C. G. McGinn


Ramblings about Books and Writing

Jonathan (Dr.) Strange and Mr. Norrell

Reading the Book:

Thanks to being poisoned at a very young age by comic books, whenever "strange" is used in relation to a person's name, my mind immediately arrives at, Dr. Strange. I'm not even going to begin to explain how little sense this makes or how it would even tie into Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke.

The story takes place during the Napoleonic Wars. It could be considered historical fiction were it not for the presence of magic. What sets the story apart from other books about magic, was the distinction between those how use magic; practical magicians, and those who simply study the history of magic; theoretical magicians.

While reading I was reminded of The Count of Monte Cristo for two reasons: Both stories take place in and around the time of Napoleon, and both Dumas and Clarke include historical figures as characters, some of which are instrumental to the plot. I have a very deep fondness for The Count of Monte Cristo. It's a great story and the movie version starring TV's Jim Caviezel has reach epic re-watch-ability status. In fact, while writing this, I feel like spending a good part of my morning setting up the old xBox and dusting off the DVD of Monte Cristo.

Much of my reading is done in the form of audiobooks. I'm one of those people with the audacity to think that listening counts as reading. I read this way because, well, I have a long commute to work. But also, there would be a significant gap between blog entries were I to read all these books the old fashion way, because I'm a terribly slow reader. And a book like Jonathan Strange was not a quick read, even for a fast reader. It's not shy on content, and several times it runs the risk of losing the reader in anecdotes, -though interesting- that causes one to question how it pertains to the overarching story. But you need to stick with it! Like Tolkien, it's more about the world than the adventure. However unlike Tolkien, you're not stuck in some weirdo's cabin for hundreds of pages, or arguing about the price of ponies while the f-ing wraiths are at your back door.

But back to reading in a more traditional sense for a minute. I picked up some books these past few weeks that I'm excited to read but since I am a slow reader, I thought I'd talk about them now, and then really talk about them later.

Off the freebie cart at the local library I grabbed a hardbound addition of The Damnation Game by Clive Barker. Hooked me from the first sentence.

Went to the New England Author's Expo and connected with a lot of fellow indie authors. I met some really cool people who I hope to stay in contact with. It was really encouraging to meet cool folks who are in the same boat I'm in...or perhaps they're in somewhat nicer boats with engines and a lido deck, while I'm still trying to figure out what the hell to do with these paddles.

But I also reconnected with author, Vlad V, and picked up all 3 of his books. I'm currently reading The Button, which is Part 1 of a 2 book series. I suggest you look him up and buy his stuff, Yorkic, and Brachman's Underworld. He's linked here and on this site's main sidebar.

Also got The Big Book of Genre Stories by Dale T. Phillips, which looks to be a little bit of everything and I can't wait to start it. Dale's a cool guy and he gave me a mention in his blog so I thought I return the favor. Check him out.

I'll be talking more about these at a later date but I wanted to put them out there because they're from some very cool people who love what they're doing probably a little more than I do. Also, there's Clive Barker to, so, ya know.

Writing the Book:

I wrote some lore. I think lore is important even in a story that is set in the "real world". But when you're building a unique, unexplored world from scratch, it's a necessity. I tend to think a lot of this lore, this world building will be in the finished manuscript, but it's also helpful to write such things in order to help one understand the world they're trying to write. It may be the stuff of history text books not appropriate for the story, but it's required by the author to flesh out ideas and create a consistent universe.

I write chronologically. I start at Chapter 1 and go up from there. At least, that's what I've grown accustomed to doing in the world of First Drafts. During this revision phase, I seem to be all over the place. Not sure if I like that. Currently I've gone back a few chapters and am fleshing out scenes that are either non-existent, or lacking. Revisions are like washing a car. In the first draft you've sprayed it down, going over it with soap and a sponge. The car is clear, but now all the little imperfections are easier to see and it's time to start buffing them out. Often this process takes longer than the initial write. At least that what I'm finding.