PJ Whiteley is the author of ‘Close of Play’, which was published last year. He has written a guest post for this event.
The same, or different?
By PJ Whiteley
There are only seven stories. Or five. Or two. I’ve read various such theories. And it’s well established that we humans are wired to engage with certain dramas and be unperturbed by others. As readers we desire justice, resolution, we are intrigued by mystery, we want mutual lusts to be consummated. Any deeper issues that a writer may wish to introduce are best in supporting roles, and they get defined by a creative writing teacher as ‘themes’. The safest option for an author is to wear these philosophical discussions lightly, and write a romance, or a thriller, to an arc that does not depart too far from convention.
So the big question that confronts a new(ish) novelist like myself is: to what extent shall I write to a formula or genre, and to what extent shall I dare to be bold and create something a little different? With my first novel Close of Play, I was stuck on it for several years. I had created a promising situation, and some hopefully intriguing characters with distinctive insights into contemporary life, conveyed through personal reflection and dialogue. But the drama had little direction. I completed it when I realized that the reader would want a resolution of ‘will they/won’t they’; some big moments and some comic moments. I wasn’t selling out; I was learning the craft of story-telling.
Yet there is still a ‘but’ lurking. Do we really want every romantic comedy to have a fairly transparent secret that He has concealed from Her (or the other way around), to be revealed 40 pages from the end causing a break-up resolved when He (or She) is urged by the Best Friend to ‘Go Get Her/Him’, as prelude to the Big Kiss at the end in the airport lounge? Is it not more intriguing to have one situation resolved, while another thread comes loose? The reader wants to be taken by surprise sometimes, by plot or by a person; to have a character who is compellingly vivid and also unpredictable, like Boris in The Goldfinch, or Aoife in Instructions for a Heatwave, to take two examples from contemporary novels.
And for me, the ‘themes’ (a dreadfully thin and inadequate word) are not just a small part of the book. The most memorable reads for me have prompted me to think anew about the nature of truth-telling, relationships, and personal beliefs, or other ways in which an individual attempts to make sense of this unplanned thing that happens to us called life. The story propels the book; it isn’t the whole of it.
For my second novel Marching on Together, I’ve dared to create a story with six principal characters, and charted a course without an obvious ending. But just as I wasn’t selling out when I nudged Close of Play towards romcom territory, I’m not abandoning the reader or respect for a strong narrative with Marching on Together. I am seeking to create some captivating dramas, genuine romance and heartfelt moments. I think you will care for Yvonne, and urge her to be less harsh on herself; I think you’ll be wanting things to work out for Johnny. I hope you’ll like Terry, an artist and a real one-off.
As for the story, you probably won’t be able to see where it’s headed. But that’s good, isn’t it?
‘Close of Play’ is available to buy from:-
Urbane Publications – http://urbanepublications.com/books/close-of-play/
Website – http://www.whiteleywords.com/
Twitter – @Felipewh
Matthew Smith is kindly giving away three copies of ‘Close of Play’. To enter just leave a comment telling me what your favourite genres are.
Terms and Conditions
This competition is open worldwide.
The closing date is 11:59 p.m. on the 3rd April 2016.
The winners will be randomly chosen within 7 days of the closing date. Their details will be passed on to Matthew Smith who will send out the prizes.
Amanda James will be having a new book published this summer. I asked her a few questions.
Could you tell me a bit about your new novel, ‘Summer in Tintagel’ please?
Hi Sonya, yes it would be a pleasure.
It’s a mystery with a supernatural element. Young journalist Rosa Fernley has been asked to fulfil her grandmother Jocelyn’s dying wish. Jocelyn has also passed on a secret – in the summer of 1968, fleeing from the terror of a bullying husband, she visited the mysterious Tintagel Castle. Jocelyn wasn’t seeking love, but she found it on the rugged clifftops in the shape of Jory, a local man as enigmatic and alluring as the region itself. But she was already married, and knew her husband would never let her find happiness and peace in Jory’s arms. Now as her days are nearing their end, she begs Rosa to go back to Tintagel, but is unwilling, or unable, to tell her why.When she arrives in Tintagel, Rosa is challenged to confront secrets of her own, as shocking events threaten to change everything she has ever believed about herself and her family. She also meets a guide to the castle, Talan, a man who bears a striking resemblance to Jory…
When is it due out?
This summer – July 14th 2016
Where did you get your ideas from for this book?
I got them while walking in Tintagel along the cliff tops by the ancient church. Tintagel is a magical and mysterious place and the ideas just came. A small part of the supernatural element is based on something that a Psychic once told me.
Are you planning a nice celebration once it is published?
I think a nice glass of something with bubbles in it will be in order!
How many years have you been writing?
I have always written, but I guess I took it up seriously in the last twelve-years or so.
Will we be seeing more books from you?
Oh yes. I have four already published, one I finished in November last year called Cast Away Stones and I’m half-way through another called The Calico Cat.
Would you like to see any of your books made into a film?
I would indeed. Some famous authors say that film has ruined aspects of their work, but I’d like to see mine on the silver screen, or as a TV series.
What’s it like in Cornwall?
Cornwall is the best place to live in the world! I have always wanted to live here since I visited aged four. Three years ago we managed it! I love the Atlantic Coast most of all and am lucky enough to live just fifteen-minutes from it. I feel as if I belong by the ocean and don’t like to leave it for too long. Being beside it soothes jangled nerves and puts the soul in touch with nature. I did once fancy living in California because we used to visit America quite often, but some bits of the coastline here look just like California. I call beaches like Mawgan Porth or Holywell Bay where much of Poldark is filmed – little California.
Do you think you could live without social media?
Yes, but it would be hard. When Facebook or Twitter ‘goes down’ people panic! I think we are all used to being connected nowadays and worry that we’ll miss something if we aren’t. I suppose it has replaced the old close knit communities that we used to have, where everyone knew everyone else and all the gossip!
Who are your favourite authors?
There ares so many, so I’ll just say the one who inspired me and influenced me the most. Dean Koontz the American suspense writer. He has sold 600 million books but still found the time to write me a few personal letters. An amazing writer and man.
Have they influenced your work at all?
Yes, because his stories in general are wonderful, surprising, full of intrigue and always have a message of some kind. More specifically, I have tried to keep my sentences shorter and to the point, as I noticed that’s what he does. I also try to select the most effective words to put in them. Having said that, Koontz says in a few words something that would take me a paragraph. But I’ll keep trying.
If you could describe writing in five words what would they be?
Inspiring, necessary, frustrating, rewarding, wonderful.
About Amanda James
Amanda James grew up in Sheffield but her dream was to eventually live in Cornwall. Having now realised that dream, the dramatic coastline around her home inspires her writing and she has sketched out many stories in her head while walking the cliff paths.
Known to many as Mandy, she spends far more time than is good for her on social media and has turned procrastination to a fine art. Amanda has written many short stories for anthologies and has four published novels. Two are about a time travelling history teacher, A Stitch in Time and Cross Stitch, two are suspense – Somewhere Beyond the Sea and Dancing in the Rain.
Amanda left school with no real qualifications of note apart from an A* in how to be a nuisance in class. Nevertheless, she returned to education when her daughter was five and eventually became a history teacher, though she never travelled through time, apart from in her head.
When Amanda is not writing she can be found playing on the beach with her family or walking next to the ocean plotting her next book.
‘Summer in Tintagel’ is available to pre-order from:-
Urbane Publications – http://urbanepublications.com/books/summer-in-tintagel
Twitter – @akjames61
Facebook – mandy.james.33
I now have a guest blog from Christina Philippou who is having her novel, ‘Lost in Static’ published on the 15th September 2016. Christina also reviews and blogs about books and is very supportive of my blog.
Hello and thank you, Sonya, for having me on the blog today – I’m delighted to be here during Urbane week!
So, how did I end up as an Urbane author? Well, like many an author, the journey from words to publication was not a simple one.
My writing journey started at school, where I used to write short adventure stories and depressing poetry in a notebook that lived under my desk, all while trying to avoid analysing where exactly microwaves fall on the electromagnetic spectrum. I took a prolonged writing hiatus while I was at university, which stretched to my first graduate job and then to while concentrating on my career. But I never stopped reading…
I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of differing points of view and what are classed as unreliable narrators (a label I’m not overly keen on, but needs must and all that). Ask my husband and me to tell you the story of how we got together, and you’ll get two very different accounts of events. Ask an entire team to tell you the story of one group event or night out, and you’ll get multiple versions of a single occurrence. I wanted to read books that made you question points of view and understanding of events but, the harder I hunted, the less I found. Lawrence Durrell’s The Alexandria Quartet and Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl were the closest I got, but neither quite hit the spot. Fine, I thought, if I can’t read it, I’ll write it. And so my debut novel, Lost in Static, was born.
But where to start? Given I was telling more than one side of the story, with each version coloured by the characters’ background, beliefs, and prejudices, the novel had to be set where the characters all lived through the same events on a daily basis. I considered soldiers at war or students in university halls, and decided on the latter, bringing four characters together by circumstance and tearing them apart by misunderstanding. Then I added the ingredients for a year shaped by lust, betrayal, and violence, and started peeling back the layers.
Finally, there it was, a book I wanted to read, with strong female characters, elements of mystery, and a plot based on there always being two sides to every story. Which brought me to my next issue – publication. Feedback from agents I submitted to was that Lost in Static was too unconventional (which it is, but I didn’t view this as A Bad Thing), that each character didn’t ‘pass the baton’ but instead relived the same events (the whole point of the novel), that it should be written in the third person (which, in my opinion, would lose the voices and their impact). Luckily, Matthew Smith from Urbane Publications agreed with my outlook, which is why Lost in Static is out this September.
So, that’s my perspective, but I’m sure someone else could give you a completely different take on my journey. The question is, which version do you believe?
‘Lost in Static’ is available for pre-order from:-
Urbane Publications – http://urbanepublications.com/books/lost-in-static/
Visit Christina’s Blog – https://cphilippou123.wordpress.com/
Twitter – @CPhilippou123
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/cphilippou123/