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Friday, December 21, 2012

Guest Post and Giveaway with Michael Williams, author of Vine: An Urban Legend

Hi, everyone!

I am pleased to participate in Michael Williams' Vine Virtual Book Tour hosted by First Rule Publicity.

About Michael:

Michael Williams was born in Louisville, Kentucky. Much of his childhood was spent in the south central part of the state, amid red dirt, tobacco farms, and murky legends of Confederate guerillas. He has spent a dozen years in various parts of the world, Vermont, New York, New Jersey, Wisconsin, with stopovers in Ireland and England, and emerged from the experience surprisingly unscathed. 

Upon returning to the Ohio River Valley, he has published a series of novels of increasing oddness,combinations of what he characterizes as “gothic/historical fiction/fantasy/sf/redneck magical realism” beginning with Weasel’s Luck (1988) and Galen Beknighted (1990), the critically acclaimed Arcady (1996) and Allamanda (1997), and, most recently, Trajan’s Arch (2010). His new novel Vine will be released this summer. 

 He lives in Corydon, Indiana with his wife, Rhonda, and a clowder of cats.
Welcome to Darlene's Book Nook, Michael!

Michael has written a guest post, so I will now turn the floor over to him.

The Truth About Fiction
by Michael Williams

Fiction, to me, reveals its truths gradually when you read it or when you write it. Beginning by persuading you of its reality by a slow accumulation of the right details. Much as a dream does in that strange process where we begin to believe the world in which we find ourselves.

The question is, of course, how you do that. I tend to mistrust any fiction writer talking about his/her work who doesn’t, when put to the question, own up that it is still about character and plot.

In what is called “genre fiction” in the U.S.—sometimes called that rather snobbishly in the academic community—you can see that plot often takes precedence over character. Lots of cool things happen, but the reader can be hard-pressed to care about the characters they happen to. On the other hand, in what the university calls “literary fiction” and I tend to call “academic fiction”, there is the opposite priority. Nothing much happens to cool characters.

So what I try to do is strike that balance, where interesting things happen to equally interesting people.

And since the nature and desires of interesting people kind of determines the type of interesting things that happen to them, I find myself starting by getting to know the people I am writing about.

Almost all those “How to write a novel” books contain what is called a “character sheet”. It’s a form, designed for you to fill out with information about your particular characters—everything from size and eye color down to matters of spirituality and life’s ambitions.

Most of these are kind of silly, too dependent on trivialities and pop psychology motives, but I have one or two that I will use loosely as I come to be acquainted with the people who people my book.

Use them because of the element of surprise: They demand a kind of mindless thoroughness that can lead you to the eccentricities that will make your characters plausible and interesting.

They ask questions I may not think of answering, or even of caring about, at the first stages of the novel.

Had a character change eye colors several times in the first manuscript of Arcady—saved by an observant copy editor, and learned my lesson

Finally, I can subject these sheets, like I do my story, to numerous revisions.

I also, of course, subject them to experience—flesh them with the people I know.

A successful writer I know “casts” his stories with the actors he wants for the movie version—I laugh at his optimism, but it works for him.

I “cast” my stories with parts of the people I know, and of course with parts of myself.

Of course, there are other questions: “What if your Aunt Beulah recognizes herself?”A: she never will, especially if you don’t call the character Beulah.

Most important, however, are those qualities that launch the story. I have taken one fiction writing class in my life, and remember very little about it, except one very useful principle. Early in the process, you should ask: “What does this character want more than anything in the world?” The answer to that question often tells you where the plot is headed, though sometimes the answer changes later in the story.

That’s what you call plot.

Plot, I work from an initial outline, which I throw away around the 4th chapter. By then, if the characters haven’t thought of something better to do than the sort of vague things you’ve had in mind, it’s time to go back, layer over those chapters even more (telling yourself constantly, “I’ll cut most of this later”, and meaning it when you tell yourself) and at the end of this layering, see what you think and what you hear.

Sometimes I also steal stuff.

Folk tales, myths, fairy tales—the kinds of stories that appeal to us at any age—are remarkable for the crisp plot structures at their cores. I like folk narratives because the bones are usually visible and always there, and you can flesh them out readily and playfully, translating the situation to another time or culture or place, or doing a number on them by introducing a different ripple, a different point of view…..

The great model thief is, of course, Shakespeare. We may not remember Thomas Lodge’s Rosalind but we remember As You Like It, Plutarch’s Lives but we remember Shakespeare’s great Roman plays, Holinshed’s Chronicles, but the great English history plays.

When I am on my own, I work from what my old teacher, John Gardner, called an “energeic plot”, where the plotting proceeds in a sloppier, more intuitive, and usually more exciting fashion.

In this, I generally start with the principal character’s desire, the objects that stand in the way, and a notion—sometimes vague, sometimes a little more focused, but never specific—about where he or she will end up.

I don’t worry about specificity until much later, when my vague destination becomes increasingly outlined and apparent.

At first, I “establish the dream”—enter my fictional world as thoroughly as I can stand—and let that entrance suggest at my characters’ motions through that world.

How I do it, is this:

I purposefully overwrite the first scenes, dwelling intensely, imaginatively on the first images, the surroundings, the entrances of the principal characters. I layer and layer these scenes, relying on a profusion of details, both sensory details and suggestions at the large world beyond the immediate action of the story, suggestions that I hope will intrigue the reader, and suggestions almost pre-consciously implanted in me as I embark on the story, which I can explore in the possibilities of the plot.

If you’re in a firmly realized place, and you’re there with people you know, what will happen and what has to happen comes to you gradually, unfolding like our long experience….or like a good novel.

Thanks so much for joining us today, Michael! 

Grand Prize: One lucky winner will win a signed copy of Michael's mythic fiction novel, Vine: An Urban Legend.

2 Runner-up Prizes: Digital copies of the book.

Publisher: Blackwyrm
Date of Publication: March 28, 2012
Format: Paperback, 192 pages
Genre: Mystic Fiction
ISBN: 9781613181256 

Amateur theatre director Stephen Thorne plots a sensational production of a Greek tragedy in order to ruffle feathers in the small city where he lives. Accompanied by an eccentric and fly-by-night cast and crew, he prepares for opening night, unaware that as he unleashes the play, he has drawn the attention of ancient and powerful forces.

Michael Williams’ Vine weds Greek Tragedy and urban legend with dangerous intoxication, as the drama rushes to its dark and inevitable conclusion.

Buy Links:

To enter the giveaway, please fill out the Rafflecopter entry form below.

This giveaway is open worldwide, but the Grand Prize is available to Canada/US mailing addresses only. This giveaway will close at 12:00 AM CST on December 28, 2012.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tour Participants

12/1 – I Smell Sheep – Review

12/3 – From the Bootheel Cotton Patch – Excerpt

12/3 – Book in the Bag – Review

12/4 – Lost Inside the Covers – Review

12/4 – Come Selahway With Me – Interview

12/5 – Unabridged Chick – Review

12/6 – Sheila Deeth – Guest Post

12/6 – AO Bibliophile – Excerpt

12/7 – Window on the World – Review

12/8 – Wholly Books – Review

12/8 – Beth’s Book Reviews – Character Interview

12/10 – AO Bibliophile – Review

12/10 – I’m a Book Shark – Guest Post

12/11 – Workaday Reads – Review

12/12 – Alexx Momcat’s Gateway Book Blog – Guest Post

12/13 – My Chaotic Ramblings – Guest Post

12/13 – Sapphyria’s Book Reviews – Guest Post

12/14 – Azure Dwarf Horde of SciFi & Fantasy – Review

12/15 – Night Owl Reads – Guest Post

12/16 – Miraculous! – Guest Post

12/17 – The Book Diva’s Reads – Guest Post

12/18 – WTF Are You Reading? – Review

12/20 Once Upon a Time – Interview

12/21 – Darlene’s Book Nook – Guest Post

12/23 – The Independent Review – Review

12/25 – Jess Resides Here – Interview

12/26 The FlipSide of Julianne – Interview

12/27 – Laurie’s Thoughts and Reviews – Guest Post (Top 10’s List)

12/28 – Fighting Monkey Press – Review

12/29 – SpecMusicMuse – Review

12/29 – Free Book Dude -Review

12/30 – Bee’s Knees Reviews -Review

12/31 – Celtic Lady reviews -Review

1/1 – Full Moon Bites –Interview

1/1 – Read2Review – Review

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for taking the time and effort to share with us. Looking forward to reading Vine :)


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