Award-winning Newfoundland author, Paul Butler is about to release his latest novel entitled The Good Doctor. While the book might centre around Sir Wilfred Grenfell, it isn’t a biography. In fact, what Paul has written is a rather thought-provoking twist on the generally accepted image of this iconic character from Newfoundland and Labrador’s history.
My good friend and historical romance author, Kate Robbins tagged me in a blog hop last week. So now it’s my turn to answer a few questions – this time about my writing process.
What am I working on?
Funny you should ask … in fact, I just finished the first novel in a nine-book fantasy series for children (middle grade, ages 9-12). So right now I’m in the process of plotting out book two of that series, plus I have at last count, five other stories bouncing around in my head:
How does my work differ from others in its genre?
I’ll focus on the kids’ series for this one. The Nature Knights has been described as a medieval Narnia set in Newfoundland. So, having a Newfoundland setting certainly sets it apart from most other children’s fantasy novels. However, there’s also an important environmental theme running through the book, so I think that also sets it apart. Environmental protection has popped up in all sorts of books—the dystopian worlds of many novels are in effect, depictions of the world after environmental disaster. My story is pre-apocalypse, and although things haven’t fallen apart just yet, the writing is on the wall and it’s up to my four main characters to ensure Armageddon never happens.
Why do I write what I do?
This is an easy one. I’m writing The Nature Knights because this is the story that presented itself to me. I really can’t explain it any better than that. I was actually trying to write a different book entirely, but one character—Clancy Donovan—kept hijacking it and in the end, she browbeat me into writing The Nature Knights. She really isn’t the type of girl who takes no for an answer.
How does your writing process work?
I find this whole business of “writing process” fascinating. I know lots of authors who have a whole ritual set up to help summon the gods of creativity and inspiration. They couldn’t begin to put pen to paper until (and unless) certain elements are in place: they need to sit in a certain chair or have a particular drink in a particular mug. They need the wind to come from the east or the planet Neptune (which rules inspiration) to be in their fifth astrological house of creativity.
I don’t know about any of that stuff. To me, writing is like any other career so I show up every day and punch in the hours. Sometimes I work on computer, sometimes long hand. Nothing more to it than that.
Now I pass the baton on to three other authors, Lesley Richardson, Paul Butler and Jennie Marsland.
Lesley Richardson is a writer from Bangor, Co. Down, who is currently writing her second novel, The Possibilities of Elizabeth. Her first novel, Biddy Weirdo, is yet to be published, but Lesley and her agent, Susan Feldstein, are hopeful that that will soon change. Represented by the Feldstein Agency, Lesley has just received her second grant from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and was also awarded a writing bursary from North Down Borough Council. She launched her blog, Standing Naked at a Bus Stop last year and she tweets.
Paul Butler is the author of several critically acclaimed novels including Titanic Ashes, Cupids, Hero, 1892, NaGeira, Easton’s Gold, Easton, and Stoker’s Shadow. His work has appeared on the judges’ lists for Canada Reads, the Relit Longlist for three consecutive years (2011 for Cupids; 2010 for Hero; and 2009 for 1892), and he was a winner in the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador Arts and Letters Awards four times between 2003 and 2008 at which time he retired from the competition to be literary representative, and then chair, of the Arts and Letters Committee. A graduate of Norman Jewison’s Canadian Film Centre, Butler has written for the Globe and Mail, Canada’s History Magazine (formerly The Beaver), Books in Canada, Atlantic Books Today, and Canadian Geographic, and has also contributed to CBC Radio, local and national. He lives in St. John’s. His website is http://paulbutlernovelist.wordpress.com.
Jennie Marsland is a teacher, a painter, a musician and, for most of her life, a writer. She fell in love with words at a very early age and the affair has been life-long. She enjoys writing songs and poetry as well as fiction. Jennie is a history buff as well as an unashamed romantic. Glimpses of the past spark her imagination, and she believes in happily ever after. A resident of Halifax, Nova Scotia for the last thirty years, she lives with her husband Everett and their outrageously spoiled Duck-Tolling Retrievers, Chance and Echo. Her website is http://jenniemarsland.com.
Action scenes are devilishly difficult things to write. I struggled with the beginning of my novel for months because of it – writing and rewriting action sequences until they worked. My hard work and perseverance seems to have paid off though, so much in fact that I was recently asked to read one of my action scenes at a local writer’s event, and asked to give a presentation on the topic to my writing group.
Since action scenes are an integral part of fiction – regardless which genre you like to write, or read – I thought I’d pass along what I’ve learned. (more…)
In October, award-winning writer Lesleyanne Ryan published her debut novel, Braco. At the time, I interviewed Ryan about her publishing experiences. Last week, I had the great privilege of sitting with her again to discuss her Atlantic Book Awards nomination, her blog tour and life as an author. (At the end of this blog, you’ll have a chance to enter to win a signed copy of Braco, so read on!)
About Braco: As a former UN peacekeeper, Lesleyanne served in Visoko, Bosnia in 1993/94. There she helped a friend send food to a young boy in Srebrenica. When the Canadian military pulled out of Srebrenica in March 1994, he sent her a green licence plate from the town as a gift. In the years that followed, Lesleyanne often wondered whether he survived the fall of Srebrenica in 1995. Grounded in historical events, Braco is her exploration of the boy’s possible fate.
For the past five weeks, you’ve been touring the blogs of other Newfoundland writers to talk about Braco. (See below for links to these interviews.) What has that experience been like for you?
It has been an amazing experience and greatly exceeded my expectations. I’m new to the blogosphere and getting this chance to see what can be done has been eye-opening. It’s essential for authors to not only be promoted by their publishers but to take an active role in promoting themselves and the blog tour is a great self-promotional tool.
So, what do you think about the promotional part of publishing?
As I always say now, writing the book was the easy part. I recall the first time I sat down at a signing table at a local bookstore. For the first ten minutes, I sat there watching the shoppers walk by and I realized they were going out of their way to avoid eye contact. All I could think was that if it was going to be like this, I was never going to write another book again….LOL.
But it got better and I love talking to people about it. Not all will buy the book and that’s fine. I just love the chance to tell them about it. I also love the chance to speak to people who’ve already read the novel – like at book clubs – because it’s a great chance to have a back and forth conversation about the content of the book.
Braco won the Fresh Fish Award in 2011 and has now been nominated for the Margaret and John Savage First Book Award category of the Atlantic Book Awards. How does it feel to be an award-winning debut novelist?
I can’t really say it’s a dream come true because I never dreamed I’d win any awards, so I am really humbled by every nomination and win. I guess the awards are really an affirmation that what I’m doing works, and as a debut novelist, that is what I want to hear.
Do these award nominations put extra pressure on you now that you’re working on a second novel?
No, I’m not feeling too much pressure. I just want to strive to do the same thing I did with Braco – follow the same formula that made it work and hopefully produce something as successful.
What kind of feedback have you been getting from readers? Critics?
The feedback has been amazing. Critics reviews have been wonderful and I’m in awe every time I see a reader’s review posted to Goodreads, Chapters or Amazon. I hope readers know just how much an author appreciates the time they take to post a review.
When I get a chance to talk to people who have read the novel, the one thing I like to ask is which character they identified with and how it made them feel. I’ve gotten a wide range of responses and it often relates to their own background whether they’re a mother, a vet or just an avid reader who knew nothing of the conflict. It seems to me that my readers really come from all ages and backgrounds and not all of them are local. For example, I’ve had feedback from a mother in the US, a teacher in Toronto, a librarian in Ottawa, a vet in Quebec, a grandmother in BC and a writer in Australia.
The Atlantic Book Awards will be held in Halifax, Nova Scotia on May 16, 2013. For more information about Lesleyanne Ryan, please visit her website: www.lesleyanneryan.com
To read the interviews on Lesleyanne’s blog tour visit:
To enter to win a signed copy of Braco, simply leave a comment on this blog (below) and tell me why you’d like to have this book, or why you think it’s important for writers to explore issues like the fall of Srebrenica. If you’ve already read Braco, tell me what you thought about it. The contest will remain open until midnight, May 23, 2013 with the winner being announced on this blog on Friday, May 24, 2013.
Here’s a video of Lesleyanne Ryan reading from her award-winning novel, Braco. Good luck at the Atlantic Book Awards Lesleyanne!
As a former UN peacekeeper, Lesleyanne served in Visoko, Bosnia in 1993/94. There she helped a friend send food to a young boy in Srebrenica. When the Canadian military pulled out of Srebrenica in March 1994, he sent her a green licence plate from the town as a gift. In the years that followed, Lesleyanne often wondered whether he survived the fall of Srebrenica in 1995. Grounded in historical events, Braco is her exploration of the boy’s possible fate.
I first met Lesleyanne two years ago when I had the great privilege of reading the first chapter of Braco as part of a writing workshop with Paul Butler. Her skill as an author was obvious, even with an unpolished draft. Her images are shockingly vivid, her writing style clean and uncluttered. And thankfully she knows when to step aside and let this compelling story tell itself.
So why then did she have so much trouble getting it published? I spoke with Lesleyanne recently to discuss just that.
When did you start writing Braco?
It started as a writing assignment for a university course – it was actually Lisa Moore who suggested that I turn it into a novel. So in July 2008, I sat down and wrote the complete first draft in three weeks. I spent the next two years revising it through various writing workshops and mentorships.
I know at one point you had an agent. Tell me a bit about that.
Well by summer 2010, I had a complete manuscript and was ready to start looking for an agent. In fact, the first query letter I sent out turned into an offer of representation from a major literary firm in Canada. I signed a contract and within a week my book was being shopped around to the big publishing houses in New York.
Some expressed interest and asked to read it. Unfortunately it was presented to them as a “Bosnian Kite Runner” – which it isn’t and it may have affected their take on the novel. It didn’t get picked up.
Were you given input into the marketing of your book?
No, not really. It all happened so fast … the agent suggested some rewrites based on the publishers’ feedback. I did make them – in fact I spent months editing and revising the manuscript. But it didn’t work. By January 2011, I parted ways with the agency and put the book aside for a while. I was pretty discouraged.
How did you connect with Breakwater Books?
While I considered pursuing another agent, I entered the Fresh Fish competition in June 2011, and won! I was actually in a McDonald’s in New Zealand a few months later, checking email on their free wifi, when I got a message from Breakwater Books asking me to come in to discuss getting the book published. They’d heard about it through Fresh Fish.
Had you ever considered self-publishing?
No, not really. My manuscript had gotten such positive reviews that I wanted to give traditional publishing a real chance first. I had planned to find another agent and try with some of the smaller publishing houses. Now Braco is going to the Frankfurt Book Fair – we’re hoping to pick up a foreign distributor.
You’ve had quite a publishing adventure – what advice would you give aspiring authors?
First, take lots of writing workshops and courses. It’s a great way to improve writing skills and meet other authors. Also, enter lots of contests – this will help you build your resume and get your name around.
And finally, what book are you reading now?
October 13, 2012: Coles, Avalon Mall (1:00-3:00pm) and Chapters, Kenmount Road (3:30-5:30pm)
October 27, 2012: Coles, Village Mall (1:00-3:00pm)
November 4, 2012: Costco, Stavanger Drive (2:00-4:00pm)
Last month, author Linda Abbott, published her first novel entitled The Loss of the Marion. Newfoundlanders among you may already be aware of the story, either from local folklore or the song by Simani recorded back in the ‘80s. For those who aren’t familiar, the Marion was a banking schooner that set sail from St. Jacques in Fortune Bay, Newfoundland on June 10, 1915. She was on her way to St. Pierre, but was never seen or heard from again. All 17 men on board perished.
Little is known about the ship’s last voyage, and it is from this mystery that Linda has woven her novel. She follows Nellie Myles, a crewman’s widow, on her search to find the truth about what happened to her husband and his vessel.
I was lucky enough to talk with Linda about her experiences writing the book, and getting it published. Here’s some of our conversation:
Where did you get the idea for this novel?
I’d always wanted to write a book and one day I heard the Simani song on the radio. It intrigued me, so I did some research about the Marion and its last trip. We don’t know much about what happened to it. I thought that made for a good story.
When did you write the book?
I started writing back in 2010. It took me about five months to finish it.
Yeah. I started a novel-writing course with Paul Butler and the book came out of that. But, I had to wait 18 months for it to be published.
Tell me more about the publishing process … why did you opt for the traditional publication method rather than self-publishing an ebook?
Honestly, self-publishing was never a serious consideration for me. I wanted my work to be recognized by the industry. When a publisher takes on a book, he believes it to have merit – it’s more professional, more credible.
Did you find an agent first, or approach the publisher directly?
No, I didn’t bother going the agent route. Actually it was Paul Butler who introduced me to Garry Cranford from Flanker Press – that’s who published “The Loss of the Marion”. Garry seemed to be interested in my story, so when I finished writing it I got in touch with him. He called me within a month of receiving my manuscript and offered me a publishing deal.
Did you enjoy the book launch?
Yes, but I was nervous. Apparently it’s the biggest turnout they’ve ever had. Chapters actually sold out of my books.
Are you working on any other projects now?
I’ve already finished a second manuscript – The Hull Home Fire. It’s based on a true story about a fire on Springdale Street in St. John’s. Twenty-two people died. And I’m working on a fantasy book for kids.
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Any new writer needs to believe in themselves and in their work. Rejection can bring anyone down, but perseverance and determination will get you through the rough spots.
Linda’s novel The Loss of the Marion is available in stores throughout Newfoundland and from Flanker Press. She will signing books at Coles in the Village Mall, St. John’s, Newfoundland from 1:00pm – 3:00pm (NST), Sunday, September 16, 2012.