Saturday 19 August 2023

The Story Behind the Story with Jan Fancy Hull of Lunenburg County, NS, Canada.


Jan was one of our participants at the GMRD Book Fair last April and we had a ton of fun. 

She kindly accepted my invitation to be a guest today so, read on my friends.




I didn’t find my writing (or thinking) voice until after retiring in my mid-fifties. I worked to soften my sharp humour, to eliminate maudlin phrases and passive sentences, and to learn how to tell an interesting story interestingly.

My first novel was a bloated 120k words. It’s good for parts; I’ve cannibalized it for characters, settings, and back story for the novels I’m writing now.

My advice: write your junk: nothing’s wasted. Writing is the best job ever.



Titles: Funny story: I thought I was going to write about a murder in the choir loft, and that someone would “sing”, i.e. squeal, so the working title was “Sweet Singing in the Choir”. But the story didn’t go that way at all. It was set in January, so my new title was January: Code. On a whim (I love whims) I added “A Tim Brown Mystery” on the title page and sent it to the publisher (Moose House Publishing). The editor asked if I meant it to be a series and would there be twelve in all? And that’s how it happened. The right title matters. May: Facades will be released in September 2023.



Synopsis: In the current novel, April: Sweetland, Tim is bamboozled into searching for a lost cabin because he was mis-introduced as a Private Investigator. He shilly-shallies past the opportunity to decline, so he complies, but only “for practice”. What he finds in the woods back of Sweetland is illegal, and beautiful. Can he catch a wily culprit and satisfy his client at the same time?




The Story Behind the Story:

Tim Brown is publisher / editor of the weekly newspaper in South River, a fictitious town on Nova Scotia’s south shore. He inherited the paper from his hard-charging late mother, who raised him on her own and under her thumb in the newspaper office. Now forty, he has taken this year (1999) as a sabbatical from the job.

He believes his community paper had been coasting, taking direction from the advertisers, and skimming the surface of goings-on in the town. He states that he will use the year “to delve” but lacks a strong concept of what he means. He is bullied into investigating the coded contents of a file he hasn’t seen (January), puzzles about a woman unconscious on a trail (February), is moved by a dear friend’s death to research his murky family history (March), inadvertently agrees to search for a missing cabin (April) and faces public misconceptions (May). In June, he supervises long overdue home and garden improvements and—wait for it!

Every day is a chapter in each month’s book. We must live each day as it comes, I thought, so why not have my protagonist deal with the speed of real life, too, not only the highlights, but also the haircuts? Consequently, we get to know Tim Brown and his unorthodox methodologies very well. Read them all so you’ll be ready for the great December conclusion in 2027 dea volente. People do seem to like them.




 A question before you go, Jan:

Scribbler: Can you tell us about the perfect setting you have, or desire, for your writing? Music or quiet? Coffee or tequila?  Neat or notes everywhere?



Jan: At home in my chair next to the wood stove, while autumn leaves, cold rain, and snow swirl around outside my windows. (Sunshine is distracting: summer is for outdoor pursuits.) The days grow short and lengthen again while the hours and words fly by. My daily word count is 1500 - 3000.

I have classical music playing softly. If I detect something especially beautiful, I’ll take a moment to listen. It helps me ignore ambient sounds or unhelpful thoughts.

Coffee till noon. Tea till 3. Water if I remember. Maybe a martini, but not while writing. Never tequila, not since that one time…

Mostly neat. The laptop computer was invented for me. I write notes on scraps of paper, mostly reminders of things my characters or I must remember to do (which one of us is out of milk?) or maybe a better word to go in Chapter 10. Once the task is done, the note is tossed. I keep a “story bible” in which daily actions and new characters are recorded, and I may tuck a note or two in there for future stories. There’s no storyboard with colour-coded sticky notes. Seat of my pants all the way!



Thank you for being our guest this week, Jan. Wishing you continued success with your stories.



And a big thank you to all our visitors and readers.

So, tell us something in the comment box below. Don’t be shy.

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