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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. 

The Unbearable Tension of Authordom

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My publisher got in touch towards the end of last week. The conversation went thus:

“It’s half term next week, isn’t it?”

“Yes”

“Good. Expect your book back from the editor.”

Gulp

Now, I am on tenterhooks.

Don’t get me wrong, I like my editor. She makes me a better writer: but how much has she changed? Does Mark still read like Mark? Has she noticed just how dyslexic I really am? Because you can’t hide SPG from your editor 🙂 What’s she done with the difficult chapter?

Oh the agony of waiting; the doubts that rage; the fears that bite

While I wait, I should be doing research… but hey I’m off to Leytonstone Catholic Church and the Strand Underground on Thursday. So I am working; and I’ve been investigating dressing gowns – and they are important – honest. So It’s not like I’m sitting here, enjoying half term and wandering around wordpress, catching up with my favourite blogs, bumming around.

I can assure you dear reader that I’m struggling for my art. Feet up, Glasses on, fingers poised to edit, coffee by my side.

As yet nothing. And so, of course, my mind goes wandering. You see, somewhere at the back of my mind: I have this ghastly feeling I’m not on tenterhooks; I’m on tenderhooks (even if it does have a wiggly red line under it).

GOOGLE

Oh thank heavens. The wiggly red line is correct. It is tenterhooks, and these are they.

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Used in the woollen industry, these evil looking nails were used to stretch the woollen cloth after it had been woven. You see, it was still dirty. It was washed in a fulling mill – of if you’re in Wales, a pandy. And in order to stop it shrinking during the process it was hung up on these nails – like so. These tenters (as the frames were called) were left out in the open for the cloth to dry naturally, and the weave to even.

 

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Its first appearance in literature? Well according to World Wide Words – the exact phrase seems to have been used by Tobias Smollett in Roderick Random in 1748 – the tales of a honest, trustworthy and likeable Scottish lad – which is based on Smollet’s own naval career as a ship’s surgeon.

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Smollet, of course, translated Don Quixote,

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Pablo Picasso

I wonder… were both these authors on tenterhooks as they waited to hear back from their editor?

Flawed Hero – David Lloyd George

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I first found out about David Lloyd George from my nana; she was a font of political songs – and “Lloyd George knew my Father” was one of them.

At school, we learned he was a working class boy – who was brought up by his Uncle Lloyd in Llanystumdwy, He was articled to a law firm in Porthmadog at the age of 15; became an MP at 27 and was responsible for some of the most radical and socially aware legislation of all time. As Chancellor of the Exchequer he introduced Old Age Pensions and National Insurance; took on the House of Lords to get the People’s Budget of 1909 passed; and, of course, became the Prime Minister who won the First World War for Britain.

Learning about his private life – was not done at school; that came from the Life and Times of David Lloyd George a fabulous BBC Wales production starring the inestimable Philip Madoc – even though he had more of a welsh accent than Lloyd George.  And instead of being disappointed that my political hero had feet of clay, it made him – somehow – more heroic.

The fact he was flawed; that he was an outsider who didn’t fit in with the privilege of Westminster – made it so much better. I loved the fact that he was distrusted by the Establishment; that he was prepared to sell peerages and use his foreknowledge as a Minister of the Crown to profit from the sale of Marconi shares. I loved the fact that he’d never have been successful in our times – where sexual peccadilloes (what a lovely Victorian phrase) end a political career; because there’s no way the late 20th Century press could have kept quiet about Frances Stephenson. Or indeed the rumours of other women.

As always, when it came to Historical visits, it was me who dragged my parents to Llanistumdwy all those years ago, just like it was me who dragged OH there today.

The museum is well worth a visit, as is the film narrated by Philip Madoc which you see after you’ve done the museum. Then you have a choice – either walk over the road to the grave or go around to the house. We did the house then the grave.

It was  an eye opener to see how small Highlands – his boyhood home is. Lloyd George claimed to be a cottage boy and indeed he was. Highlands is a two up two down. He, his mum, sister and younger brother shared two beds in the larger room. Uncle Lloyd had the other smaller room. His Uncle’s workshop was attached to the house. Downstairs there’s a kitchen/ parlour and study – complete with table and two school desks  (of the kind us oldies had.) You can swing a cat in both rooms – but I wouldn’t like to try.

This makes him the first working class Prime Minister. After all, how many politicians can claim that their Uncle was a boot-maker; that they were part of a one parent family, and that they went to the local village school? Even Attlee’s background was more privileged. Perhaps the only nearest comparison is Aneurin Bevan (who was a coal miner before becoming a politician.) But he never became Prime Minister.

After the house, we went over the road to the grave.  It’s so simple, unassuming. And in the fall out and controversy surrounding Margaret Thatcher’s funeral, so Ironic! This was a man who clearly did so much for ordinary people, and he was buried after a simple village funeral (ok with over a thousand mourners) overlooking the River without a headstone or proclamation of his achievements to astound future generations. If you don’t speak Welsh, you don’t even know what the plaque on the outside of his grave actually says…

And the translation of his gravestone?

The Grave of David Lloyd George (Earl Dwyfor)

“The rough stone, stone of his heart, is the grave of a man who was a hero to his people; a beauteous watercolour is the merry Dwyfor, t’will ever caress his grave.” The words come from his nephew who died on 20th November 2006 at the age of 94