I was asked by my publisher to provide some book club questions for all three of my novels. Interesting task. Especially for The Ouroboros Key, which I haven’t read since the day I signed off on the galleys, and which I haven’t written or talked about in a couple of years. Then there’s the realisation that my only experience with book clubs is watching the Jane Austen Book Club (a couple of times, in fact. What can I say. I’m a romantic at heart). Time to do some research.
Did you know that there are dozens, possibly hundreds, of web pages full of book Club Questions? I collected several that I thought related to, or could be tweaked to relate to, my 2014 novel. Then I dug through my research notes where I found a copy of a talk I gave and my collection of character sketches. Perfect! Now I had supporting material as well.
I went through a similar process for A Single Light and Keeper of the Way. Each have their shared and individual themes. A Single Light, being based on a purely fictional concept in a real world setting, required me to think in depth about the theme behind the story. Something I didn’t really do when I was writing it though that doesn’t mean there isn’t one. Theme can be uncovered later when the writer has more leisure to think about the story or when she’s had a chance to discuss it with readers.
A Single Light developed out of a desire to set a book in the Australian bush, specifically, the Royal National Park at the southern reaches of the city of Sydney. The Park is a popular tourist destination with many beaches, bush trails, cliffs and coastline (such as the perilous Wedding Cake Rock and Figure Eight Pools), picnic areas and waterways. I grew up in this area, with the bush as my back yard and I know how deep the bush is once you leave the trail, how quickly you can be consumed by the environment, and how easy it is to hide in. Even though the Royal seems a benign and pleasant area, it can so easily turn into a personal horror story with one unthinking step from safety into danger.
The Ouroboros Key, set in the American Rockies, has a similar theme of hidden paths and hidden histories with the difference that the magic and myth is based on historically record cultures (Sumer, Annunaki, Sidhe, Cathars, Knights Templar, and the like).
Keeper of the Way also deals with recorded history, myth and fact, and re-connects a culture left behind (on the Isle of Skye) with a new culture formed in Sydney. This mixing of myth and story from Scotland and Colonial Australia is not a quantum leap in a country that (apparently) is one of the most multicultural nations. People emigrate with more in the baggage than just clothes.
On reflection, I like a good mystery, love to research, make discoveries and then convert it all into story. My overall motivation is to find, explore, and create stories around lesser known histories, and give voice to those people and cultures that modern narratives have glossed over, dismissed, or ignored. By writing in the fantasy genre I am able to recreate stories in a new voice and fill in missing gaps.
By working on book club questions, I’ve been able to finesse my reasoning, goals, motivations, and themes and provide (even if only to myself) clear topics to talk and write about, and a framework for future writing.
An interesting side project that I quite enjoyed.
You’ll find my book club questions as part of the “bonus content” when you download free extracts of each novel from noisetrade.com (available soon).