Tag Archives: The Life and Times of Chester Lewis

Chester Lewis Author Chat

chester-lewis-fan-fiction-competitionToday I’ll be chatting in the Chester Lewis Fanfiction group on Facebook. For those who haven’t heard of it, the Chester Lewis Fanfiction contest is open until August 2013 and has a $2000 first prize. The idea is to write a fanfiction piece based on The Life and Times of Chester Lewis. Entry into the contest is $10 and this entry fee also gives you access to the Facebook group where you can chat with fellow writers, authors and the editor. Throughout the year (until the contest closes) there will also be author drop-ins which so far have revolved around the story of Chester Lewis, writing in general and the publishing industry (I picked up a couple of great tips during yesterday’s drop-in). It’s well worth the entry fee just for the Facebook group. Plus, who knows what other opportunities could emerge from this competition.

I’ll be dropping into the Facebook group in 6 hours to chat. That’s Sunday 3pm AEDT, Sunday 4am GMT, Saturday 11pm EST or Saturday 8pm PST. Don’t forget you need to have paid your entry fee before you can join.

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Interview with Steve Rossiter

Today I’d like to welcome Steve Rossiter to my blog. Steve runs The Australian Literature Review (www.auslit.net) and Writing Teen Novels (www.writingteennovels.com) and is the editor of various anthologies, including Australian Literature: A Snapshot in 10 Short Stories (featuring one of my first ever published stories) and the recently released The Life and Times of Chester Lewis. Steve offers great opportunities to emerging writers through his programs and he has played a big role in my own writing journey. It is a pleasure to have been able to interview him and pick his brain.

You wrote the final story in The Life and Times of Chester Lewis, can you tell us a little bit about it (without giving away any spoilers)?

The final story takes place around Chester Lewis’s 100th birthday and is told from the POV of his granddaughter. It marks the end of Chester’s life story but raises new implications for the Lewis family.

I wanted to create a final story which would spark readers’ imaginations rather than, say, wind down and have Chester reflect on the past 100 years of his life.

You were also the editor for The Life and Times of Chester Lewis, how did you balance your two different roles? Was it difficult switching between writer and editor?

Since I wrote the final story, my main role for the most of the process was as editor.

It wasn’t difficult to switch between the two roles at the end. I wrote my story with pen and notepad then did my first full edit of the story as I typed it onto the computer.

As well as the various short story anthologies you have published, you also run The Australian Literature Review, which often has short story competitions. You must be somewhat an expert on what makes a short story stand out after all the stories you’ve seen! What are your biggest tips for writers of short stories?

In a previous interview, I was asked what makes a compelling character and I responded that it is a combination of purpose and personality. This would be a good place to start for developing a short story idea. I mean developing a character in the full context of that fictional person and the story-world in which they are situated – not just to pick a goal and label a few personality traits in an abstract way. A character’s sense of purpose and their personality will, of necessity, draw from the story-world in which they are situated.

A simple but important tip is: create a story concept before you start writing. Many fiction writers just write with no story concept in mind and hope a story will emerge, or they write about the setting and/or character relationships with no clear sense of purpose or story momentum. This is fine if you’re writing something as a brainstorming exercise to help trigger an idea to adapt into a story concept, but many writers write without clear purpose and use the result as the end story.

The basic components of a story concept could be summarised as:

1)    A character (in the full context of being a fictional person situated in their story-world) actively pursues a goal.

2)    That character and other characters care about the outcome, but for conflicting reasons.

Readers will care about the outcome if they relate to why the characters care and what they do to pursue their desired outcome.

There is a fan fiction writing competition running on chesterlewis.net, do you have any advice for those hoping to enter?

Making an early decision to enter the competition is a good idea, so they have plenty of time to write a good story, then get some reader feedback and refine it before submitting. It runs until August 31st 2013, but writers can sign up early and they have until August 31st to send their story in. There is a $10 entry fee before March 31st(or $15 for those who sign up between April 1st and August 31st).

Participating in the private Chester Lewis Fan Fiction Group on Facebook is a good idea. Once signed up, the private Facebook group is available for entrants to discuss story ideas and their writing, to meet other writers, to receive fiction writing tips, and where authors from the book and some of their publishing industry friends will drop by from time to time.

Can you tell us about some of your current favourite authors/books and what makes them stand out for you?

I don’t so much have a few authors who are my absolute favourites as I have a range of reading interests and like various authors for different reasons.

Off the top of my head, some Australian authors whose novels I like include Fiona McIntosh, Rebecca James, LM Fuge, Tony Park and Jaye Ford, and some international authors whose novels I like include Stephen King, Gregg Hurwitz, Jodi Picoult, Thomas Harris, Cynthia Voigt, April Henry and Bernard Beckett.

If I was to lump the authors together and describe some things their novels tend to have in common, I would say they have characters with purpose and personality, they have a story with clear stakes, they have an easy-to-read style, and they explore interesting subject matter with intelligence and originality.

What are you working on right now?

I am currently writing a novel set in 1939 Poland with a teenage main character, intended for publication in 2014. My aim is for the novel to be entertaining for teen readers and a serious historical novel for adult readers.

I have Writing Teen Novels (www.writingteennovels.com) undergoing a big expansion from January 1st to feature daily posts throughout the year from a great mix of established novelists from around the world. There will be more than 20 novelists with a post per month throughout 2013 and guest novelists each month.

I will be launching Writing Historical Novels from January 1st along similar lines as the expanded Writing Teen Novels site.

The line-up of authors for these two sites will be announced in December. There will be numerous New York Times bestselling novelists as monthly contributors on each site (including one with more than 75 million copies in print), as well as novelists who are also professors, historians, feature film directors, screenwriters and producers for film and TV, scientists, non-fiction authors, documentary makers, teachers, journalists (including a Pulitzer Prize winner), and more.

I also have Writing Novels in Australia (www.writingnovelsinaustralia.com) – initially a place for members of a writing program I ran in the first half of this year to put down some thoughts about their writing and to reach readers – relaunching from January 1st with a mix of Australian aspiring novelists, early-career novelists and established novelists, including authors such as Helene Young (published by Hachette and Penguin) and Greg Barron (published by HarperCollins).

Any parting words of wisdom?

Write the kind of fiction you find personally rewarding. If your aims for your fiction include commercial publication or to be read by other people (and most writers want their writing to be read by other people in some capacity), find some overlap in what you find personally rewarding to write and what others find personally rewarding to read.

 Thank you, Steve, and good luck with rest of your blog tour!

If anyone would like to see Steve’s blog tour schedule or read some of his previous interviews or guest posts on his tour, please follow this link.

Book website: www.ChesterLewis.net

Facebook page: www.facebook.com/TheLifeandTimesofChesterLewis

Call for Questions

In a couple of weeks on my blog I will be interviewing Steve Rossiter (editor of the recently published The Life and Times of Chester Lewis, runs The Australian Literature Review and is an author, too).

I was compiling some questions to ask and thinking to myself, ‘What sort of questions would interest my fellow writers?’ and I figured, ‘Hey, why don’t I just ask them!’

So, if you have any questions relating to writing, The Life and Times of Chester Lewis (and the fanfic competition) or Steve Rossiter, please leave them in the comments below. I will pick a selection to include in my interview with Steve.

Writing an Action Scene

Last week I was answering interview questions about my story in the integrated short story collection The Life and Times of Chester Lewis and, since I hadn’t looked at it in quite a while, I gave the story a reread. Like most writers (I would imagine), I couldn’t help but think there were places where I could have written more tightly or hooked the reader in more. As writers I don’t think we ever stop editing our stories in our heads, even after they’ve published. I’m a perfectionist in that way, and I don’t think I can ever feel like my writing is perfect. Good, maybe, but perfect, no.

I did concede to myself, however, that I was quite happy with how the main action scene turned out. There are some main points I keep in mind when writing action scenes that I think make a world of difference:

1. Short, sharp sentences pack a punch.

2. But, it is also important to vary sentence length to keep readers engaged, not bored. Short, sharp sentences lose their impact if you don’t vary them with some longer (but not too long) sentences.

3. Get into your character’s head. Think about his or her reactions.

4. Up the stakes. Just when it looks like the character will be triumphant, just when they’ve got the upper hand, turn the tables. Throw the worst case scenario at him or her. Make it seem as though all hope is lost and there is no way out.

If you want to check out my Chester Lewis story and judge my action scene for yourself, The Life and Times of Chester Lewis is actually on special offer today for its launch. You can grab a copy of the ebook for $0.99 (it’s normally $3.99). This is an especially good opportunity to pick up a copy and get started on you fanfic story (if you’re entering). Remember, it’s $2000 for the winner of the competition and it’s open worldwide. What a great opportunity!

Do you have any tips for writing action scenes? What really hooks you in when you’re reading them? Do you have any favourite action scenes from books you’ve read?

Blog Birthday and a Competition

Today is my blog’s third birthday! I had planned a big celebration, but, as seems to be the norm lately, time got away from me. I do have an exciting announcement though…

There is a fanfiction competition happening to coincide with the release of a collaborative story collection titled The Life and Times of Chester Lewis, of which I am one of the contributing authors (alongside some great writers, such as Michael White who co-authored Private Oz with James Patterson). The collection follows the life of the title character, Chester Lewis, through the decades from the 1930s through to the 2030s (I pick up the story during the 1980s). The fanfiction competition is open to writers worldwide and has a fantastic first prize (plus anyone who enters is eligible to enter the Chester Lewis Fan Fiction Group where you will receive regular fiction writing tips and have discussions with fellow writers).

Thanks so much to all my blog followers and readers, new and old, for always making me smile with your comments, follows and likes over the past three years!