Not just a writing blog, more than just a book blog

Write Like the Wind was created to bring together writers–new and experienced–and readers. The goal is have interesting content for both.

You can look forward to events, competitions, and lists-like new first lines, last lines, or best dialogue-with content from followers. Also, behind the scenes of new books from the authors themselves. Find out how they come up with their ideas, or what their writing process is. Read new works in progress. Or maybe reviews about cool things that help us writers. We will see where it goes!

Join the community, and help make Write Like the Wind a literary hub!

If you have new ideas or would like to collaborate, get in touch any time!

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What I Learned About Writing From Tango

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The tango isn’t a dance most people know, though we’ve all seen it on movies. (And it usually it isn’t portrayed correctly! There are no roses in anybodies mouths ever!!) I’ve been dancing it with my husband for about three years now. There’s a cozy little place in Spokane, Washington that teaches it and I love it as much as I love writing. But I’ve noticed some similarities between the two, or at least things I’ve learned that I can apply to writing.

Learning the tango helped my other dances. I already knew the salsa, cumbia, bachata, and meringue before. But when I danced them again after improving in tango, I noticed a difference. I had more control, I was more precise. So I thought maybe that would work with writing too. If I tried other types of writing, like poetry, could it help my prose?

So I went on a little poetry jaunt, and I think it has helped. Poetry is all about word choice. It makes you really think about what you want to say. It challenges you to be a minimalist (which leads into my next point as well.) And it makes you think about the way words sound, what they really mean, and what connotation they carry with them.

Since then, I’ve been more open about trying different styles of writing, exploring other genres that I don’t normally lean toward. I haven’t delved into non-fiction yet, but I’ve been reading more of it, and I should give it a shot soon. No time writing is wasted, and it will always strengthen your skill.

The tango is not about being flashy. Sure there’s a place for performance tango, the stuff that is choreographed. But traditionally, the tango is more improvisational than the other dances. It isn’t like the waltz where you do the same moves over and over. It’s nothing like line dancing. Tango is a conversation between two people, and just two people. All the other dances can be done by yourself, but not the tango. (Hence the phrase, it takes two to tango, its true.)

The lead needs to listen to the follow and vice versa. The man chooses the steps, but the woman sets the pace. My dance teacher always says that the lead should dance according to what the follow wants–is she in the mood for something upbeat? Or has she had a long day and wants to relax? Dances like the salsa or swing are about the big moves. Tango is danced more in the pauses than in the steps. It’s about being in the moment, and not caring about the world. Look at this picture and try to tell me these people care about what everyone else thinks!

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Sometimes when I write, I think too much about the audience. Sure, you need to a bit, especially if you want to sell the thing. But at the time of writing, it isn’t about them. Its just you and the story, you and the words you write down. You don’t have to impress anyone. You don’t have to shove in some grand lesson or theme. Actually, the more quiet and real it is, the better. So slow it down a bit. It doesn’t have to be big and flashy. Trying to write the next Hunger Games will only make it feel forced.

Don’t overthink it. I’m the follow, so this applied to me, but my instructor kept telling me for the first few months, “Don’t try to help.” I kept trying to guess what the lead was going to do, and help him do it. Wrong! In other dances that’s fine, it’s great. But not the tango. He would tell me to think about the music, and then ask what I thought it meant. What was the feeling it conveyed? He really did this to keep me from thinking about my feet. “You dance much better when you aren’t thinking,” he said.

Do you overthink your first draft? I sometimes do, like the point above. I get too nervous and freeze up. Just let go, just rely on your subconscious to tell the story.

There are other things I could apply, like patience and precision, but I won’t here. But the most surprising thing I learned from dancing the tango was self-confidence. There are no mistakes in tango (unless the guy drops the girl.) Everything gets turned into a move and you keep on going. You can’t mess up. The hardest part for us girls is to let go, to not try to help, not have to guess or plan, just to trust the leader, and go with the flow. As a worrier and control-freak, this was so difficult to learn, but so empowering once I did. Stuff happens in life that messes you up. You just have to turn it into a move, and keep on going.

If you can’t tell, I love the tango. And I recommend it to everyone. It teaches guys how to lead and be dependable, and teaches girls how to let go and trust (those that deserve it.) It’s great for couples or for single people. See if you have a tango place in your area, or a different kind of dance. Its another form of expression that will help your writing!

Here’s a picture of me and my husband, so you know I actually do dance! And here is one of my favorite tango videos on Youtube. Notice all the slow parts, the pauses. They make the quick parts better. We aren’t quite this good yet, but I will be if I keep practicing!

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Behind the Scenes : “Echo” and “Frequency”

Welcome to the world of ‘Echoes in the Black Book,’ where humans are locked in battle with clones made by unknown enemies, from the mind of C. Scott Frank. Check out these short sci-fi stories in a growing universe. I already gave my Four Star reviews of both on Amazon! (I should have given them 5’s for those covers though!)

 

  • What is the world of Echo and Frequency like?

Confusing. Discordant. Unsure.

These are some words that come to mind. Set nearly 200 years in the future, mankind finds themselves caught up in their worst nightmare: an interstellar war. Someone or something has been attacking outlying points of interest, both civilian and military. Testing the borders.

It’s quite a while before anyone even sees the enemy. Nobody knows who they are or what they look like. Finally, after a rare victory, a division recovers enemy corpses. What they unmask are human clones. The next years are spent trying to find out where they came from and who created them.

When the faces were publicly revealed to be human, the responses were divisive. Civil rights activists found a new cause to support in these clones and protecting their humanity, while the military felt their hands were tied—it would be hard to support an enemy who doesn’t share the same empathy.

So on the home front, opinions are rampant. I imagine a world in which talking heads bicker day and night trying to answer an incredibly difficult question: are the clones people in the truest sense?

  • What specifically inspired these stories?

The initial idea for Echo came to me while I was driving to the store, believe it or not. Words just started popping into my head, one after another. So, I pulled my phone out and started using Siri to collect all these thoughts. By the time I got home, I had it about 25% written, and the rest outlined and ready to type up.

Beta feedback was shining, which was obviously exciting, but one question dominated all the talking points: “What next?”

At that point, I knew the story wasn’t finished. At any rate, there was more to tell of the world. I felt really certain that Echo, as a single vignette was complete. To specifically add something to either the beginning or the end would distract from the piece.

Then I remembered Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot. The book, not the movie. The book is essentially a collection of short stories spanning many years that all tell a different angle and perspective on the growth of intelligent robot usage by humans. It is a fascinating book, and a really clever way to tell a story that sprawls many locations, times, and viewpoints. I knew that was what I had to do for the rest of the Echo books.

There are a lot of stories that will make up a composite glance at this future war, and I hope to tell them all.

  • How do Echo and Frequency fit together?

Echo takes place during a particular battle early in the war, when things finally start to become more clear about who the enemy is—the clones, that is. The battles are uncertain, chaotic. Human scientists are just beginning to scratch the surface about what is known of the enemy. How the clones are created, how the enemy operates, where they come from, etc.

Frequency takes place about two years later. Building upon some knowledge we learn in Echo, a team of scientists seek to stop the clones in a nonviolent manner. If they can find the key that will allow them to tap into the clones’ programming, they just might be able to pull it off.

  • What is your favorite part of the world or characters?

The ambiguity. The ethics of cloning is a question we have been asking ourselves since the idea of cloning was first proposed. I don’t think there is an easy cut and dry answer. That affords me a lot of creativity in crafting interesting characters and interactions with opinions all over the map.

My hope is that the readers enjoy the variety and it compels them to think deeply and create their own opinions. My goal with Frequency, especially, is to illustrate that sometimes, there’s not one simple, right answer. In that book, for instance, even though one of the main opposing forces is wrong, he’s not entirely incorrect. (Hopefully that’s not too much of a spoiler!)

  • If these stories were turned into a movie, what would the soundtrack be like?

Electronic, mainly, but sparse. Think somewhere between the Mass Effect soundtrack and Interstellar. It would add to the story, but not overtake it in anyway. In fact, a playlist of that music is what I listen to when writing for this world.

  • What actors do you picture playing some of the main characters?

Emily Blunt would have to play Ariana in Echo. Her performance in Edge of Tomorrow sold me there.

In Frequency, Lincoln Harris would be Andrew Lincoln (not just because of his name), Damien would be Benedict Cumberbatch, and Gibbs would be Tyler Labine. For Michael Vance, I would probably want a Hemsworth.

  • What was the hardest part about writing these stories?

Really, one of the most difficult things to navigate is figuring out how to present different angles and views on what could be a divisive issue without injecting my own opinions and bias. I’m not entirely certain I’ve pulled that off, even. It can be difficult to do.

  • What did you end up having to research that you didn’t expect?

For Frequency, I spent a ton of time researching. I’m not a doctor or a linguist, but Frequency sits evenly between those fields.

As for as unexpected things, I spent (possibly wasted) a lot of time researching obscure things that ultimately don’t matter. For instance, the station is in orbit over the dwarf planet Ceres, and I did loads of research on the rotational periods of Ceres, gravitational pull, mass, and all that. All to substantiate a single line of dialogue about a sunrise. It’s kind of silly, really..

Writing is weird.

  • Did you ever want to give up? What made you keep going?

Absolutely. When sales or interaction drops, it’s so easy to just see futility instead of excitement. For me, it comes down to A) recognizing that it’s consistency over time that lends to success (plus a whole lotta luck) and B) even if I don’t see any success, I have a hobby that really doesn’t cost me much, and thanks to the marvels of 2018, I can still hold a book I wrote in my own hand, and that’s special and enough.

  • What’s next?

My next release will be the novelization of the first season of Venison, the webserial I run on my website. I’m shooting for June for this, so we’ll see if I can knock it out in time.

After that, onto a short story collection with a friend of mine, and then back into the world of Echo with the third installment. Hopefully early fall release for that one. My goal is to have all of the Echo stories finished and ready for a collected release by late spring of next year.

 

Start with ‘Echo’ for only $0.99 on Amazon here, then continue the journey with ‘Frequency’ here, now in paperback.

Or find out more about C. Scott Frank at his website here!

The Rezal Principle by Paul Blake

Author Paul Blake has graciously shared one of his short stories with us (a sci-fi comedy,) and allowed me to publish it here. You can find more about him at the end.

The Rezal Principle

The mop bucket weaved along the smooth, white corridor; like a regular in a spaceport bar, drunkenly crossing the dancefloor to reach the toilets in time; the small plastic wheels turning in opposing circles as the bucket was pushed along by the mop handle; the erratic path leaving a slalom trail of grey tracks of water as it splashed up against the sides of the bucket with each course correction. Stoddy Rezal, Custodian Engineer (Second Class), lost in his own thoughts, was oblivious to the spillages. Unkempt in a dirty grey coverall, with smears of grease and dirt across the legs and back, he looked younger than his real age of thirty-four; the patchy beard and shiny, oily face making people think he was barely out of his teens. His mind on far more important things than the cleanliness of the, usually, spotless and gleaming corridor leading to the elevator for the Custodian deck.

On other ships, they have custodian robots to do this work. He thought, as a scowl flashed across his face. I should be preparing for the interview tomorrow. Not that I’ll get it. No one has ever heard of anyone moving from ‘The Custards’ to crew, it just doesn’t happen. Man, I even failed the test for Second Class four times. How does anyone remember which chemicals react violently to each other? On the job sheet it tells you which ones to use, why should I have to know it? He asked himself. The air purifiers cleared the examination deck after two days, just fine, the Examination Officer’s face was a picture though: nostrils flaring trying to identify a familiar, but rare smell; the panic in his face as his brain finally recognised the peculiar, sweet aroma of the deadly concoction; the shrill “Everyone Out!” as he covered his nose and mouth with his sleeve and hit the button to start the industrial strength air vacuums. Obviously, I must not be the only person to have done that or the safety measures would not have been already in place. Stoddy thought with self-justification. The reaction afterwards was extreme: twenty days in the brig, amongst the malingerers and alien captives. They all had a great laugh at my expense when I finally told them what I was there for. His expression turned sour as he thought of their mocking faces and the hysterical cackles surrounding him; the loud, deep guffaws from the Centuri ape-creature, once the story had been translated into its bestial language, pissed him off the most. Like that stinking brute had ever had a bath! Let alone touched heavy duty solvent for removing brain matter from the teleporter chambers. Stoddy grimaced at the memory of the creature’s furry jowls wobbling as its monkey snot dripped uncontrollably from its pig-like snout.

He reached the end of the corridor and absent-mindedly pressed the button to call the elevator, the door whooshed open at a speed that still disarmed him, even after fourteen years of being on board the space freighter HXN8435Most ships have names that suit their purpose, not this piece of junk, inspirational names such as Intrepid or Endeavour for the ships specialising in exploration and discovering new worlds; or Onslaught or Dreadnought for the warships. Not HXN8435, which sounds like a serial number for a portable vidiscreen. However, when I get a crew position I’ll be able to apply for positions on other, better ships, and ones with more suitable names. This time it will be different, I’m sure. Stoddy told himself as he entered the small room, reaching for the “Go” button; he tried to psyche himself up for tomorrow. It’s an interview, not a test, and everyone says I’m very personable and affable, I’m sure I’ll be fine. I wonder what section they’ll put me into? I’d love to be part of the Scouting team, the first ones on new, unexplored planets; or protecting the Captain and his officers as a vital cog of the Security team, as they teleport into hostile environments on rescue missions. As he was thinking these thoughts, there was a small part of his brain trying to urgently tell Stoddy something important, something vital he had missed.  It would even be pretty cool being even part of the Engineering team, messing with the warp drive and giving the ship an extra 10% to escape from pirates and unfriendly aliens. Just as he pressed the button, that nagging voice finally got through. This isn’t the elevator; it’s the ship’s airlock! Stoddy automatically grabbed for the handle next to the button, as the door opposite him slowly began to open and the air in the room was sucked out into space.

***

‘Captain, there’s an unauthorised airlock release on the Environmental Deck.’ Systems Engineer (1st Class) Lomax said with the emotional detachment typical of his species. Lomax was from the humanoid-feline species Panthera Uncia; his fur was grey with silver specks and black teardrop shaped markings. This gave him a regal look; which along with the species’ characteristic aloof nature meant Lomax was a big hit with the females on board the freighter.

‘Thank you, Lomax, can you scan to see who initiated it?’ Captain Guthren asked annoyed at the interruption to her daily schedule. Captain Majoriie Guthren was human; which isn’t too surprising as most spaceship captains are human. There appears to be a glass ceiling for non-human species trying to reach a certain rank and it is a hotly contested issue amongst Equal Rights for All Species (ERAS) activists. Guthren came from an impoverished colony on the planet Nacrao, where, due to her impressive test scores as a child she was selected to join the space fleet. The whole colony raised funds in order to pay for her journey to the Fleet Training planet of Kuater; a fact she is constantly grateful for and still sends a sizeable chunk of her pay back to the colony in appreciation. She is almost eighty-five years old and reaching the stage in life where she is looking to start a family and leave the stressful world of space transportation behind her; other officers on the Command deck had noted how in the past few years she had started to take more care on her appearance: her long, golden hair was now brushed and braided instead of just being roughly tied back and she was finally using cosmetics to complement and enhance her facial features rather than being applied like a young girl accessing her mother’s makeup collection for the first time.

‘It appears to be a Custodial Engineer, ma’am,’ Lomax replied. ‘A Stoddy Rezal, Second Class Engineer’

‘Another Custodial Engineer?’ Captain Guthren said with bemusement. ‘That’s the third Custard in five months that has tried to commit suicide via an airlock.’

’According to his bio: you’re interviewing this Rezal for a crew position tomorrow.’ Lomax said after consulting the ship’s computer. Stoddy’s face appeared on the main display screen of the Command deck, along with a very short bullet pointed list of his ‘achievements’. The day Stoddy’s updated bio photo was taken – the photos are updated every five years – he’d just finished recovering from a dose of radiation poisoning; brought on by cleaning too close to the ship’s powercore, after an unknown member of the Engineering crew had removed the warning signs as a prank; his pallor complexion and patchy hair loss was shown in all its glory on the massive screen.

‘Well, I can’t see that going too well for him.’ Captain Guthren joked sardonically. ‘Alright, shut it down.’ She ordered, still wondering why, out of all the occupations and roles on the freighter the Custodians were the most inclined to try to end their own lives. At least this one is using the airlock, instead of trying to kill themselves by sabotaging the ship and risking everyone’s life, like the last one. She thought, shuddering at the memory of how close they came to doing so. The Mechanical crew certainly earned their money that day, noticing and fixing the damage to the shielding system before we entered that asteroid field.

‘Yes ma’am, commencing airlock shutdown procedure,’ Lomax replied. ‘Airlock will close in thirty seconds.’ He pressed a few buttons on the control panel in front of him; his hands moving with a natural grace; like a classical pianist caressing the ivory keys of their grand piano.

***

Stoddy, silently screaming for help, eyes bulging in panic, looked around him frantically for a way to close the airlock door, the flashing red light of the compartment hindering his attempts; the wind tearing at his clothes, trying to pull him through the increasing gap at the bottom of the airlock compartment door; his knuckles white as he clasped the cold metal handled fiercely for his life.

Where’s the emergency stop button? Where? Where? Where? It should be next to the start button, surely? I’m going to die! He screamed to himself with terror. The detached part of Stoddy’s brain, however, made a mental note to bring the placement of the button issue up at the next ship’s safety briefing, along with airlocks that look like elevators. The mop bucket upended itself, spilling its bubbly, dirty water over the floor and thrust its way towards the gap. The metal bucket buckled as it hit the opening, too tight for it to pass; the welded seams burst and it flattened and flew in space, bubbles and a stream of water trailing behind. Stoddy saw a sign through his clenched-up eyes on the wall to his left, blinking to clear the tears as the pressure around built to intolerable levels, he read “Emergency Stop” and saw the glowing red button below, the glow diminished by the red lights blinking from the ceiling. He stretched out his hand towards the button, it was nowhere near, it was then he saw the mop handle in the same hand. It took him a moment to realise what it was. Why have I still got this? He asked himself and then remembered the mantra from his basic training: ‘A Custodian is nothing without his mop. Always keep your mop close. A mop is a Custard’s best friend.’ Repeated ad nauseum in daily and end of shift briefings throughout Stoddy’s career; custodians encouraged to sleep with their mops, to hold them tight and hug them as you would a child woken up from a nightmare. Stoddy drew the line at naming his mop though, unlike some of his colleagues.

He reached out with the mop in his hand, the wind threatening to tear it from his grasp. Nothing will make me lose my mop. Stoddy said to himself with a determination that surprised him. The mop head brushed the button, the wet strands of wool leaving a greasy streak across the wall. Stoddy’s other hand, gripped to the airlock handle, anchoring him in place, started to loosen as Stoddy’s oxygen levels dropped and he became weaker in the decompressed atmosphere of the chamber.

Just one more try. He thought, raising the mop a final time, like a medieval knight preparing for their ultimate joust. He thrust the mop out towards the button, the sudden action caused his grip on the airlock handle to fail and he followed his mop towards the button at speed. The mop head impacted the wall six inches to the right of the button and the sudden stop caused Stoddy’s body to rotate away from the button, towards the widening gap of the airlock door. He could see the dark, emptiness of space beyond the ship reaching out to him as he slammed into the door face first. He felt his nose crumple against the smooth, metallic surface; he saw his blood stream out of the gap below him and uselessly scrambled for something to hold onto to prevent the rest of him following. No, no, no, I don’t want to die, not like this, please someone help me! I don’t want to die. He pleaded. Suddenly, the door shut with impressive speed, the gap disappearing as the shutdown procedure finally kicked in. Air rushed in through the vents as Stoddy collapsed to the floor in a mess of blood; his mouth open wide, gasping for oxygen like a goldfish out of their bowl and hugging his mop tight to his body; crying and sobbing like a child who’d lost their favourite teddy in a galactic shopping mall.

***

‘Airlock shutdown procedure complete, Captain.’ Lomax said mechanically.

‘Thank you, Lomax, any news on our suicidal custodian?’ Captain Guthren queried, with interest.

‘It appears that he failed in his attempt, ma’am.’ Lomax replied.

‘Excellent, have him checked over by the Medical crew and taken to Psyche for evaluation.’ Captain Guthren ordered. ‘Oh, and cancel that interview for tomorrow too.’

END

 

 

Paul Blake, the author, is considering writing more adventures for old Stoddy. I for one look forward to that, don’t you?

Paul has a whole list of other free stories over on his blog here, a short story collection here (which I gave a solid almost five stars), and his twitter is here. Thanks for sharing, Paul!

Behind the Scenes : Happily

Love the story of Cinderella? Love a good fairy tale retelling? Then check out Chauncey Roger’s MG Fantasy Happily, where a common thief named Laure attempts to fool the royal family into believing that she was the girl who ran away from the ball.

Happily Ebook Cover

 

  • What was the seed that became this book?

The seed was definitely the events. I thought about the Disney animated Cinderella and kind of ran from there, trying to answer some of the questions that the film had left me with. I suppose that the other seed would be my daughter, who asked me to write her a Cinderella story.

  • Who is your favorite character? Which character is most like you?

For both, I might have to say Prince Carl. I think I can relate a lot to his good intentions, but also his anxiety and slowness to act. Characters who are afraid to act or are locked up in indecisiveness aren’t always the most fun to read about, but I think that many of us can see ourselves in them.

  • What character would you not want to live with?

Definitely King Justin. I think his unpredictability would stress me out, even if he wasn’t the king of a country. A little bit of a random factor is fun, but not when it’s mixed with anger and has the potential for danger. Then it’s just fuel for ulcers.

  • Which is your favorite scene?

I think my favorite scene might be when Laure and Prince Carl first speak in private to one another. It wasn’t an easy one to write, as there’s quite a bit that had to come forward or be explained during that segment, but I like how it turned out, and I think that some parts of their interaction made my readers smile.

  • If your book was a movie, what song would they play during the opening scene?

The Jaws theme? Haha, not really. But in all seriousness, I don’t know for sure. But we did pick out a song for the ending credits of a film version. We chose “I Believe in You,” by Michael Bublé. It’s a fun song, and the lyrics and sound of it seemed like a pretty good match.

  • What was the hardest part of the process?

Figuring out how to do the ending. There were a lot of different factors I was trying to balance–things that needed to be revealed, problems to be solved, and the traditional Cinderella story to be concluded. The trouble was that so much of it was inevitably following after the main action climax. I didn’t want the ending to be drawn out, so making it work well together was tricky. Not everyone loves how the ending came together, but I suppose that’s just something to keep in mind while working on my next book.

  • What did you end up having to research that you didn’t expect?

Different methods and approaches to hanging people. I read a lot of history, and history is a pretty dark and grisly place. I already knew how hangings usually work, but I found myself needing to know about some other things related to hangings. It was ugly, but I suppose I learned some new things.

  • Did you ever want to give up? What did you do to keep going?

When I was first writing it, yes, I did want to give up. Things just weren’t working together the way that I needed them to. And I did give up, sort of. I scrapped 100 pages of manuscript and started over from the beginning, after reworking a lot of my plans. It was hard to do, but ultimately much better for the story.

  • Is there a sequel or series? What’s next?

As a matter of fact, yes, there is! It’s in the works, and I’m not here to give any spoilers away, but people should watch for a sequel to come out this fall–one that will entangle the same characters in another familiar fairy tale.

Happily Ebook Cover

 

Check out the smashing reviews on Amazon!

(Also available in audio book)

You can also find it here on GoodReads. Chauncey Rogers can be found here at his website.

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The Blank Page Challenge

blankpageI happened to find “The Blank Page Challenge” writing competition through Twitter. They gave a photo prompt, a 1,000 word limit, and the best thing, (to me,) no enter fee! So I entered my story, and somehow got third place!

Now that the top three are up, you can vote for your favorite. I’d love it if you voted for mine, “They Come to Me at Night” but you should vote for your favorite. (Which I hope is mine…)

Check out The Blank Page Challenge for three great shorts!

Also, they will be hosting six competitions this year, with the next about to start soon. Writing competitions are great exercises and there are so many stories that would never have gotten written otherwise. If you like writing, you should definitely consider joining! (Especially because this one is free!)

Behind the Scenes : The Hidden Village

Author Imogen Matthews gives us a peek into her World War II survival story set in Holland. It’s “heartwarming and heartbreaking,” with over 400 reviews on Amazon.

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  • What was the seed that became The Hidden Village?

All my life I have heard stories from my Dutch mother about the war and the terrible Hunger Winter when she was forced to dig for tulip bulbs in frozen fields to save her family from starvation. She was a young woman of 19 when war broke out, yet her stories were not entirely bleak -she described how she had many intensely exciting experiences, such as clambering over the rooftops with illegal leaflets to escape German soldiers who were searching for anyone working for the Resistance.

I still have close connections with Holland, visiting the beautiful Veluwe for family cycling holidays every year. I thought I knew the woods well, until a few years back I came across a memorial along one of the cycle paths. This large engraved stone told how the local community had helped build a village of underground huts for people needing to flee from the Nazis. They selflessly provided food, medicines and clothing to ensure their survival. It was a poignant reminder of what happened to millions of Jews during WW2 who weren’t so fortunate. I knew I had to get this story down, so created a work of fiction based on these real-life events, underpinned by my mother’s vivid stories.

 

  • Who is your favorite character?

My favorite character is Jan, a young Dutch boy, who loves exploring the woods and having adventures. The games he plays with his friends become all too real when he discovers an American downed pilot whom he must keep hidden at all costs from patrolling Nazi officers. For someone so young, he’s resourceful and courageous, while never losing his sense of excitement, even when placed into tricky and potentially dangerous situations.

 

  • Which is your favorite scene?

The discovery of a large white parachute hanging from a tree and the American pilot, Donald, was a delight to write. Jan is so excited to find his very own pilot and tries very hard to give the impression that he’s older and more mature than he is. Donald plays along by offering him a Camel cigarette, which Jan pretends to be able to smoke. The scene has a lightness, but is underpinned by the seriousness of what to do with a pilot (and what to do with the parachute) who needs help.

 

 

  • What was the hardest part?

My other main character is Sofie, a feisty Jewish teenager, who is forced to leave her family and friends to go and live in the hidden village. The hardest part was writing what happened to her at the end of the story after a tragic event that changes her life forever.

 

  • What did you end up having to research that you didn’t expect?

One of the reasons I became to determined to write about this hidden village was that very little has been written about it before. I was thrilled to discover a secondhand book about Het Verscholen Dorp when I was doing some online searches. It was written by a Dutchman in which he compiled interviews with people who had lived in the village or who had helped people to escape the Germans. It took me 9 months to read this book with the help of Google translate, but it gave me a great deal of insight into the lives of those inside the village as well as those on the outside, who sacrificed so much to help them.

 

  • Did you ever want to give up? What did you do to keep going?

Never, it was a passion of mine to get down this little-known story in a country that is part of my heritage. My mother retold many of her wartime stories to me, which I wrote down in a short memoir. She knew I was writing this novel, but sadly died before it was completed.

 

  • Is there a sequel? What’s next?

I’m working on another novel set just after the village was discovered by the Germans. I’m developing characters who did not have a chance to have their stories heard in The Hidden Village. I’m also exploring the themes of trust and betrayal, which shaped the behaviour of so many during the war years.

 

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Read the reviews on Amazon!

Imogen talks more about her book on Youtube here, or you can find her on Twitter or Facebook.

What I Learned About Writing From “Annihilation”

I saw the movie poster for Annihilation at the theater, and even having no prior knowledge of it, I could tell it was sci-fi. (I think it should be considered weird fiction, however.) When I saw it at the library the next day, with the poster for the cover, I took it home. Now, this isn’t a book review, and it won’t have spoilers. Also, I don’t think the book is for everyone, so don’t be mad at me if you don’t like, but these are the things I did like about it, and want to take away as a writer.

It reminded me that different can be good. It was different from most of the things I’ve ever read, and I’ve read a lot of sci-fi. There seem to be so many ‘rules’ out there about writing, what you can do or can’t. We assume that you have to say what all of the character’s names are. Vandermeer (the author) doesn’t, and nothing is lost from the story, if anything it makes it all the more strange. We don’t know what’s going on, what’s going to happen, or even who this person is that we are following in the beginning. And it was great. The plot was different, the situation was strange, the character was unique and over all the book was a little unconventional. It wasn’t a YA dystopian, and the main character, a woman, wasn’t trying to beat you over the head with how strong she was. It didn’t have any of that stuff which seems (to me) to be trending now. It reminded me not to be afraid of telling stories that aren’t ‘in’. Be ahead of the curve, be a path-maker, not a band-wagon jumper-on-er.

Stories don’t have to be long. Annihilation was short. I read it in an afternoon/evening, which is probably the best way to experience it. Sometimes I freeze, thinking that a novel has to be 50,000 words. That I have to make more stuff happen or it won’t be long enough. Or that fantasy should be such-and-such words and fifty books. It’s just another ‘rule’ we seem to have extrapolated from nothing. Write the story, and when it ends, end it. If it’s right, then we’ll all be happy!

It doesn’t have to be over-complicated. It just has to be good. When I come up with story ideas, I always think that everything needs to have a reason and be complicated and crazy and be all wrapped up neatly in the end. Maybe some stories are, but not all of them have to be. Maybe crazy, wild things happen, and we, and the characters, never find out exactly why. But if it’s a good story, and it takes us somewhere, takes us out of our brains for a while, then it’s done it’s job. And it isn’t just about the crazy things that happen, but about the person they happened to. The character was a stand-in for us, as if it it was all happening to us. Whatever our story is, we should strive to make the reader forget where they are and what problems lay outside the covers.

In short, this book reminded me that you can, nay, should throw the rules down the garbage disposal. You don’t have to write what is ‘popular’ or write in any sort of way that everyone else says you should. Take your story, and write it any way you please, any way that it needs to be written.

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I didn’t write this to sell it to you, but here’s a link to Amazon, just in case you want to check it out. I haven’t read the other two yet, and I have no idea what the movie will be like, these are just my thoughts on the first one.