Saturday, October 6, 2012

Of Spies, Very Bad Things and Zombie Plot Bunnies

I have a special treat for you today. The guest blogger is one of my bestest friends (yes, I know that's not a word, but novelists are allowed—once in a while), favorite people on the planet and all-time favorite authors (you'll see why when you read his novel—and if you don't buy it, you'll be missing out big time!). I give you my partner in crime, William Kendall!

Substitute damn every time you’re inclined to write very, your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.” ~ Mark Twain

I am returning this otherwise good typing paper to you because someone has printed gibberish all over it and put your name at the top.” ~ unknown English professor, Ohio University

The road to hell is paved with adverbs.” ~ Stephen King

Rogues are preferable to imbeciles because sometimes they take a rest.” ~ Alexandre Dumas

I’d like to thank Norma for letting me run wild in her blog today. I promise I’ll leave it in just the same condition I found it in. I may have to hire an army of zombie plot bunnies to help me clean up though.

After a long, long, long (did I mention it was long?) road, I have come to the point where my first novel is almost set to be out and about in the hands of readers. Heaven & Hell has been written, gone through revisions and drafts, handed over to readers for editing, and printed off by myself for final checks. Once I’m finished with that, it’ll be set for final formats, and then for publishing. And my creation will be unleashed. At that point, I can breathe a deep sigh of relief.


Heaven & Hell started up years ago. Its genesis took place during a trip back to see my family. I remember watching the news with my parents one night, with an article involving unrest in Israel. I thought about it, asked my mother a question: what would happen if a terrorist group went and did such and such a thing. Her answer was that it would be war. That resonated with me. Such and such a thing stayed with me, growing inside my imagination, ultimately becoming what I’ve called the Very Bad Thing, the central act of the novel. So for the record, Mom’s completely to blame for giving me the idea in the first place. Thanks, Mom!

I’ve been writing for myself for years, when I wasn’t reading other material. I’ve always liked the creative outlet that writing presents, and over time, that became my training ground, a way to hone my craft. My subject matter over time gravitated towards my favourite genre to read: the spy thriller. I’ve been reading from the works of the masters for years. So it seemed natural that my writing would take me in that direction. Over time, I was developing characters, thinking of plotlines, always thinking that at some point in the future I’d write the stories. I had in mind notions for an ongoing series of books bringing back these characters, and the idea of the Very Bad Thing was mixed up in all of that.

I had thought that the story involved in Heaven & Hell might be best served as the third or fourth book in that series. The reason was simple: the Very Bad Thing, and indeed the makeup of the terrorist group that drives the entire novel, the Covenant, felt like it would be a controversial premise. It’s a cataclysmic terrorist attack, in a part of the world where the slightest act seems to set off tempers. I felt it was something perhaps left until I was established. Sometimes life throws you an unexpected curveball. I first came into contact with Norma, and as we got to know each other and she saw signs of a fellow writer in me, I let her in on the ideas I had, particularly the Very Bad Thing. Yes, she knows what it is, and no, she won’t tell you. Not even for bribes of chocolate.

Norma encouraged me to get writing, to run with the idea that I had for Heaven & Hell first, rather than later. And she was right. Instead of leaving my serious writing for some vague point in the future, it was time to write, time to bring these characters who were living in my head to life on the page.

As I started out, I thought, “well, it’s not as if this will take that long, right?” Wrong. Writing in the spy thriller genre, particularly one that’s set mostly in Israel and the Middle East, a place with a lot of history, requires a lot of research. That meant tracking down information through various sources: online, history texts, maps, through emails back and forth with various people spread across the world, through conversations with embassy officials. It was a big undertaking, and really, one that I kept at through the writing, fact checking as I went along. Add to that the fact that this was my first novel, and that meant it would take longer than I would have expected. And finally, things going on in my personal life meant that there were times I just didn’t feel up to writing, and the pace slowed at those times. Thus what I expected would be a few months of writing...turned out to be more than two years of writing.

I remember the exhilarating rush as I was writing through the final two chapters. The second to last chapter is a long one, but features the climax of the novel, a faceoff between my protagonists and antagonists. Though it took awhile to write, it was also fun... and keeping track of who was where during this sequence in the book presented its own challenges. Likewise, the last chapter, wrapping things up, had its own rewards as I wrote. I knew that some of these characters would be back (nice thing about carrying on with these people in an ongoing series, you don’t have to say goodbye to your characters), and at that point, momentum had driven the story forward. Writing the final words, as good as it felt, carried a certain bittersweet quality to it. These characters have been with me a long time, and they came alive for me during the writing. I liked writing them, liked the way they turned out- even the villains, who I still occasionally apologize to for putting them through hell. 


Sorry, everyone, but you’re the villains. These things happen. Don’t take it personally, okay?

The novel has been a long time in development, and now, standing at a point where it’s almost ready to go, I feel good about getting to this point. It was exactly the right thing to do, to start really writing the concepts that had been growing in my mind for years on end, to breathe life into these characters. I know there have been a number of people anxious to see it out there, and the time is close at hand. Barring any unforeseen catastrophes, mind you. 

It’s an anxious but good time for me, about to launch a novel. I’m in anticipation of the reaction the book is going to get. It’s long overdue, and these characters are demanding to be unleashed. It’d be nice if I got a “thanks for writing us” out of them, but I’m not expecting it.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’d better get started on the next book.

Oh, and for the record, I didn’t knock that lamp onto the floor of the blog.
It was the cat. 


Thank you, William, for joining us today.And for the record, I will accept bribes of chocolate!

Watch for Heaven & Hell at Amazon soon. (If it's not there soon, I'm going to beat him silly with a Nerf bat.) And do check out his entertaining blog, Speak of the Devil. And check out his recent guest appearance at Sacred Ground Travel Magazine!


  1. I'm fully expecting that getting hit over and over by a nerf bat will take a very, very, very long time.

  2. Good luck with the book. I know it is something that I could not tackle. Watch out for that nerf bat.

  3. Very very enjoyable post! Best of luck William. I can't wait to read your book about the Very Bad Thing.

  4. @Mari: I'll have to!

    @Deb: thanks!

    @Lynn: it's in the final stretch!

  5. Good luck, William! It may have been a long journey to get to this point, but guess what? You are about to embark on a new journey that will change your life forever.

  6. What a good surprise to stop on ever to your blog and see a post by William. You both are good blogging friends! I enjoyed reading about the journey of writing for you, William. You have talent in spades.

  7. Yay! Congrats, William! Can't wait to read it, as I'm a thriller junkie. Let me know when and I'll mention it on the ol' blog as well.

    Thanks for hosting, Norma! :)

  8. @Alex: thank you!

    @Russo: merci!

    @PK: Will do! Thanks!


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