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5 Questions for Authors: Owen Knight

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owen-knight


Owen Knight is part of the Southend Writers and Artist Network (or SWANS) as we’re more commonly known, and was the first of this illustrious group to take me up on my invite to answer my 5 questions. Like me  Owen dips his toes into the YA market, with his dystopian trilogy of  sci-fi conspiracy mysteries – The Invisible College – which  are on my reading list for 2017, as the premise really intrigues me. As is his ability to turn books round so quickly. All three were published between August 2015 and October 2016. No mean feat!!  I wish I knew his secret.

If you like buying books from the author, Owen will be  speaking at the Essex Local Authors Event  at Chelmsford Library on Saturday 18th March before dashing to  SALAD, @theforum to spend Saturday afternoon and all day  Sunday 19th with us.  (If you’re happy to buy anonymously (so to speak) –  he’s stocked at all the usual online outlets and Waterstones in Chelmsford. If you want to get in touch with him this link takes you to his Facebook page.)

What is your favourite book from childhood?

937428-asterix.jpg I used to love reading to my children when they were young. In addition to the literary classics, their favourite books included the Asterix and Tintin series. Asterix instilled in them a love of wordplay, whereas Tintin reinforced the understanding that the world is larger than the Essex village in which they lived. Both series provided adventure and discovery. The books must have had some effect: last year one of my sons walked the entire 2,650 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail in four and a half months

What is the first book that made you cry?

The book that has had the most emotional effect on me is Le Grand Meaulnes by Alaintumblr_inline_o4y8uaxd4o1s61f2g_250-Fournier. Meaulnes returns after disappearing for several days. He tells of having discovered a hidden chateau, where a dream-like fête is taking place, with everyone dressed in costume, and where he meets a beautiful woman. The story tells of falling instantly in love, the search to find the chateau again, of longing, loving, loss, rediscovery, and ultimately sadness.

I have used the theme of a hidden village in my own trilogy, although the similarities end there.

Have you ever read an author whose books you didn’t like, and how has this impacted on your writing?

I have read a number of books by an award-winning novelist whom I ought to leave unnamed. Several of his novels open with highly original and attention-grabbing first chapters. Unfortunately, the remainder of the book often disappoints, by not living up to the promise.

This has provided me with the discipline to continually ask myself three questions while writing. Is this plausible? Is this interesting to the reader? Is it relevant to the story?

Do you want each book you write to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

My The Invisible College Trilogy (They Do Things Differently Here, Dust and Shadows, A Perilous Journey) was published between August 2015 and October 2016. The trilogy is intended to be read in sequence. Each book is written in a style to reflect the development of the plot.

Book 1 is written with hints of the Gothic, as befits the arrival of the teenage protagonists in a community apparently locked in a 1950s time warp. Book 2 continues in a detailed, analytical manner, as many secrets and references to myths and legends are uncovered. The final volume moves swiftly towards a dramatic conclusion.

I am working on a prequel, which explains the history and rationale for the hidden village.

What did you edit out of this/these book/s?

I was ruthless at removing superfluous dialogue, leaving the reader to fill gaps in the text and to research for themselves many of the references to science, myths and history. An enormous amount of research went into the books; I needed to take care not to burden the reader with too much detail. This demanded further cuts.

I believe that the result is that the trilogy can be read as a simple adventure, taking the text at face value. Alternatively, the curious reader can do their own research of topics of particular interest.

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6word story January 2017

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He forgot to close the door.

How does it know?

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My computer that is. How does it know that I’m on holiday and desperate to write?

Because it’s done it again. Refused me access to the cloud. Done the whirly thing. Overloaded the T’Internet! Spun itself inexorably towards blue screen of death.

I was trying to go pro on Cold Turkey. For those of you writers out who gave no tried it, it provides distraction free writing. You can block websites for a period of time; leaving the temptation there but no way to get to it. I find it brilliant. 

Or at least I would if I could upgrade.

Determined to thwart its plans I changed tack; went to the cloud. Tried to download book 2

More spinning.

Time to implement plan B!

I’ve plugged a cable in. It’s  no better. Still blue spinning thing. Still no cloud.  This computer is determined to thwart me at every turn.

Sod this! Plan Z! 

Does anyone know where I’ll find a typewriter and twenty million pieces of carbon paper?

My Cunning Plan.

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This year I haven’t read as many books as I would  like. My excuse? Not enough time. 

When I read as a child I devoured books. 1, 2, 3 a week.Agatha Christie, slushy romance, Doctor Who novelisation.  Didn’t matter. All that stopped me reading was an absence of pocket money. I was a bookworm. Out and Proud.

Now?  it takes forever. 

A twitterer asked me what  was I reading? The answer came easily enough: Europe in Winter. It’s brilliant. 

They then asked what’s next?  The honest answer? Buggered if I know. The book came out in November. I’m on page 99.

So, what has caused this malady? Because it’s not the book’s fault. It’s bloody brilliant!! 

My commute to work has got longer. What took  an hour and 10, now regularly takes an hour and a half. Whist the return journey.is up from an hour and 20 to … 2hours!!

Sheer volume of traffic is to blame. But it is leaving me too knackered to read. Unlike those halcyon days of childhood, when I could read a book all night; now I either drop off or I’m a zombie.the next day. It’s  hell! I feel a traitor to myself and to my fellow bookworms. I fear being black balled from the Worshipful Company of Bookworms.

Things needed to change. FAST!

Last night I had an email from Amazon. I had 8 audible credits. Salvation.

Within ten minutes I had selected.4 Lindsey Davis Falcos and 4 Sansom Shardlakes. The Falcos are old favourites. 2 of the Shardlakes are new.

It might not be reading in a traditional sense but that’s a book every couple of days. Surely that has to be better than the current famine?

I have another credit in January. I’m taking suggestions. 

Six things you should know about writing a murder mystery

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Having moved into the realm of crime fiction, I thought I’d put down a few things that made plotting A Cowardice of Crows easier than it could have been. Because – to be honest – murder is harder to keep an eye on than time travel…

 

  1. Work backwards.  I.E know how it was done, who did it,  where and  why and then seed the rest of the story from there. I  wrote the reveal before the last few chapters, as I needed to work out exactly who did what to whom.
  2. Let the audience work it out for themselves/ or give them the opportunity to realise who the murderer has to be. Even if they don’t get it  at the same time as the detective, they should be able to go AHH not omfg. I tried to make one of my murderers obvious, and the other less so… hopefully it’s worked.
  3. Ensure you have clues – subtly worked into the story. These clues can be red herrings. In Crows the red herrings went in before the real clues.
  4. Ensure you have a flawed detective. They have to be very intelligent, very eccentric and the murderer has to underestimate them. Byrd’s flaw is … ahh now, that would be telling; let’s just say he’s got an eye for a pretty face.
  5. Every good detective needs a side kick. Solid reliable, dependable and all the things our hero is not. In Sampson Byrd has loyalty and in his cousin he has solidity. Both the perfect foils to Byrd’s whimsical nature.
  6. Oh and of course! Suspects! You’ve got to have suspectgillards-bloody-dagger1

 

Not met  Byrd yet? click here to go to amazon and see if I’ve taken my own advice

The First Review

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I received the first review of A Cowardice of Crows last night. From my 96 year old Great Aunt. She’s a wise old bird, a bluff northerner, who doesn’t pull any punches and tells it like it is. And this is what she said:

“I didn’t read the book as quickly as I thought I would. Got on well and enjoyed the build up and queries about the murder of Millie, had all the names and who they were in my mind, then new characters and names were introduced and my 96 year old brain wasn’t retaining them and had to keep going back to refresh.

However, the story made compulsive reading due to the intensity and colourful characters.

An extremely well written book, how you managed to keep the people where they should be I cannot think, but having done so gave me the enjoyment of reading it.”

 

I think she liked it 🙂

A cowardice of Crows: update

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Putting your manuscript in the hands of a third party is always a bit of a Rubicon moment. 

And its return always has me quoting Nitsche, like some mantra against the dark, as I read the editor’s comments.

 A month ago, I got the first pass back of Symington Byrd’s first novel.

 And between work and sleep, I picked up.my baby and made the changes needed to ensure A Cowardice of Crows emerged like Steve Austin:better,stronger, pacier  than.before.

Last night, following a last minute frenzy, which reminded me of my student days, i sent the manuscript back to the editor. 2000 words lighter and a page longer. Don’t ask. I don’t know. 

And now I wait. 

Is it better than before? Indubitably. You don’t have an editor and ignore them. Is it the best I can do? At the moment -yes. I.am still learning this writing craft.

Will you, dear reader, like it? 

I hope so. It’s a very different book to Aldwych Strand. The characters darker, more complex. The themes darker still. 

 Of course: only time will tell. But I have an inkling about Symington Byrd.