Saturday, 15 June 2013


For the second in our occasional series of author guest blogs, we're very happy to present CHRIS QUINTON - author (among many others!) of the highly-acclaimed FOOL'S ODYSSEY trilogy, who addresses a particularly topical subject:

There was a long gap between the publishing of Fool's Oath, the second in the Fool's Odyssey trilogy, and Fool's Rush. People have asked me why over the intervening months. I had the plot all worked out, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with the various arcs, so what the hell happened? The answer is simple and summed up in one name: Xavi.

Picture the scene - versions of which occurred over and over again and ended up with Fool's Rush sitting on the back burner for months -

Okay, I think, poised over my keyboard. This is the chapter where I can get deeper into Andreas' head and bring in lots more about the situation back in the States. That way I can—

*No,* says the voice in my head. There's a distinct impression of sharp elbows stuck out, heels dug in and a tantrum on its way. *No way.*

"Oh, yes," I say aloud. The dogs on my bed twitch their ears and roll over. "I'm writing this bloody story, not you, sunshine."

*I'm living this bloody story,* he snaps, arms folded over his nicely muscled chest, his golden eyes glaring angrily. God, he does 'smolder' so well! *It's all about me! How long did you spend building my back-story? Pages of detail that'll never appear in the story just to make me real? For fuck's sake, woman! Stick to your own agenda!*

"I am!" I bite back. "That's exactly what I'm doing! So you are going to sit down and shut up and let me spend some time with Andreas! Wait your turn, you little shit!" The dogs raise their heads and stare at me. Had I said 'walk'? Or 'treat' Then Rain flops back onto the cushions and Hazel hops down to steal one of my shoes and I have to charge after her to rescue it. There are no treats on offer and no walk either. The Mad Woman is just talking to herself again. "It is A Cunning Plan! I've got the chapters mapped out, remember? This story is as much about Andreas as you, it's his journey as well—"

*You aren't listening to me!* It's a hiss, and I wonder if he's actually going to stamp his foot. *Read my profile! I start out as a street rat and end up as a fucking vampire with a lover I wouldn't trade for all the gold in the world! What's the name of the trilogy? FOOL'S ODYSSEY! And the fool is me, right? So to hell with the political situation in America! And your mapped chapters!* He spits that last bit out as if it's something obscene.

"No!" I yell.

*Yes!* he yells louder, and he has that mulish expression on his face I know means that neither heaven nor hell will drag him from his chosen course.

He's right, of course. I've committed one of the cardinal sins of writing. I stopped listening to my characters.

I give in ungraciously, snarl a lot and grab my notebook. I take myself off to my local coffee shop and do some serious re-plotting... The end result is that Fool's Rush completes Xavi's journey in exactly the way it should, and I have chunks of text lying around waiting to be reworked.

Characters. Those insistent voices in your head that won't shut up, won't go away. It doesn't matter where they sprang from. The moment they appear in your skull demanding you write their story, they are yours in a unique way that no one can take from you. It doesn't matter if they have a physical resemblance to your Uncle George or Aunt Fanny, or to actors on the TV or cinema screen, or to characters in your favorite novels. The back-stories you give them, the plot arcs you create, the research you do, make them yours. All you have to do is listen to them. Which isn't always as easy as it sounds.

Which brings me to the skirmishing that seems to start every so often - more so since 50 Shades hit the mainstream. Fan fiction and the reworking of same for publication and sale as original work. People get on their high horses and shout their opinions - others shout back, refusing to be cowed.

Why the fuss? Inspiration comes from everywhere. It's just as valid if it's a scene on the screen, your favourite actor's [rather stunning] green eyes, or a conversation overheard at the bus stop. It may seem at first that you're streaming the character - let's call him Billy Bloggs - but no writer worth their salt can leave the displayed details alone. Why does Billy react the way he does to given situations - has the show/film/book/explained that at all? No? Or not sufficiently? Then you create the psychological reasons. You research, you build a family tree, family relationships, things that perhaps will never appear in the story, but form layer upon layer of Billy's personality. You place him or her in situations far removed from the show/film/book, and most of the hard work - and it is hard work - of writing a story has been done. Change the names, any of the remaining borrowed background, and you have a piece of original fiction. It may even - horror of horrors - actually be better than the show/film/book that struck the original spark.

Now it seems that Amazon has recognised the worth of fan fiction - or perhaps the profit it could glean from it. (Read more here, if you haven't already.)

Where does that leave those who shout against the sale of fan fiction, saying that those writers shouldn't profit from other people's work? In the same situation of those who write it - mostly eyeing Amazon with some suspicion!

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