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Guest Blog by Author Leslie Tate!

Leslie reading Heavens Rage The Studio

 

SHADES OF VIOLET

 

When I interview authors on my blog https://leslietate.com/ I want to find out what lies behind their latest book. So I avoid exchanges about sales or promotion, asking them instead about the process of writing. One of the questions I ask is, ‘Can you tell me about the beginning, growth and development your book?’ Applying the same question to ‘Violet’, my latest novel, I came up with the following three-part answer.

BEGINNINGS

I don’t plan my novels. I’ve never felt able to find an anecdote that translates neatly into a finished story. So I set off writing ‘Violet’ knowing only that it was about a late-life love affair. I’d a picture in my head of meeting my wife, Sue Hampton, in a West End restaurant, and I used that as my guide. I wanted to capture the fragile immediacy of our first encounter, how important it was, and how quickly it all happened. Beth and James are not like us, so their words and acts were largely imagined, but the feelings they experience were based on ours.

My first few pages are usually the most autobiographical. After that the characters take over and the ‘me’ in the story narrows down to a few borrowed details.

So here are a few examples of real-life borrowings, taken from ‘Violet’:

  • Before our meeting, Sue and I exchanged numerous letters and talked for hours on the phone.
  • On the day I had difficulty finding the restaurant.
  • Like Beth in the book, Sue turned up very early.

But the 3½ hours of intense table talk that followed between us wasn’t going to work in a novel. It was too static and far too long-winded. Even cut, it wouldn’t hold the reader. So I said goodbye to Sue and Leslie and allowed Beth and James to take over.

But I did want to capture the power of the experience. This was the story of two experienced adults diving in and going through a sea change. Translated into fiction, that meant taking risks. So James oversteps the mark, drinking from a glass smeared with Beth’s lipstick, plays mime games, and invites Beth, in the middle of the restaurant, to dance.

You can read this section of the book, together with a commentary describing how it was written, at https://leslietate.com/2018/01/5265/

I was aware that I was pushing it in the restaurant scene. Of course Beth and James have already had contact, making them more open, but for weeks after writing it I kept revising and re-reading to check for plausibility. In the end it seemed to work, mainly, I believe, because the mind in the act of reading takes things for granted and often jumps ahead.

As an author, I use the selective nature of the novel to foreshorten time and work the changes. The remote is in my hands and I can press ‘hold’, ‘rewind’ or ‘fast forward’. I can also change channels. So the restaurant scene moves quickly from the nervous reality of a conventional first meeting to a lover’s dream. And the dialogue is twofold, mixing short and meaningful quips with going in deep. Everything is imagined: so Beth and James come out with things we’d all like to say but usually keep shtum, while the reported conversations blend author-talk with voices in the head. The aim is to surprise and take a view on life, but not to break the spell.

  1. GROWTH

Once I have a start, the discoveries begin. Mostly I find my direction by writing it, but I also have a long-term feel for what I’d like to happen. If the two are at odds, then the short-term wins. So starting ‘Violet’ with Beth and James meeting at 50 meant I had to find a way to tell their full stories. I’d thought I might be able to flashback during the restaurant scene but found, in the end, I needed to give them separate treatment. And that meant, in James’s case, telling his backstory through his letters to Beth. In her case I began from birth in close third person, using her own juvenile stories to show how she’d changed.

So the book became layered, moving back and forth between present-day romance and Beth’s failed marriage to a born-again minister. At the same time I had an underlying feeling that the story was developing in a direction I had to follow…

  1. DEVELOPMENT

Two things happened when I’d finished the book:

  1. a) Despite my resistance, the old, old tale that unconditional love has no place in an uncaring world took over.
  2. b) My wife and author, Sue Hampton, had already noticed that three of the main characters in the trilogy had traits in common. So during the writing of ‘Blue’ (the novel before ‘Violet) we drew up a family tree. This required me to write in passages connecting Matthew Lavender in ‘Purple’ to Richard Lavender in ‘Blue’ and to James in ‘Violet’.

These changes were structural. They showed me that a book is never finished. And of course there’s a ripple effect, every minor change has its repercussions, and it’s always possible to add in links and connections to improve the flow.

In the end, a novel is complex. It has to be so since people and the world can’t be easily summed up. In ‘Violet’ I tried to reflect that complexity by writing in both third and first person and by including letters, stories and Beth’s diary. But the central idea is simple: boy meets girl in later life, they fall for each other, but have to cope with misfortune. In the words of the blurb: ‘The passionate, late-life love of Beth and James begins in 2003 on a blind date in a London restaurant. Attracted by James’s openness, Beth feels an immediate, deep connection between his honesty and her own romantic faith. From then on they bond, exchanging love-texts, exploring sea walks and gardens and sharing their past lives with flashbacks to Beth’s rural childhood and her marriage to a dark, charismatic minister.

Telling stories runs in Beth’s family, so she keeps up with her friends, following their efforts to find love in a soulless, materialistic world. But Beth’s own passion for giving and commitment is pushed to the limit as she and James struggle with her divorce problems, each other’s children, and life-threatening illness. In the end, tested by pain, they discover something larger than themselves that goes beyond suffering and loss…’

 

  1. Anne Williams March 16th http://beinganne.com/?s=Leslie+Tate

 

WHAT’S IN A GENRE?

 

Books are sold in packages. On the outside they are shiny shop windows; inside they’re arranged in sections with signs and labels pointing the way. If the shop’s online then unseen assistants are steering you to the ‘right’ department where the products are neatly set out to help you ‘know what you’re looking for’. So the book shop browser is looking for the titles she/he has heard of, the nerdfighter wants TV books to act as badges, the book group choose from the competition shortlists, and we’re all conditioned to believe that we know what we want and kept safe and happy under the umbrella of brand and genre.

My new novel ‘Violet’ isn’t so easily labelled. If I had to pigeonhole it, I’d call it literary, meaning that it’s cross-genre, character-driven and language-led, with its own distinctive style. It begins with a story written by my main character Beth when she was eight, called ‘The Girl Who Began Again’, before switching to her meeting, at 50, with teacher and garden designer, James Lavender. From then on, Beth’s backstory alternates with her wildly romantic love affair with James. In the words of the blurb: ‘The passionate, late-life love of Beth and James begins in 2003 on a blind date in a London restaurant. Attracted by James’s openness, Beth feels an immediate, deep connection between his honesty and her own romantic faith. From then on they bond, exchanging love-texts, exploring sea walks and gardens and sharing their past lives with flashbacks to Beth’s rural childhood and her marriage to a dark, charismatic minister…’

So is it Romance? Not really. It doesn’t have a HEA (happily ever after), strong males, glamour or unexpected plot twists. Yes, there is a dark prince, Beth’s ex, whose lurking presence inspires Beth’s Bluebeard’s-Castle-type story, ‘A Housekeeper’s Tale’; and there’s a teen-talk story, full of vampires and dysfunctional American families, written by Hannah, Beth’s step-daughter. But if ‘Violet’ does belong to a category, perhaps it’s lyrical realism, mainly because the novel is written in close third person, examining the intimate detail of a modern relationship. On the other hand, the book also contains sub-genre writing, including texting between lovers, a parent-teen dialogue set out as a play, dream sequences and sixty pages of Beth’s diary in the second part of the book when she’s ill.

An elegy to Beth wasn’t what I’d intended when I began writing. A doomed lovers’ tale felt like a something out of the past, but in the end it forced itself on me. That’s probably because fiction has its own conventions and adds to life rather than mirroring it. And the ‘overheard’ style of a diary allowed me to enter Beth’s mind, mixing memories with reflections, making it more about a state of being than its physical manifestations.

The final part of the book begins with James’s heartfelt, self-questioning, and ultimately therapeutic letter to his dead wife; continuing with tributes to her from old school friends, work colleagues and fellow-spirits.

But the ending, when it came, surprised me, transcending genre and passing through to the ‘other side’, where Beth sees all the characters from outside and inside, embracing even Conrad, her evangelical ex, with an author’s stereoscopic view. In afterlife she retells her father’s story, ‘The Girl Who Didn’t Like Her Name’, writes a valedictory letter to James and ends with Hannah’s picture-book ‘The little boy looked up at the grey sky’, written for Beth and echoing her own story that started the book, ‘The Girl Who Began Again’.

So the story is driven by the characters passing through extreme states, the vehicle is language in all its hybrid forms, and if ‘Violet’ has a genre it’s Relationships.

 

  1. Susan Hampson March 20th https://booksfromdusktilldawn.blog/2018/03/20/violet-by-leslie-tate-guestpost-lstateauthor/

 

VIOLET – ROUNDING IT OUT

 

I began the third novel in my trilogy, ‘Violet’, on a University of East Anglia writing course. At that time the working title was ‘Beth’. I’d chosen that name for my protagonist because it had several shortened forms, but in the end I only used two: Elizabeth and Beth. When I started the course I had the first chapter written where Beth meets James, but no idea what might happen next, except that the book was about a late-life relationship.

Novels are versions of life where we don’t declare our sources. So the beginning of ‘Violet’ drew upon my first meeting with my wife Sue Hampton in a West End restaurant. Like Beth and James we’d exchanged letters and talked for hours on the phone, but what we shared openly – Sue’s alopecia and my cross-dressing – plays no part in the book. I wanted to write about older people in love, and these issues would get in the way. In any case, according to ‘story theory’, key information like that has to be held back for a later ‘reveal’ – raising the question whether plot-driven novels falsify experience. Because in life, Sue and I knew that it was better to be completely modern, declare our secrets and risk rejection, rather than end up trying to make it work against the odds.

So fact is stranger than fiction, and hidden secrets return to haunt you.

Of course, books have their conventions, but they need to be relevant. So one of the challenges to the modern novelist is that we no longer have extended courtships where the characters can be introduced gradually. ‘Bed first, talk later’ leaves the reader with little to discover and nothing to look forward to. The action has all happened and the author is left picking up the pieces – which often translates to a voyeuristic focus on loveless relationships.

I don’t buy that way of viewing people because it’s narrow and predictable, and I’m more interested in what E.M. Foster called ‘round characters’, rather than ‘flat characters’. So ‘Violet’ mixes light and shade, shifting between Beth’s passionate, crazy relationship with James and her dark past with Conrad, an evangelical minister; Beth and James’s children develop during the story, and Beth’s relationship with her parents deepens – even if her friends Amy and Rachael become ‘flat’ materialists and Conrad, at times, turns into a one-dimensional horror stereotype.

The group on my UEA course met weekly to comment on each other’s writing. Although we’d seen advance copy – an improvement on writers’ groups critiquing pieces they’ve only heard once – I found the discussion limited by the belief that novels must be pacey, always look forward, and intrigue, disturb, impress or thrill. It seemed to me a narrow view, suitable for some genre, but lacking the reflective qualities to be found in character-based and language-led work.

There was, perhaps, another reason for this approach. It could have been a way of preparing us for the rigours of the marketplace. Because writing today is all about marketing. An army of agents, editors, promotional gurus and creative writing tutors filter ‘the product’ to fit the latest fad – leaving the authors to ‘read my lips’ and deliver. So the book trade wants action-filled page-turners where the reader is kept in the dark, and most creative writing courses privilege minimalism, post-modern trickiness, and non-disclosure. I prefer Kurt Vonnegut’s version of writing: ‘Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such a complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.’

So writing ‘Violet’ was about fleshing out everything about my two late-life lovers, including their upbringing, letters, telephone conversations and texts; it also meant following them through a series of wild outings, doing the things lovers do, without ending in cliché. In the words of the blurb: ‘The passionate, late-life love of Beth and James begins in 2003 on a blind date in a London restaurant. Attracted by James’s openness, Beth feels an immediate, deep connection between his honesty and her own romantic faith. From then on they bond, exchanging love-texts, exploring sea walks and gardens and sharing their past lives with flashbacks to Beth’s rural childhood and her marriage to a dark, charismatic minister…’

And the story developed from there, going where it had to and alternating past and future to reveal unexpected sides of the characters – including Conrad.

To quote E.M. Foster: ‘The test of a round character is whether it is capable of surprising in a convincing way. If it never surprises it is flat. Flat characters … in their purest form … are constructed round a single idea or quality; when there is more than one factor to them, we get the beginning of the curve toward the round.’

My aim with ‘Violet’ was to flesh out those curves.

 

ABOUT VIOLET:

In the UK you can buy signed copies of ‘Violet’ at https://leslietate.com/shop/violet/

You can buy ‘Violet’ on Amazon USA at https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=leslie+tate+violet&rh=i%3Aaps%2Ck%3Aleslie+tate+violet

You can buy ‘Violet’ on Amazon UK at https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=leslie+tate+violet

Reviews:

‘Violet is a captivating novel narrated through letters, diary entries, instant messages, poems, and other writings that create a multi-textured depth to the storyline. Leslie Tate’s fluid, musical sentence structure, vivid use of imagery and description, and skilful storytelling bring to life a memorable protagonist in the character of Beth Jarvis, an imaginative and sensitive woman. A pleasure to read!’ – Beth Copeland, Pushcart Prize nominated poet & winner of the Dogfish Head Poetry Prize

 

‘Leslie Tate has a beautiful turn of phrase and this work is threaded with elegant descriptive passages. The central characters are instantly likeable, and the reader has a quick and affectionate bond that hooks right from the opening pages.’ – Dawn Finch Trustee, Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) Children’s Writer & Librarian.

 

ABOUT ALL OF LESLIE’S BOOKS:

Leslie Tate’s Author Page on Amazon USA is at https://www.amazon.com/Leslie-Tate/e/B07BL5L23B/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

Leslie Tate’s Author Page on Amazon UK is at https://www.amazon.co.uk/Leslie-Tate/e/B07BL5L23B/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1522493711&sr=1-1

 

In the UK, you can buy:

  1. signed copies of the first novel in the trilogy, ‘Purple’, at: https://leslietate.com/shop/purple/
  2. signed copies of the second novel, Blue, at https://leslietate.com/shop/blue/
  3. signed copies of his trans memoir ‘Heaven’s Rage’ at https://leslietate.com/shop/heavens-rage/

 

Leslie’s website is https://leslietate.com/

 

Bio:

Leslie Tate studied Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia and has been shortlisted for the Bridport, Geoff Stevens and Wivenhoe Prizes. He’s the author of the trilogy of novels ‘Purple’, ‘Blue’ and ‘Violet’, as well as his trans memoir ‘Heaven’s Rage’, which has been turned into a film. Leslie runs a mixed arts show in Berkhamsted, UK, where he lives with his wife, multi-talented author Sue Hampton. On his website he posts up weekly creative interviews and guest blogs showing how people use their imagination in life, in many different ways.

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MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM JANUARY GRAY REVIEWS!

CHRISTMAS TREE BOOKSI hope everyone is having a very Merry Christmas!

I wish you peace, joy, happiness and much reading and writing success!

I hope you get some reading time in!

What books did you receive or choose with a gift card?

What books did you gift?

What are you looking forward to reading in the coming New Year?

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

~January

 

Keep These Tips in Mind When Considering Self-Publishing a Book

10/14/2016 12:44 pm ET | Updated Oct 14, 2016

What factors should I keep in mind if I want to self-publish a book? originally appeared on Quorathe knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.

Answer by Allison Winn Scotch, New York Times bestselling author of six novels, including In Twenty Years, on Quora:

When asked about self-publishing, my honest answer is that I think self-publishing is a very tricky beast, and while it seems like the easy way to go, unless you are a writer in a specific genre (romance, for example), I think it can lead to disappointment. I opted to self-publish my fifth novel because I thought I could do a better job on it than a traditional publisher after my discouraging experience with my fourth book. I was listless and unhappy with the shifting winds of the publishing world, and I already had a pretty good built-in audience, so I wanted to give it a go.

Because I’d had all the experience within the publishing world, I put the book through all the paces that it would have gone through had I opted for a traditional publisher. I hired a veteran editor, I hired the designer who did my jackets at Random House, I did extensive copy-edits and galleys, etc. The finished product wasn’t much different than what would have come out of a traditional publisher, and I think that’s really critical: just because you’re self-publishing doesn’t mean that it can be amateurish or unpolished. Also, I think it is super, super, super important to go through a very hearty editing process. One thing that is very difficult to learn is when your book is really done. Even now, on my seventh book, I probably go through five or six rewrites, and I think that with self-publishing, it’s too easy to just upload something that isn’t ready to be put out into the world.

From there, you still have marketing to deal with. I think aspiring self-published authors underestimate how difficult it can be to get eyeballs and readership (again, certain genres do well, so this isn’t a blanket statement). I had a film deal and a lot of press to help me out, so I felt secure with it, but, for example, when it came time to consider how to handle my new novel without having locked in a film deal, I wasn’t sure that I had the reach to sell as many copies as I hoped, and ultimately, I chose not to self-publish again. Competing for readership is very difficult in this crowded marketplace, so my advice is to really consider how you will do that and to have a plan. I seem to recall that the average self-published book sells fewer than five hundred copies. That’s your friends and family, and that’s not enough. So be sure that you have done your research and have a marketing plan beyond posting it on Facebook.

This question originally appeared on Quora – the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

More questions:

SOCIAL MEDIA OVERLOAD

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Social media in the writing, reading and book reviewing world. Yes, it is a great outlet for Authors and bloggers, and readers are always finding new books to read.

But when is it too much?

When I first started my Book Reviewing blog, I also created a Facebook Page, Twitter, Google+, GoodReads, LibraryThing, Instagram and Pinterest…

Not including the places I am required to post my reviews, such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, NetGalley, sometimes Smashwords, and the publishers page.

I knew I was missing other Social Networks, but I thought these were enough.

It turns out, they were too much.

Now some disagree, and I understand both sides of the social networking coin, but sometimes it is too much noise.

As a mostly introvert, I enjoy Social Media. It allows me to socialize without actually going out or changing from my Yoga pants. I can also multi-task or simply walk away from it when there is something I have to do, or I am just done socializing for the moment.

social-media

Between all of the messages and chat boards and my own posts, it was too much.

I know some people have a schedule for their Prime Times of social impact, but I do not live that kind of life where I can schedule, although I have found scheduling blog posts and FB page posts to be very useful.

But you know what I miss between the Tweets and Re-Tweets?

I miss the connection. The reason for all of these apps on my phone.

The Social Connection.

I started blogging because I love to read and write, and I love helping Authors get noticed.

But what I am loving the most, are the connections and friendships I am making with these Authors.

The ones who message me and can tell me their book got some more sales and great reviews, and they don’t even have to tell me the title because I KNOW that Author and their book.

I love encouraging them to not give up when it seems no one is interested in their book or they got a crappy review.

I also enjoy the GoodReads and FB Groups I am a part of, and it is nice to actually have time to interact with people instead of racing around the internet making sure I have posted my most recent reviews all over the place.

I understand getting out there and getting your work noticed is important and your audience is stretched out all over the planet, but personally, I am finding limiting the Social Networks I use, has improved my audience.

I gave up LibraryThing because it is similar to GoodReads but wasn’t as productive for me.

I also gave up Google+. It just wasn’t for me, and I never took the time to understand it. My feedback from Google+ was next to none.

What works for one doesn’t work for all.

So, go ahead, use all of the Social Networks you want. I know many of you are more adept at it than I will ever be.

Just keep in mind…

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INDIE AUTHORS ARE PEOPLE TOO

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99 PENNIES

One of my biggest peeves lately that I’ve noticed in the Indie Author world, are readers asking for free copies.

Yeah, yeah, I know…this comes from a Blogger who gets books for free.

but wait…

I also purchase from these Authors, because it is only fair. Yes, I am receiving a free copy in exchange for my time to read, review, and promote their book, but honestly…their prices range from 99 cents to 4.99 at most that I’ve seen.

But I digress…

It seems many readers lack respect for Indie Authors.

Do they understand how brutal the publishing world is?

As a freelance writer, I’ve had many of my colleagues tell me that Publishers aren’t even giving manuscripts from new writers a second glance unless they can see a future movie and action figures.

I had a ‘friend’ recently say this to me:

“Just write the book, send it off and there you go.”

That was an EXACT quote.

But this is the same friend who told me it must be nice to be a Freelance writer because “they tell you what to write.”

The trend I am seeing, is readers returning books that show they have read 100% of!

They are also reaching out to Indie Authors for free books, because “they are poor and can’t afford books.”

Why is writing not appreciated as work?

Has the world romanticized writing?

I think many readers see Authors waking up slowly and gently in the morning, walking into the kitchen and feeding the cat while they wait for coffee to brew.

Then the Author goes to their front porch (wraparound with an amazing view of a lake of course, and let’s add some pretty flowers, singing birds…oh, and a weeping willow tree.)

And, after the first cup of coffee, the Author wanders to their desk and magically writes a book!

What many readers do not see:

Overslept, late for work (perhaps trying to get Children out the door?)

Traffic jams, bad day at work (because so far writing isn’t paying the bills.)

Grocery shopping, paying bills, housework, laundry, oops time to cook dinner.

Help the kids with homework? What kind of math are they teaching them?

Get things ready for the next day, and MAYBE find a few minutes to write…

and…

that ‘great idea’ you had while in your car, has somehow disappeared!

Would readers contact their favorite best-selling Author, tell them they are poor and ask the author for their books?

Unfortunately, I think some of them would.

Writing is blood, sweat and tears. Many, many tears.

It is frustration, disappointment and all sorts of negative things.

But writing chooses us, we don’t choose writing.

It can be both a gift and a curse.

But oh what a calling and a gift it truly is, even on the worst of writing days!

I just wish more readers would appreciate it for what it truly is.

Hard work.

Good luck, and keep writing!

January Gray

COPYRIGHT

©January Gray and January Gray Reviews, 2016.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to January Gray and January Gray Reviews with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

January Gray Reviews is an Independent blog and is not affiliated with any Publisher, Agent, Promoter or Book Seller. January Gray Reviews does not make any guarantee to increased exposure or an increase in book sales due to reviewing/blogging and sharing your book(s), Author Spotlights, Cover Reveals, Giveaways and anything else associated with the exposure of your book. January Gray Reviews gives unbiased reviews and does not receive any form of payment or gift from the Author, or anyone requesting the review. Receiving a free book in exchange for review does not influence nor bias the opinions or reviews posted. This exchange of free book-free review (including blog posts and social networking posts), is considered fair and even trade by both the Reviewer and Author (and/or other involved party requesting review.)

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