9 July 2016

Interview with Clifford Jackman, Governor General's Award Finalist

Clifford Jackman
In 2015, Canadian author Clifford Jackman exploded onto the CanLit scene with his debut novel The Winter Family. If you'd like to hear my recent interview with Jackman, finalist for the 2015 Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction, it's available now -- full-length interview in iTunes.

I hope you enjoy this lively discussion between me and Clifford, recorded at The Bookshelf bookstore in Guelph, Ontario, in June 2016.

29 June 2016

Salon at the Writing Room

Gathered writers & guests at the Writing Room's
reading night in June 2016. The lectern shows the
logo of our sponsor, The Bookshelf bookstore.
For the last two years, The Writing Room at The Bookshelf has been open on Mondays from 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM. It's a quiet place to write among other writers of all types and levels. Just so you know, it really is quiet: silence is a rule, and no cellphones are allowed.

At the end of every session, the last 15 minutes are available to anyone who would like to discuss their writing with other writers. This critiquing/gab session is restricted to those interested in doing so; you don't have to participate, and most folks don't.

28 June 2016

A Post-Apocalyptic Western: Clifford Jackman on The Winter Family

Clifford Jackman.
Photo © Lindsay Cox,
When is a American western novel like a zombie movie? To author Clifford Jackman, the two genres overlap when they both depict people struggling to survive, physically and morally, in a post-apocalyptic world.

In Jackman's The Winter Family (shortlisted for the 2015 Governor General's Literary Award), the ending of the American Civil War has brought an apocalypse. The survivors struggle to survive among rampant lawlessness.

Reading about Soldiers and Sociopaths

The novel's action starts in 1864 Georgia, the war nearing its close, as a band of sociopathic outlaws forms from a handful of Yankee soldiers. This gang will eventually be called, and feared as, The Winter Family after its leader Augustus Winter.

20 June 2016

An Outliner's First-Novel Survival Tips

No single "magic" way exists to write fiction. As writing coach Elizabeth Lyon says, "There is no right way; there is only your way" (A Writer's Guide to Fiction, p. 11).

So, if you're a committed seat-of-your-pants novelist and don't outline, feel free to skip this post. Most of us, however, need some planning before we can write scenes, and outlining was a key activity in writing my first novel, The Two Row Scholar.

A fragment of The Two Row Scholar's outline. I placed colour-coded sticky notes where subplot scenes fit among the main plot's events. Note the scratched-out and modified scenes: it's a trial-and-error process.

From my fuzzy memories, what follows is my process in writing The Two Row Scholar. That book is nominally a mystery story, but it includes three subplots besides the mystery element.

11 March 2016

Bridging Historical and Contemporary Fiction (Guest Blog Post)

Historical fiction, like all genres, has fuzzier boundaries than publishers and bookstores would have you believe.

As I learned in writing my novel The Two Row scholar, some novels of contemporary life can have strong historical elements that influence character, setting, and plot. The challenges of this hybrid category form the topic of my essay: "Even contemporary fiction can have historical elements."

Thanks to M.K. Tod for the opportunity to write a guest post on her blog, A Writer of History: Inside Historical Fiction.

23 January 2016

Inspiration: Our Home on Native Land

This documentary video features interviews with people on both sides of the Grand River Land Dispute (AKA Caledonia), which began as a protest in February 2006 by some members of the Six Nations of the Grand River. Six Nations is an Indian reserve located about 100 km (60 miles) from Toronto, Ontario.

In researching my first novel, The Coyote River Killer, viewing Our Home on Native Land informed the development of characters on both sides of the dispute. I hasten to point out that neither of the two individuals in this video show up in any guise as characters in the novel. But their stories highlight the family discord and personal pain that some people experienced.

A SureHallLick Production, presented by Mohawk College. Produced by Megan Hall, Theo Scheurwater and Wymon Stanlick. (Standard YouTube Licence)

10 January 2016

Subtext II: Types of Subtext

My earlier post "Subtext I: In a Nutshell" detailed the four building materials of subtext: characterization, human "stuff," nature, and mood/atmosphere. Those are the raw materials for creating subtext.

But what about subtext itself: is it one "thing" or does it come in different varieties? Well, it comes in six types, as Elizabeth Lyon discusses in Writing Subtext.

If you can learn to identify, and use, each type of subtext, your fiction will carry heightened emotional depth and suspense.