Sunday, 20 April 2014

The Monday Blog Tour

That fine writer Claire Dunn - whose blog can be visited at http://www.cfdunn.co.uk - is the author of the ongoing series 'The Secret of the Journal'. Volume 1 'Mortal Fire' and volume 2 'Death Be Not Proud' will soon be followed by the third volume 'Rope of Sand.' Claire has invited me to continue the Monday Blog Tour with a few thoughts on my own work, past, present and future. 
What am I working on?
Currently I am writing the first draft of a new novel, working title 'The Yoke of Babylon.' My titles are all Biblical, some direct quotations, and all my stories are openly Christian. This last one is a bit different, however - while it is not strictly a crime novel, the plot hinges on a murder.The unravelling of the circumstances leading up to the murder reveal more and more of a dark past. I shall say nothing further at this point!
'The Yoke of Babylon' is my fifth novel. The fourth, 'A Shed in a Cucumber Field', is not yet published but I hope it will be available some time this year. This tells the story of two estranged sisters, their disparate lives, and their search for reconciliation.
Novels 1, 2 and 3 are a trilogy. I didn't plan a trilogy at the outset more than a decade ago, but the story grew. It covers five years in the life of Eileen, through some of life's trials that will be recognisable to many people.
'Leviathan with a Fish-hook' was published in 2009,
'The Monster Behemoth' in 2010
 and 'The Land of Nimrod' in 2011.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?
Compared to such Christian fiction as I have read - admittedly not a vast amount, but spread across a number of genres - my work lacks both triumphalism and sentiment. In some novels the Christian content is covert, preferring to present a general worldview.In others the story takes place in a period when Christian observance was the norm (even if it was nominal for some.) Mine is different on a number of counts: it aims to be realistic, facing the world as it is and fallen human nature within it, whether believing or not; the action takes place in modern times - my trilogy covers 1996 to 2001, 'A Shed in a Cucumber Field' is set in 2005-6, and 'The Yoke of Babylon' in 2008; and in a genre dominated by American writers my settings are British. 

Why do I write what I do?
That's difficult to answer! I could say that's just the way it comes out, which would be true, but perhaps not very satisfactory. I started by writing with a background of things I knew: village life, church life, the spiritual journey. It's grown from that, but I do feel called at some level, and with all due humility, to write about aspects of the Christian life in the real world. The bottom line has to be the use of my gifts (such as they are) to the glory of God.

How does my writing process work?
A novel often starts with a single idea, or an image. Characters grow out of this, and a plot evolves from an initial premise. I do a lot of imagining and cogitating, as I suppose every writer does, constructing scenes (not always in the right order!) living with my characters, visualising them in circumstances which may never appear in the finished story. I sketch out a rough plan, honed and trimmed as the twists of the story demand. I write whenever I can, very fast and with many mistakes, on a laptop, line-editing as I go. If I come to a plot-knot or a dilemma or a fog, I run it past trusted and helpful friends (a reader and a writer.) Even if I don't always take their ideas on, their contributions often stimulate new ideas and pathways in my brain.  One friend is very good at seeing the wood when I am lost in the trees. The other is sharp on what is and isn't psychologically plausible, and has a good nose for holes in the plot. I have a wall-chart with what's happened so far, so that I can keep a check on structure and sequence. Otherwise it's all too easy for things to run out of control! Once the first draft is in place and edited I ask a number of friends to read and critique - honestly. I put it away for a while. Then there are many more edits before it's ready. And even after it's out there, I'll see things I could have done better.

To continue this mini-blog tour I'd like to invite two gifted writers very different  from myself to give us their thoughts next Monday April 28th. They can be found at http://www.lucy-mills.com/blog and http://www.davidgrieve.blogspot.co.uk 

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