Brittany Hughes graduated from the University of Washington with a Bachelor's degree in Creative Writing, and subsequently earned a Masters in Teaching. She recently spent two years living in the Midwest, a landscape that inspired the setting of her novel, "Breaking Clay." ... [more]
As a kid, A.L. Torres fell in love with fantastic stories of worlds beyond our own such as "Animal Farm," "On the Beach" and "Metamorphosis." More recently, he's added "The Giver," "The Road" and "Hunger Games" as some of his favorites, ... [more]
Robert Steedman is a proud native New Yorker, receiving his B.A. in Art History from State University of New York at Geneseo and an M.S. Ed. in Art Education from Nazareth College. His first YA manuscript, FALLING, took First Place ... [more]
Janet Zupan earned her M.F.A. from the University of Montana in 1996. Her work appears in the collection, MONTANA WOMEN WRITERS: A GEOGRAPHY OF THE HEART (Far Country) ... [more]
A Talk With Frances Hay About Her Writing Life and Novel
TITLE: THE NIGHT FOGS GENRE: Science Fiction COMPS: Ishiguro's NEVER LET ME GO, Karen T. Walker's THE AGE OF MIRACLES WORDS: 83,000+
Frances grew up in Connecticut and now live in Wales. She is a developmental psychologist who studies children's lives over time. She has published scientific books and articles, including a statistics textbook written in dialogue. Like many aspiring writers, she has been trying to write novels ever since second grade, beginning at such time she folded over a piece of oatmeal-colored arithmetic paper and wrote a four-page book whose title and plot she doesn't recall. Later, she wrote adventure stories that her fifth grade teacher kindly read. In recent years she has studied creative writing in lifelong learning courses and workshops in Wales, Scotland, and the United States. She has just begun to get her short fiction published.
Ever since I moved to Britain in the 1980s, to a house that still had a decaying air raid shelter in its garden, I have been haunted by the legacy of the blitz. I would look out across London at the dome of St Paul's Cathedral against the night sky and imagine it surrounded by clouds of smoke from nearby bombings.
- Frances Hay A: Tell us something about yourself as it relates to your writing life. Also, what inspired you to begin the novel?
My first writing goal was to start and finish a novel. I managed that because the end of my first novel was inspired by my 7-year-old son, who was writing his first novel, STARTRIGHT BEAR, and ended it sensibly with the sentence "And then they went home." Since I was writing a journey novel set in the near future, that ending made perfect sense for my protagonist as well as STARTRIGHT BEAR. Now that I've written and revised a couple of novels, my new goal is to begin a second career as a published author. I was inspired to begin the project I'm working on in the novel-writing course after I bought CANTON'S WAR by Keith Flynn. It's a memoir that describes a teenager living through the blitz in my inner city neighborhood during World War II. I wondered, how did the people who used to live in these houses cope? How would I have coped?
A: Who are you reading now? Which authors and novels have been an inspiration to you, and why?
I'm in two book clubs, one quite literary and the other for enthusiasts of speculative fiction, and so I've just read THE KREUTZER SONATA by Leo Tolstoy (more of an unreadable polemic than a story, and I say that as someone who loved Anna Karenina) and LEVIATHAN WAKES by James S.A. Corey, an enjoyable space opera with interesting bits of future sociology and moral dilemmas. The best book I've read so far this year is OUR MUTUAL FRIEND by Charles Dickens but I also really enjoyed J.K. Rowling's THE CASUAL VACANCY. My inspirations for the novel I'm working on are well written dystopia-esque novels about realistic characters that appeal to a broad readership, particularly Kazuo Ishiguro's NEVER LET ME GO and Karen Thompson Walker's THE AGE OF MIRACLES.
A: Can you tell us about your novel?
A few years from now, after Scotland votes for independence, the United Kingdom disintegrates. The capital of the small, newly independent country of Wales is attacked each night by mysterious fogs that induce mass depression in the same riverside neighborhoods once pounded by the Nazi blitz. Psychologists are conscripted into The Night Shrinks to prowl around the city and rescue the people most affected by the fogs. Behind the scenes, the military psychologists plan a counterattack on England. And then one morning, coming off her shift, one of the Night Shrinks finds a strange, blue-skinned baby left like a sacrifice in the circle of standing stones near the Castle. This changes everything.
A: What gives you a passion for this story and why are you the one who needs to tell it?
Ever since I moved to Britain in the 1980s, to a house that still had a decaying air raid shelter in its garden, I have been haunted by the legacy of the blitz. I would look out across London at the dome of St Paul's Cathedral against the night sky and imagine it surrounded by clouds of smoke from nearby bombings. I've heard the war stories of acquaintances who lived through the war, including one whose house collapsed on her in the East End bombings. But, as a psychologist, I am inspired to write about psychological warfare and how ordinary psychologists would fight a war against an invisible enemy.
A: What have you found to be your biggest challenges to writing a successful commercial novel?
As a member of Algonkian, I decided to participate in the Novel Writing Program to get additional assistance with developing strong plot. It has been very helpful to try to create a convincing six-act structure for my story right from the beginning.
A: Is there any particular facet of the Algonkian novel writing program that has helped you more than any other? If so, why?
The modules on the setting were crucial in helping me understand the story I'm trying to tell. By choosing photos, and trying to describe the world of my story, I realized that setting is far more than just background. In my story, the endangered city, with its river and castle and holy wells, is like another beloved character the primary and secondary protagonists are desperate to save. Paying attention to the gradual way in which the city would die has helped me refine and flesh out the six-act plot structure developed by Algonkian, and with the help of the remaining modules in Part I of the program, plot the story for my human characters.
A: What bit of advice can you give to other aspiring authors just getting started?
Fold a piece of paper over so you have a four-page book. Sketch out your opening on the first page. Sketch out your ending on the last page. If at all possible, send your characters (those who survive) back to some place like home. Use the six-act novel structure on the middle pages to figure out how to get from one to the other. You might need another piece of paper to work out Act 0.