13 July 2013 - BACKGROUND TO A NOVEL - Clancy Tucker


BACKGROUND 

TO A  NOVEL


G'day guys,

I rarely plug myself on this blog. I'm usually too busy promoting other creative people, but today and tomorrow you might learn much about me. Today I answer many questions that people, students, and especially kids, have asked me over the years about my first published novel - 'GUNNEDAH HERO' (c). The purpose of today's post is to give you some idea about how I tick as a writer and how I plan a novel.

Tomorrow I provide a scintillating interview. Brace yourself ...



 WHERE DID THE IDEA COME FROM FOR ‘GUNNEDAH HERO’ ©?


I’ve kept ideas for stories for decades, and stored them in a folder. Not sure how many I have, but it would have to be hundreds. This story is based on a familiar expression in Australia – ‘The Long Paddock’: the great network of stock routes that became known as “The Long Paddock” – a historic web of tracks and trails linking stock-breeding areas of inland New South Wales and Queensland with emerging markets in Victoria. So, that actual expression conjured up adventure and an opportunity to write a great yarn. However, I wanted to write it for teenagers; those who live in the cities and know little about the Australian bush. My simple mission was to write something that taught city kids that meat and milk don’t originate from a supermarket.


WHAT’S THE BOOK’S BLURB?


Fourteen-year-old Gunnedah ‘Gunnie’ Danson has a 500-word assignment on drought. His late grandfather has left him a box containing a  manuscript. It’s been written by Gunnie’s great-great-grandfather, Smokey ‘Gun’ Danson, after his journey up the long paddock during a harsh drought as a fourteen-year-old drover in 1910. At the back of the manuscript is an envelope. It’s NOT to be opened until Gunnie has read the entire story.


Gunnie spends the weekend at Wiralee Station; a cattle station that’s been in the family since 1848. There, he reads the awesome manuscript and learns of Smokey’s adventurous journey. Gunnie overhears several secretive conversations. His snobby Aunty Kate wants to divorce his uncle and sell Wiralee Station. Gunnie finishes the manuscript and opens the mysterious envelope. Will it legally prevent his aunt from selling Wiralee Station?  


HOW LONG DID IT TAKE TO WRITE?


Three months, seven days a week, 12-14 hours a day – an adrenalin rush.




HOW MUCH RESEARCH WAS INVOLVED?


Very little. I researched red-bellied black snakes and fractured wrists. The rest came from my head – memories from spending time as a kid on farms. I call it the hard drive. Writing is the catalyst that allows those facts to emerge from a brain full of facts and memories.


WAS IT PREPARED FIRST, OR DID YOU SHOOT FROM THE HIP?


I’m a hip-shooter. I start a manuscript and it takes over. It’s absolutely magic – an adrenalin rush. As I write, my subconscious thinks of bits and pieces to add here and there. So, I jot those ideas on scraps of paper and fold them into the story as I go along. 


WAS IT EDITED BY A PROFESSIONAL EDITOR?


Yes, and a very good one. Julie is the best for several reasons. She never attempts to alter my story and always asks the right questions or makes great suggestions to improve the story. I’d had three editors before Julie. All were either too clinical or wanted to make my story their story. Hello! 


HOW MANY TIMES HAVE YOU REVISED IT? WHY?


I only recently revisited and revised Gunnedah Hero for the 48th time – THE LAST! I always revise a manuscript to improve it, not for the sake of change. Most writers despise revision, but it is vital. You must accept it as part of the journey and be disciplined and focused. I try and focus on one item at a time – break the revision up into workable chunks: chapters, paragraphs, dialogue, spelling mistakes, typographical errors, paragraphs, grammar etc. Then, I revise the entire story to see how it flows. But, my following books have never taken that many revisions. I guess you learn to hone your skills as you learn your craft.


DID YOU WRITE IT TO A SPECIFIC NUMBER OF WORDS?


Never. The story is what it is. Gunnedah Hero was originally 90,000 words, but it is now about 84,000 words. I always revise harshly. If something does not add to the story, I cut, cut, cut! Doing that makes it punchier for the reader. Why waffle? 


WHAT GENRE’ IS IT?


It was designed for Young Adult Fiction, but I have found it is suitable for, and loved by, those from 8 to 80 years-of-age. Cool, eh? Mind you, it is two stories in one. The young protagonist is a modern 14 year-old kid, Gunnie, reading about his great-great-grandfather, Smokey, who was the same age – 100 years apart. 



ANY FURTHER BOOKS IN THE SERIES?


Yes. Have finished the sequel already – ‘A Drover’s Blanket’ ©. Trust me. It is far more powerful than Gunnedah Hero. Inventing the name of the sequel was my greatest moment as a writer. The hairs stood up on the back of my neck. The Drover’s Blanket refers to the 'Milky Way'. Book three, ‘Magic Billie’ ©, is not far away, but I reckon I have about twenty-odd books to write in this series and each one will be more difficult to write because I have to keep the facts accurate and refer back to previous stories. 


HOW DID YOU CREATE THE CHARACTERS?


Simple. I did what I always do. I think of someone I know who would fit the character, glance out the window of my study, ‘Engine Room’, and choose a character. That way, I can make the character consistent because I know the person well and know exactly how they would react to certain circumstances – pain, joy, laughter, disasters, etc.


DO YOU ONLY WRITE HISTORICAL FICTION?


No, not at all. I write books for teenagers, full of real life experiences and role models. Why, because many kids today have no idea what a role model is. I have written about the environment, kidnaps, the holocaust, animals etc.  


DID YOU DESIGN THE COVER?


Of course. I’m a photographer, so why not do my own covers? That way I can create a cover that is relevant to the story … and it might give me some credibility as a photographer.


IS IT SELF-PUBLISHED?


Yes, after rejecting four contracts from traditional publishers in Sydney, New York, Melbourne and London. 

DID YOU DESIGN AND ORGANISE THE ENTIRE BOOK?

Yes, with some valuable help from friends. The entire exercise was a valuable lesson in publishing a book, from organising an ISBN number to choosing the font, colour of paper, cover design and layout.




HAS ‘GUNNEDAH HERO’ WON ANY AWARDS?


Yes, two awards in the Australian National Literary Awards, plus a medallion from IndiePENdents.org. 


ANY GREAT REVIEWS?


Look above at ‘Book Reviews’. There are plenty of them. 


WHAT WAS THE BEST COMMENT MADE ABOUT THIS BOOK?


Mm ... many, but a mate, who is not an avid reader, spent all day reading ‘Gunnedah Hero’ on his computer from 8am until 11.25pm. He sent me an email at 11.25pm and said, ‘I’ve finished!’ The following morning he sent me an email that said, ‘Fantastic story! I could smell the gum leaves!’ 

It doesn’t get any better than that.


WOULD IT MAKE A GOOD MOVIE?


Yes, and a great box office success. Why, because it would be a family movie. Parents, grandparents and kids could all watch the movie and identify with the characters. I swear a lot in real life, but this story has no serious cussing. 


WHY WRITE YOUNG ADULT FICTION?


Mm … I clearly remember what it was like as a kid. 


IS MARKETING A PAIN IN THE NECK?


Absolutely, because it takes me away from what I was born to do – write. But, it's part of the journey.

ANYTHING SPECIAL ABOUT THIS BOOK?

It's a great story. Two stories in one actually - modern and historical fiction. The book also contains a family tree and a glossary of terms to help those who know little about Australia. 

ANYTHING ELSE THAT YOU THINK IS IMPORTANT?

This is a sensitive coming-of-age story about a young modern city boy and his great-great-grandfather. They are 14 years-of-age, born 100 years apart, but both have major decisions to face in their lives and there is an extraordinary 'connection' between them. It is a passionate story, whether you are 8 or 80 years-of-age. 


'Gunnedah Hero' is dedicated to ... "the farming pioneers of Australia - men, women and children, their horses and dogs. People who struggled through tough times; those who loved the land and worked tirelessly beneath the Drover’s Blanket."







Clancy's comment: Mm ... writing is always a work in progress. My advice to anyone who is creative is simple: accept the fact that you are different to others. Also, if you think you can, or want to write, find something you are passionate about and write passionately about it. It's the toughest gig in town, so brace yourself for the hard work.

Now, you might like to view my video for 'Gunnedah Hero' on the right hand side.

Tomorrow I offer you some frank answers to many personal questions ... and a special offer to buy 'Gunnedah Hero'.

Thanks for listening. 

I'm ...