Tuesday, 20 September 2022

'The Shadow Order' Blog Tour

An Adventure Book Blog Tour featuring Rebecca F. John.  

Hosted by Erin the Literary Cat

 

 

 

           

© Image Copyright

Hello, and welcome to my weekday Book Review slot featuring Adventures in Middle-Grade Fiction! 

This week we have something very special for you, an exclusive chat with Rebecca F. John, the author of The Shadow Order.

You may recall that Erin reviewed this excellent adventure a few weeks ago, and a link to the review can be FOUND HERE. So let's head on over to Upper Much-Mousing and see what Erin's up to today . . . . 

"Mrs H, I've packed my case, and remembered the suncream and swimsuit. It's all ready for you to pop in the taxi." Erin said as she entered the Manor's drawing room, leapt nimbly onto her favourite sofa, and started checking off items on a list of tasks she had prepared. "Do you think I'll be signing autographs? Maybe I should get you another pen to do the signing for me?"

"Are you going somewhere, dear?" Mrs H looked up from her crossword puzzle and placed the knitting she'd done neatly on her lap. "I don't recall there being any trips planned."

"Yes, on tour. The one we were invited on by Karen at Firefly Press." Erin prodded at the corner of the telegram she currently sat on. "Surely you recall? I know you'd had a sherry that evening, but you said it was quite a red letter day. Though I must admit the telegram is only in black ink, so maybe you got it wrong?"

"Oh, that tour. No, dear, you are quite right. But equally wrong." Mrs H smiled, leaned over, and gently pulled the now-warm and curved telegram from under Erin.

"I'm right and wrong, Mrs H?" Erin glanced over at the decanter just in case Mrs H had imbibed a pre-lunch sherry and forgotten to put the stopper back in.

"Yes, dear. We, or rather you and the blog, are going on tour. Well, actually, the blog is a stop on tour for other readers. So yes, there is a tour. But alas, no, you are not actually going anywhere or signing anything. Rather people, your fans and new visitors are coming to meet Rebecca F. John."

"Hmmm, shouldn't we be getting the tea, sandwiches and scones ready? And maybe do a spot of dusting? I know I, for one, could do with a good dust-off and bath!"

"No, dear, they will be virtual visitors. And before you ask, Rebecca couldn't come here, at least not today. But she kindly sent a copy of the book, AND a unique insight into the question you asked about how she created the characters, and more importantly, how they develop."

"That was really kind, and I can't wait to read the answer. Is it set up on the laptop, Mrs H?"

"It is, dear. I did it whilst you were packing. I think the answer will surprise some of our readers. Though bloggers with companions will, I am sure, understand. Others, who are maybe thinking of branching into writing, will be inspired and educated."

"Just one thing, Mrs H."

"Yes?"

"Does this mean there's no real trips out or tours?" 

"No, dear. No trips or tours."

"So, no real scones with double whipped cream and catnip sprinkles either?"

"No scones. At least, not real scones. But virtual scones topped with virtual cream and lashings of virtual nip ale, we have aplenty."

"Well, I suppose virtual is the new reality," Erin said, contemplating if she needed to have a virtual bath and nap before a virtual tour. "Will we be doing a giveaway this week?"

"Yes, dear. One lucky reader who leaves a comment will have their name plucked from a hat—"

"A virtual hat or a real hat, Mrs H?" Erin interrupted.

"There will be no hat, just folded strips of real paper with names on. So, as I was saying, one lucky commenter will receive a copy of the Shadow Order. And before you ask, it will be a real book, not a virtual copy. Comments will close next Tuesday, 27th September 2022."

Erin nodded sagely and was on the brink of asking another question but was stopped by a reproving look from Mrs H. "I think, dear, we best get on with the tour and introduce our guest."

"Right you are, Mrs H." Erin cleared her throat and, after a nonchalant straightening of the whiskers, addressed the laptop. "Dear readers, please give a warm Upper Much-Mousing welcome to our first guest, Rebecca F. John, author of the brilliant Middle-Grade book, The Shadow Order. Rebecca has kindly written the following article just for us about how she gets to know her characters."

"Hello, Erin, and thank you for the question you sent me. My starting point for developing the characters in The Shadow Order was perhaps slightly unusual. Here is it…

 Betsy – poodle x schnauzer, black and white, born 2015

 Teddy – schnauzer, black, born 2016

 Effie – cocker spaniel, blue roan, 2011 – 2021

 Three dogs. My dogs really were the inspiration for the characters of Elizabeth' Betsy' Blue, Theodore 'Teddy' James, and Euphemia' Effie' Hart – three best friends who embark on a big adventure in The Shadow Order. I've mentioned my reasons for basing these characters on my dogs a few times, but it is perhaps also worth mentioning that echoing the dogs' names, personality traits, and even, to some extent, their physical appearance (Betsy, for example, is the smallest of the three: a wiry, energetic girl who struggles to keep still) was just the beginning of building these characters.

 I'm sure there are as many different ways to develop convincing characters as there are writers. I've heard some mention making lists of character traits or plotting their characters' family histories. I've heard others say they sketch their characters, or compile playlists for them, or even talk to them. For my part, I usually start out with a strong visual idea of each character. Some writers, I know, aren't particularly interested in what their characters look like. That idea feels completely alien to me! I certainly know a lot about my characters' physicality before I start to write them: their eye colour, the way they walk, the manner in which they use their hands when they speak, what their voice sounds like. All those details come to me before I understand why.

 It is only as I start to move them around on the page that I come to learn why I would want to know their stories. A writer friend once told me that if I was stuck with a scene, I should move somebody, even if it's just across the kitchen to make a sandwich. And I think that's a great trick to keep in mind. A lot of writing comes, for me, from the act of doing it, of moving my fingers over the keys, of finding out where that movement will carry my characters.

 So what did I learn about Betsy, Teddy, and Effie as I moved them around the world I had built for them? Honestly, almost everything. As I wrote Betsy onto a street corner, waiting for her friend Teddy to arrive, I learnt that she cannot stay still for a moment. That she fizzes with energy. And as she fizzed around Copperwell, so I learnt that Betsy cannot relax because she has never known the security of a home, that she has bounced from temporary situation to temporary situation, making do, just as she does as a worker at Saltsburg's Laundry at the start of the novel. I might never have known that about her, had I not put her on the page and allowed her to reveal herself to me.

 I had similar experiences with the other main characters. Teddy's low-shouldered lope betrays his lack of confidence in himself. I found the cause of that lack of confidence in his feelings of grief following the loss of his father. Without a role model, Teddy feels he doesn't quite know how to go about the business of growing into a man.

 And with these kinds of discoveries came the characters' interests. Effie is the most sensible and staid of the three characters. She has grown up in a wealthy household and feels herself restricted by what is considered respectable dress, the presence of servants in her home, her parents' important jobs. So it seemed only natural that Effie would challenge that feeling by becoming a jazz musician.

 In this way, the characters grew alongside and because of their existence in their physical world. It seems to me as good a way as any to find our characters and the stories they inhabit. Move your fingers, move your characters, move through the story and see what you discover along the way. It's exciting! It's an adventure! To my mind, it's a lot of fun!"

"Wow, thank you, Rebecca, that was really interesting, and I have to say far more complex than I thought. We loved that your three canine companions started the ball rolling and helped shape the characters. They thus have a special place in the book. Mrs H and I hope there is a sequel to this soon. But till then, we wish you and The Shadow Order a very successful launch. It certainly is a story we recommend!"

                                                 ***

That, sadly is all we have time for this week. Thank you to fellow bloggers and readers for being with us today. I hope you enjoyed this stop on The Shadow Order Book Blog Tour. And please, do leave your comments below.

As is tradition, we leave you with a selfie of me stalking (in a virtual fashion) a long tail zebra mouse that Mrs H says now lives under the sofa!

© Erin the cat Princess.

 

Till Laters!

ERin

 

 © All images and text are copyright, and nothing may be used, copied, shared in part of whole without the express permission of the copyright holders in advance.

 

 

16 comments:

  1. That was a fun post sweet Princess and it sure sounds like a real winner. You look fabulous Erin!

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    1. Thank you. Rebecca has the tone and atmosphere just right. I shall enter you into our draw for a copy of this book.
      ERin

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  2. Thank you, Erin for the interesting sharing by Rebecca. That is a very long tail zebra mouse that you were stalking. Have a beautiful day.

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    1. Thank you for commenting and we are very happy you enjoyed Rebecca's insight. 🙂

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  3. Travelling around is just too expensive these days, plus that darnn COVID is still lurking about, so virtual tours are definitely the way to go. I hope you can track that mouse, Erin. It would make a great story, in itself, once you track down the end of the tale.

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    1. It certainly is dear. But I miss the trips out and cream teaas on some distant lawn of a country house. My tale wouldn't be anywhere as good as the shadow Order. That hasn't mice, but huge wolves and plenty of action. 🙂
      ERin

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  4. That was a very interesting and fun interview, Erin. Amazing to read how the author of your book being reviewed developed her characters. They almost seemed to jump off into reality!

    If you snag that mouse with his super L O N G tail, you sure could have a lot of fun letting him go and then hauling him in again, like a fisherman with his catch on the line.

    Virtual hugs to you all!

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    1. Thank you. Yes, breathing life into characters takes a lot of care. The inspiration was wonderful too. Hehehe, I,ve not found the end of that zebra mouses tail yet, despite many hours tickling it. I'll probably have to stake out the sofa over night 🙂.
      Purrs
      ERin

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  5. Hello there, Erin! We love that photo of you. Sorry you did not get to go on tour, eat real scones, and sign stuff. But the tour, such that it is, sure does sound fun. We liked learning about how Rebecca learns about and develops her characters; what an interesting process.

    Hugs to you and Mrs. H!

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    1. Me too, some real scones would have been delicious. Somehow the virtual ones aren't as filling, MOL. Rebecca's insight shows just how complex and necessary the process is to engage the reader. It seems so easy, as simple as just naming them and getting on with it, yet, is clearly not.
      Purrs
      ERin

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  6. Starting with cats or dogs can never go wrong!

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    1. That is undoubtedly for sure! It is wonderful to see such creativity at work. Writing is such an incredible medium, along with actual author reads.
      Purrs
      ERin

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  7. That was furry interesting. It's almost as if the characters are creating the book themselves.
    Did you manage to catch that long-tail zebra mousie?

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    1. So it seems, but it took a great, canine companion begining to make it so. As to that Zebra Mouse, well, lets just say I am in stalking/sleeping mode 😉.
      Purrs
      ERin

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  8. I very much enjoyed your interview with Rebecca. I completely understand how she builds her characters from her dogs. When I started our blog Eric and Flynn's characters evolved without me realising it at the time. I remember in our first post that Eric said he was the main man, but it was soon Flynn who took over leading the action.

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    1. Thank you, it is great to see how things evolve, mostly we just get to appreciate the outcome. Your two wonderful boys are so natural, and one wonders if there is a book in there for you to write and share?
      Purrs
      ERin

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