#AcresOfInk Writing Challenge ~ Week 16: Question 13

YES, I KNOW I’M BEHIND. I’M SORRY.

This question’s answer is kind of a long one so though so… that kinda makes up for it, I guess…?

Part of the 52 Week Writing Challenge. Click here to view all questions.

13. Your book is now a film. What will work well? What won’t?

Authors notoriously have little power when it comes to adaptions of their books. Cassandra Clare, for example, is occasionally forced to explain how she has absolutely noting to do with the (IMO) terrible adaptions of her work, and I’ve heard some real horror stories from people inside the industry about writers signing away their film rights without financial reimbursement (Cecily von Ziegesar, author of Gossip Girl; L.J. Smith, author of the Vampire Diaries… the latter doesn’t even own the rights to her own book series). As such, I shall begin this blog post with a public service announcement:

Should you ever be lucky enough to get a book signed for publication, take a lawyer in with you when you sign the contract!

Now that’s out of the way…

One of my Beta readers  remarked they could envision The Mayor as a BBC drama quite easily. At its heart The Mayor is essentially an 18th century period drama played out in a fantasy equivalent of the West Indies. Small, seemingly inconsequential actions have a tendency to ripple outwards to large and devastating effect, with a heavy emphasis on political dialogue and interpersonal relationships. That kind of story always works much better on the small screen than in the cinema, and although Part Two abandons the claustrophobic confines of New Hardway in favour of adventure on the high seas, I imagine the small screen is probably where The Mayor would end up should anyone be mad enough to try and adapt it.

So, what do I think would work well?

Costume

Blue CoatBeing an 18th century period drama — one of the prettiest and most extravagant eras in terms of European fashion — there’d be lots of opportunity for lavish, colourful costumes. Hair and make-up would have an absolute field-day with my protagonist Melora’s ringlets, and I’d love to see what wardrobe could produce for my villain’s beautiful blue coat.

My characters also encounter other cultures as they travel further up the map which might be fun to play with, such as the Kintaronese who favour light, loose clothing — shifts and kaftans, made from linen in rich turquoise blues — and adorn themselves with vast arrays of gold-plated jewellery (gold is considered common in Kintaro and thus even the poor dress themselves in this way; they even make their fishing hooks from it!).

Mise En Scene

I have written New Hardway is an aesthetically European town situated in a fantastical West Indies-equivalent known as the Taro Isles. A tropical coastline peppered with rainforests and tortugas, the bright and colourful Taro Isles would stand in direct contrast to New Hardway’s grand and austere architecture. There’s opportunity also to make it look the flora and fauna appear even more fantastical through the use of models or CGI, or both. Then there’s the tall ships, the shipping yard, the marketplace… I can see it all now…

Port Royal

Set pieces

As mentioned above, there’s quite a bit of swashbuckling in Part Two of The Mayor with naval battles, piratical pursuits and life-threatening storms… all of which I imagine would look pretty spectacular on the silver screen. Given even television’s dramatic improvement in recent years (see Game of Thrones, Outlander, Black Sails etc.), I imagine it’d look pretty good on the small screen too.

Sea battle

What won’t work well?

Sexual Content

I’d be very concerned with how TV/film might treat some of the sexual aspects of my book, particularly when it comes to sexual assault. Neither TV nor film have a particularly good history when it comes to depicting such things on screen (especially within an historical or fantastical context, of which my book is both), opting for soft-lightning, inexplicable titillation and absolutely zero consideration for the aftermath such a traumatic event might have. I’d want the filmmakers to give this subject some serious consideration and treat it with the sensitivity it deserves. If that means a fade to black or panning away from the whole thing completely, I’d really rather that than whatever the hell HBO did to poor Daenarys Targaryen (Game of Thrones) and Lucrezia Borgia (The Borgias).

Future filmmakers, take notes from Seasons 1 & 2 of Stars’ Outlander please, both in its depictions of consensual and non-consensual sex. Both, IMO, were excellently done.

My Deutragonist

I asked my writing partner her opinion on this question and the first thing she said was, “Jaspher.” When I asked her to elaborate as I didn’t quite understand, she answered:

“A lot of his appeal comes from how clear it is that he means no harm from his thought process. Take that away and you’ve only got his acts.”

Jaspher CarsonJaspher is a conflicted soul; an undiagnosed melancholic who spends an awful lot of time in his head, turning over endless “what if” scenarios and rationalising them away in his head. He is constantly putting others before himself, including my protagonist, Melora, whom he is helplessly in love with. He puts an enormous amount of pressure on himself to keep his family afloat, and would sooner work himself to an early grave than admit he needs help.

He’s a good man, with the very best and most honourable of intentions. Every choice he makes is clearly driven — in the text — by factors listed above, but he makes mistakes along the way.

And when I say mistakes, I mean serious mistakes.

Big Mistakes.

HUGE.

Without being privy to any of Jaspher’s internal monologue, the audience might perceive Jaspher to be something he isn’t: purposefully controlling, abusive and cowardly. It’s pretty clear from the text that it’s not as black and white as that, but a film might struggle to convey such a thing.

S.E. Berrow

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Phantoms, Dollhouses and Easter Wishes

Happy Easter, everyone! I hope you’re all having a lovely long weekend. For those of you who are working over the Easter Holidays, I will keep you in my thoughts! ♥

No writing challenge answers this week. Today’s blog post consists of Important Life Updates:

I’ve moved house!

Yes, it’s true. I’ve temporarily moved back in with my parents whilst I wait for the sale of my boyfriend’s flat to go through. I can’t say how long I’ll be here for, but I’ve been made to feel very welcome and today was the first day since Tuesday (the day I moved out) that I’ve actually begun to feel truly settled. Throughout the whole of March I’ve essentially been AN ENORMOUS BALL OF STRESS and I can only apologise to all who encountered me during that time and had to put up with me and my madness.Sarah Andersen

I’m glad it’s over now and can get stuck back into the thing I love to do most…

Writing

For those who’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll know I’m massively behind with the deadline for finishing my WIP, The Mayor. I originally intended to finish Draft One by the end of December, but had to push the deadline back until the end of February for the sake of my mental health (see here). That revised deadline went completely out the window when I started going through the process of selling my home, plus I began having serious self-doubt along with Anxiety-triggering frustration over my complete inability to finish my manuscript. Going on a really nice holiday for two weeks at the beginning of March helped me out a lot; I didn’t touch my manuscript once the whole time I was gone, and when I came back I felt refreshed and excited, ready to finish everything off. I had a really productive week in the middle of March playing around with my deliciously cruel penultimate chapter… only for reality to set back in that I needed to start packing, stat.

Basically, March was a complete write-off as far as writing was concerned, but April is a new month, a new start. I’m in a new place where I have fewer responsibilities to shoulder all by myself (house maintenance, cooking, cleaning etc.), plus I’m genuinely excited to get to grips with the last two chapters and very short epilogue. Wish me luck.

Once I’m finished (please, God, let it be soon), I’m going to take a break — maybe write a novella about my character Jonathan Carson — whilst K.F. Goodacre takes to my work with razor-sharp scalpel and hammers my words into some semblance of a manageable pile.

Dollies!

Speaking of K.F. Goodacre, it seems her talents know no bounds! As a belated birthday present, she very kindly made me my protagonist Melora in doll form… Behold! She is exquisite:

Melora joins another doll made for me by K.F. Goodacre — my character Jonathan Carson. Don’t they look great together? I’m so in love. Raise your hand if you think Kim needs to start her own Etsy account making dolls of other people’s characters for money? *Hand shoots up*. Thank you so much, Parabatai! ♥

Note: The John doll is a couple of years old now. The character’s ethnicity has changed since its creation and as such, his skin should actually be much darker than what’s shown here. Kim’s assured me she will, at some point, flay John’s skin off and replace it with something more fitting. He’s got to match his brother Jaspher, after all. Watch this space…

Lastly…

Kamelot‘s new album The Shadow Theory is out next week. OMG. I’m so, so, so EXCITED!!!!!!!!!!!! Especially since they dropped their (brilliant) new single last Friday entitled ‘The Phantom Divine (Shadow Empire)’, featuring Lauren Hart from melodic death metal band, Once Human. CHECK. IT. OWT:

 

Can’t wait. Simply can’t, can’t wait. Will explode from teh squee. Super excite! BRING ON LONDON IN OCTOBER ♥

That’s all for now. Ta-ta!

S.E. Berrow

#AcresOfInk Writing Challenge ~ Week 12: Questions 11 & 12

Blow me down, I’m all caught up! Don’t get used to it. I’m moving house next week (eek!).

Part of the 52 Week Writing Challenge. Click here to view all questions.

11. Your favourite minor character

I spoke briefly about my true favourite minor character — Ada Lillith — in week 5, question 4 (click here). Today however, so as not to repeat myself,  I’m going to talk to you about Roger Bellamy instead.

Bellamy is a Judicial Officer working for the Town Magistrate, Renwick Jarvis. Described as having a “pinched, pockmarked face” with “beady-black eyes” and a “mirthless smile”, he can often be found sneering and smirking his way through some of The Mayor‘s legal scenes, making life thoroughly unpleasant and unnecessarily difficult for everyone else:

 

“Really, Mr Bellamy,” [Jaspher] said, placing the armadillo down in what he deemed a relatively safe spot; a bureau the officer had already searched. “I’m sure the Magistrate requires you to be thorough, but is it really necessary for you to ransack my office?”

“What’s going on?”

Jaspher turned to find Melora stood in the doorway, pale as a sheet, eyes wide as she absorbed the chaos in front of her.

“Nothing to concern yourself with, young lady.” Bellamy rattled the drawers of Jaspher’s desk, finding them locked. “You got another key for this, Master Carson? None of the ones I have here seem to fit.”

“This young lady is Miss Melora Winship to you, Sir,” said Jaspher feeling his face grow hot. “Mr Winship’s daughter. You should treat her with more respect.”

“I don’t care if she’s the bleeding Duchess of Waite,” said Bellamy, rolling his eyes. “Did you not hear what I just said? Open this drawer, Master Carson, or I’ll be forced to break it open.”

Copyright © S.E. Berrow 2018

BeadleBellamy was most likely drawn to law enforcement because of the sense of power it gives him. He enjoys his ability to inflict state-sanctioned misery on others, and because he’s quite young — I personally imagine him to be in his late teens — he’s a bit self-conscious about his ability to command authority. He gets a kick out of domineering and humiliating others who are much older/more experienced than him.

Let’s be honest; we’ve all met and/or worked with someone like Bellamy in our life. He’s not my favourite minor character because of who he is as a person, but because he’s enormous fun to write with. He’s one of those characters I made up on the spot but found myself constantly referring back to to serve a particular purpose (law enforcement). He also tends to elicit extreme, outraged responses from my Beta readers. As a writer who simply loves creating misery amongst her readership, I absolutely lap this up:

  • “UGH, Bellamy.” – Oran Bailey, said 3 times over the course of a single feedback email.
  • “Hit him, John. HIT HIM.” – also Oran…
  • “”When [Bellamy] smiled at him with narrowed eyes, Jaspher felt his fists unwittingly clench.” Same, Jas. Same.” – Oran really hates Bellamy, OK?
  • “Officious twerp.” – Kim Goodacre.
  • “Arsehole.” – Cassandra Beckley.

Thus, Bellamy is my favourite minor character… after the wonderful Miss Lillith of course.

12. Language: Why a character speaks the way they do / unique slang

As far as creating fantasy languages are concerned, I’m about as far from J.R.R. Tolkein as you could possibly imagine. I’d much prefer to write something vague like, “the merchants began arguing in furious Dontaran” as opposed to spelling out actual words, because then I sound less like a linguistically-challenged fool.

Kintaro

I may, where appropriate, include a smattering of the Kintaronese language in the text as my characters travel further up the map, encountering more and more people from that area. Kintaronese typically consists of hard ‘cuh’ sounds combined with soft ‘ma’ and ‘shh’ sounds e.g. “hakirsh” means “hello” (which shortens to “hash” for ‘hi’), “pir” means “bread” (specifically a loaf), “maru” means “ship”… and so on and so forth.

I have yet to even think about what the language of Dontaro sounds like, so I guess I’ll get back to you on that one.

As for why a particular character speaks the way they do…

Technically speaking, although I write in English (I’m from South-East London), my characters are actually speaking a language called Swordish, native to the Kingdom of Sword. I’m not a fan of writing out accents (think Joseph in Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights; I think this can come across as offensive as it implies the character isn’t speaking ‘normally’), but I do actively try and put inflections on the way characters speak or choose certain words in order to convey an idea of how they sound.

Mayor Roper and Melora’s father Craven — in my head — both have an extremely ‘plummy’ accents. This is because they hail from the educated upper classes; the Swordish equivalent of RP English. I refrain from using contractions when writing with these two and occasionally use old-fashioned exclamations if I want to lay it on thick such as “jolly good”, “I say”, “splendid” etc. It’s worth noting William Kale also speaks with this accent, though he will occasionally slip…

The Carsons meanwhile are very much lower-middle class, so their accents are closer to the Swordish equivalent of Estuary English. As mentioned last week, John and Jaspher’s father Jeremiah was originally a sailor who married into a wealthy family, so he had to change the way he spoke in order to be taken more seriously (get a drink inside him and his accent immediately starts to broaden).

Jonathan CarsonJohn is probably my most interesting character in terms of language and speech patterns. Raised a gentlemen, but working as a sailor, his accent is very much on the lower-end of the ‘Estuary’ spectrum. It’s not quite Cockney (that’s the reserve of working-class characters like Liz e.g. “That was a nice thing what you did, even if it don’t change nothing”) but close enough that he’s sometimes looked down on for the way he speaks. He’s instantly marked out as ‘lesser’ by New Hardway’s elite (the clientele of his father’s shipbuilding firm), whilst simultaneously being mocked for being too ‘posh’ by his peers. As such, he doesn’t really fit in anywhere; it’s something he’s painfully aware of.

I probably work the hardest on John’s speech patterns because they’re the most fun to play with, making heavy use of contractions and 18th century thieves cant. He’ll slide instantly from being devastatingly articulate (“It’s a wonder you’re able to sit so straight when I’ve yet to see any evidence you possess a spine”) to colourful, brazen and broad by the end of the scene (“Vapouring, swaggering spineless fucking bastard!”).

John’s accent rubs off on Melora too. She’s much, much freer with her speech when she’s hanging around John than she is with her father or Jaspher.

S.E. Berrow

#AcresOfInk Writing Challenge ~ Week 11: Questions 9 & 10

Part of the 52 Week Writing Challenge. Click here to view all questions.

9. Your favourite secondary character

My favourite secondary character in The Mayor — Part One only, because it’s the book I’m writing at the moment — is probably Jaspher and John’s father, Jeremiah Carson. A man of great integrity, Jeremiah is easy-going, entrepreneurial and quietly intelligent. He has a wicked sense of humour — a trait he shares with his youngest son, John — and knows the value of a thick skin and hard work.

Jeremiah CarsonBorn and raised as a sailor to immigrant parents, Jeremiah Carson found work on a timber trading vessel — one of many businesses owned by the wealthy Gatley family of the mercantile class. Impressing his superiors with a keen work-ethic, personable demeanour and practically acquired knowledge, Jeremiah grafted his way to the position of captain where he soon became acquainted with Roger Gatley’s daughter, Sofia. Perfectly matched in every respect but station, the two embarked on a passionate affair, but when Jeremiah eventually approached Gatley to request his daughter’s hand in marriage, the union was met with derision and disapproval by Sofia’s brother, Rhode. Rhode Gatley believed his sister capable of marrying richer and ‘better’, and thus made a concerted effort to keep the two apart. Roger Gatley meanwhile tried to resist Jeremiah’s request for several weeks, but was ultimately forced to concede when Sofia declared herself pregnant. The two were married at once, but Jaspher Carson did not appear for at least another fourteen months. Realising with surprisingly good grace that he’d been tricked, Roger Gatley at last welcomed Jeremiah into the family, much to Rhode Gatley’s chagrin.

A year or so later upon Roger Gatley’s death, Jeremiah Carson inherited the bulk of the Gatley’s timber trading business. Leaving the day to day management of the firm to the whip-smart Sofia, Jeremiah continued to sail and negotiate overseas, the two of them taking the business from strength to strength. Even Rhode Gatley’s hostility towards his brother-in-law cooled to a begrudging respect, finding it hard to argue with the man’s monetary success.

When Sofia died of an infection contracted from the birth of their second son Jonathan, Jeremiah was forced to retire from sailing. He grounded himself on New Hardway soil, seeking to raise his two sons by himself and take over from where his wife left off. Unfortunately, despite his best efforts, the timber business began to fail, and he began seeking out alternative means of providing for his family.

Salvation came in the form of Craven Winship — a talented but bored accountancy executive whom Jeremiah had become close to over the years through their mutual connection to the Gatley family. Further united by the loss of a spouse, he and Winship proposed to combine their expertise and form a new shipbuilding company. Jeremiah sold his timber business back to his brother-in-law, using the proceeds from the sale to help start up the new firm. Despite their fractious history, Jeremiah also negotiated an agreement with Rhode whereby Winship and Carson could buy timber from him at a reduced rate; a deal that proved to be of great benefit to them both. Winship and Carson went on to be a huge success, and neither Jeremiah nor Craven have ever looked back since.

What I love about Jeremiah is his sheer tenacity; his determination to succeed despite all adversity. He deeply loves and cares for his family, and there’s nothing he won’t do to help them. Having faced both classist and racial prejudice all his life, he has nonetheless managed to carve out a decent life for himself despite a string of familial tragedies which include, but are not limited to, mental illness, suicide and abuse. Occasionally joking the Carson family might be cursed, he always stays positive, and consistently makes light of dreadful situations.

At the start of The Mayor, Jeremiah is desperately ill and, having always lived an active and dynamic lifestyle, is struggling to come to terms with the fact he’s no longer as physically capable as he once was. He relies heavily on his eldest son Jaspher for support — the guilt of which eats away at him — and spends much of his time denying he needs any help at all. As a writer, I enjoy grappling with that slow, reluctant realisation of one’s own mortality; the frustration with one’s own failing body, and how resignation to the inevitable can sometimes be strangely freeing.

10. Your thoughts on… (writing) Gardeners and Architects

I’m pretty sure this originally came from a fantastic interview of George R. R. Martin by one of my favourite authors, Joe Abercrombie (I can’t find a link to it; it was on Sky Arts around the time the first season of Game of Thrones aired… Correct me if I’m wrong!). George has mentioned this concept several times since then, and Joe wrote his own blog post about it shortly afterwards (click here).

In the interview, Joe and George spoke to one another about how they planned and wrote their books. Joe Abercrombie was an Architect, one who “[plans] everything ahead of time, like an architect building a house. They know how many rooms are going to be in the house, what kind of roof they’re going to have, where the wires are going to run, what kind of plumbing there’s going to be. They have the whole thing designed and blueprinted out before they even nail the first board up.” George R. R. Martin meanwhile described himself as a Gardener: “[they] dig a hole, drop in a seed and water it. They kind of know what seed it is, they know if planted a fantasy seed or mystery seed or whatever. But as the plant comes up and they water it, they don’t know how many branches it’s going to have, they find out as it grows.” (Source)

This is also known as Planning vs. Pantsing in the NaNoWriMo world, but Gardening vs. Architecting sounds way more fancy, doesn’t it?

When it comes to starting new projects, I have to unfortunately place myself firmly in the Gardening/Pantsing category. I say unfortunately, because this method is messy, resulting in a lot of weeds growing where they shouldn’t, neglected saplings suddenly sprouting into forests at inconvenient moments, and crying over your favourite flowers because they won’t bloom the way you want them to. I find it difficult to plan novels without first getting to grips with the characters and world they live in, so I start with an extremely high level story idea and dive right in. I wish this wasn’t the case, because as I mentioned in a previous blog post, my original draft of The Mayor got so out of control I ended up putting the whole thing down for several years.

All the tales are told,
All the orchids gone.
Lost in my own world,
Now I care for dead gardens.

~ ‘Dead Gardens’ – Nightwish, Once (2004)

When I went back to writing The Mayor early last year, I made sure I at least had a list of key scenes in bullet points before tackling the rest of the draft. I also started blocking out events in more exhaustive detail at the start of each new chapter to keep myself from getting completely lost. This method has helped enormously with keeping everything under control whilst still maintaining a sense of creative freedom and growth. I will of course still veer off into a plot-hedge every now and then, but at least this time I can find my way back!

In answer to the original question, I’m a bit of both, I guess… a landscape architect, if you will!

V.E. Schwab‘s video below probably best describes my current method, minus the part about writing the ending first; I’d rather save that particular satisfaction for later when I’m done!

 

S.E. Berrow

#AcresOfInk Writing Challenge ~ Week 9: Questions 7 & 8

Yes, I’m massively behind. WHAT OF IT? You’re not the boss of me. Don’t tell me what to do.

Part of the 52 Week Writing Challenge. Click here to view all questions.

7. Favourite relationship in the story

Telling you my actual favourite relationship (which, incidentally, is a romantic one) would be spoilerific, so today I’m going to talk to you about a non-spoilery relationship instead:

My favourite relationship to write in Book One of The Mayor is the sibling relationship between Jaspher and Jonathan Carson.

As brothers, Jaspher and John could not be more different. Jaspher is calm, level-headed and responsible, taking it upon himself to keep the Carson family afloat despite some serious financial difficulties and his father’s rapidly developing illness. John meanwhile is a notorious libertine, fond of wine, women and song with a penchant for attracting trouble.

In some ways, the two brothers perfectly embody their father, Jeremiah Carson, who is an ex-sailor turned shipwright. Despite his working class background, Jeremiah Carson rose to become a wealthy and successful entrepreneur in New Hardway, and is now a respected member of society. Jaspher seeks to uphold his father’s legacy by following in his footsteps as a shipwright. Unfortunately for Jaspher, John is far more interested in sailing ships than building them, and shamelessly engages in activities one might typically associate with that profession such as drinking, smoking and gambling.

John’s carefree, hedonistic lifestyle is a constant source of embarrassment for Jaspher. His peers make snide and insidious remarks regarding his brother’s behaviour and use it to undermine his authority. Being an ex-sailor himself (and for other, slightly more upsetting reasons), Jeremiah Carson prefers to turn a blind eye, but Jaspher refuses to let things slide. He will often step in as disciplinarian, which naturally causes a lot of tension between the two. This is fun to write.

What I like most about Jaspher and John’s relatonship is the complete juxtaposition between how much they love each other — how they’d do absolutely anything to protect each other — versus their complete inability to see eye to eye. Their relationship is fraught with jealousy and misunderstandings; the inevitable result of conflicting ideologies. As the plot of The Mayor progresses and pressure upon the Carson family mounts, Jaspher and John’s relationship will be tested to its absolute limit.

Fun!

7. Alternative realities: what could have changed everything, and how?

The obvious answer to this question would be, “What if William Kale had never come to New Hardway?” Because there’d be no plot, essentially, and everyone would be a lot happier and be able to get on with their lives.

How boring.

No, there’s actually a moment I can specifically pinpoint as being pivotal. It could have changed potentially everything, and I know this because I actually wrote it out and had to do away with it immediately for the sake of progressing the plot.

~*~ Warning! Minor spoilers to follow – I’ve redacted most of them but you never know… ~*~

In the scene before this one, Jaspher and Melora have a huge, relationship-altering fight. When I originally wrote it, Melora managed to catch up to Jaspher and apologise to him:

“Jaspher, wait,” Melora hurried down the stairs. “About last night, I… I just wanted to say I’m sorry.”

“Sorry?” Jaspher frowned, sounding as nonplussed as he looked. “Whatever for?”

“For how I reacted [REDACTED BECAUSE SPOILERS].”

She swallowed, tongue sticking to the roof of her mouth. Seeing him flush red at the reminder of his shame, she ploughed on before he could interrupt her.

“I… I was angry and upset. I lashed out because of it. After you’d gone, I had some time to think about what you said — why you did what you did — and I realised… you were only doing what you thought was best for your family. [REDACTED, FIGHT ME] And I don’t know if what John said about Mr Kale is true, but if it is true, Jaspher, then you need to be careful, because we don’t know what else he’s capable of, and we’ve lost so much already [FIGHT ME SOME MORE].

She felt rather than saw the tension ease in him as her voice trailed off. She stiffened as he pulled her to him in a gentle, one-armed embrace, then relaxed as he released her.

“You have nothing to be sorry for,” he said, slipping his hand into hers. “I’m sorry. I swear to you, I’ve never regretted anything more in my entire life. If I could wind back the clock and refuse to sign those damned papers, I would do it. I’d do it in a heartbeat. But it’s done now, and we’ll have to find a way to work through it. Somehow.”

He gave her hand a gentle squeeze, and she nodded, forcing a smile to her lips. It warmed her heart to see that smile returned, just the barest flickering at the corner of his mouth.

“But now I really, really must go. We’ll talk about this later, all right?” He kissed the backs of her fingers. “I promise.”

Copyright © S.E. Berrow 2018

Aww, isn’t that nice? Communication! Resolution! A willingness to understand each other and make things right!

Well I’m sorry, but we can’t have that. For the sake of the plot, I needed to carry on driving as big a wedge between these two as possible, so I ended up swapping the above out for this:

“Jaspher, wait,” Melora descended the stairs, reaching out as he yanked open the front door. “About last night… I just wanted to say that I’m—”

The door swung shut just as she reached the bottom, obscuring him from view.

“—sorry…”

Copyright © S.E. Berrow 2018

… Shame.

S.E. Berrow

#AcresOfInk Writing Challenge ~ Week 6: Question 6

Part of the 52 Week Writing Challenge. Click here to view all questions.

6. An interview with your protagonist (See ‘Hot Seating’ for ideas or create your own)

This should be interesting. I will have to conduct this interview from the very beginning of The Mayor to avoid spoilage. My protagonist Melora Winship is spectacularly naïve at the start of her story, so bear this in mind when reading the below. I assure you her life takes an altogether more challenging turn when William Kale arrives…

Melora Winship

How old are you?
I’m 15 years old. I’ll be sixteen this coming winter.

Where were you born?
I was born at home in my mother’s birthing bed. My father arranged for the best doctor in New Hardway to attend to the birth, though even he was not able to save my mother the day my brother was stillborn. How I wish I’d known my mother… and my poor baby brother for that matter.

What’s your favourite food?
Oh, I simply love gingernut biscuits! Jaspher keeps a well-stocked jar for me in our office. It’s all I can do to keep myself from munching on them all day.

Are you allergic to anything?
What does it mean to be ‘allergic’ to something? I’m not familiar… No, I don’t think so. Eggs can sometimes make me feel a bit sick if they’re not cooked through, but I will eat them anyway because soft yolks are delicious.

Cats or dogs (preference)?
I have no preference at all.

Why?
I love all animals! I wish Papa would let me have a pet, but proximity to fur makes him sneeze.

What has been the best day of your life so far?
Uncle Jeremy’s Winter Solstice party last year was tremendous fun! I got drunk for the very first time, John ‘accidentally’ spilled red wine all over that harpy Maria Swan, and I had my very first kiss — with Jaspher — under the moon.

And the worst?
Probably the day after the party… Goodness, I was sick! And I do regret kissing Jaspher a little bit.

Do you have any habits you’re ashamed of?
I am constantly chewing my bottom lip. I tear little strips off it which makes it sore and dry and chapped. Sometimes I even make it bleed. I wish I knew how to stop. Miss Lillith is always encouraging me to rouge my lips to cover it up which in some ways is even more annoying than the discomfort.

What would make you kill someone?
Oh goodness, I can’t imagine that I would ever do such a thing! I wouldn’t hurt a fly. In fact, I open the windows to let them out the house if they become trapped inside.

Have you ever smoked/taken drugs?
John let me take a smoke of his tobacco pipe once. It was disgusting and caused me to cough. It filled up my lungs and made them feel tight and hot. I don’t know how he stands it.

What would you do if I poked you in the eye right now?
I would be extremely hurt! How could you? I’d likely cry.

Would you ever wear trainers without socks?
I’m not sure what trainers are, though I presume they are a form of footwear if one is supposed to wear them with socks. I imagine Miss Lillith would brain me if I were to go out without the proper footwear on.

Who is your best friend?
Jonathan Carson, of course. I’ve known him for as long as I can remember. His brother Jaspher is also very close to our family and I would count him as my friend, but he’s nowhere near as fun as John. Things have been strange between us since his father’s Solstice party, so I’ve been avoiding him as much as possible.

Where did you and your best friend meet?
I was about 8 months old. Papa said he and Mama put me down on the Carsons’ carpet and I crawled right over to him, babbling away. He babbled right back and we’ve been inseparable ever since.

Will you wear this pink dress?
Pink isn’t really my colour; it makes my skin look splotchy. Does it come in yellow? Or perhaps green instead?

Who is your favourite superhero?
What’s a superhero? John is my superhero. He’s always there for me and manages to brighten up my day. He understands me like no one else does and goes on so many adventures. I don’t know what I’d do without him.

What are you most afraid of?
I’m afraid I’ll be stuck at my father’s shipbuilding firm forever and ever and ever. It’s just so boring.

Are you romantic?
Oh yes, I’d like nothing more than a handsome stranger to come along and sweep me off my feet! Perhaps he’ll whisk me away from Winship and Carson to show me the world, or move me to Hilt to mingle at court. I fantasise about such an occurrence daily; anywhere would be better than here. I’d miss John terribly though. And Papa too, I suppose.

Do you bite Sellotape or cut it with scissors?
Such strange words you are using! What on earth is Sellotape? Jaspher, Papa and Miss Lillith would probably say it’s unladylike for me to bite it, so I’d bite it just to annoy them.

How often do you clean your teeth a day?
Miss Lillith makes me scrub them every morning and night with warm water and a sponge. And also after meals. What a bore.

Do you pick your nose?
*Blushes*. Um. No… [Narrator: pfft, she totally does]

If you could have one job, what would it be?
I’m sure Papa would love for me to say I’d be a Master Shipbuilder like him, but that’s not the case. I want to be a sailor, like John, but women aren’t permitted to sail. I wish I could join John on his adventures; I’d love to travel across the sea.

Would you swim with sharks?
Heavens, no! You must be mad!

Would you go into space?
Is such a thing even possible? How exciting that would be! Although I doubt I’d be given the opportunity to do so, since Papa will barely let me set foot on a sailship let alone a… spaceship, you say?

You sneeze into your hand in public and don’t have a tissue. What do you do?
Tissue? Oh! It’s like a paper handkerchief. How strange! Well, I would use my handkerchief in the absence of a tissue, of course, but if I did not have one on me, I would ask Miss Lillith if I could borrow hers.

Your mother/brother/sister falls over. What do you do?
I haven’t any of those to speak of, but I think if John fell over I’d just about die from laughing. If Papa fell over I’d be more concerned. He’s getting older, so finds it difficult to get back up again without some help.

Do you dunk biscuits in your tea?
Oh, yes! Gingernut biscuits dunked in lemon-infused tea is one of the very best things in the world.

Do you believe in love at first sight?
I don’t think so… but then I’ve never been in love before. Perhaps someone absolutely perfect will come along one day and change my mind!

Have you ever stolen anything?
Never directly, though John often swipes apples from the apple cart and gives them to me as a gift. I then eat them to hide the evidence — or save it for later to give to Jaspher — so I imagine this makes me complicit.

Copyright © S.E. Berrow 2018

S.E. Berrow

#AcresOfInk Writing Challenge ~ Week 5: Questions 3, 4 & 5

Part of the 52 Week Writing Challenge. Click here to view all questions.

3. Who is the book for and why will they love it?

I don’t want to be a legend. Oh,
Well that’s a God damned lie — I do.
To say I do this for the people
I admit is hardly true.

~ ‘Swallow’ – Emilie Autumn (Opheliac, 2006)

First and foremost The Mayor is for myself. It’s exactly the kind of book I enjoying reading, exploring themes and subjects of great interest to me, filled with characters I love and adore — I’d go crazy if I didn’t write their story down! That’s quite a selfish thing to say, isn’t it? It’s true though.

I haven’t written The Mayor with a particular demographic in mind, but still, one has to be able to market these things…

The Mayor is an adult historical fantasy novel. The story is very character driven and relationship-focused* with a female protagonist, which stereotypically appeals to women more than men (though I’ve had male beta readers and they’ve been very positive!). If you like gritty historical novels with a hint of magical realism, where seemingly small and innocuous actions ripple outwards with violent, often devastating effect, then you’ll find lots to love in my book.

*What ‘relationship’ means in this context: familial, romantic, sexual, political, professional, dysfunctional…

4. Your favourite thing that DIDN’T make it into the book (such as a background story, description or an erased character)

My favourite aspects of The Mayor that won’t make it into the final draft are usually to do with character backstories. One of my favourite backstories is that of Melora’s governess, Miss Lillith. Despite being an incredibly minor character — with one crucial part to play — she’s one of my most developed.

Identity TokenFirst, a history lesson: foundling hospitals were philanthropic institutions set up in the mid-18th century to take in abandoned children left there by desperate mothers, no questions asked. Sometimes the mothers would leave an ‘identity token’, should she one day return to lay claim to the child. These tokens could be anything: a scrap of paper with a message on it; trinkets ranging from pieces of glass and cotton to exquisite embroidery and jewellery. Some of these tokens are on display in the Foundling Museum (click here). I find it desperately sad to look at them. I cannot imagine how heartbreaking it must have been for some of these women to surrender their child for the sake of their reputation or personal safety.

~*~ Warning: Rape ~*~

Foundling Hospital
‘A Mother Depositing Her Child at the Foundling Hospital in Paris’ by Henry Nelson O’Neil (1817-1880)

Ada Lillith was abandoned at birth by her mother, the town’s milliner, Louise Lovelace, on the doorstep of New Hardway’s Foundling Hospital for Deserted Children. Louise was raped by a New Hardway Judicial Officer who invaded her shop one night. She managed to hide the resultant pregnancy right up until the moment of birth, at which point Ada Lillith was born in the storeroom and cut from Louise’s body with a carving knife.

Knowing she could not really afford to keep the child and afraid of losing her fiancé — whom she feared would leave her for being ‘spoiled’ by another man — Louise secretly left baby Ada with the Foundling Hospital along with a ring and a note with the baby’s name on it (Ada and Lillith are actually Miss Lillith’s first and middle names, the latter of which became her last name). Louise had hoped the Foundling Hospital would use the ring to pay for Ada’s welfare, but instead the hospital kept it safe and passed it along to their charge once she left the hospital at the age of fifteen. Having already secured a position as governess to the Winships — taking over from the nursemaid once Melora was old enough to begin her schooling at the age of five — Ada resolved not to sell the ring and kept it instead. It is her dearest and most prized possession, and a source of fascination to the young Melora.

Incidentally, the Judicial Officer who raped Ada’s mother was caught and prosecuted for a separate rape charge and later hanged. Louise Lovelace and her husband had already moved to Hilt at this point. Louise is still running her hat shop in the capital during the events of The Mayor.

5. Chapter 5, Line 5… share 5 lines of your WIP and then invite 5 writers to do the same.

Melora forced a smile, lowering her quill.

“Yes thank you, Jaspher.” Irritation fluttered at the back of her skull for this minor intrusion upon her thoughts. “I am quite well, though I confess my mind was elsewhere.”

The air within the office was oppressively close.

~ The Mayor: Part One (Copyright © S.E. Berrow 2018)

I don’t think I even know 5 writers! And those I do know are taking part in this challenge already.

I know Sara Le Tourneau and SarahM follow this blog and sometimes comment. Therefore I nominate the two of you!

Phew! All caught up. See you again in a month, probably.

S.E. Berrow