In Search of the ‘Voice’ of a Book

The ‘voice’ of a book…? Call it voice, call it style. Call it meter or rhythm. Every book has its own shape, uses its own literary palette; a language specific to the author or work in question. It’s part of what makes a book unique.

Mind you, finding your own ‘voice’ is not an easy matter for an author. So once it’s found most writers do tend to stick to that singular delivery. If it works, use it. Though, of course, there are many ways to deliver a story, and I’d like to use my own work as an example.

When I’m working on a book that requires me to tell the story from the point of view of someone watching the action – in other words when I’m writing in third-person – the style and delivery I use is my own, personal storytellers ‘voice’. I’ve written three books in this manner, among which THE BRUGAN is a good example. It’s a humorous fantasy adventure for older children, but with a particularly sad underlying theme… that of personal loss. In the early planning I did consider allowing the central character to narrate her own story, but decided that, to help soften the emotional blows, I should tell the story on her behalf, in third-person. Here’s how THE BRUGAN begins:

Sarah Lemming? What is there to say about Sarah Lemming? Her name gives nothing much away.
Sarah Lemming is as thin as string, with granny knots for knees. Her face is as pale and lumpy as a plate of yesterday’s cold rice pudding. She’s got this wild frizz of bright red hair that’s about as easy to comb as a roll of barbed wire fencing – it makes her look as if she’s in a permanent state of shock. And you should see her on the move; it’s like watching a mistimed explosion of fireworks. She’s all gangly arms and legs, jerky fits and starts and streaks of red hair. About as graceful as a broken stick thrown for a dog!
No, Sarah Lemming is not a pretty sight. The gawky stage, her mother calls it. Plain ugly, say the boys at her school.
She’s the kind of girl who gets left standing on her own in the school yard at break times. You’ll know the sort. Twelve years old and as dizzy as a teapot lid. The original loopy-loo who should never be listened to! Or, at least, that’s what everyone’s always telling her – even the grown-ups.
Why? Take your pick.
It’s on account of her being mad. It’s on account of her having just far too vivid an imagination. It’s on account of her seeing things she should not see. You know. Things that nobody else can see. Things that don’t exist. Things that aren’t really there.
Like what?
Well, like the Brugan.
The Brugan?
Ah yes, the Brugan. The Brugan was a . . . The Brugan is a . . . The Brugan . . . (Forgive the hesitation. It’s just that it’s not always easy to explain the seemingly impossible.)
Put it this way. When was the last time you met a creature so flighty he could stop the whole world from turning, stop it dead, and for no better reason than he felt like it? A creature so wild, so dangerous, he could switch off the sun – click! Who could take your school (for example) and turn it into a medieval castle, change his mind and turn it into a supermarket, change his mind again and turn it into an overgrown tropical rain forest. And do it all in a single draw of breath!
And this is no joke. This is serious stuff. For real, and meant. Every word of it.
Of course, even Sarah Lemming didn’t really know who or what the Brugan was the first time she met him, or understand his truly awesome power. If only she had done—!
Ah, but wait. There’s no point in us getting carried away with the Brugan . . . not just yet.
This will not be making a lot of sense to you, not be sounding at all likely, perhaps? And maybe you’re already thinking, Sarah Lemming must have made the whole Brugan thing up, just to make fools of everyone? Either that, or else she really is as mad as they all say. Yes, well . . . that’s not her fault. And you’d do well to give her the benefit of the doubt, to take what you’re told the best way you can.
First off, her story does not begin with the Brugan. You might almost wish for her sake that it did. But no. Sarah Lemming’s story begins, sadly, with a death . . .

So, there we have me, the author, telling a tale in my natural storytellers ‘voice’. However, when I’m writing a book in which I want a narrator to tell their own story – in other words when I’m writing in first-person, from the point of view of the narrator – my approach and delivery changes. I create and allow the narrator to write in a voice and manner that is unique to them and their own particular set of circumstances. So the delivery of the story is quite different each time; in written language, in rhythm, and in literary palette. I’ll give you two examples:

My very first book, SPILLING THE MAGIC, was written for older children, and is told ‘first person’, from the point of view of a bright, imaginative but largely uneducated young lad from the North of England (where the beginning of the book is set). I wanted him to speak in his local everyday language; to bring a sense of immediacy to the tale. His descriptions are inventive, if he’s not too concerned about his grammar… The book begins:

Want to know a secret, a big’un? Well, do you? I was never much good at keeping secrets. Not whoppers like this.
What can I possibly know worth telling, I can almost see you thinking? Well, I know . . . I know that pigs can fly. I know that real dragons are vegetarians. I know that lots of things aren’t what they seem to be, and that proper magic works. And, I know that you can help save a whole world from being snuffed out to nothing, without even knowing that you’re doing it.
Yeah, go on – laugh. Daft fairytale stuff. Well, do you know something? I couldn’t care less whether you believe me or not. And if you’re still interested you’re just going to have to get on with it. Start right at the beginning. The summer before last, the day I was sent with my sister, Mary to stay with The Stringers.
You see, if we hadn’t been sent to stay with the Stringers, there would have been nothing to tell . . .

*

It was a stinking hot morning. The kind that sends buckets of sweat dribbling down the inside of your shirt. And the air was too thick to breathe. I had to chop it up into little bits and suck it between my teeth just to swallow it. Well, nearly.
The rotten bus had dropped us off at the bottom of Lemington Hill. We – Mary and me – we wanted to be at the top of the hill. Some holiday this was going to be.
‘I still don’t see why they couldn’t have taken us with them,’ Mary said. She was sulking. She had been sulking ever since leaving home. I swear, if I hadn’t picked up my suitcase and walked away, I would have thumped her.
‘I don’t want to hear it again, Mary,’ I said, and attacked the hill with giant steps. Row after row of tiny red-brick houses and grubby little corner shops crammed the hillside. Windows and doors were slung open all over the place – it was so hot even the buildings were panting for breath.
Dad had said their holiday was a sort of second honeymoon – for Mam. ‘You know Billy, after her bother and the hospital and that.’ He had given me one of his knowing looks that was meant to explain everything, but didn’t. ‘The Stringers are canny enough. And you won’t mind not going with us just this once – will you?’ Another knowing look, and a touch of his nose with a finger. I ignored his fib about the Stringers, pretended to understand, shook my head and touched my nose. Grown-up stuff.

Many years later, when I came to write GRAYNELORE – a fantasy novel for grown-ups – I once more found myself wanting to use a narrator to tell the tale. But, in contrast to the young lad of SPILLING THE MAGIC, this time around the narrator is a grown man and a very different proposition. He’s a killer, a thief, a liar and, as we come to discover as the story unfolds, he’s also fey… a faerie. More than that, his world is the imaginary fantasy world that is Graynelore. The rhythm of the narrator’s speech, his rich, sometimes complex use of language, and the other-worldliness of his descriptive tone are all deliberately used to reflect this. Here’s how GRAYNELORE begins:

I am Rogrig, Rogrig Wishard by grayne. Though, I was always Rogrig Stone Heart by desire. This is my memoir and my testimony. What can I tell you about myself that will be believed? Not much, I fear. I am a poor fell-stockman and a worse farmer (that much is true). I am a fighting-man. I am a killer, a soldier-thief, and a blood-soaked reiver. I am a sometime liar and a coward. I have a cruel tongue, a foul temper, not to be crossed. And, I am – reliably informed – a pitiful dagger’s arse when blathering drunk.
You can see, my friend, I am not well blessed.
For all that, I am just an ordinary man of Graynelore. No different to any other man of my breed. (Ah, now we come to the nub of it. I must temper my words.)
Rogrig is mostly an ordinary man. The emphasis is important. For if a tale really can hang, then it is from this single thread mine is suspended.
Even now I hesitate, and fear my words will forever run in rings around the truth. Why? Put simply, I would have preferred it otherwise.
Let me explain. I have told you that I am a Wishard. It is my family name… it is also something rather more. I say it again, Wish-ard, and not wizard. I do not craft spells. I do not brew potions or anything of the like. No. My talent, such as it is, is more obscure. You see, a Wishard’s skill is inherent, it belongs to the man. You either possess it or you do not. (Most men, most Wishards do not.) It cannot be taught. As best as can be described, I have a knack. Rather, I influence things. I make wishes, of a kind.
Aye, wishes… (There, at last, it is said.)
Forgive me, my friend. I will admit, I find it difficult, if not tortuous, to speak of such fanciful whimsy. Make what you will of my reticence; measure Rogrig by it, if you must. I will say only this much more (it is a caution): by necessity, my testimony must begin with my childhood. But be warned: if I tell you that this is a faerie tale – and it is a faerie tale – it is not a children’s story.
Please, humour me. Suffer Rogrig Wishard to lead you down the winding path and see where it takes you. There is purpose to it. Else I would not trouble you.

There you have it then. I hope you can see that as I strive to give each of my books their own identity, the search for the correct ‘voice’ is an essential part of my creative process. The rhythm of the words, the vocabulary, the very punctuation, are not simply perfunctory tools used to carry the tale but are always an integral part of the telling of the story.

Books referred to in this blog:
Fay by Stephen MooreSpilling the Magic by Stephen MooreGraynelore by Stephen Moore

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In Search of an Other-World?

How do we get to an Other-World? We chase a white rabbit down a hole. We climb through a looking-glass. We step inside a wardrobe. We receive a letter enrolling us into wizard’s school. We sprinkle faerie-dust. We fall asleep and dream. Or perhaps, just perhaps, we turn the first pages of a book and find ourselves already there.

And does this Other-World have a name? It seems it has so very many names. Is it Wonderland, or Narnia? Is it Middle Earth or Hogwarts? Is it Earthsea or Gormenghast? In my own GRAYNELORE, the narrator – one, Rogrig Wishard – becomes enamoured of the fey and finds himself in search of the Faerie Isle; an Other-World within an Other-World…!

Whatever we choose to call our favourite Other-World, so many of us – authors and readers alike – are fascinated by the very idea: of that space, that secret place, that Other-World that surely exists, must exist, just out of sight, just on the other side of our imagination, where adventure is to be found, truth spoken and all our questions answered… if only we can find a way to get there.

It’s safe to say that the use of an Other-World is a staple tool for most fantasy writers; it is certainly one of mine. Look upon my written canvas, listen to my song, turn the pages of my books, read on… beguiled by the Other-Worlds created for you there. Let me show you things that cannot be seen in any other way. Reach beyond the far corners of the universe. Let me attempt to explain the unexplainable, answer the unanswered question. Let me help you to make sense of it all… when we live in a world that so very often makes such little sense. Let me show you the inside, the other side, the makings of my mind. Let me draw you my emotions. Let me help you to escape, or to find your way home again…

Some of the Other-Worlds referred to in this blog:
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis CarrollThe Chronicles of Narnia (Chronicles of Narnia, #1-7) by C.S. LewisThe Lord of the Rings (The Lord of the Rings, #1-3) by J.R.R. TolkienHarry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Harry Potter, #1) by J.K. RowlingThe Earthsea Trilogy by Ursula K. Le GuinGormenghast (Gormenghast, #2) by Mervyn PeakePeter Pan by J.M. BarrieGraynelore by Stephen Moore

Sometimes it’s difficult to write, even for an author

What am I saying? Sometimes it’s difficult to write? I’m not talking about technique. I’m not talking about, so-called, writers block, or self doubt. We – authors – are full of self doubt! But we only have to look back at our own previous successes* to remind ourselves of our abilities. No, this is something else. The struggle of creativity itself, if you will. Let me explain…

At the moment I’m having problems; progress on my current project is very slow and thin, and I’m beginning to ask myself questions. Does the book I’m trying to write actually want to be written? More so; does it need to be written? Mind you, even as I type this, I can already strike out the second question. Need? Need is not the driver. Once my books are written they always seem to find their own natural place in the literary hierarchy. Sometimes, they may have something important to say. Sometimes they do not… and are written purely for the excitement and pleasure of the adventure.

So, if my problem is a basic creative struggle, what then is the solution? Sadly, there is no magic wand here. Only my gritty, dogged determination to keep at it: to make words; to turn those words into sentences; to keep turning those words into sentences until I reach the very end, no matter how difficult. Then, at least, I’ll know the answer to my first question. It’s either do that or give-up! And I don’t ever intend to give up.

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*My latest success…?

Graynelore

HarperVoyager

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Music that has inspired my fantasy novel ‘Graynelore’ (2)

As a fantasy author, when it comes to my influences they are many and varied and are just as likely to come from art, music, or popular culture as they are to come from any literary or imagined source.
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I’ve already talked about the origins of my unifauns in Graynelore; how they are characters inspired by a lyric in a song by the rock band, Genesis. However there’s another song from another band that has haunted me over the years, ultimately becoming the inspiration for Dingly Dell, the homeland of Rogrig Wishard; the reiver, anti-hero and narrator of Graynelore.What was the band? Lindisfarne. What was the song? ‘Dingly Dell’ (of course). Written by singer/songwriter, Alan Hull, it’s the title track from Lindisfarne’s 1972 album of the same name.

Lindisfarne are famous for their enormous crowd-pleasing songs, with highlights that include; ‘Fog on the Tyne’, ‘Clear White light’, ‘Meet Me on the Corner’, ‘Lady Eleanor’ and the like. Their musical sound is an interesting brew; a kind of folk-rock, just occasionally, edging towards progressive rock. If neither label truly does them justice. Alan Hull is one of my favourite songwriters: his thoughtful, poignant, ‘Winter Song’ being my most favourite of all.

Among Lindisfarne’s many songs then, sits ‘Dingly Dell’. When I first heard it, back in 1972, it truly cast a spell upon me. With a spare, musically sparse verse, that is both haunting and lyrical, it finally lifts and broadens out into a truly magical chorus line… Only to end again with pathos, and an almost fey-like organic silence. It’s a beautiful, mesmerising song, both for its music and its lyrics. If I could choose a theme tune from this period of music to go along with Graynelore, this would be it.

The air of haunting beauty, the feeling of almost spiritual loss, the fey, other-worldly nature – the very magic – says it all for me. So, there we have it. And that is why you’ll find Dingly Dell in Graynelore.

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Graynelore

GRAYNELORE, published by HarperVoyager. Available from:

Amazon.co.uk   HarperCollins   Barnes & Noble   Amazon.com   wordery.com

Where did the Idea for “Graynelore” come from?

Graynelore is a brutal, lawless world, where a man’s only loyalty is to his grayne (his family). Faerie tales are myths strictly for the children! Why then does a hardened fighting-man, who likes to solve his problems with his sword, suddenly start hearing voices and seeing faeries for real…?
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I’ve just dipped your toes into the world of my fantasy novel Graynelore. But where, exactly, did I find the idea?A few years ago I had a most revealing conversation with my mother about her family roots. I discovered, to my amazement, that my ancestors include infamous 16th Century Border Reivers.

Who? The Border Reivers were inhabitants of the English/Scottish Borderlands; family groups who considered theft, kidnap, blackmail, murder and deadly blood-feud as all part of their day job. While the crown heads of England and Scotland were engaged in endless bloody conflict over sovereignty that reduced the borders to a virtual no-man’s-land, ordinary folk were effectively left to get by as best they could. And if that meant turning up on your neighbour’s doorstep and beating the hell out of them to take whatever little they possessed (up to and including their lives) then so be it! Reiving, as it became known, was a way of life for close on three hundred years.

What’s my connection to the Reivers? Well, my mother’s family name is Kerr, and they originally hailed from the Scottish Borders. Let’s be blunt. The Kerrs were notorious Reivers back in the day! With blood-feud a speciality! If one fact about them tickles me: unusually, the Kerrs were left-handed. It meant they fought with their swords left handed and built their defensive tower houses with left-handed spirals to their staircases. It just so happens I’m also left handed. I like to think it’s in the blood.

You’ll not be surprised. I was instantly intrigued by my infamous ancestors. What author worth their salt would not want to write about them? And so, the idea was born…! I only had to find the right story to tell.

I took the historical world of the Border Reivers; their way of life, their society, their homes, their landscape, their goods and their chattels. In true Reiver fashion I stole it all, misused and abused it and made it my own. I like to think of it as twisting history. (And, with my own family links, I’m just a little bit proud of that.)

However, there was an issue to overcome: I’m an author of fantasy, not historical fiction. To satisfy the writer-within-me I had to combine the two; fantasy with my own version of Reiver society the bedrock to stand it upon.

Where did my fantasy storyline find its birth? I’ll tell you. One hot summer’s day I was sitting in a beautiful garden overlooking the Welsh coast. In the middle distance, out upon the sea, I could see the Isle of Lundy. There were warm currents of air rising off the sea, twisting and turning, and as is the way on hot summer days, they slowly obscured the scene, until at last Lundy Isle disappeared. There was only the sea, and the endless blue sky. Of course, it was a simple trick of the eye. But in that moment I knew I’d found the idea I was searching for. This wasn’t Lundy Isle at all, but the Faerie Isle. Sometimes there, sometimes not, ever moving…

And so began a long and winding journey of research and creative adventure that ultimately lead me down the path to my novel, Graynelore.

Mind you, at the outset I had to make one further inspired leap of faith. You see, up until this point, all of my books had been written for older children (and I’ve been writing for almost twenty years!) However, I knew that if I was going to write authentically about Reivers, the story might well be a faerie tale, but it could not possibly be for children. A Reiver’s world is naturally brutal, sometimes cruel, and often graphically blunt. Graynelore had to be my first novel strictly for grown-ups. And so it is.

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Graynelore

GRAYNELORE, published by HarperVoyager (paperback and ebook):

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The Voice Behind Graynelore

Graynelore largeThere are many ways I could introduce you to my fantasy novel Graynelore. I could explain the birth of the idea that brought me to write it. I could describe the nature of its twisting fey storyline. But I would prefer to begin with the man who narrates the tale. A man who not only lends his very distinctive voice to the story but who is also the sole source of our knowledge concerning the world of Graynelore… Without him there would be nothing to tell.

You see, Graynelore is narrated by the central character of the story. The book is graphically written in his unique turn of phrase and coloured by his very individual way of thinking. Who is he? Well, I can do no better than to let him introduce himself in his own words:

“I am Rogrig, Rogrig Wishard by grayne. Though, I was always, Rogrig Stone Heart by desire…. I am a poor fell-stockman and a worse farmer (that much is true). I am a fighting-man. I am a killer, a soldier-thief, and a blood-soaked reiver. I am a sometime liar and a coward. I have a cruel tongue, a foul temper, not to be crossed. And, I am – reliably informed – a pitiful dagger’s arse when blathering drunk…. You can see, my friend, I am not well blessed.”

In short, Rogrig Wishard is a typical man of Graynelore. Once you’ve met one, believe me, you’ve met them all!

The world he grew up in is lawless, and dominated by its graynes, its feuding families. It’s a world where everyone who isn’t family is an enemy. A world where, theft, blackmail, kidnap, murder and pillage are all considered an acceptable part of daily life. And do you know what? Rogrig Wishard likes it that way. He’s used to settling arguments with his sword. Everything is so clear cut that way! When his Graynelord tells him to fight, he fights. It’s a world he understands.

His father was murdered in a blood feud when he was a child. He is used to cold-blooded killing and he’s used to death. His grayne is his family. Man or woman, they’re his friends, his work mates, his right hand in a fight, his drinking partners and his bed-fellows. Indeed, to put it none too politely, they all piss in the same pot. Just don’t talk to him about love, and leave faerie tales to the children!

Mind you, if Rogrig Wishard was only the callous, stone hearted reiver described here, there would be very little story to tell. Fortunately, he’s a more complex character than initially meets the eye. There’s another side to this man. If it’s a side he’d rather not have, and certainly would never discuss. You see, Rogrig Wishard is faerie-touched. He has ties to a forgotten fey kin that can only be found outside of his grayne. And there are fundamental parts of his true nature that can only be fully revealed by him turning his back on his old family, and finding a new cause to fight for; one he could never have foreseen; one that includes faeries!

So, he’s a fighter then, and an opportunist; a stubborn thief and a mischievous liar… A man, more than a man, very much at odds with himself! Might the revelations, the insights, the unlooked for personal journey he’s forced to take, finally melt the heart of the reiver who would prefer to call himself, Rogrig Stone Heart? Well, I guess that’s to be seen. Graynelore is a truly twisting epic fantasy.

And there I think I must stop! I’ve told you enough about the man who gives his voice to Graynelore. And I want to leave it to him to tell you the tale…

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Graynelore

GRAYNELORE, published by HarperVoyager (Paperback and ebook). Available from:

Amazon.co.uk   HarperCollins   Barnes & Noble   Amazon.com   wordery.com

“Graynelore” Publication Day!

Graynelore largeI’m excited and extremely pleased to announce that today is publication day for my fantasy novel GRAYNELORE (Publisher: HarperVoyager). I’ve been a children’s author for many years. Finally, here is my debut novel for all you grown-ups!

 GRAYNELORE is a brutal, lawless world, where a man’s only loyalty is to his grayne (his family). Murder, blackmail, theft and blood-feud are all part of daily life. Faerie tales are myths, strictly for the children. Why then is Rogrig Wishard – a hardened fighting-man who solves his problems with his sword – suddenly hearing voices and seeing faeries for real? What makes him embark upon a seemingly ridiculous quest to restore a Faerie Isle to the world? Is he mad or simply faerie-touched?

If he’s going to make any sense of it he’s going to have to go right to the source – the faeries themselves. But that’s easier said than done when the only information he has to go on is from bards and myth.

How might I best describe GRAYNELORE?

It’s a story of divided loyalty. An epic fantasy. A blood-soaked mystery. A grown-up faerie tale. And, in its own twisted way, a kind of love story…


Graynelore large

GRAYNELORE, published by HarperVoyager (paperback and ebook).

Suggested Readership: Grown-ups

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IN CONVERSATION: Fantasy Authors Nancy K. Wallace and Stephen Moore

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As part of #VirtualVoyager – a week-long celebration of Harper Voyager’s digital authors and their books, I had the good fortune to talk with my fellow author, Stephen Moore, from across the pond, in England.

[Q] StevStephen Mooree, you and I both write for children and adults, does the inspiration for books for those audiences come from different places or activities?

[A] That’s a great question, Nancy. You know, for me, the ideas come first. From there I can usually see the path the resulting story will take and the audience it might best be aimed at. Which means, essentially, the inspiration for books for what are very different audiences – children and adults – comes from very different places. For example, the inspiration for Graynelore came about when I discovered I have a direct historical family link to the infamous 16th Century Border Reivers. Family groups who lived…

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Graynelore: The landscape of the book

Graynelore large

With the publication of my new fantasy novel GRAYNELORE less than two weeks away I’m excited, and I wanted to tell you a little bit more about it, but without giving too much away. I thought the landscape of the world I’ve created was a good place to start.

I remember reading a comment made by Robert Louis Stephenson explaining just how important he considered a map to be, when he was writing a story. It gave him a visual way of making sense of the fictional landscape he wanted to describe. It’s why you’ll always find a version of his map at the front of Treasure Island.

I guess I feel the same way about GRAYNELORE. In my imagination I can clearly see the landscape I’m writing about in the book.

What does Graynelore look like?

In the novel, Rogrig Wishard – the narrator – gives us a unique description of his world and I close this piece with that extract. However, what I want to do here is give you my own personal impressions of the landscape of Graynelore. The images I can still see in my head, even now.

In my mind’s eye, Graynelore is made up of two major islands – a mainland and a Faerie Isle. The greater landmass is an island perhaps the size of Wales, if not the shape! Rather, its outline best resembles a kind of broken cheese scone. It’s generally oval, but very irregular and badly misshapen. Can you see where I’m going here? The second island – the Faerie Isle – is very small in comparison. If the Graynelore mainland really was a cheese scone, then the Faerie Isle would be the small knob of butter that went with it!

As to their actual physical detail, then of course the mysterious Faerie Isle should rightly remain shrouded in secrecy. Whereas the mainland, where the majority of the book’s action takes place, is more easily described. I can clearly see the Blackheaded Mountains; the sprawling mountain range that sits at the very heart of Graynelore, neatly separating the North from the South of the country. The North beyond the mountains is almost entirely taken up by a vast void, a wasteland, named simply The Great Unknown. It’s a region of little importance to this story. (Mind you, who knows about the future and things still to come, eh…?) Rather, it is the South of the country that requires my description.

The Men of Graynelore have split the South into four regions, called Marches, each loosely belonging to the principle Grayne, or family, who live there. Powerful men live in great Peel Towers. While poor men live in small Bastle Houses scattered about the countryside. There are no actual borders marked on the ground. No walls, no fences. In fact there’s hardly a man among them who truly knows where one March ends and the next begins. (Nor do they care!)

The majority of the land is broad rough fell-land, and rudely exposed rolling lowland hills (reminiscent of my favourite English county, Northumberland). And it is endlessly dissected, across its entirety, by the countless streams and tributaries that make up the River Winding. In fact the River Winding is so extensive its name is used to describe all running water throughout Graynelore.

In the central lowlands you’ll find the treacherous Mire; a huge area of swampland and boggy fen, where no road is permanent, no footstep assured, and no man safe. While off to the north east, below the mountains proper is a large expanse of woodlands called The Withering; a woeful, poor and sickening landscape.

Finally, where the long coastline of Graynelore meets the Great Sea, its cliffs, its rocks and beaches, are cut, bruised and battered, crudely shaped and rubbed smooth by an eternal pattern of wind and rain and storm.

And if my rough description seems to describe an overly terrible or desolate place, I beg to differ. It’s the perfect landscape for my grown-up faerie tale.

Here’s Rogrig Wishard’s description of Graynelore:

To look at, Graynelore was always something of a paradox. It was a beautiful land and yet ugly. It was often glorious and yet as often vague and unimpressive. The Great Unknown in the far north was a world set apart. While the black-headed mountains, at Graynelore’s heart, stood up like the spokes of a great fallen wheel, with the hard fought summit of, Earthrise, the hub, at their centre. The burden of time may well have blunted their edges and reduced their heights but they were no less a formidable adversary. It takes a brave man, or perhaps a fool, to attempt to scale their heights. Looking to the south, where the mountains fell away, and the wheel was broken, there was a great vista, a broad open plateau, only hindered by stretches of feeble, withered woodland – The Withering – that chequered and fringed the otherwise, seemingly endless landscape. Beyond this, came the more gentle rolling hills and shallow vales of the southern marches. And if the lowly hills could not hinder you, if the trees did not stand in your way, there was always the mud, the clarts of the stinking bog-moss to stop a man’s progress, the mire to swallow up the unwary horse and rider. Or else the never ending waters, the countless threads of the River Winding that cut the great open lowland fells and moors into uneven pieces across the majority of its face. To my mind, it was always a lonely, endlessly wind-scarred earth. A difficult land to love; it left no easy place for men or beasts to hide or find welcoming shelter. Yet it was mine by my birth. And if I were to admit that my heart’s meat has always been divided, then surely that land must take its due share.


Graynelore by Stephen          MooreStephen Moore’s GRAYNELORE. Published by HarperVoyager (paperback and ebook.)

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Judging a book by its cover: Graynelore

Graynelore large

This week marks HarperVoyager’s (my publisher’s) official reveal of the cover for GRAYNELORE my new fantasy novel for adults. What better way to celebrate than to tell you something more about the cover’s creation. For if every book has its story, then surely, so too does every book cover.

GRAYNELORE is a brutal, lawless world, where a man’s only loyalty is to his grayne (his family). Murder, theft, blackmail and blood-feud are all part of daily life. Faerie tales are myths, strictly for the children! So why then is Rogrig Wishard – a hardened fighting man who prefers to sort out his problems with his sword – suddenly hearing fey voices and seeing faeries for real? GRAYNELORE is a strange world indeed.

And how best to capture that on a book cover…? If my books are akin to my children, then their covers are akin to the faces of my children, can there ever be a perfect image? This cover for GRAYNELORE was designed by the talented Cherie Chapman, part of the design team at Harper Collins, and she’s done a great job!

Let me describe it to you. We can see an armed man, Rogrig Wishard, creeping tentatively through a very murky and jaundiced-looking woodland glade. And he is moving in company with a strange band of crows. The designer has deliberately scratched and defaced the overall image emphasising the gritty, truly eerie fey-like nature of the scene portrayed. It’s a wonderfully moody and brooding other-worldly image. Perfect for a grown-up faerie tale! Whatever the designer’s exact intentions, I see it as representing a particular moment in the book; one where Rogrig and his company are travelling through a forest called, The Withering. In The Withering danger lurks at every turn. The men of Graynelore are up in arms and attack is not only likely but imminent – and from any quarter. More so, as neither Rogrig nor his companions are quite what they seem to be. You see, they are fey… faerie-touched in a world where their discovery would bring about certain death.

I will leave my description there, for you to ponder…


Graynelore by Stephen          Moore Stephen Moore’s GRAYNELORE. Published by HarperVoyager (Paperback and ebook.)

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Every good book needs a good editor (Part Two)

I’ve just spent the best part of the last four weeks working on the edits of my fantasy novel, GRAYNELORE. There were some very long days, and there was often very little sleep. But all in all, the editing was much as I expected it to be – and just how I’ve described it in Part One of this blog! Yes, there were times when I had to think hard about the editorial comments made, but there was nothing I could not agreeably handle.

For those of you who might wonder exactly how the editing of a book is conducted, let me explain. There are three basic stages:

The Structual Edit

This is where the editor queries the story of the book. Is everything there that needs to be there to tell the story in the best possible way? Is anything missing? Indeed, is anything not needed? Is anything underwritten or overwritten? Is the pacing correct? Is there anything in the manuscript that might not be understood by the reader? All good and important stuff…. This is the longest stage in the editing process (well, at least it is for me). As all editing queries are informed suggestions – not commands – it often takes me as long to come to the conclusion that a particular editorial comment is not valid as it does to revise the text when I agree with a query.

The Copy Edit

This is where the copyeditor checks the manuscript for consistency and clarity in its written English. For example, are all the character/place names spelt the same throughout the manuscript (a simple, not uncommon, error)? Is the punctuation consistent? Is the writing style consistent? (In GRAYNELORE a narrator tells the story and he has his own very individual voice!) Does the use of English say what the author means it to say? This might all sound terribly dry and dull, but oddly enough, I enjoy this process, and my copyeditor was excellent; particularly at understanding the individual nuances of the narrator; and at uncovering the occasional accidental mistake made by the author.

The Proof Read

This is a final chance to check the manuscript for literal errors – typesetting mistakes and the like. You might well ask, after all the checking that has already gone on can there still be errors in the text? Well… yes. Nobody is perfect. Not the editors. Certainly not the author! It takes a skilled and careful eye to spot the last few typesetting mistakes that still lurk unnoticed among any manuscript. And if we’ve all come across the missing punctuation or misspelt word in the books we’ve read, rest assured; the author and the editors have done their level best to get it right.

And now that the editing of GRAYNELORE is complete and the manuscript has been returned to the publisher for the very last time, was the process worth it? Unreservedly, yes! GRAYNELORE is a better book for it. And I can be heartened by that, for I will not see the manuscript again until it appears in its finished published form…

Stephen Moore’s GRAYNELORE. Published by HarperVoyager  (paperback and ebook).

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Every good book needs a good editor

As I write this I’m only hours away from receiving my editorial notes for my latest book, GRAYNELORE*. How do I feel about that? I’m excited – I actually like the editorial process, if I’m also anxious and just a little bit daunted. As yet I don’t know the size of the task that lies before me. What if my editor has suddenly found me out? After all these years, I’m not a writer at all…! And my book is such an awful mess it is beyond my skill to put it right? (I assure you, this is not very likely to happen. After all, my publisher does actually want to publish my book!)

I’m often asked: “But it’s your book! How can someone else simply come along and tell you to change it?” It’s a common misconception of the editorial process. In truth, that’s not how it goes. Could you, for example, ever imagine making a movie without a film editor?

Let me try to explain how the editorial process actually works. I must begin by saying that every book I have ever written has benefited from the process. I would go further and say, there is not a book in the world that could not be improved by a good editor. No author is perfect. No book is perfect.

An editor has exactly the same goal as the author. They simply want your book to be the best that it can be. They don’t want to re-write it, they don’t want to own it. When I write a book I’m creating a new universe: and I’m doing it all inside my head. When I come to write it down, I try my very best to get it right, to tell the story in the very best way I can. With nothing missed out and nothing superfluous to the tale.

Now, when an editor reads my book, they have never been inside my head. They only have the written words to go on. Those fresh pair of eyes can spot where perhaps some essential piece of information has been accidently omitted, or perhaps where too much is given away too early in the plot. They can see where the text appears unclear in its explanation. Or where the text has been overwritten or underwritten making the pacing of the story unbalanced. Many, many small things, that if put right will make the book all that much better.

And, of course, an editor can also see all the things that are absolutely right! And they will often tell the author so, which my sorely wounded ego gratefully welcomes.

Doesn’t the author have any say in this process? Well, yes, naturally. Author and editor are on the same team! And if no author is perfect, then neither is any editor… and they don’t pretend to be. (Not the good ones). Editorial comments are informed suggestions, not commands! An author is entitled to disagree. There may well be a little anguish (usually on the part of the author). There will certainly be discussion. And there will be resolution. Though never compromise… where the proverbial race horse becomes, inevitably, the proverbial donkey. Indeed, the editorial process works in favour of the author. And to give one famous example, using perhaps my favourite book of all time, it is why Robert Louis Stephenson’s classic work is entitled, ‘Treasure Island’, and not, as he would have had it, ‘The Sea Cook’.

But for now I must stop! Something important has arrived in my mail box. Wish me well. I’ll let you know how I get on…

*Stephen Moore’s GRAYNELORE (published by HarperVoyager in paperback and ebook).

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Stephen Moore’s ‘Graynelore’: A book’s journey towards publication

If writing a book isn’t difficult enough, once written, a book’s journey towards finding a publisher, particularly a traditional publisher, is surely a dramatic story all in itself. I thought I’d share some of my experiences as I approach the publication of my first fantasy novel for adults, GRAYNELORE.

Let me amuse you with a little historical detail. I began writing children’s fantasy books in the early 1990’s. (That would be the ‘olden days’ to many of you, and it makes me sound like a dinosaur!) Firstly, it must be said: getting a book published has never been easy. I remember the odds when I started writing were something like one hundred to one. That’s one book published for every one hundred books written. Mind you, the publishing industry was a very different animal back then! Most of the large publishers were still independently owned and to approach a publisher you simply wrote them a polite letter, informing them that you had written a book, and asking if they’d care to take a look at it.

In this way my very first book, ‘Spilling the Magic’ ended up on the slush pile of Hodder Children’s Books and, in due course, was accepted for publication. (A process that perhaps sounds far easier than in fact it was.)

I published books with Hodder for several years. Though in that time the industry went through a fundamental change. The large independent publishers began to buy up one other, until eventually a handful of parent companies came to own almost all of them. A situation we still find ourselves in today. And, as the publishing houses became corporate bodies, the very way they did business altered. The major publishers largely stopped accepting unsolicited work direct from authors, instead relying on agents to bring new work to their attention. To land a major publisher authors now had to first find themselves a good agent (no mean feat in itself). Indeed, my last children’s book (to-date) was finally published by a small independent Scottish press in 2006.

In the following years the publishing industry was in for yet more major upheaval with the arrival of the online retail giants, such as Amazon, and then later, the revolutionary ebook. Large chains of traditional bookshops began to disappear as online retailers took an ever greater share of the market. And authors found themselves suddenly faced with a new choice: self-publishing! This heralded the rise of indie-published authors who began to compete with the traditional publishers, and a state of market you are probably very familiar with.

That is, no doubt, a simplified and potted history, with many omissions (all of them mine). Anyway, it was in early 2008 that I began to have ideas for a new work, which finally became a completed manuscript called, ‘Graynelore’ in late 2010. (The writing of the book is another tale for another day!) As you can imagine, I found myself faced with a very different publishing world to the one I had last dealt with. If in the end, I decided to continue down the traditional publishing route. I spent almost a year approaching agents with my manuscript: writing letters, providing synopsis upon synopsis… and in return receiving rejection upon rejection. To be fair to those agents we must remember; they have to earn their living on the backs of the author’s they decide to champion. It’s all a gamble! It’s all educated guess work! And they don’t always get it right. Agents are looking for books that they believe have a chance of becoming best sellers, not simply books that are good enough to be published. (The difference is crucial.)

After a solid year of rejections, I – as a relatively successful published author – was beginning to think that I’d maybe penned myself a stinker! I was even toying with the idea of calling it a day as a writer… Then, in 2012 the publisher HarperVoyager (the fantasy/scifi imprint of HarperCollins) decided to open a short window of time in which they would accept unsolicited manuscripts from un-agented authors. Something they had not done for almost a decade. There were very strict guidelines to follow and only two weeks in which to make a submission. Which I duly did…

Time passed. The date by which a decision was to be made on my submission came and went. The publisher had made it very clear: if I heard nothing by this date then I was to assume that my submission had been unsuccessful. Oh dear… Another rejection!

Or so I thought…

More time passed. Actually a very long time passed. It was in early 2014 that I received an email from HarpVoyager. They were, after all, very interested in publishing, ‘Graynelore’. If I was still interested in being published by them!

Why the huge delay? It is remarkable: in that short two week time window for open submissions, way back in 2012, the publisher had received almost five thousand manuscripts. Five thousand! With the very best of intentions, they had landed themselves with the monster of a task!

Out of those original five thousand manuscripts, to my knowledge, they found a total of just fifteen that they wanted to publish. And so, cutting a long story short, a deal was finally made between us. And very soon now, I will have a brand new book out!*

As I come to the end of this tale, it’s worth taking a second look at those submission figures… Of around five thousand submitted manuscripts only fifteen were finally accepted. I make the odds of success something in the region of: three hundred and thirty to one. That’s one book to be published for every three hundred and thirty written. It makes you think…

*Stephen Moore’s GRAYNELORE (published by HarperVoyager in papaerback and ebook).

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Stephen Moore’s ‘Graynelore’: publication dates confirmed!

It’s been a very long time coming, and I’m ever so excited! I can now reveal the publication dates of my new fantasy novel, ‘Graynelore’.


‘Graynelore’, the ebook will be published by HarperVoyager 13th August 2015.

‘Graynelore’, the paperback will be published by HarperVoyager 16th February 2016.


And just in case you can’t wait to know what it’s all about, I’ll leave you with this little teaser:

Rodrig Wishard is a killer, a thief and a liar. He’s a fighting man who prefers to solve his problems with his sword.

In a world without government or law, where a man’s only loyalty is to his family and faerie tales are strictly for children, Rodrig Wishard is not happy to discover that he’s carrying faerie blood. Something his family neglected to tell him. Not only that but he’s started to see faeries for real.

If he’s going to make any sense of it he’s going to have to go right to the source – the faeries themselves. But that’s easier said than done when the only information he has to go on is from bards and myth…

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Stephen Moore signs a new book publishing deal!

Please forgive me for being a little excited, but I’ve been keeping this a secret within my inner circle for quite some time now, and I’m almost bursting! But I can, at long last, reveal it to you all. Yes it’s true! I have indeed signed a new book deal! It’s exciting for several reasons:
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To begin with, it means I have a brand new book coming out very soon. My first in a long while. It’s also wonderful that my publisher is none other than, HarperVoyager, – the fantasy/sci-fi arm of HarperCollins, one of the world’s largest publishers – for which I thank them most sincerely.
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And if that isn’t excitement enough, my new book is extra special in another way. How so? Well… Grown-up followers of my children’s books have been nagging me for many, many years to write something especially for them. And guess what? Now I have! You see, my new work is my very first book for adults!
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It’s a fantasy novel entitled, ‘Graynelore’. The ebook will be published this summer and the paperback in early 2016. (Publication dates to follow soon!) Over the coming weeks and months I will, no doubt, be telling you all about ‘Graynelore’. For now, I’ll simply leave you in anticipation…