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 . . .

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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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When real life imitates fiction

Fay

Way back in 2006, in my book FAY, I wrote about a Town Council sending in bulldozers to clear a village’s garden allotments; with the intention of building on them, and in the process ending a traditional, cultural way of life that had spanned centuries. This was a fictional tale, but over the years I’d become increasingly aware of the continual urban development that had seen my home city gobbling up mile upon mile of green field sites as it relentlessly expanded. I had seen farmland, and livelihoods, disappear and former rural villages literally swallowed up by the urban sprawl, losing their historical identity and individual way of life. It’s a long, slow process, but it is relentless and continues to this day. Indeed, very close to where I live no less than three thousand houses are due to be built over the course of the next decade or so… on what is now green field and green belt sites.

To be fair, my home city is not the only villain here. It’s a story that is being played out in almost every developing town and city in the country, if not the world. And, of course, we do need more housing and more places of work for an ever expanding population… It is how this can be achieved sensibly, which is the point in question. There’s always more than one solution to a problem. Better use of brown field sites for example. And what about the estimated one million properties that currently stand empty in the UK… unused, unloved, often forgotten by their absentee owners?

Let me get back to FAY. What follows is a short extract. We see the scene through the eyes of a young lad called Thomas Dobson, as he comes upon the destruction of his own beloved garden allotments:

I’ll tell you, the allotments were ruined. I could have cried. They had always been such a magical place for us kids, a world of makeshift wooden hovels you could explore forever. Greenhouses built out of old front doors; some of them still with their number and knockers on them. Rooftops made out of corrugated iron, some out of carpet, or pieces of kitchen linoleum. Cack-handed brick chimney stacks, with tin funnels held in place with rusting coils of chicken wire, so the gardeners could light themselves fires and have brew-ups on freezing cold winter days. And each plot was quite different from their neighbour, so that together they looked to me like a giant’s patchwork quilt. Some, a blaze of colour as the summer flowers came into bloom. Some planted out with neat rows of green vegetables. Others were nothing more than patches of grey soil, where the earth had been turned over in preparation. A couple, knee-high with wind-driven weeds, where the gardeners had been too long absent.
Mind you, that didn’t matter now. Now, all the allotments looked exactly the same. All of them, smashed, ruined, obliterated. Bulldozed into mountainous heaps ready to be burned or carted away to the rubbish tips. There was a huge great brute of a machine, with caterpillar tracks and a massive shovel front, standing just where the first line of greenhouses should have been. There were deep furrows behind its tracks where it had cut heavily into the ground. Everything the machine had crossed was crushed beyond recognition and churned into mush.

And where, you may ask, does real life imitate fiction? Let me tell you. My home city has an historical Town Moor; land set aside, and in the guardianship of the Freemen of the city, that has very strict rules to its use and development. It is a sanctuary of green fields among the chaos of iron, steel, brick and concrete that is the modern city. Anyway, on one small part of the Town Moor there is a particular garden allotment (garden plots that have been there since the ‘Dig for Victory’ campaign of World War Two) and if I take a bus to the city I go past them… What did I see only a few weeks past? Bulldozers and diggers among the allotments raising them to the ground, exactly as Thomas Dodson described the Oldburn allotments in FAY. You might imagine; my heart sank. I could not let the moment pass.

I did a little bit of digging around (forgive my pun) into the allotment demolition, and fortunately, on this occasion, I can give a little sigh of relief. Among other reasons, the City Council has explained that the demolition is taking place because of possible toxic wastes, notably asbestos, thought to be present in some of the temporary structures plot holders historically built on the site. The allotments will be fully re-established and improved upon for the use of the local community. And for that, I shout hoorah! If I shall also keep a very wary-eye…

Our world around us is always in a constant state of change. But let the changes we make be the right changes, and for the right reasons.


Fay Fay

This e-book edition of Fay is published by Crossroad Press and is available from all good e-book stores including:

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Taking tea with the author, Eva Ibbotson

April 2016, marks the 20th anniversary of the publication of my very first book, SPILLING THE MAGIC. A fantasy adventure for older children I’m still rather fond of, full of flying pigs and floating mountains and, of course, spilt magic…

I’m lucky. Being an author has given me many happy memories. This particular anniversary brings to mind one of my favourites and concerns an author friend of mine. (I’m certain, Eva Ibbotson, would not mind me repeating it.) The year was 1996. SPILLING THE MAGIC was just about to be published, and the now late, great Eva Ibbotson graciously agreed to endorse it. I was overwhelmed, and so proud. I still am.

What’s more, as we both lived in the North of England, she agreed to meet me. So, one fine autumn afternoon, we met for tea, in the old cafe of the Tyneside Cinema in Newcastle upon Tyne. I remember, as we had never met before, we each agreed to arrive carrying a copy of our latest book so that we might recognise each other… I can still see her: a small, refined, slightly built old lady, with fine grey hair, and sharp, inquisitive, not to say mischievous, eyes. She seemed to relish our meeting, and thought it was great fun to meet up with a – comparatively – young stranger! She spoke with great warmth and kindness, and together we happily shared our thoughts about our writing, and about our hopes and future aspirations. Though she was, of course, by far the more senior talent!

At that time Eva Ibbotson was already a successful author, writing both for children and adults, and there was much more to come from her. I recall, she confided in me – most modestly – that she still had one great unfulfilled wish, and that was to write a book that might be considered a timeless classic, perhaps in the way of, THE SECRET GARDEN. Well, we drank our tea, signed and exchanged our books, wished each other well and went our separate ways. Over the next few months we wrote to each other occasionally and met up again briefly when she attended a bookshop event for SPILLING THE MAGIC.

It was in 2001 that Eva’s children’s book, JOURNEY TO THE RIVER SEA was published. From the moment I picked it up off the bookshelf and began to read I was enthralled and knew I was reading something special. I remembered back to our conversation over tea, and I realised… Eva’s wish had at last been granted: she had written her classic children’s novel. (Indeed, it was not to be her last.) I wrote to her and I told her so, and received a gracious and typically modest reply.

JOURNEY TO THE RIVER SEA went on to be a huge success, and an award winning children’s book. Today, rightly acknowledged by many as a modern classic.
Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson

Sadly, Eva Ibbotson is no longer with us, but her books live on. If you do not know them, you must go and take a look. As for SPILLING THE MAGIC, I’m pleased to say, in its own quiet way, twenty years on, it too is still around…

Spilling the Magic by Stephen Moore

Where can you buy the cheapest copy of Stephen Moore’s Graynelore?

The title of this blog might sound like blatant advertising. But judging by the number of questions I receive, the cost of books is a subject very close to the hearts of many readers. The most common being, Where can you buy the cheapest copy of GRAYNELORE? Closely followed by,Why does GRAYNELORE cost so much? And adversely; Why does GRAYNELORE cost so little? If the answer to these last two questions is, paradoxically, the same: GRAYNELORE comes in two editions, a paperback (which is relatively expensive) and an ebook (which is relatively cheap).
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When I first became a published author – that was twenty years ago, and before the advent of ebooks – the cost of a book was fixed by the publisher and printed on the back of the book. At that time, in the UK, there existed an industry-wide agreement, snappily entitled ‘The Minimum Terms Agreement’, whereby all book retailers were obliged to sell books at the price they were marked. So, if the price printed on the back of the book was £6.99 that’s the price everyone paid no matter which book retailer you bought it off. The ‘Minimum Terms Agreement’ was there to protect the income of the author, who typically received between 7.5% and 10% of the retail price. Sadly, the ‘Minimum Terms Agreement’ was revoked a long time ago, and the price of books has been left to market forces ever since. In effect meaning book retailers charging whatever they see fit… which is why the price of a book can vary so much between retailers. Incidentally, it’s also why we now see so many cut-price and three-for-two deals in many of our high-street stores, which I accept is great for the reader, but not so great for the author.

All that said, I’d better answer the question… Where can you buy the cheapest copy of Stephen Moore’s GRAYNELORE?

Well, in the UK, the RRP for the paperback is £13.99, while the ebook is currently just £5.24, which means, wherever you shop, the ebook is always going to be the cheapest option if you don’t mind which format you read. (In the US, the paperback currently retails at around $11.53 while the ebook is just $3.99.)

However, for those readers who prefer ‘real’ books the best deal I’ve found is in the UK, where the online retailer wordery.com is currently selling Graynelore in paperback for just £9.28 (including delivery).

So, there you have it. Of course, GRAYNELORE is available from all good book retailers, so if you’ve paid less, I’d love to know about it, and I’ll try to keep this blog updated.

I wish you all a happy Easter, and happy reading.

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Graynelore

Graynelore is published by HarperVoyager (paperback and ebook). Available from all good bookstores including:

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wordery.com

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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wordery.com

The beginning of a book is a very important event

The beginning of a book is a very important event. How so? It’s the hook that pulls a reader into the story… or fails and loses them forever. The hook might be the first sentence; the first paragraph or page even. Occasionally, a little more… No matter. This is where a reader takes the bait or lets it go to search elsewhere.

Personally, I love the start of a new book. It’s exciting. The journey has just begun. Everything is still to come. So…where might a book of mine begin? What’s the action, the event, the moment in time that needs to be revealed first? In truth, no two books are the same. The example I’m going to give is my foreword for “Fay”. There could be no other beginning, it’s integral to the reading of the whole work… though it’s too great of a spoiler to explain why here…

The arc of a rising sun lifted above the clouds, broke free, bleaching the morning sky silver-white.
With it came a momentary breeze, turning the leaves of a tree, tossing them restlessly. A disturbed red squirrel skittered between its branches searching for a safe refuge among the new summer foliage. A pair of anxious blackbirds, nesting there, began a fierce argument and sprang noisily into the air.
While deep, deep within its boughs, another life, another far more ancient spirit stirred and wakened.
She began to stretch, reaching up, through trunk and branch, through twig and leaf, into every last corner of her beloved tree. She relished the slowly gathering warmth of the new day she discovered there.
However, just as the wind quickly stilled, just as the squirrel and the quarrelling birds came quickly to rest again, so too did she. And mindless of a world outside, she drew back deep within herself and gave in once more to an ageless, peaceful slumber.

This ethereal, languid other-worldly event either intrigues us, or it passes us by… The first words and first action of Chapter One is in deliberate contrast:

It began with an argument.
It happened just outside, on our front doorstep in Collingwood Terrace. It wasn’t long after they closed down the local Glassworks, the day the bulldozers moved in to flatten the Oldburn allotments. I thought all Hell was breaking loose. There was my mum, and there was my dad, and they were going at each other like a pair of wild tomcats. This was one of their real Bad Do’s…

Did I get it right? You decide. You’re either hooked, or you’re not…

 

Fay

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What’s the growing debate about ‘Young Adult’ books?

Currently there seems to be an ongoing debate, among both authors and readers, about the very nature of ‘Young Adult’ books. What’s the argument? Put simply, is the ‘Young Adult’ tag an age guide for readers, or is it something more: a book genre in its own right? Now this is giving some authors a dilemma when it comes to the placing of their books. In marketing terms, do they belong on the ‘Middle Grade’ shelves or on the ‘Young Adult’ shelves, or somewhere else entirely? And does it matter?
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Historically, certainly when I wrote my first children’s books there was no ‘Young Adult’ bookshelf. Bookstores used age ranges to distinguish between books. Akin to: Ages 0-3 years, Ages 4-7 years, Ages 8-13 years, and ‘Teens’. After that everything else was assumed to be for ‘adults’.
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Bookstores were simply trying to steer their readers to age appropriate material. I figure, they still are, if the ‘Young Adult’ section has replaced the ‘Teen’ section. What the bookstores are not describing is a genre of books. However, there is a growing assumption that ‘Young Adult’ books must contain certain key ingredients: sex, vampires and/or the paranormal, and love triangles! And without these essentials authors are not writing for ‘Young Adults’ at all!
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Give me a break, please! Naturally publishers and bookstores want books that sell. And if sexy vampire books, or the paranormal, or romance is currently in vogue for a certain readership, then of course, they are going to favour that type of book. And naturally, some authors are going to lean towards writing that material if it gives them some possibility of actually selling their work. However, this does not define ‘Young Adult’ fiction.
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Reading tastes vary enormously, and are always changing… even for ‘Young Adult’ readers. It only takes an author to come up with the genre-busting goods. (There’s usually at least one genius in every new generation.)
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My advice to readers…? As long as you know where to find the books you want to read there is no problem.
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And my advice to worried authors…? Stop thinking narrowly, and get on and write the books you really want to write. Too scared that your work will not find a market? Honestly, nothing has changed in that department over the years. Fact: most books written never reach the printed page. Fact: most books published – printed or digital – don’t sell well. (Bestsellers are the tip of the iceberg.) Fact: the vast majority of all published works eventually disappear from the bookshelves. (Or, in today’s world, are doomed to lie, lost and forgotten for all eternity, in the e-book virtual graveyard…) These are the book-facts of life folks! So stop your worried debates and simply write…
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For me, writing books is a thrill, a joy, and a massive adventure. That’s why I’m on this journey. If I am in essence a fantasy writer, the story always comes first. Not the age range, not a set of ingredients, certainly not market forces. May it always remain so… Indeed, if the day ever comes when it does not, then that’s the very day I’ll stop.

Tooth and Claw (H fantasy) by Stephen Moore
Suggested readership: young-adult

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

fairysockmother

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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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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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Why, when it comes to the written word, is property not property?

Accuse me of thinking too far ahead, but, how can it be fair, that in the 21st Century landed gentry can still earn income from land inherited from a distant 13th Century ancestor and yet, the descendents of an author looses the right to any income from that author’s work only 70 years after the author’s death?
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Why should the descendents of say, Charles Dickens or Robert Louis Stephenson, to name but two, not benefit from the work of their ancestors? (After all, the publisher still benefits; the booksellers too; and the tax man.) Because an author decides to plough the written word, rather than plough the fields of England should not be to their disadvantage.
Now, the laws of all countries surely differ, and I can only speak as an English layman. But I still cry,unfair!
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No doubt someone will attempt to persuade me of my ignorance. Land is, after all, land…physical property. A book is just…a series of ideas that have been written down, thus…intellectual property. I say, if there is a difference between these examples, there is also an obvious similarity; they are both property. So, I cry again, unfair!.

Oh, I’m forgetting, for us airy-fairy, pie-in-the-sky creative types our work is our vocation. (Isn’t it amazing how often that word, vocation, is used to excuse poor reward for ever so many jobs and professions…?) Writers are, surely, only interested in leaving an artistic legacy to their heirs…?

Fay by Stephen          Moore

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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Book Giveaway of Stephen Moore’s ‘Tooth and Claw’! (First Edition)

2015 marks the publication of my first fantasy for adults, GRAYNELORE (HarperVoyager August 13th) also making it my first new published work in any category for several years. As part of the celebrations, throughout the coming year, I will be offering a series of Book Giveaways from my back catalogue. This Goodreads* Giveaway is the very first.

What am I offering? Well, these are nice prizes. I am giving away TWO copies of TOOTH & CLAW, my best-selling title to date. So there are two chances to win. These are perfect, collectable, FIRST PRINTED EDITION copies (Hodder, April, 1998), from my own private collection, and they will be SIGNED by the author!

TOOTH & CLAW is a compelling epic animal fantasy. Mankind has gone from the city, abandoning their pet animals to fend for themselves. Leaving arch-rivals – the cats and the dogs – to fight with tooth and claw! The laws of Men are no more. And in the wild there is only one law… survival!

This Book Giveaway is live until 4th September 2015. To join in, simply follow the Giveaway links below and enter. And the very best of luck to everyone!

ENTER GIVEAWAY at Goodreads.

Tooth & Claw0022Suggested Readership: Young Adult

Not a Goodreads member? Missed out this time? Don’t worry, between August 13th 2015 and August 13th 2016 I will be offering similar exclusive Book Giveaways via my website. So keep a look out.

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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Can you ask an author to review their own books…?

Surely the very idea is perverse? The nearest I ever get to my own review is when I’m asked, in all innocence, which of my books is my favourite…? My answer is always the same: the book I am writing now. (But that is another tale.)

I, the author, gave my books life. I know their faults and their perfections. I understand them. They are mine. Would you ask me to choose between my own children? At times, as I wrote them, I struggled desperately; I loved them, I hated them…I spent endless days, endless nights, making them the very best I could. I was always their meanest critic and their greatest champion. And once conceived I fought furiously to bring them into the world. I know that dark battle…the between times…when my work remains only a manuscript, not yet a book. That brutal fight towards publication…the anxious wait…the rejection…oh, the rejection…And I know the joy, the sublime joy, of their birth.

And yet, there it is – the offer is always open – each time I look upon one of my books on an internet bookstore, or on a book-reader’s site, such as Goodreads. Would I like to review my book? Would I like to tell the world what I think? How many ‘stars’ would I give it? Those beautiful stars…

It is curiously tempting…only I have, so far, always resisted.
Could I possibly be unbiased…? I think not.
Could I possibly tell the truth…? Yes.
Will I ever do it? I might…maybe…then again…

Fay by Stephen          Moore

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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Who are children’s books written for?

There’s an obvious answer to this question, of course. But here’s another notion for you…Children’s books are written for all readers.

Might I explain? When I first began to write, which was back in about 1994, I didn’t have a clue who I was writing for, if not myself.

I grew up with a profound love of art: the sticky, wet, colourful, practical side of art. I wanted to make art. I did; eventually becoming quite a successful graphic and exhibition designer (he says modestly). As a kid, I read heavily illustrated English and American comics. The likes of, “The Beezer” and “The Beano” on one side and Marvel Comics “Astounding Tales” on the other. Any ‘real’ books I read drew me to them because of their illustrations first, not their words. That’s how I met one of my favourite books of all time, Robert Louis Stephenson’s “Treasure Island” (which, incidentally, is why it gets a name-check in my first children’s novel, “Spilling the Magic”.)

So, it was always art for me. (If, technically, I did write my very first ‘book’ aged 9, when I broke my leg and spent three months up to my thigh in plaster. It was called, ‘My Farm’, an undoubted classic…thankfully lost to history.)

Anyway, it was always art for me… Until, one extraordinary day, I began to get ideas with words in them…! To be honest, at first, they puzzled me. What was this? Poetry…? Songs…? Nah! What then…?

In the end, I found myself writing a story…that began to turn itself into a book. The book was called, “The Spellbinder”. When I knew I had the beginnings of a book, I sought out other authors, and it was only then that it became clear I was writing a children’s book. Eventually, “The Spellbinder” became my first published book, though it went through a name change and is better known as, “Spilling the Magic”.

OK then…I didn’t begin by trying to write a book for children. I simply wrote…I still do. So, who are children’s books written for?

For me, what marks a book out as a children’s book, is that it’s written in such a way that a young reader can understand and enjoy it. With content appropriate for the youngest readership you want to attract. But there is no upper age limit.

The very best children’s books are fulfilling reads for everyone! Children’s books are written for allreaders.

Fay by Stephen          Moore

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…

Some of my favourite books are not the best books in the world.

True! Some of my favourite books are not the best books in the world. Let me say, to begin with; there is no such thing as the perfect book… mine included… (and if that doesn’t cause an argument, a debate at least, nothing will!) But count your blessings, I say! Trying to say exactly what we want to say and trying to say it in the best possible way is exactly what authors strive to do. And that’s irrespective of why we are writing… to entertain, inform, educate or whatever. It would be a conceited author (nay, a fool) who ever thought their work was anywhere near perfect: and that author would be heading for a fall.
Are there masterpieces? Yes, absolutely. Overlooked books that deserve a better readership? Definitely, yes! Massive best sellers that are, to put it politely, stinkers! Oh, yes… ever so many! (Whoever said life was fair?)
Can there be a reader, who hasn’t gotten part way through a book only to find themselves annoyed at the author for leading them that far into their work, just to abandon them there… the book has lost its way, lost its interest, or become meaningless? Hmmm, I know I have. Sometimes I forgive the author and carry on; if I feel the work, so far, has meant something to me in some way. Quite often though, I don’t; particularly with authors, or indeed with publishers, I think should know better.
Mind you, the author didn’t mean to do that to you. So let’s try to take a balanced view… If the author could be a better author, then; could the reader be a better reader? (Oh oh, I can feel another argument coming on.)
Make better reading choices. All readers, from kids to grown-ups are maybe guilty here. Don’t take on something you’re not ready for… it might be the nature of the writing style, the complexity of story… even the length of the book. Don’t read something just on someone else’s, say so, or because the cover looks similar to something else you’ve already read, or because there’s a great big advertising campaign telling you that you must. And if you get part way through and just can’t go on… Then stop.
Pick something else… there’s always something else.

Tooth and Claw (H fantasy) by Stephen          Moore

What’s prog rock got to do with my books?

I recently spent a brilliant night watching the prog rock band ‘Yes’, who are in the middle of a world tour. (And live music being one of my favourite things.) What has that got to do with my books?Well, I’m often asked about my influences. So, take a look at my “Spilling the Magic” – first published 1996 – where you’ll find the amazing landscape of Murn, with its ninety seven multi-coloured floating mountains. The inspiration for which came, in part at least, from my memories of the superb illustrations of Roger Dean, creator of the logos and artwork for many of the ‘Yes’ albums during the 1970’s… my growing-up years. I remember going to a lecture given by Roger Dean – I was probably about 17 at the time – and seeing, first hand, many of his original illustrations. It’s always stayed with me, though it would be at least another twenty years before I began to write…
Spilling the Magic by Stephen          Moore

Free ebook in return for honest reviews

I’m looking for fresh, up-to-date and honest reviews of two of my children’s books. In return, I’m offering a free ebook to reviewers, available in either of these formats: Mobi (Kindle) ePub (Sony / Nook / iPad / Kobo).

The books are: “Tooth and Claw”. An epic animal fantasy adventure, recommended for young adult readers. And “The Brugan”. A fantasy adventure, recommended for older children / young adult readers.

If you are a book reviewer and would like to participate please send me an email via my contact page. Please choose only ONE title to review in the first instance. Mark your message either; REVIEW TOOTH AND CLAW or REVIEW BRUGAN and tell me your preferred ebook format.

What do I expect from reviewers? A totally honest review, to be posted by you on some/all of these platforms: Goodreads, Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, perhaps on your own site or other personal favourite, if you’d be so kind. I’m looking at a sensible time scale of around four/five weeks from book receipt to review.

Tooth and Claw

The Brugan

“The Brugan” by Stephen Moore. The plot, story & landscape

I want to talk to you about my older middle-grade / young adult fantasy “The Brugan”, which means… starting with a SPOILER ALERT! If you’d rather not know any of the ins and outs of “The Brugan” before you’ve read it… shut your eyes and leave now. (Come back when you have read it.)

As an author I get asked a lot of questions (no doubt you’ll recognise them). Where do you get your ideas from? What about the plot? The story…? The setting…? What came first…? And so on.

I wrote “The Brugan” back in 1998. The idea came to me not long after the death of my father. I wanted to see if I could write something that might include the theme of bereavement in a meaningful way. The permanent hole the loss of a loved one leaves in our lives; the thumping body blow it deals us knocking our world out of kilter. But wait up… Don’t I write fantasy adventure for older children?

Well, “The Brugan” has more than one thread to its story. The basic plot is simple. A twelve year old girl – Sarah Lemming – finds a mysterious Brugan’s egg. She hatches it. And unleashes the mischievous, not to say deadly, Brugan upon an unsuspecting world, a world in which he does not belong. And now she has to find a way to get him safely home. It’s a quest then… a fantastic, magical adventure that can be read simply for that. With all the hokum, the weird and wonderful characters, and furious action that goes along with it.

But then there’s that other theme… If we discover that the Brugan is physically lost because he is stuck in Sarah’s world, then we also discover that Sarah is lost too. Physically lost, because her mother has up and moved them into a new home, in a place she does not want to be, with the beginnings of a new family, she does not want. But more importantly, Sarah is emotionally lost. Her father has died; her relationship with her mother is broken; her relationship with her mother’s new boyfriend none-existent. It’s as if there’s a solid wall between them all. (Look carefully and you’ll also see the symbolism in the story.)

As is the way with all tales, there’s more to it than that… themes of loss, betrayal, love, hate, chaos, magical mischief and mayhem, all colliding… successfully.

And what about the setting…? I needed “The Brugan” to be grounded firmly in a real world. So I chose the English Lake District… I lived in the heart of the Lake District for a number of years. It’s a most rare and beautiful environment… a very special place. For hundreds of years it’s been a magnet for creative people of all types… most notably, the Nineteenth Century “Romantics” including the poet, William Wordsworth. And then there’s me… For those of you who know the country you might guess at some of the true origins of my fictional landscape.

Of all the characters in all my books Sarah Lemming is a particular favourite of mine. I’m proud of “The Brugan”.

Suggested readership: older-children/ middle-grade / young adult

The Brugan

 

 

 

 

Hello everyone, from Stephen Moore

Hi folks. This is where my blog on my website begins… When I blog it’s exclusively about writing! Mine and the world of writing in general, with the odd book review thrown in along the way… As I’m a fantasy author, I’ll talk about my own writing experience, what I’m currently up to, and I’ll debate any current writing issues I think relevant.

For a long time now I’ve been blogging from my Goodreads platform, so this is a change for me. It’s my intention to deliver my blog from both platforms for now. As well as new material, I may also update and re-publish some of my existing Goodreads back-catalogue if I feel there is value in it for readers on my website.

To give you something to be going on with, here’s a link to my current Goodreads blog for you to check out. And thank you so much for taking the time to look this way. Please feel free to leave a comment!

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7166243.Stephen_Moore/blog

Fay