It’s pretty rare that a human has the courage to face a monster as fearsome as a dragon. Bearing that in mind, it’s almost unthinkable that a mere sheep might be brave enough to do it. In actual fact, this was very probably the first time in the history of everything. So naturally there had to be a meeting.
If you click below, you can listen to me reading chapter One of book 5, which you may remember is about a wizard sheep called Ovid. And a small boy called Eric. And an as-yet unnamed dragon.
I wanted to do the whole first chapter but am apparently limited to 5 minutes, but it’ll give you the general idea.
Let it… penetrate.
Of the twelve books you’re writing which falls into your natural writing style the most? Which do you find the easiest to pick up?
My natural style tends towards the silly, often by accident, and even though I haven’t written a kids’ book yet, I’ve harboured ambitions to be a children’s author for about ten years… Essentially I forsee July’s book as being the best – or at least the most enjoyable to do! That or fantasy, actually. I’ve written a bunch of short stories that fall across both of those fields and have probably read a lot more of those than any other type of book.
I would love to strike a balance between well written, engrossing but often humorous fantasy written by Neil Gaiman / China Mieville and the silliness of Spike Milligan (whose picture book for little kids, Sir Nobonk, is one of my favourite books ever), with an element of the dark or unexpected twists that you get in Roald Dahl. And I think May and July’s fantasy and kids’ books are the ones where I’ll be able to give that a proper try.
I often come up with character names ahead of their personalities. Not always, but often.
But when someone else comes up with your character for you, it’s a little bit harder to name them. I am in the process of writing book five, and before I started I had a suggestion from the lovely Arielle Bosworth (click her name to go to her blog) that “your protagonist should be a talking sheep who is also a wizard. It could be amazing.”
She went on to explain, quite rightly, that “sheep are entirely unrepresented in the fantasy genre.” And if I don’t rectify this glaring omission, who will?
However, I had to then come up with a name for this character. So I thought about it a bit, and decided perhaps I would gain some insight from looking up ‘sheep’ and ‘wizard’ in other languages. This is what transpired:
In amongst all the adverts I found my answer – ‘Ovis Aries’. Naturally the first two names that came to mind that sound a bit like these were ‘Ovid’ and ‘Archie’ – both of which could work. Ovid, Roman poet who was very popular in the middle ages, unusual first name which could mark him out as special; and Archie, short for Archibald, a fairly old fashioned name meaning ‘brave’ which this sheep will have to be in order to complete his quest. Whatever that is.
There was only one thing for it – I had to appeal to the internet for help.
And Twitter spake unto me saying:
And I thought ‘hm, the ideas I have for this are less mystical and aloof and probably more suitable for ten year olds.’ So I went on the facebook page to see whether they were in agreement.
And although the writing was rather small you could see that the Ovid tally rose ever further.
So, for the time being at least, that is what my wizard sheep is called – Ovid Archibald McHaggis. One wonders how characters were named before the days of the internet.
How do you name your characters, other writers? Do you have a set process, or is it a bit ad hoc, like me? And do you ever change a character name half way through writing and then have to go back and check them all?
Further to Monday’s shout out for guest bloggers, for the rest of this week I am answering the queries of Andrew Blair, an Edinburgh-based writer of comedy and other things. You can see some of his work on this website, or follow him on Twitter @aagb1884.
Tuesday 26/4/11, 08:00
I have been reading your blog sporadically. I have questions.
Number 1. You are writing in 12 different genres. This is not a question. What genres of books do you predominantly read and have you enjoyed the experience in researching others? That is a question.
Tuesday 25/4/11, 13:01
I don’t really have a favourite genre, although I lean towards books with a sense of humour and quite like things with a fantastical element. I also like a lot of YA and kids books, and Scottish fiction.
To give some examples: some of the best and funniest books I’ve ever read are the Mr Gum series by Andy Stanton, which I’d recommend to anyone (even though they’re really aimed at 8 year olds). Meanwhile in fantastical terms, I go from the very dense prose of Isabel Allende to Neil Gaiman‘s Sandman graphic novels with a bit of future dystopia from Aldous Huxley or Margaret Atwood along the way.
In terms of YA, I’ve recently enjoyed stuff by Holly Black and Gemma Malley, as well as The Gates by John Connolly who started out writing adult crime novels. You can read the first chapter on his website, and I think it’s awesome.
Great kids books I’ve read lately include The Girl Who Could Fly by Victoria Forrester and The Secret Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart. I’d also recommend Steve Augarde‘s ‘Touchstone Trilogy’ which is suitable for 11+. Good Scottish novels include The Ossians by Doug Johnstone and The Incredible Adam Spark by Alan Bissett, and anything by Muriel Spark… Essentially I like to think I’ll give anything a go, and as such my ‘to-read’ list is very, very long.
In terms of research for 12 books, so far I have probably enjoyed the romance month the most because the genre is often unintentionally very funny. It’s quite rare to find a romance book that is genuinely romantic, I think partly because a lot of authors tend to get caught up in sex scenes – one of the reasons why I decided to go for unrequited love, actually – and these are notoriously difficult to write well.
However, some nice people did help out, and I think you should check out their work to help me say thanks.
Props to my lovely retweeters:
– Kirsty Wilkinson is an Edinburgh-based genealogist. She runs her own business called My Ain Folk, and if you are looking to find out about your family tree, she can almost certainly help. Her blog, The Professional Descendant, covers all kinds of information about genealogy and family history, and of course you can also follow her on twitter.
– Emma Livingstone is studying for an MA in publishing at the University of the Arts in London. She blogs about publishing, arts, music and culture here, and you can also follow her on twitter. And if you’re good, maybe one day she’ll help you get your book published…
– Sam Kurd is a writer and philosopher who reviews sci-fi and fantasy games, books and telly for places like Den of Geek, Sci-Fi Heaven and Cirque Des Geeks. He has also recently started work on a film script. Follow him on the twitter too.
And thanks to the people who helped me get from 85 to a more respectable 97 – Rab, Ian, Rachel, Juliet (aka The Crafty Green Poet), Bob, Alastair (overlord of STV Local North Edinburgh and Greener Leith), Emily (Jewellery Designer), Caro, Ellen (St Andrews Uni DoSDA contender 2011/12) and Cougar. If any of you want any links publicizing, let me know!
I appreciate that Facebook is deeply annoying in a lot of respects, but social networking feels like a pretty crucial part of getting this project into the public domain and that makes it a necessary evil. So please keep liking the 12 Books page and spreading the word through the power of stalkerfeed! Books 4-12 will thank you!