Tuesday, 28 May 2013

How much of you is inside a story?

It is a tricky conundrum for a writer. Creating a character and a world often relies on familiarity, on drawing parallels between your own experience and the fantastical space you want to create. You trawl through every memory, every place you've visited, every experience you've had, desperately seeking to create some truth in the narrative you are writing. But how much of you ends up inside your story?

I suppose it works differently for each writer, and it depends on each individual personality. You could argue that it is impossible to write anything convincingly, if you've never experienced it. How can you accurately present love and loss if you've never understood what that means? But what if your world is so far removed from this one? How can human reference apply to a place and time so radically different from the one we inhabit? I don't think it matters. If you write, you write what you know. Even if your world is one where dragons exist and walk and talk, where people ride unicorns into the sunset, where people have three heads and eight legs, you will always place your human experience on them. Within every character, you will place the characteristics you love or despise onto them. At the back of your mind, you will remember a moment where someone, perhaps yourself, behaved similarly. When a character makes choices, you will inevitably relate it to a similar choice and its consequences, its motivations, its results. Likewise with setting; no matter how amazing the place you describe is, it will always be grounded in a place you've been, perhaps on holiday, perhaps as a child, perhaps one you created in your dreams. A writer and their work are inextricably linked, so that even when you're writing the opposite of who you are, remnants of you remain in them.

People have said to me about 'Lost Glory', well Faye is basically like you isn't she? My gut reaction is always to say 'no'. It is no secret that as a writer, I have really struggled with Faye as a character. Desperate to avoid creating a stereotypical caricature of a teen fiction character, I've found myself really thinking about the way Faye acts and the decisions she makes. I was adamant that I didn't want to create another Bella Swan, yet at the same time, I didn't want to create a Katniss Everdeen or a Clary or a Helen Hamilton either. I wanted Faye to be a normal girl. Not beautiful, or perfect, or strong, or noble, or powerful. I just wanted her to be relatable and easy for a teenage girl to read about. I wanted her to go on some type of journey, where she realises that she has strength inside of her, but she has to learn from her mistakes and bad choices, as we all do in life.  I'm yet to work out whether I have done this successfully.

Faye and I do have similarities. We both come from single parent families, with our respective fathers disappearing at a similar age. We both have had to grow up quickly. We both lack confidence in ourselves, and we both desperately want affection. But then I think the similarities end. My own relationship with my mother is far less conflicted than that of Faye with hers, and my Mum always took care of me, unless Faye's mother who exists in an alcohol drenched oblivion. Thinking back to my own experience of school. I remember existing in a headphoned world where it was just me and my music (similar to Faye). I did have friends, and I would say I was fairly popular, but I think that came more from the perception that I was clever. People gravitated towards me because I always knew the answer, and I always painted on a smile for people, no matter how difficult that felt.  Faye on the other hand, lacks any social circle. Lauren helps her muddle her way through school and through life, but essentially Faye shuts everyone out. With Faye, I think she is convinced that everyone must have an ulterior motive, If not, they have no business talking to her. I don't think this is dissimilar from many teenage girls' experiences. Being a teenage girl is hard. You are at your most paranoid and self conscious in many senses. Your body is changing and you don't always understand it. You're making that transition between being a girl and a woman, and no one tells you whether you are doing it 'right'. Boy that you used to tease and hate suddenly become objects of desire, and you watch all of your friends becoming more grown up before you, whilst you in some sense feel left behind. Even if you're actually not. Through the character of Faye, I wanted to encapsulate this feeling of isolation and alienation that school can make teenagers feel.

At the start of 'Lost Glory', I deliberately wanted Faye to be weak. I wanted her to be a social outcast, to have no confidence in herself and for her to be distinctly average in all areas. In some ways, Faye is ridiculously weak at the start of the novel. This frustrated me initially, as I cannot stand the idea of female characters being weak. However, now I don't mind this so much, as it makes her rash decision to sell her soul to the first attractive person who looks at her way more believable. Had Faye been really intelligent, or really pretty, or really comfortable in her own skin, she would have said no. Her weakness and vulnerability also serves to emphasise the change in her personality over the course of her novel, and the way that Lee brings out the best in her. He makes her funny and witty and sarcastic. but also opens her up to love. Rather than walking around in the body armour she appears to for the opening of the novel, he breaks down her barriers, softens her and makes her talk to him. By the end of 'Lost Glory', Faye is not the same person she was. I cannot say too much about how she changes, but she is undoubtedly a better person because of her experience. In fact, the Faye that exists at the end of the novel is far closer to who I am as a person than she is at the start.

The relationship with Lee was a challenge. It was a given that they would fall in love. I'm a total romantic deep down, and I enjoyed creating Lee so much that I wanted him to be with someone he deserved. At the start of the novel (the extract is on the blog), he comes across as being evil through and through. A dangerous move perhaps, as people rarely fall into one category or the other. Lee needed to be more layered and more complex than that. His first role in the novel is to be seductive, to lead Faye into the contract that secures her soul. He works for Lucifer, so I also wanted to bring out his sense of loyalty and brotherly affection. These two characteristics, although noble, are in fact two of Lee's weaknesses. He carries on down the course he is on because of this misplaced loyalty to Lucifer. But Lee is also completely taken by surprise that someone like Faye can hold his interest. She is awkward, irritating and hard to please, but she has a good heart deep down and makes him believe that he is also something worth saving. He doesn't have to be the 'monster' he says he is. The way that she forces him to question himself and his decisions is what holds them together, and the way that he shows her that morality is shades of grey rather than black and white makes her doubt her own perception of how people could/should behave. Essentially. they do for each other what I believe a good relationship should do. They bring out the best in each other. They feel like a couple you genuinely root for, and you curse them at their lowest moments, and rejoice when they get it right. Managing to make the reader care for their relationship was one of the easiest but also hardest things to get right in 'Lost Glory'.

Now I am moving on to write my sequel 'Echoes of Glory', I find myself reevaluating the characters. Thinking about the distance they travelled in the first novel and what that means for them now. Those of you that have read the extract of 'Siren Call' will know that the introduction of a new male character is on the cards. Oliver is... interesting. Having become so in tune with Lee as a character, having to place myself in the shoes of someone new is difficult. With Lee, I feel like I completely understand the motivations behind the decisions he makes, and actually his journey in 'Lost Glory' feels natural. Oliver on the other hand, has rather questionable motives. He is trouble with a capital 'T' and I'm looking forward to developing him more in later chapters. Adding a new dynamic to the story is necessary, but don't worry. This is not going to be some 'Twilight-esque' love triangle. Oliver isn't interested in love ;-)

I hope my ramblings made some sense! Keep reading and sharing!


Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Starting Sequels

Originally 'Lost Glory' was a stand alone book. It was all going to be wrapped up in one self contained plot and I would be able to walk away from it all, knowing that I'd accomplished what I had wanted and finished a book. 

But then I got attached...

The trap of being an avid reader as well as a writer is that I fell so much in love with my main characters and the world I was sewing together that I realised about three quarters of the way through that the story couldn't all be solved on one book. There were too many loose threads to create a meaningful denouement at the end.  I've always been rather cynical of trilogies with some writers. I get the distinct impression that some sequels are written entirely out of selfish monetary based motivations, rather than engagement with the characters. Clearly this isn't the case with 'Lost Glory'. It currently had nearly 900 blog views (impressive) but I haven't made a single penny. In fact, I'd go as far as saying that writer is consuming much of my life. Dodgy sleep patterns, lack of appetite for food, and insane mood changes to list a few of the delights of the reality of writing. So here goes: 

I need to write 'Glory Regained' (working title) for the following reasons:
1. For my own sanity
2. Because of the way 'Lost Glory
' ends
3. To continue developing and enhancing the layers of what I've created 
4. So you guys can read it and love it the way I do.
5. So I have an excuse to discover lots of new music to put on my writing playlist.

So where do you start writing a sequel?
So far, it hasn't been at the beginning. I've started with a scene, a new character (if you've read 'Siren Call' you've met him...) and some loose ideas about how I want to use them. The idea came about in a discussion with a friend. I was instantly attracted to the influence of Greek mythology, a hark back to days at Uni studying 'The Iliad' and 'The Odyssey' and the focus on music (my second love after writing). After piecing together the background to my new male character and reacquainting myself with Faye and where she finds herself post 'Lost Glory', it was surprising how easy my brain found it to start writing again. Like an outpouring, the moment I start, I find it incredibly difficult to stop! 

 So 'Glory Regained', I know the overall story arc for my main characters and how they will continue to evolve and change on their journey through the novel. I know how I want the book to feel. That's the easy part!

Writing wise, I want my words to feel more confident this time. My description needs to be sharper, my dialogue more crisp and my vocabulary needs more originality. If I can nail these things and move this story on so it is more than a standard YA Paranormal a romance, I think 'Glory Regained' stands a chance of being the sequel it needs to be.

Will keep you updated with more news about agents and writing as and when I can.

Stace x

'The Eden Initiative.'


A friend's writing page. Sounds really interesting. I, for one, can't wait to read.

Check it out :)

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Siren Call

An early first draft of something I've been playing around with this evening. I know that I have set it after the events of 'Lost Glory', but not decided whether it is going to be part of the sequel. Depends how well received it is, I suppose. Please bear in mind it is a very early draft, so miles to go with it yet. Anyway, let me know what you think...

Siren Call.
The subtle glow from a candle on each circular table threw its bright shade over the darkness. Where the light flickered, small snatches of gold and sequins pinched at the air, before retreating into the shadows. An odd sense of anticipation seemed to hum in the air; strange for such a small venue, Faye thought.

Taking a sip of her tonic water, she reclined back in her seat, her eyes darting from face to face. Each one locked into an animated conversation. A cacophony of buzzing chatter, a seamless harmony of excitement and plans. Switchblade smiles were painted onto their edged faces.

At the front of the collection of tables stood a small platform, raised less than two feet off the sticky ground. A solitary stool was placed in the middle of a deflated black stage. Bedraggled maroon curtains hung limply at each side of the stage, remnants of the old theatre the space had once been. Faye had never been  to ‘The Wreck’ before, though she had heard rave reviews, particularly of its monthly ‘Open Mic’ night. It had seemed like the perfect place to meet. Neutral. Non-threatening. Public.

And he was supposed to be here half an hour ago.

The fact that he was late didn’t surprise her. It was his default setting. To make her wait around for him. He made her impatient. Briefly, she glanced at her phone.


When the remaining lights around the stage dipped and a single cylindrical shimmer descended on the tiled noir floor, she had given up hope that he was going to show. A few months ago, this might have provoked an emotional response. A tightening of the gut. Tears. Despair. There was not a remote possibility of that now. It was over. She was over. He was dead to her…

Absent-mindedly, she twirled a chocolate brown strand of brown hair into a spiral around her finger. When the blonde peroxide had been stripped from her hair, it had felt like a cleansing. An exorcism of a part of her that clung on inside begging to be heard. It nagged at her still, haunted her even, but she was hardly going to allow it to plague her night. Just to satisfy a ghost of what had once been.

The thump of a drum and the upbeat jangle of an acoustic guitar lifted the air and provided a window of light in the darkness. Until that point, she hadn't even realised that the band had started to play. It made sense to stay, to hear them out, to escape the familiar barbs of home. It would be the same as every night now was. Her mother’s anxiety, her friends’ interrogation, the haunting voice of regret taunting her late into the cold night…

This was going to require something stronger than tonic water.

Turning her back on the appreciative crowd, she made her way to the empty bar, fumbling in her purse for what remained of her 24 hours. A flimsy, fake ID, matching her own flimsy, fake sense of self. Tapping her foot along to the infectious rhythm, she flashed the ID at the non-plussed bar man and downed the amber liquid in one mouthful. Placing the glass back on the bar’s edge, she ordered another one.

When the sound of polite applause resounded against the slick grey of the walls, signalling the end of the first act, Faye was five shots down and counting. Her blood felt ignited now, the liquor blazing through her veins. Instinctively she knew it, she wanted to dance. A hazy sweep of the room told her that there was little chance of her wish being granted here.

Faye reached the door and inhaled a sharp intake of iced air. The shiver that trembled down her spine took her completely by surprise, mostly because it wasn't prompted by the air. It was the melancholic chords of a guitar brushing and soothing the hushed atmosphere.

That voice.

To call it velvet wouldn't do it justice. Velvet was smooth, unruffled, blameless. This sound was more like…she groped for the word…taffeta. Ruched, uneven, ridged. The words were emotions. The emotions were words. Inseparable.

When her feet moved back to their old seat, they almost seemed to be levitating above the ground. There was no reason. No choice. Like her body was on an intangible cord. Like that golden thread was being extracted all over again.

Sitting obediently in her chair, the wick of each candle was so low now it seemed only an ember remained. Just a spark, but enough to direct her submissive eyes to the stage. To illuminate the reason her skin was crawling with desire. He sat there, posture relaxed, his guitar cradled to him almost as if it was a natural extension of himself. His tousled brown hair hung low over his eyes, and they were directed downwards, focused only on the flex and coil of each string when his fingers plucked them. Faye felt her cheeks blush, as if she were intruding on something personal. Feeling that unnatural pull exerting its hold over her, she felt herself leaning forward, her elbows on the table, her eyes glazing over. When he briefly tore his eyes away from the sharp smoothness of the guitar strings, and the drenched blue pool of his irises met hers, she knew she was supposed to look away. That her heart was a traitor. But the melody erased the guilt. His seductive smile erased whatever was left of her soul.

As the song progressed, the lyrics ebbed and flowed from his honeyed lips like waves upon the shore. Each word caressed lovingly by his tongue. Each word meant for her.

A siren call. A hidden warning.
A fool’s promise. A new day dawning.

            When the song came to a close, she watched the people around her clap nonchalantly, as if they were watching someone else. Detached. Disjointed. She wanted to shout, to scream, to shake them one by one until they felt an ounce of the flood of feelings she felt now. But they didn't see it, and a small tinny voice at the back of her mind didn’t see it either. An insignificant mumble that something wasn't right. That she should leave…

            Pulling herself to her feet, she made her way back to the bar, desperate for a glass of water and some fresh air to clear her busy mind. The frosty burn of her skin where someone’s hand lingered on her wrist forced her body to turn to a slender frame. Fitted jeans and checkered shirt. A taffeta voice.

            ‘Come with me.’ A command, not a question. Her muscles moved on cue to follow him into the dim light ahead. Tonight she was his puppet, and he was pulling all her strings…

Sunday, 5 May 2013

An angsty poem I wrote in my youth... Found once more...

Watching Stars

The grass blades are moist
Between my fingertips.
The air, a whisper of memories
Failed to be forgotten.
Holding me now my receptors freeze;
Synapses of trust reversed.
Avoiding your gaze, fearing my eyes would turn green
I focus on a diamond in the sky.
So clinically white, tough to comprehend
As a yearning fusion of gas, of fire.
These lips do not want to know you, so frail
With poison from last time,
So fragile
From well meant promises.

I burn to be your stardust,
To be rare, to be a wonder.
I know you will deny me that
Instead choosing younger, fresher blood.
My bitterness cannot be sweetened
By platitudes tonight,
Your lies not undone by a shooting
Star of a kiss.
Sending up a solar flare I wait,
Wait on the voice of a star.

I burn to be your stardust,
To be rare, a wonder.
I know you will deny me that
Instead choosing self exile.
A glance at you,
A glance at my star.
At this time,
In this place, 
I understand the gas, the fire,
The impending supernova
Far more than I understand you.

Friday, 3 May 2013

The Waiting Game

So I've sent my book off to agents and I've realised that I'm now in the literary version of purgatory. That indefinite period of time where you hear whether your manuscript is taking you to publishing heaven, or whether you're judged as not worth and sent to rejection hell.

I feel a little on edge now. Like every email alert, every phone call may bring good or bad news. It isn't a sustainable existence all things considered. In fact, I probably need to develop a tougher skin for the months ahead. There are going to be people who criticise it; there are going to be people who love it. And both are fine. To have only one or the other would make me an extremely poor writer, either out of arrogance or despair. It is a bit like that moment in the final Harry Potter book where we learn that the sword of Godric Gryffindor only takes that in which makes it stronger. Every criticism, every piece of praise must be allowed to be taken into to strengthen me and mould me. This is going to be a steep learning curve, but it may be just the life lesson I need...