A helpful slide to remind you of your publication rights as a Writer and Author:
A helpful slide to remind you of your publication rights as a Writer and Author:
Happy Sunday, and happy writing!
Historical fiction novels range from love stories to family sagas to coming of age novels. They include Sir Walter Scott’s Warerly, Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace, and Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall. They have drama, mystery, intrigue, love, horror, violence, romance — essentially, they have it all. A great historical fiction book will transport you back to another time and place where you are surrounded by the customs and traditions of a world long gone. And the best part about historical fiction novels is the mix of the true and authentic with the fabricated and the fictional.
If you’re a fan of historical fiction, I don’t need to be telling you any of this. You’ve shared your morning coffee alongside the Boleyn sisters, and your evenings on the battlefields of Normandy. You know how the class system worked in 17th century Britain, and you have lost so many of your favourite characters to war, you’re in a constant state of mourning. But if you’re a historical fiction fan, you must also know:
The beautiful thing about a lot of historical fiction is that you go into it already knowing something about the ending, whether it’s the outcome of the onset war, or the fate of a particular historical figure. Although it might seem like a reason not to like this particular genre, historical fiction readers know this is actually one of the greatest things about it. Because you know the ending, you can focus on the story itself, its characters, the relationships in the book, the dialogue, and the beauty of the writing without being preoccupied with the outcome. That makes the ride so good. And, despite what you may think….
Historical fiction-haters will try and tell you it’s boring to know how a story ends, but we fanatics know that couldn’t be further from the truth. Just because a novel is about a period you think you know, or people you have studied in the past, doesn’t mean there is no room for mystery and intrigue in its telling. Everyone knows about the death and destruction that came as a result of Sherman’s March to the Sea, but E. L. Doctorow’s The March leads readers down a mysterious path of “who lives and who dies?” scenarios by giving us fictional characters in a historical setting. There is plenty of mystery, even in what is already known.
Some people are turned off from historical fiction because the setting is something very unlike the setting in which we currently live, but the truth is there are some basic human conflicts that ring true no matter what time or place they are set in. Searching for true love, fighting an oppressor, exacting revenge, protecting your family — no matter who you are or what time period you’re from, these are all conflicts you can empathise with. Historical fiction-lovers understand that things like love transcend time and place.
Celebrity Twitter feuds aside, life was a lot more dramatic before a simple phone call could resolve an issue. When you can’t text your fiancé to find out if it was indeed him kissing the handmaid in the stable, but instead you have to wait until the next grand ball to confront him over a formal dance, drama is sure to ensue. Besides, confrontation is so much juicier when it’s done in person.
The problem with so many of the history books that you grew up learning from is that they are filled with all of the same characters: white, privileged men fighting for their own best interests. Yes, you learned about women’s suffrage and the Daughters of the Revolution, but why is it that women have been written out of many history books? Historical fiction gives a voice to the women of the past, and provides a space to tell the stories that the history books have been missing. Any historical fiction-reader will tell you that girls have always run the world. Boom.
Forget going to piloxing to relieve your stress — the characters in historical fiction have it right. Whether you are about to be sent off to war or your one true love has been promised to another, a long stroll through the countryside or a handwritten letter to your childhood friend is enough to find peace in clarity — at least it would be if you were in a historical fiction novel. Chances are, if you’re a fan of historical fiction, you’d choose to stretch your legs in the park over pounding the punching bag at the gym any day.
Sure, the idea of aliens taking over the planet is pretty strange, but so is beheading two of your wives so you can marry someone else… and that actually happened. Although historical fiction does contain elements of fiction, often the kernels of truth are what’s most bizarre, and those kinds of strange but true facts stick with you. Avid readers of the genre know this better than anyone else. That’s why we’re so good at Jeopardy.
Halloween only comes once a year, and unless you are in college, your costume party days are limited… and so are your days of pretending to be someone and somewhere else. But historical fiction fans know that if you want to put on a mask and go to a ball, you can always pick up a book. They know if you want to fight alongside the allies in WWII, you can pick up a book. They know if you want to sling guns with the cowboys in the wild west… well, you get the picture.
It doesn’t matter if you are one of the founding fathers or a farm hand, a French monarch or a lady of the court — chances are, you have a secret. From the Dark Ages to the Civil War, people have been lying about who they are, hiding their pasts, and keeping the truth from one another forever. Though honesty is supposed to be the best policy, it doesn’t make for the best story, so note to authors: keep the secrets coming.
If you thought you were the world’s biggest Harry Potter fan, prepare to be disappointed. A lawyer in Mexico City has apparently shattered the Guinness World Record for largest collection of Harry Potter memorabilia. So far, he has 3,092 items in his collection, which far surpasses the previous record of only 807. Now that is one dedicated fan!
Menahem Asher Silva Vargas first started collecting Harry Potter products in 2001. In a video interview with The Telegraph, he explained that he didn’t originally think of himself as a collector; he’d just see a Harry Potter item that he liked and buy it. But as the Potter fan base in Mexico expanded (and as Potter-mania took over the world) there were more and more Potter-themed products available, and his collection just kept growing. Once it started taking up more than one room, he says, he decided to get organised and start keeping an inventory.
Now, on the one hand I know that buying things is not really a good way to measure how much of a fan someone is — after all, if Bill Gates really wanted this particular world record I’m sure he could buy up 4,000 pieces of Harry Potter memorabilia without batting an eyelash or ever reading the books — but it’s also clear that Silva Vargas really genuinely loves Harry Potter. And as a bit of a Harry Potter nerd myself, I raise a butter beer toast in salute.
In total, Silva Vargas’s collection takes up two rooms and includes everything from board games to Harry Potter attire to replica wands. But his favourite item in the huge collection is a circular wall ornament with a photo of Harry in the Chamber of Secrets that was a gift from his mother. Aww.
He says that he hopes to create some sort of interactive site to allow Potter fans from all over the world to virtually explore his massive treasure trove of Harry Potter merchandise some day.
Take a look at your bookshelf, and you’ll probably have no problem determining your favourite genre. The rows of multiple Harry Potter books (all different editions, of course) and the collection of A Song Of Ice and Fire probably means you’re a big fan of fantasy. Or, when you visit your local bookstore, do you find yourself roaming toward the sci-fi section? Perhaps you drift toward the middle where the literary classics are. Wherever you find yourself, take pride: Your favourite genre is awesome, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
The book genre you love most definitely says a lot about who you are as a person. Books can shape you, so it’s only natural that you learned from the characters within, whether they were fairies, aliens, or your average human. So, grab your most treasured books, figure out your favourite genre of novels, and get ready to find out what it means for you. Better than your zodiac sign, your most loved book genre will reveal your truest self:
You have and will reread just about every classic there is. Jane Austen and Sylvia Plath, Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck — this is the crew that will always be your favourite writers. You were the kid in high school who actually read all of the mandatory books and enjoyed them. You prefer getting to know one person deeply, rather than knowing a couple people on the surface. You tend to cherish the simplicities in everyday life more than anything else.
You prefer to read about huge and complex worlds where your imagination can roam as it pleases. Ever since you were a child, you’ve been more interested in mythology than anything else. You’re a daydreamer, and often zone out while at school or work thinking of the next great adventure you’ll go on. When it comes to your friends, you’ve got some of the best, and you’ll never treat them wrong because you know how valuable true friendship is after reading The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter.
You love fiction — but you also love facts. You like knowing what’s going to happen, and aren’t a big fan of surprises. You have a very detailed planner on you at all times, but every so often aren’t afraid to indulge in a few spontaneous activities, as long as they are on the pre-approved list. You have a sharp eye for detail and are sometimes (more like always) called a perfectionist in your work. You’re a people-watcher, and enjoy listening to your friends and family tell you stories of their past.
Like Stephen King, you believe everyone should read more horror books. You aren’t scared easily, and the feeling of adrenaline rising in you is almost addicting. You’re the risk-taker in your friend group, and when you go to an amusement park, you’re the first one in line for the wildest rides. You’re one heck of a storyteller, and your friends know that when you pull out the flashlight at a bonfire, they’re in for a story that’ll haunt them for the rest of the week.
You prefer reading about common life problems and troubles that are relatable to just about everyone. You love to learn about people, and the ones you don’t know you make up life stories for as you pass by them on the streets or on your morning commute. You’re a deep thinker, and when it comes to problem solving, you’re probably a pro. You like to look at your life as if it were a movie and are always wondering when the next complicated situation will unfold.
After reading Gone Girl, you couldn’t stop thinking about it for weeks. You’re exceptionally talented at picking up on foreshadowing and clues, so your friends tend to stay away from you when Game of Thrones is on to avoid spoilers. You look at life as a mystery itself, and are always searching for the bigger meaning in things. You’re a little quieter than the rest, but that’s only because you genuinely enjoy being a mystery yourself.
You always have the newest memoir or autobiography in-hand before anyone else does. You’re a great listener and enjoy getting to know someone by their odd quirks and anecdotes. You are often looking for new ways to improve yourself and the lives around you. You love making big gestures because you desire to live a great life worth telling to lots of people someday.
For you, no book is a great book without a powerful love story included. Your tastes range from Gone with the Wind to Fifty Shades of Gray, and everything in between. You’re a passionate person at heart, and always go the extra mile to satisfy someone you love. You always manage to keep a positive outlook on life, even if you’ve hit rock bottom. You have high expectations when you go on dates, but you’re also pretty talented at wooing just about anyone that glances in your direction, because you never know who might turn out to be the one that sweeps you off your feet.
You love reading about intergalactic adventures and futuristic events that could one day happen. When you were a kid, you didn’t always fit in because you were thinking about new worlds and characters bigger than the boring middle school you were stuck in. You often have really great ideas but are sometimes afraid to speak up. With your smart wits, you and everyone around you knows you’d be the one to live through any apocalyptic event. You’re a little bit geeky and you don’t care who knows it.
You’re often found in the YA section of Barnes & Noble, scanning for new releases and recommendations. You’re young at heart, and that only makes you more curious and willing to learn new things in life. You’re in tune with your emotions, and are almost always the one your friends go to when they need solid advice. More than anything, you’re independent and take pride in both your successes and failures. You know it’s all part of the process.
Across a long and prolific career, Stephen King’s works can be shown to evolve alongside the author. This special feature discusses how a writer’s voice in their work is tied to the writer’s personal experience and explores the risk of literary influence by examining specific entries in King’s canon…
Stephen King’s personal experience and views on writing have defined his works of fiction. His works, and his writing practices and methods, are reactionary to both the changing landscape of the literary field around the length of his career and also a tumultuous personal life, saddled with substance addiction and, later in life, a near fatal accident. As a burgeoning writer, King’s early works can be examined as works of creative expression, Carrie and Salem’s Lot are unrestrained and evidence of a writer merely wanting to tell a good story. As his fame rose, subsequent novels such as The Shining, Misery, and The Tommyknockers were written under the influence of alcohol and cocaine addiction – to the point where their content reflects and begins to speak out against King’s personal demons. After he became sober, King’s newest novels such as Doctor Sleep and the forthcoming Revival, reflect on addiction from the perspective of a recovering alcoholic, while other works, such as Duma Key, run parallel with his recovery from a near fatal car accident.
King takes large writing risks, with works written under the pseudonym Richard Bachman, and his genre-less collection Different Seasons, showing a writer trying to play with his own public perception by attempting to create works that operate outside of the literary influence attached to his brand. Through these pseudonym authored books, the importance of voice is amplified, and we can also examine the reader’s connection with his works – that a reader can feel they are reading a Stephen King book, despite it not being “written” by Stephen King. As society evolves, King’s works also exist in the contemporary moment, to the point where he renounces particular works as dangerous in light of a rise in school shootings in the early 2000’s. Finally, King’s cultural influence and work as a writer can be seen as he rose in fame and has morphed from a genre pulp fiction writer to be, sometimes grudgingly, accepted by the literary elite. The esteem also affects how his works are both written and received by the public.
Stephen King was born in 1947 in Portland Maine. His father left the family in 1949, leaving King to be raised in borderline poverty by his mother. He wrote short stories and a satirical newspaper while attending high school, and graduated with a B.A. in English in 1970 from University of Maine. In 1971 he began teaching high school English while he attempted to carve out a career as a writer. His first fiction sale came in 1967, and was a story called The Glass Floor which he sold to Startling Mystery Stories. While he worked on his novels and taught classes, he sold pulp stories to Men’s magazines such as Hustler and Playboy. In 1973 his first novel, Carrie was sold to Doubleday for publication in 1974 with a pittance of an advance. In 1974, Signet bought the paperback rights to Carrie for $400,000 and King’s writing career was born. Now, Stephen King is simultaneously one of America’s most popular and acclaimed writers. He has published 55 novels since 1973 – including novels written under a synonym, non-fiction, and short story collections – and sold over 350 million books.
With such a long career and a consistent output of new novels, King’s writing process is important to define and understand how and why he works. King advocates a dedicated and structured writing process, whether or not he is stung by creativity or not, he forces himself to write every single day.
I like to get ten pages a day, which amounts to about 2,000 words. That’s 180,000 words over a three month span, a good length for a book. … On some days those 10 pages come easily; I’m up and out and doing errands by eleven-thirty in the morning … Sometimes, when the word’s come hard, I’m still fiddling around at tea-time.”
This kind of strict regime goes some way to explaining his massive output over the years. He expects that a first draft of a novel should take him no more than 3 months or the characters and the situation begin to go stale. King is a writer of routine; every day he wakes up, goes for a three and a half mile walk to clear his head, rereads the last page he worked on to enter back into the world he’s writing in, and then reaches his 2,000 word target for the day. The afternoons he reserves for editing, instead of writing fresh copy.While he admits to writing slower in his old age, lamenting that he used to write more and faster, it is the routine he clings to that is as close as he gets to acknowledging the secret to his success.
By putting himself in same writing mindset every day, King believes he opens himself up to creativity, “Don’t wait for the muse,” King says in his memoir, “Your job is to make sure the muse knows where you’re going be every day from nine ‘til noon. … If he does know, I assure you that sooner or later he’ll start showing up.” Writing to King is a craft over an art, and while he does advocate some degree of natural talent to be a great writer, his overwhelming attitude is that creativity and writing talent is a muscle to be honed and refined by learning and discipline. How King writes will be further examined in the context of both a drug addiction and his slow recovery from a near fatal road accident in 1999, as his methods were forced to change. In the midst of his large body of work, it is evident that society and circumstance has shaped his work.
King’s first novels, Carrie – about a young girl with murderous telekinetic powers, and Salem’s Lot – which focuses on a vampire coven preying on a small town, are spawned from his love of old pulp novels, including H.P. Lovecraft, that he found in his father’s things. As well as 40 cent paperbacks and horror films that he would see at the cinema with his brothers. King admits that as a child, he just liked to be scared, citing these influences as heavily shaping the early works in his oeuvre. This contemporary moment of his childhood still pervades his work, with hard crime novels, The Colorado Kid (2005) and Joyland (2013), intentional throwbacks to the pulp pot-boiler detective mysteries of his childhood, published by an independent paperback press (outside of his regular publishers, Bantam Books or Hodder and Stoughton) with 1950’s cover art to match. He has absorbed and is re-expressing his childhood culture through both of these novels.
But King’s environment and personal place really began to bleed into his work when he struggled with substance addiction in the late 70’s and 1980’s. At first it was a struggle with alcohol. Once his success had started to flow, alcohol was an indulgence that he discovered himself reaching to every night. He defines the moment he thought he was an alcoholic, realising after he’d finished it that his third novel, The Shining – about an alcoholic writer who loses his mind and attempts to murder his family – was actually about himself. It’s not uncommon or particularly hidden that King inserts himself into his novels – the protagonists in The Shining, It, Misery, Bag Of Bones, Secret Window, 1408, Lisey’s Story, Salem’s Lot, and The Dark Half, are all novelists – but The Shining is more direct than that, it’s an effort by King to serve as an exorcism through print of his own demons with alcohol.
But King further degenerated into addiction, by the mid 80’s he had added cocaine to his long list of addictions. He managed to finally kick the drugs after an intervention in the late 1980’s, but again the seeds of his addiction while he was both high and drunk found their way into his writing. In many cases, King acknowledges that he is unaware how serious his problem was, and that it began to manifest itself into his books,
Yet the part of me that writes the stories, the deep part that knew I was an alcoholic as early as 1975 … began to scream for help in the only way it knew how, through my fiction and through my monsters.”
To further his point, The Tommyknockers concerns aliens who grant people superb clarity and energy at the cost of their soul, much like the drug cocaine. Cujo is the story of a big black dog torturing a mother and child trapped in a car, a surrogate for King’s own addiction and its growing impact on his family. Misery is about a nurse (Annie Wilkes) who kidnaps a writer and forces him to write for her. King acknowledges that novel as the turning point in both his writing and addiction, acknowledging that his own writing was a slave to a similar master.
Misery is a book about cocaine. Annie Wilkes is cocaine. She was my number one fan.”
King has been sober from drugs and alcohol since Misery was published in 1987, his characters started to take on a more reflective quality. King’s more recent fiction deals with the long road to recovery he endured, the primary characters in two of his latest novels – Doctor Sleep, and Revival – are recovering addicts. In Doctor Sleep the protagonist is a recovering alcoholic, while Revival chronicles a chronic heroin user. It is clear that King’s writing is influenced by the context and experience of his life, either recalling the passion and literature of his voice, struggling in the throes of addiction, or looking back on his road to recovery. King’s fiction deals with devils and demons, both in the supernatural horrors that stalk his books, and the demons that pervade his own life.
The societal influence and impact of King’s work is not a one way street. While King expresses his own experiences and demons within his work, his work is also worked and shaped by the culture in which it is read. As society evolves, King’s works also exist in the contemporary moment. They are well known for being laden with pop culture references. With regards to his international readership, King “is synonymous… with what they know of America and the extent to which they can identify with it.” That is, when reading King’s work the reader gets a cross-section of “King’s America”. He is credited with understanding and expressing the people that populate contemporary America, Walter Mosely praising him when awarding the National Book Award in 2003 as having an “almost instinctual understanding of the fears that form the psyche of America’s working class.” Magistrale writes:
Supernatural vampires and monsters may be the great popular attractions long associated with King’s art, but at the heart of his best work is a deep-seated awareness of the very real anxieties about how Americans live and where we are going.”
It’s incredible that a writer who specialises in filling his pages with monsters, magic, and aliens, is so frequently praised for his realism, and it demonstrates that “King’s America” is so rich that many of these mythical creatures bring out and demonstrate a cultural relevance for a reader. This is because King’s supernatural world exists within a painstakingly crafted portrait of suburban America over the past 50 years. But King also branches away from himself, pushing the boundaries of his own genre by writing under pseudonyms, to escape the preconceptions a book with Stephen King on its cover brings with it.
King’s volume of work is so large that his works interact with each other in many ways. The Dark Tower fantasy series dips in and out of much of his genre oeuvre, featuring characters and events from other novels – and even features third person appearances by the author himself, and much of King’s genre fiction is set in the fictional area around Derry, Maine. This ties all of King’s work together along a familiar seam, bringing his novels together as a life’s work, despite significant differences between the novels.
The most interesting are the books that King deliberately chooses to isolate from his canon, by writing them as Richard Bachman. Richard Bachman was the pseudonym King used to write five novels – Rage (1977), The Long Walk (1979), Roadwork (1981), The Running Man (1982) and, Thinner (1984) – with King finally announcing that Bachman had died of “cancer of the pseudonym” in 1985. While the jaded and prevailing reason touted by critics for Bachman’s existence is that King was over publishing the market with his own name, King himself gives several reasons for writing under a pseudonym in the introduction to The Bachman Books. He suggests that the fame of his early novels was impeding his creativity and voice, and that “I feel like Mickey Mouse in Fantasia. I knew enough to get the brooms started, but once they start to march, things are never the same.”
He reflects upon his own publishing success as a great amount of luck or an accident, so he began to doubt his own writing in the books he was publishing as Stephen King. He stated: “maybe you try to find out if you could do it again. Or in my case, if Bachman could do it again.” King was countering his own doubts in his oeuvre by using Bachman to validate himself. Further to validating himself, King used Bachman to step outside of his genre and find a new voice. Only Thinner is a serious horror novel in the brand of King – it is no coincidence that it is the novel that exposed the ruse – while the rest are attempts to prove that King could write serious fiction novels. In this way he rebels against his own catalogue of writing.
I think I did it to turn down the heat a little bit; to do something as someone other than Stephen King.”
After Bachman was exposed was not the last time King consciously reacted to his status as a commercial horror writer – his 1982 collection Different Seasons was a collection of novellas which had a high focus on dramatic plots instead of King’s standard monsters and mayhem formula. In the introduction, King discusses talking to his publisher about wanting to do a serious collection and his publisher attempting to talk him out of it. A deal was struck that he could put together the book if he included one story with horror elements. Again, King rebels against his own writing, over time continually pushing himself to redefine his writing as having a value outside of the commercial horror novels he was known for.
King also brings a high level of self awareness to his work, able to look back on works in his own oeuvre with a critical eye and, often, lament. This also demonstrates the life experience that King was pouring into his books, with his view on his work often complementing his state of mind at the time. He says of the books he wrote while he was high that he doesn’t remember writing Cujo, and that his least favourite book is The Tommyknockers which he acknowledges as “an awful book… there’s a really good book in there, underneath all the cocaine.”
After he was involved in a serious car accident he was doped up on Oxycontin to deal with the pain. This impacted his writing of Dreamcatcher, and he rebukes that as “another book that shows the drugs at work.” In an open source interview he laments the books he wrote before he quit drugs and alcohol, “As far as dope and booze goes, I’d like to have some of those early books back.” But he also acknowledges the contemporary place that his literature has in both his own canon and the world around.
One of his Bachman novels, Rage, centres on a teenage boy taking a school classroom hostage with a semi-automatic pistol. He shoots two teachers dead throughout the course of the novel, and threatens to kill many of his classmates for various reasons – a major theme is the girls who refuse to date him. Rage was linked to 4 real life school shooting incidents between 1988 and 1997, where the shooter either admitted to being inspired by Rage, or a copy of the novel was found in their possessions. King decided to remove the book from print and from bookstores entirely – including subsequent editions of omnibus collections. “I pulled it because in my judgement it might be hurting people, and that made it the responsible thing to do,” says King. Rage reflects the contemporary moment of modern America and King, over time, became uncomfortable with his work’s cultural impact and so removed it from the shelves. In this way, King is able to look back upon and redefine his own oeuvre over time.
King’s work not only interacts with his own oeuvre, but also with other works of contemporary fiction in the literary sphere. King’s place in literary culture and history is an interesting one, seeing him morph from a pulp writer into a respected elite literary figure. Partly this is due to the fact that those that grew up reading him “under the covers with a flashlight at summer camp,” are now editors, writers, and judges on awards panels. King has slowly been turning around his presence as a genre writer in the eyes of his peers, getting sick of being asked at dinner parties by the literati, “so when are you going to write something serious?” This is in part due to his attempts at serious fiction collections – such as the previously discussed Richard Bachman novels, or Different Seasons, but also more recent efforts that have tended towards literary – such as Lisey’s Story or Hearts in Atlantis.
The New Yorker, writing in 2014, states, “here’s an interesting fact about King: he’s not really, or exclusively, a horror writer.” And King was rewarded the respect of his peers and the industry in 2003 when he received a Medal for Distinguished Contribution to Letters from the National Book Association. There was much dissent over the giving of the award to King, and King himself has often and audibly rebelled against his most outspoken critics – in one novel, It, the main character is chastised for writing a horror story, when he storms out his class saying “Why does a story have to be socio-anything… Can’t you guys just let a story be a story?”. Kings mocks such literary criticism in his memoir,
Even if a writer rises in the estimation of an influential critic or two, he/she always carries his/her early reputation along, like a respectable married woman who was a wild child as a teenager… A good deal of literary criticism serves only to reinforce a caste system which is as old as the intellectual snobbery that nurtured it.”
Receiving an award from the National Book Association was a major moment in King’s career, especially among his peers and being placed among other works deemed “important” in the literary sphere. King himself saw it as an extremely positive omen, allowing him to rebel against the caste system that he believes literary criticism enforces.
Giving an award like this to a guy like me suggests that in the future things don’t have to be the way they’ve always been. Bridges can be built between the so-called popular fiction and the so-called literary fiction,” said King in his acceptance speech.
Here he identifies what makes his place among his peers so valuable, that he bridges the gap between the high literary elite and the popular authors, and, slowly, through a lifetime’s work, he is deconstructing that barrier. Meanwhile, respected critics like Harold Bloom were extremely outspoken at King’s award, calling King “an immensely inadequate writer on a sentence-by-sentence, paragraph-by-paragraph, book-by-book basis,” of which King says:
Bloom pissed me off because there are critics out there, and he’s one of them, who take their ignorance of popular as a badge of intellectual prowess… It was the assumption that if fiction was selling a lot of copies, it was bad. … That’s elitist. I don’t buy it.”
The argument rages on even now on either side of the literary sphere, but it’s undeniable that the role his novels play in gaining respect for other contemporary writers who may be dismissed as “rich hacks” such as Michael Crichton, John Grisham, or Tom Clancy is an important one. King’s placement in the literary sphere as a bridge between popular and literary works, and the acknowledgement of his contribution to American literature is “a step in the right direction,” and a major driving force behind much of his later works.
King’s influence as a brand, instead of just a writer, is a strong one. Many of his critics use this to influence their judgement of him as still being a pulp novelist, pointing out the many unsuccessful adaptations of his work as an example, or criticising that his writing pace – one or two books a year – must be evidence of lacking quality. While it’s true that schlocky or inadequate films or television series of King’s work serve to expose flaws in his storytelling and dilute the brand of his name, King sees it differently, preferring to sell the rights and allow the filmmakers to have their own interpretation of the story. He distances himself from both the successful and the unsuccessful adaptations:
The movies have never been a big deal to me,” says King, “The movies are the movies. They just make them. If they’re good, they’re terrific. If they’re not, they’re not.”
Stephen King’s work as a writer exerts a major cultural influence over the last forty years of literature. He demonstrates strong discipline and application to the way he approaches his writing, sticking to a schedule and forcing himself to write every day, thereby maintaining a prolific publication rate. His novels reflect parts of who he is, and through different eras represent him as a new writer dedicating tributes to the novels of his youth, to a cocaine and alcohol addict, to a recovering alcoholic and injured writer. His works also examine contemporary American society, absorbing and revealing a true realism underneath the supernatural forces in his works.
His work as a writer with respect to his own oeuvre is a dedicated one – he has sought to push himself out of the boundaries of a genre writer by operating under a pseudonym and publishing bold creative choices, while he also acknowledges the outside social influence of his novels and their interaction with culture, to the point of renouncing novels that he sees as dangerous. He also publicly decries the books he wrote while under the severe influence of drugs. King’s work interacts with the literary sphere as a bridge between elitist literary circles and popular genre fiction. It’s a battle he has not won, but he exerts a significant literary influence that is beginning to develop a grudging respect on both sides.
A lot of readers say they read to escape themselves, while this may be true for King’s avid fans, it is just as true of the author. King writes to set himself free. For King, the work writing of novels is not the challenging part of his job, “Not writing is the real work.”
For all references follow this link: https://writersedit.com/4750/authors/stephen-king-writers-voice/
Have you ever read a book, only to lose your place because you haven’t got a decent bookmark? Well, perhaps if you’d had one of these unique page markers, you’d be more inclined to continue your quest for knowledge or adventure.
A bleeding bookmark for a thriller? Perhaps a shark’s fin for a nautical tale? If knowledge does indeed sprout from the hallowed pages of a book, then perhaps a leaf bookmark would take your fancy?
Themed bookmarks that represent a motif from the story are a fantastic way to get get children to read. For example, the arrow from Robin Hood’s bow helps bring Sherwood Forest to life. Or imagine chasing the White Rabbit into Wonderland after being tantalised by his pink ears!
Here is a whole collection of creative bookmarks to brighten your day.
You’ve probably heard the phrase, ‘actions speak louder than words’, and the age-old writing advice, ‘show, don’t tell’.
These ideas are based on using the subtext of the writing (what’s implied but not actually said) to communicate ideas without shoving them in the reader’s face.
Describe a couple’s argument using only the act of making a cup of coffee or tea. You can’t use dialogue and you can’t openly say that the characters have been fighting.
This writing prompt forces you to think about the way in which actions can tell a larger story, and uses subtlety to enrich your writing.
Happy Sunday, and happy writing!
From myths, legends and fairy tales to folklore: again and again, these old tales reappear in modern fiction. But how do you use them in your novel?
Old tales aren’t copyrighted; what you can do with them is only bound by your own imagination. Not only are they a great source of inspiration, but they can add another layer of story for your reader to engage with.
Even their original form is still alive and well today. There is something fundamentally human in the sense of something dangerous about the woods, something magical and unexplainable just around the corner.
“Myths are not just for dry, dusty old anthropology professors to muse over in their ivory towers – they’re living stories which we continually reinvent for the times we live in.” – Lucy Coats
What has been the impact of these time-defying stories? Holly Black believes the stories have become central to our being, residing in our subconscious and defining how we see the world.
Do we even stop to think about the ridiculousness of the ‘kiss of life’, prevalent nowadays even in action movies? Fairy tales will forever be a part of who we are.
For Sjón, myths remind him of how small humans are. Poseidon, for example, could wipe us out with a tsunami whenever he wants. The less ‘happily-ever-after’ stories remind us of our mortality to protect and prolong life.
Whether thousands of years ago or in the twenty-first century, death is the ultimate enemy of humans and life is to be protected.
Sjón’s homeland of Iceland has many fascinating old tales of its own. Stories that particularly fascinate him are those where metamorphosis occurs: people turn into flowers, rivers or animals. What is stunning is humanity’s obsession with the idea, leading us to the modern age of genetic experiments.
With a fairy tale or two in mind, plus a little King Arthur to spice it up, how far do you go from the original story? Some believe sticking as close as possible to the most original form creates a true, pure story untainted by ulterior motives.
But while seeking the original tale for inspiration can give a lot of insight into the core of the story, there’s a lot more to be done.
Are you writing for young children, teenagers or adults? Are you writing a literary piece, or a genre one? Identifying your audience leads you to what parts of the old tale are relevant and interesting to them.
Do they want a modernised retelling, or a whole new story with aspects spliced in from old tale(s)? Would anything in the tale be unacceptable or confusing when read in a modern setting?
“All right I am corny, you know? But I think there are just about 140 million people in this country who are just as corny as I am, you know? I’m not a politician, I do it because I like it.” – Walt Disney
Kelly Link tries to imagine a world where Disney didn’t create the cartoons that changed fairy tales and how we view them. Would the original, written form be less or more popular than it is now?
While Disney altered several fairy tales, it was done to appeal to the audience and convey the desired message. This is no different from what any more recent rehashing of fairy tales does, and no different from the task in front of any writer picking up some old tales for their craft.
Old tales aren’t a complete novel in themselves; some are only a few pages long. Have a look at what is missing in the old story that modern fiction requires.
In Holly Black’s experiences, fairy tales and other old stories typically have plain, simple characters. Developing characters with backstory and motive naturally sparks off a whole new side of the story.
Another common gap in old tales is setting. Some have a vague indication, such as a castle or ‘deep in the woods’, but little indication of the surrounding culture. Building the setting can feed directly into and off your character’s motives.
For example, you might examine the political system in detail; what if wolves were the oppressed minority?
Some old tales have different versions across cultures and time. Searching for these can give great ideas of story elements you can move around and still be ‘true’ to some form of the original.
It’s also intriguing to discover which myths traverse countries, and how fairy tales adopt different nuances as they travel the globe.
“I did a lot of research, then chose the elements which were most vivid and which worked best in my voice. So I hope I’ve retold a story which you will recognise, but which will also surprise you.” – Lari Don
It’s also good to have a look at what is currently popular with fiction using old tales. In recent years, many retellings show the other side of a familiar story.
Another trend is to look into the history of the story itself: how it came about, who created it and who recorded it. Kate Forsyth’s latest novel The Wild Girl was inspired by the forbidden love of one the Grimm brothers. There’s no end to the inspiration held by these old tales!
Are you using a single story, or a collection of myths? This question is particularly relevant if you’re focusing on a mythological being, such as a vampire.
Is it the plot of one or a few tales that really captivates you, or is it the concept as a whole, built by several related but unconnected myths and legends? This will affect which elements you take from the old tales.
You’ll want to handle old tales differently depending on how familiar they are to your audience.
If you’re using a familiar one, it’s good to use more creative license and encourage your readers to see the old tale in a new, exciting way. If you’re using a relatively unfamiliar old tale, its unknown has great potential to add richness to your novel if you stay close enough to the original.
Generally speaking, familiar tales fall under Western mythology and old tales. Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, King Arthur, and Ancient Greek or Egyptian gods are just some of the stories you may play with in this way.
If you conduct a search for novels using familiar old tales, the first thing you’ll come across is modern retellings with a twist.
When people want simple nostalgia, they’ll likely read the original or sit down to a Disney movie. In picking up a novel, they’re looking for a little something more.
Even when you’re changing the old tale, its core woven through the story will resonate.
“The fairy tale is a lie that expresses the deepest of human truths: those of the psyche through the imagination.” – Joslyn Robinson
While it’s good to put a new twist on a familiar tale, readers will notice every time you change something. To an extent, it’s good to keep up their expectations.
Holly Black recommends plot points from old tales as being the most rich and relevant to the original. Sticking to the original’s plot points – metaphorically or literally – will help keep the magic and hint of nostalgia.
Holly Black’s favourite old tale to use is the collection of myths surrounding fairies. While vampires and werewolves are also favourites of hers, they were once human and bring with them a personality that is just a little too familiar. There is also an endless list of fairies, from pixies to brownies and trolls.
“Fairies are truly alien; they cry at weddings and laugh at funerals.” – Holly Black
Alternately, Kelly Link likes working with Greek gods and mythology because their characteristics are so human. The tales are full of family squabbles, misuse of power, jealousy, revenge – drama that’s much the same whether in the mortal or immortal world.
Maybe a sense of the familiar isn’t what you want to go for. You may want to write a Snow White who lives with seven ghouls instead of dwarves, or something completely bizarre and unheard of. Typically this type of story comes from Eastern, Middle Eastern, African, South American and Slavic cultures.
Researching different versions of old tales from other cultures, or completely unheard of ones, can help inspire an element of the bizarre in your novel.
Another advantage of using these lesser-known old tales is that it’s less likely to be compared to other versions. You can change what you like and not get pulled up on it; you can do a straight retelling and still be seen as presenting a fresh story.
“But when they read my retellings of the untrustworthy Korean tiger or the Witch of Lochlann or Inanna tricking the god of wisdom, they might never see that story anywhere else. My version will be the only version they know. And that’s a really heavy responsibility.” – Lari Don
You can use the whole story, or elements of it. But be careful that taking the old tale out of its original culture doesn’t create a story that can’t be understood. It’s important to research and understand the culture the story came from, but assume that your readers aren’t as familiar with that culture.
Kelly Link likes Japanese folklore, which she first came into contact with through Studio Ghibli films, directed by Hayao Miyazaki. My Neighbour Totoro (1988), Princess Monoko (1997), Spirited Away (2001) and Ponyo (2008) are just some of his films inspired by various aspects of Japanese culture and mythology, particularly their land gods and spirits or demons.
Sjón grew up with Icelandic mythology that, while familiar to him, is very unfamiliar to his Western audience. He shared a few bizarre Icelandic tales at the festival that are worth repeating.
Children are told tales of the Jólakötturinn – the Yule or Christmas Cat – that eats children who don’t receive a gift of clothing for Christmas. And there is the huldufólk – Hidden People or elves – whose existence has stopped several contraction plans to move or destroy the rocks they are believed to live in.
Myths, legends, fairy tales and folklore are a rich part of our storytelling culture and heritage. Bringing them into your modern work of fiction connects you to the fundamental truths that have survived the ages.
Whether taking inspiration from a familiar or unfamiliar tale, you can add a spark of magic to your own work.