of writer and philosopher George Santayana, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
I was also able to ground portions of the novel in fact, based upon my 100-year-old mother’s memories. As a child in Russia, she witnessed the brutality and terror of pogroms against her Jewish relatives. And, while these experiences occurred before the Holocaust, they provided significant grounding for important character development. She will soon be 101 years old, yet she can recall with perfect clarity the terror of Russian anti-Semitism.
MA: Please tell my readers about Jacob’s Courage.
CW: Jacob’s Courage chronicles the dazzling beauty of passionate love and enduring bravery in a lurid world where the innocent are brutally murdered. This is a tender coming of age story of two young adults living in Salzburg at the time when the Nazi war machine enters Austria. The historical novel presents scenes and situations of Jews in ghettos and concentration camps, with particular attention to Theresienstadt and Auschwitz. Follow lovers Jacob and Rachael from their comfortable Salzburg homes to a decrepit ghetto, from there to a prison camp where they became man and wife. Revel in their excitement as they escape and join the local partisans, fighting their Nazi tormentors. Finally ride the crowded, fetid train to the terror of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Stung by the death of loved-ones, enslaved and starved, they have nothing to count on but faith, love and courage. From desperate despair, to unforgettable moments of chaste beauty, Jacob’s Courage examines a constellation of emotions during a time of incomprehensible brutality.
MA: How did you develop your protagonists’ characters…I understand you have two?
CW: The primary protagonist is Jacob, a 17-year old Austrian. He’s a very normal young man, eyeing the transition from secondary school to university. Jacob has some of my unique character weaknesses. It was important that my protagonists appear as normal young people, just like anyone else. The secondary protagonist is Jacob’s true love Rachael. Rachael is everything a young man would want; she is beautiful, bright, charming, deeply in love and fiercely loyal. Together, the young lovers are confronted with the most horrifying experience imaginable. To survive, they have only themselves to count on. They were not heroic individuals until they reached the precipice of destruction. I imagine that each of us wishes that we would become heroic under such circumstances.
MA: What are their strengths and weaknesses?
CW: Jacob Silverman is a very normal 17-year old. His thoughts focus upon three things: attending university, becoming a physician and, most of all, his precious love Rachael Goldberg. The young lovers had everything to look forward to, until Germany invaded Austria.
One night, in a terrifying nightmare, more real than life itself, Jacob finds himself older, emaciated and weak, in a large brick building with a roaring fire. He soon realizes that men wearing striped pajamas are burning the bodies of dead naked women and girls. Jacob awoke with acrid smoke in his lungs and a premonition that he would play a role in saving his people, who had been almost completely destroyed.
Sleeping inside of this normal boy was a future leader of men in combat. Yet, to reach that critical point in his life, Jacob would face starvation, sickness, brutality, forced labor and the death of his loved ones. He would need to find uncommon strength of body and spirit; and he would require good fortune, including the ability to play virtuoso violin.
MA: I imagine that with your subject matter, you had plenty of possible antagonists to develop.
CW: With Nazi Germany, it’s not difficult to create a credible antagonist. I created one particularly vicious antagonist, a commandant at Theresienstadt called Strobel. In that concentration camp, Strobel gained complete control over Rachael. This evil man followed her around the camp and made it his business to know everything about her. The result was very ugly.
In reality, the typical Holocaust survivor resided in several different ghettos and camps. Incarcerated Jews (and tens of thousands of others) became a source of free slave labor for The German Armed forces and for German industrialists. They were moved from place to place, as their slave labor could best assist the Third Reich. In addition, concentration camp commandants were often transferred. So, it would have been unusual for the typical prisoner and commandant to have been together very long. But, there were certainly many colorful commandants, guards and kapos at each camp.
MA: Did any of your family’s real-life experiences factor in to the plot at all?
CW: Certainly my fears and desires as a teenager became part of Jacob’s personality. He was brighter than me and far better behaved. Yet, I felt comfortable with his character development. I was far more worried about developing Rachael’s character. It’s a challenge writing a major character about someone of a different gender. Nevertheless, I believe that teenagers, especially young lovers, have some very common personality characteristics. My challenge was more in portraying how those characters changed and developed when faced with the most terrifying experiences imaginable. Holocaust survivors were not the same people that they were when the Holocaust began. No human could absorb the unrelenting daily terror, the death and murder of loved ones, the physical abuse, brutal forced labor and years of starvation and sickness, without it changing their personality. The lucky ones remained sane – and even that is arguable. My characters also had to change, yet without losing the better parts of their psyche. Without passionate love, they likely could not have managed it.
MA: So, what’s in your future writing plans?
CW: I recently completed a children’s book and I’m almost done with a science fiction novel. I’m thinking about writing another Holocaust book, or possibly a sequel to Jacob’s Courage. One thing I will try to avoid in the future is a book as long as Jacob’s Courage. At 524 pages, it was a serious investment in time. Yet, I could not have covered the final seven years of the Holocaust with less material. In fact, at my publisher’s urging, I removed some parts of the manuscript. My science fiction novel will come in at about 200 pages, a much more rapid commitment to reading. Whichever way I turn, I will always be writing something.
MA: You sound like you keep very busy with your writing! Will we see Jacob or Rachael again in a follow-on to Jacob’s Courage?
CW: Because Jacob and Rachael became heroic figures in my Holocaust novel, there is a natural pilot for a sequel. And, because they had to wait a long time in a displaced persons camp, there would be an increased likelihood that they would have immigrated to the Holy Land. They also had simultaneous dreams about being in a place that they later learned was Palestine. With Jacob’s leadership and combat experience, he would be a natural for an officer position in Israel’s nascent armed forces. Rachael would also have a natural role to play in the start of the Jewish nation. So, stay tuned.
MA: I will! Is there anything else you would like to add?
CW: Writing is a talent. Some people are born writers. The rest of us envy them. Still, writing is a skill that can be cultivated. If you think that you might have the ability to be a successful writer, maybe you do. Take writing courses at your local college or university. Participate in continuing education courses. Read books about how to develop your writing skills and take on-line courses. While it’s true that the vast majority of us will never become a renowned author, it feels pretty good to cash a royalty check. It could happen for you. Never give up!
And for those of you who could care less about earning money from it, just enjoy! It feels great to create stories about unknown people in unforeseen circumstances. Whether anyone reads it or not, it will always be your unique creation. For us, writing is not a matter of dollars and sense. It’s a matter of love.
MA: Thanks, Charles. I encourage all my readers to visit Charles’s blog: Jacob’s Courage Read More
MA: My guest today, Narrelle M. Harris, is a multi-talented person. She’s a Melbourne-based writer with four novels, one play and several short stories under her belt to date. Her latest book is The Opposite of Life, a vampire novel set in Melbourne. She is about to launch a new iPhone app, Melbourne Literary, a guide to books, writing and literature in Melbourne, which was designated a UNESCO City of Literature in 2008. Narrelle lives in the city centre of Melbourne, Australia, with her husband, Tim Richards, and their apartment-bound cat Petra.
Welcome, Narrelle. Please tell us how your involvement with writing began.
NH: I think I’ve been writing pretty much ever since I knew how to make the letters. I even recall one of my brothers and I getting a tape recorder and telling a story about the life of a little germ, which we made up as we went along. I don’t remember much about that one, except that at one stage the germ was having a great time tumbling out of a carton of milk and swimming around in a bowl of cereal. He was a fairly harmless germ, as I recall. Anyway, I always loved assignments where I had to make up stories, and I wrote them to entertain myself in exercise books as well. Eventually I discovered science fiction TV shows and fandom, where stories you wrote could be published in fanzines and people would write in with feedback. That was fantastic, a great training ground on developing technique. Eventually I got too restless writing with other people’s characters, so introduced a lot of new ones of my own, and that morphed into writing my original fiction.
MA: It sounds then, like writing novels was not a difficult transition for you.
NH: Novels came about as a natural extension from the short stories I’d been working on – I was enjoying world building and I liked my characters and wanted to do more with them, so over time the plot ideas and themes I had grew more complex and needed more time to explore.
MA: Tell us what you’ve written so far.
NH: I’ve been a bit all over the shop, really. My first book was a crime thriller called Fly By Night. It had two novellas in it with the same characters, Frank and Milo, musicians and a gay couple. That was published by Homosapien Press in 2004. (The two novellas are now available separately on Kindle). Then I wrote the two fantasies, Witch Honour and Witch Faith. Like Anne McCaffrey’s dragon books, they are fantasy with a touch of an SF back-story. They were published in the US by Five Star. Then I was inspired to write a book about how being a vampire isn’t as sexy as its reputation would suggest, and wrote The Opposite of Life, about a girl who has suffered a lot and a short, chubby, geeky vampire called Gary. That was with Pulp Fiction Press, and there’s a sequel in the works.
My latest project, though, is a non-fiction iPhone app, Melbourne Literary, which is a guide to literary Melbourne. I’ve done other non-fiction – I had an essay on what’s called The CSI Effect in a true crime collection called Outside the Law #3, about whether watching too much forensic TV affects juries. I’ve also been working on some short stories lately, mainly in the comic-horror genre. One, about a girl whose brother gets turned into a zombie and she’s trying to fix him before Mum finds out, will be published later this year in Best New Zombie Tales Volume 2.
Comic horror seems to have become a bit of a thing since The Opposite of Life, which has a lot of humour in it, as well as an exploration of what makes life worth living even though it can hurt beyond bearing sometimes.
MA: With so many projects, how do you go about developing your characters?
NH: Characters in my earlier books were often inspired by people I knew, or at least amalgamations of people I knew. The Opposite of Life was different, in that Gary the Vampire came up as a response to being tired of seeing all the thin, glamorous vampires in all the films. I just wanted to write about an ordinary guy who was really uncool and didn’t get any cooler just because he was undead. Lissa, the female protagonist, arose out of the kind of story I was telling. I wanted her to be young, a bit funky but also a someone outside groups because her experiences of loss and grief had left her not quite fitting in anywhere completely. She’s a librarian mainly because I thought someone who had lived her life would find great comfort in the escapism of literature, and that she would love the idea taht she could maintain order in some part of her life, at least. She’s one of the few librarians who really loves cataloguing and shelving. She loves imposing order in a tiny corner of her chaotic world.
MA: Are your characters as superhuman as they sound?
NH: I try to make all my characters very textured and human, so they have different kinds of flaws. Frank, for example, gets impatient and can be bad tempered while Milo has a tendency to just sail through life and be a bit thoughtless. He’s not intentionally mean, but he just doesn’t think sometimes.
Gary’s flaws – well, he’s a bit slow on the uptake sometimes. He’s a nice enough guy, really, but he just doesn’t always know what’s appropriate in conversation. He didn’t have those social skills when he was alive, so he can’t blame being a vampire for that. But as the story develops he learns to be more thoughtful. He’s a very straightforward guy too – I don’t think he knows how to lie. It’s one of the things that Lissa likes about him – she might not always like what he has to say, but she knows he’s honest with her. Lissa is courageous and loyal, but also stubborn and a bit impetuous. It gets her into terrible trouble. She has to confront one of her worst flaws by the end of the book – she’s a bit self obsessed and everything she goes through forces her to come up out of the grief and anger she’s been lost in. Both of them, really, have to learn how to engage more with life.
MA: Any recurring nemeses?
NH: The Opposite of Life is written in the style of a crime novel, so the ‘bad guy’ is the person or persons who have been killing people around Melbourne. It’s obviously the work of a vampire, and the vampire community isn’t pleased by that – they try to live under the radar these days. But while there’s an actual bad guy doing bad things, I guess the real bad guy is thematic, the idea that you can avoid life’s pain by withdrawing from it, refusing to engage, and the kind of person that decision makes you become.
MA: I assume you’ve not had any real experiences with vampires (wink), but did your life inspire your writing in any way?
NH: My books are full of real life things, from characters being inspired by friends, to things I’ve read in the news becoming part of the plot. I put a lot of landscapes in. The Opposite of Life is full of places I love (and sometimes loathe) in Melbourne. The Witch books contain landscapes that I travelled through or lived in when I spent three years abroad. I lived in Egypt for two years, and in Poland for one (my husband and I were teaching English as a foreign language) and so much of what I saw and did there has been incorporated into the stories.
MA: Given your prolific writing career so far, I take it you aren’t finished yet, right?
NH: I’m working on some short stories at the moment, as I’ve been invited to submit some to a potential anthology project. I want to write three books about Gary and Lissa as well, so after the current sequel I have to start work on the third. I have ideas for a third Witch novel and some more Frank and Milo stories too. I also have an idea for a rather more complex crime type novel. I’m also planning to create a few more iPhone apps once Melbourne Literary is out there. I have note books full of ideas too, so I don’t think I’ll run out of things to do for a while.
MA: Very interesting and varied. Anything else you’d like to add?
NH: One of the things I’ve been doing, to entertain myself as much as anything, is using Gary and Lissa outside of their books. They are huge fun to write, and their (most definitely not sexual) friendship comes out so well in their conversations. Gary actually collects vampire films and books, and Lissa as a librarian has a lot of comments to make on fiction generally. This meant that when I see vampire stuff now (or sometimes just interesting things, like art exhibitions) I get a triple viewpoint. There’s what I think of it, but also what I think Gary and Lissa would think of it. I started writing up their observations and now I have a semi regular part of my blog called the GaryView, where the two of them discuss pop culture from their rather unique point of view. Gary mainly complains about how most vampire fiction is nothing like the reality of being a vampire. Surprisingly, a certain amount of their back story gets revealed this way, and sometimes these funny little reviews get unexpectedly poignant. They’re a popular part of my blog, but really, I do it because it’s fun and because it’s a really useful writing exercise.
Gary and Lissa also have Twitter accounts, for the same reason that it’s an interesting writing exercise. They occasionally have tweet-chats with other people. That’s fun because I don’t know what people are going to ask, so again it’s a good exercise to consider how Gary and Lissa might respond to issues that I might not have previously considered. It was through doing the tweets that I realized that Lissa never goes to the cemetery to visit the graves of her loved ones. That’s the place where she had to say goodbye to them, and it gives her no comfort. Instead, I realized that she would go and do the things that she used to do with them while they were alive. She might go to a particular cafe to spend a moment thinking about her Nanna, or to a library where her eldest sister used to find books for them to read.
MA: Thanks, Narrelle! Please visit Narrelle’s website: http://www.narrellemharris.com
and Blog: http://narrellemharris.wordpress.com