From Hook to Book

Varuna Inspiration

photo (3)The magic of Varuna is time to think, as much as time to write.

This thinking time, free from outside distractions and interruptions, resolved a niggling missing element  in my manuscript, yesterday, in the simplest, now most obvious way. All I needed was to clear the clutter and noise in my head and remove myself physically from the clamour of everyday life – and there it was waiting for me.

DSC04763Sitting here in my writing space, this morning, gazing out at the trees and sky in the peaceful, blissful, quiet, I am ecstatic to know that I have a whole second week at Varuna ahead. I am blessed and oh, so grateful to be here.

DSC04762So I’ll let the photos from my early morning walk speak Varuna’s inspiration as my head is full of story and words and I’m ready to jump back into that other world.

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A New Friend for Marmalade – Alison Reynolds

Today I welcome international best-selling author, wonderful writer and friend, Alison Reynolds to celebrate the launch of her, and very talented illustrator, Heath McKenzie’s newest picture book A New Friend for Marmalade.

Alison Pith Helmet

A New Friend for Marmalade is the sequel to Alison and Heath’s first collaboration, A Year with Marmalade, which has sold more than a whopping 30,000 copies and is being released in the USA by publisher Simon and Schuster in July. Alison is also the multi-talented, best selling author of the Ranger in Danger, Why I love and Baby Talk series as well as the gorgeous picture book The Littlest Bushranger. 

Hi Alison,

Welcome back to From Hook to Book. Thank you for stopping by on the very first day of your blog tour. Warmest congratulations to both you and Heath on the launch of A New Friend for Marmalade, your gorgeous new Marmalade adventure.

Thanks for the invite, Chris. I love reading From Hook to Book, so very nice to be here.

A Friend for Marmalade_COVER_PB copy

Ella, Maddy and Marmalade are best friends. Then one day everything changes when Toby, the boy from across the road wants to play with them. This gentle story is about accepting people, even when they do things a little differently from you. And it all revolves around a very special little cat named Marmalade.

 

Alison, I’m so in awe of how in A Year with Marmalade you manage to portray the complexity of how we are all different and play differently, yet can play together. Can you explain the thought process or process of elimination it takes for a picture book author to boil down such complexity to a minimum of words that expresses it so simply and beautifully?

I actually wrote this by writing a list of my thoughts about the two friends from A Year with Marmalade, and a new annoying boy  who wants to be friends, but doesn’t understand how to make friends.

I  jotted down random thoughts, for instance Toby, the new boy, annoys the girls so I thought of what he could do to annoy them without meaning to be annoying. I didn’t actually worry about the storyline, but kept writing down images and thinking what if? Eventually, a story emerged. I eliminated a lot of the extraneous words  and ideas that didn’t further the main narrative. There’s usually no room for going off on a tangent in a picture book. I always have to remember that simple is good, especially when you’re dealing with complex issues.

A Friend for Marmalade_Internals_PB_Page_06 copyA New Friend for Marmalade is really as much about the girls’ acceptance of a new friend too. There’s a significant, but subtly shown, change going on when the girls must not only share their space and creative play, but their beloved cat Marmalade too. There’s a lot going on. A lot of tolerance required by the girls for the new boy who clumsily upsets their games and yet still wins over the affection of Marmalade. As the writer, what came first for you the theme or the story?

This book started with the theme. The publisher suggested the sequel be about friendship and accepting other people even when they are different to you. I imagined an exuberant boy, Toby, who wants to be liked and make friends with Ella, Maddy and Marmalade. Astute Marmalade can see that Toby is a good friend, although he is very different from him. It takes the girls a little longer to realise this, but eventually they do. I can imagine how irritating the girls found it that when they were trying to give Toby “the cold shoulder” and Marmalade loved Toby. I really enjoyed writing that strand.

The resolution in the story got me to thinking and wondering: Is it the commonality of the childrens’ shared concern/common goal to rescue Marmalade that unites them in friendship as much as tolerance? Do you think this is a strategy that schools and those working with children might employ to bring together warring factions or isolated children – a common goal or concern?

I think by the resolution, the girls were beginning to soften towards Toby. They had the example of how much Marmalade liked Toby, suggesting that Toby was really a nice person. I do believe that sharing a common goal unites people. And the process of working together allows you to get to know another person better and most times you end up liking them.

I do think a shared concern or common goal can be used to bring together warring factions or isolated children. Often people don’t like somebody they regard as being the “Other” but once they are in a situation to really know them, their feelings can change. I don’t think that children are often given the skills to befriend somebody who is different to them. They can feel awkward and scared of doing the wrong thing and hurting the other person’s feelings. It’s easier in a sense to isolate that person. I can remember being scared of children who were different when I was little. I’m not sure why looking back.  I never bullied anybody, but I probably kept away from children who were perceived as different.  I didn’t know what to do. In this book I’m trying to show that if you accept that not everybody is the same, that can lead to different, special friendships. Toby’s brilliant idea to use the cape not only acts as a solution to Marmalade’s problem drawing the children together, but also provides the children with an excuse to be together and develop a friendship. I always felt they all wanted to be friends, but only Marmalade knew how to make a new friend.

Have you experienced a “Toby” in your life, Alison? If yes, what swung your affection his or her way?

I’ve met a “Toby” or two. Luckily, I’ve developed much better social skills and know to give people “a go”. I think if you look hard enough there’s always something to like in most people. Nobody was born mean, and most people are lovely if you give them the chance.

I should also admit that I based the character on the exuberant character of our beloved Labrador, Toby. He would run through boxes, upset drinks with his wagging tail, and lick our faces if we fell over. He never meant to be a slobbering nuisance. He just wanted to join in.

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Alison, I’ve heard a thrilling whisper that Marmalade is taking a trip abroad. Can you tell us about this exciting development?

Yes, A New Friend for Marmalade has already been released in the UK by The Five Mile Press UK and is padding in A Year with Marmalade’s paws by being published by Little Simon (Simon and Schuster US) in July this year. He is a well travelled cat!

A New Friend for Marmalade is published by The Five Mile Press ISBN: 9781743466599

Visit Alison on her website www.alisonreynolds.com.au.

WIN, WIN, WIN! – GREAT WRITER & PET OWNER COMPETITIONS:

As part of Alison’s blog tour she is offering some fantastic prizes in two different competitions. Anyone, any age, can enter her  fantastic PET PHOTO competition and AUTHORS get the fabulous opportunity to JUMP THE PUBLISHER’S SLUSH PILE.

Jump the Slush Pile

Win a free pass to a Children’s editor’s desk. Just comment on this blog post or any other blog during the A New Friend for Marmalade blog tour and add the initials CB. The more you comment, the more chances you have to win the draw.

Win a free pass to a Non-fiction commissioning editor’s desk.  Just comment on this blog post or any other blog during the A New Friend for Marmalade blog tour and add the initials NF. The more you comment, the more chances you have to win the draw.

Win an assessment of Chapter One of a chapter book by the fabulous mentor extraordinaire Dee White. http://deescribewriting.wordpress.com/   Just comment on this blog post or any other blog during the A New Friend for Marmalade blog tour and add the initials DW. The more you comment, the more chances you have to win the draw.

Win a free picture book assessment by Alison! Just comment on this blog post or any other blog during the A New Friend for Marmalade blog tour and add the initials PB. The more you comment, the more chances you have to win the draw.

Pet Photo contest – for all ages!

Marmalade the cat is full of personality. Do you have a pet with personality? Win a piece of artwork by Heath McKenzie. Send along a photo of your personality-plus pet to www.alisonreynolds.com.aualrey@msn.com.au or upload to https://www.facebook.com/alison.reynolds.524

Random book giveaways!

Just leave a comment on one of the posts in the blog tour, comment on facebook or even email me that you want to enter competition to win A New Friend for Marmalade.

FOLLOW ALISON’S BLOG TOUR

11th March Dee White – review and post http://deescribewriting.wordpress.com

11th March Chris Bell – interview http://christinemareebell.wordpress.com

12th March Angela Sunde – interview with Heath http://angelasunde.blogspot.com.au

12th March KBR – book giveaway http://www.kids-bookreview.com

13th March Boomerang Books – Post with Dimity Powell http://blog.boomerangbooks.com.au/author/dpowell

14th March KBR Guest post http://www.kids-bookreview.com

14th March KBR Review http://www.kids-bookreview.com

14th March Sally Murphy – Meet my book http://aussiereviews.com/reviews/blog

15th March Buzz Words – Interview http://www.buzzwordsmagazine.com

17th March Ask the Bean Counter – Mr X http://www.alisonreynolds.com.au

17th March Pass-it-on Post and Review - Jackie Hosking http://jackiehoskingpio.wordpress.com/school-magazine

18th March Ask the Publisher – Kay Scarlett http://www.alisonreynolds.com.au

Tagged

Alison Pith HelmetI have been tagged by lovely and prolific writer and friend Alison Reynolds to share my writing process in the “Tagged” blog tour. A bit of a worry since, as a child, I was “Chris of the Scabby Knees”, more likely to fall over than tag anyone. So just as well email is faster than me at tagging.

The Littlest bushranger_FRONT COVERAlison Reynolds is the author of the gorgeous A Year with Marmalade and The Littlest Bushranger picture books as well as the popular Ranger in Danger (choose your own adventure) series. And, “TA DA”, very, very soon a brand new Marmalade adventure. In fact, I’m excited to host Alison – next week – on her whirlwind blog tour to help launch A New Friend for Marmalade.

To find out more about Alison and more of her brilliant books you can visit her website at http://www.alisonreynolds.com.au.

What am I working on?

I am working on a YA historical novel set in convict Tasmania. It’s a bit scary saying that, because really it’s done and time to send it out into the world. That’s the hard part though, because a writer always fears – it might come back.

DSC03909 copyHow does my work differ from others in its genre?

When writing my last two novels, both the main characters’ voices  arrived strong and distinct. I hope this originality of voice will help set them apart from some other historical works. I write very much from story rather than the historical period I’m writing in. Of course, I want the details and history to be correct, but I don’t want to give my reader a history lesson. Detail is soon sacrificed if it ruins the moment or pace.

Rue de Kanga - Peronne copyRooDeKanga 1918 Peronne copyWhy do I write what I write?

These days I write mostly historical fiction because it’s become an absolute passion for me and, as it turns out, it’s what I’ve always loved most to read. Starting with A Little Bush Maid by Mary Grant Bruce, back in the days when I could read all night by torchlight to get to the end of a book or crash to sleep trying. I get so lost in the research, learning about the different ways of doing day-to-day tasks, gutting and skinning rabbits, lighting a fire, dressing and talking, that sometimes I forget to write.

I love that I get to talk to so many interesting people from all over the world too, including an ex-Scottish coal miner, the owner of a French chateau, and an expert on antique weapons, discussing everything from botany to broomsticks, cockatoos to crinolines. Plus I’ve been fortunate to go to some truly amazing places. A lot of the time only in my mind, yes. But my research has taken me to Scotland, down a real coal mine, onto the battlefields and into towns in France still bearing the scars of WW1, and forced me to face some fears stepping nervously through tunnels deep under the city of Arras.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

How does my writing process work?

My process varies depending on what I’m writing. For short titles, I tend to plot first and then write out the story. But for my historical novels, I found the settings first and then the main characters arrived. I always knew what the problem/conflict was to start, just not how my character would solve it. With a basic starting point, I wrote to find out how things turned out. Themes and subplots emerged later, through many hours of daydreaming, midnight musing and redrafting, as well as during the writing.

ww1 mortar in wall IMG_1351 copyUntil I really get to know a character, many thousands of words into the writing, I can’t know how they will react to different challenges or what decisions they might make. Sometimes they surprise me and their decisions can lead to a plot twist that I wasn’t planning on. I can write copious notes in notebooks, ideas and scenes, and possible scenarios for the story, yet when I look back, months later, it has all turned out so differently. The character/s I planned in my notebook never turn out the same as the one/s that come to life on the page.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s  thrilling when a new character I hadn’t planned turns up. Shattering when one dies unexpectedly, yet rightly for the story. Sometimes things occur because they’re inevitable and no other way things could have worked out.

Then the editing process begins. Stuff gets chucked out, stuff gets rewritten and stuff gets added. So I guess my process is not systematic, though I’m always in control, even if I do have to wrench it back sometimes from my characters.

Now it’s my turn to tag. I’m out of breath, but have managed to catch up with three wonderful writers and friends.

Liz CorbettElizabeth Jane Corbett is a fellow writing group buddy and beautiful historical fiction writer. When she isn’t writing, Elizabeth Jane works as a librarian, teaches Welsh and blogs at elizabethjanecorbett.com. In her spare time, she also writes copy and reviews for the Historical Novels Review. In 2007, an early draft of her historical novel, Chrysalis, was shortlisted for a HarperCollins Varuna manuscript development award. In 2009, her short-story, Beyond the Blackout Curtain, won the Bristol Short Story Prize. Another story, Silent Night, was also shortlisted for the Allan Marshall Short Story Award. She is currently in the final stages of re-drafting her original historical novel. She expects to have it ready for submission by the middle of the year.

clairesaxbyThe multi-talented Claire Saxby is hard to catch. She’s busy, busy with three new picture books in production and the author of the stunning Big Red and gorgeous Sea Dog.  Claire writes fiction, non-fiction and poetry for children. She has published picture books and chapter books, short stories and articles. Her poetry appears in magazines, anthologies, on train walls and in museum resources. Claire lives in Melbourne and loves it, despite what anyone says about the weather.

Claire’s most recent picture books are ‘Meet the ANZACS’ illustrated by Max Berry (Random House), ‘Big Red Kangaroo’ illustrated by Graham Byrne (Walker Books) and ‘Seadog’, illustrated by Tom Jellett (Random House) which won the  Speech Pathology Award for Young Children in 2013. You can learn more about Claire on her website.

KatApel_Bully_B&W_SmLastly I’ve stretched all the way to QLD to tag the beautiful and very talented, Kathryn Apel. I met Kat through Month of Poetry, which she runs and coordinates each year. Kat was born and bred a farm girl – but she’s still scared of cows! Kat lives amongst the gum trees, kangaroos and cattle, on a grazing property in Queensland. Her chapter book, ‘Fencing with Fear’ is part of the Aussie! Read! series, and her rural rhyming picture book, ‘This is the Mud!’ has been read by Justine on ABC PlaySchool. Kat’s verse novel for younger readers, ‘Bully on the Bus’ will be released in July, with UQP. Prior to publication it won the published author’s manuscript section of the 2012 CYA Competition.

Kathryn co-ordinates Month of Poetry each January, and has had poetry published in magazines and on CD in Australia and New Zealand.

You can read more about her work at katswhiskers.wordpress.com

A Room with a View

How great and inspiring has been my view over recent weeks? What writer would curse the happy distraction of sunflower heads nodding and bees puddling in pollen? Whenever I looked up from my desk they made me smile. Sunflowers copy

Every day for a fortnight, new ones to see!

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My cheery bird’s eye view. (Okay, there is a zoom lens in play!)

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The bees forgot to visit the beans in their thrall. And at times I forgot to write!

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Now it’s time to farewell the last solo sunflower and get back to work.

But I am going to plant more next year and, in the meantime, a few colourful distractions to take their place.

Don’t all writers need a room with a view?

(aka reason to procrastinate.)

Authenticity vs Action

Certain indisputable beliefs were planted in the minds of all television-watching children of the fifties and sixties raised on a diet of cowboy and wild west movies. And of course John Wayne.

john-wayne imageSettlers rode horses, carried guns, could shoot an indian off a hillside half-a-mile away and pick off their dinner prey with a single shot.

And that’s what I believed about hunting and shooting in colonial days. But it seems our forebears in Van Diemen’s Land – circa 1830 – were not blessed with the sharp shooters of the American wild west. They could neither afford nor had access to rifles or shotguns, their single option being to purchase the cast-off Brown Bess muskets of the British military. Even the military themselves could not afford to upgrade to the easier loading, more accurate rifled guns.

Muskets proved useless though to hunt wary kangaroos, wallabies and emus. The timid creatures, unused to white man and his weapons, were quite safe from the inaccurate Brown Bess, even if they had been curious enough to stick around and see what the noisy, long, hit and miss sticks were about.

Muskets work best at a range of no more than twenty yards (18.28 metres). Beyond that the hunter would be lucky to hit his target. Too close and there wouldn’t be much left to salvage for the cooking pot.

Settlers, convicts and bushrangers used snares to catch rabbits, which were populous already in Van Diemen’s Land by the 1820s. To go after larger game, they used dogs aka imported hunting hounds. Even the first settlers on the island, the aborigines, quickly converted their own hunting strategies to include the skill and speed of dogs.

tasmanianaboriginesNative herbivores, having lived a previously dogless existence, bar the thylacine who it’s believed went in for a more ambush than pursuit attack, were no match for the speed and power of the dogs. The open grasslands of Van Diemen’s Land provided a perfect environment for the chase and few places to hide.

An interview with Dr Leo Laden (antique gun authority and owner of the Colonial Arms Museum in Perth) provided me with a detailed explanation on loading, firing and the range of the Brown Bess for my novel. Thanks to him, I’m pretty confident I could load a Brown Bess. Hitting a target, I’m not so sure about. But it seems even well trained soldiers were more lucky than reliable at hitting their targets in the Brown Bess era. Dr Laden explained how, to his disappointment, modern day movie reenactments of colonial life and war more often pursue effect rather than authenticity. I’m confident though, with his guidance, that I’ve got my story portrayal right at least.

Don’t you love writing in the days of the internet? Articles, experts, videos only a Google search away. Who have you interviewed lately? I’d love to know what you are researching?

If you’d like to see the Brown Bess in action, click on the youtube video link below.

Every writer needs a hobby

Writers are lucky. We love our work. Well we do when we’re not having to rewrite whole slabs that seemed so promising at first, but fell so flat; or freaking out didn’t I change that bit last week? Have I lost that draft? Aaah! Or suddenly discovering that something we’ve set up cannot work and it’s all about to come crashing down. Eeek! Etc, etc.

We love our story so much that sometimes it’s easy to keep writing, day in and day out, until one day, you realise that you’ve not only forgotten to smell the roses, but they’ve budded up, bloomed and fallen while you’ve not been looking. I think the official term is “lack of balance”.

This year I’m going to try working to more like office hours, take weekends. (Of course flexi-time is included. And maybe even RDOs, since I do the roster.) At least when not working to a deadline or in that heady, urgent “new” story zone that demands you write, right then, to catch all the ideas and characters buzzing in your head.

It’s sort-of hard getting away from writing/work when one’s hobbies are reading and writing poetry though, but, with a new address and larger garden, I’ve discovered a new passion – growing vegies and herbs and all things edible.

DSC04620Growing food is not unlike writing a new story, especially watching it grow from seed. Waiting to see if that tiny kernel will sprout into a seedling. One that will grow and grow and flower and once the prettiness falls away, the fruit remains to develop and mature into something palatable. Something to be enjoyed and satisfy and leave  you recalling it later. (Sorry, that could just be indigestion!)

I’m loving the watering (thinking time), harvest, and the eating of what we are growing. Nearly as much as sending a new manuscript out into the world and seeing a published book come back.

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It must be January…

…because it’s Month of Poetry. Yay!

What an inspirational way to launch the year and reinvigorate the writing muscle. Month of Poetry is run every year in January by the very talented and lovely Kathryn (Kat) Apel who gives experienced and novice poets alike a forum to write and post a poem a day, and exchange comments and feedback with one another. This is my third time participating and I’m learning so much and about so many (new to me) forms.mop12

It’s such a wonderful way to jump into the writing year. And a fabulous kick-start for me after a complete break from writing since the beginning of December. Though it’s been wonderful to take time-out, it’s also been quite strange because I can’t remember the last time I spent so long away from a WIP, blogging or some form of writing. But after several months focused on rewriting my YA historical novel, and two house moves in between, it was definitely time to rest and play. And finish unpacking boxes!

my year

I’m really looking forward to this year. So much is on the horizon and lots happening for this writer. I’m heading to Varuna Writer’s House in March to take up my two-week Residential Fellowship and I can’t wait to catch the whispers in its walls and soak up the inspiration. I plan to write up a storm.Varuna Writers House

I’ve taken on an exciting new role as Support to our new Victorian SCBWI Assistant Regional Advisor, Caz Goodwin. And I’m really looking forward to meeting more of our members and participating in the exciting range of events planned for this year.

SCBWI Conf-logoI’m attending the SCBWI International Conference in Sydney in July. It’s going to be fantastic to catch up with some online friends and writing buddies from around Australia and meet lots of new ones, not to mention attend all the fabulous sessions and panels.

A quick trip to Tassie will enable me to tweak a couple of descriptions and double-check a couple of locations in my WIP.

So welcome 2014. I’ve cleared out my email inbox, tidied my desk, and, at last, filed my considerable WIP research. Phew! That was a job and a half. So I’m ready and raring to go a hunting words. The best part is to so look forward to getting back to work, doing exactly what I love.

Paul Collins – Writing Across Genres

Today I’m excited to welcome award-winning author/publisher Paul Collins to share his experience writing across genres and celebrate the launch of not just one, but two new books.

Paul CollinsEMiPaul is best known for The Quentaris Chronicles, which he co-edits with Michael Pryor, The Jelindel Chronicles, The Earthborn Wars and The World of Grrym trilogy in collaboration with Danny Willis.

Paul has been short-listed for many awards and won the Aurealis, William Atheling and the inaugural Peter McNamara awards. He has had two Notable Books in the Children’s Book Council of Australia Awards.

Congratulations, Paul, on the recent release of both The Only Game in the Galaxy (book three in the The Maximus Black Files) and your first adult novel The Beckoning.

You have been published in an incredibly diverse range of genres from picture story book/chapter book/YA fantasy and science fiction through to adult thriller. A very impressive range. I’m curious to know how you cross genres so successfully both from the writing and promotional aspects.

It’s really a matter of encompassing cross-subsidisation. Writers are notoriously the worst paid workers around. Who else would work for a year and risk not being paid? Writers do this all the time. So early on I realised that if I were to make writing a full time career, I needed to work several jobs, and jobs that allowed me to write. Hence, I opened bookshops. These didn’t pay much, so I worked as a bouncer in hotels at nights. During the day, I’d write stories in my various shops. This worked for around twenty-five years until I started making more from my writing than both my security work and bookshops. I knew I had to edit anthologies, write chapter books and non-fiction titles for education publishers, and as an indulgence, ‘real’ books. I say ‘real’ meaning thicker, substantial books. But even though I’ve been published by most of the major publishers, I have to admit that these ‘real’ books aren’t in any way lucrative. I don’t want to sound like it’s a monetary thing, but if you’re serious about being a career author, you do need to look at what you make from it. I’ve never received writing grants.

ONLY GAME FRONT Newsletter

With two concurrent newly published titles, The Only Game in the Galaxy and The Beckoning, how are you splitting/sharing your promotional time and energy on such different projects and readerships?

This was tough in one sense as I’m primarily known as a writer for younger readers. But luckily for me most of my contacts were curious as to how I came to write an adult horror novel. Most wondered where I found the time. But this in itself proved a marketable story. I wrote it around 30 years ago – the counter of several bookshops as I mentioned. I typed it onto a computer in the 90s, saved it via various storage devices such as 3.5 floppies, CDs, zip drives, USB sticks. Suddenly I noticed on Buzz Words that Damnation Books was after horror books so figured what the heck, I’d submit it. So all the blogs I wrote and interviews I gave, I got to mention The Beckoning, although primarily people were interested in The Only Game in the Galaxy. So they both got equal billing. And it seems to have worked. Both titles made the Top 100 on various Amazon pages. The Beckoning actually made #7 on the psychic thriller page, just six spots behind Stephen King’s latest novel. It’s been in the Top 100 ever since it was published. The Only Game in the Galaxy is also in the Top 100 on the spies’ page.

The Beckoning is your first published adult novel. What (if any) differences or contrasts can you make between writing for young adult readers and writing for adult readers?

Not much, really. Simply because most kids books have, surprise, surprise, kids in them. The Beckoning also features a kid. But whereas a kid’s book would be told from the kid’s POV, an adults book focuses on an adult’s POV. So The Beckoning is told from Briony’s father’s POV.

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The Beckoning was thirty years from first writing to publication. How much changed since that original version and in what ways did you need to alter it to suit a changed world and readership?

 Believe it or not, very little. A few things have changed, such as the cost of living, mobile phones and such, but generally the novel stood the test of time. I was tempted to ‘set’ the time period as mid eighties, but there was no need to. I did change some text to suit the US market, but that too was minimal. The Beckoning is a real time capsule to what I was writing back then. I was recently reminded that I also have another horror novel sitting in a box somewhere. Unfortunately this one was never converted to a computer, so I’d need to find time to type it again. And who knows, perhaps it’s best left in the box. I have to say I’m staggered by the reviews The Beckoning is getting. Over the thirty years it’s been rejected by many publishers. The closest it came to being published was reaching the long list of Lothian’s short-lived adult horror series.

Paul, you have said that there is nothing to like about Maximus Black as a character, breaking a taboo in publishing that says authors need to make their protagonist likeable if they expect readers to follow his/her journey. Yet readers have embraced Maximus. What do you think it is about him and his stories that appeals to readers amd keeps them reading?

Tough question! I can’t answer directly – you’d be better off asking readers that question. I thought perhaps readers would relate to Max’s nemesis, the irrepressible Anneke Longshadow. But so many reviewers have basically been behind Maximus Black. Maybe I’ve somehow reached down into his soul and exposed him in some inexplicable way that readers have picked up on? Dunno. I do know that I asked a good friend of mine to have a read of the first title, Mole Hunt, and he thoroughly detested Maximus. The book depressed him. And yet readers across the board disagree with this first reader – as you can imagine, I’m much relieved!

Will the reader see another side of Maximus Black in The Only Game in the Galaxy being the final book in the series?

Certainly. He does become more ‘human’ throughout the trilogy. I can sort of see how readers would ‘finally’ relate to him. But not from the beginning, which they did.

We hear a lot these days about “author branding”and how writers need to focus on one genre to build a “brand” for themselves, their books and their publisher. As the wearer of dual hats, as both author and as Publisher at Ford Street Publishing, how important to you think author “branding” is?

It obviously works for some people. But like I mentioned, I’ve had to write across the board – everything from picture books through to books for adults. I don’t see how I could brand myself with this work ethic. It simply wouldn’t work. Publishers expect you to remain loyal to them so as not to dilute their investment in you. But let’s be realistic: writing one book a year is not going to feed you, much less pay the bills. Only a small percentage of authors can make a living in Australia writing one book a year and sticking with a single publisher.

Do you have any advice for writers wanting to write across genres and readership ages?

Reading books across genres and readerships helps. See what the main publishers are publishing. Don’t be afraid to take risks: send your manuscripts out to as many publishers as it takes to get them published. And remember, we all get rejections. Be persistent. Take on board editorial tips for improvement if they’re offered. Subscribe to magazines such as PIO and Buzz Words. You only need to discover one market to which you sell a story or a novel, and you’ve more than made back your investment.

You have published a phenomenol 150+ books, Paul. Is there any advice that you wish you’d been given as a young, emerging writer or something in particular that you’ve learned that you’d like to share with the readers of this post?

Apart from the above, I wish I’d participated in some writing courses. I pretty much went it alone and made mistakes, but never had anyone to show me where I was going wrong. I think a mentor would’ve proven invaluable; would’ve certainly been a short-cut to getting novels published. Despite writing my first novels in the early eighties, it wasn’t until the mid nineties that I sold The Wizard’s Torment to HarperCollins. Not until then did I realise that I was on the right track.

Thank you for visiting From Hook to Book, Paul, and sharing your insights and experiences. Congratulations again on publication of both The Only Game in the Galaxy and The Beckoning. 

Paul’s latest titles are available at Amazon:

The Beckoning: Kindle and print: http://tinyurl.com/ny6urwy

The Only Game in the Galaxy at Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/mshxpsx

Print: http://tinyurl.com/lfubra6

The Only Game in the Galaxy

ONLY GAME FRONT NewsletterIn a galaxy of cutthroat companies, shadowy clans and 
a million agendas, spy agency RIM barely wields enough control to keep order. Maximus Black is RIM’s star cadet. But he has a problem. One of RIM’s best agents, Anneke Longshadow, knows there’s a mole in the organisation.

And Maximus has a lot to hide.

Ford Street Publishing   ISBN: 9781925000061

The Beckoning

The Beckoning _150dpi_eBookWhen evil intent is just the beginning…
Matt Brannigan is a lawyer living on the edge. His daughter, Briony is psychic and trouble shadows his family wherever they go.
Cult guru Brother Desmond knows that the power within Briony is the remaining key he needs to enter the next dimension. Once he controls this, he will have access to all that is presently denied him.
When Briony is indoctrinated into the Zarathustrans, Matt and psychic Clarissa Pike enter the cult’s headquarters under the cover of night to rescue her.
So begins Armageddon…

Damnation Books LLC   ASIN: B00F5I6ZWE

Paul Collins website

Ford Street PublishingFordStemail-sig

Killer Clothes – Literally

arsenic bottleDuring the 1800s the population of Victorian England were quite literally eating, wearing, sleeping and washing themselves to death with arsenic.

While researching rat poison, strictly for my novel, of course, I came across some startling facts. Arsenic was used as a common green colourant, creating the gorgeous Scheeles green, Emerald and Paris green dyes. Arsenic dyes went into everything from wallpaper, clothing, jellies, sweets, artificial flowers, soaps and candles, as well as children’s toys.

green dressLadies swooned in their bright crinoline gowns, never suspecting their dresses were poisoning them and the cause of their aches and pains. A person could become ill just sleeping in his bed surrounded by fashionable green wallpapering, breathing in the paper dust and vapours.

Green wallpaperWith the ready availability of the impossible to taste, smell, detect, common household grains or bottles of liquid arsenic, there were plenty of deliberate poisonings too. Symptoms of arsenic poisoning imitated common gastric complaints and ailments: stomach pains, cramping muscles and sweating, and it is thought that many murder victims went to their graves under the guise of food poisoning or intestinal diseases. Desperate murderers of the day often sought to claim the “life insurance” held by many householders  to afford them a decent burial when the time came. For some, that time came sooner than expected.

It was the late 1800s before synthetic dyes began to replace arsenic greens, and quite some years after their poisonous nature was first discovered. Makers of millions of yards of wallpaper and other manufacturers held out insisting that their products caused no harm, until science could irrefutably prove that arsenic was poisonous in such applications and not just through ingestion by mouth. By the 1900s forensic science could detect arsenic in the deceased and it passed out of popularity with poisoners too.

Now to the writing month that was October

Books Read:                          1 x YA novel (no time to read – see “houses moved”)

Words Written:                       12000

Words Edited:                         20000

Convict Slang Learned:

Knuckle - to pick pockets

Horney - a constable

Glim stick – a candlestick

Houses Moved                       1

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI was gobsmacked to see this guy moving house in Fuzhou, China back in 2006. It was incredible how much he had stacked on such a small cart. We were  lucky to have a large moving van and a couple of energetic professionals to assist us in relocating our worldly goods.

Source: Convict slang A New and Comprehensive Vocabulary of the Flash Language (Author James Hardy Vaux 1812)

A Varuna Fellowship – a tick off the old bucket list!

Varuna Writers HouseWhen I first started writing seriously and heard of Varuna Writing Fellowships, and Varuna Writers’ House, I wrote “achieve a Varuna Fellowship” clearly on my bucket list of writing goals.

So forgive me while I jump up and down with excitement to share the news that I have been awarded a 2014 Varuna Retreat Fellowship to work on my YA historical novel Prison Boy.

I have been to Varuna. Back in 2011, I paid for a one-week residency. It was writer heaven to be encircled by the quiet of the house, knowing my fellow writers too were squirrelled away at their desks, writing, reading, imagining. Best, there were no interruptions. No appointments, no ringing phone, no clothes to wash and most importantly and best of all (if you don’t count the writing) no meals to prepare. The wonderful Sheila prepares and cooks the most incredible meals and all one has to do is come down to dinner. Oh, and share a drink and conversation with fellow writers and/or illustrators.

I have to say that last time, a little part of me didn’t quite feel I’d earned the right to be there. I still coveted a Fellowship. Three weeks after the announcement, I’m still pinching myself.

Maggie the MuseI can’t wait to revisit, hopefully, the same productivity and inspiration of last time. Also I want to see if my little mate, Maggie, the magpie, and muse, with his twisted foot, is still there. I hope so.

Varuna, here I come!

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