by Don Templeton
Welcome to Step Two in the Blue Falcon Press plot planning process.
What I’m about to reveal here is something professional screenwriter’s already know backwards and forwards. This diagram was originally brought to the world by the late, great Syd Field. Now here is something novelists need to internalize: this schematic works Jim Dandy as a template for your novel as well as a screenplay. I’ve written EVERY novel of mine using the Paradigm above to map out the major movements and turning points in my plots. EVERY. ONE. This diagram keeps you on target, keeps you focused, and keeps you from writing crap that has no business being in your story.
The first thing to do in figuring out your paradigm is write a sentence which describes how the story is going to END. Then do the same thing for the BEGINNING. In my novels, the beginning is always the INCITING INCIDENT. It is the event that starts all the other story dominoes falling. In Pretty Hate Machine, this is the Sadie Hawkins attack on her school. Next, decide what PP1, PP2, and MP are. Let me explain what a Plot Point is. A plot point is defined as any incident, episode or event that “hooks” into the action and spins it around into another direction. (from Syd Field’s SCREENWRITER’S WORKBOOK) Now notice where your plot points fall: at the end of Act One and at the end of Act Two.
The Mid Point is some kind of incident, episode, or event that occurs in the middle of ACT 2 and breaks ACT 2 into two halves of dramatic action. Act 2 becomes two halves joined together by the Mid-Point. The first half of Act Two now has a target you know – the Mid-Point.. The second half of Act 2 has another target to write towards, everything that happens after the Mid-Point and concludes with Plot Point 2.
Let’s illustrate how this works by examining the Peter Jackson remake of King Kong. I’m not using Pretty Hate Machine to illustrate this because it will ruin the wonderful surprise for readers of the book. I’m not going to spoil that surprise for you. In King Kong, Act 1 ends with Plot Point 1 which in this case is when the expedition reaches Skull Island. The Mid-Point of the story is when King Kong shows up for the first time, taking the girl into the jungle with him. So, the first half of Act 2 shows all the incidents that take place exploring the Island. The second half of Act 2 details the girl’s relationship with Kong and her shipmates attempts to find her and rescue her. Plot Point 2 is when Kong is captured and the ship leaves for New York. See how that works? It makes Act 2 absolutely manageable now. No reason to fear Act 2 anymore.
Let’s discuss briefly the purpose each act serves. Act 1 is known as the Set-Up. It shows your character’s in their normal world before the real meat of the tale kicks in. Plot Point 1 is really where the steam of the story picks up and spins us into The Confrontation which occupies the entire length of Act 2. Act 2 is where you put your heroes in a tree and throw rocks at them. Act 2 ends with Plot Point 2 which spins the story around into another direction, which is the straight down nose dive into the Resolution or Act 3. This is where your heroes regain the initiative and turn the tables on the opposition, smacking them down smartly. Or if you’re into tragedies and such, this is where the heroes are defeated by the opposition. I don’t like those kind of endings so I don’t use them. I believe the good guys will always best the bad guys. That’s how I roll.
Next, impose the length restrictions of the screenplay on your novel. In a screenplay, Act 1 is one-forth the length of your script. For a 90 minute show, that’s roughly 22 and a half pages. Act 2 is half the length of the script or 45 pages. Act 3 is the same length as Act 1. In a novel, you do this by dividing your word count by 4. GREEN MAJIK novels are 100,000 words in length. So Act 1 and 3 are roughly 25,000 words in length; Act 2 is 50,000 words, which is divided into two chunks of 25K by the Mid-Point. Simple Simon.
Here’s your homework assignment. 1st, get Syd Field’s book The Screenwriter’s Workbook. It’ll be the best $16 you’ll ever spend. Next, read Pretty Hate Machine and tell me what Plot Point 1 and 2 are and what the Mid-Point is. Email your answers to email@example.com. Once you know what you are looking at, these events are easy to spot.
Next, we will talk about planning the most important part of your novel: your characters. See you there.
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Uncle Stubby Gets Married takes the idea of simple squirrels and marriage and melds them together into a fantastic story of kindness and cheer. What was the inspiration that made you want to write a kids book about this subject?
First – wild squirrels. We have them in our backyard and the neighbors do as well. They are truly wild but they also come up to eat nuts and seeds my husband puts out for them, as well as the water. We watch their funny antics and many have names such Stubby due to his short tail, Sparkles because she is a juvie squirrel with a radiant white tummy, Foxy – well she is a mama squirrel and has had litters in two years. Cutter has a tear in his ear, Nibbler has a small tear and a hole in his ear, and so on. Shadow is our daughter’s small dog and one day we thought the squirrels and Shadow would make for a good children’s book. Shadow and the squirrels had just spent Christmas in New York City and Central Park when the idea of Uncle Stubby Gets Married hit us. We love to teach kindness with all the animals in our books, and to have them be friends no matter what the animals were like in the real world. We also figured it was high time Uncle Stubby got married.
What were some themes that you felt were important to highlight in this story?
Friendship and kindness are very important and those elements are always added in our children’s book. We teach safety and learning about animals in our books, and we like to have everything colorful and eye catching. Having the animals work together in the wedding illustrates how children can work together in the real world, also.
I felt that the art in the book was well conceived. How did you decide on which images and themes to use?
Theme wise we knew if the wedding was held in a magical fairy forest, that no animal could even remotely get hurt, or preyed upon by hawks and other predators. In keeping with a magical theme it was only proper to use magical animal characters and a magical forest as the setting.
Uncle Stubby Gets Married is book 5 in the Shadow and Friends Series. What is the next book in the series and when will it be available?
Book 6 is a work in progress, and the title is Shadow and Friends Circus Adventures. Not only will the squirrels, Shadow, and her boyfriend, Max, be a part of the circus; plans include many different animals and the the acts will also be done in a magical theme. We are planning on releasing in early May, 2017. We also have book 7 as a work in progress and Shadow and her friends will help the town of Ellsworth, Kansas, celebrate it’s 150th birthday August 2017. This will be a fun book, too, with all the old west built in, and it should be available early to mid July, 2017.
“In this children’s picture book, and sixth book in our ‘Shadow and Friends Series’, Uncle Stubby Gets Married, a fox squirrel named Uncle Stubby has fallen in love with a girl squirrel named Sparkles. Squirrel family and friends, including a small dog named Shadow, and her boyfriend, Max, are invited to attend the wedding in a special Valentine Fairy Forest. Uncle Stubby thinks Sparkles is the most beautiful girl squirrel in the land. Uncle Stubby’s twin, Shorty, flies in from New York City with his family, and Shorty is best man for his brother. Foxy is matron of honor for Sparkles. The Valentine Fairy Forest is truly a magical land, the illustrations show how this dream forest looks, and all the animals are safe in this forest both day and night. Along the way, we meet mouse fairies, and Minister Mouse conducts the wedding. Sparkles’ wears a crown, and Uncle Stubby is dressed in a cummerbund. Various other animals are present, including one unicorn, and the bride and groom spend their wedding night in Walnut Forest, a special part of the Valentine Fairy Forest. Children will love seeing how magical the forest is, with abundant sparkles thrown in for good measure. This delightful and funny book for children, targeted at ages 4-11, is easy to read and perfect for home or classroom. This story illustrates how beautiful the Valentine Fairy Forest looks, produces pure imagination in children, and the illustrations will fascinate children and adults.”
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The Leader of Lors is a genre-crossing novel with elements of fantasy, romance, and suspense as well. Did you start writing with this in mind, or did this happen organically as you were writing?
It carries on in the same vein as The Heart of Hannen as an erotic fantasy romance. Other elements – horror, suspense, adventure and mystery – just fell into place as the story progressed.
The supporting characters in this novel, I felt, were intriguing and well developed. Who was your favorite character to write for?
I would have to say Eubreena. She’s fiercely protective of Christine, mainly because she feels responsible for maiming and nearly killing her, unwitting though it may have been. Her heart is kind and her friendship true.
What was the initial idea behind this story and how did that transform as you were writing the novel?
The Atriian Trilogy actually began as a horror short-story called Thing in the Pond. It was originally about an earthquake that opens up an underwater cavern in the family pond, releasing a monster from another dimension. Instead of this creature wreaking havoc on Earth, I decided to let Christine follow it back through the caverns. And thus the Atriian Trilogy was born.
How do you feel you’ve developed as a writer between The Heart of Hannen and this book?
I believe my growth as a writer between the first and second book of this series was quite remarkable. For the first book, time restrictions only allotted an hour here and there for writing, a method not very conducive to good storytelling. By the time I sat down and got my head into the story and wrote a few sentences, it was time to call it a night. I was able to dedicate more time to the second novel, between five and six hours a day. Needless to say, the writing began to come much more easily, seeming to flow naturally, and the results were amazing. For the third book, I doubled down, writing between eight and ten hours a day, and did it ever pay off. By the end, I merely had to place my fingers on the keyboard and the story practically wrote itself.
What is the next book that you’re working on and when will it be available?
My next project will be an erotic paranormal romance based on another short-story from my horror collection Thing Bailiwick. A bodark is a creature of Russian lore, a man capable of shifting into a wolf. Though they are not bound to the cycles of the moon. They can transform at will, and whilst in wolf form they not only possess the enhanced senses and abilities of the wolf, they are able to maintain human awareness and intelligence. Except for when the time comes to mate, an event which occurs but once in their lifetime. Then all must beware the bodark, lest his senses become overpowered by the feral instincts of the beast lurking within.
Projected release date – Jan 2019.
“How far will a mother go to protect her child?
Christine will go to beyond the ends of the Earth,
back to the brutal world of Atriia,
back to the man who will possess
her at any cost.
He is Lor Zeria,
the very Leader of Lors,
revered and respected by all,
yet feared by Christine as no other.
This is a tale of fantasy and bravery,
of adventure and horror,
of passion and obsession,
of survival and betrayal.
And for Christine Clavin . . .
it is her own harrowing tale
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The Husband Who Refused to Die follows Carrie as she deals with the loss of her husband and his decision to be cryogenically frozen. The novel is a thoughtful review of grief, love and family. What was the inspiration for this story?
The idea came to me after reading an article in a women’s magazine a few years ago about a young couple, in their 20s, who’d both signed up to have their bodies frozen when they die.
They’d paid a large sum of money to be cryonically preserved, in the hope they can be revived and come back to life at a later date – when science has moved on.
I was intrigued by their story and the motivations and implications of such a radical – and unusual – choice. I’d been searching for an original premise for my debut novel, and I knew this was it.
I’m often drawn to stories in which the extraordinary happens in ordinary lives, and relished the prospect of learning about something outside my own – and most other people’s – experience, yet, at the same time, exploring grief, an emotion that we all face at some point.
I discovered that several hundred people are signed up to be preserved after death and was very excited to learn that, although cryonics has been given the sci-fi treatment in books and films, it’s never been the hook in realistic, contemporary women’s fiction. Dare I say it’s a first?!
My head was spinning with ‘what ifs’ when it came to contemplating cryonics: What if someone I loved passed away and wanted to be frozen? What if there was no funeral? What if I felt I couldn’t grieve in the normal way? What if I thought it was creepy and confusing? What if I couldn’t find closure?
It’s these questions that led me to create Carrie and Dan’s story.
On top of her current troubles, Carrie must also try to deal with her ornery teenager. I felt that their relationship had depth that is rarely seen in novels. How did you approach writing about their relationship and what did you want to accomplish with it?
I have a son who was a similar age to Carrie’s daughter, Eleanor, at the time I was writing the first draft, as well as many friends with teenage children. So my starting point was my own experience and observations of life with a young person going through this turbulent time. I then tried to imagine the extra strain and pressure the mum and daughter relationship would be put under when faced with the difficult and distressing situation Carrie and Eleanor find themselves in.
What kind of research did you do on cryonics for this novel and do you see it as a viable option today for people?
After some initial research on the internet and in the media, I interviewed several people who have signed up to be cryonically preserved to gain a deeper understanding and some first-hand insights.
I was particularly fascinated to hear about how others had responded to their decisions: family, friends, strangers, and the media. It’s an emotive topic and some have endured a lot of negativity.
I also attended a weekend training course with Cryonics UK, a group of volunteers who carry out emergency procedures to prepare bodies for preservation in the UK before they are shipped out to one of the storage facilities in American or Russia.
There’s a lot of controversy surrounding cryonics, particularly here in the UK following the recent heartbreaking case of the terminally ill teenager who had to fight in the High Court for her wish to be frozen after death to be granted.
Many experts believe there’s little or no chance of bringing a frozen corpse back to life, now or in the foreseeable future, but cryonicists would argue that things declared scientifically impossible a few decades ago, like IVF and organ transplants, are now possible, so it’s worth a punt. Either way, I believe that it’s a personal choice.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be published?
I’m working on another contemporary women’s fiction novel, which I hope will be published next year.
“Carrie’s no ordinary widow. Husband Dan has died unexpectedly and left behind an extraordinary wish – to be frozen. He believes his life’s simply been ‘suspended’, that he can come back … one day … when science has moved on. He’d hoped his wife would want to do the same. But she doesn’t.
Two years on and Carrie, mum to increasingly truculent teenage daughter Eleanor, tentatively reconnects with an old boyfriend, whose dramatic exit from her life has always been a painful mystery. But their romance is hampered by Carrie’s never-ending personal problems, not least her interfering sister-in-law Sunny, a reflexologist with a soft voice, loud clothes and a bag full of natural remedies. Sunny’s intent on keeping her brother’s memory alive and ensuring Carrie honours his request.
After Dan’s story is resurrected in the news headlines, some distressing secrets from the past are revealed, and Carrie is taunted by someone with a serious grudge.
But are the secrets true? Will she discover who’s behind the malicious acts – and why?
Told with warmth and wit, The Husband Who Refused to Die is a pacy novel with an original premise that casts an unusual light on a story about love, loss, family and friendship.”
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In The Big Cheese Festival, we meet Stubby Mouse who is being bullied by because his tail is short. Why was bullying an issue you wanted to tackle in this kids book?
I see bullying all the time and it just makes no sense to bully another child, or adult for that matter. This is a serious problem that needs to be addressed in childhood. Cyber bullies come into play and one reads about another child taking their own life due to being bullied. If I can help children be a little kinder to one another then this book was worth writing. Kindness breeds kindness. Bullying must stop. Children need to take a stand against bullying and their families must do the same, as do the educators in our system. It is bad when ones parent actually cyber bullies another child and that child ends up taking their own life. Parents need to be held accountable.
Do you think children struggle with confirmation of their self worth? How do you think kids seek that out?
Of course they struggle. Self worth and self esteem are huge issues as a child grows up and I, for one, still have self esteem issues at my age (56). Not all children grown up in a loving or supporting home. As a mother, and as a registered nurse, I have seen the dark side of life and it is ugly. Many things are preventable, and if parents aren’t willing to step in and assist in a positive manner then educators need to step in. Kids seek confirmation in many ways and most are a sacrifice, that is, some seek out sex to feel worthy, or eating disorders to help with body image issues they perceive as having or have at that moment/time span in time. Others over medicate and some over dose, others try their hardest to please their parent/parents/adult care provider, etc. and many don’t measure up or they simply give up. They lose hope, and we all need to have hope. Society in general needs top help foster self worth in troubled kids and teens.
There are lots of wonderful images in this story. What was your favorite image to use and write for?
Stubby Mouse is my favorite. The idea for him came about from one of our backyard squirrels who only has half a tail, and partly crippled due to meeting up with a vehicle and living afterward. We named him Stubby (his tail) and he has a different scamper than the other squirrels but he is determined. Stubby is just as wild as all the squirrels are and he loves to play chase. From one little stubby tailed crippled squirrel a book was born. I purposely presented all of the characters to dress the same, and for the girls to have different hairstyles. Stubby is the only one who is different and I knew that his short tail would be noticed by keeping the other characters similar. This worked quite well. Stubby is favorite for the preschoolers and kindergarten kids as well as first graders. The kids latched onto Stubby and they all defended him. Once the kids settle back down after a reading and discussion, then I will point out various differences in the kids in front of me such as hair color, etc. and I explain our uniqueness to all, and how that makes us special.
What are some themes of future books that you would like to write about?
I have many yet my time is limited due to health. I will say that we put out a book last year that speaks about molestation/sex abuse. It’s titled “Suzy Has A Secret” and it includes an adult/educators part in the back of the story. I used characters that do wear different colored clothes but facial expressions are the same. My mantra here is good touch/bad touch and children are innocent/predators are not.
“In The Big Cheese Festival, we meet Stubby Mouse and his family and friends. We learn that Stubby Mouse has a secret, that he is being bullied by another mouse, simply because his tail is short. Read how Stubby Mouse stood up for himself, and how he ended the bullying, in this delightful story for children. Targeted at ages 4-8, the book is easy to read and perfect for home or classroom. Children learn how bad bullying is, and what they can do to help stop bullies! Stubby Mouse encourages children to take a stand against bullies, and always be kind to each other. This story illustrates how everyone is different and unique, and it is a delightful read with cute illustrations for both children and adults. Take a stand against bullying today!”
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West bEgg follows four characters and their bosses who are part of the powerful elite class of society. This is an intriguing setup to a novel that is high in social commentary. What was your goal when writing this novel?
West bEgg is a novel that came to life in pieces over the last decade when four very different friends in distant corners of the world related to me stories and complaints from their bosses which seemed farcical, as if reality had really outdone itself. At the time I only listened and laughed in disbelief, although I was also saddened that my friends, all of whom have thankfully moved on since then, rarely felt they could do much about their situation. Some time later, I read an article in The Economist suggesting that the current power elites are more talented, harder working and better educated (though in fairness it said ‘better schooled’) than in the past and it made me think back to and connect my friends’ tales together, only because I realised they told of a moment in time they had lived through in their careers that was especial, of a world particular in its madness and definitely worth recording (fictionalised of course!) to confront mankind with it.
What were some themes that you felt were important to highlight in this story?
I’ve always been astounded by how power influences people, how quickly they grow with it into strange eccentric beings, as well as how they rush to bow to it surrendering their own identities.
I loved the stark contrast between the characters and their bosses. What were the morals you were trying to capture while creating your characters?
On the side of the powerful I wanted to explore how they become increasingly distanced from reality, as well as the relationship between power and sex. On the side of the victims, I needed to dwell on the usual monsters: standing up for oneself, remaining aware of what has real value, fighting fear, loneliness and humiliation and keeping a dream.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
‘After an accident leaves her in a coma, he sits on a hospital chair day-in day-out singing to her. Nobody can pull him away from her as she threads through the dreams that could save her. Meanwhile, a delusional nurse grows her admiration for him into obsessive desire.’ ROOM 11 is a dual narrative by strong, cynical, broken heroines (a nurse and her patient) winding through tenderness, passion, sacrifice, rage, guilt and eventually forgiveness, to help them re-emerge from their separate tragedies. It will be available March 10.
“Luca is a punch bag, a tea towel, a toilet bowl, to Macco One, the undeniable and unbreakable King of Egg Power, proud of averaging over a hundred flights a year to visit chicken markets around the world. Anna moved to Catania to work for Madame Sicily fulfilling varied tasks from picking up Céline swimwear before it hits the runways, to recovering badly parked Lamborghinis. La Revolução dreams through buildings but builds parking spaces, when she is not helping launder money for her boss’s dad’s dodgy charities. And finally Carolina is out to conspire with Paquita who met her boss, the German, in a red lit booth, to understand why the man has to drain the passion out of everything. Their fates will collide at the preposterous Fanta party, but the question is whether their bosses will get what they deserve?
West bEgg is a novel about the behaviour of the power elite who are often still arrogant and uneducated, ridiculously flamboyant, obscene, sex-obsessed, full of entitlement, afraid of rejection and unfortunately indestructible.”
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Goo of the Gods centers around the life of teen prodigy Jonah and his traumatic past involving suspicious accidents and missing people. This is a genre-crossing novel with elements of a science fiction, horror, and fantasy as well. Did you start writing with this in mind, or did this happen organically as you were writing?
A little of both. I’m a nurse whose also worked in the manufacturing and customer service industries while I was in college, so science, horror, and fantasy will continue to blend in my writing. Missing people, accidents, these are things that I’ve witnessed, so I knew what elements I had to have in the book. I began with a timeline, but, like life, the timeline continually grew as my characters took on lives of their own. Although, I should mention that not everything came from my own personal experiences. Changes to the timeline and character encounters were drastic when I chose to use my teenagers living at home as a resource.
Jonahs friends in science club form a group called Sci-6. I felt the supporting characters were well developed and intriguing. Who was your favorite character to write for?
I love all of my characters, including the creepy evil ones. I chose a male protagonist over a female one because I love writing about villainous women. Turning them into demons and putting them up against a wiz kid was a bonus, but, ultimately, that wiz kid has my heart. Jonah has a horrible past because, in truth, he has horrible parents whom he just can’t avoid even when they are missing from his life. His identity is important to him, but he’s still trying to figure out who he is. As he’s growing up, he has to learn to find confidence in the presence of self doubt and what’s expected of him. Most teens, I believe would relate to the struggle of figuring out what you want versus what others want of you.
Sci-6 embark on a mission to conduct risky experiments in order to uncover the truth and defeat demons. This sets up the novel to deliver some very entertaining scenes. What was the funnest thing about writing this novel?
I think you said it! Some of the scenes are definitely “risky.” There is some genuine physical and medical science I used to formulate speculative fiction. The most fun was throwing the teenagers into these crazy experiments and seeing how they’d manage to get through it. I love the bickering and arguing when you have no clue what to do-that’s the most fun.
This book is part of the Rising Saints High series. When will the next book be available and where will that take the characters?
Blade of the Crones is the second installment of the RSH series and will be available at the end of 2017. Raz, Jonah’s ex-girlfriend mentioned briefly in Book 1, will make an appearance causing more teen drama. But Sci-6 has a job to do. One of their own needs rescuing, so they’re going to have to put their heads together and formulate a rescue plan. I also have a companion novella coming out next month in March, entitled Hella. Same school with a separate cast of characters in a plot involving time travel and a few friendly visitors from Book 1.
Memories of madness torment him…
And a voice, trapped in sixteen-year-old Jonah’s head, will reveal something not of this world…
Teen science prodigy, Jonah, doesn’t know if he’s seeing ghosts or if he’s inherited a mental illness. Either way, he wants the voice out. He wants to free the speaker from his mind and put her into flesh of her own. But he’s going to need more than his father’s old laboratory to do it. He’s going to need the help of his ingenious new friends.
CRASH! BOOM! KAPOW! There’s a new breed of superheroes at Rising Saints High and they’re not your typical teenagers. They’re nerds, but dark creatures are lurking among them—waiting to exploit the innovative young team for their collective intelligence.
In this action adventure, geeks will battle gods to piece together mysteries of science. But beware—Jonah and his friends will soon discover that science cannot always explain everything and that somethings are better left unknown.”
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I think The Sightseers Agency is the best book of the Dreadnought Collective, and you did a great job of balancing the characters, conflict, and plot. Knowing that this was the last book in the series what was one thing you wanted to accomplish before the end of the series?
Loose ends to be tied up, conclusively.
The recurring characters are so unique, each with their own set of skills, flaws, and quirks, that it’s a delight to follow them from one adventure to another. What was one character you felt went through the biggest change throughout the series?
The Inlooker, posing as Claude Broadbent.
The Sightseers Agency ties up a lot of loose ends, answers questions, and ends on a hopeful note. Did you always have an idea of how the series would end or did it present itself as you were writing this last book?
It makes me feel uneasy to admit that this is the last book in the Dreadnought collective series, but you’ve put me on the spot! Yes, it makes sense to treat it as such, with infills later, like Bernard Cornwall did with the Sharpe’s series. I always aim to write with previous knowledge of the ending, but cannot claim to stick with it as the story evolves.
What is the next book that you’re writing? Are you working on another series?
The next book is the start of another Sci-Fi series. It involves new technology based on true inventions in the past. It also speculates on what alien contact could be like, when we reduce our population level. It will be a ‘vehicle’ for humor, to lighten the underlying message passed to readers.
Both his fledgling agency and that of The Deaduction Agency are members of The Dreadnought Collective.
The term ‘Dreadnought’ is based on a type of battleship introduced in the early 20th century, larger and faster than ever before and equipped entirely with large-caliber guns.
It applies in this instance because the cerebrally talented agents who enter its portals are expected to fear nobody and be scared by nothing in the performance of their duties.
They pursue those who indulge in criminal and seditious activities in the modern meritocracy using unorthodox techniques.
The Collective will embrace several types of Black Arts as it grows and faces unusual challenges. These once belonged to the realms of Science Fiction but are fast becoming a reality in the emerging new world.
This is a series of Whodunits set in the future.”
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The Chimaera Regiment follows Hector as he sets off on a world altering journey. What was the initial idea behind this story and how did that transform as you were writing the novel?
The first idea that I incorporated into this story, or what eventually became this story, was the question, “What if someone compelled a worldwide society, perhaps not far into our future, back to a level of technology and culture comparable to the very first tribal communities?” Of course, by the time I wrote the book, I had decided to aim for something closer to the late Bronze or early Iron Age than the Stone Age, and the whole question became part of the world-building rather than a story I tell during the book.
The character of Hector started to develop as I began to catalogue ideas and lay out a basic plan of the plot. Up to that point, I had never completed anything longer than a short story (in spite of my best efforts), so I wanted to make it as easy as possible for myself to get all the way through a novel. To that end, I took that advice so frequently bandied about, “Write what you know,” and decided to make the hero someone a little younger than I was at the time.
The first draft of the novel was quite a bit shorter than it is now, and it ended up collecting dust in a box for a few years. (I prefer to write first drafts by hand.) Around the time a movie was released with, by total coincidence, my working title, I decided to go back to it and see what I could make of it. By that point, I had gotten a college degree and learned enough to know that the first draft had a good core, but the implementation was all wrong. Over the next couple of years, I went through the entire book and rewrote it, this time trying to make sure all the pieces aligned. It was at this point that I incorporated mythology into the story and titled it The Chimaera Regiment.
That initial idea is still in there, and you can see the edges of it as the backstory develops through this book, but I’m going to explore that question more closely in future books.
I think the story has roots in mythology. Do you read books from that genre? What were some books that you think influenced The Chimaera Regiment?
It does, and I do. My bachelor’s degree is focused on the Classics, which some may have heard called Classical Studies or (my favorite) Classical Philology, so I learned Latin and ancient Greek and I read a lot of Greco-Roman mythology, both in English and in the original languages. (My knowledge of Norse mythology is pretty limited, I’ve barely touched Egyptian mythology, and I’m as clueless as the next guy when it comes to anything else.)
For The Chimaera Regiment in particular, I looked to a lot of different sources for inspiration. What I wanted, perhaps most of all, was to craft a story that people would enjoy regardless of their educational background, but I also wanted to include a lot of “Easter eggs” for people with the same knowledge-base I have. So on the surface you have Hector on his quest to save the world from the Chimaera Regiment, and underneath that, I’m incorporating themes and plotlines from the myth of Bellerophon. Bellerophon, of course, was the hero that killed the Chimaera in the Greek mythos. Most of that particular tale comes to us from the writings of Apollodorus and one section of Homer’s Iliad, but there are a lot of minor references in other works, too.
While the myth of Bellerophon and the Chimaera is interwoven with the main plot, I also included references to other myths, both significant and minor, throughout. The vast majority of those can be found in Homer (either the Iliad or the Odyssey), Vergil (the Aeneid), or Ovid (the Metamorphoses), but to be honest, I enjoyed the process of hiding those references so much that I’m not completely sure I could tell you all of them at this point!
I found the characters in this story to be complex and engaging. What were the driving ideals that drove the characters development throughout the story?
Especially when it came to Hector, whom we follow more closely than anyone else, I wanted something realistic. I find a lot of “coming of age” hero stories jump too quickly from “callow youth” to “great warrior” without much reason for it. I didn’t want my readers to ask, “Wait, why can he do that? How come he’s not daunted by this fight or fazed by this tragedy? When did he have time to learn strategy?” Incorporating that development was important to me.
When it came to the other characters, it was a matter of establishing ideals for each of them—how they saw the world, how they expected life to go—and then challenging those ideals with reality. Sometimes reality is better than they thought, but usually, it’s worse; either way, they have to adjust to deal with that. It’s a process not altogether different from the way we deal with change in our own lives.
I find a problem in a well written stories in that I always want there to be another book to keep the story going. Is there a second book planned?
There is a second book planned (and, very roughly, a third). The sequel is titled The Aegipan Revolution and picks up, not where the main story of The Chimaera Regiment leaves off, but rather where our epilogue leaves off, with the child learning this epic tale from his history.
I’m in the midst of writing The Aegipan Revolution, and I’ve passed the halfway point, but there is still a lot left to tell. After that, I’ll need to edit it thoroughly (though hopefully not as slowly as the first book!). On top of that, my day job has me incredibly busy these days. So I’d love to set a date for the next book’s release, but I can’t realistically estimate that right now.
It is late autumn in the 2040th year of the Sixth Era. For centuries, peace has reigned among the tribes of men, but as an early chill descends on the land, a new war looms from the south. Lord Derek, ruler of the Chimaera Regiment, seeks to reestablish the ancient Fylscem Empire under his banner, and he will stop at nothing to restore the dominion of his bloodline.
Before him lies the idyllic Valley of Kyros, home of the Alkimites, where the last direct heir of the old empire lives in ignorance. Guided by the ancient Guardian Lord Aneirin, Hector son of Abram must travel to the primeval capital of his heritage. There, in the Library of the Ancients, he must retrieve the three Blessed Blades of the Emperor, symbols of his authority. Agents of the Chimaera Regiment pursue him, and barbaric tribes stand in his way, but his path may unlock the secrets of the past, and it could bring light—or darkness—to the future.
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Coffin Dodgers takes place on a pre-historic world where thrill seeking competitors fight to be the last man standing. What was the inspiration for the Survivathon the characters must survive?
The story as a whole sprung from a nightmare I had where I was trapped amongst rapids with a bunch of other people, and we were being stalked by predatory dinosaurs – a bit like Jurassic Park! The dream was so vivid that I plotted out a simple outline immediately. As with many of my stories, I weave in a lot of ideas from books, films and experiences in life. I’m fascinated by people who drive themselves to the limits and it seems like extreme sports are springing up left, right and centre. The sports in the story, such as wing-suiting and volcano boarding actually exist and the dangers are very real. Recently, I was reading that two experienced wing suiters died in the US after attempting a risky drop. I imagined a future where this Type T mentality is extrapolated even further. Wouldn’t earth’s challenges seem a bit tame by the year 3154? The rest of the story basically wrote itself and incorporated the horror element of two contestants going rogue and using the whole event as a hunt to satisfy their psychotic desires.
This competition takes place on a dangerous planet called Atrocitas. Where the plants and animals are just as eager to kill as the competitors. What drove the development of this planet and how did that change as you were writing?
I’m a zoologist by training so I have always been fascinated by the living world. One fact I wasn’t aware of until a few years ago, was that at the time of the dinosaurs, grass and other cereal plants had not evolved. Much of the world was covered in more primitive plants such as cycads and ferns. So I researched the Cretaceous period to try and lend some authenticity to the flora and fauna. It was fun inventing the challenges for the ‘Coffin Dodgers’, from the peak known as the ‘Tooth’ to the white water rapids of the ‘Angelwater.’ The setting, the characters and the nature of the challenges worked together to produce what I hope is a fast-paced story.
The contestants range in gender, nationality, and skill-set. They can either work together to survive, or split up to try to win the whole bounty. What were some of the emotional and moral guidelines you followed when creating your characters?
I wanted to stretch myself and write a female lead character, together with a multi-cultural cast that might reflect a more homogenised society in the future (although recent world events seem to show that this is a long way off yet.) The T-type or ‘Coffin Dodger’ mentality is very different from your average person in the street. They crave and live for that adrenaline rush, the dopamine infusion that comes from confronting death full in the face. Such an extremely competitive spirit can, of course, lead to selfishness as everything else is given second place to being the best of the best. This tension is explored in the relationship between two of the main characters, Wade and Eden. They are from the same mould and are engaged to be married, so they think they understand each other’s life goals and motivations and accept them. However, the circumstances they find themselves in challenge this assumption. What is more important, relationships with your fellow men or the prize of knowing you are the number one multi-athlete in the world? Other characters are conflicted in terms of their desire to survive. Are they likely to increase their chances if they go it alone, or is it better to work together as a team? I think it’s fair to say that none of the characters are completely black and white in terms of their morality, and all of them are changed by the terrors they face on Atrocitas.
What is the next book that you’re writing and when will it be published?
I’m already half way through writing the sequel to my first dark fantasy novel. It’s the second book in the Psychonaut trilogy and will be called ‘Demon-Slayer’. This should be out in the late Summer. In the meantime I’m committed to getting my previous books, including Coffin Dodgers out on audio. I narrate my own books as well as produce for other authors and have a profile on Audible/ACX. So I’ve got a lot to keep me busy in the next six months!
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