Last year, I read Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chbosky loved everything about it. I stayed up way later than I should have while reading this novel and would even rush home from work at night to jump back into the mesmerizing story. I love books like that, and Imaginary Friend is a definite page-turner.
Stephen Chbosky’s best-known book, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, was successfully adapted to the big screen thanks to the authors writing and directing talents. He also has written and/or directed several films, including Rent (the 2005 adaptation), As Above, So Below (2014), Beauty and the Beast (the 2017 live-action remake), Wonder (2017), and the upcoming Dear Evan Hansen (the 2021 film adaptation).
Below are some interviews with Chbosky talking about his various projects and writing.
Below is the first of three early reviews of Midnight House from Readers’ Favorite.
Reviewed By Rabia Tanveer for Readers’ Favorite
Midnight House by Ian Dawson continues the journey of Daniel and his best friend Kyle as their friendship and sanity are tested once again. Daniel is now 16 years old and the horrible event of two years ago still haunts him. Insomnia has become a normal part of his life and there is nothing that he can do about it. He knows he needs help, but something is stopping him from asking his family, friends, or even his girlfriend for help. To make matters worse, his friend Kyle seems to have landed himself in a mess. Kyle is invited by the captain of a basketball team to join their Varsity team’s ritual. He is supposed to go to the strange Midnight House and Daniel knows nothing good will come out of that visit. He needs to do something to protect his friend and make sure he is safe. Can they once again defy the odds and come out of a mess victorious? Or is this going to be the end of the road for them?
This is a heart-stopping and exciting story. Ian Dawson gives just the right amount of suspense, drama, and emotions to make sure readers stay in the moment with the characters and do not put the book down. Midnight House is one of those novels that can be enjoyed by people of all ages. Daniel and Kyle make a great team; they have their differences, but they work together to bridge the gap and make sure they communicate. Daniel’s dilemmas act as the perfect background to the story and readers get ample opportunities to immerse themselves in the mystery behind the Midnight House. Everything about this story is perfect. This is a highly recommended novel!
I learned a lot about the writing process while writing my first novel, The Field, but learned even more from writing Midnight House. Over the next several weeks, I want to share my writing process, the publishing process, and the marketing process to help you succeed in publishing your book as an indie author.
While working on The Field, I initially had no intention of turning it into a series. After all, if I was going to publish the book myself, maybe one book was enough—something to check off my list of things I’ve always wanted to do.
And then, I let a few people read it.
It wasn’t the published version, but those who read it liked it and offered their notes. When I met Kathleen, who became my editor, she read it and encouraged me to turn it into a series.
So, I started to think about how I could do that, and a few years before The Field was a published novel, I began to work out possible story ideas for a second novel.
I knew that I wanted the characters to be older, but I was unsure of the second book’s storyline. But I wrote down several ideas. Like all brainstorming/pre-writing sessions, some of it was worth keeping, but most were ridiculous and would eventually be left in the dust.
The big question I had for myself was if I should continue the story from the first book or do a standalone with the characters doing something unrelated to the first story.
I wanted to do something with Kyle that was sports-related, which ended up happening, but Daniel at the early phases had no real place or direction in the story. He was a school newspaper reporter. He was in ASB. He was this, that, and the other thing, but he didn’t feel grounded in the story.
That’s when I decided to dig deeper into the minds of my two main characters. Who were they before the events of The Field? How did those events change them not just externally but internally?
Doing a deep dive into who your characters are, what makes them tick, and how traumatic events can impact them going forward can help you shape more dimensional and grounded characters. So, as I sketched out Daniel and Kyle after the first book, I discovered things that would give Daniel and Kyle stronger story arcs in the second book and give the other characters material to work off of.
I had to decide how old they would be in the second book, which would inform what they were able to do and not do in terms of their ages, and I also started to brainstorm ideas for new characters they would encounter in their new story. I also had to decide who from the first novel would carry-over to book two and what they would be up to at that point.
Now that I started to flesh out character arcs, I developed story ideas that would be interesting and provide the needed elements of action-adventure that are key elements of the series. This is where things get fun for any writer since, at this stage, anything and everything is a possibility. I chose Redding locations where I felt different action pieces could take place and worked through various scenarios. Some over-the-top, some less so.
All the while, I’m thinking of how the main characters, other characters, the overall story, and these action moments will all come together in a clear and compelling narrative.
But I was nowhere near that stage yet.
Notes, Notes, and More Notes
Part of the early brainstorming and development process is writing down your ideas. All ideas. I have my Notes app on my phone filled with snippets of dialogue or scenes that I thought of while I was at work. A legal pad by my bed in case an idea strikes me at 3AM. And a file on my laptop for ideas so I can type furiously as the ideas flow.
I’m a writer that has a hard time just sitting and waiting for ideas to come. I usually am doing something when they hit me, so having a way to jot down ideas on the go is much better than saying to yourself, “This is a great idea. Can’t wait to get home and write it down!” (SPOILER ALERT: The idea will probably be gone by then.)
Dozens of Note app files. Lots of legal pad pages. More than one Word document (I started breaking ideas into separate files by character). Somewhere in all these places was a complete story. Now I had to start taking these ideas, these fragments, these notes, and crafting them into a narrative.
Next week, I’ll take you through the outline process and the first draft’s early stages. See you then!
GET YOUR COPY OF MIDNIGHT HOUSE ON BOOKBABY AND USE THE PROMO CODE HOUSE20 TO SAVE 20% OFF THE PAPERBACK AT CHECKOUT. CLICK HERE TO ORDER.
With an impressive and extensive body of work covering novels, film, TV, comics, poetry, and theater, Neil Gaiman is as talented as he is prolific. Some of his notable works include the novel and TV series American Gods, the film Coraline, and his comic book series, Lucifer, which inspired the Fox/Netflix series of the same name. His comic book series, Sandman, is currently being adapted to the small screen.
Not only is Gaiman a fantastic wordsmith, but he also is an inspiring teacher when it comes to educating others about creativity and the writing process. His series of classes on MasterClass are highly recommended and one that I have viewed several times.
Check out the trailer for his MasterClass series below, along with some interviews he’s done over the years.
Pre-Order Now! Paperback and eBook available March 30, 2021!
I’m excited to announce the upcoming release of the second novel in The Field series, Midnight House!
Haunted by the traumatic events of his abduction two years ago, sixteen-year-old Daniel Robinson has tried everything to make his escalating nightmares vanish. Failing to cope with it on his own, Daniel knows it’s only a matter of time before his family, best friend, and his girlfriend notice the lingering effects of his insomnia. Will Daniel reach out for help, or allow the nightmares to consume his sanity?
Meanwhile, Daniel’s best friend, Kyle Hanson, has been invited by Enterprise’s Varsity basketball captain to take part in the Varsity team’s rituals at the mysterious Midnight House. Skeptical of their motives, Daniel takes matters into his own hands to find out what’s going on at the secretive hideaway. Is this Kyle’s chance to prove himself to the Varsity team, or is something more sinister at play?
As the boys navigate through the complications of new friendships, jealousy, romance, and high school, their unbreakable bond and the strength of their friendship will be tested.
Can they survive what’s waiting at Midnight House?
Get your copy of Midnight House on BookBaby and use the Promo Code HOUSE20 to save 20% off the paperback at checkout. CLICK HERE TO ORDER.
I recently came across this clip of Daisy Ridley being interviewed about her character Rey in the latest Star Wars trilogy, and her perspective piqued my interest. Have a look:
As a writer, I respectfully disagree with Ridley’s view on characters not needing flaws or faults and her perspective that Rey doesn’t have any. Why are character flaws and negative traits important even in a protagonist? Let’s talk about it.
Flaws and imperfections give a character depth and dimension. They humanize the character and create empathy or sympathy between the reader/viewer and the character. Flaws give the character something to overcome or cope with as they work through the narrative.
Just like in real life, there are external events we have to deal with, and at the same time, we have to work through any internal issues we may be facing. Sometimes the two can conflict, which can be frustrating in real life but makes excellent story material.
A perfect character is a BORING character. You want your characters to feel relatable, and negative traits are a great way to do that. This doesn’t mean they have to be evil or do illegal things. There is a wide range of emotions, traits, and flaws you can give a character that will help your reader see them as a person and not just a vessel through which a story is being told.
Think of some of your own personal traits that might be seen as unfavorable or even your own flaws. Do they make you a bad person? Probably not. How do you cope with them? How do you work through them daily? By incorporating internal struggles and flaws, you can add dimension to your characters.
Think of your favorite film, TV series, or book characters. Are they perfect? Probably not. Do they have flaws? More than likely, a lot of them. But even with these faults, flaws, and struggles, we identify with them, root for them, empathize with them and watch the character evolve as the story unfolds.
You know, that whole character arc thing. Pretty important.
Daisy Ridley’s proclamation that Rey has no flaws starts with the writing. If J.J. Abrams and Rian Johnson created a flawless character for Ridley to play, that’s an error in judgment on their part, not Ridley’s. She’s merely performing what’s on the page and interpreting it based on what the director – and Disney – wants.
Rey should have flaws, doubts, imperfections, and negative traits. It doesn’t make her a bad person; it doesn’t make her less likable. It HUMANIZES her, giving the audience someone to follow and root for.
These issues enable the character to have an arc, to strive toward being better as they traverse the obstacles thrown at them by the story. If you listen to the clip, Ridley lists several things that she feels people can overcome – “anger and jealousy” – and she’s right. They can. That’s called personal growth in real life. Or a character arc in a story.
Just like the characters in the original Star Wars trilogy.
If you look at the original trilogy, Luke, Leia, Han, and even Darth Vader all have negative traits and flaws, but they overcome them throughout the trilogy. We watch, and we have a vested interest in who they are and what will happen to them. Is it because they’re perfect, flawless humans? Quite the opposite.
So, as you create characters for your stories, remember that it’s okay to have them possess negative traits and have flaws. This gives them something to work on, something for the audience to identify with, and presents the reader/viewer with a dimensional character worth their time.
Apologies for the late post. I will be back to the earlier post time next Sunday!
Over the weekend, I read The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas’s debut novel, and really enjoyed it (and highly recommend!). Since The Hate U Give’s debut in 2017, Thomas has authored two more novels – On the Come Up and Concrete Rose – and a non-fiction book, Find Your Voice: A Guided Journal for Writing Your Truth.
The Hate U Give was adapted into a film in 2018, and On the Come Up looks to be the next Thomas novel to receive the big-screen treatment.
Below are several interviews with Thomas about her novels, their themes, activism, and her writing process.
Last week I discussed designing the front cover for your book. Today, let’s look at what should be on the back cover. Obviously, what you want on the back of your book and where it’s located on the back cover is entirely up to you, but these are just a few tips to get you started.
Do Your Homework
You more than likely own books, live near a bookstore or live near a library. And while the last two may not be currently open in your area – thanks to a current global pandemic – if you have a stash of books, you can do your homework just fine.
Just flip those paperbacks over and look at what’s present. Many hardcover books have dust jackets that may only have a large photo of the author or some image related to the book, but if you find one that has information about the book, use it as well.
Now, of those elements, which ones do you feel would best help to sell your book to a potential reader? Remember, you now have to mentally distance yourself from the creative side of the writing process and get into the writing process’s marketing side. Think of what’s on the back cover as a sales pitch to the potential reader. This is your opportunity to sell them on your story and get them to buy the book.
Let’s examine some of these elements.
Pretty much this a short description of what the story is about. Lay out the story’s basics, the characters, and the conflict in a couple hundred words or less. Your goal is to entice the reader to want to know more and purchase the book to read the full story.
If you’re like me and have a hard time not being wordy, write a synopsis of your story, then pare that down to the sentences that lay out the basics and will hook the reader into buying your book.
If you want to include your bio on the back, this should also be basic information. If you want to add more detail, you can always have an “About the Author” page inside the book as well. But a few sentences about you can be useful on the back cover.
I think it’s nice to have a photo of the author on the back cover. This should look somewhat professional since, again, you are selling yourself and your book. Have a friend or family member – hopefully, one of them takes decent pictures – take several photos of you in different locations and in different outfits. This way you’ll have choices when you sit down to decide.
It might be wise to even contact a local photographer and see how much they charge for an hour or so to take a few shots, so you get quality images for your book.
But, please, no selfies.
Make sure to include your book’s or author’s official website and social media. This is another way that people can find out more about you and your books.
How do authors get reviews on a book that’s not even out yet? Well, if they’re well-known, they have their agent or publisher send out advanced copies to critics to read and then use snippets of those initial reviews on the book.
But if you’re an indie author, you may not have that luxury. Luckily, there are pay services available where you can have people read and review your manuscript before publishing to get a few review quotes about your book to add to the back cover.
Using a legitimate review service adds credibility and gravitas to your writing, especially since these people don’t know you and can be objective in their opinions about your work.
Besides, putting “The greatest author EVER!” – Mom, on the back may come across as a tad hokey.
While you are using small snippets from these reviews on the back, the full reviews can be used on your website and social media to help promote the book.
Choose sections of each review with statements that sell. If you were to pick up this book, what words from those reviews would make you want to read it? Choose those, then make sure you attribute the quote to the reviewer and their outlet.
If you plan to sell your book as a paperback and hope to get it into a store one day, having the UPC code on the back is a wise move. The publisher you are using will have a template for you to use to explain the dimensions of the UPC (example 1.5” x 2”).
Make sure you have a white box positioned wherever you want it on the back cover, with the specific dimensions given, so the UPC barcode can be added during printing.
Once you are 100% locked into what you want on the back cover, all of this information should be given to your cover artist. Make sure you describe exactly where you want each element, then once you get a draft back, you can make alterations if needed.
Again, this is your product with your face and name on it. Make sure it sells you and your story in the most effective way possible.
And now, you should have a professional and sellable cover for your eBook and paperback.
Next week, we’ll explore some more writing tips. See you then!