Saturday, November 26, 2011

last chapter; last paragraph; last...


See, we want you to sigh, cried out 'noooo', weep, inhale deeply and shake your head with bittersweet satisfaction.

I have spent two days over the last lines of Birthright. Epilogue was done and dusted right from the start but the ending??? How much to give you? Over state? Understate? Offer hope (of course!) but the realization that there was much work to do which was not in the scope of the book...? That's what I've done.

Vicki, if you're reading this know that the kiss didn't happen but the marching back from battle etc etc did.

There is more to be done before it's ready for public consumption but I am grateful for my team who will set upon the story, find all the flaws and then leave me the summer to fix them.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Why William Shakespeare Rocks!

Blame your English teacher!
If you are reading this, chances are, you had were taught by someone who got William Shakespeare and passed on his genius.

I was 13 years old when I was introduced to Puck and Helena and Hermia and that dips**t Lysander. 14 when I met Shylock (who remains my most admired hero - If you prick us, do we not bleed?

15 when, one winter's day (which meant rain and rain and rain in Northland in June), in the school hall, I watched Zeffrelli's Romeo and Juliet and fell in love with love and decided then and there that Romeo was a dick (a view I have never shifted from).

16 when I discovered Ms Herbert in the toilets during half time of the court theatre's production of Macbeth and realized even an adult felt - FELT - what I did: despair and sadness.

The only 'Shakespeare' I did at university was Antony and Cleopatra. Thought both characters idiots - confirmed when, in the early 2000s I put on a production at my local school. The only characters redeemable were the servants. The best line of the play which I quote often now in my dotage: my salad days, when I was green in judgement.

I began teaching in 1989. Since then I've directed so many productions of Shakespeare's plays (including the 15 minute versions of mine and Tom Stoppard's making) I've lost count.

From a declle two school to a decile ten school, I've done it. The kids get him. They get him if you reveal him in a way they can see him. And, when they do - they love him.

This year, my 13 year olds produced A Midsummer Night's Dream (as much in the 1950s as we could); In previous years, with various schools, I have directed said play set in the Cook Islands in the 19th Century; The Merchant of Venice in Wall STreet, 12th Night in the roaring 20s, Macbeth in a shearing shed....

And it is not just his plays but his poetry which nabs our teens. Sonnet 18. Shall I compare thee et al...

Hamlet. Othello. Lear. Richard the third. Much Ado..... I could go on but it doesn't matter because he covered it better than I ever could.

The man was a genius.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Meet Fleance's key enemy

Like the rebel leader before him, fearless Magness, Robert Graham pissed early in the cold dawn before even the most hardy arose. Better to have his bladder empty when he needed to fulfill his obligations than it be full and a chance it dishonour his him.

And, like Magness, he went no where without two trusted men: one to keep watch; one to provide information.
‘Report,’ Graham said as the three of them made their way to the edge of the campsite.

‘Three men struck ill with dysentry,’ the first man said, shivering in the dark, the flaming torch in his hand a lying promise of warmth. ‘But no other show signs of the sickeness.’

Graham finished his toilet, tucked himself back in and tied up the stays of his breeks. ‘We have no time for illness or death outside of battle.’ He walked toward his tent, the two aides following alongside. ‘Their throats are to be slit this evening to save them their ungodly suffering and we shall bury them in the morning.’

‘Aye, Sire.’

He continued walking back, the welcome smell of freshly cooked stew stirring his hunger. Though only in his service four months, the young man had proved himself over and over: a quick observer and a keen listener. Slow to voice comment without good thought. Grandson of the Earl of Angus was a valued servant. The lad would convey his orders, they would be carried out without question and another peg in his plan for Scotland would be put in place.

Still, he thought as he brushed aside the tent’s awing, this damn malaise was an annoying interruption. They had lost too many men and men on both sides were is rare supply. Perhaps it was time to enlist the women.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Birthright - the final touches

I have been culling seriously the climatic scenes which include alliances made, witches, promises and a battle. I am pleased to be writing this book as a 46 year old woman who has lived a very full life. Like Fleance, I have been in the limelight most of my life - mostly by my own orchestration; some because of others' actions. I have learnt a lot. I have learned from reading scripture, Shakespeare, the classics, poetry and literature from a wide range of the English speaking world (and even some translations - I've read Victor Hugo's Les Miserables for example). I am blessed to be a holder of wise words from those gone before me.

I watch films as much as I read and I listen to the stories of others.

These, along with the lessons I've learned from my own life, inform my writing. Not that I am being preachy at all (that is far from my intention). It's just that, when a teen in my care comes to me about an issue that is of dire importance for her, I can look down the tunnel of experience and see what she cannot. Not that I would dare say that. Hey, I'm not stupid. But that concern reminds me again and again that if you have not bumped up against the railings once or twice and been bruised, then you don't know that the knock only toughens you up for next time.

Philosophical dribble, maybe, but when you put a 22 year old into the situations I've done for the past three years, you'd hope the author had something reasonable to draw on.

Damn right. When this story goes viral as it will, you can be assured of tracing 21st century lessons to 11th century truths. Scripture warns us (and it is a warning) that 'there is nothing new under the sun'.

I have also learnt a lot from my characters and enjoyed, if that is the right word, opportunity for healing and growth in my own life's struggles.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Submission Day

Okay, I've sent off Part One and man-o-man are things dire for our boy Fleance and Scotland. Part Two is written but as I was editing through Part One, a number of consistency problems arose as well as a few questions that didn't get sorted in Part One so I have a list of 'to dos' beside me and I shall make my way through the second half of the book fixing those before sending it off to my publisher.

This is the nerve wracking part of being a writer - probably worse for me than waiting for reviews. By the time the book is published, you've had a great team working on the novel to make it fantastic. My editor and agent are crazy amazing at picking up sloppy writing, typos, places where things need more developing etc and I think it's one of the hardest things a writer has to do getting back the manuscript from the editor. I guess it would be like giving birth and the midwife or doctor saying: oh, no, not quite good enough - let's put that baby back inside for another three months! Ouch!

On a positive note, I have stumbled across quite wonderful writing which I forgot I'd even done. I like those moments.

I was trying to twist a scene into shape yesterday during my lunch break when a couple of Y12 students came in early for class. I was muttering away to myself and then told them how rubbish I was as a writer. 'Here, listen to this,' I said. I read them a couple of paragraphs. 'See, rubbish!'
'Ah, actually, I liked that.'
'yeah. That was really good.'

It was enough to stop me pouting like a stroppy child and keep going. I now have a serious twinge in my right shoulder from being hunched over the computer all evening but I think it has been worth it.

I feel like I'm now at the top of the hill about to glide down the other side. Will post again when Part Two has been sent off and I can have a break before Katie and Josh (editor and agent) hit me with all their 'suggestions'

Thursday, October 20, 2011

When writing a novel doesn't go according to plan...

I've mentioned before how characters and situations in my stories often take turns that I had not intended and many a time it's like a slippery wrestling match between them and me. I think, most of the time, there's a happy truce in the end and the finished product is the better for it.

But, what happens when the writing doesn't go to plan and it's got nothing do with characters or storyline but to do with real life people and events?

I do moan, a bit, I know about how busy my life is: wife, mother, teacher, general do-too-much-for-everyone yaddi yaddi yaddi. What I haven't said is, that, added to the above has been a serious health issue for me which has taken a good few months out the year to sort out and still requires time and energy as I make my way to improved health, our family has been wrestling with... and here I pause, trying to be accurate without betraying someone else's struggle...wrestling with mental illness which keeps manifesting itself in erratic and 'out-of-the-blue' events.

The latter sucks the hours and the energy. For example, I spent Wednesday from 6:30pm until 3:30am today at the emergency dept of our hospital. When we got home, I was wired and couldn't sleep so tried to work on the novel. About 30 mins into that I thought 'What the hell are you thinking? Go to sleep. Forget the deadline.'

Today has been a complete write-off - for the four of us. I am juggling the emotions of being on edge for my loved one and checking on them constantly, the anxiety of the looming deadline, the guilt that I still keep dreaming up scenes and conversations for the story which is alive and humming and just being held back by shear exhaustion.

So, in response to the title? I haven't been aware of similar situations of other authors having their personal circumstances impinge on the their ability to fulfill their contact.

I'll let you know my story when the book has been patted on the bum and sent to the printers.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Let grief convert to anger. Blunt not the heart; enrage it.

the Tragedy of Macbeth: Act four scene three

When I started Birthright over a year ago, I had another quote from the play to begin my story. It was the start of Banquo's soliloquy in Act three: Thou hast it now: king, Cawdor, Glamis - all at the weird women promised. And, I fear, thou didst play most foully for it.'

Back then, though I had known the key elements of the story, I thought the idea of revenge for one of the characters was best summed up in that quote.

Now that the book is mostly complete, I see that the quote no longer fits. Instead, Malcolm's words to the grieving Macduff are much more apt.

'Blunt not the heart!' What a fantastic reverse image. For all of the people whose stories I am telling, this is critical advice.

I suppose like choosing the best fit title, for me getting the opening phrase just so is as important. As a reader, I take my time 'opening' a book - I check out the imprint page; I ponder over the dedication; I read the author's note and/or acknowledgments (if there are any); I wonder with anticipation as the selected lines before the book begins proper.

I hope my readers do the same.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

How do writers do it?

Most writers I know have much more demanding second or third or fourth jobs than the one which means sitting in front of the computer, tapping away. Almost all writers I know have another job which pays the bills (because we all know, only a small percentage of published writers world wide can actually live off their royalties); many have a job that ensures children are fed and watered; and some, gifted and generous ones, work at roles which help keep the world ticking along - one that guarantees a place in the role of belonging to the human race.

These past few weeks I have been high-tailing it on my own to the best place in the world – Naseby – and I have written up a storm. Forget the pious, I aim to write 1000 words a day. I’m talking about 1000 words within the hour. I have written 10,000 words in three weeks compared to it taking me months to do such a thing. And, in between, I done my second and third jobs reasonably well I think.

I feel selfish and delighted and blessed. Here I am, in this beautiful place which is so like Scotland (so the Scottish dairy owner tells me – very useful chap btw. A walking encyclopedia for me), on my own with enough food (lovely crusty bread rolls, camembert cheese, tomatoes, cucumber, lettuce and bacon) and not enough tea bags (dammit – should have brought those) and lots of silence. Well, external silence because the chattering going on in my head is what is making me write so much.

They have so much to say, these characters. They want their stories to be told and I have to say, I am learning a lot. A lot about love and death and the destructive power of unrequited hope and resentment.

Meanwhile, the owners of the place where I’m staying are away and their cat has adopted me and, can you believe it, it’s Zeus incarnate. The purr is down pat.

There is no internet access where I stay so, once a day, I wander down into the township (two pubs, a coffee house, a dairy, bike shop, couple of museums, playground, visitors' centre), set myself up at the Royal Hotel, order chips or toasted sandwiches or the roast of the day - and tap into their free wireless internet so that I can send messages of love to my whanau (also no cellphone coverage btw).

Right now, I wish this could be my full-time life: naps in the afternoon, writing and writing and writing - scribbling down the urgent whispers of my characters who are desperate I don't miss their voice.

The guilt lingers at the back of the room of mind: I may have got all my marking done but the carpets at home need cleaning and my study is a mess and I really should sort out the plastic cupboard

Here in Naseby, no one's talking about such things. They are looking at the sky and nodding in agreement snow is on its way; the tavern staff are preparing for a band debut-ing this afternoon. Locals happily wander in: this is their turungawaewae.

Okay, more groups have come in and my retreat is now not so quiet and manageable. I have almost finished my toasted sandwich and will head back to my lovely wee sanctuary to continue telling Ross's story. Yes. He who only flitted in and out of books one and two.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

So many people; so little time

Thanks to the gift of the grant from Creative New Zealand, I have managed to steal time away from my normal hum drum of goddess wife, mother and teacher. Last night I feel I broke the back of the giant which is Birthright. Today, I began a character list so that I could ensure continuity. OMG, there are so many characters - twice as many men as woman (go figure).

I have a lot of work to do, especially as I killed off a character much later than I had earlier planned and there is some continuity needed.

Here in Dunedin, the sun has been shining and the weather so warm we have opened doors and windows - something we did all the time in Auckland and rarely do down here. It has brought out the Gisborne Maori in me: Chillax bro kind of thing. As well, Dan Carter has suffered a terrible injury and I have had to second myself away from the RWC to focus on more serious concerns.

I am excited that the narrative has actually tightened but there is much to write for there is much to resolve (think of the unsolved stuff of the first two books). Still, a clever kid did suggest I could start all over again with another trilogy featuring Keavy and Bree. Now there's a thought.....

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

writing in progress

Thought I would stop by long enough to show you a bit of what happens as it happens.

Below is a cut and past of a paragraph with the changes (the first words in italics are the original.)

Too tired/weary to speak, they looked at each other and in Blair’s face/expression, Fleance saw what he had been thinking/a mirror of his thoughts: none/not many have come this way lately/in at least a season. This tiny/small valley/glen was overgrown/untended; wild in nature and in humanity. Cains dotted the paddocks where grain should have swayed or sheep grazed. Their horses walked on, their hooves making deathly and hollow sounds against an unresponsive path.

I type quickly and delete and change just as quickly. Sometimes, if I'm on a roll, I insert something like [more here] or [name cliff] or [whosever's name] and highlight it yellow so that it is easy to spot when I go back for a second go.

You may not agree with my changes. Hell, I may not agree with my changes tomorrow or next week but this is a wee window into how I write.

Yesterday, Ruby, one of my Y12 students asked: how do you write a book? I can't even write 300 words.
(My seniors are completing writing assessments at the moment).

Today I said to her: if I were a runner, I would run. A lot. And I would be able to run and run and be good at it. It would have taken me practice.

I don't run any more but I do write. A lot. Every day. And, I think, I am good at it.

Ok, the horses (and Blair and Fleance) are knackered so I better get back so they can untack, brush the horses down, make camp and retire for the night before a BIG EVENT.

BTW if you want to know context - this bit is about three quarters of the way through.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

magic, medicine and the medieval

I have spent this past week reading a variety of works (paper and digital) on the attitude toward those suspected of witchcraft, the reactions to such attitudes, the 'world' view as well as various illness and plagues. I've done much in the past in terms of research with regard to medieval medicine but I had a particular focus for Birthright.

A character who was briefly mentioned in Bloodlines and who I had always intended turning up in Birthright has now found her legitimate reason for entry into this story (and, no, she's not one of the witches!). This came about because of time (see previous post) and me asking the 'how?' or 'why?' or 'what if?' questions about her.

I did a test run by a couple of 'the babes' today and got the thumbs up from them.

As to the babes, it's been a funny year for me and them with regard to this trilogy: I don't teach them this year, they are seniors and terribly, terribly busy and three of them are no longer at the school. Also, I've been too shy to show them what I've written because I know that they will be very honest and I don't feel confident in myself at the moment.

However, before the world gets to see Birthright, all the babes will get their hands on a copy of the first draft at the same time as my publisher and my agent. Then, I shall run away and hide under the bed while I wait for all of their (totally justified and respected) responses. Oh, and the eldest gets to read through it before even then - even harsher critiquing.

I miss them. I miss others also who I used to talk to all the time about these characters. Not having that constant (usually daily) discussion has slowed down my mojo a bit. But then, it's been better to be slower because I have dug deeper and not rushed and therefore not overlooked so many potentialities.

This week, therefore, has been invigorating what with the grant and catching up with some of the girls and putting two and two and then four and six together that I am so ready for my weekend away.

Bring on solitude, Naseby and a countryside plagued with disease and evil!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Wealth for writers


Time is a precious commodity. Especially when there isn't enough of it to go around.

I don't have much time to dust or garden and exercise (I know; I'm a slack writer).

Yesterday I found out that I have been awarded a writing grant from Creative NZ which will give me time: time to spend hours and hours needed to bang this last book into shape. I could pay for someone to come in and dust or garden or pay one of my girls to haul me out to write but, nope, not happening. I'm running away.

I've already booked my accommodation in Naseby to go to as a retreat where I will be free from domestics and distractions (including the internet because it takes quite an effort to connect up there - 2000ft above Stress level is Naseby;s logo). My plan is to write, walk, read, write, eat, write, walk, read, write, write. I will be on my own and free to get up at 2am if a scene grabs me and not feel bad about waking up the whanau (and be able to take a nana nap later that day).

I feel so utterly bestowed to have been given this lifeline - it is as if the gods have gone: oi, you, TK. How's about we throw down an extra ten hours in every day for the next two months - just for you? Cos we think you're worth it.

How did I celebrate? I bought chocolate for my students and running shoes for my eldest (yes, I get the irony). And, I planned my time off.

And, as to my plans for the next wee while - writing is it and reading.

What do I plan to read? Well, last week I moaned about a less than positive reading experience. This week I'm metaphorically banging my head on the desk because I'm reading Geraldine Brooks first novel: Year of Wonders. It. Is. Stunning! May I warmly recommend it to you: set in 1666....

Her style of writing is very different from mine: I'm sparse; she's opulent without being overwrought. I'm trying to move along action at the moment; she's showing me it's okay just to slow down and smell the hydrangeas.

Tomorrow, during my school's writing club get together, I'm going to focus on word choice because I have been so uplifted and replenished by Geraldine's writing, I have a craving for tasty words.

Six weeks till deadline (when the manuscript is due at the publishers). It feels like it does ten days out from a production - potential, chaos, exhaustion, excitement.

It will be (and always is) alright on the night.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

I've been reading and....

I've noticed a couple of things:
1) just cos they are so called modern-must-read-classics and just because they are written by best-selling writers don't make 'em perfect reads and
2) makes me itching to get back to my own writing.

Let me elaborate:
I picked up a book which came very highly recommended. An historical tome. Set at the time I'm writing. The narrative style is driving me NUTS. It reminds me of the narrative voice over from the Disney Movie Sleeping Beauty. It is distracting. I want to yell at the story-teller to shut up; stop telling me what the character is thinking and feeling and believing and just SHOW ME! Sigh. That book is now weighing down a stack of papers on my desk.

The second book I picked up is a lot easier to read and there is no narrative intrusion but the author is doing a weird thing by switching into the mind/POV of non-main character characters. But, the story is interesting as are the characters so I'm persevering with this one.

I bend over backwards to avoid doing the above and I'm glad I do. I don't want to hold my readers at arm's length by my intrusions and I do want my readers to stay with one character at a time. My skill as a writer has a long long way to go but I'm determined to keep learning and keep improving.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

killing off characters

One of the advantages (and there are only a few let me tell you) of procrastinating over this final book is that the characters and their situations become more interesting without my meddling and then I can see further use for them - especially the ones which are destined to shuffle off their mortal coils.

I had been feeling somewhat aggrieved that one of my characters was going to kick the bucket so to speak but am pleased to announce that this particular one lives for a good many more chapters than was first intended. In fact, the action before and at his/her demise is butt-kicking, nail-biting edge-of-your-seat kind of stuff.

seven weeks to dealing and counting.....

Monday, August 22, 2011

A change and a rest.

I have found it incredibly difficult to pick up my skirts and run the last distance to the end of the task. I've been sick; there's been snow; there have been other things crowding in. My usual writing place is in a lovely old shed at the back of the garden. With the earthquakes in Christchurch, the walls and door have shifted and now a howling wind blows through. That and the cold and wet and soggy garden made my writing space very undesirable. Here is the nice tidy WARM inside of that place.

I was bemoaning my lack of 'my space' within our house to a teaching collegue and she suggested I carve out one for myself right this minute (well, as soon as I got home from school). I don't know why I hadn't thought of it before. So, here I am, writing this to you from the corner of my bedroom

Now, the loo is across the hall; the kitchen (for my snacks and cuppas) is accessed by five strides and, if I'm in serious need of distraction, the living room with fire, telly and family are two doors away.

So, off to make a cup of tea, flex my fingers and begin to begin again.

Monday, July 25, 2011

snow - it's the same no matter what century

It's been snowing in Dunedin for a couple of days. Yesterday, after six days of being house bound due to poor health, I donned snow gear, put on special grips for my shoes, grabbed a ski pole and headed down into the valley to the supermarket. It was fun. Damn cold, but fun. As I made my way back up the hill with supplies and treats for a night in front of the fire, my mind went back to my story. I imagined Fleance, on his own, his horse following, making his way south to England in the snow. I began to ask questions: how would he do it without being discovered? Who would know where he was heading? Why would he be going to England? Of course, I know the reasons behind these questions but I can't tell you yet - you'll have to wait until April 2012. This is what I did discover as I tramped through the sludge and turned my head away from the blizzard: a dead baby will be pulled from the water; a rumour will say the king has gone to Ireland; the bishop will be involved; there will be crossing, double crossings and then more twists.

Oh, and you'll love Flea's new horse. - Don't worry ! Willow is still alive and kicking but just too old now to be a king's battle mount.

PS: I took this picture this morning. From the road looking toward the front of our 100 year old house

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

an old malaise that still plagues even we commoners

In mediaeval times, one of the most common treatments for head pain was blood letting. The surgeon would figure out which of the humours were affecting the body and make an incision in that quarter, collect blood, study it (including smelling it) and make a diagnosis. Using the treatment was a regular session of bloodletting until the patient felt well.

Why did this work? It is thought that, most commonly because of poor diet and, yes! Stress, the patient suffered from hypertension - high blood pressure. Sometimes an infection or a cold could raise the blood pressure as well. By 'letting out blood' ie bloodloss, the blood pressure went down (just like in all the ER type tv programmes -;he's lost a lot of blood - his bp's dropping....!

So, bloodletting was a very common and, it seemed, usually 60% successful.

Why do I mention this bit of ancient medical trivia? Well, all my life (including two pregnancies) I've had very healthy blood pressure - even when I have a BMI of 44 so, after two weeks of struggling with flu like systems and a headache that just wouldn't go away, I got a check up.

My blood pressure was 145/120! My doctor is a very understated calm person but he was not happy. Go home and rest - now! Thankfully, it was only two days to the school holidays but he duly sent around the district nurse who has been checking it three times a day and I've have to take some pills which make me very sleepy.

After two days, it still hadn't come down and we figured out the problem - my teenagers treating mum like they always do - slave. Tonight there was a blood letting of sort when she stared the family around the table and told them in no uncertain terms that if they did not allow their mother complete bed rest as well as absence of typical teenage demands, I may end up in hospital.

But, I feel a lot like Rachel does in Birthright – it’s so frustrating doing nothing!!

Chipping away on my laptop in between snoozes and dvds though.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

We weird writers....

I am thinking of making a list which outs we writers about our strange habits. I can't speak for my writery friends so I'll just let you in on a somewhat answer to the question I get asked often: how do you have time? or How do you do it all: teach, parent, run a household, be goddess...?

My usual quip is: I don't exercise - or dust- or garden.
But truthfully, I spend a lot of my time watching dvds and my favourite tv shows: not to be missed currently in our house: Shortland Street, Castle, Dr Who and, the news - until it gets too depressing.

Anyway, how do I do it response one:
It is currently 3:37am. I have been asleep for six hours after a week very ill from the flu and three days teaching. Why am I at my computer at this time? Because it's quiet! Everyone in the family is asleep. No one needs me. It's Saturday.

At 3:37am, a writer can write with out distraction. For me personally, there is a clarity of thought and deeper understanding of the human condition at this time which informs my writing. This is not the time that I write my action scenes (I need chaos around for that) but for those truly moving a character forward moments.

In about an hour, I will trundle off to bed happy in the knowledge that I've written 500 words and addressed a significant moment for my character.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Macbeth and the tortured artist

Every so often I hear the cliche: tortured artist.
I also read every year from earnest students about Macbeth and his tortured soul, whether it be from my own classes or in the form of national examination essays.

While taking a much needed break from a particularly exciting but exhausting scene, I thought I might muse on these two ideas: tortured artist; tortured soul

Tortured soul
Macbeth was tortured in that what he wanted he suspected could only be gained by foul means but his desire for it was stronger than his acute understanding that if he tried to make it happen as he and his wife planned, then he was doomed: if the assassination/Could trammel up the consequence, and catch/With his surcease success; ...But in these cases
We still have judgment here;'

If by doing the deed [killing Duncan] I could also kill the consequences of such a horrific act then with his death I would have success but unfortunately, there ARE consequences in doing such a horrific deed: killing a king, a cousin, a guest, one who is loved by all. And on earth, that judgement is not just about what others might say but spiritually I run the risk of invoking God's wrath and who knows what HE might do to me?

Macbeth was FULLY aware of the possible aftermath of his intention to kill the king. As a footnote, I would argue that his wife, Lady Macbeth, was naive.

Our class has been watching the 80s docu-drama 'Helter Skelter' as background information to Polanski and his film version of Macbeth. We are reading it through the lens of the play.

Much discussion has been generated about motive and these are what the kids say:
some people are just bad
wanting something blinds you to the aftermath of getting it
Macbeth was fully aware of the consequences but such was his desire for the throne, he was prepared to face those consequences.

I first read 'Macbeth' when I was sixteen. I saw a performance of it at the Court Theatre in Christchurch (I was surprised that at the interval I found my English teacher in tears in the bathroom. She tried to fob us off and say that she was having problems with her contacts.) Later, just before our exams, we all watched the Polanski film version. Then, I was appalled and covered my eyes.

I have taught the play almost every year I have been teaching (I've been in the classroom since 1989). I've written a couple of plays and text books on the play. Sometimes I show the film and I still cover my eyes. Apart from Polanski's portrayal of Ross, I think he did a great job. So far, no other film maker has matched his interpretation.

But, more importantly for me personally, I have written the sequel in novel form. And, in doing so, I have had to read and research and it has brought me to a fresh reflection on the character of Macbeth. That and presenting the text to astute 21st Century teens who have read my novels. And who have witness horrors via the media that I did not when I was their age.

Just realised that I have overwritten the quota by which people read blob posts. I shall deal with tortured artist next time.

And if you have got this far: just a heads up that some of the words I wanted to use I could not spell and my new computer is not as friendly as my old one so I did not say some things I wanted to say.

Friday, July 1, 2011

spotting our books

When I read magazines which have photos of people's houses, I always look at their bookshelves. Bookshelf content says a lot about the interests of the occupant. Also, one hopes to spot a copy of one's own work. Today I recieved a lovely email from the amazing Vanda Symon who envyingly has finished the manuscript of her latest so was able to indulge by reading Home magazine (Feb/March edition). Unfortunately she did not find her books featured but she sent me this photo:

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Currently living in the twighlight zone

My 8-4 occupation is as a secondary school teacher and I LOVE my job. At the moment, my two Y12 (16/17 year olds) are 'studying' Macbeth. With one class, I've given them this bizarre task of creating FB profiles for the characters so that they can then 'document' the story via FB technology. We agreed today that sending an update via cellphone while in the battle-field probably wouldn't really work!

It's been fun. And, I've been involved in other school related matters.

Before 8am and after 4pm, it's the family which has been busy and happy with lots of baking and cooking (the boyfriend of eldest has come home for his tertiary hols so we have had an extra and welcome member to the whanau).

And, I have been chipping away. These last 10 days have been all about important conversations - not action. The feed back I've received from two valued critics has continued to inspire and motivate me.

Two weeks and two days till school holidays where I shall endeavor to plough through another 20,000 - 30,000 words.

Deadline? 1st of November.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

one dies and one lives

Today I wept again.
How can one describe satisfying grief?
Poor Fleance who has always done the right thing.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

a review of Bloodlines from the post teen section of society

To get reviewed in any publication is an honour even if the review is bad. To be reviewed by the cynical audience one is trying to attract is a bonus. To have thus said is gold:

‘Admittedly when I first saw the cover I expected yet another clichéd vampire love story. With a title like Bloodlines and the creepy eyes of the Taylor-Swith-esque girl, it is not hard to see why. Never the less I I quickly discovered that the book possesses extreme depth and clever characterisation. Roxborogh allows the reader to connect to the protagonist on a highly emotional level. I enjoyed Bloodlines immensely and discovered that a fanatic following of the trilogy exists online.’

Pippa Schaffer is the critic.The review is from the Otago University’s Critic Mag – March edition.
In it are some articles from my own students. To be mentioned means the story is worthy; to be included means the writer is worthy.
All hail to thee, Pippa.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

emotional male main characters

Yesterday, I was directed to an excellent post which was advice for women authors writing about/from the male perspective.

In a nutshell: no tears; avoid deliberations with involved emotions; get into the action.

Excellent advice. And, I try to base my experiences on the people I know well. Except, I am married to a man, who is, to quote Macbeth 'I dare do all that may become a man; Who dares do more is none.' (Act 1 sc 7).
And yet he cries. Not half as much as me nor my girls but put on 'Marley and Me' or 'A League of their own' and he's weeping by the end.

My daughters ADORE this about their father: that he feels, that he overtaken sometimes by what he feels deeply and he feels safe in their company to show it.

They also tease the crap out of him for it.

But, does he do this publically? No.
Does he allow his decisions to be directed by his kind heart? No.
He does the above in the safety and sanctuary of his home before his close allies - his family.
He might talk about his heart to others and often is compassionate but they do not see his tears (or, sometimes his anger). They see only his genuine desire to be a good person.
Last night, while discussing the above with my daughters, they said the description of a man by the advice did not fit the picture of their father. And yet, added to the qualities above they offered this from their experience of their father: faithful, honourable, honest, true, kind, strong, funny, playful, nerdy (ie really, really intelligent = he's two papers from finishing his BA and he gets As all the way), respected (from what they have observed from his work with the many things organisations he is involved with), calm on the outside, patient, understanding, slow to get angry...'
Don't you just want to have one of these?
Then Mackenna said: Oh My God, we just describe Fleance! Mum! You based Fleance on Dad. You have told everyone that he was some god-like character that you would love to run away with but you've actually got him.'

Youngest speaks: Not as good looking though.
The three of us fall about laughing while husband/father is in the other room helping others in his role as a Victim Support volunteer.
Lesson? Firstly, I'm lucky. Secondly, less tears. Even the 'at the moment perfect husband who is glowing in his current worshipped state by his wimen' says - no tears. We don't like tears. Or eyes filled with tears. Or the suggestion of tears. - I'm getting the picture!
Finally, men wants results. Men want ways to fix things. They do not want to sit about discussing the price of wool. They want to DO.
Got it.
By the way, Fleance is a bit busy at the moment to discuss the price of wool. But, I will keep all else in mind.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The two statements (other than I love you) I tell my husband in the middle of the night:

You're snoring.
Just going to write a scene.
His reply to both (all)? Okay, love.
No wonder we wake up tired.

Why I Love Teaching Macbeth

cos they say:
um, so why did....
and how come...
yet but why did he....
but i thought she would be madder (after showing them the Polanski film)
Yeah... she just looks weak.
Exactly – she’s just unhinged.
She should be strong.
Many nod
Yes, I say. I think of her as mean, nasty and peed off.

Polanski had just lost his pregnant wife to a brutal murder and he was a angry and sad man.

I think Macbeth is hot, says one of my internationals at that moment.
We erupt in laughter and finish the lesson offering the best actors to play the modern version (though most of us – including me – were hiding behind our eyes at the murder of Duncan)

Sunday, June 12, 2011

I make no apologies

I have been weeping for an hour. We writers are mean! mean! awful! dreadful!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Current favourit line

‘My point is, Dougal, that is if you want to continue to use the king’s cook in your inn you need to take your bull head and remove it from my arse!’

Friday, June 10, 2011

Sometimes you've just got to ask a man

Which I did last night with no lucky from hubby who had had a very hard day so today I asked a fellow teacher: it you loved a woman whom you knew didn't love you and who loved someone else but could never be with that someone else and you were offered the chance to be wed to her, would you do it? Knowing it was a ruse?'

'He would think he could win her over by the time they spent together,' said my collegue. 'it's such a male way of thinking.'

Perfect answer. It was what I thought would be the case so I nudge my loved characters onwards with each facing internal and external struggles.

I've passed the 56,000 word make which is almost half way. Writing about battles and pain and loss is harrowing. I'm much better at the moment writing the more light-hearted and humorous moments.

But, every night, I chip away and on the weekends I try to devote longer time to writing. My deadline is 1st November.

And, writing this post aint making that happen any quicker....

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The problem with children of an author

I read them out a sentence.
'Why?' asks the youngest.
'What does it feel like?' asks the eldest. 'What does it look like? smell like? sound like?

Damn critics.

Bloodlines shortlisted for LIANZA awards

Excitment much. Here is the press release:
LIANZA announces the Children’s Book Award Finalists for 2011
LIANZA (The Library and Information Association of New Zealand Aotearoa) received over 100 nominations for their 2011 Children’s Book Awards with the prestigious LIANZA Esther Glen award receiving the highest number of submissions by publishers.

Awarded by Librarians for outstanding children’s literature in New Zealand, the LIANZA Awards are for excellence in junior fiction, young adult fiction, illustration, non-fiction and te reo Maori.

Belynda Smith, Panel Convenor and the Children’s & Young Adult Services Librarian at Takapuna Library commented that “the calibre of entries by some of our favourite writers and illustrators was outstanding. The quality of entries in the LIANZA Esther Glen and the LIANZA Young Adult was exceptional making it extremely difficult to narrow down the finalists”.

The judges found that reading submissions post the Canterbury earthquakes was a poignant experience, especially as many of the LIANZA Young Adult titles were tales of survival and on reflection it was as if some writers had a sense of what was about to come.

The magic of the picture book continues to delight for the LIANZA Russell Clark Award and the judging panel commended publishers for investing in these visual treasures.

Alice Heather, Panel Convenor for the te reo Maori category, says that "the high standard of this year’s entries for Te Kura Pounamu cover a wide range of genres and for very early to young adult readers with beautifully translated picture books, a graphic novel, non fiction and a novel series."
The LIANZA and Te Rōpū Whakahau taonga are the only awards for children’s books in te reo Maori supporting the Treaty of Waitangi and bicultural development of children’s literature in Aotearoa New Zealand.

The LIANZA Esther Glen Medal, New Zealand’s longest running book prize, is awarded for a distinguished work of fiction for children. In establishing the award in 1945 LIANZA named the book award after a pioneer in children’s literature, commemorating New Zealand children’s author and editor, Esther Glen.
The Judges for the LIANZA Esther Glen Medal, LIANZA Young Adult Medal, LIANZA Elsie Locke Medal, and LIANZA Russell Clark Medal are: Belynda Smith (Panel Convenor), Takapuna Library Auckland; Pene Walsh, Library Manager Gisborne District; and Lily O’Donovan, Children’s Specialist Wellington City Libraries.

The Te Kura Pounamu Award judges are: Alice Heather (Panel Convener); Māori Adviser for school Services National Library Auckland and teacher with library responsibility at Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Hoani Waititi marae, Margaret Ngaropo, Library Assistant Maori Services Manurewa Library and Naomi Cussack, teacher at TKKM o Puau te Moana Nui a Kiwain Glen Innes

The Full list of the LIANZA Children’s Book Award 2011 Finalists:

LIANZA Esther Glen Award (Junior Fiction)
The Haystack by Jack Lasenby, (HarperCollins Publishers (NZ) Ltd)
Dreams of Warriors by Susan Brocker (HarperCollins Publishers (NZ) Ltd)
Sheep on the Fourth Floor by Leonie Thorpe (HarperCollins Publishers (NZ) Ltd)
Boy Zero Wannabe Hero by Peter Millet (Faber & Faber)
Shadow of the Boyd by Diana Menefy (HarperCollins Publishers (NZ) Ltd)

LIANZA Young Adult Award (Fiction)

Smiling Jack by Ken Catran (HarperCollins Publishers (NZ) Ltd)
Fierce September by Fleur Beale (Random House New Zealand)
Ebony Hill by Anna Mackenzie (Longacre Press)
Blood Lines by TK Roxborogh (Penguin NZ)
Lethal Deliveries by Ken Benn (Penguin NZ)
The Limping Man by Maurice Gee (Puffin)

LIANZA Russell Clark Award (Illustration)
The Moon and Farmer McPhee by Margaret Mahy and David Elliot (Random House New Zealand)
Quaky Cat by Diana Noonan and Gavin Bishop (Scholastic)

Hill and Hole by Kyle Mewburn and Vasanti Unka (Puffin)
The Fierce Little Woman and the Wicked Pirate by Joy Cowley and Sarah Davis (Gecko Press)
A Dog Like That! by Janene Cooper and Evie Kemp (Duck Creek Press)

LIANZA Elsie Locke (Non Fiction)
Weird Wabbit & Friends/ Star Boy & Friends Series by Vasanti Unka (Penguin NZ)
The Life Cycle of the Pukeko by Betty Brownlie (Scholastic)
Sensational Survivors by Sandra Morris (Walker Books Australia)
The Kiwi Fossil Hunters Handbook by James Campton and Marianna
Terezow (Random House New Zealand)
The Tui NZ Kids’ Garden by Diana Noonan and Keith Olsen (Penguin NZ)

Te Kura Pounamu (te reo Maori)
Mahiara by Sally Sutton, Illustrated by Brian Lovelock, Retold by Kāterina Mataira (Walker Books Australia)
Ngarimu: Te Tohu Toa by Andrew Burdan (Huia Publishers/ Te Tāhuhu o te Mātauranga – Ministry of Education)
Rāwiri, Matiu, He Kura Te Tangata, He Ora Kai Te Kupu Series by Peti Nohotima (He Kupenga Hao i te Reo)
Manu Haututū by June Peka. Illustrated by Jo Thapa. Retold by Kāterina Mataira (Scholastic)
Kapa, Te Niu Series by Hana Pōmare and Heni Jacob (HANA Limited/ Te Tāhuhu o te Mātauranga – Ministry of Education)
Te Mata o Tuna, a Hina rāua ko Mo’o Kuna by Hana Pōmare, Ellie-May Logan and Hēni Jacob (HANA Limited/ Te Tāhuhu o te Mātauranga – Ministry of Education)

The 2011 Award Ceremony will take place in Wellington on Monday August 8th at Caffe L’affare, College Street.

The LIANZA Children’s Book Awards 2011 are supported by, Caffe L’affare and The Children’s Bookshop, Kilbirnie, Wellington.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Teaching Macbeth

Today and a bit of yesterday, I introduced Macbeth by William Shakespeare to my two Y12 classes (that's 16 year olds to the non-New Zealanders).

I have avoided the Scottish play for a few years feeling my involvement in my imagined sequel tainted my instruction. A number of the girls I teach have read Banquo’s Son and Bloodlines and began making connections but I shushed them and said: put that story aside for now and look at this play afresh.

I was right to defer. And I was right to start again for, all the research I have done in the writing on this trilogy has so enhanced my appreciation of, not only the bard's excellence writing and appreciation of human nature but also the reality of the time, I know things which I did not before.

Act 1 scene 2. I could not have truly appreciated the weight of the claymore as Macbeth swung his passage through the battle (and therefore why the king was speechless with admiration for his fearless actions!). The description of Macbeth’s actions is akin to watching Schwarzenegger or Bruce Willis in their action movies. Go back and, frame by frame, recount what Banquo and Macbeth achieved. Twice in one day they did this.

Act 1 scene 3 These were exhausted men. They had seen extraordinary horror. It was flippin raining and there was thunder and lightning. The irony of the situation was not lost. We, as an audience were introduced to intelligent but BOND like leaders.

So, now they meet the witches when all they can think of is a warm room, food and safe company (oh and a chance to wash off all that blood). The first thing Banquo says? ‘How far is it to Forres?’ This was the king’s hunting mansion which was the prearranged place they were all to gather. It’s probably about another day’s trek from what I can work out. (Trust me, I poured over the maps and worked out distances and times with horses and bad weather). Banquo is doing a 'are we there yet?' traveling filler.

Then, they are confronted with the witches. On the heath? Are you kidding? They've just slaughtered countless men and won a battle and its pissing down (‘so foul and fair a day I have not seen’) and they are stopped by three really ugly women.

Macbeth and Banquo are spent. They would be looking around thinking - okay -where is the rabbit (this is my Monty Python reference). Macbeth himself nails it when he says: 'why upon this blasted heath you stop our way with such prophetic greeting?'

The answer lies later on when we hear Hecate admonish the three witches for not doing as they should: cause the destruction of a mortal. Instead, she advises: draw him on to his confusion: he shall spurn fate, scorn death, and bear his hopes above wisdom, grace, and fear; and you all know, security is mortals' chiefest enemy.'

There lies the intention.

Banquo says at the beginning: sometimes to win us to our harm, the instruments of darkness do tell us truths; win us with trifles.'

These two hard-arsed soldiers who have proved themselves in a fierce battle are being tested. They are tired, cold, wet, emotionally spent and are tempted. Both respond to the prophecies – they are want to know more. The difference being in their response to what is offered. Fascinating.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Back again

Just popped in to say how much fun I'm having with the book. When you write a loooonnngggg book, sometimes you forget what you wrote and I forgot a character's name so I had to go back to the beginning and read through it to catch the boy and I've had so much fun.

Also, still I saw places to edit and am changing things and I've inserted [why] a number of times and I read a couple of sentences out to my 15 year old who couldn't believe I'd written them because they were so damn good. Oh yeah.

Have spent the weekend: watching DVDs - Monsters, Tangled, Burlequesk; catching up on Shortland Street, having nana naps and sleeping in; cleaning the kitchen and cooking fantastic meals times six. Helping to find lost cat; feeding pets; surfing the net and reading wayyyy too many blogs.

And, writing.
Good stuff.
Can I just say now for the record: I really like Flea. He's a nice guy. Oh, and hot!
And, i can't wait for you to meet some of these people - they are SO interesting!
Okay. I will put my energies into the story and not this blog but I'm just saying....

Saturday, May 28, 2011

sorry, can't resist

Hi there.
Hope you are having an okay time. If not, then hugs.

Just finished watching the latest Dr Who and it was all about 'The Silence'.

Fantastic television. Had the 15 year old sweating with fear and others in the family holding up pillows!

I have three people who I interact with on almost a daily basis who want to know what happens next for Fleance therefore I am not free to ignore the jabs of scenarios which I tutu with.

I have no excuse now. My paid employment obligations are fulfilled; my children are safe and content; my family is well; the house is clean (dammit - I always try that as reason not to write)....

So, this weekend I expect to forge through a particularly exciting section of the final instalment of the trilogy.

I may be some time.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

I have to hide myself away

I've got to finish this book. I've put my characters into some pretty hard places and that means they need my full attention. I have a family to be part of which means I should give them my full attention. And I have students who need me and that means.... yaddi yaddi yaddi.

This blog has to drop down the list. It's now going to mingle with the 'must sort out the linen cupboard' and 'put back all the books I've pulled out'.

If anything exciting happens I promise I will post but, for now, I have to hide myself away.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The tyranny of the word count

You have a contract to write a book. Some writers would argue that is a good thing. And, it is good to have a contract but NOT having a contract means a lot of other things like: finish the novel when it's finished; write it as long as it needs to be written; no one is depending on you - hell, no one even knows you're writing something. There's freedom in that.

You have a contract to write a book and with that will be a deadline. Deadlines are good - don't get me wrong. I do deadlines: your essays are due Monday; reports are to be written by Friday. Kind of thing.

How it affects me is in the rewriting stage. The word count sits in judgment on the lower left side of my screen. Whenever I go 'what the.... This is rubbish' and DELETE the word counts goes down and my anxiety goes up. Sure, it's better writing but now I'm going to have to make it up at the other end. Dammit.

How it affects me in the day to day: well - day and night is currently merging into grab sleep when I can, nod to understanding family and students and hope that no one notices I didn't check I had lipstick on my teeth before I started teaching period one.

Finally, it affects me, this contract thingy because it affects others: my publisher, my agent, my editor, my readers.

Writing isn't fun. Ohh, no way. Don't even go there. Or perhaps go here to read Libba Bray's account of writing a novel. It's so true.

So why on earth do we do it? I won't speak for other writers but for me it's to get the story out of my head: the conversations, arguments, graphic and wonderful scenes. All gone.

Oh and because I hope to one day become stinking rich.

How am I tackling this particular stage of my writing career? I am Making! MAKING! myself write every single day. Day or night - don't care. I am putting words down because, in the end, that's the only way the story is going to be told - with all its dramas and heartaches (and there are plenty) we will, by the end, find out what happens to Fleance, Rosie and Rachel.

Saturday, May 7, 2011


I think Fleur Beale once told me she considered them 'shower moments' or 'a HA! moments'. Whatever they are, they are the 'slaps forhead and exclaims OF COURSE' moments.

I had one of them on Friday morning as I drove to school and another, after dinner, as I jogged down to the supermarket to get dessert.

It is clear to me that these 'inspiration' times come when I am detached from the noise and busyness of daily life.

I like like like such moments. Has given me much needed mojo. (Maybe Vanda's slapping helped!)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Procrastination blues.

I'm thinking of getting my daughter to write me a song. And sing it. Isn't that what procrastination is all about - not doing the doing?

My evenings are free, currently. Television is not that enticing. I do have a stack of unread review copies to read but don't want to dive into them because I know that will make my writer-guilt even worse.

I wish I could pay someone to write the last 60,000 words. I've got it all mapped out. I've even written some compelling bits to be scattered throughout. But, dammit. I have to do the leg work myself and I am currently a lazy author.

What is a lazy author?

Oh, so easy to identify. The one who watches more than the average amount of DVDs; who goes more frequently to the theatre (movie or playhouse); who has books beside the bed, toilet, in the car, in the handbag...

The lazy author is not lazy. She (or he) is in avoidance mode and justifies her behavious as RESEARCH.

A message to the friends and relatives of an author going through the procrastination blues: do not be kind. Slap them (metaphorically of course) and remind them that they have a duty to fulfill their obligation to the reading world.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Dramatis Personae - Josh Getzler Part Two

Tell us the story of how you first came across T.K Roxborogh. Give we fans a reminder of why this trilogy is something special.
OK, so here’s the Tania-specific part of my responses, and I have a feeling that most of the folks reading this will already agree with me about how special a writer Tania is, and how marvelous Banquo’s Son and Blood Lines are. But it’s nice to tell the story and make Tania blush…

I first heard of TK Roxborogh from her former editor, the redoubtable Vicki Marsdon, now of HarperCollins. Vicki was the editor of another of my then-clients, and emailed me that she might have another author for me to try, whom she thought would be up my alley. I then, as happens, got crazy-busy (stop smirking, Tania!), and it took a prod or two to get me to start. But once I did, I couldn’t stop.

I simply thought that Banquo’s Son was fantastic—it incorporated so many elements I love: Adventure, history, Shakespeare, epic storyline, True Love (or is it!), chivalry…really everything. And it was a trilogy, and I loved it and took it on. We’ve been trying to sell it in the US, and are encountering an interesting phenomenon: Banquo’s Son is truly a crossover book. It appeals to women and men, young and old. My wife’s 62 year-old assistant loved it, and so did my 13 year-old niece. I have had SIX interns cry during the last fifty pages of Banquo’s Son, and they are all in their twenties. But we’ve come up against a desire to pigeonhole books into categories, when sometimes that simply isn’t the way to go. Now I understand the need to do so: publishers’ sales forces and (generally) editorial staffs in the US are divided into children’s vs adult books, and it’s efficient that way—book buyers are divided in the same way, and order books accordingly.

So it’s been frustrating, maddening at times. But through it, Tania has been steadfast in moving ahead and satisfying her ever-growing legion of fans. Blood Lines, written at an incredibly intense pace, reflected the urgency of the story, hurtling toward what is going to be a stunning conclusion in Birthright. All the elements are here—and the writing is evocative and the story MOVES!

I’m terribly proud to represent Tania Roxborogh. We exchange emails (at odd times of day and night, given both time differences and odd sleeping habits on both our parts), and have heard much in the way of triumph, tragedy, delight and adversity over the past several years. We are friends and business associates, and I look forward to delivering her (hopefully huge!) advance check IN PERSON to New Zealand—once US publishers wake up and join Team Flea!

Thanks Josh. Not blushing, it's just warm in Dunedin for once *grin* And, New Zealand is the best country in the world to visit so I look forward to your visit and the cheque enormously.

Go here to read Josh's latest post about the waiting game in publishing.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Macbeth in the 21st Century - dramatis personae

I want to introduce you to some key people involved in the journey of this wonderful story coming into the light. Many people ask about my agent, my editor, publisher, the babes etc and my some of writery friends suggested I get some guest posts happening so I've begun to send interview questions to key peeps.

During the next few weeks I shall be posting their responses to my questions.

Because I asked him first and he so willingly responded, here is part one of a two part interview with my literary agent, Josh Getzler.

Josh, in a former life, was the owner of a minor league NY baseball team (which impressed my hubby no end - and my mother who was a coach of said sport for many years. I'm particularly good as a batter and as short-stop by the way). But, back to Josh who now works for Russell & Volkening, Inc., one of the oldest literary agencies in America.

He's a busy man. Do go read his introduction of himself here This post is hot off the press and another blog I have added to my select group of must-reads!

To the interview:
What is meant by the job description ‘agent’?
Let me answer the first four questions as one, just for narrative simplicity. A literary agent is many different things (and different agents prioritize the roles differently). An agent reads (many, many) queries from writers looking to get published, and decides which ones he or she thinks have the quality of writing, uniqueness of plot (and best adherence to a formula), and marketability to be a successfully published book. Then he (I'm not going to use he or she from here on out, simply for simplicity's sake) takes the manuscript (if fiction) or proposal (if nonfiction) and works with the author to get it into the best shape for submission to publishing houses.

When it's ready, he uses his knowledge of publishers and editors to set up a submissions list; writes up an enthusiastic, persuasive pitch letter, lets the editors know by email or phone that he has a project he thinks would be good for them, and sends (at this point via email) the project out to the publishers for their evaluation.

At that point, his job shifts from first editor to business manager. When a publisher expresses interest in the manuscript, the agent notifies the other publishers that he has interest in the book, and tries to set up an "endgame" which is either an offer by the first interested editor or a competitive situation where a number of editors go head-to-head in an auction for the book. Then the agent negotiated the contract, using whatever leverage he has (which is often very little, unless there is a competitive situation) to get the best terms for the author.

Once a writer signs a contract with a publisher, the agent's job is to manage both the flow of information and money between the publisher and writer, and to advise the writer on next steps. The agent's first priority is always the writer's well-being and career, and every comment or suggestion he makes to his client is designed to further propel the author to greater heights. When the author is ready to submit book 2 to the editor, the agent (most of the time) reads the manuscript first and serves as first reader/editor once again, and then works with the editor to make the next publication even better than the first.

All through this process, the agent is serving as well as a sounding board, advisor, psychiatrist, cheerleader, voice of reason, parent, child, a business partner to the author. And it's one of the agent's most important roles. The agent has taken the author's baby and been entrusted with sending it out into the world. That is a tremendous responsibility, and one we take very seriously. Frequently, part of that process (as Tania well knows) is sending it out to publishers...and waiting...and waiting...and having people inexplicably saying that they don't want to publish the author's book. As much as the process I discussed above is the job of the agent, it's also the happy, fun part of the job. Much more of it is answering calls and emails from frustrated and apprehensive authors wondering why their book hasn't been taken. And to my mind, the way an agent handles that role is every bit as important, if not more so, than managing smooth, successful submissions.

What is in it for you? Why do you do what you do?
On a purely business level, what I get is 15% of what my authors get. But that’s facile and mercenary. And while many people might think that, well, that’s what agents are [here, his email contains a smiley face], the truth is way more complicated than that. So many agents are either former editors, or literature majors who stumbled onto the Sell Side of the business instead of becoming editors, that the truth is really the same for agents and editors. We want to find good books and shepherd them out to the market so that they will be read by as many people as possible. There is little more special than opening an unsolicited query, reading the first page, and realizing that magic is happening. It’s what we’re there for. And every editor I’ve spoken to feels the same way. It’s an unusual business in that respect, in that it bridges art and commerce.

Another reason I do what I do is that I love books, and I love talking about them with other people who like talking about them. I like the social aspects—the lunches, the get-togethers, the conferences—and the getting up early in the morning to meet manuscripts. I like line editing and having the intense satisfaction of seeing a final draft turn out exactly the way it should.

There seems to be so many editors even within the same houses so how do you decide who you should submit your client’s work to.

That’s where the social aspect comes in (and in fact what gives agents some intangible value). A serious part of my job is to read everything I can in the press and blogosphere about the different publishers, imprints, and editors, so that I know when I am submitting which editor at which house is most likely to bite on the project. That’s vital because in most circumstances there aren’t second chances—once an editor passes on a book, you can’t go back to that publisher with that book (the editors talk!). Also, it’s why I like working with other agents in the office, rather than by myself (also because I think I’d lose my mind if I weren’t talking to people all day!). We compare notes, have databases, look through the Publishers Lunch deal lists, and get a sense of the market. But really the best way for me to learn is by meeting people. That way I can find out that the mystery editor who does dog books also likes Western adventures, or the historical thriller editor has a thing for rugby. Every little bit helps.

Thanks, Josh, for these insights into your world.

In the next post, he answers more specific questions about the Banquo's Son Trilogy.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Couldn't have said it better myself - warning: a long post

We writers are readers and, I think, more respectful of writers who are also readers of writers: we understand how hard it is to actually get from an idea to an in-your-hand book. We get how laborious it is to actually take an idea and see it through to a place where you (the reader) hold our words in your hand.

Peter Wells wrote an insightful and 'on it' post and this particularly grabbed my attention:
Because books do take time. Even the fastest written books take about three to eight weeks to actually just physically write. And authors who manage this feat usually have years behind them in preparation, pre-thought - a kind of stopped up energy which, once released, fleets away like a hare.

Most books usually take two to three years, a fact which astonishes most people. This is why authors are generally not rich people. It takes so long and the financial results are so poor that - if you were being paid by the hour - it would be cents rather than dollars.

But that is what you put up with in order to have the intense pleasure of a work which involves long consecutive thought.

It is like going on a journey - a long and exciting exhausting journey to an unknown destination.

Go here to read the entire post.

My first book, an eductional book for English teachers made to teach drama, was published in 1995. It was relatively easy process apart from the checking the proofs stage because I already had all the material. The plays that were published not long after also weren't so hard and my first novel, well, in comparison to the world these days, not so difficult: I was on maternity leave, I was pretty good as a writer and I had a willing publisher.

Now, the writing/publishing world is so difficult. Yeah, maybe it's because my kids are teenagers. Maybe it's because I'm getting older. But, I think it is because the standard of NZ writing has shot into the stratosphere and everyone has high expectations (as they should).

People (kids mostly) still contact me about If I Could Tell You. Just yesterday I received a lovely email from a writery friend about Third Degree. Today, one of my students said: can we just do what we did yesterday? I'm loving this book. 'This book' was Third Degree. She, along with her class mates don't find learning particularly easy. Yet I am in a different headspace to where I was with both these stories. It is harder. When I wrote my first novel, I had to send via post my manuscript. I used the telephone to communicate.

With Third Degree, I could communicate via email but there were no other online distractions like FaceBook or the expectation to keep up an online presence - a phrase never heard of then.

When I first started 'being an author' I was meeting the needs of my teaching collegues and my students: short, punchy novels for (boys in particular) who hated reading, plays for my girls (in a male dominated world back then); grammar texts that related to the people who sat in front of me in my classroom day in and out.

Back then, it seems to me, it was easier. If you had a good idea and could communicate this idea in a way that others could use easily, it was a publishable and marketable idea.

Oh how the world has changed. For me personally, the distractions of the internet seriously erode my writing time. Three years ago I was told that I needed to have an 'online presence' to make my work go viral. The only way this story is going to go viral is if someone with enough power takes it to Hollywood IMHO

My target audience is fickle. The movie. The movie. The movie. THAT'S what drives them.

I teach English to teenagers (and I think I do an okay job). I have two of my own (hugs and kisses at them). I KNOW this audience and all its changing faces because I dive amongst them; as a director, I get to go into their changing rooms and hear their conversations. I don't judge but I do listen.

Despite 'being old' (I'm going to be 46 this Sept), I am a Peter Pan type who loves life, literature and the longing that goes with both. (If any of my Y12 students read this please note my use of the 'power of three').

Yet, ironically, it has taken me an hour to write this post because I have also continued to 'advance the washing' (the phrase in our family which means get the clothes washed, dried and folded), fed the cats and tidy up from last night's 'can we have take always? - that was me btw.

I getting PM from people all over the world and a lot from ex-students - who say they love reading my blog [Go Roxy - you the man] was a recent message. I did send back an email reminding said ex-student that I am actually a woman and she sent back a email reminding me that English is an evolving language (what I often say) and she was being metaphorical and btw she's got a Phd and I haven't so there.

When I read that, I have to say I laughed so hard that I could not drink my tea (Charlotte, when I get to Europe, I am so taking you to dinner! And you're bloddy well paying.)

If you've got this far then I congratulate you. I am at once excited and daunted by my responsiblities, the expectations and the stigma associated with being a 'real writer' for that is what I am.

kia kaha

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Another award and fun times

Just popping in to say I am delighted to announce that Bloodlines has been awarded a Storylines Notable Book in the Young Adult Fiction 2011. Tres Cool. In the same week, Bloodlines also turned up on the best sellers list.

Awards and best seller titles are interesting labels for writers. But, for many years, New Zealand has been producing the most amazing crop of brilliant books for children so that some excellent titles are left off various lists.

This weekend past I have been privileged to participate in a hui for NZ writers and Illustrators which then went on to be part of the Margaret Mahy Day and the Spinning Gold Conference. Sounds complicated but it was the result of dedicated authors and illustrators and members of the community creating a fantastic conference.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The sequel to Macbeth - you wouldn't read about it

I have been touring this past month. It's NZ Book Month. Go Book Sellers NZ for their initiative but can I just take someone quietly into the back room and slap them about for bringing demanding readers up to me who want to know: WHAT HAPPENS NEXT and WHEN CAN I GET A COPY OF BIRTHRIGHT and when's the film out?

I slap my head metaphorically but also in private literally.
What happens next? The book is now due out April 2012 and my lips are sealed.
See above. How long is a piece of string?
The story of Fleance, Rosie, Duncan and Rachel is a powerful story. Set in 11th Century Scotland, we meet and come to love four young people who have their hopes, histories, dreams and plans knocked sideways by forces outside their control.

As an author I have to say that I always care about my characters but this story... Well, these guys it's been something else.

I've already killed off a number of characters who I love. And I've cried. More will die because that is the way of life.

But I am a lover of happy endings and I promise you dear reader that at the end of this trilogy you will be happy. Sad, but happy. And satisfied that the right outcome was realised.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

I have a confession

I slept in. I did not get out of bed until 10am. I spent the day in my pyjamas almost cracking the cryptic crossword and reading the paper then watching a dvd. This is a huge thing because I am a work-holic! About 2pm, I began to feel really unwell and spent the rest of the day wrapped in blankets lying on the couch referee-ing my daughters and appreciating that the family WAS okay to operate without my hands-on interference.

Two or three or four times a day (daily this past month), I open the file called Birthright first draft . I scroll through what I've done and tinker here and there. But I have no mojo to go into the second half of the second act. I seriously envy writers who, um, write and have no other distractions save the washing or dusting or gardening. The ones who don't have other jobs. The ones who don't have teenagers or small children or needy family members which may or may not include a mash-up of the former groups. The ones who are grounded in healthy habits and solid self-esteem.

Someone made an off-hand comment to me today and it hurt and the person immediately understood that the comment was wrong time wrong place and tried to make amends but, me being tired and mourning real and imagined tragedies, cried for about an hour.

I was heartened by seeing the youtube clip of this song which is one of my current favourites and is No 1 in NZ and then going on to read 'the story' of how they all came to be.

Just now, I have stood in my kitchen listening to one of my children cry about her frustrations that she can not be what she has been and what everyone expects of her and what she wants for herself. She is tired. She misses her boy. She has been working hard. She still does not have 100% health. But she gives gives gives [love love love] to others who have not had the good she's had. It could have been me standing in her shoes.

All I could offer was: it is hard.

Yup. And sometimes it feels like it is harder being a writer than it is being a parent, teacher, waitress, farm labourer, fleeso, cleaner, child, aunt, Head of Department, participator in creating a new school or reviewing the nation's English curriculum.

Being a writer means that the interwoven strands of your thinking, your life, your emotions are pulled out and laid bare on a gravel road for all others to trample over.

Both my children are gifted artists. One has gone down the music road though she is graphically artistic; the other has gone down the art road though she has a sensitive ear for music. Both care about the way the world treats the inhabitants of the world.

Both had still experienced the harshness of living in a fallen world despite our best efforts to protect them. They are great girls and hubby and I love them to bits. That's why I cry when they cry.

I could keep going about where our minds should be with the stuff happening in the other parts of the world....

The one things which comes back to me again and again and helps ground me is this:

I lift eyes to the hills.
Where does my help come from home?
It comes from the maker of heaven and earth....

Go look up the rest but it sums up for me The Windhover of GM Hopkins. Get out there and do what I need to do...

11th C Scotland is currently a more desirable place than the 21st C

Sunday, March 13, 2011

the reason why I have stalled

I am trying to kill off a character I adore. This character has to die for the sake of the story but I'm fudging around the chapter and it's holding me up. Tonight, the deed shall be done and I will deal with the aftermath.


Sunday, March 6, 2011

The lastest print review of Bloodlines

Second in trilogy excites

Bloodlines by T.K. Roxborogh, Penguin, $40

The Americans can’t figure our whether to put Roxborogh’s trilogy in the adult or young adult section, but it you ask me it should be in both. Anyone gutsy enough to take on a story by Shakespeare deserves credit.

In her second of a three-part series continuing the story of Fleance, son of Macbeth character Banquo, this Kiwi writer has produced a seamless continuation of an enthralling tale.

In Banquo’s Son we followed Fleance’s road to becoming King of Scotland and in Bloodlines he rules a divided nation, battling rebels from within and enemies from outside.

There’s everything here – history, drama, love, war, mystery and intrigue.
This is a damned good story which will leave you drumming your fingers in anticipation of the final in the trilogy.
– Ingrid Tiriana

Saturday, March 5, 2011

I think is time I was writing again

Damn it! I'm having so much fun being my other self. We have taken in two beautiful wonderful girls from chch (one from France) and I'm trying to do the accounts. Write the book! write the book! is the mantra I'm being whacked with. But, I've got the flu. I just want to stay in bed and keep warm.


Thursday, March 3, 2011

Update from a travelling writer

I will start at the end of my journey. Which is arriving home and dumping my bags and going to the loo.

I see that STILL the bathroom has not been cleaned. Every mother reading this is going to be nodding her head. I asked. I asked again. I lost my rag and was told that I need to stop nagging. When I left on Wednesday morning I reminded the eldest that it had now been eight days since I first asked her to do what is the only ‘key chore’. And, I added, I hope that when I get back I find a clean bathroom.
I didn’t.

I hate mess. I love order and clean surfaces. I despair at the build up of dog hair on the bottom of the couches and chunks of fur clinging to the carpet and the tuffs which gather in the corners. As I write, the kitchen is a mess of dirty pans and dishes.

I don't think I would cope if I were transported back to the 11th C Scotland especially as I doubt I would be part of the nobility.

When I stumbled in at 9pm, he and they were watching telly. I had asked for dinner to be saved. Dinner saved was a single burger bun drying by degrees in the oven and some cooked bacon and egg. No one rushed up to make me a hamburger.

It took me 40 mins to drive from Dunedin airport to home. I had to wait ten minutes for my bag. The flight from Christchurch was pretty good although we had to wait for a time on the tarmac and it was a tad hot and the descent into Dunedin airport ‘interesting’.
The tiny plane (wahhh) from Blenheim to Christchurch held its own and it was a smooth ride (remember, I hate flying). It was a chore to walk for ages to get into the terminal but how lovely to be greeted by the amazing Belynda Smith. She is now officially, after my mother, my hero. Such a short time and so sad and, sigh, I can’t do the thoughts on my birth place just now. Anyway, we were yakking seven million miles a minute when my name was called – it was a polite call but it really meant: get your ass to the plane; we are waiting.

The Blenheim/Christchurch flight was in a tiny plane but thankfully the weather was wonderful. As we descended into Christchurch, everyone on the plane stopped talking as people peered out their windows...

An hour and a half before I left Blenheim, which I am now officially in love with, I’d delivered my addressed and spent half an hour signing books and talking to folks.
The morning I spent at Marlborough Girls High and it was wonderful: talking to the girls and meeting the teachers and meeting up with colleagues from times’ past.

Shout out to Colleen Shipley, librarian at MGH who gave me a much needed hug when I got of the plane from Wellington. (The trip up had been horrendous with three small planes, terrible winds and passengers who needed their barf bags).

Needless to say, I am glad to be home and glad that I can take to my bed but I am no longer secure in thinking the earth beneath me is stable. This realisation has caused a lot of anxiety amongst people in the South Island.

Tomorrow is reality. I have to take eldest to her lecture and turn up to school. That is how things are; I am your mother and we are kind to snails [Fleur Adcock: For a Five Year Old]

But the bottom line is from all these people: hurry up and finish the next book! We want to know what happens.

Monday, February 28, 2011

my efforts to continue to write Birthright

Excuse number one was that I had returned to school and my energies were sucked away by the needs of my students and my daughters. As it should be.

Excuse number two was that I was too tired to write because of the above. Anyone who teachers and/or is a parent understands this.

Excuse number three is because I have been knocked sideways and been consumed by the coverage of the reportage of the Christchurch earthquake 22nd Feb 2011 12:51pm.

I was born in Christchurch (chch). As a young woman, I worked in chch for two years. I rode its streets and spent many hours in the CBD and the outter suburbs.

I have friends and relatives and acquaintances who live in the city of my birth. I visit chch regularly. And, I am beyond comprehension that the iconic buildings I rode past every day for months/years have been destroyed. The streets I walked down just a year ago are covered in rubble. The cafes, the cathedral, the tram line - all currently just rubble.

I once went to the Pyne Gould Guinness building for a job when I thought I wanted to be a stock agent. Back in the eightess, I was laughed out of the building because I was a girl and how could a girl be a stock and station agent? Wrong attitude but good advice for me cos it lead me to university and to fulfilling my dream of being an English teacher.

Though I am currently writing in world that does not have flush toilets, electricity, telephone, water, good roads, easy access to food, (11th C Scotland) the wake up call is still there because though I can turn on the shower and expect hot water to flow out of the shower head, I have begun to appreciate the struggles of my 21Cth comrades.

I have been in a place where water and sewage was restricted and so lived for 6 weeks of not flushing and saving water; I have lived for 3 weeks with the threat of power outage.

But, I have never lived in a place where the very terra firma in not firm.

I try to understand how it might be for those who try to rest and sleep. Perhaps I can appreciate it a bit more than others that I am a very light sleeper and my husband snores and the cats prowl around the house inside and out and it is me who gets up and grumps at my husband, probably seven or eight times during the night.

I get up in the morning never, ever having a good night's sleep. The other night, I felt many of the CHCH after shocks - such is my sensitivity.

Last night, hubby made up a bed in the spare room but the cats kept me awake. WAhhhhh.

As a child, from age 5-13 we many times relied on long drops as our sewage. I HATED this as it was one of my jobs to carry the sewage of our families' waste to the dump site. As a child, sometimes, we had no power. And, no phone, and sometimes, no food other than the basics. Thankfully, we had the land to provide us with meat and fruit.

Reliability of the availability of the above was never guaranteed nor taken for granted especially when my step father was involved in a fatal accident (his 12 year old son died - my step brother whom we all loved).

Anyway, if you want to know more, you can read some of my other publications.

For now, I have to mentally turn my face away from the place of my birth to focus on my children (who are grieving for the loss of life) and my students (who have also experienced loss) and my novel. Callous as it might seem, I have to keep going while I have running water, waste water working and electricity. Who knows how long I can depend on such privilege?

As to Birthright, I am trying to keep writing but life is seriously getting in the way.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Christchurch Earthquake Tuesday

Still trying to gather together my thoughts.
Written some stuff.
Not ready to share.
Lost some ex students.
Family members alive.
Friends and family lost everything.
Have nothing at this time to add.
In a nutshell:
Dammit and crap and o man....

Sunday, February 20, 2011

A glimpse into my writer world

I have been quietly sobbing for the past hour while I work on a chapter. There are tissues. There are sympathetic family members but my heart is hurting as hard as it has when REAL people die or suffer.

Am I sick? Is there somthing wrong with me?

I figure that it doesn't matter (Tania wipes a stray tear from her left cheek) whether you are in 11th or 21st Centuary - sad, bad stuff happens to people we love.


Thursday, February 17, 2011

You know you're a real writer when...

When we were looking for a new house, I always checked out the bookshelves. The house that we eventually bought had two books penned by me. It was a sign.

Every week the Sunday Star Times features a family and one of their rooms. I always look at the bookshelves. Not long ago, I spotted 'Kids Behaving Bravely' and 'Limelight' in one photo.

Recently, I was at a book launch and a friend introduced me to her companion.
'Have you met my friend, Tania Roxborogh?' she asked.
'No,' the companion replied shaking my hand. 'But I have read you.'

My husband, who works for Hewlett Packard, is also completing a degree part time in Community and Family Studies aka a Social Work degree. Yesterday, he went down to The Univeristy of Otago to do 'course confirmation' and had to have his papers signed off by the head of department, Dr Peter Walker.
Dr. Walker: is your wife Tania Roxborogh?
My husband: yes
Dr Walker's face lights up: I've read the first book and am half way through the second book and am loving it.

He then told the hubby he plans to hand the books onto a collegue of his who is a 'bit of a Scotophile'.

Today, I was having lunch during the school Sports Day and a member of staff (she's Scottish) said. 'Oh, I haven't told you. We went around to the in-laws over the summer and they had your book on their shelf. They showed it to me and raved. I hadn't told them I taught with you but I did then and they were very impressed.'

Sigh the small scrapes of validation the reading world throws at us taste like banquets

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The real life of a New Zealand writer

Apart from MM and JC and some others, most NZ writers have to WORK as well as write. Most of my writer friends are family peeps: they have children (other family members) to care for. Oh, and bills to pay and taxes. And expenses.

If I were a full time writer (and the income to allow me to be so), I would be so much more generous with my time. I would write ten times more that what I do now, I would walk the dogs from the local SPCA, help out at the hospice down the road and spend more time talking with the old postie who walks the local Green MP's dog.

But, none of this is true for me cos I have to work to earn a crust so I can help provide for my family.

Still, I am a teacher who is a stickler for deadlines and I am despeartely trying to meet my deadline for Birthright. Unfortunatley my characters are being quite rebellious and I'm doing the old author/character wrestling act.

I. Will. [grrr] Win.

This is what I have come to understand this past year: the great writers were writers. They got on with it. Period.

Wahh but I love being a teacher [writer-Tania whacks teacher-Tania and tries to drive her from the room but Tania's ex-students flood in and tackle the writer-Tania so she is swamped and in the end the game in lost to... neither. A truce is declared]

Being a 'writer and' enriches me.

Monday, February 14, 2011

we writers really should stop moaning but...

In the voice of the youngest child from Despicable Me who cries: it's so FLAAFFY!! The intensity of the emotion of the writing process is so well expressed: it's so HARRRDD!!

I told my students today why writing a book was worse that being pregnant and giving birth - even worse than suffering through their teenage years. They laughed. Yes, dear reader. These sweet young 13 year old girls actually laughed at my pain. But, we must forgive them. What would they know of rejection and realisation that what one has conceived and born is actually a monster? What would they know that something they created, others could spurn? Would laugh, hysterically, at? No, they are the innocent.

So it is that they tittered quietly because, being sensitive creatures they understood that their almost world famous English teacher was trying to be entertaining, it was prudent to respond in such a way.

But, a ha! I caught a 'momentary acknowledgement of recognition of shared experience’ (Helen Brown’s Tramping in The Rain). There are writers amongst my group. Nationally recognised and awarded writers already (though they are only 12 and 13).

We smiled at each other while the rest of the class tittered. They did not. They knew and understood.

We are going to have a great year.

Meanwhile, back in 11th C I have begun to move things along and I have characters huffing and puffing with anxiety and concern. As they should be. They think things are bad now, well just wait to see what I have in store ha ha whaaa ha ha hahahahaha.

Okay, yeah, that waas over the top. Sorry Flea.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

I feel guilty...

...because I've had a lovely week getting to know the students in my new classes and spending time with my family and frankly I've little emotional energy left for my other family who are probably all standing around in their respective 11thC homes waiting for me to continue the story.

Which reminds me a British TV series I watched as a kid. The main character, a girl, had (I think) polio and couldn't walk and she was staying upstairs in a house opposite a lighthouse. She drew. And her drawings came to life. Something about the rocks and there was a boy and it was thrilling and terrifying and I wish i could remember the name of it. If anyone remembers it, let me know! The upshot of remembering this is the power of the creator which I have resting on my heart.

Anyway, unfortunately for me, the writer, this 'interruption' has happened at a painful part in the story (see previous post). I'm having such a good time with my students and my family and the new books which have arrived for review that I really don't want to go home (home to my writer self presently means Scotland, 11th C).

Thankfully, I have readers who accost me in the supermarket, in the playground, via email as well as (ahem) my contract with the publisher that I cannot delay the inevitable: to finish writing Birthright.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

When someone has to die

For the author, this is a really, really hard moment. I believe that no one should die unless it is critical to the development of the plot and/or the development of the main character(s). Knocking off someone just to 'tell' the reader not to get too close to anyone is just, well, cruel. Hedwig did not have to die at all in my humble opinion!

But, often we writers are faced with the necessary demise of a character we are truly fond of and, quite frankly, we DO waver at that point in our writing where we end it all for him or her. Why? Because we are human and these characters are as real to us as some of the people we know. Sometimes, they feel more real and special than the actual bodies which occupy our towns, streets.

I have been faced this week with the truth that I have to kill off a character who I adore. My eldest and one of the babes, in reaction to the foreseen event, reacted in such a way which gave me pause: maybe I should keep this character alive for longer. So I sent out a query to the babes and my agent and a couple of others who have vested interest in this trilogy. Should I keep [her/him] alive for longer?

The response was 50/50. Though they all adore the character whose demise we are discussing, as one responded: I think the fact that readers say they love [****] and will miss [her/him] doesn’t make a reason to keep [her/him]. [The character] has a dramatic part to play in the story – and that’s actually dying at a pivotal moment – if [he/she] stays on it has to be for more important reasons than not wanting to disappoint readers – ie. [he/she has something heroic to do, or worthy to do, or treacherous to do…

It occurred to me that ‘the story’s the thing’ and I have to do what must be done even though I will cry. I just wish I could make happy endings for every beloved character but I can’t. Tis life I guess.

So, above aforementioned character is, currently, having a chapter carefully constructed, which has [her/his] death at the critical moment. Wahhh!

For this story to go where it needs to go, this loved character has to die.

Sorry and I will weep when I finish writing the character’s demise but that is the way it should be.