Every day from now until Song Quest by Katherine Roberts is back in print and her new novel the Sword of Light is released, I'll be sharing with you a question posed by me and answered by Katherine. The most in depth answers ever offered by an author in bitesize daily doses. Enjoy! And my thanks to Katherine for taking part.
If you haven't read my review of Sword of Light, follow this LINK.
More information about the Song Quest Campaign can be found HERE.
You mentioned that the idea for Song Quest came as a what if scenario. Is that how you usually find an idea you want to explore further? You seem like you have lots of ideas, so how do you decide which ones to spend the time working on?
Finding ideas has never been a problem for me, and "what if" never fails to spark off a story! This can be quite a small thing, such as "what if I walk down the end of my road and meet a rabid dog?" or a bigger thing like "what if the polarity of the earth reverses tonight?" I keep a notebook where I scribble down the most persistent ideas in case I want to use them one day. I'll never have time to develop them all into stories, though, so the real problem for a writer is deciding which of their ideas might be worth developing further.
Books happen in several ways:
Passion: An idea will not go away, and I am really interested in the subject matter or feel a need to explore it further. I start writing in a blaze of passion, and out comes a story. "Song Quest" was written like this, since it was my first novel and I didn't have any idea what publishers wanted so I just wrote what inspired me most at the time. Once you get published, you never really regain that absolute freedom of the first novel, because you start worrying about what publishers want, and what sort of book might sell enough copies to pay the mortgage and so allow you to continue writing. "I am the Great Horse" is another example of a passionate book, and that one got written because I had a dream contract from Chicken House that simply said “new novel” - but I think that level of author freedom is (sadly) rare these days.
Market: Some ideas are obviously more marketable than others. I am constantly coming up with outlines for series and developing characters and plots, only to find that once I start writing, everything goes dead on me! The trick is finding something marketable that also feels worth a year or more of my life, and sometimes I cannot tell that until I have written at least part of the book. Many of these ideas fizzle out after a few weeks' work and are stored away in various files awaiting a spark of inspiration that might bring them to life. I think the main problem with aiming for the market is that the most obvious ideas have already been used up and wrung dry. Also, fashions change. An initial idea might take years to develop into a book/series and reach the shelves, and by that time the bandwagon you were aiming to hitch a ride on will probably be vanishing over the horizon…
Work for hire: Sometimes a publisher will come up with an idea and need a writer to write the "book words". There are different levels of this, from projects where the publisher (or a third party such as Working Partners) provides a detailed storyline and the writer just joins the dots, to other projects where the writer is expected to plot and develop the characters working from the publisher's brief. Since it removes the most joyful part of the process for me, this is the kind of thing I will only take on when the bailiffs are at the door. So far I have done one: "Magical Horses" (for Carlton).
Writing any kind of book is hard work, so it's important to have something driving you quite hard in order to finish it – whether this is passion, some sort of challenge, money, or a fan with a sledgehammer threatening to break your ankles!Katherine Roberts
Thank you Katherine. I found that such an interesting insight into the reasons you might write a story beyond your own passion for an idea. But I can see that writing about something that has a really personal meaning for you would be more inspiring.
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Rhianna Pendragon, heroine of Sword of Light, is on Twitter. Follow her here: www.twitter.com/PendragonGirl
Tomorrow, Question 6!