ENTER TO WIN a paperback copy of my international bestselling novel, "Under the Same Sky" ... in #Italian!
This is a Goodreads giveaway, going on until the end of September. Know any Italian readers interested in Historical Fiction? Enter to win "Sotto lo Stesso Cielo"!
This morning I received a note on my website, and at first I wasn't sure how to answer. It's such a subjective question, and there are so many blogs out there talking about this topic. The person could look this up anywhere online and read a thousand answers.
But they wrote to me, not someone else. So I'm giving an open answer and hoping it helps this person, but also any other writers out there looking for some kind of truth about writing.
Dear Genevieve Graham
My name is XXXXXX
I am an aspiring author and wanted a few pointers on how you kept your spirits up and perfected your craft.
I'll start my answer with a question.
What do you mean by aspiring?
Are you using the word as an adjective or a verb? What I mean is, are you writing, or do you aspire to write? If it is your dream to write, then what's holding you back? If you're already writing, then drop the word "aspiring" from your vocabulary—unless you mean you are aspiring to finish your novel, aspiring to impress people, aspiring to create something of which you will be proud.
How do I keep my spirits up?
You're assuming that my journey to this point along this crazy, winding, laborious path has been dotted with wildflowers, spotlighted by warm rays of sunshine. That I started every day with a smile at 9am and finished up at 5pm with a song and dance as I skipped joyfully to greet my family at the end of the day. Well, sorry to disillusion you, but nothing about writing is easy if you are aspiring to do your best. My first novel was written in eight months, after which I had a glass of champagne, then sent the whole book out in a three ring binder to half a dozen friends. As a result, many of them suggested I get therapy for unresolved issues. Some refused to ready any rewrites after that. Regardless, I balked at their well-meant (though obviously ridiculous) comments and boldly sent it out to probably a hundred agents. Funnily enough, those agents saw the book the same way as my friends had. I received nothing but rejections. Oh, there were tears for months after that, as well as days and nights of glaring (and unfair) scowls at my defenceless family. I read the book over again and again, throwing my hands in the air, questioning the sanity of agents everywhere. I resolved never to write again. Even now, when I have been blessed with three published novels with Penguin, life is not one happy sentence after another. I've had editors send back my beloved books and tell me such and such doesn't make sense or needs to be taken out entirely, and I've had subsequent books rejected. How do I keep my spirits up? Read on.
How have I perfected my craft?
Let me start by assuring you that I have not perfected anything. I have improved my writing, I have built upon it, I have learned to let it write itself (within reason), but I can't imagine ever perfecting it.
Okay, then how did I improve it?
Well, I go back to my first novel and its dozens (felt like hundreds!) of subsequent rejections. Oh, was I hurt! That novel was the best possible thing I could write, wasn't it? Except … it turns out that it wasn't. What I had to do was step back from my bruised ego and learn from everyone around me. I met an award winning author (Rona Altrows) who was leading a Writers In Residence programme (free) at the library, and she critiqued my first twenty-five pages. She opened my eyes to my strengths and my weaknesses, and from that amazing experience I saw my potential. Then I went online for the next three years, learning from others, weighing suggestions and criticisms (not everyone knows what they're saying, though they'll pretend they do), and reading. So much reading.
When I went back to my book, every word, every phrase, every sentence was taken apart and reworked. Every page was considered for its validity. Every chapter was brutally evaluated and hacked at. My book lost about 50,000 words through that phase, but the 90,000 remaining words were so much more effective.
I think when you ask about keeping my spirits up, you are really asking how I keep doing this when it seems at times like it would be much less painful to bang my head against the wall for an hour or so.
At my stage in this "game," I am not hoping for my first contract. I'm hoping for my fourth, my fifth, my sixth … You see, the need to succeed, to create more books never goes away. And each book has to be better than the one before—or at least that's how I see it. But it's not the need to publish that pulls me back to my keyboard. Yes, I hope every day to hear something good from my agent, but that's not what drives me.
Writing is what keeps my spirits up.
Sitting and creating and feeling another world flow from my heart to my fingers is what brings me here. When a story comes from so deep within me that I cry or laugh out loud at an unexpected change in plot, there is no way I could walk away, abandon those words. Whether I'm alongside an exhausted, injured warrior in battle, overwhelmed by a character's loss or illness, or lost in the passion of an undying love, it is all the same. I have been taken away by my own writing, and to me, that's a miracle.
Why do you write?
I write because an impulse came to me one day and I didn't deny its presence. I figured I might as well try. Then I discovered the magic within my fictional worlds and I was hooked for life. I write because I must, because it's what my heart craves.
Are you writing because your heart tells you to write or because your head is in there, nagging, prodding you forward, demanding to see your name on a book cover in a store? Lately it seems everyone is publishing something, so peer pressure is intense. But the truth is, a whole lot of those books aren't worth reading. Make sure the writing comes from your heart, not your head.
They call writing an Art for a reason.
Anyone can slap paint on paper or shape clay into something resembling a dog or a mug. Anyone can jump and spin around and call it dancing. I have a camera—can I call myself a photographer? Can my beginner piano students call themselves musicians while they're learning the location of Middle C?
Anyone can write. But can you write something that people will want to read? Something that takes them away from their world and moves them? Something that pins them down, breathless, so that they can't even think about what else might be going on around them, like changing laundry or making dinner?
Learn about your Art.
Stephen King said in his book, "On Writing," that an author should hand their book over to someone, then sit across the room like a creepy stalker and watch them read. When do they set the book down to do mandatory things, like bathroom visits? And why did they pick that exact moment to set the book down? What's missing on that page? What's so non compelling that they were okay with leaving it? Fix that. Take it out. Rework it. Stomp all over it, then gently, lovingly shape it to how it needs to be.
People like easy-to-read tips, so here are a few from me:
Barnes & Noble, the largest bookstore chain in the U.S., is closing a third of its stores over the next decade, they say.
In 2011, Borders Bookstores shut down all their stores.
Up here in Canada we haven't heard any mutterings—or not many, anyway—about closing our Chapters Bookstores, but can it be far off?
I find this whole scenario interesting. People are furious, sad, or even celebrating, but no one is without an opinion. I was sad at first. Nostalgic, really. Then I started to think about it a little deeper.
Yes, I think that when these huge box stores shut down, there will be fewer books sold. And as an author, that's obviously not good. I think the books bought in these stores are mostly impulse buys, not planned ones. That is neither here nor there, but here's the thing. When I go to Chapters—and I love to spend a couple of hours there, just wandering, perusing, latte in hand—I never leave with just one book. I grab the one I came for (if I came with one in mind), then … well, it's like popcorn. I can't stop. Everything's so pretty and exciting and colourful and inviting! How can I just walk away and leave all those books? What if I miss the ultimate adventure of a lifetime?
But let's look at another story.
… there was a little bookstore near my home. Actually, it wasn't all that near. It required that the whole family get into the car and drive, then look for a parking spot (because there weren't any big parking lots around there), feed the meter, etc. But all that effort was worthwhile, because we were out doing more than just buying a book or two. It was an event, almost.
Beside that store was a little hardware store and a Chinese grocery store (where they had a "pet" snapping turtle in their basement who was over 75 years old! They let me visit it when I was small), and an adorable little store that sold loads of special cheese and a bunch of little figurines that I collected. A couple of doors down from them was a children's clothing store. There was even a butcher on that little street. I loved when we went out to visit those places. We always knew the owners—sometimes even their families. They were always happy to see us, whether or not we bought anything. We usually did, though. We understood it was their business, their livelihood, and we were more than happy to be a part of their success—and in return we got both good products and personalized service.
Then one day a major sports store took over half a block. We'd never seen anything like it, so we popped in … and left with our arms full of bags, even though we really hadn't needed anything to do with sports. They were such good deals! There was so much choice! It was just so darn exciting to be in there, with the young, energized staff, the flashy promotional messages, the funky music blaring through the speakers. Just made you want to dance while you handed over your Visa card. Over time, they started selling ladies' clothing as well, so we stopped visiting the other store. They'd be fine without us. Or so we thought.
It wasn't long before a huge grocery store moved into the neighbourhood. Again—what choice! Everything laid out like presents at Christmas … and ooh! look at those things we've never eaten before! We need to buy some of those! One of the saddest memories I have as a child was finding out that our cheese/figurine shop had gone out of business about a year after that.
I hardly noticed the changeover when Chapters opened, and it was only in passing that I realized our little bookstore was gone. I was first in line, Visa in hand. And I haven't stopped shopping there since—except for when I actually take the time to go out and visit the rare independent bookstore or when I shhh! shop online. Even then, I always try to buy my books online from Chapters, not Amazon. Just on principal. But really, isn't Amazon just a bigger box store eating all the smaller box stores? And we used to celebrate these massive stores when they arrived.
Now times are a-changing. The E-book revolution has changed the world, yes, but more than that, it was the internet.
Before now, we had no idea of the millions of books out there. Actually, I doubt there really were millions of books out there until the internet, when it suddenly became possible for anyone at all to write and sell books. But back then, one of the more relaxing, enjoyable things for me was stopping in at the little bookstore, browsing, then buying just the right book. Not being handed promotional postcards, being shuffled towards the gift section, or having tables of $5 books slid in my path. Just finding something that would take me away.
So what will happen now? It's not as if books are going to go away. You'll always be able to find the #1 Bestselling Amazon Book! or the Free Book of the Day! online. You'll still be welcome at any library, and your friends will always lend you books. But oh, those hours of lost time, wandering the bookstore aisles, picking up books on impulse because of the pretty covers and managing to grab a candle or bowl for a friend's birthday at the same time … How will we survive?
I moved to a small town five years ago, so the internet has become a very easy way for me to pick up books. We have no small store here. I have to go half an hour before I can find a Chapters store. So yes, I'm starting to increase my online shopping. And I do love when a book arrives in the mail.
But what if--and, like I said, there's no talk of this at all, so don't go around saying "Genevieve said so! I'm just hypothesizing—Chapters closed down. What would I do? Yes, I could drive to the closest independent bookstore, once I found out where that was. Yes, I could continue to shop online.
But what if … the shutting down of box stores meant the rebirth of independent stores? What if my little town all of a sudden offered a tiny bookstore? What if Future Shop closed and little electronics stores opened instead, and we got to know the actual owner, not just a hired hand? What if big grocery chains had to downsize? Well, we all have to eat. Maybe if the giants aren't there to take all the money, those quaint little grocery stores with the handwritten price labels could come back. Maybe we could even attend farmers' markets and end up eating better, supporting local.
The #1 thing box stores and the internet give us, in my opinion, is convenience. We're spoiled. It'd take some time, some adjustments, but personally, I don't think I'd be all that sad if those massive stores were gone.
The world is shrinking, and we're all fitting quietly and easily into those narrowing borders. Despite all the talk we do about reading labels and avoiding GMOs, I believe I served a Mexican tomato in our salad last night because it's just too darn cold to grow them here in January, and we wanted a tomato! *stomp stomp stomp* But really, couldn't I have waited? Couldn't I have eaten something else? Couldn't I have stopped being spoiled and accepted what I was given without complaints?
As an author, I will sell fewer books if the big stores are gone. I know that. I'm sure a lot of people pick up a copy of one of my books completely on impulse, because of the pretty cover or the intriguing blurb on the cover. Not because the shop has propped it up as a "featured book" at the front counter. Because, in case you didn't know this, all the books you see featured at any of the big bookstores are being featured not because the bookstores choose to do it, but because the publishers have put big bucks into those displays. Can you really see everyone racing out to buy books like 50 Shades or Hunger Games if they hadn't been stacked to the ceiling everywhere you turned? Without some great marketing miracle, you'll never see a new or local author featured that way (except at a signing). We can't afford to pay for that.
Big Box bookstores closed a ton of small bookstores. The internet is closing a bunch of those Big Box bookstores. I don't think it means fewer people are reading—in fact, I think because of ebooks and the ease of internet shopping, the opposite is happening.
I'd miss the hours of wandering through bookstore aisles, reading samples. But I love the idea that these closings might be opportunities for new doors to open. Independent stores. They won't be nearly as hard to find if this happens, I'm betting. And I'm all for that.
GIVEAWAY ENDS FRIDAY DEC. 21!
I wanted to say thank you to some of my online author friends by featuring their most recent books, and they wanted to say thank you to everyone else … by offering giveaways! I've featured each of these authors on their own special day, and you can enter to win ALL of them, if you want. And the shining star on top of the tree is the two GRAND PRIZES you can enter to win at the bottom of each page. Good luck everyone!
- December 3 - Joanna Bourne
- December 4 - Pamela Callow
- December 5 - MK McClintock
- December 6 - Steve Vernon
- December 7 - Sophie Perinot
- December 10 - Rona Altrows
- December 11 - Kaki Warner
- December 12 - Katherine Scott Crawford
- December 13 - Nya Rawlyns
- December 14 - Victoria Vane
Check out these previously posted features, because you can enter to win these books all the way until December 21!
- December 3 - Joanna Bourne
FEATURE AND GIVEAWAY!
Today's featured book is:
Book #3 of the Kate Lange thriller series
She is obsessed with tattoos.
He is obsessed with her.
When a body is found on the outskirts of Halifax, rumors run wild about the victim’s identity. But tattoo artist Kenzie Sloane knows exactly who she is. They share a tattoo… and a decade-old secret.
Lawyer Kate Lange remembers Kenzie Sloane. The former wild child was part of the same crowd that attracted her little sister, Imogen, before her death. Now Kenzie needs her help. And Kate needs answers.
But there are others who know about the tattoo and its history. And one of them is watching Kenzie’s every move, waiting for the perfect moment to fulfill a dark promise that had been inked in her skin.
How I Know Pamela Callow:
Actually, I don't. Other than messaging each other through facebook and emails, we don't know each other at all. But I intend to change that in the very near future. Pamela Callow is something of a celebrity up here in Nova Scotia. I see her books all over the place. She writes intrigue set right here in our province. I'm so honoured to have her here on this promotion! Thanks for everything, Pamela, including today's giveaway AND the fantastic three book Grand Prize!
Flushed with triumph at finding sarracenia purpurea -- also known as the purple pitcher plant – Rebecca Chen crouched above the surprisingly clear and shallow water of the peat bog. Bag this last plant and then I’m outta here.
It was a pretty plant, and yet, according to her notes from her biology class, it was a predator, capturing its food in its petals. She plunged her hand into the muck, her fingers scrabbling down the plant’s stem, searching for the root ball. But the stem curved sideways under the dense thicket of hummock. She exhaled, her forehead prickling with sweat.
Further up the slope and beyond the cliffs, lay the outer mouth of the Halifax Harbour. Fog hung over the horizon, a ghostly waterfall hovering over the deep blue of the ocean, but the cooling breeze carrying its afterdamp did not reach her.
With a grunt, she pushed her hand deep into the underside of the hummock. Her fingers hit a rock. The stem appeared to be wrapped around it.
Frig. She sat back on her heels. The peat bogs stretched around her, serene blue pools dotting scrubby hummocks of low-lying shrubs. She had never even been out to Chebucto Head until her biology teacher assigned this lab, and she cursed him when she had missed the class trip and had to find her own way to the peat bogs. After a twenty-five minute drive, she found the road to the headland. It was flanked by a protected nature reserve, but it eventually opened to a cove dotted with houses. They huddled, higgly-piggly, on the granite bedrock cliffs, as if holding their collective breath.
The peat bogs were a twenty-minute hike across the headlands. “Just find the old bunkers,” her teacher had told her. “There are two. The bogs are down the slope. You can’t miss them.”
True enough, after twenty minutes of following a scraggly, muddy path, she spotted the bunkers on a crest of the cliff. There were two: one facing the water, the other offset behind it. The bunkers had been built eighty years ago as the outer battery to defend Halifax Harbour. The lower bunker perched on a slope, its flat, sharp roof appearing crooked against the sky. Tall shrubs and a handful of stunted evergreens grew around the squat concrete boxes. Rather than softening the forbidding exterior of the wartime posts, the dense thicket of shrubs and the lush branches of the evergreens served to emphasize their brutal purpose.
Even in the May sunshine, they were creepy. She veered around them, and headed down hill to the peat bogs. They gleamed in the sun, the area a large, open marsh with a pleasant piney scent. It hadn’t take much time to find the samples for her biology lab.
Last lab of the school year, last lab of high school, Rebecca. That knowledge lent extra urgency to her scrabbling. She wrapped her fingers around the rock anchoring what she now viewed as “her” plant. She yanked the rock-and-plant specimen from under the hummock, falling back on her heels. She staggered to her feet, the prize clutched in her hand.
Her butt was soaked from her efforts. Figures.
She unraveled the roots clinging to the rock.
Her fingers froze.
Beneath the plant debris and muck, the rock appeared calcified. And smooth.
God. It felt suspiciously like a bone.
It’s not a bone, Rebecca.
It was a bone. Her heart pounding, Rebecca tore away the roots of the plant. The smooth curve and calcified exterior were obvious now.
It’s just an animal’s bone. Probably a deer.
She peered at the hummock, searching for the hole she had tunneled through the underside.
Her breath caught in her throat.
She couldn’t move.
All she could do was stare at the two bulging colorless eyes that pinned her in their malevolent gaze. Then she saw the hooked nose, the gaping smile, the hair floating from the head. Everything tinted the same brownish color.
Horror in sepia wash.
Her brain, at first, couldn’t process what she saw. Finally, her lungs forced her breath out in a gasp. And her brain interpreted the image.
The bulging eyes belonged to a mask. A rubber Halloween mask that someone had thrown into the bog. Her insides liquefied with a warm rush of relief. Then she remembered the cold, smooth length of bone in her palm.
It hadn’t been just a mask she had dislodged. The mask had been on a dead body.
She was holding proof of it.
A scream built in her throat.
The dead body was under the hummock. Under her.
Oh, dear Lord. She was holding a dead body!
She threw the bone into the water, so forcefully that water splashed onto her torso, her face. And into her mouth. An earthy, decayed taste swelled the tasted buds on her tongue. Bog water.
The water had a putrefied body in it.
She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. With the hand that was filthy with muck.
Muck that contained a dead body.
Her stomach heaved. Vomit flecked her rain boots.
She began to scream.
Excerpt from TATTOOED (MIRA Books, June 2012)
Copyright 2012 by Pamela Callow
A member of the Nova Scotia bar, Pamela Callow is the internationally published author of the Kate Lange legal thriller series for MIRA Books. RT Book Reviews hailed series lead Kate Lange as a, “…standout character.” DAMAGED, the debut novel of her series, was chosen by Levy Home Entertainment as a “Need to Read” Pick, with Top Ten Bestseller placement in retail stores across North America.
Callow’s critically-acclaimed series has been compared to works by Robin Cook, Tess Gerritsen and John Grisham. She is also a contributor to the International Thriller Writers' bestselling THRILLER 3: LOVE IS MURDER anthology, edited by New York Times bestselling author Sandra Brown.
Prior to making writing a career, Pamela Callow worked as a Strategic Services manager for international consulting firm Accenture. She lives in Nova Scotia, along with her husband, two children and a pug. She loves to go for walks (unlike her dog), and drink coffee. Visit www.pamelacallow.com to learn more about her books.
And two fantastic additional Christmas presents:
#1 GRAND PRIZE:
Kaki Warner's acclaimed trilogy: THE RUNAWAY BRIDES—three strong-willed women headed West in search of new lives. But when their train is stranded in a dying Colorado mining town, they get more than they bargained for…and find love where they least expect it.
GRAND PRIZE #2:
"Lightning paced, innovative, topical … and most of all, frightening."
-- James Rollins, New York Times bestselling author
Yay! June's here!
Out here in Nova Scotia, the grass is green, the trees are in full bloom (though we're still waiting with anticipation for our three year old apple trees to show us a little colour), hummingbirds are dive bombing each other outside my kitchen window, and I have set up shop (as often as possible) in my outside office. That's an awesome place to be, in case you're wondering. We have a fairly consistent plague of black flies out here, and my incredible husband did a whole bunch of research to find a screen that would keep them out of "my office". He built a sturdy deck underneath and a big gazebo on top (where he likes to come out and nap while I type). I bustle back inside when it rains or gets too windy, but really, it's my favourite place to write.
May was quite a month for me, with the release of Sound of the Heart. I kept busy with my 50-stop book blog tour *whew!*, three book signings and a reading. A big thank you to everyone who popped in to see me in person or online, and a special thank you to all the dedicated book review bloggers who took the time to read and review my book. Those busy ladies are in big demand, but they are—without exception—some of the sweetest, friendliest people I've ever met. If you're looking for book recommendations, they're the place to go. And congratulations to Carla Carlson of Florida for winning the blog tour grand prize!
I've also been writing. Because I knew I'd need time to promote the books, I put my editing business to the side for a bit, and as a result I have been able to do quite a bit of writing. My agent is now reading Tides of Honour, my WW1 historical fiction based here in Nova Scotia. This is my idea for a cover, though if a publisher picks it up, they will no doubt choose their own. Anyway, isn't this gorgeous? It was taken by a local high school student, Katy Perry (no, not the pop star). I will keep everyone up to date on what goes on with Tides of Honour, the story of fisherman/soldier Danny Baker. I have a real soft spot in my heart for Danny and this book, so I hope you can all read it soon.
I started work on a new book (untitled so far) which will reach a little beyond what I've done before. Not only is it Time Travel romance, but it also includes a kind of conspiracy. I'm partial to writing characters, settings, dialogue, etc and have a little trouble with plot, so this book is a new challenge for me. Fortunately, my patient husband is a wonderful sounding board and has the BEST ideas for plots. We have a hot tub in our back yard, and we've now nicknamed it the Plot Tub, since we've gotten quite a bit of work done there.
For those of you wondering about the next instalment in the MacDonnell clan stories (and I'm so happy you are!), I hope to have an update soon. Out of the Shadows is on my editor's desk and I await her verdict. She hasn't actually had an opportunity to read it yet, and I'm hoping my latest hero, Jesse, will win her over. I really love that story. If you recall, Maggie's sister, Adelaide, was very emotionally damaged after the Under the Same Sky experience, so she has quite a way to go as far as trust and believing in herself. Jesse (kind of an early cowboy, with a scruffy, rebellious edge to him) can see the strength she hides so well and is determined to get past that stubborn wall of hers. But will she trust him enough to let him help her?
And yes, I started writing a book about Janet MacLeod (the Scottish lass from Under the Same Sky who had hopes of winning Andrew's heart—poor Janet! She never had a chance!), but it's on hold for the moment. I have visions of pirate ships when I think of her, but I'm not sure yet ...
We're headed to Alberta to do some family-visiting at the end of June, but I never stop "working" (what an amazing job I have!). I'm really looking forward to doing at least two signings at Chapters stores in Calgary, seeing some of my old friends while I'm there. If you're in Calgary on July 1, look me up. I'll be in the NW.
One last note - I send out an e-newsletter at the beginning of every month. I'd love for you to be on my mailing list if you're not already. Please fill in your email address in the right column of this page and you'll hear from me July 1 (Canada Day!).
Here are a couple of recent, terrific reviews for Sound of the Heart, in case I haven't bombarded you with enough already: Debbie's World of Books, Moonlight Gleam's Reviews, and Evie-Bookish. One of my favourite quotes from reviews this go-round was when Evie said, "No one does historical romance the way Genevieve Graham does. She weaves a fantastic tale packed with the sweetest kind of romance, breathtaking adventure, and just a tiny bit of magic, and she does it in the most superb, addictive way."
Originally written as guest blog for In The Next Room book reviews on May 4 2012
There are almost 90,000 words in “Sound of the Heart”. Isn’t that wild? This blog post is less than 500. And yet as I was writing, there were so many more. I had to edit it back. So it kind of begs the question: Where do all those words come from?
Ah. I’m so glad you asked. Because that’s something I’d like to know as well!
It’s probably easiest to start with the physical. When I write, I head into my quiet office (which my husband assembled for me) with a cup of tea. I light a couple of candles … then stare at my computer screen.
Tour from left:
Right. Now onto the writing part. Like I said, I stare at the computer screen, and I kind of wait. I think, in a way, I meditate, though there are no ohms or soothing imaginings going on in my world.
Actually, my dog, Murphy, occasionally does ohms. Kind of like a “Poor me, what a hard life I lead” kind of a comment.
Then the words start flowing, and it’s absolute magic. Sometimes the pictures are so clear in my head, I feel like I’m channelling the stories. Words literally fly out of my fingers. It’s kind of interesting, because a few people have suggested I carry around a tape recorder kind of thing so I can just speak into it and type out stories later, but I’ve found I can’t do that. The words get stuck in my brain. So I have to type. Back in 1990 I bought one of those “Typing Tutor” programmes, then taught myself to type when I was applying for a job as a marketing assistant at a top advertising agency in Toronto. Seriously. In two weeks I went from 0 to 85 wpm. I have no idea how quickly I type now, but my fingers move more quickly than my brain most of the time. I can’t carry on much of a conversation with my voice, but if I could type it I’d be just fine!
So the question remains: where do all those words come from?
And the answer is still: “I don’t know.”
My favourite part about writing Historical Fiction is that no one can tell me what I’m writing didn’t actually happen. After all, no one alive today was alive then (unless you’re talking about reincarnation or something). The stories come to me from somewhere I’ve never been, giving me words I rarely use in my day to day life. Where do they come from? What if I am actually channelling them? What if the words come straight from the stories themselves because … maybe, just maybe, they really happened.
I’m a reader, too. From the moment I figured out D-O-G spelled dog, I tasted a little bit of everything, from the “Cat in the Hat” to Nora Roberts to Christine Feehan and Ken Follett. Interesting that those are all Penguin books, isn’t it?
I admit that until recently I never really thought about the process of writing those books. They were simply there. Worlds and people magically appeared just so I could experience them.
To me, reading the final sentence of a favourite book has always been the most bittersweet agony possible. When I delve into a truly great book, when I lose myself to adventure, I devour every paragraph, agonize over what the main character did or didn’t do, occasionally force myself to put the book down so I can reacquaint myself with my family ... and then it’s over. The End.
So I made up a remedy for that. I wrote my own book.
When our daughters were little, I had little time for reading, let alone writing. Then one day, I believe when my eldest was about 9, my mother loaned me “Outlander”, by Diana Gabaldon. I was swallowed up and fell headfirst into the wild romance of 18th century adventure. All of a sudden I wanted to learn everything about that period in time. I dreamed of kilts. I bought bagpipe recordings. I dug into my Graham/Ferguson roots and nagged my husband about visiting Scotland. I volunteered with the Highland Games and even tried to learn Gaelic. I admit ... it got a wee bit ridiculous.
Then one day, I sat down and started to type. The story of Maggie and Andrew was like a river, sweeping me along with it, though I admit I got caught on a few rocks along the way as I researched the period. I cried when they hurt and fell deeply in love with my hero. My characters were unpredictable and demanding, popping up in my head and making me pull over to take notes.
Maggie’s strength, her power possessed my thoughts. Her “gift” was both a blessing and a nightmare, and though she seemed fated for despair, she never surrendered to the temptation to give up. In all the world, only Andrew could have been her equal, and his courageous journey to find her made me marvel.
The last page of a book is still bittersweet, whether I’m reading or writing. Fortunately, an author can choose to go on with another story, even if it might focus on new characters ... Andrew’s fearless brother, perhaps?
What did I learn from the experience of writing? I learned that I’d been right all along. Stories are magical. They come from somewhere special that I still haven’t been able to pinpoint. If a novel can move you, if it can make you race to the finish, yet grieve the reading of that final line, they have fulfilled their purpose.
I hope UNDER THE SAME SKY does that for you.