Tag Archives: Stephen King

Member Spotlight: Meet Writer Aira Philipps

Posted by December 16th, 2013

Aira_Philipps_finalJoin us in welcoming writer Aira Philipps to the member spotlight this Monday! Aira is a recent Book Country convert who writes YA, loves Stephen King, and is the mother of three boys. Check out her book RISE OF THE WHITE RAVEN and get to know her as she talks about writing YA characters and unleashing her creativity in her fiction. 

NG: Thanks for chatting with us, Aira! Start by telling us a little bit about yourself & how you landed in the crazy world of writing!

AP: Thanks for having me, Nevena. Gosh, I can’t remember when I wasn’t writing something. I wanted so badly to be able to tell a story like Roald Dahl, or Jean Merrill. I had a pile of notebooks with stories in them I never shared with anyone. I just liked to write. My creative mind took me in so many directions, so my writing was just one of many. I was taking private art lessons and doing community theater, even playing the cello, I never took my writing seriously. Then I settled down raising my three boys, and about the time I found the internet, I started writing again. This time it was much easier to focus and organize my thoughts. I just ran with it.

NG: THE RISE OF THE WHITE RAVEN is the story of a not-so-ordinary 17-year-old girl who has to face supernatural forces and an old prophecy. What’s your favorite part about telling this particular tale?

AP: I really like Deidra as a character. Because she started out being an outcast when she was younger, she became strong and independent. Deidra is able to fit in without giving into peer pressure, and doesn’t need a boyfriend or to wear the latest trends to feel good about herself. I think Deidra is what we all wish we could have been in high school.

NG: Blending paranormal elements in a contemporary setting can be tricky. What is your personal approach to grounding magic in the book?

AP: It all comes down to the first advice given to a writer. Write what you know. I am a big fan of Joseph Campbell, and read any kind of myth I can get a hold of. It’s also the fiction I am drawn to, so the paranormal part is easy enough. The story was already in my head, much of it from my own experiences. I just began to write. For bringing the characters up-to-date, I can thank my boys and all their friends — my house is always full of clowns.

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Member Spotlight: Meet Writer Michelle Hiscox

Posted by August 5th, 2013

michelle_hiscoxMichelle Hiscox is a career counselor who hails from Drumheller, Alberta. The dinosaur bones buried in the hills of her hometown inspired the first stories she ever wrote. Michelle holds a degree in psychology and is a member of the Romance Writers of America, as well as an avid paranormal romance fan. One night, she pulled her nose from a book to start working on her own and has been writing ever since.

NG: How did you become a writer?

MH: I was a reader first. My grandma introduced me to Stephen King when I was about twelve and I was hooked. In my twenties, I found the paranormal romance genre and that’s mostly what I’ve been reading ever since. I always read but hadn’t written since high school. Over time, the urge to write grew until I had no choice but to create a story of my own. That was about six years ago. My commitment to writing has grown over time.

NG: Why do you read and write paranormal romance?

MH: I get lost in the stories and love the characters. When they are well done, I get to live through their experiences, feel their feelings. I can’t wait to turn the page to see what happens next and will neglect sleep to find out. It likely relates to my interest in both horror and romance. Where else could I find such a perfect match?

anewdayatmidnightNG: True! Tell us more about your novel on the site, A NEW DAY AT MIDNIGHT. Why should the Book Country members check it out?

MH: Can I say because it’s worth it? I put all of my heart, and head, into writing something that I hope invokes emotion in the reader. Merik and Hannah, the main characters, are flawed, passionate, and conflicted. Their lives come through the pages.

NG: A romance novel needs to tell a good love story. How did you go about crafting yours?

MH: It didn’t start out as much, just a picture I conjured in my head and then jotted down on paper. I had Merik in my mind first with Hannah soon to follow. I can honestly say that who the characters are allowed me to develop much of the plot. The more I work on it, the more it has become about learning the elements of fiction. Grammar, plot development, and executing proper point of view are just the start of a long list of areas I had to learn more about. I think the best tool I found is being open to the idea that I can always improve.

NG: Let’s talk about your process. Do you keep a strict writing schedule?

MH: My strict writing schedule consists of writing every spare moment I have. At night, on my lunch break, in the passenger seat of the car. When I’m not writing, I’m reading, either studying the craft or looking at examples in the work of popular authors.

NG: How do you go about learning more about the craft and the business of writing? Do you have favorite resources you can share with us?

MH: When I get constructive feedback on Book Country, I research it, try to build my understanding, and then try to put it into practice. The last item is the one I struggle with the most. I like to have a good grasp of one concept, such as breaking out of the passive voice, and can execute it before I move on to the next area I need to work on.

I’ve also learned from some of the more experienced writers on Book Country, such as Elizabeth Moon. I read her entries because she gives insight into writing in terms I understand. Romance Writers of America has been helpful, providing access to free workshop content on anything from writing a synopsis to creating believable characters. Miss Snark’s blog and Query Shark are also great for picking up valuable pieces of information.

NG: Thanks for the tips! Who are your literary role models?

MH: Stephen King is probably the first. I’ve read every book he’s written with the exception of the Dark Tower series. Many of his euphemisms about the life of a writer really resonate with me. J.R. Ward is another. Everything she writes invokes emotion and every character is original. When I need inspiration or to see an example of how I think romance should be written, I read passages from her books.

NG: Why are you on Book Country?

MH: I joined Book Country because I wanted objective feedback on my work, but it definitely evolved into more. It gives me the chance to learn about the craft of writing from those willing to share what they know. It’s also good to be connected to people who can relate to other aspiring writers.

NG: Do you want to give a shout out to any of your friends on Book Country?

MH: I would like to say thanks to a few people. Is four still a few? David Downer, Michael Hagan, Rosie Ward and Kathleen Shaputis all helped me to identify areas I needed to work on in my writing. They also stuck with me until I understood what they were talking about. Their honesty and encouragement still means a lot to me.

NG: A round of applause for them!

What is something fun that we don’t know about you?

MH: I’m hooked on made for TV movies. Show me a good Danielle Steel special and I’ll show you an attentive aspiring writer. For some reason, my husband doesn’t think I should share that with others.

NG: Haha, we all have our guilty pleasures! Thank you so much for being our guest. It’s been a pleasure.

Connect with Michelle on Book Country and check out her paranormal romance novel A NEW DAY AT MIDNIGHT

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Stephen King’s No-Adverbs Rule

Posted by March 22nd, 2013

How adverbs lead to affectation and weakness in your writing.

stephen_king_sm“…while to write adverbs is human, to write he said or she said is divine.” –Stephen King

Stephen King’s On Writing is one of the most popular books on the craft of writing. And with good reason: it is chock full of practical writing advice and curious anecdotes about King’s own path to publication.

Adverbs are a sign of a timid writer

What amused me when I read it recently was the author’s utter disdain for adverbs. He starts with a grammar refresher:

Adverbs, you will remember from your own version of Business English, are words that modify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs. They’re the ones that usually end in -ly. Adverbs, like the passive voice, seem to have been created with the timid writer in mind. … With adverbs, the writer usually tells us he or she is afraid he/she isn’t expressing himself/herself clearly, that he or she is not getting the point or the picture across.

Here it gets even better:

Someone out there is accusing me of being tiresome and anal-retentive. I deny it. I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops. To put it another way, they’re like dandelions. If you have one on your lawn, it looks pretty and unique. If you fail to root it out, you find five the next day…fifty the day after that…and then, my brothers and sisters, your loan is totally, completely and profligately covered with dandelions. By then you see them for the weeds they are, but by then it’s–GASP!!—too late.

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Adverbs in dialogue attribution ends in affectation

There is one case in which King just hates adverbs: dialogue attribution. He invites us to compare the following sets of examples:

“Put it down!” she shouted.
“Give it back,” he pleaded, “it’s mine.”
“Don’t be such a fool, Jekyll,” Utterson said.

In these sentences, shoutedpleaded, and said are verbs of dialogue attribution. Now look at these dubious revisions:

“Put it down!” she shouted menacingly.
“Give it back,” he pleaded abjectly, “it’s mine.”
“Don’t be such a fool, Jekyll,” Utterson said contemptuously.

But even if you’re not guilty of populating your dialogue with adverbs, he warns us against another common misdemeanor:

Some writers try to avoid the no-adverb rule by shooting up the attribution verb full of steroids. 

Which leads to atrocities such as these:

“Put down the gun, Utterson!” Jekyll grated.
“Never stop kissing me!” Shayna gasped.
“You damned tease!” Bill jerked out.

King concludes:

Good writing is about letting go of fear and affectation. Affectation itself, beginning with the need to define some sorts of writing as “good” and other sorts as “bad,” is fearful behavior. Good writing is also about making good choices when it comes to picking the tools you plan to work with. 

The bestselling author is a proponent of William Strunk and E.B. White’s simplicity of expression school. If you’ve read their slim volume The Elements of Style, you probably have the incantation “Omit needless words” branded into your memory.

Flowery language, or overwriting, is a challenge for newbie and seasoned writers alike. Spurred on by fear, they try to dazzle readers with verbal fireworks, and might forget that what’s more important that using a “pretty” word is using the “right” one.

A Confession:

I must admit I’ve been guilty of overwriting.

My sin is called qualifiers.

Qualifiers are words—many of them adverbs—that modify the meaning of other words. I wasn’t aware of my problem until one of my colleagues read a piece I had written. She said, “You use a whole lot of qualifiers, and it makes your points weaker.”

Ouch! I reread it and realized that she was right: my writing was peppered with “rather,” “somewhat,” and “quite,” “completely,” “actually,” and “seemingly.” They made my ideas sound tentative, as if I didn’t believe in my own assertions.

These words are an old habit from my academic days, where this kind of “hedging” language is widely accepted. Outside of academia, qualifiers lead to weak, lackluster, and hesitant writing. And I’m determined to weed them out.

What about you? Do you have a writing tic or thorn? What tendencies are you trying to exterminate? 

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