Tag Archives: 1960s

Project Hush-Hush – Getting The Right Tone

SecretWell now, since the last blog entry (only a few days ago) I’ve completed chapter two of The Forgotten Son. And I’m really feeling like I’ve got the flow of the story down now. It’s always difficult with the first chapter, trying to capture the right tone, pace, mood, and find the right starting points for your characters. In this case, as I’m sure I keep on saying, I have the added difficulty of finding the right period. This is why it took so much longer to finalise chapter one, and only took two days to write chapter two. Not only have I found the flow in chapter two, but I can really feel the characters coming alive, especially the lead character (this book has more than one lead, but I’m talking about the lead character of the series — whom I cannot mention by name at this time) who is a character I have known for a couple of decades plus some change. Finding his voice should be simplicity itself — but there is an added challenge. Of course.

One of the main selling points of this series is that we’re exploring a part of the lead character’s life that has never really been touched upon before. There have been the odd hints here and there, but nothing substantial. Everything ever written about him (and there is plenty!) has always focused on an older version of him. But we’re dealing with him at the start of the adventure, looking at what turned him into the character we’ve all come to love over the years. And therein lies the challenge. One that, according to my publisher, I’m succeeding at. Shaun has read the prologue and first chapter and feels I have totally captured the younger version of this lead character, which is great to hear since I have found writing for him so very easy. The trick now is to keep it up.

The tone also meets the approval of my publisher. He used words like ‘brilliant’ and ‘love what you’ve done’. There is another phrase he said, but I can’t really quote it or it may give away a little too much of the project. Needless to say, my publisher believes I’m achieving exactly what he was hoping we’d achieve when we set out to do this. I’m confident that the other writers of the first ‘season’ will equally capture the feel we’re going for. I’m looking forward to hearing my publisher’s thoughts on chapter two (which I feel is superior to chapter one), and seeing what the other writers do. We’re currently bouncing titles around, and have probably settled on three of the four. Titles are so important — they tell the reader what kind of book it is, what kind of theme and tone of story they’re about to read, plus, in this case, it’s about recreating the period in which our series is set.  The kind of titles you see on books and television these days are not necessarily applicable to fiction circa 1969/1970. But, once again, I am confident we will have the perfect four titles by time we officially announce the series. Another thing we’re also thinking about at the moment, which fits in with the tone and period, is the cover art. We know the style we’re looking for, so all we need do now is find the right kind of artist to match that style, which also feeds into designing the series logo (which if done correctly will be kind of clever and should contain a nice in-joke for those who know).

Any excuse to show y Draig Goch, the Welsh dragon!
Any excuse to show y Draig Goch, the Welsh dragon!

Chapter two also contains my favourite little scenes of all I’ve ever written. It’s a small thing, a scene within a scene if you like, and only lasts for about half a page, but it had me laughing so hard when I was writing it — which means it may be one of the first things to go! KILL YOUR BABIES! No, no it won’t. It’s important, although high on cliché, but that can’t be helped since it’s another character that came with the exclusive rights we now own a license for, and that character is every bit the walking cliché. Which is fun. I don’t generally use clichés in my work — indeed, all writers know to avoid them like the plague. But when you’re using a character that was created as a cliché (although I wonder if it was such a cliché in 1969, or simply a misconception thing?) you can go one of two ways. Either ignore the cliché aspects, or play up to them initially and slightly move away from them over time — if you have the luxury of such time. Fortunately I do, since a character arc has already been put in place for this character and it will enable us to gradually move him from the Welsh cliché (oh yes, I forgot to mention that, it’s a typically clichéd Welsh character and so even more important for me to move him away from those roots) and turn him into a more well-rounded and believable person. Which in itself will be fun and rewarding, but for now, for that one small cameo scene in The Forgotten Son I go to play with the cliché and totally embrace it. Which was kind of liberating.

And so, chapter three is waiting. More strange happenings in the west country, as the child’s voice gets louder…

Advertisements

Project Hush-Hush – Here From Six

Prepare for one of the more odder entries, as I enter my own version of the twilight zone. Kind of.

SecretTalking to Shaun last night about the ’60s and he expressed how odd he found it that I remembered so little about that time — even though I was born in ’72, a lot of the ’60s vibe still existed during my first few years and I should, really, has some idea about that time. Some kind of memory, right? You’d think so.

Fact is I’m pretty sure I didn’t exist until I was six years old (of course, if I didn’t exist then I couldn’t be any years old, just looked like I was), like something out of a John Wyndham novel, perhaps. I have vague memories of being younger, I think, like falling down the stairs and banging my head on a hot radiator (which is funny since, according to others, I never lived anywhere with a radiator at the bottom of a staircase). But the thing that confirms it for me is that there is no photographic evidence of me any younger than six. I’m serious. Now, knowing my family, the chances of no photos being taken of this handsome little version of me would be astronomic. Yet, nothing exists. I seem to recall a picture of toddler me holding a gun and wearing a cowboy hat, sat on a furry carpet of some sort, but I’m convinced I made that up since such a picture does not exist and no-one else can remember it. So if I’m right, then I didn’t exist until 1978, which explains my complete lack of familiarity of anything pertaining to the late ’60s.

1924157_39839936189_8700_n
Me and my step-brother…

When the boss quizzed me on certain things, like what I do I remember of the red telephone boxes, I could only pull up a few visual memories. Peeling paint, tattered phone books hanging off hooks, felt-tip graffiti, stuff like that. But you know, I could have picked that up when I was about six or seven; such things still existed. Or kids — did I remember how grubby kids were back then? The messy streets, rubbish on the pavement? Vaguely, perhaps. Certainly I know I wasn’t a messy child (as you can see in the picture to the right). No grubbiness here. Or was I? I don’t know. I didn’t exist before I was six. Perhaps I was, until that point, the forgotten son? That would fit.

So today I’m looking up all kinds of things from the late ’60s. I’ve seen a few cars I recognise, although most of the radio shows from Radio 1 mean nothing to me at all. As for the money… Well, what can I say? I was born the year after the UK went onto the decimal system — thank god! Damn, I feel as confused as Ace did in Remembrance of the Daleks. ‘Oh this is a stupid system.’ You said it, Ace.

In terms of actual writing, I’ll be moving on to chapter two, which will involve a very strange train journey, an old woman hearing a disembodied whisper, and the discovery of a missing corpse. At the moment I seem to going for a bit of a The Midwich Cuckoos meets Danger Man feel. As I said in a previous post, I’m all about blending genres.

See y’all tomorrow.

Project Hush-Hush – Feedback From the Boss

Secret‘If it was anyone else I’d say let’s accept that.’ My boss’ way of complimenting me on the first draft of The Forgotten Son chapter one. Of course, what followed was a comment about because it’s me, and the series is what is is, we have to be better than just great. A sentiment I absolutely agree with.

After a very long phone call about the ’60s and how to capture that vibe in prose, I swear, if I didn’t know better I’d think Shaun Russell lived in the ’60s. Except he’s a little younger than me! (Not that you’d know it to look at us — see pic below.) 😉

So that was tonight’s little update on the progress of the book. Chapter one, draft one, is complete and comes in at just under 5,000 words. Tomorrow I shall be listening to The Who, The Kinks, Small Faces and Jehtro Tull, as well as looking at pictures of 1960s ephemera such as money, phone boxes, cars, rubbish strewn streets, and grubby kids. Who says my job isn’t fun?

Shaun and I, heading to London for... something important.
Shaun and I, heading to London for… something important.

Project Hush-Hush – Lemons

SecretSo, day two of work on The Forgotten Son, book one of Project Hush-Hush. Yesterday was all about setting up the scene and mystery in the small Cornish village of Bledoe. Which meant research. Hard to believe but there was a time when I hated, and by that I mean loathed, research. These days I rather enjoy it — with every book, every scene almost, I learn something new or reaffirm something I had previously suspected.

Before I got on to talking about yesterday’s research, and shed light on the rather odd subtitle for this blog entry, I want to share a little history about Bledoe. It has a history that goes back to 1997, and a story I once wrote that was originally called The Lake (latterly WATMIB? or Who Are The Men In Black?). They say never throw away a good idea, and I’m a great believer in that. Bledoe was a fictional Cornish village where some strange things happened. I can’t tell you what, alas, since many elements from that story are being recycled for this new book — including the final title, The Forgotten. I have recycled characters from this story before. Pastor Ronald Stone was finally used as the father of chief protagonist, Nathanial Stone, in my Space: 1889 & Beyond series from 2011. A character called James (surname changed from the original book) was later used in the 2006 novella Judgement Day (the character is now closer to his original incarnation once more). So it was inevitable that Bledoe itself would be returned to at some point. The village has changed somewhat since 1998, now based loosely on the real village of St Cleer. Which is where the first bit of research came into it. Sometimes the challenge with writing is to convince the reader that you are familiar with the area you set your story in; not always is it possible to visit said location. In this case I intend to visit St Cleer in a couple of months, do some on-site research to add more flavour, but for now it’s time for the usual research methods; internet sites and, in this case, a batch of photographs sent to me by fellow scribe, Sharon Bidwell, who recently visited Golitha Falls, another key location of The Forgotten Son.

skinhead-style-1The second important piece of research is the time period. In this case we’re talking late 1960s and, since I wasn’t actually alive at that time, I have no memory from which to draw. Luckily I know plenty who do, and there are a ton of websites out there that give information on the political and popular climate of the late ’60s. Again it’s all about convincing, adding enough flavour to give a sense that the narrative is set when it’s supposed to be set. This not only comes down to small background elements, like key events of the late ’60s mentioned in passing, but in developing the characters. They all need to be believably part of that time period. I have already decided that two of the characters will be twins, who will be based somewhat loosely on two friends of mine (with permission — the fictional twins even bear the middle names of the real twins), and so the next thing to consider is how to make them different and yet very much teenagers from 1969. I was expecting to go for flowerpower but instead discovered that the skinhead movement rose to popularity in 1968. Bonus! If asked, I would never have considered developing a skinhead character (or a lemon, as they were often called, too — hence the title of this post), but I’m willing to try new things when writing — indeed, doing so is a key element of keeping writing fresh. It’s a funny thing, growing up in the ’70s and ’80s I was always aware of skinheads, but what I knew of them doesn’t match with the origins of the movement. Which means developing my fifteen-year-old skinhead should prove very interesting. And reminds me of some of my favourite ska and reggae songs from the period — Desmond Dekker’s The Israelites anyone?

That was yesterday. Today? Today it’s all about introducing the lead character of the series — the single most important scene of the book — which involves a bit more research. Not for the character, so much as what he does and the organisation he’s a part of. Ah, useless clues. Gotta love ’em! 😉