Monday, April 14, 2014

My Writing Process, a Blog Tour

I was invited by the talented and prolific Simon Turney to take part in this blog tour about writing process. For those of you who are not familiar with Simon, he is the author of the Marius’ Mules series of novels and the Tales of the Empire books (Interregnum et al), plus several other projects. Go take a look. I am certain you will not be disappointed whichever story you begin with. He is passionate about history and writing, eager to share his knowledge and to give support to other writers. He is one of those chaps you pray are beside you in the shield wall, when your Lord cries “To Sweord”. You can view his part in the blog tour here

Q1. What am I working on?

I’m working on a Saxon series entitled ‘The Wolf Spear Sagas’, which span the 5th to 11th Centuries; each one a journey quest involving descendants from the previous books. When fate finds those involved, they are unwittingly dragged into a rite of passage, battling emotional and physical obstacles to meet their ultimate destinies. My first book ‘Wulfsuna’ follows a Saxon tribe, as they attempt to fulfil their Lord’s long-held dream of settling in Brython, encountering betrayal, murder, magic and romance along the way. Simon Turney recently described ‘Wulfsuna’ as ‘a tale with style and oomph’. You need ‘oomph’ when writing and when in battle!

Q2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

On ‘Wulfsuna’:
I know of only a few writers who delve into Sub-Roman Britain. I guess Mark Patton would be one good name to mention, with his novel ‘An Accidental King’ about King Cogidubnus. I do not know why this is, as I find it a fascinating landscape of hidden gems in dark corners. The lack of written history available provides a wealth of creative opportunity. With ‘Wulfsuna’, I read a variety of fictional research from many sources, especially if they held differing opinions, which was often the case. The remainder was imaginative artistic licence, inspired in part by meetings with passionate and well-read Saxon re-enactors and the knowledgeable Professor Stephen Pollington.

In general:
Every writer tries to find their own ‘voice’. I feel I have now found mine, after much hard graft and honing of my craft. As for how I may have set myself apart from others within Historical Fiction; that was a hard one to answer! The Histfic community is a close-knit one replete with support and respect for fellow genre authors. Some write bloodier works than others. Some include more romance than others. Some have a heavy political slant. One thing that prevails is that most writers usually stay within a single, preferred century. I have not done this. I love Brythons, Saxons and Vikings and there are too many times and places to explore. Also I wanted to show that the ‘Wolf Spear Saga’ was a fateful story that had captured generations of people through history; that descendent after descendent could find their destinies altered by the Saga.

Q3. Why do I write what I do?

Why? I have to write. It is ingrained into my being. I am always writing something. As for the 'what': Saxons and Vikings have fascinated me since childhood. Learning of warriors who arrived in dragon boats fuelled my young mind. Growing up it amazed me that Saxon and Viking surnames and place names still exist today, that their influence lingers in our modern lives.Having a maiden name of Saxon origin and a married name of Viking extraction has kept the mind fires burning. Family trips to long barrows and standing stone circles nurtured a curiosity that remains with me to this day. The discovery of the Staffordshire Hoard on Watling Street was another significant inspiration for me, wondering who the pieces belonged to, who buried them and why. History is everywhere we breathe and I write to inspire others to seek it out, to uncover what lies beneath the surface of our every step.

Q4. How does my writing process work?

This is a little like laying my soul bare, but here goes. When an idea grips me I am at its mercy until I can write it all down. My first drafts are all by hand as pen on paper feels more fluid. Some stories begin with an inspirational sentence that can be prose or dialogue. Others I begin by simply writing from page one. Very few stories are birthed via a synopsis or plot arc, which are usually things I write after I’ve begun the book. Once I’m into the feel of the story, I create a biographical page for each important protagonist/antagonist.

Here you may cringe, but I don’t work chronologically. If the ending begs to be written, I write it (otherwise I will forget). Likewise, I am often found scribbling dialogue exchanges for the middle of a book, usually in the small hours, by moonlight (with a pencil on an envelope because that was all I could find in the dark). I link the pieces like a literary jigsaw, filling necessary gaps as I encounter them.

When I have my first draft, I type it up giving it a redraft as I go. I keep all my notes. After many redrafts (oh, so many), it goes to an editor and I respond to their comments. I use Beta readers and I am also a member of the Prince of Wales Writers on Writing group (PoWWoW), which affords me an audience and good critique. If you can find a local writing group, I would recommend you join one as the benefits are many. Not only do you glean great feedback from others on your own work, but you can learn how to critique someone else’s work. This is educational as, by examining another’s work, you begin to view your own writing with a critical eye. Lastly, a final edit solves any remaining issues.

Well, there's my process. Did I mention it all happens over lots of coffee and cake? (Perhaps that's a given with writers?) Next are my recruits, of which there should be three. I asked several author friends, many of whom were already on the tour and a few did not have the time due to their own timetables, which was a pity. However, fellow Dark Ages author Matthew Harffy is on the tour and blogging today too, so we agreed to add a mention for one another. Thanks Matthew!

Matthew Harffy is currently writing a series of action-packed novels, set against the backdrop of the clash between peoples and religions in Dark Ages Britain. Set in seventh century Northumbria the 'Bernicia Chronicles' begin with 'The Serpent Sword' and continue with the sequel 'The Cross and the Curse'. Matthew is a new face to the world of Historical Fiction, though he brings with him a superb knowledge and exciting style. Watch out for his books! Visit Matthew's website here and look out for his blog today to discover his writing process.

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