Month: July 2013

The Prologue is Never The End

Today is the final instalment of the prologue for my new Work in Progress, The Moon is Made of Glass. If you’ve been following along with the WIPpets today is the day you find out the fate of Carys – the young girl watching the moon in the pond. If you haven’t read the first two instalments and want to get up to speed with the story, you can start here (it isn’t very long). For those of you who just want the summary, Carys is a young girl out at night fixated by a large and unusually behaving moon. She is with her nurse, an old woman who has immediately prior to this scene, shoved Carys.

So here is my belated Wednesday WIPpet (on the assumption it’s still Wednesday somewhere) – seven sentences in honour of the seventh month:

As Carys fell, time seemed to slow until there was only the water, the moon, and her reflection. Gentle hands caught hers as she slipped beneath the surface without a sound.

The woman stepped up to the water’s edge and watched the ripples recede. The pond was as still as glass and as black as the night sky.

As her eyes adjusted to the faint glow of starlight, she touched a hand to her cheek, stroking her skin – now as smooth as the surface of the water. Her face was pale, her eyes large and round, but the full lips pulled back into a triumphant smile.

Shedding the starchy nurse’s uniform, the woman wrapped herself in a pale silver dress of gossamer silk, pulled the pins from her hair and letting the long raven locks fall about her face, turned her back on the pond and disappeared into the night.

Hmm, it was the ending as promised (please don’t unleash the lynch mob).  But of course the prologue is never the end of the story; rather, the small ending before the proper beginning.

Prologues have had pretty bad press over the years, often times having nothing to do the with the story proper. Often they are used as a means to info-dump backstory or to set the scene.

One of my friends bemoaned the prologue at the start of The Game of Thrones made her think it was a book about ice-zombies.  Because this wasn’t her cup of tea she put the book down, and was really put out to discover much later that the ice-zombies were a very small part of the series.

From another perspective I’ve also read a few prologues that are so vague I’ve never figured out what it had to do with the story or what the author was getting at. Trying to be mysterious maybe? I’m not sure.

I may not always be the quickest on the uptake, but the prologue is the first taste of the story a reader gets. So whatever you do, you don’t want to put the reader off.

Agent Kristen Nelson, of the Nelson Literary Agency wrote a great post warning authors about the dangers of using a prologue, especially when you are querying. Agents have strong opinions about this sort of thing.

And yet I’m still partial to the prologue. (Although will think twice about including one if I ever submit to her agency!).

What I like about the prologue is that it can capture the reader’s attention at the outset. The prologue to The Moon is Made of Glass was my way into the story. The title just popped into my head one night, and I started writing out of curiousity to see where the story was going.

Like you (hopefully), I didn’t know what the two characters were doing out at night by the water; the woman didn’t strike me as being ‘very nice’, and the girl didn’t seem to be attached to her. I wondered what was going on with this very present moon. And what possible ending there would be for this child.

The only thing I will give you (which became apparent to me when writing) is that this is a faerie story (does the language convey it might be?); in the tradition of the meeting of the two worlds, the time between times and the cruelty (or different perspectives) of a race if not immortal, with a considerably longer life-span.

The actual story will be about Carys’s sister, born after Carys’s mysterious disappearance.

I’m hoping if this prologue survives (in a more polished form) it will give the reader an insight that the context of this story is a fantasy. So the family dynamic, and rather unusual choices of the parent will make sense to the reader before the character. I’m not sure if it will work, and to be honest it’s on the back burner for a while as I head back to The Fall of the Kings for one big push to the end.

And so, with the promise that the prologue isn’t really the end, I’m going to be taking a break from the blog for a while. I’d hoped to have finished The Fall of the Kings by now, and have realised that while I’ve done a fair amount of blogging this year, I’ve not been making much headway on the novel. Writing about not writing isn’t my grand design at all. And to make matters worse, I’m also falling behind on keeping up with the blogs I really love (you know who you are – and I’m sorry).

So the new plan is to restructure my timetable so I can carve out some solid chunks of full-on writing time (including the hours I typically spend on-line), at least until I’ve made some good progress to the WIP. I’m figuring there won’t be regular posts here for a while, but I’ll still be posting on There and Draft Again once a month, so I might do the odd promo just to keep in touch (and cast my eye over twitter – just sayin’).

On the subject of There and Draft Again check out my last few posts:

The Princess Bride and Narrative Techniques was a shameless excuse to discuss one of my all time favourite movies! And I’m afraid there was another nod to my Star Wars roots in In Need of An Oracle

Click on this linky to check out this week’s selection of WIPpets. Big waves to the other WIPpeteers and *flourishes WIPpeteer hat* to our lovely host K.L. Schwengel.

And this is not goodbye, just until the next beginning…

The Butterfly Storm – An Interview with Kate Frost

Kate Frost
Kate Frost

One of the best things about the on-line writing community is making friends with other writers, and then getting to ask them all sorts of things about their books and writing processes. I’m not quite sure how I stumbled upon Kate Frost’s blog last year, but  we really hit it off during chats in the blog comments and a shared journey through WIPpet Wednesdays. So I’m thrilled to have her on the blog today to answer all my questions about her debut novel The Butterfly Storm.

With an MA in creative writing under her belt, Kate teaches lifewriting for the undergraduate Creative Writing course at Bath Spa University. She’s also published articles and short stories in Scriptor, QWF, Bullet Magazine, Peninsular, New Welsh Review and The London Magazine. For those are you who are a bit star-struck (not me at all) – she’s appeared in Vanity Fair with Reece Witherspoon, King Arthur with Ray Winston and The Duchess with Keira Knightly. Her husband Nik’s family hails from Greece (which accounts for the very authentic Greek scenes in The Butterfly Storm) and she has a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel called Frodo (great name huh!).

The Butterfly Storm, Kate’s first novel is a beautiful story about love, family, belonging and place:

Four years ago life for Sophie Keech was perfect. A new start in Greece with Alekos, her boyfriend of just six weeks, removes Sophie from a mundane 9-5 job, takes her away from the difficult relationship she has with her mum, and gives her the opportunity and belief that she is finally doing something positive and exciting with her life.

But a lot can change in four years. An engagement, a domineering mother-in-law to be and the reality of life in Greece not being quite what Sophie imagined puts a strain on her relationship with Alekos.

When an accident forces Sophie back to the UK to look after her estranged mum, she has time to reevaluate her life, her idea of family, where she wants to be and, most importantly, who she loves.

I read The Butterfly Storm one cold wintery weekend curled up in front of the fire, and I have to say the experience was like visiting with old friends – comfortable, captivating and hard to leave. Kate writes beautifully, her use of language and ability to set the scene means the story draws you in from the outset. Sophie chooses a new life for herself, full of promise and potential and yet through the course of the story she has to face many areas of her life that have failed or are failing to meet up with her expectations.

One of the many things I liked about The Butterfly Storm, despite the fact that Sophie and I are quite different – was that the themes are relevant to things that are close to my heart. What should we expect from love? Is love enough, especially when you factor in wider family obligations and expectations? And why is it that so often it’s hard to say what you really mean, especially to those you love the most? The Butterfly Storm captures Sophie’s crossroad moment perfectly and takes you on the journey with her.

And, like I said, I get to ask Kate all about it!

Kate, how did Sophie’s story begin? Was there one idea, or scene that captured your imagination at the outset?

Sophie’s story began with an image I had of a woman looking out across fields towards Mt. Olympus just before she was swept up in the celebrations of a party. The party ended up being for Despina’s (Sophie’s mother-in-law to be) 60th birthday and it was originally the first chapter, although it’s now chapter seven. That party scene featured everything that appealed to me about Greece: the food, the dancing, the sense of family, music and laughter. Except despite all of this Sophie’s not happy and it’s at this point that her life really begins to unravel.

That is a captivating image, and a real turning point in the story for Sophie too! The heart of The Butterfly Storm is about love and family; relationships, expectations, belonging, and (mis)communication – something I think we can all relate to. How did your family respond to the story? Did anyone ‘see themselves’ (rightly or wrongly) in particular characters?

So far it’s only been my mum and my husband’s aunt in Greece that have read the finished novel and they’ve both responded very well! Even though, like Sophie, I fell in love with and married a Greek, how we met and the relationship we both have with our families is very different to the ones Sophie and Alekos have. My mum didn’t see herself in any of the characters (and rightly so) but she did find it strange recognising some of the places that feature in the book. The view from Leila’s house in Norfolk for example is the view from my grandparents’ farmhouse, although the house is completely different and the village of Marshton is fictional.

I love the butterfly imagery in the book and the title, The Butterfly Storm. Could you tell us a little about how these came about and coloured the story.

Chapter one, which was one of the original chapters and the one that features the storm brewing over Mt. Olympus and the butterflies dancing in its wake, actually wrote itself. I don’t remember planning that scene although what happens subsequently between Sophie and Alekos was intended. The idea of those butterflies caught by the wind and the impending storm was not only an interesting and beautiful image but it seemed like the perfect title and so The Butterfly Storm, my first and only title stuck. Much like life there’s a beauty and fragility to butterflies and I wanted them to feature at different points in the story and so they become symbols of what Sophie wants, what they remind her of and ultimately a catalyst for her making one of the most important decisions of her life when she sees the butterfly image on her mum’s skirt. 

The beauty and fragility really shows through in the story too! The Butterfly Storm was written as part of your MA in creative writing, what do you think was the biggest benefit of writing that context?

Without a doubt the intensity of writing a large chunk of the novel and it being workshopped by a supportive group of fellow writers led by a published author, Tricia Wastvedt, on a weekly basis was the biggest benefit. The criticism was constructive and the praise was honest and the whole workshopping process of cutting, rewriting and reworking enabled me to judge my own writing better and be more confident in my abilities. The MA also helped me to see what my weaknesses were and work on them.

It took 9 years to publish The Butterfly Storm – and it was quite a journey. After following the traditional route and having positive feedback about the story (nothwithstanding their views on profitability) – what was it that made you decided to self-publish? And did The Butterfly Storm undergo any major changes during that time?

I decided to self-publish because I finally came to the realisation that despite the rejections from the agents and the publisher I had a decent novel and it was absolutely useless it being confined to the depths of my computer. I want people to read it. Self-publishing is a very reputable option nowadays and one that has given lots of authors the opportunity to share their books, and readers the chance to read books that a few years ago may never have seen the light of day.

The one major change that The Butterfly Storm went through was on the advice of an editor at a publishers who suggested cutting the flashback chapters that were originally threaded throughout the book and telling the story in chronological order starting at the point that Sophie first leaves the UK for a new life in Greece. This suggestion was one that made complete sense but one that required a complete rewrite. Chapters were discarded and new ones were written but the result was a far stronger novel. It may have taken nine years for The Butterfly Storm to be published but it wasn’t wasted time as I learnt so much and definitely improved as a writer during those years. 

You’ve said one of the hardest things to do with the process was to do the rewrites on the advice of professional editors. Can you give us some advice on how to prepare for the editing process – and come through it in one piece?

Yes, don’t panic! It can seem like a huge job, particularly when major changes such as the ones I made to The Butterfly Storm are involved. The way I approached it was to break the novel down chapter by chapter and make a plan of what chapters were to be cut, what needed to be rewritten, how many new chapters were required and what order they all needed to go in. My biggest piece of advice to do with the editing process is to leave the novel alone for as long as you can possibly bear – I’m talking months rather than weeks (and definitely not days) – because when you do look at it again you’ll be able to do so with a fresh pair of eyes. The longer you go without reading or tinkering with it the more objective you can be when it comes to editing it. I actually like editing and think it can be one of the most rewarding parts of writing a novel when you finally see the book coming together.

I’m so glad you did believe in The Butterfly Storm and completed your journey to publication because the finished product is quite beautiful. If you could give a word of encouragement to other writers based on what you’ve learned, what would it be?

To persevere. When you get knocked down, which is unfortunately inevitable as it comes with the territory of writing, pick yourself back up, turn on your computer and let those fingers work their magic. Writing is not easy but it is also so incredibly rewarding when someone tells you that they loved your novel.

Thanks so much Kate, that’s great advice and I’m hugely encouraged by your example! I would thoroughly recommend The Butterfly Storm and suggest you all rush off to  to Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk to get your own copy. Click here to visit Kate’s blog, and follow her on twitter @Kactus77.

The Butterfly Storm Cover Small

Reflections – WIPpet Wednesday

Happy WIPpet Wednesday! My favourite blog day of the week, where the fearless WIPpeteers crack open their works in progress and dare to bare them to the world in all their first draft glory! (It’s not for the faint-of-heart, I can assure you).

True to my word, this week’s WIPpet is from my new WIP, The Moon is Made of Glass, and continues on from last week’s offering. If you want to read the beginning here’s the link. Otherwise here are 10 more paragraphs (3 for the 3rd + 7 for the 7th month) in honour of the 3rd of July:

Impossibly, the reflection was growing. The tiny circle of silver continued to expand, until it reached out to the very edges of the pond. Carys wanted very badly to look up, to see if the moon was in fact coming closer, but she couldn’t tear her gaze away.

“What do you see?” The old woman shoved Carys forward, so she almost lost her balance, teetering just above the water. Hands thrust forward to break her fall – but she caught herself just short of the surface.

What did the old woman think was in the pond?

“Look closer.”

It was hard to concentrate with the old woman pressed against her back, breathing in her ear. But Carys shifted her weight forward and peered into the silvery depths. Her reflection was perfect against the mirrored surface; her dark curls tumbling about her face, swinging gently above the water. Her skin was luminous in the reflected light, pale and flawless; otherworldly. Even her eyes seemed to belong to someone else, a shimmering silver as wide and round as the moon.

“I don’t see anything.” Her voice, tinged with disappointment bounced back at her off the water.

“But you do,” the woman said. “Tell me what it is.”

“Just the moon. That’s all there is – and our reflections…”

Her voice faltered and a cold shiver, like still, deep water enveloped her. Her refection was caught perfectly, crisp and clear. Right down to the uninterrupted curve of her shoulder. But instead of a shape or a shadow where the old woman should have been there was only the moon.

The woman let out a sigh, a contented sound of confirmation and shoved the girl hard between the shoulder blades.

This passage is part of the prologue to The Moon is Made of Glass, so although I’m leaving you with a (little) cliff-hanger, you will find out the fate of young Carys next week.

Where the prologue leaves off anyway.

Sadly the rest of the story will have to wait until I’ve finished The Fall of the Kings. I’m gearing up for a big push to get the first draft finished, which means I’m going to be taking a hiatus from the blog once I clear the decks around here. I’ve been so inspired by everyone else’s finished offerings that I’m determined to get mine done too!

Many thanks to the lovely K.L. Schwengel for faithfully hosting WIPpet Wednesday. If you’d like to join us, or just check out the other WIPpeteers head on over to this linky.

Happy writing! (And don’t forget to swing by on Friday where the lovely Kate Frost is answering all my questions about The Butterfly Storm!)