How to Turn (Another) Idea into a Novel…

A little while ago, I wrote about the inspiration behind my last book ‘Death on a Dirty Afternoon’ which came out in November. With three other books currently germinating away (ie being written), I hadn’t intended embarking on another one just yet, however…

A few weeks back, author and blog queen Vicki Turner asked if I’d do a guest post for her blog, so I decided to explore the subject of novel-writing formulas. This sparked another idea that had been hanging out at the back of my mind for a while, but which I hadn’t really got to grips with.

Basically, it centres around creating a new series of middle-grade books with a horror slant, inspired by the ‘Goosebumps’ series penned by RL Stine. In the guest post, I talk about possible novel-writing formulas, but in my case I wasn’t really looking for an actual blueprint. What I was looking for was an idea I could expand into a series, but that had similarities in terms of length, characters etc. So what I ended up with was a basic plan to create a series that would have:

• A scary title
• A scary cover
• An average word count of 40,000
• An average of 20 chapters

So, the first title in the series ‘The Demon of Devilgate Drive’ was inspired by Suzi Quatro’s similarly titled Seventies smasher ‘Devil Gate Drive’, except without the jiving! I also added my own homage to Ms Quatro in the guise of twelve-year-old Suzi Q, who aids my hero Jeff in a quest to discover what the heck’s going on the strange town of Skelton Cove.

While I knew I didn’t want the town and characters to be too contemporary (no mobile phones, laptops etc), I also wanted it to be recognisable (not totally sci-fi), so I set it in a slightly skewed version of the town I used in my first children’s book, ‘The Devil’s Porridge Gang’.
The book is almost at the editing stage so will be available (I hope) in a few weeks. However, the series will only work for me if it fulfils one of my initial criteria – that it can be written and published quickly and will fit in with my other writing projects as a way of ‘resting’ from the longer, more complex novels.

So, here’s hoping…

‘Drop Dead Killers’ by Janet Martinez

Drop Dead Killers

When a mysterious woman kills a scumbag lawyer, Detective David Graham thinks it’s a straightforward case, but then another member of the same firm is murdered and things start to get complicated. Along with his cop partner Alex, David sets out to track down the killer and whatever it is that’s driving her to these bizarre killings. When a friend takes David out on a double date, he meets the gorgeous Cassie and embarks on an affair. However, it seems his new girlfriend isn’t the only one interested in the handsome detective and he begins to wonder if someone closer to home could be involved in the murders. Can he work out the killer’s plan before it’s too late?

‘Drop Dead Killers’ is the first book in the David Graham Thriller series. I read it in one go and for the most part, enjoyed it immensely. With gory details kept to a minimum, the action jigs along quite nicely and there are plenty false clues and reddish herrings to throw us off the murder trail. On the down side, Ms Martinez does tend to repeat herself a little, but it didn’t spoil my reading pleasure.

All in all, a clever and somewhat intriguing murder mystery.

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‘Chopin’s Ghost’ by Cary Marc Grossman

Chopin’s Ghost

Legendary pianist Fryderyk Chopin haunts would-be rock star Robin Hanley, painting the boy’s dreams with confusing thoughts and images. As Robin grows, his musical talent grows with him, but as he becomes a successful musician, he finds the continuing visions increasingly troublesome. Faced with an unusual talent for changing the weather and the ability to predict the deaths of those he loves, Robin struggles to come to terms both with reality, and what he sees in his dreams.

Jumping through several genre-type hoops (fantasy, historical, sci-fi etc), this is an interesting idea that allows the author plenty of scope for exploring it. With a large and eclectic cast of characters, I did occasionally find myself having to re-read some sections to make sure I knew what the heck was going on, but generally it’s reasonably easy to follow the plot.

A clever and interesting novel that will no doubt be difficult to categorise.

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‘The Ruins’ by Daniel Bristow-Bailey

The Ruins

Fifteen-year-old Edward leaves his family to stay at the labyrinthine palace of Lord Norbert where he is to be tutored in the ways of Saxon nobility, before being baptised into the Christian faith. But the young man has much to learn and soon realises his new environment is positively seething with political intrigue, religious fervour and, in the case of fair-headed Winifred, sexual desire.

Not quite long enough to qualify as a novella, this 15,000 word story of ancient times is nevertheless an intriguing read. Whether through research or simply the use of a fertile imagination, the author has created an exciting, and at times, frightening world. His characters are well-drawn and believable, and the interplay between them is positively riveting. I loved his descriptions – particularly Lord Norbert, whose rattling cough and large wet mouth had me cringing.

Daniel Bristow-Bailey is a talented and imaginative writer and I’m eager to see what he comes up with next. One to watch.

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‘Gnarled Bones and Other Stories’ by Tam May

Gnarled Bones and Other Stories

Exploring ideas about loss, fear, and guilt Tam May tells stories that don’t hold back. From orphaned siblings and tainted musicians, to strange art, divorce and the circus, here are five explorations of what it is to be human.

Ms May’s tales are beautifully crafted, portraying characters who are deeply flawed, broken or simply unable to escape life’s endless circle. The writing is tight and clever, but don’t be fooled – this is no place for the ordinary or the everyday. The author takes us on journeys we all know, through the familiar and remembered places of our lives, and gives us something new, or at the very least, seen from a fresh perspective. This is not a joyful book, but the language is a sheer delight to read, with a uniqueness of phrase and choice of words that is rare in writers these days.

Short stories can sometimes show writers at their worst, with the limitations of the form highlighting a lack of skill. With ‘Gnarled Bones’ however, Tam May has shown that she is a master of the form, so stand back and watch her soar.

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