Saturday, November 28, 2009

Banquo's Son: writing a trilogy and story structure

So here's the thing: I need to make you keep turning the pages. I need to make you slap your head and say - Of Course! Why didn't I see that coming? I need you to believe that if you were Fleance or Rachel or Rosie, you'd have done exactly as they decide to do.

And, I need you to trust that though I have your heart in my hands, I will, in the end, not make you cry so much you hate me but know that what I've written is as it should be. Tears and cheers all.

The last few days has all been about research and looking carefully behind the facade to ensure that the engineering is tickety boo.

My big question now is, the person who has to die in Bloodlines, does the death happen before or after the big moment? And, perhaps, is this death actually THE big moment? Which I kinda suspect might be but I'm open to suggestions.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Banquo's son - what are my readers interested in?

As I've posted before, some who come across this site are new to the whole 'Banquo's Son Trilogy' thing; others have been with me from the beginning (early Jan 2009).

The first of the trilogy is only five weeks old so we've got a whole new world of readers but me, and the few faithful who have been with me since the beginning, want more than sound bites about Banquo's Son.

So, Banquo's Son is a hit! Great reviews; great sales. It's a great novel.

Now, the next one. Well, it's been an exciting few days for me (see previous post) and today, while I supervised an exam, I charted out the point by point events of our dear Flea, our lovely Rachel, and a number of other key characters. That as well as serious study of some serious history of early medieval Scotland/England/Europe.

The problem is, the basics are very thin on the ground. The big picture i.e. the politics (who is in power and who isn't and who was working to disturb both) is there for the world to see.

I don't want to be drawn into that history but I do want the end of the trilogy to aline itself with the real deal.

My minor was history but not this far back. Hmm.

The story is in good heart, dear reader. Just give me time to ensure that the king of scotland is not checking his emails or flying to Europe. *grin*

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Fleance and Rachel

I've now got myself in a spot of bother by being mean to these two. Um, think dramatic filmic moment here. Think, who do I save first? Think, no, authors don't save their characters - they make them deal with it.

Trouble is, er, it's me that's going to have to figure out what to do with both these situations. That's a massive ask: research into military manoeuvres, shipping schedules, the weather!

Crap. I've got marking and junior reports ahead of me but now I have to deal with imminent warfare and ruthless torture. Why do I spend so much time reading blogs and forums and FaceBook when I should be writing?

I don't made things easy for myself. (Though I loved spending the most part of yesterday and early this morning reading Vanda Symon's latest: Containment. Joy.

Still, the dusting has been ignored for another week

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Banquo's Son, historical accuracy and plagerism

Dianne Brown, in her Here Comes Another Vital Moment, says something along of the lines of this (and I'm too lazy to go find her book and find the passage) 'Such is our predatory nature...we are word thieves; scene stealers' or something like that. Our job as writers is to turn it inside out and filter it back to the world through our own unique lens.

This whole situation with Witi has given me much pause for thought because right now I'm having to do a shite lot of reading about really tedious things to do with 11th Century shipping and battles and religious ceremonies.

On the one hand, I don't want people criticising me for being historically wrong. (A few have already tried but they are wrong, not me, so I'm nonplussed about their erroneous assumptions) but that I might INADVERTENTLY incorporate someone else's phrase into my narrative without realising that it had become part of my psyche, is a huge stress.

People criticise me for using words not used in 11th C even though I said I was using 17th C words. They said some of the phrases are ‘too modern’ yet the ones they’ve quoted have come directly from Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar and 12th Night.

What I’m saying here, I think, and as I said on Beattie’s Blog, I am disinclined to join the others who have so quickly rallied to throw stones at a man who’s novel Whanau was the first ever non children’s book I read as a child. (My step-brother won it as a school prize). Here was a narrative which told my story with all it’s glory and heartache and laughter and tears and violence.

Sad for him. And sad that people have been so horrible and unforgiving. Whoops – stuff up. Could happen to any of us. All writers of historical fiction could get caught out. Me. Or Jones. Or Alterio. Could. Shouldn’t but it might so we all have to be careful.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Translating a book to film - the ups and downs

Having just listened to Elizabeth Knox's response to Nikki Caro's production of her novel Vintner's Luck raises some interesting questions. Especially in the area of how much input an author has in the final product if ones novel is translated from prose to film. As an English teacher and (in a past life) a media studies teacher, I recognise the different demands of each genre.

Still, a story is a story and I can appreciate Knox's dismay that, for her, the essential love story was ignored to the 'fourth level' Knox says. For her, the lack of information about what had happened was the disconcerting.

So, everyone who reads Banquo's Son and contacts me says the cinematic potential is clear. That there are currently three American producers currently reading the novel makes me take a time to pause.

I may be a bit more proactive in looking at my contract should a film maker come knocking.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Is Banquo's Son YA or Adult Fiction?

In a list called 'our pick of perfect books for someone you care about this christmas', the reviewer says this: A dark and mysterious hero, tortured romance, a choice between love and honour... all the ingredients for a rollicking teen read feature in Banquo's Son, in which author Tania Roxborogh (rebranded "T.K. Roxborogh") imagines the fate of Fleance, the son of the murdered Scottish thane in Banquo in Shakespeare's Macbeth.

Both my publisher are I are bemused that reviewers seek to pigeon hole the book in a category. I assume it's because I am mostly known as a children's/YA writer and that some of the characters are in their late teens, that they see this as a YA book.

It's not. It's just a great story which I know thousands of people, all ages, both male and female, have read and thoroughly enjoyed.

Below is an extract I received recently from a law professor in his sixties:

I have wanted to let you know how much I and Jan have enjoyed reading your book. I could not withhold from Jan my continuous expressions of delight and enjoyment as I read it... and, for being pulled in a different dramatic direction, less intimately with Macbeath among Shakespeare's plays.

As I read your book, I was reminded, over and over again, of T. H. White's Once and Future King, but I think I respect your work more for the strongly structured form it takes - a playwright's presentation, I would think, and so a testament to Shakespeare as is apt, rather than a story or history, since however much I love your love story, it is as you say not only so, but also about duty and honour. So what excites me is the architecture of your book, its width and depth and promise of continued extension.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Why I avoid writing

I think I'm afraid. After nearly a month now of such positive feedback regarding Banquo's Son, I'm nervous I won't be able to do it again - that is, write a stunning second novel as good as the first.

Writing is such a fearful thing. One is constantly doubting oneself and I have to battle daily to convince my doubting inner protester that this is a BIG story. It's epic. It needs three books to tell it.

I turn on my computer every morning and spend far too long reading other people's blog, checking out what everyone's up to on FaceBook and sending email.

Everytime I have a break from the writing, I have to spend about an hour catching up with where I am. Sometimes, this brings pleasure (when I've read a particularly good passage) and sometimes, it can cause me to mutter: crap. crap. crap.

But, I've made a promise to myself that I will write 1000 words today. I will put a post script to this post updating my progress.

Post Script: well, I did manage 1000 words but not sure if I can really count [blah blah blah] and [more here] as real words.

It occured to me that I best follow my own advice: if you are suffering writer's block then there a few things likely to be done. For me, I need to map this next section of the novel clearly for it is coming to the first climax. The second, I need some fodder for the brain. This morning, I dusted off my brother-in-law's copy of Scottish Battles and opened up my large map of Scotland to get a sense of distance.

I need to get the bones together as soon as I can so that I have a sense of the whole trajectory of the story - then I can go back and colour in.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Banquo's Son - book two

I've finally found a bit of traction. My senior students have all but disappeared off on study leave giving me some breathing space from their anxious tutorials. Just three times 25 kids less a day makes a HUGE difference to the emotion tank. This means, by the time I get home (and after I've been domestic goddess - Vanda, I join you) I actually have enough head space to go back to the 11th Century and deal with the subterfuge and nasty happenings in Scotland.

I got a bit stuck because I couldn't seem to get the damn boy outta the castle. The girl was on her way on her adventures (no, not telling what type) but I needed to kick some serious butt to get Fleance on the move. What he doesn't know but what I'll tell you is: I've got some really nasty surprises in store for him. Heh Heh. A boy's gotta really grow into a man if he's to be a manly man and, what I'm starting to feel again is the exposure to this world which I dip my feet into.

The more I'm there, the more I see and understand. Unlike this time last year, I have oh, one extra month up my sleeve but also the pressure of the deadline.

I want what I've learned from writing the first of this trilogy (in terms of skill and quality of writing) to be cranked up for the second. I want people to say: OMG this is even better than the first book. Really, really, want this.

At this stage, it is still Fleance who drives the narrative and Rosie is there and, as I've posted recently, Rachel. But, lurking in the background is a dark figure. A nasty piece of knitting. Someone who has the potential to do a great evil. Mwahhhh hahah.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Banquo's Son still on best seller's list

Number four shared with Witi Ihimaera Trowenna Sea this week but the Christmas advertising is now in full swing with television and print promos via Whitcoulls. Got lots of excited txts from students, friends and family last night as the ads came on. Haven't seen it yet.

Today, two people came up to me at school to say how much they loved reading the book: One was 13 years old; the other was 49 years old. I think it says a lot about the story that it can appeal to such a wide range of ages.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Straddling two books

So, my head is almost 100% into Book Two (Bloodlines). I'm tweaking and shaping and creating the first few chapters until I'm ready to move on as I try to get inside the head of a new character. She's not new to the trilogy: Rachel is a key player in Banquo's Son but now I'm intending to spend as much time with her in this book as I did with Duncan in the first book. It's fun. I'm in the honeymoon/first flush of love stage with this book.

Then, a number of times a day, I receive wonderfully excited emails from people who have or are read/ing Banquo's Son. There appears to be a need to 'discuss' the ending and the choices Fleance makes; to work through, I guess, the joy and sorrow the ending brings. I want to tell everyone what happens to everyone but I can't. I have to hold that information in so that the reader discovers it for themselves.

And, of course, daily, the kids where I teach react to the book.
Today, for example:
8:30 Mrs Roxborogh, I finished the book! And, not happy.
But did you like it. Did you cry?
Yes. But how could you. How could you do that?

Interval: I've bought another book to give as a gift. Can you sign it please.
This is the third one, isn't it?
Yes, but what a perfect gift.

3:30 Same student as 8:30: You tricked me. I was worried and Mum said what's the matter and I said no it's okay and then you went and did that!

6pm, local supermarket: I finished the book.
Her mother: Now I can read it.
Me, to student: so are you a Rachel or a Rosie fan.
Cue: discussion as to the merits of both

Then there are the reviews or interviews which come in every few days like this one from the very impressive(according to this English teacher)blog called 'We love YA'Go here to read the interview about Banquo's Son.

This weekend past has shown me what I really need when I am writing seriously: quiet - for myself (ie no tv or radio or dogs or phones or kids) and for the family (I tend to talk aloud a lot). So, this afternoon, after school, I pushed open the door to the sleep out (my study) and surveyed the mess. This is not a representative photo. This was taken earlier in the year. Anyway, what confronted me, after a long, dark and cold winter, was a mess where papers and books and bills and bits and pieces had been dumped.

Right, I said, pushing up my sleeves. Time to sort you lot out. And sort out I did. What a wonderful feeling. A few more touches and I will be back writing in my special writing space and the family can do as they want. So dear reader, this will be my view for the next months:

Sunday, November 1, 2009

What I've been doing this weekend

I am applying for a writer's award.

This is hard because you have to:

a) tell the judges how wonderful you are (and we all know that NZers are terrible at self-promotion)

and b) provide no more than ten pages of writing.

Arrghhh. What I've written is serious SFD stuff but I've spent the last two days trying to take the SFD to a higher level so as to impress the judges. Actually, that was kinda fun. Nothing like a deadline to MAKE YOU WRITE.

Don't know if it will help but ya gotta be in to win.

This award will mean so much so fingers crossed.