#HowIWrite Blog Hop: (Almost) All In The Mind by John A. A. Logan

I was tagged for this Blog Hop by Joni Rodgers, aka The Girl With the Shakespeare Tattoo:
Joni is the New York Times bestselling author of Bald in the Land of Big Hair, Sugarland, Kill Smartie Breedlove, The Hurricane Lover…

She also heads up the online Writers Collective, The League of Extraordinary Authors:
Thanks, Joni!

The Mission of this Hop Tour is for me to answer 4 questions, and then tag 4 fellow authors to do the same – I will be tagging the redoubtable Dennis Hamley, Cheryll Barron, Julia Jones, and Michel Sauret at the end of this post…

But first, to the questions!

1)     What am I writing?

Well…I am currently writing two books simultaneously.
One is Starnegin’s Camp, my 4th novel, which I began in 2007 and, essentially, completed in 2007…but I am still tinkering with an idea here, a sentence there.
There is a bird in this book, which spends a lot of time in a tree, observing the human beings below…with a degree of enmity because this bird has problems…this bird occupies my thoughts quite a lot…
Otherwise, Starnegin’s Camp is a story about 18 pregnant young women, who are sent from one side of the world to another, 2000 years ago, by ship…all the plan of a lunatic Emperor who believes himself, and his Seed, to be Divine, and that it is his duty to colonise the world.
But, of course, the young women have other ideas, as does the forest they are sent to…as does that bird…as does Starnegin, the secretive camp leader…as does the man swathed in black robes who has also come halfway across the world on that ship, speaking to no-one…

Simultaneously, I am getting on with my 6th novel…contents of which must remain Top Secret for now, while that book Lives in the Depths of the Subconscious…and Shuns the Light…

2)     How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Hmm…I may well be genre blind. Whenever I watched a Kubrick film, even as a child, I was never conscious of watching historical fiction, or science fiction, or crime fiction, or war fiction…I just saw it all as “story”…and later, in Kubrick’s case, as a “Kubrick Story”…the flavour coming from the director/author rather than from the “genre”…
I think I am at my most Genre Blind while doing the actual writing, and maybe this is for the best…
I’ve written before about successfully marketing/selling my novel, The Survival of Thomas Ford, as a mystery, a thriller, as crime fiction…and as literary fiction…
Even my literary agent in London in 2010 was sending Ford out one week as a thriller, and the next week as “literary”…
So, genre has always confounded me a little…I follow the work of a particular author, or film director…a particular Voice…I have never followed a particular genre, though…just followed the particular Voices throughout whatever maze of genres they chose to explore.
When Starnegin’s Camp is released I believe it will probably fit in the Fantasy/Psychic/Supernatural/Historical/Colonial genre categories on Amazon (having looked the categories up!)…so I am thinking ahead at least…

3)     Why do I write what I do?

Hmm…there must be deep subconscious influences. All the books read as a child, all the films seen as a child…all the experiences lived as a child. And then, of course, as an adolescent, an adult…but perhaps it is true as some sages have suggested, that everything later needed for “art” is in the repository of the subconscious by perhaps 14, or maybe even 7… “Give me a child until he is seven, and I will give you the man” – St. Francis Xavier
Perhaps there is a desire to get to grips with reality, through story, having encountered aspects of reality through living that cannot always be understood directly…not if looked at, or stared at directly, but through the lens or prism of story an understanding may be reached. Through that lens maybe a sense can be made of things which otherwise might terrify or overwhelm…
I feel there must be a search for Truth going on at the bottom of, or at the heart of, fiction writing.
That search can be confronted directly, yes, and perhaps that is what philosophy, or religion, or politics, is for…but Art has another perspective to bring, that lens conveying the qualities of refraction in the light…story seems to be able to carry subtleties that direct transmission of “fact” can allow to drain through the fingers like grains of sand.
I write each book as an exploration, or an adventure, or an investigation, even an expiation.

4)     How does my writing process work?

Ah, like Blue Peter, here is an answer I “made earlier” (that is not a rude reference, American/Russian/Chinese viewers, but rather a reference to a UK children’s TV show in which things had always been “made earlier”, either to save time, or so that the Presenter did not have to “make it” themselves…no-one truly knows…)
But here is the answer I made earlier, as a comment, on the great Roz Morris’ blog, Nail Your Novel:

Hmm…it’s funny, going to Roz’s blog there and copying my own comment, felt like I was stealing something…I will now paste it here with a strange sense of irony, felony, and metafiction(!)…perhaps to go back in time 4 months and quote an earlier “self” is a form of theft? Like the aboriginal boy played by David Gulpilil in Nicolas Roeg’s 1971 film, Walkabout, who felt his soul to be stolen if he was photographed. Much worse perhaps to be “copied/pasted”…but here is my Earlier Self speaking on this subject of writing process:

“For the first 17 years, I wrote 2000-3000 words a day. I think that was my “volume” phase, and was probably crucially necessary to get a “flow” going. For the last 8 years, though, I found a “flow-limiting”, “tourniquet-application” technique, was better for me – so 500 words a day as a rule. This allows a night’s sleep between each 500 word “island”, an opportunity for the subconscious to thoroughly process the parts and the whole before moving forward to the next “island”. The subconscious is much better than “me” at seeing the structure and upcoming narrative possibilities and junctions- I’d prefer it had the opportunity to “inform” “me” of these deeper insights at 500 word intervals, rather than longer ones. I believe this can enhance quality of perspective. So, no, I don’t have to force myself to do it – for me, it’s been more about learning to STOP while I might still feel like going on – stop today, while there is still water left in the deep part of the well which I can come back and use tomorrow, to paraphrase Hemingway.”


Questions over!
I can now introduce my guests…

I will begin with Michel Sauret.

Michel is a U.S. Army journalist and independent author, currently living in the greater Chicago area. In 2008, he earned the title of Army Journalist of the Year for his reporting of U.S. troops in Iraq with the Army Public Affairs.
As an independent author, his short story collection "Amidst Traffic" was the 2013 winner of the International Book Awards and a finalist in three other independent book competitions.

"Fate and free will are called into play. There are visionaries who can predict tragedy before it strikes. And there are visionary hunters who stand on the edge of manipulating their power. There's a man who inexplicably digs a hole in his back yard to escape nightmares, and a woman who tattoos words on her body, and a man who thinks his shoes are talking to him.
Everything is connected."
Michel published his first novel at the age of 19 and is currently working on his second.

Here is a link to Michel’s blog (and to Michel’s tagged post, he was not built for comfort, he was built for Speed! He already has his post up before I had finished mine tagging him!):

Next, please, let me introduce you to Cheryll Barron.

Cheryll is the author of Dreamers of the Valley of Plenty: A Portrait of the Nappa Valley, published by Scribner:

Cheryll is also the author of Jung on Men and Women: A Swiss Travelogue:

“A misbegotten journey in Switzerland creates new encounters with Jung’s curious theories about feminine psychology – filtered through a revelatory conversation with one of his great-grandsons, and reflections on the triangle made up of the eminent Swiss psychologist, his wife Emma, and his closest female collaborator and lover, Toni Wolff. 
A question frames this adventure: why did Swiss women fail to challenge Jung’s unflattering, sometimes contemptuous, pronouncements on the female half of the species? The answer encompasses the story few foreigners know of how Swiss democracy – rightly admired today for its near-perfection as a system of government – treated women as non-citizens of a successful, sophisticated country for most of the 20th century.
Jung put cultural conditioning at the centre of his psychology. Yet it is hard to find commentaries on Jungian thought that focus on what it owes to Swissness. In this personal narrative, the writer makes an informal and lively – but carefully researched – contribution to filling a fraction of that gap. History is spliced with strong sensory impressions of Jung’s homeland and its inhabitants.”

Cheryll’s popular blog, post-Gutenberg, is here:

One of the most beautifully-written pieces on the blog is The Riddle of Ramanujan:

Next, I will “introduce” an already familiar figure to all at AE, the wonderful Julia Jones:

Julia describes herself thus:

“Julia Jones has a split personality - in writing terms at least. Originally she's a biographer, of detective novelist Margery Allingham and Margery's hack-writing father Herbert but the influence of those two intensely professional fiction writers made her determined to write stories of her own. Into the mix came Arthur Ransome author of the Swallows and Amazons series of adventure stories for children. Julia has sailed on his boat, Peter Duck, since childhood and this determined her fictional direction. Sailing adventure stories -- but is that what they are, or are they explorations of disability, powerlessness and oppression? And who are they for - children, adults, adult children or childish adults? The 9s or the 90s?”

Here is the formidable line-up of Julia’s books:

 “In 1945 two brothers die in the icy Barents sea and a book is all that survives of them. More than sixty years later Donny and his mother set out for Suffolk to meet his mysterious great aunt. There is an accident and Donny is taken into care. But are the officials all that they seem and why won't they believe Donny's story? Soon he discovers that his life has been built on a lie. Only the new friendship he makes and an unsuspected talent for sailing help him steer his way through dangers that he cannot understand towards a knowlegde of his own identity -- and the secrets of a salt-stained book.”

'A Swallows and Amazons for our times' - Peter Willis
--Marine Quarterly

'funny and exciting ... Duffers will hate it' Amanda Craig --The Times 25.6.2011

'one of the great adventure stories of 2011' Sue Magee
--The Bookbag 5.7.2011

"An intense, absorbing read ... Get on board for a very modern adventure" Gideon Spanier --Evening Standard 11.8.11

Finally, let me introduce Mr Dennis Hamley…again so well-known at AE that we are in formality territory by introducing him…

 Dennis was born in Kent in 1935. During the Second World War his family moved to Winslow, Bucks. He was educated at the Royal Latin School, Buckingham, and after two years in the RAF he went to Jesus College, Cambridge, to read English. After that, he trained as a teacher at Bristol University and then taught English for four years at Stockport Grammar School.
His first book was published in 1963. Since then he has written numerous novels and short stories for all ages.
He is married with a son who is a scientist, a daughter in publishing and grandson.

Here is the dauntingly impressive link to all FIVE PAGES of books available from Dennis on Amazon:

Among Dennis’ Indie Kindle books are, Out of the Mouths of Babes:

“Julian, born to money, assured of wealth and influence. Gary, born to poverty and hopelessness: resentful. Grizelda, born to aspiration: the catalyst. Circumstances bring them together into a deadly triangle, whether of love or hatred, and set in motion the explosive process which will blow their lives apart. The necessities of character and the seemingly iron laws of society are hard to overcome. The sometimes fulfilling, sometimes disastrous dance of their relationships epitomises an ugly truth about a split, class-divided society, yet within its progress are the possibilities of healing. But perhaps these possibilities are only mirages. The legacies of an ambiguously tragic story are still strong forty years after it started with three births all on the very same day.”

And, Spirit of the Place:

“Lyndsey Lovelock, university student, writes a long study on an eighteenth century poet, Nicholas Fowler. Rod, her scientist boyfriend, longs to know what research project is taking place in Coswold, once Fowler's home, now part of the university. In 1773, Nicholas Fowler builds a Grotto, dabbles in the new science of electricity, and believes Man is on the point of mastering Nature. What unearthly power binds them all together?”

Reviews for Spirit of the Place:
“I loved this on first publication, so it's great to see it reissued, and not before time. "Spirit of the place" does indeed define this novel, so powerfully-drawn is the setting, and Dennis Hamley cleverly sets the eighteenth-century aesthetic of controlling and shaping the landscape against current strivings to understand and control the genetic make-up of humans. Fowler's poetry is so convincingly eighteenth-century that I'm not surprised the previous reviewer went in search of more detail - it takes an accomplished writer to pull that off. This intriguing, unusual, engrossing novel deserves to find new readers. I recommend it in particular to anyone who enjoys well-crafted and thought-provoking young adult fiction by writers such as Mal Peet, Aidan Chambers, Jill Paton Walsh and Meg Rosoff.”
“idlewriter”, Amazon

“This is a very skilful piece of writing, which intertwines two narratives, more than two centuries apart, as a means of getting to grips with the question of how far human beings should seek to master, and improve upon, nature through genetic engineering. That sounds awfully heavy, doesn't it? but it isn't! It engages the mind, while at the same time being a real page-turner, where you get thoroughly involved in the fortunes and misfortunes of the various characters.”
David Jago, Amazon


That’s All Folks!...as Bugs Bunny used to say…

Or, as a gentler soul’s exit once had it:

“Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.”
W. Shakespeare Esq


Dennis Hamley said…
Thanks John, especially for the intro. I'll get on with it now, though I may need my hand held as I take the first tottering steps into the process.
julia jones said…
And thank you from me too John ...
Cheryll Barron said…
About everything to do with your work, whether it's the way you found the high road to e-publishing or -- in this post -- how you trick yourself into writing on top form, you are uniquely and staggeringly generous with details. I am sure that the count for writers you have helped with this frankness is huge.

Lovely and unprecedented to find myself here as a thorn among roses -- the only nonfiction scribe: thank you, John.

This site often has a real sizzle. I plan to blog later this summer about one of books I discovered here -- an original and improbable project that I haven't forgotten, more than two years after I downloaded and read it.

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