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12 Books in 12 Months

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vampires

More Questions

Further questions from Edinburgh-based writer and tweeter Andrew Blair.  I have decided to answer these separately because they’re not really related in any way.

Have you been pleasantly surprised by your research into genre fiction? For example, has Dark Romance proved to be more than pale women kissing vampires?

Truth be told, I wasn’t expecting much from Dark/Paranormal Romance.  I rather thought that most of it had been churned out in a cynical manner to jump on the Twilight bandwagon, and as such I assumed that all such books would be full of unsympathetic teenagers and deeply misogynistic male role models.  My plan was to make the genre readable by imbuing it with my special brand of humour/Scottish realism.

However, I am pleased to report that my suspicions were overly cynical.  The PC Cast excerpts I found online, for example, were much better than expected.  I’d go so far as to say they were entertaining, which is more than can be said for Adventures in Forks as it is seldom known.

Having said that, the main thrust is pretty much pale women kissing vampires.

What do you think of the World Book Night coverage from the BBC, and its putting of Literary Fiction at the forefront?  You remember World Book Night, with Sue Perkins going around hairdressers in Edinburgh and asking people why they hadn’t read Dostoevsky…?

My decision to put off doing Literary Fiction until December was taken at least in part because that meant it was the furthest away.  Putting LitFic at the forefront of anything strikes me as silly, because it automatically alienates a vast section of the reading population who want something a bit more gripping than flowery prose about beautiful landscapes.

I’m not saying I don’t enjoy or appreciate Literary Fiction, but it’s hard going at times.  And I resent the suggestion you get from commentators on some of the programs the Beeb have shown that writing genre fiction means you aren’t as clever or as profound as a literary author – it’s more about storytelling priorities.  Personally, I can forgive a big of unpolished prose if the plot and characterisation keep me interested, whereas LitFic is all about form.

Just out of curiosity, as a writer and bookseller yourself, what do you make of the coverage?

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Are You Sitting Comfortably?

A couple of people have suggested lately that one way to get more words done is to record myself telling the story rather than taking ages typing it all up.

Whilst doing the whole thing that way would undoubtedly end up as a rather mad sounding stream of consciousness for about 90% of the time, I think there’s a lot to be said for doing some audio excerpts. It means that interested parties can have a listen, and it’s helpful to me to read out what I’ve written because hearing it back will help me decide what works and what doesn’t. I also recently read an article by A L Kennedy pointing out that if you want to find your writing voice, you should probably try speaking in it.

So, here is a wee excerpt about Ingmar, a troll who looks out for our vampire heroine from afar. I think the introduction to his character works quite well in the third person, although at some point his internal thoughts are going to be put out there. But I’m not sure I’ll be able to do it in a Swedish accent without sounding like an awful caricature. At the moment I am leaning to having a different character’s voice or perspective in every chapter, to make it easier for the reader to engage with individual characters.

Incidentally I did four takes of that, so the notion that it’s quicker than typing is somewhat misleading!

Thought Process

Yesterday morning I was mostly taping up resource packs to send to schools (FYI – avoid ‘tesa’ brown tape if possible, it splits if you so much as look at it), and considering the best way to progress with book 4.

Something is bothering me. If I am to write Jennifer as an engaging, even normal-ish teen (who happens to be a vampire), she’s going to need a bezzie.

I’ve set her up with a love triangle, as is the way of things, but between all the unrequited love and the being an orphan and other vampires trying to persuade her to start drinking human blood over animal, there’s too much angst and not enough silliness.

Even the most solitary people I knew at school tended to have at least one friend. Social outcasts band together just as popular types do. And whilst Matthias is a friend to Jennifer, he is also blatantly in love with her. Even though he’s unlikely to admit this to her, she sort of knows, and as a result he’s not someone she is going to be able to let herself go with.

But all this does is provide her with more angst. What she really needs to make her a teenage girl rather than a miserable caricature of one, is someone she can confide in, giggle with, and occasionally fall out with and feel like it’s the end of everything. A BBFL, in fact. And because she’s straight, I reckon it needs to be a female one.

For you see, to me it feels a bit like Jennifer’s self control re not drinking humans is related to not allowing herself to give in to any other hormonal type urges, like going out with Martin who she really likes. Her internal logic dictates that if she gets into a relationship with him she will relax too much, allow her instincts to take over, and possibly bite him.

Either that or someone else will have a go in order to get to her. Vampires are mean that way.

This type of pressure would get to a person, and it would have to manifest itself in some way. A lot of teenagers in a similarly high pressure situation, with a grim secret they can’t tell anyone, would act out (get in with the wrong crowd, do drugs or drink or petty acts of crime) as a cry for attention.

There isn’t a lot of point in Jennifer doing that, as nobody can help her. She has no family, and she can hardly go to a school counsellor or social worker and be like “yeah, I’m a vampire and stuff…” She takes the tack of attempting to remain invisible, and bottling everything up inside. Which is probably just as dangerous as making a fuss, because at some stage all those pent up feelings are going to overflow.

However, if she has a bezzie – a pal who understands that she is different, perhaps guesses at the reason why – then she can let some of it out in increments, and perhaps keep herself from going in to meltdown. Her sanity will be needed for any showdowns that may be forthcoming later on.

If the friend is a girl, maybe a goth who doesn’t have many other mates herself, maybe even one who has some sort of paranormal/supernatural secret not as yet defined (werewolf from space?!), it seems plausible that Jennifer would feel able to relate to her (after an initial period of worrying and over thinking it, naturally).

She can’t be allowed to have a completely straightforward relationship, though. So to complicate matters slightly, I’ve decided to make this girl Matthias’ twin sister. Her name should start ‘Ma’ because owners of twins can be like that, so I’m thinking either Mareike or Mathilde… (They are German, by the by.  It has just occurred to me that this is the first time I’ve actually mentioned character names on the blog so this might not be immediately apparent.  Oops.)

April’s Genre…

… is romance.

Originally I had planned to write some kind of beautiful unrequited love story, but then I thought no, that’s altogether too literary – I’m going to get my paranormal romance on and sell 100 000 e-books like Amanda Hocking

I’m still going to include an element of unrequited love, though.  What better narrative reason is there to keep people apart than having one of them a vampire who cannot reveal his or her true feelings because he or she loves the other person too much to compromise their safety?  And what better way of gearing this towards a Twilight loving audience than have the vampire a fifteen or sixteen year old girl, loving a boy she can never have from afar?  That’s an experience everyone has at some point or another.  Well, except for the being a vampire part.

The only suggestion I’ve had for this month was that the girl should be called Jennifer and that she should work in a dog grooming salon.  I think I will change this slightly so that she has a job walking dogs, ostensibly to earn a bit of extra pocket money but in actual fact to help her blend in and feel more human.  This girl has teen angst to the max.

This decided, all I need to do is conduct a little bit of research into the genre.  An initial Google search in my lunch break led me to the Harlequin website (that’s Mills and Boon), and the rather brilliant first chapter of ‘Demon Seduction’ by Pat White.

Stand-out lines of exposition include:

“back then she was just a girl, terrified by Marcus’s demon cousin who’d wanted to slake his need with a human virgin.”

I hate it when that happens.

“Having been created from human ash of the Great Fire of Rome, Ash could assume human form better than any other creature of the dark realm.”

As documented by Pliny and Tacitus, no less.  This author is quite the classicist!  Well, that or she read the Wikipedia entry, like I did.

“His mission was to fill her with his demon seed against her will, the very act he’d defended her from when she was but sixteen.”

Is this a good time to mention that whilst I love romance, I can’t take it seriously?  I feel this will add to the challenge.

Some excellent dialogue in the tale included:

“Mickey, you wanker, what’d you do that for?”

Which I think was to reemphasise that the story is set in Engerland, and:

“Go find yourself a husband to take care of you.”

This places our heroine as a frustrated feminist trying to make it in a man’s world – we later find out she also wears baggy jeans and army boots.  FYI, that means it’s OK for her to become a sort of sex doormat later on.  So what if she allows herself to be seduced by a poorly characterized Ash Demon?  That doesn’t mean she’s conforming to a stereotype, if anything she’s breaking it by defying the expected spinster/dyke path.

 And so what if she flunked out of uni because she was busy lurking around in thickets searching for demons to kill in order to win her father’s grudging respect/love?  She doesn’t need all men to validate her, just her disinterested, misogynistic old pa.  Is that so wrong?  Of course not.

I don’t think this is quite the type of tale I’m aiming for, though.  The nearly having sex but not quite scene is right there in chapter two; all inappropriate nudey fairy statue stroking and nipples akimbo. Stephanie Meyer doesn’t reach that point till three books in!  I have severe doubts about my ability to write a non-comedy sex scene, so I think I’ll probably follow her example.

This will involve looking out a few of the more popular paranormal romance / dark fantasy (is there a difference?) authors, I suppose.  Popular authors at the library where I used to work included P.C.Cast, Charlaine Harris, Christine Feehan and Sherrilyn Kenyon.  Anybody know any more?  I’d be particularly interested in short stories and flash fiction, just because of time constraints…

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