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Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Very Valentine's Day Post

In honor of Valentine's Day, I thought it would be a good idea to post my thoughts on romance and how to write it effectively into a novel. Now, I don't write in the romance genre, but I will always have an element of romance in my books. Why? First of all, I enjoy it! When I'm reading a novel, I always think that some sort of romantic story arc edifies the overall story. Romance can be done really well, or really poorly in a story, and as a writer, I've tried to imitate what I think is the best of what I've seen, and avoid the worst. Here are some of the common pitfalls I've tried to avoid in writing romance into my books...

1) Romance that moves too fast.
Romance in a story ought to be a slow burn. It is so much more satisfying to watch two characters slowly grow together over the course of a novel, or a series of novels, than to watch them meet and fall head over heels in love in the first fifty pages of the novel. The progress of romance from hints to resolution is meant to leave the reader with a sense of satisfaction, and if you reach that resolution too soon, the reader can lose interest in the rest of the progress of the character development. It's not as though every romantic story arc in a story has to be long and drawn out, but the ones that are the most important often ought to be. The tension leading up to the declaration of love is more interesting for a reader than much of what happens after. Along these lines too, this is especially true if the author has two characters almost immediately jump into bed with each other. Where do you go from there? If you're going to write a speedy romance into your story, you'd better have a darn good reason for doing so!

2) Why do they love each other?
As often happens with romances that move too fast, this one is tied in with the first pitfall, but I thought it was big enough to be worthy of its own point. Sometimes characters fall so instantly in love that I, as the reader, simply don't buy that they could possibly BE in love yet. This doesn't always happen with the romance moving too fast, either. Sometimes the characters who are supposed to be falling in love are so wrong for each other, I simply can't see them together. Authors sometimes get married to an idea in their heads (such as two disparate oddballs falling for each other) and they hang on to the idea like bulldogs even when they may have written another character into the story that the reader can clearly see would be a better choice for one of the characters who is supposed to be falling in love with someone else (boy, does that sentence make sense?). This often happens when authors try to write clever love triangles. Either way, that loss of secondary belief is the kiss of death to a novel, for me at least.

3) Sappiness.
If it's too sappy and sentimental, it makes my gorge rise. If I can't picture myself or someone else saying or doing what's being described in real life, I'll never buy it in a novel. Romance doesn't have to be overly gooey. Enough said.

4) Age-inappropriate expressing of feelings.
This happens all the time in young adult novels! The two characters falling in love, who are supposed to be maybe sixteen or seventeen, talk and behave like full-grown adults in the expression of their deep love for each other. Now, it's NOT that I don't believe teenagers can fall in legitimate love, because I do. But teenagers have a certain vernacular about them that is different from how adults think, speak, and behave when they are in love. I try very hard to keep my teenage characters acting like teenagers, even when they are in love. The expression of love matures as people mature, and sometimes YA authors lose sight of that and write their teenagers as if they are adults.

5) Surprise! They're not actually getting together!
Authors can get really high and mighty about their art sometimes, and can take it to the point of refusing to bow to crass commercial expectations (nose tilt, superior expression). This sometimes takes the form, in a novel, of an author hinting all along that two characters are going to end up together, and then never bringing those hints to successful resolution. This drives me, as a reader, CRAZY! If you're going to lead the reader into thinking that something is going to happen, then for the love of Pete make it happen. To do anything else is just mean.

These are just a few that came to me off the top of my head, and you may not agree with me on all of them, but that's okay. :) I've so enjoyed getting to the romantic parts of my bigger story (the story arc that covers all six books), and because I knew the end when I started writing the beginning, putting in those little tidbits here and there that would lead to the coming together of two characters was so much fun. If you've read all the way through book 4, hopefully you'll appreciate going back and seeing how Darcy and Tellius interacted in book one when they were really just children. And there's a new romance blooming in book 5... but I can't say much about that yet. Those of you who know my style best will have seen it coming from a mile away.
Happy Valentine's Day, everyone.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Scroll WIP Blog Hop!

Welcome to the Blog Hop! My friend, the great Hogwarts Professor John Granger, tagged me to carry on the torch this week, so I answered the interview questions below for my Work in Progress: Book 5 of The Gateway Chronicles, The Scroll. You can find John Granger's interview at his blog here.  And do be sure to check out at least one of his many books! My favorite of his is How Harry Cast His Spell.

If you're new to my blog, welcome! Even though I answered these questions for the fifth book in my series, there's still plenty of information about the series in general, so you shouldn't feel too lost. I hope you enjoy the interview!

1. What is the working title of your book?

The working title of book 5 of The Gateway Chronicles is The Scroll. 

2. Where did the idea for the book come from? 

Well, I finished book 4, and I figured I should go ahead and write book 5. 

Seriously, though, anybody who has read the first four books in my series knows that book 4, The Enchanted, gets a little romantic, and some of my male readers expressed that, although they enjoyed book 4, they hoped I would go back to a little more action in book 5. Lucky for them, that was always my intention. It starts with a bang and, I think, continues fast and strong straight to the end. I wanted it to have a good balance of personal story arcs, such as the romance between Darcy and Tellius, but plenty of meaty mysteries, riddles, and fights. It is the final installment before book 6, which is going to be the last book in the series, so it also needs to begin wrapping a few things up. All of these elements drove my writing of the story. 

3. What genre does your book come under?

Young Adult/Middle Grade Fantasy Adventure (and a little Romance now that the characters are older) 

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I get asked this ALL the time! It's very difficult to "cast" my main characters, though, because they get one year older every year, and likewise, young Hollywood changes, well, every year. In my perfect world, when book 1, The Six, is made into a movie, I'd like to see previously unknown actors cast in the six title roles, just as they did with Harry Potter.

Max Irons
Diane Kruger

For the adult cast of characters, though, there is one actor I am bound and determined to see play Yahto Veli, and that is Max Irons. I could also see Diane Kruger as Voitto Vesa. If Jared Harris were a little older, he'd make a great Rubidius. 
Jared Harris

Drew Roy
 Although Tellius is also a character who grows older every book, and therefore the actor cast as him would have to start out a kid and grow with the movies, there is one actor I have discovered who perfectly epitomizes Tellius at the age he is in The Scroll (19)and that actor is Drew Roy. He has the perfect coloring and overall look! Tan, dark brown hair, brown eyes mixed with green. The only thing he's missing is the smattering of freckles, but that's okay. :) 
Bryce Dallas Howard

I'm also introducing a NEW character in The Scroll named Talutah Shani who could be played handily by Bryce Dallas Howard. 

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

All Darcy Pennington's plans for her future life in Alitheia are put on hold as she discovers something horrible has happened while she's been away from the magical world, which leads to her facing a singular goal: save Tellius, even if it means giving Tselloch something in return. 

6. Is your book self-published, published by an independent publisher, or represented by an agency?

My books are publishing by The Writer's Coffee Shop Publishing House (TWCS), an independent, but thriving, publisher based out of Sydney, Australia. All I can say about the release date for The Scroll at this time is that it will be out later this year! 

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Well, I started in August, but I only wrote about 50 pages at that time as I got really busy once school started back in session (I'm also a school teacher). I picked at it when I could during the autumn months, bringing my page total up to about 150 when November ended. I wrote the majority of the novel, therefore, during the month of December, bringing my final rough manuscript up to 415 pages. 

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

The Gateway Chronicles as a series is like if The Chronicles of Narnia met Harry Potter at a summer camp and decided to become something new together. Books 1-3 in the series (The Six, The Oracle, The White Thread) are more Middle Grade in nature, but just as in how the story in Harry Potter matures as the characters do, so do my books mature as my characters get older. Book 4, The Enchanted, and this book, The Scroll have more of a true Young Adult flavor to them. That being said, I always keep the story lines family friendly.
 (I know it probably seems hubristic to compare myself with such lofty and successful titles, but this is a comparison many readers have made of my books as well, so I don't feel too bad about it.) :) 

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

These books simply had to happen. They are based loosely off my experiences at a summer camp I attended every summer of my life from infancy to college. My friends at the camp and the camp itself were so influential to me as I grew up that I knew when I started writing that I had to write some stories set there to sort of pay homage to that stage of my life, which is now past. I've always loved fantasy as a genre, so they naturally took the shape of fantasy stories. 

10. What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?

I've had two beta readers read through it, and they had similar reactions to it. One was so mad at me for how I ended it that she refused to talk to me about it for several days. She's mad in a good way, of course, and can't believe I haven't finished book 6 yet so she can continue the story. The other beta reader, likewise, said he thinks this is the best one yet and is also on my case about book 6. My editorial team is also so excited about this installment that they gave me the best editorial review I've ever received. That's always a good sign! 

I will also say this - my readers should expect the unexpected. The Scroll will turn many of your assumptions upside-down. 

Stay tuned to my blog, my Facebook Gateway Chronicles Facebook fan page, and my Twitter @kbhoyle_author for more sneak peeks at book 5 as the months count down to publication! 

Next Wednesday the Blog Hop jumps over to fellow TWCS YA author T. M. Franklin. Be sure to check it out!