Unique Selling Point: Unique, Imaginative, ‘Charming, enchanting and richly layered this is purely delightful.’
“This delightful book will appeal to teens and young adults who love stories filled with magical crystals, dark family curses, and mysteries waiting to be solved around every corner. Each chapter leads you on a journey of discovery where Amelina earns the right to use three wizard stones to reset the balance of time and finally break the curse that holds her family hostage. A captivating tale!” – Colleen M. Chesebro (Editor)
It was such fun. I had a go at picking different noses, eyes, hair, lips, hairstyles and even ears! The hardest ones to create were undoubtedly Amelina’s mum and dad as they’re meant to look really odd. I think I succeeded up to a point, the wide eyes and stubble added the finishing touches to her dad! Ryder was tricky too as he’s meant to have two different coloured eyes so I opted for a multi-coloured eye instead.
So let me introduce you to the avatars of:
Ryder – who I couldn’t make up my mind about – should he have short hair?
Esme the mirror girl and Ilaria Miss Super Perfect.
Jade the rock chick and Joselyn the worry chick.
Amelina’s mum and dad who’ve had a rough time and it shows!
And Aunt Karissa and Kyle, because Karissa loves nothing better than the opportunity to flirt with young men! Poor Kyle, no wonder his hair is sticking up! But, he’s being polite – it’s only just a couple of protesting hairs!
Creature, you are some scary dude to look at but I mustn’t let that stop me from interviewing you.
So, pull up a chair, make your skeleton comfortable….
MJ: Tell me about yourself.
The Creature: There isn’t much to tell. I don’t get out much, most of the time I’m waiting.
MJ: Waiting for what?
The Creature: For something to happen or for someone to summon me.
MJ: So you’re catatonic until someone brings you to life in a painting?
The Creature: That’s pretty much it, most of the time I’m mingling with the worms, the bugs are feasting on me, and I’m dreaming about my dreds.
MJ: Your dreds?
The Creature: When I was alive I had dreadlocks, now I’m just skin and bone. I miss my dreadlocks.
MJ: Hah! Scary dreadlock dude tell us about the cottage.
The Creature: It’s my home, sort of. It’s not a public venue, you have to be invited to visit.
MJ: Why’s that?
The Creature: The Crystal cottage is a magical, powerful place. Magical places have to be protected. Crystal Magic can be dangerous if it is used by the wrong people.
MJ: So you protect it?
The Creature: Yes and no… I am a junior caretaker of sorts… There’s a hierarchy of protection. I can’t tell you too much about the cottage, you have to read the book to find out more.
MJ: That’s fair enough. Do you live alone?
The Creature: I live with a bunch of doves and a wacky lady who shares caretaking duty with me.
MJ: Just you two?
The Creature: No, there are other beings that protect the cottage, personages, legends and the like, but I hardly ever see them.
MJ: Sounds intriguing.
The Creature: That crazy author thinks so…
MJ: That’s me! Lol..
The Creature: Stop your procrastinating, author lady. When are you going to stop twiddling your hair and write book two?
MJ: Cheeky. It takes time to write if you are working full-time.
The Creature: You work full-time?
MJ: Yeah, I do now. I’m a receptionist, a meet and greet lady. I sit next to this security guy all day. The first thing I noticed about him is his distinctive tattoos on each hand. But, I better not go into detail in case someone accuses me of gossiping…
The Creature: Heaven forbid! Sigh… No one would know if I had a tattoo.
MJ: No, not by looking at you. Those bones don’t give much away. Did you ever have a tattoo?
The Creature: No. Never. Just me and my dreds. I bet you don’t have guys like me in your building.
MJ: No, but we do get some strange dudes. There’s this guy that looks like a vampire!
The Creature: What, black hair, cape, white skin, sharp teeth?
MJ: Yep, I reckon he packs his cape in his briefcase… Me and the security guy were talking about Transalvania and I jest not – the vampire dude walked in.
The Creature: Wow, no one would believe that! Talk about never a dull moment. I’m jealous. I’ll have to tell the worms about this…
MJ: Feel free to share. I suppose I better wrap up this interview, your worms are getting excitable and restless.
The Creature: AWWW, I was just warming up. My old decaying bones, bugs and worms take ages to warm up these days.
The Creature gets up, bends his knee joints, and scatters a family of worms at my feet. He sighs.
MJ: Ugh, keep your worms to yourself! Until the next time, dear Creature.
The Creature tries to grin but a few of his rotten teeth land on my lap.
I pick off the yucky teeth and wince.
MJ: I don’t mean to be rude but it’s time you went!
The Creature: Yeah, time to get back to scaring people. Being nice and polite is such hard work. Byeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.
Today, it is a great pleasure to introduce you to the image of my main character – Amelina, modelled here by ….. my daughter’s friend Elise Hackney.
Today, I am interviewing using my author nickname MJ, tribute to my favourite superhero Spiderman’s Mary Jane.
MJ: It’s a pleasure to talk to you about your role in The Curse of Time – Book 1 – Bloodstone.
Amelina: Thanks for the invite.
MJ: So who is Amelina in The Curse of Time?
Amelina: I’m a teenage girl stuck in the worse situation. My life sucks in a spectacularly non-normal way.
MJ: Sorry to hear that, I didn’t set out to write your character into such grief. It just happened.
We pause for a moment lost in our thoughts.
MJ: What’s your thoughts on my creative process?
Amelina: I think you must have had an odd turn! Or, you’d been guzzling a crate of booze the night before. Who knows? One morning you jumped out of bed and a bunch of ludicrous ideas poured out of you. An unstoppable, unstructured fountain of crazy unleashed imagination.
MJ: Ha ha! That’s so true it hurts! I became Obsessive, didn’t I? You know like in the kids books… Forget about Little Miss Bossy, or Little Miss Chatterbox, I became Little Miss Obsessive!
Amelina: Yeah, you became a first rate burn the kids dinner mum. Not just that, you were hell bent on listening to your teenage daughters and their unsuspecting friends to get ideas for dialogue. You’re the noisiest person on this planet, a total eavesdropping ninja.
MJ: Guilty as charged! My daughter accused me of that recently. In fact, she begged me to be scarce if her friends come round! Can you imagine? I’m such an embarrassment.
I laugh, and Amelina rolls her eyes.
MJ: Tell us about your life…
Amelina: Oh, do I have to? Sigh. My life sucks. My day to day existence has changed and not in a good way. Forget the standard tribulations of the nuclear family. Our family is peculiar. We are four humans, one cat, and a house that behaves like a demented being. My dad has undergone some weird time shift, (no spoilers,) my mum is miserable, (and it’s not just menopausal hot flushes and night sweats.) Then, there’s this girl called Esme (a sister of sorts with an impressive lot of problems,) who lives with us in captivity and a weird black cat who visited and never left.
MJ: Sounds like some household! I must have been on the super strength vino to come up with that!
Amelina: Ha ha. Yeah, you must! It really is on a par with the Addams Family without the horror aspect. I swear even the foundations of our house are freaked out by our weirdness.
MJ: It can’t be all trauma and escalating problems, please tell me there are some positives?
Amelina: Yeah. I hang out with my friends, play music, write songs, do creative stuff: I write poetry, paint, collect crystals… (no spoilers!)
MJ: Crystals play a huge part in the novel, could you tell me a little about that?
Amelina: Yeah, crystals were the starting point for the novel. The huge inspiration – encouraged by Jupiter Artland – The Crystal Grotto by Anya Gallaccio. The novel was originally entitled The Krystallos Cottage – from Krystallos in the Greek meaning Crystal. Then, to keep it simple it became The Crystal Cottage. Then, time winged its merry dance into it and the story changed. That’s when the title of the novel changed to The Curse of Time. The Curse of Time became a series, with The Curse of Time – Book 1 – Bloodstone, followed by (the unedited – still to be released) The Curse of Time – Book 2 – Golden Healer.
MJ: That’s a lot of changes! But one special ingredient remained throughout the creative process. Magic. What part does that play in the novel?
Amelina: A huge part. When the promise of magic came, a sense of much needed hope started to grow, but with light and hope there is always opposing darkness.
MJ: Opposing darkness, that sounds exciting… I’m drawn to the dark side! Ha ha…
Amelina: Yeah, it’s a yin and yang, opposites kind of story. There’s light and darkness, seriousness and humour, deception and truth, various themes which appear throughout the novel. Oh, and there’s a touch of romance too, but not in a conventional way, The Curse of Time avoids boring love triangles or instant love. This story digs deeper than that.
MJ: I’ve heard there’s a cute guy in the novel?
Amelina: Oh, yes. Perhaps two, depends on your type! Kyle is fair, Ryder’s dark…
MJ: And friends?
Amelina: It’s strong on friendships, but jealousies play a part too.
MJ: It sounds such a mix. What an extraordinary amount of themes!
Amelina: Masses. Time plays a huge part, as do crystals representing light, shadows, (darkness) and deception.
MJ: I believe there’s scope for so much more – in book two?
Amelina: There might even be a Book three. This story has a long way to go. Time is ticking… and where it will end – who knows?
MJ: Thank you for accepting my invitation to talk to my readers about The Curse of Time. You are my first character, my principal leading lady, the starting point. I love Ryder, Shadow, the Grasshopper and the subsidiary characters too but they came into being after you. So dear Amelina you mean a lot to me.
Amelina: Aww, thanks! No problem.
MJ: I mustn’t keep you. You’ve been a very helpful interviewee, I can’t say the same about Ryder.
Amelina: Huh, no surprise there!
MJ: Ryder has become one of my favourite characters too. Somehow he has that effect on people. But, he’s difficult to figure out.
Amelina: Yeah, I get that, he’s fit as can be but he’s a mystery.
MJ: Never a truer word said.
Hope you enjoyed my latest character interview, find out more about my other characters here:
Twitter: @curseof_time Instagram Tumblr
Fellow Administrators of our Authors Bloggers Rainbow Support Club#ABRSC on Facebook, myself, my good friends Colleen Chesebro and Debby Gies.
In the Futurelearn Start Writing Fiction course we looked at Josip Novakovich’s methods of Characterisation:
Here is my summary of Novakovich’s methods:
This looks a bit like me, with my glasses on! Except no grey hair yet, well none I’m admitting to!
All the quotes I have taken as examples are from Hiromi Kawakami’s excellent book, Strange Weather in Tokyo which I have recently reviewed and given five stars.
Summary – In this method tell us what your characters are like and what they like doing using the 3rd person. The advantage of this method is simplicity and readability. The disadvantage is a tendency to tell rather than show. No dramatic action or dialogue takes place.
His full name was Mr Harutsana Matsumoto, but I called him ‘Sensei’. Not ‘Mr’ or ‘Sir’, just ‘Sensei’.
He was my Japanese teacher at secondary school He wasn’t my form teacher, and Japanese didn’t interest me much, so I didn’t really remember him. Since I finished school, I haven’t seen him for quite a while.
From this opening summary Hiromi Kawakami swiftly, and expertly, takes the reader into a scene at a crowded bar, with dialogue between the two main characters of the novel, Tsukiko and Sensei.
Repeated action or habit. This is a people watching exercise. What do your characters do? Have they any unconscious habits, or actions? The advantage of this method is that it saves time. The disadvantage is that it delays entry into dramatic scenes.
Sensei had always held an eraser in his hand when writing on the blackboard.
Sensei did not like anyone to pour his drinks for him. Whether it was beer or sake, he meticulously poured for himself.
Self portrait – Introducing him or herself. Can be achieved directly or indirectly. Works better if the words create a picture of the character or create some drama.
Here is Tsukiko’s self-portrait:
I, on the other hand, still might be considered a proper adult. I had been very grown-up when I was in primary school. But as I continued through secondary school, I in fact became less grown-up. And then as the years passed, I turned into quite a childlike person. I suppose I just wasn’t able to ally myself to time.
This short paragraph tells us so much about Tsukiko.
Sensei tells us about himself in a lengthy story about his wife and son and himself going hiking.
It is interesting how Hiromi Kawakami uses the differing self portraits of the two characters, to suggest the disparity in their ages, the younger of the two, Tsuikiko’s is short and to the point, and Sensei’s is long-winded and rambling.
Appearance – We can learn an awful lot about a character from appearance. I liked Novakovich’s tip about hands. Hands can be used to great effect or even feet or the way a person walks. Writing captures motion well. Again careful choice of words seems to be the key.
Descriptions of Sensei’s appearance:
His white hair was carefully smoothed back, and he was wearing a starched white shirt with a grey waistcoat.
He wore a tweed suit with leather shoes. His suit looked old but well-tailored.
When he was chewing his mouth was that of an old man.
Details about Sensei’s gait:
Sensei held his umbrella straight up and started walking. I could sense from his gait the tacit but full expectation that I would follow him.
Scene – Set your character in motion, combining appearance, action and dialogue. Advantage of this method. The reader is with you visualising and experiencing the scene. Most lifelike. The disadvantage: it is difficult to include back story, there are only so many flash backs, and memories that you can interweave into plot.
‘These elms are so verdant, aren’t they?’ Sensai said, looking up at the trees beside the bus stop. He was right – dense with leaves, the branches of the elms waved in the breeze. Although the wind was light, high in the sky, the tops of the elms swayed even more grandly.
It was a hot summer day, but the low humidity kept it cool in the shade. We took the bus to Teramachi and then walked a little. Sensei was wearing a panama hat and a Hawaiian shirt in muted colours.
Combining techniques: Combine two or more of the above techniques, making the characters development incremental.
The advice to combine techniques is excellent, the sound of a character’s voice, and sensory details can also create a powerful image:
It was only his voice that I remembered from the beginning. He had a resonant voice with a somewhat high timber, but it was rich with overtones. A voice that emanated from the boundless presence by my side at the counter.
At some point, sitting beside Sensei, I began to notice the heat that radiated from his body. Through his starched shirt, there came a sense of Sensei. A feeling of nostalgia. This sense of Sensei retained the shape of him. It was dignified, yet tender, like Sensei. Even now, I could never quite get a hold on it – I would try to capture it, but the sense escaped me. Just when I thought it was gone, though, it would sneak back up on me…Wasn’t a sensation just that kind of indistinct notion that slips away, no matter how you try to contain it
Author’s bio on Goodreads:
Josip Novakovich (Croatian: Novaković) is a Croatian-American writer. His grandparents had immigrated from the Croatia, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, to Cleveland, Ohio, and, after the First World War, his grandfather returned to what had become Yugoslavia. Josip Novakovich was born (in 1956) and grew up in the Central Croatian town of Daruvar, studied medicine in the northern Serbian city of Novi Sad. At the age of 20 he left Yugoslavia, continuing his education at Vassar College (B.A.), Yale University (M.Div.), and the University of Texas, Austin (M.A.).
He has published a novel (April Fool’s Day), three short story collections (Yolk, Salvation and Other Disasters, Infidelities: Stories of War and Lust), two collections of narrative essays (Apricots from Chernobyl, Plum Brandy: Croatian Journey) and a textbook (Fiction Writer’s Workshop).
Novakovich has taught at Nebraska Indian Community College, Bard College, Moorhead State University, Antioch University in Los Angeles, the University of Cincinnati, and is now a professor at Pennsylvania State University.
Mr. Novakovich is the recipient of the Whiting Writer’s Award, a Guggenheim fellowship, two fellowships from the National Endowment of the Arts, an award from the Ingram Merrill Foundation, and an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation. He was anthologized in Best American Poetry, Pushcart Prize, and O.Henry Prize Stories.
He taught in the Master’s of Fine Arts program at Pennsylvania State University, where he lived under the iron rule of Reed Moyer’s Halfmoon Township autocracy. He is currently in Montreal, Quebec teaching at Concordia University.
His book Fiction Writer’s Workshop, may be of interest: .
In the Futurelearn Start Writing Fiction course we’ve now moved on to Finding and Developing Fictional Characters, so I thought I would share with you some writing nuggets of wisdom.
We have been studying Josip Novakovitch’s methods of finding and developing fictional characters.
Of course there are numerous ways to develop characters. This is not rocket science, but the following gem of wisdom is.
Maya Angelou: “There is no greater agony than bearing an UNTOLD story INSIDE you.”
Maya Angelou is right. If there is a story inside of you, don’t keep it to yourself! Share it with the world, draw upon your own life as a starting point. Why not? Everybody has a story inside of them, reach in and you’ll find it.
Then look around you. What about your family and friends? Delicately mould these starting blocks into something new, but don’t just produce carbon copies of the originals. Blend and mix on tap resources of inspiration, use your observational skills, listen to the way people talk, and the way they interact with other people, refer to a wide range of readily available information, such as internet search engines, books, and don’t turn your nose up at strange sources of inspiration, embrace them all.
The key is to use your imagination. You need a tree load of inspiration.
Without this your characters may disappoint and burst like an overblown balloon. Or else they will fall flat onto deaf ears. Just make sure they aren’t full of hot air!
Let your imagination soar, and your characters will be fully rounded, developed and ready to lift off like a released balloon, or even a hot air balloon, soaring to the highest heights.
Allow your writing to evolve spontaneously.
Novakovich quotes Mel Brookes, Somerset Maugham, Erskine Caldwell, and Graham Greene.
Mel Brookes: “Every human being has hundreds of separate people living under his skin. The talent of a writer is his ability to give them their separate names, identities, personalities, and have them relate to other characters living with him.”
Erskine Caldwell: “I have no influence over them. I’m only an observer, recording. The story is always being told by the characters themselves.”
Graham Greene, “One gets started and then, suddenly, one cannot remember what toothpaste they use…”
Graham Greene’s quote is spot on, when things just start to happen spontaneously and the story carries the author along, then you know that you’re on the right track.
Somerset Maugham: “People are hard to know. It is a slow business to induce them to tell you the particular thing about themselves that can be of use to you.”
That’s the key and that’s why imagination is so important.
Somerset Maugham, also gave us these humorous gems of wisdom:
I especially like this one, there’s hope for me yet! There’s no age bias in writing, as long as my mind stays fresh, what is there to stop me writing when I’m older?
Getting back to my own writing experiences. I didn’t set out to follow any particular method. To be honest I stumbled along, and discovered my characters in quite a haphazard way, but in general I used a variety of approaches, which seemed to work for me.
In fact when I finished my novel I was struck by the realisation that I could see my own anxieties interwoven into my plot. This was obvious to me but might not be quite so obvious to other people reading it. I don’t have a sister or a twin so I can’t say that I write about siblings. I do have a brother but I don’t think that he influenced my writing, certainly not in this novel. Maybe who knows, he might do in future projects to come. To a certain extent I do write about my experiences, I have two teenage daughters, so it’s not surprising that the main protagonist in my novel is a teenage girl. There are male characters too. I have re-invented the main love interest for a modern audience. Is he based on anyone I know? Maybe there are elements of him in men that I have met! I’m a Scorpio and I do like to be secretive, so I’m not saying anymore. I think that we draw on all sorts of influences and this shapes our writing and the characters that we discover along the way, some of these influences may be conscious and some may be less conscious, and more exciting!