Interviewing Linda McCabe

Dear Reader,

Today I’m interviewing Linda C McCabe, author of Quest of the Warrior Maid. As a bit of housekeeping, don’t forget that I have a giveaway from December 2 – 6 where Haunting Miss Trentwood is 50% off! All right, onto the interview…

 1. Learn more about Linda…

I have been a bookworm since I was a small child. I obsess over small details in drama and I hate continuity errors.  If I spot an historical anachronism I want the author to mention it in an endnote so I understand this was a conscious choice for dramatic purposes and not due to ignorance or laziness.  I am one of those information crazed addicts who reads footnotes, endnotes and listen to the director commentaries on DVDs to get the behind-the-scenes information I wouldn’t know otherwise.

Yup, I am a nerd and proud of it.

My debut novel Quest of the Warrior Maid is due to my involvement with the online debates in the Harry Potter fandom.  No really.  I spent far too much time and energy engaged in online debates about where the series was headed during the time before and after Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was published.  There were wildly inventive theories spun about possible plot twists and underlying meanings buried in the text.  Some fandomers argued that hippogriffs were a symbol of love and that Harry and Hermione riding on the back of a hippogriff indicated a later romantic relationship between the two characters.  In following that lead, I read the epic poem Orlando furioso since it was the first time in literature a hippogriff was used as a character.

While reading Orlando furioso, I discovered an amazing love story between the kick-ass heroine Bradamante and the virtuous warrior Ruggiero.  I felt that this literary couple deserved to be as well known as Tristan and Isolde or Arthur and Guinevere.  Later I disengaged from the HP fandom and set about adapting this classic work for modern audiences.  That was the genesis for Quest of the Warrior Maid.

 2. How do you transform your passion into focused research?

After deciding to adapt these poems, I sat down and looked carefully at the source material to decide what to keep and what to ruthlessly prune. I began studying maps of France to determine where the events took place.  That was when I discovered how terrible the poets were with geography. I had to give myself the freedom to alter the settings to fit my dramatic necessities and forgo strict adherence or fidelity to what Boiardo and Ariosto wrote.

Once I had a broad understanding of where I was going with my story, I knew the questions I had about this time period and what I needed to learn.  I began reading extensively on the Middle Ages checking out over a dozen books from the library at a time. The books that were extraordinarily helpful, I purchased for my personal bookshelf so I can use them as a handy reference tool.

Documentaries are also a good source of information as well.  Travel DVDs and travel guides often give historical summaries of towns and regions. To further my research, I traveled to France in 2007 to see the settings of my story and discovered real life magic in the Midi Pyrenees region. I scoured many museums while on my trip and saw artifacts with my own eyes and was open to discovery of items I had not read or heard about before. My novel became infused with detail that I could only learn from being there in person.

 3.  How do you transform your research into an entertaining narrative?

I avoid data dumps as much as possible. I recognize early drafts will be rife with clunky dialogue and paragraphs of detail that will cause pacing to come to a grinding halt.  It is important that I allow myself to turn off my inner editor, and get my story down in tangible form so that a first draft is created.

Once the editing phase begins, I edit for pacing and readability.  I think it is important to add historical detail on the fly as much as possible.  This is similar to revealing character by demonstrating through action or dialogue and not in boring narrative summary paragraphs.

I also balance adherence to historical accuracy with its impact on the drama of the storyline.  If those two principles came into conflict, I will side with drama every time.  I have extensive author’s notes explaining my historical anachronisms and my rationale for them. I would rather entertain someone with a story including some historical inaccuracies over boring someone with a lame dramatic structure but containing historically correct details.  After all, my story features a holy war that never occurred, starring fictional characters who never lived, and includes magic that doesn’t exist.  My goal is to retell these classic legends for a new generation, hope they are entertained and may be inspired to learn more about Charlemagne, the Medieval period as well as Renaissance Italy, the famed poets and the classic poems.

4. How do you sneak underlying messages into your narrative?

I smuggle deeper meaning by using symbolism and archetypes.

I admire the writing of Katherine Neville in her novel The Eight and the symbolism she used throughout.  I also adore the symbolism used in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series.  The more I scratched the surface of either author’s work, the more I understood the underlying meaning of their narrative.

I deliberately include hidden meaning by the naming of characters.  One character is the hermit who treated Bradamante’s wounds.  He appeared in the original poem, but was unnamed.  In researching online I found a treasure trove online of over 500 names of hermit saints and their mini-biographies.  I discovered Saint Namphaise, who according to legend was a soldier of Charlemagne. I hope to rescue this saint from obscurity with my story.

I want to extend an offer to join your readers who are in book clubs to join their discussions either by speakerphone or Skype.  My website is www.LindaCMcCabe.com where you can find my copious author endnotes, a sample set of reader questions, and more information about the legends of Charlemagne.  You can also visit my blog at lcmccabe.blogspot.com to see pictures from my trips to France and a recent trip to Italy.

Quest of the Warrior Maid is available as a trade paperback and an ebook on many online retailers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and Sony. It is globally distributed, so those outside the U.S. should be able to get an electronic or physical copy.

In which I Dance and Grab an Expert

Dear Reader,

I’m gathering resources for The Rebel’s Hero for research. I talked with my resident Civil War expert, a friend from undergrad who majored in Civil War history, and he gave me the best worst news ever: my plot is implausible in the location I chose. He threw a ton of websites, books, and notable names I need to research. He upped my work level, but also inspired me with his knowledge, so even though this project is temporarily on hold, it’s for the best.

So far, I know that the story will be moving from Western Virginia (before it became a state) to Kentucky, with more emphasis on the Ohio side of things because Ohio was such a big player in the Underground Railroad. Go Ohio! O-H!

Abolitionism was huge in Ohio by the time the Civil War began, by the way. With so many Quakers around who felt slavery was against God’s will, it makes sense. This was something I touched upon briefly in Catching the Rose, something I always wanted to really delve into. This rewrite with The Rebel’s Hero is giving me just that chance. Beyond excited about it, though intimidated at the idea of trying to encapsulate so many poignant topics in one book. I know I’m going to fail, on a certain level. I won’t ever be completely accurate, since it is a work of fiction.

But hey, I’m pretty sure I won’t have readers accusing me of being racist with this book! Or maybe they will. If they do, I hope it causes notoriety so more people pick up the book! Haha. Oh the life of a self-made author…

I’m working on a non-fiction book under a different name. Non-fiction, I’m finding, is difficult to write, especially when attempting to write a how-to. It’s a fun challenge. I’m trying to get it out by the time schools start up again.

I had a breakthrough brainstorm at lunch last week for the new Victorian book, My Unwitting Heiress. The ideas exploded in my brain so that I hardly had time to grab pen and paper to write them down. This plot just became much funnier, more plausible, and its beginning will overlap with the ending of Haunting Miss Trentwood.

I’m still unsure as to whether the characters in the books will know each other. I’m guessing not. I’m waiting for them to tell me. I had this image of the heroine, Edith, from My Unwitting Heiress, sharing the train with Mary, from Haunting Miss Trentwood. They don’t know one another, but they’re both going to London for the queen’s golden jubilee. It’s one of those subtle nods that always make me chuckle when I read other authors doing it.

In other news, Suzy Turner, author of the young adult fantasy Raven, interviewed me over the weekend. She asked awesome questions, such as which actors would play the characters in Haunting Miss Trentwood. I had never thought of it before, but as soon as she asked, I knew right away. Check out the interview at Suzy’s blog for my answers!

Unrelated to writing, I’ve been dancing more than ever. Once a week I attend the local swing dance and becoming more deeply involved in the dance community. It’s great exercise and an excuse to socialize. I bought some dresses just because the skirts swirl around my legs like crazy, and I’m pretty sure my leads were trying crazier stunts with me just to see that skirt move. So much fun.

If you have never swing danced before, I encourage you to give it a try. Every city I’ve ever swing danced in has been super welcoming and supportive. We don’t care how well you dance, only that you’re interested in dancing, and you’re coming to the event with a smile. If you’re ever in Columbus, OH, make a point to attend the swing dance. In fact, ask me to dance. I promise I will. And if you don’t know how to dance, I’ll teach you the mashed potato and we’ll have a blast.

I think that’s it on the home front. I’m keeping to my ROW80 goals of writing 750 words a week. It’s a low goal, but since the point is to make sure I’m writing, I’m ok with it. I finished the second round of ROW80, even though I was an awful sponsor this time! I wonder how everyone else is doing?

Best,
Belinda

Fun Times at the Ohioana Book Festival

Dear Reader,

This past Saturday was all kinds of awesome. Not only was it Free Comic Day, but it was the Ohioana Book Festival here in Columbus. If there is one thing you get out of this post, it is this: Belinda got to spend an entire day being a nerd about local books and book shops.

I won’t go into much detail about Free Comic Day because I can’t tie it to historical fiction or romance very well. Suffice it to say I got six free comic books from The Laughing Ogre in the Clintonville area of Columbus, and bought a compilation Sinfest book because, damn, I got six free comic books.

Anyone who tells you free doesn’t work is a liar. Get enough free things quickly enough, and you might feel guilty enough to spring for something more expensive than you would have otherwise bought.

It was my first time at the Ohioana Book Festival, and I was appalled until I realized that the festival was only in its third year. I was in grad school in another state the last two years, so no wonder I hadn’t heard of the festival. It was located on the lovely campus of Fort Hayes, and the history of that campus would be worth a blog post by itself.

In brief, Fort Hayes was the first federal arsenal in Columbus, commissioned during the first year of the Civil War in order to provide arms for the men called to duty. The first building was completed in 1864 and was called the “shot” building because that’s where they made shot for the guns. This is totally fitting, right, because I’m working on a Civil War book, and it’s the 150th anniversary of the war. Believe me, I was geeking out.

Today, the buildings that are not boarded up or falling apart on the campus are used for an alternative high school which emphasizes the arts and preparing for professional life. And events like the Ohioana Book Festival (OBF).

The OBF caters to Ohio authors and authors who write about Ohio. An author is considered an Ohioan if they have lived in the state for five years at some point in their life, which I find a little sketchy. One author hadn’t lived in Ohio for thirty-seven years! But who am I to judge. The festival didn’t accept self-published authors, so even if I had known about the festival in time, they wouldn’t have accepted me. Oh well. One can hope. I own my publishing company, have an editor, etc. One of these days, I will be at that festival. So say I.

Anyway, I got to meet Sean McCartney in person, who you might remember I spotlighted this past winter. He was doing a great job! There were ninety-nine other authors he competed against, and he had sold eleven books by the time I got there in the early afternoon. He writes adventure fiction along the lines of Indiana Jones, so if you have a kid in your life who thinks they don’t like to read, try giving them one of his books.

I got to meet three historical fiction authors, two of which were on a guest panel about writing the genre. I was happy to meet Carrie Bebris, who writes the Mr and Mrs Darcy mysteries. Yes, you are guessing correctly: she writes Regency mysteries using the hero and heroine from Pride and Prejudice as her protagonists. Sounds like an absolute blast, right?? The author herself was soft-spoken and had a kind face, and was appreciative when I said I’d like to highlight her in my blog. You should check her out.

Lisa Klein and Karen Harper were the guests on the historical fiction panel, and it was fascinating to watch them interact with each other.

Klein writes young adult historical fiction, something along the lines of Ann Rinaldi, I imagine. Which means I will most likely be picking up one of her books to review because I devoured every Rinaldi book I could when I was younger. In fact, Rinaldi’s method of providing author notes and bibliographies at the back of her books is what inspired me to believe I could write historical fiction in the first place. Klein just released a Civil War book about two young women living in the Gettysburg area during the Civil War.

Harper writes historical fiction for adults; she likened it to women’s fiction but set in the past. Unlike Klein, who stays true to the historical record but whose protagonists are creations of her imagination, Harper only writes about people who actually existed. Think Susan Holloway Scott.

Both authors seem fascinated by the Tudor era, but also branch into other eras. Harper is currently writing an Amish series and released a book last year called Mistress Shakespeare, a tale about the woman Shakespeare was engaged to before he was forced to wed pregnant Anne Hathaway.

The really interesting thing about these authors is that they are both teachers. Harper taught Elizabethan history and Klein was a literature professor. In fact, Klein said she didn’t like history in school! It wasn’t until a history teacher in college had the class read a novel that represented each era they studied that she saw how fascinating the past is. Harper mentioned that because she writes about real people, she often gets letters from readers who point out her mistakes… something Klein hadn’t experienced. I suspect this might be because Klein writes for young adults, and they probably just don’t know enough to question her.

This post is getting super long, so I’ll stop here, but I urge you to check out the authors and books I highlighted from the festival. It was a great event that left me supercharged to write a thousand words that night. Definitely see if you have a local or state book festival. You’ll get to meet authors, check out their latest books, and basically nerd out for free.

And if you’re lucky, you might get to meet Amelia Bedelia, like me. Cross your fingers.

Best,

Belinda

 

 

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This is part of the ROW80 bloghop. I’m keeping up with my goals. Are you?

Guest Post and Giveaway

Dear Reader,

I’m doing my best to catch up with everything after my conference last week, and feel like I’m failing miserably. But that doesn’t mean you have to suffer my tardiness! Check out my guest post at Word Nerd and leave a comment there to win a signed print copy of Haunting Miss Trentwood plus the coffin-shaped soap that goes with it!

Best,

Belinda

Dreaming of Books Giveaway

Dear Reader,

I’ve been selected as January’s “Author of the Month” over at A Buckeye Girl Reads. Make sure to check out the interview and leave some love. :) I like that idea, highlighting local authors (I’m on Ohio). Maybe I’ll do something similar, but with indie authors…

Now then. It’s a new month, which means we have a new giveaway! All you have to do is agree to sign up for my newsletter and agree to write a review for my upcoming book of short stories, Love or Lack Thereof. At the end of the giveaway, you will receive a 100%-off discount code to “buy” Love or Lack Thereof.

I am trying to get more reviews on Barnes and Noble.com and Amazon.com. Goodreads.com is always appreciated. I’ll send you the information through the newsletter when we get closer to the release date, which looks like it will be March.

Pretty simple, right? Happy new year!

Best,
Belinda

Interviewing Sean Paul McCartney

Dear Reader,

I’m so excited to introduce a fellow Ohioan author to you! His name is Sean Paul McCartney, and while he says he isn’t related to the Beatle, I like to pretend that he is. His first book in the series The Treasure Hunters Club is called “Secrets of the Magical Medallions,” and introduces the four teens Tommy Reed, Jackson Miller, Shannon McDougal and Chris Henderson. The series is a cross between The Hardy Boys and Indiana Jones,with a touch of National Treasure.

I’m sure you know the drill with my interviews by now, so let’s get started!

How do you transform your passion into focused research?

First I want to thank you so much for having me.

I wanted to write a series that would appeal to even he most reluctant reader. So I looked at stories I liked growing up and decided I would take the mystery of the Hardy Boys and tie that in with the action and adventure of Indiana Jones and National Treasure and The Treasure Hunters Club: Secrets of the Magical Medallions was born.

How do you translate your research into an entertaining narrative?

Actually the characters drive the research. The Treasure Hunters Club is always looking and researching lost treasures. It also helps that they have a guide in the form of famous treasure hunter “Diamond” Jack Reed, but really it is Tommy, Jackson, Chris and Shannon’s overall curiosity that keeps the story going.

How do you sneak an underlying message into your entertaining narrative?

I teach history so I try and sneak the facts of history in my story like Michael Crichton or Dan Brown. The key for me is to teach the readers without them knowing they are being taught. That is why in the first Treasure Hunters Club novel I go to great extremes to show how research is done and what goes into it. The club uses the library and books as well as the computer. I want the readers to see that answers are not always in front of them and they have to really look to find it.

My books are meant to give kids a fun and exciting ride and allow them to imagine they are part of the club on the adventure.

Thanks Sean for taking the time to answer my questions! If you’re excited to learn more, contact Sean at seancoach AT juno DOT com.

Interested in being interviewed?

I’d love to profile you on Worderella Writes, especially if you are an indie author, and most especially if you are an indie historical fiction author. I look forward to learning more about you and your upcoming projects!

Interviewing Susan Spann

Dear Reader,

We indie authors need to stick together, and most especially us  indie historical fiction authors. We seem to be a rare breed.

Today my guest is Susan Spann, a fellow indie historical fiction author who was kind enough to answer some tough questions for me.

Learn more about Susan

Susan lives in Northern California with her husband, teenage son and three cats (one of which is large enough to count as two). She is a member of the Historical Novel Society and the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ Association, and enjoys horseback riding, archery, rock climbing and books about adventures (both fictional and non-fiction).

When not running amok or too far in the weeds, Susan writes historical fiction. Her work takes legendary (or semi-legendary) historical figures and tells their stories as though they had really lived. She loves research as much as writing, and particularly enjoys finding a kernel of fact that can grow into an interesting story. You can find her on Twitter as @SusanSpann.

How do you transform your passion into focused research?

I approach research like a category 5 hurricane goes after a coastal fishing village – hit hard, cover as much ground as possible and leave no stone unturned.

When I’m starting a new novel (as I am now) I pick the legend or person whose story I want to tell and then scour the Internet, bookstores, and the library for information. Sometimes I also contact museums or researchers in the location where the events took place. I read as much as I can about the era in which the story is set and the people and places involved. I look at history, geography (including photographs when possible), culture, literature, and especially personal narratives. Only after I stuff myself full of facts and images do I try to let a focused story flow.

How do you translate your research into an entertaining narrative?

Starting from legends gives me an advantage. Someone already took a life and turned it into a song or story that people want to hear. After researching the historical “soil” in which the legend grew, I try to cultivate the story as it might have really happened, generally in a first-person narrative voice, without losing the vital elements of the legend itself. I’m looking for a blend of fact and fiction that does justice to both.

It also helps to work with children and animals. W.C. Fields discouraged it, but I include them in every novel and I never want for entertainment – some of it more scatological than I expected.

How do you sneak an underlying message into your entertaining narrative?

If you put all the white spaces between the words together, they make a picture of a horse in a snowstorm.

The honest answer is, I cheat: legends carry their own messages, which amplify on their own when the story goes from short-form to novel length. I find characters I admire and work on telling their stories in a compelling way. When the protagonist is admirable and surrounded by a supporting cast of realistic characters and challenges, the messages seem to take care of themselves.

Thank you to Susan for providing great answers to some tough questions! Make sure you check out her website and follow her on Twitter.

Interested in being interviewed?

I’d love to profile you on Worderella Writes, especially if you are an indie author, and most especially if you are an indie historical fiction author. I look forward to learning more about you and your upcoming projects!

Chatting with Eloisa James

Dear Reader,

I contacted Eloisa James after I finished reading This Duchess of Mine about five minutes after I put the book down.  I didn’t understand it. I began the book disliking the characters. I finished the book still disliking them a little, but feeling as though I understood them.

Despite my disliking them, I cared about them.

This boggled my mind as a reader and an author. How did Eloisa make me care about characters I disagreed with? I was so impressed I sent her an email asking about her trick. Her answers fascinated me, and I asked if I could post our conversation on our blog.

Eloisa, being the gracious lady she is, gave me permission.

Dear Belinda,

Thank you for this lovely note!  I’m sorry it took me a while to answer.  My characters were manipulative—I am too *g*.  At any rate, I’m glad you decided to like them anyway.  One of my goals as a writer is not to write characters that everyone will love, every time—but to try to write characters who have realistic traits, but still fall in love and are lovable.

I’ll give a shot to your three questions:

How do you transform your passion into focused research?
Passion is a vague word for writing…. what I have is an idea.  The idea generally springs from some sort of historical fact, say the condition of toilets in the Georgian period (When the Duke Returns) or the discovery of digitalis (This Duchess of Mine) or the disgraceful conditions behind child-workers & gold wire buttons (A Duke of Her Own).  I do just as much research as I need to to feel that I have a handle on that situation–because always the goal of a book is to create a great story, not to give readers an information dump.  Knowing too much can be a liability sometimes.

How do you translate your research into an entertaining narrative?
See above.  I take a problem: something that interests me about the past and then weave a story about it.  For Affair before Christmas, for example, I found myself wondering what it was really like to have all that tall Marie Antoinette hair piled on one’s head.  Voila:  the plot springs from the question.

How do you sneak an underlying message into your entertaining narrative?
Well, underlying messages…  I don’t know that I have all that many of those.  I guess some come along with the characters.  When I created a drunk in Much Ado about You, for example, I dried him out in Taming the Duke, so there was a message there about alcohol.  But I don’t have the sense that many of my readers are looking to my books to solve their substance abuse problems.  If I have an underlying message it would be that it IS possible to have a thoughtful, loving, and kindly relationship–and no woman should settle for less.  And in tandem with that, marriage is no picnic, and that kind of relationship needs as much nourishing as any other.  And finally, that every man can learn to be good in bed.

Awesome answers, right? And, can I just say how exciting it is to have an author respond to an email when you figure they are way too busy? Indie authors take note!

So I responded to Eloisa’s email because I thought she wasn’t giving herself enough credit with her answer to my third question…

Eloisa,

Thank you for the reply! Yes, your answers do help, and give me insight into your writing. My mother, for instance, doesn’t like manipulative characters, and doesn’t understand why anyone would write about them. This is very helpful for me to explain why and how a writer can go in this direction.

I suppose underlying messages come more from readers’ perceptions of our work, rather than our purposeful insertion of a message. In This Duchess of Mine, I felt as though the underlying message was to never give up; that people can mature and make a difficult situation work if they both try. It’s a good thing to keep in mind for a young, professional, single girl like me!

Suffice it to say, I’m not sure I could ever pull it off myself. Props to you for working with difficult-to-love-but-we-love-them-anyway characters!

So there you have it. Big name authors like Eloisa James are pretty fricking sweet. I’m definitely going to check out another of her books just because I feel I understand her a little better and will probably enjoy her writing more because of it.

All the best,

Belinda

Interviewing Stacey Cochran

Dear Reader,

I’d like to introduce you to Stacey Cochran, my guest from the West today at Worderella Writes.

He was kind enough to answer my three questions with some excellent answers, so don’t let me keep you. Read on!

Learn more about Stacey

Stacey Cochran was born in the Carolinas, where his family traces its roots to the mid 1800s. In 1998 he was selected as a finalist in the Dell Magazines undergraduate fiction competition, and he made his first professional short story sale to CutBank in 2001. In 2004, he was selected as a finalist in the St. Martin’s Press/PWA Best First Private Eye Novel Contest. He lives in Raleigh, North Carolina with his wife Dr. Susan K. Miller-Cochran and their son Sam, and he teaches writing at North Carolina State University. His books include The Colorado Sequence, Amber Page, CLAWS, and CLAWS 2.

How do you transform your passion into focused research?

Thanks so much for hosting me today.

To answer your question, it really just takes a ton of persistence. I suppose that deep down a writer must believe that what he/she has to say matters. We probably all start from that premise. In the case of the CLAWS books, it started with that belief and a curiosity about the area in which I lived.

See I moved to Arizona in 2001 from North Carolina, and the landscape out West was so different from what I’d known before that I immersed myself in it. Around 2003 and 2004, a number of mountain lion stalkings began popping up in the news in Tucson, and I thought that it would make for an interesting topic for a novel.

How do you translate your research into an entertaining narrative?

Well, it all starts with character. First I had to imagine who would be my guide through the novel… a novel about mountain lions. The logical answer was a wildlife biologist. I settled on Dr. Angie Rippard because “Rippard” was the name of my favorite high school English teacher, and it seemed to fit the story.

I followed the story template — the plot structure, if you will — of Jaws. But instead of an ocean-going adventure, CLAWS was set in the desert high country of Arizona.

How do you sneak an underlying message into your entertaining narrative?

The message in CLAWS is pretty direct. Unregulated and uncontrolled real estate development into wilderness lands in the American West is harmful to the environment. I didn’t hide the message at all. The villain of the story is not the mountain lion; the villain is the ruthless real estate developer who builds golf course communities on the sides of previously virgin mountains.

The tragedy is that this is what has happened all over Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico, and that there’s been little progress to stop it.

Whether nature will fight back as it does in CLAWS and CLAWS 2 remains to be seen. What’s more likely to occur is that we will keep poisoning our atmosphere with CO2 and our oceans with mercury, and that our physical health (and our children’s health) will continue to deteriorate. Overpopulation of our planet is a real and serious stress on our environment, and our environment will continue to respond to that stress in ways that affect our health unless we make massive, lasting policy changes.

The CLAWS books are meant to stir that conversation into being.

Thank you to Stacey for providing great answers to some tough questions! Make sure you check out his CLAWS books, as well as other books published by the Stacey Cochran publishing arm.

Interested in being interviewed?

I’d love to profile you on Worderella Writes, especially if you are a self-publishing author in need of some marketing help. All I ask is that you email answers to the following three questions, along with a requested posting date. I look forward to learning more about you and your upcoming projects!

Worderella Interviews James M Turner

Dear Reader,

I’d like to introduce you to James M Turner, my guest from across the pond today at Worderella Writes.

Turner is an author, composer, musician and screenwriter. Having had a successful career as a highly paid professional musician, he now works in the film industry. His first television series screenplay ‘The Taker’ is currently in development and will hopefully move into production later in 2010.

About ‘Beyond the Comfort Zone’

According to James, his newly released work Beyond the Comfort Zone is a memoir of a short period in the life of James M Turner. Having enjoyed a career as a professional musician for the rich and famous, in 2002 he moved to south east Asia where he eventually came into contact with the child trafficking trade.

Together with an acquaintance and the help of a US organization they attempt to gain the confidence of the traffickers and bring them to justice – saving the cargo in the process.

There is a little bit in there about James’ hedonistic days of travelling the world as a high paid musician, but this is really just a foil to throw into stark contrast the subsequent adventure in Asia.

It’s a tale that follows two young men trying to do the right thing and in the process nearly losing themselves as they spiral downwards into a shadowy world where human lives, at least their lives, are worth nothing. There is danger, intrigue, high emotion and a fragile love story woven together in what one reviewer called an exceptional journey …the making of a Hollywood blockbuster, in short a Shantaram for South East Asia.’

I’m very pleased to have James here to interview. So let’s get on with the questions!

How do you transform your passion into focused research?

Well, in the case of Beyond the Comfort Zone as it was a memoir there was very little research to be done, it was more a ‘method’ writing piece. I did a little historical research in the areas where I thought that people needed contextual help to understand the jeopardy, but again I was already fairly well read in that subject and it really was minimal internet verification.

However, when I was writing ‘The Taker’ my main research consisted of putting myself in the environment. I had a rough plot arc, stepping stones as I like to call them, but I wanted to feel the atmosphere.

This consisted of me sitting in downtown L.A. and soaking up the sights and sounds, making notes as I went. Also, as there is a technology component to the story, I researched cutting edge technology and then imagined how I could push it a bit farther.

Probably the longest gestation period in the development process in ‘The Taker’ was with the characters. I think I had between ten to twenty thousand words of back-story before they even set foot on page one of the script. That made for a fairly quick writing process as I had a very good idea how these people would react in certain situations.

How do you translate your research into an entertaining narrative?

As Beyond the Comfort Zone is a true story, the entertaining narrative really took care of itself. These were real people, very complex individuals. I had a location which was exotic (Thailand). Then the story itself was as dramatic as any fictional thriller.

I tried to make the writing as concise as I could which meant that if I didn’t feel that something was moving the story along or there was some part that needed to be told in a more succinct manner – then out it would go.

One of the things that people have picked up on is the ‘page-turner’ aspect of Beyond the Comfort Zone most people tell me they have read it in 24-36 hrs. I think that is something that my cut throat editing approach has enhanced. If it isn’t contributing to moving the story forward, then it has to go.

How do you sneak an underlying message into your entertaining narrative?

Well, there’s an old quote from Don Maclean who wrote the song ‘American Pie’. When they asked him what the lyrics and the song meant to him he replied ‘It means I don’t have to work again!’ But, to be serious, I’m not sure sneak is the right word. I have however been amazed at how people take away all sorts of ‘hidden’ meanings and sub-plots from Beyond the Comfort Zone. Actually I’m quite happy for them to do that and very glad that the book lives on with people for quite some time after they have read it.

For ‘The Taker’ however hidden meanings are very much an integral part of the plot structure. I had a rough idea of interconnections between events and people, but just wrote the story down without expanding too much on any of those. Then, when the story was complete, I went back to those moments I had identified and dropped in little nuggets that at the time don’t attract too much attention. By the end when the revelations appear there is a clear though (hopefully) surprising link.

However, as I said before, I am constantly surprised by the conclusions drawn by others as to what is sub-text and hidden meaning. Of course I’ll take credit for that…even when it wasn’t deliberate.

Thanks for joining us today! For more information about James, visit his website James M Turner.com and read reviews on Amazon (UK).

All the best,

Belinda