Monday, October 9, 2017

An essay about The Color of Thunder

At the end of last year, I sat down and I mapped out all of my writing projects for 2017. This sounded like a solid plan. I figured that if I had everything all organized, It would be easier to stick to a schedule. It didn't actually work that way. Brides, Beasts & Baklava was supposed to release in February, but it didn't launch until late July. The re-release of The Color of Thunder was scheduled for September 23rd. It's still not ready to go. That one has some legalities tied to it, though, and not completely under my control. I have a Gannon Family Series novella planned to release in December. So far I think I might hit that target, but I'm reluctant to say for sure. My point is that this schedule of mine didn't work out so well. If I can launch this Christmas book like I want to, I can boast three releases for the year. That's more than I've ever done in a twelve month time period, which is fantastic. Still, I might need to rethink my plan for 2018.
When I thought I had a solid release set up for The Color of Thunder, I jumped at the chance to appear on Tam May's Author Dream Blog when she asked. She does an Author Dream Series that I wanted to take part in, and I wanted the piece I wrote for her to coincide with the re-launch of the book. A lot of stuff happened between February and the end of September. The book isn't out yet, but I did write the post. You can see it here on Tam's blog if you'd like. I also wanted to include it on my own blog. I'm shooting for a November launch for the book. Right now, I'm thinking that looks pretty doable.

I was an only child until I was five, and even when the man who would eventually become my stepdad came into my life, bringing with him a daughter and a son, I still felt very much as though I had no siblings. Their dad was married to my mom, but the three of us had other parents in other homes. Divorce has a funny way of splitting families into complicated pieces. They were a part of my family, but I only saw them occasionally. We did many things together, but we were separated enough in our own day to day lives that my only child status always felt firmly intact.

Both of my parents worked, and because I was often alone, make believe was a place I visited a lot. I became quite talented in the art of entertaining myself, and I had a vivid imagination. I can’t remember when I began reading. I know that my mom read to me daily as a child, and I always had a wide assortment of books to choose from. She loved to read, and thankfully, she shared that love with me. Immersing myself in fictional stories has always been a favorite past time, since as far back as I can recall, and my busy brain spun some wildly creative tales when I wasn’t reading those written in books.

Two things have forever been the foundation of dreams for me. I never had the desire to be a nurse or a lawyer. Being a part of the business world, wearing dress clothes and high heels was never one of my goals. Before anything else, my dream was to become a mom. I knew by the age of seven that I was meant to have kids. After that, what I wanted to do more than anything else in the world was write books.

I began writing what became my first full-length novel in 1997. The story started as a dream itself. That’s not unusual for me, and this wasn’t the first tale I’d written that came from nocturnal mental musings. The idea started small, and the longer I thought about it, the bigger it became. It grew to be nearly a thousand pages long. When a literary agent in New York City kindly read it for me, I couldn’t help but agree with him when he stated that it was a bit too complex. He also told me it had real promise, and that I should keep working on it. When I delivered my first child in 1999, I put that novel aside, but I never forgot what that agent said.

Years passed. I had a second child. Our family moved four times; three of those moves in the state of Colorado, then to a town near Raleigh, North Carolina. I held different jobs that kept me active in the writing profession, mostly as an editor. I became a homeschooling mom and taught writing workshops for kids in our homeschooling group. I’d been writing myself, but magazine and newspaper articles weren’t the same as sitting down and telling long, complex stories. It wasn’t until my husband was sent overseas to Germany for six months for his job, and I was alone when the kids went to sleep at night, that I decided it was time to finish telling the tale I’d begun nearly fourteen years before. When I decided it was time to finally finish the project, it was that letter written by the literary agent I pulled out, and I reread it multiple times.

When I really dove back into the manuscript, I realized I was not the same writer who had sat down years before and wrote those thousand pages. I tried to edit it, but it was obvious what was old and what was new. I’d grown up. I’d had experiences in my life that changed my viewpoint as an author. My voice was different. It was a daunting task, but I decided there was nothing to do but to start over. I did change some details of the story, especially once I’d become familiar with the intricacies of each character, but the main concept, the heart of the novel never wavered. I always had several main points I wanted to get across, and they stayed steadfast.

My second dream came true in December of 2012 when The Color of Thunder was finally published. I’d started writing it in Colorado, then began rewriting it in North Carolina. When it became a published novel, I was living in Linden, a small village about thirty minutes outside of the Ramstein Air Force Base in southwest Germany. It took fifteen years, two states and two countries, but I’d finally become a published novelist.

It’s been five years since The Color of Thunder debuted. I’ve decided to put it through another edit, and in November, I’m releasing it again. I’ve learned a lot about the self-publishing process. I feel like I’ve become a stronger writer, and I believe the story deserves all I can give it. This was where it all started. This is my literary baby. I want to dress it up in the finest clothes and show it off.

I think I’m extraordinarily lucky. I realized my first dream when I became a mom, which has fulfilled me in ways that nothing else could have. When my dream of becoming a published author came true, my kids were thirteen and ten. They were old enough to understand how special, how important it was for me to publish my first novel. They saw how hard I worked for it. They understood how important that goal was for me to achieve, and they celebrated it with me. They were proud of me. I’ve gone on to publish four more novels since then, and with each and every one I’ve written, they’ve celebrated with me. They’re still proud of me. I can’t imagine anything better in all the world. Who says dreams can’t come true?

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Author Spotlight: W. Marshall

W. Marshall was born in Florida, but found his home when he moved to Colorado. He is a lover of movies, books, dogs, science fiction, fantasy, and military history.

His debut novel, The King’s Own, is a work of dark fiction that asks hard questions as it examines the life and labors of the protagonist.

The King’s Own are as feared as they are ruthless, doing all of those hard, and sometimes terrible, things necessary to ensure the safety of the realm. Owing allegiance to the King alone, they are his spies, his assassins, and his advisors. They exist to walk in the shadows, to enforce the King’s will, to change the course of entire wars, and to root out dissenters. They live without family, in service to the crown, unknown and unsung.

A young man conscripted to fight in a war far away from home. Blood and loss tempered with hope and a vow. Recruited into the King’s Own, he must learn quickly to do whatever it takes to serve the kingdom so that others can live their lives in relative peace and safety. But just how far will he go to keep his oath, especially when the King is murdered?

Author Interview

Author Interview

Congratulations on the release of your debut novel, The King’s Own. Can you tell readers what they can expect when they pick up this book?

Thank you! This has definitely been an exciting process. What I love most about the novel is that it’s not easily defined. Most might initially believe it’s a murder mystery, but that’s such a small part of it. It’s more of a bildungsroman or coming-of-age story, combined with how that translates into adulthood. We have this protagonist who we see in media res, searching for the killer of his King, then we flash back to see how he becomes the man he is. What was it that defined who he was? What is important to him, and how far will he go to defend those ideals? So we get to see not only what happens after the King is murdered, but also the story of the young man who grows into the King’s protector, right hand, and avenger.

Is there a story behind this book? How did you come to write it? Is The King’s Own a stand-alone novel, or will it be part of a series?

I had one very specific scene in mind that I had in my head for years. The whole book evolved out of that scene and concept. I don’t want to give anything away, as it is one of the critical plot points that happens late in the book. But it’s a revelation, and defined exactly who the main character was.

An interesting point is that I had intended this to be a stand-alone novel. As I was writing it, though, Samarra turned into a character who had her own story, so threads of her own tale began forming in my mind. At this point, The King’s Own will be a three-book series (I hesitate to call it a trilogy), but it could very well be open-ended.

I also had another name for the book in the beginning. I had called it The Kingsman. But then that movie came out, and I saw just too many similarities and didn’t want to be labelled a copycat. So with regret, I changed the name of the Order within the novel, as well as the title.

The main character in The King’s Own finds himself in many difficult situations. When was the last time you found yourself in a situation that was hard to get out of and what did you do?

Luckily my life hasn’t been as traumatic as his! I’d have to say one of the hardest situations I was in was while I was in Afghanistan and my father passed away. He slipped into a coma, and despite my team rallying behind me to get me home within 48 hours, it was still too late. I had the support of my family and friends to draw on, thankfully, so despite being sent back to Afghanistan before I was mentally and emotionally ready, I was able to see it through.

Where did your love of storytelling come from?

I’ve loved creating stories as a means of escapism ever since I was a kid. In second grade, one of my friends introduced me to Dungeons and Dragons, and there was an entire fantasy world of dragons, elves, and magic. Of course, going to a Catholic school, this was not received very well. I began free-forming adventures with my friends over the years, all the way through high school and college. I still have a love of it to this day.

I think what I love about storytelling most is I can create a world and “live in it”. I can create any character with any personality, and can do anything. Not like real life, where we’re constrained by social norms and the limits of our physical reality. I can make a world where dragons are real, but at the same time, explore the depths of familial relationships, love, and the full range of human emotion.

What was the most enjoyable part about writing this book?

Without a doubt, it was putting the story into first-person, so the reader can know and see exactly what our protagonist knows and sees, and then putting it all in a very specific order via the flashback chapters. I really enjoyed that part, arranging it so truths are revealed at specific times that are hinted at, and then suddenly become clear.

What do you think most characterizes your writing?

This novel is not my usual writing style! I normally write in third-person limited, a technique I saw mastered, in my opinion, by Robert Jordan. I’ve worked hard over the past *cough* twenty *cough* years to develop that style of writing, and here I go and toss it out the window for this novel. But it had to be done. This story simply couldn’t be told in third person. I had to fight my normal style of being extremely vivid with description and use a broad-strokes approach. A minimalist approach, if you will.

What remained the same is my love of character development. Characters have to be real. In this novel, I apply that as it would appear in real life. That is, those characters closest to the protagonist are the ones most fully-developed, as those are the ones he knows best. Why would I spend a dozen pages describing a tertiary character when our main character barely knows the other’s name?

What does your writing process look like? Do you have any strange writing habits?

I’m a scene writer. Scenes develop in my mind and the entire story unfolds around that. For example, the scene to which I alluded earlier. The entire story evolved from that one scene. Okay, how do we get there? Well, first we need to have this other development, and so on. The problem is I paint myself into corners sometimes. And since I have a strong distaste for deus ex machina style last-minute miraculous saves, I either have to rewrite, or come up with a viable answer. And those always come to me on a run. If I get stuck writing, I go for a run. I solved at least three issues like that while writing this novel. I really had no idea how I was going to reconcile the death of one character while the main character lived. Then I went for a run, and just like magic, I had the answer.

If you could cast your characters in the Hollywood adaptation of your book, who would play your characters?

Wow, what a fun question! I’ll stick to perhaps the main three characters for now.

If he were still acting, I would love to see Sean Connery in the role of Commodus. We need a tough-yet-wise middle aged man for that role. Gerard Butler I think would be great. Just put some more gray in his hair and beard, and there’s the mentor. Bruce Willis or Denzel Washington would also be good choices.

For Samarra, we need to portray the strong, intelligent, and deadly apprentice. Someone whose obvious beauty is secondary to her strength of will, but also able to portray the vulnerable side of someone just learning how to be one of the King’s Own. Chloe Grace Moretz comes to mind, as does Anna Kendrick.

As for our protagonist? That one is perhaps the toughest, though after seeing American Sniper, I think Bradley Cooper could definitely pull it off.

Okay, one last mention. Scott Glenn or Tommy Lee Jones as The Old Man.

Who are some of your favorite authors that you feel were influential in your work? What impact have they had on your writing?

I could write for pages about my favorite authors, even if were to just make it a list! Let me see if I can distill it a bit.

Robert Jordan showed me the importance of story depth, detail in writing, and character development, and then David Eddings taught me to “speed it up”. That is, make things happen at a faster pace. Tolkien instilled a love of fantasy at an early age, and Terry Goodkind showed me how to use a fantasy setting to tell stories about real themes and real issues.

What projects are you working on at the present?

I’m already working on Samarra’s story, so I’m excited about that. I also have threads of stories for a third in the series. Aside from The King’s Own novels, I’m slowly working on a sci-fi story about an unforeseen insurrection in an otherwise peaceful galaxy-spanning empire. I see that as a trilogy, but we’ll see how it turns out. Finally, I have a classic fantasy trilogy I have almost completely outlined, where the tone is lighter than The King’s Own. It’s more of a high-adventure saga, rather than the dark, gritty reality of my current novel.

To learn more about author W. Marshall and his upcoming novels, visit his website.
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