We have a special treat for you today. Please help us welcome Barbra Annino, author of THE STACY JUSTICE MYSTERY SERIES. Her third book in the series, TIGER'S EYE, just released. I have read them all and love them. Barbra is giving away 5 copies of the book, so comment away and good luck to you all. The winners will be announced on Monday Jan 21st on Liz's blog. Don't forget to either leave your email address in your comment, or send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org so I can notify you if you've won.
The Fourth Dimension
A common question authors face is, "Where do you get your ideas?" It's a base curiosity that runs through a reader's mind when she's found a book that holds her attention and tests her deductive skills. If the author has done her job, the reader turns page after page never accurately guessing what will happen next, until the final shocking conclusion of the story leaves them wondering--how did she come up with that?
As a voracious reader, I've often wondered the same thing long after I finish a book. Was the story drawn from real life experiences? Was it something that came to the writer in a dream? Or was it simply the author's uninhibited imagination that shaped the work?
Usually the answer is a combination of things. Nature, nurture, life experience, education, surroundings, entertainment, research--all of these impose on any author's manuscripts. Fiction crafting is creative, but it doesn't have to be mysterious. It may seem boring to the writer to dwell on all the mechanics that go into fashioning 300 pages out of thin air, but to readers, it adds another dimension to the characters, the setting, and the plot line when they learn how certain pieces of the puzzle were drawn. I call it the fourth dimension.
I write a series that teeters on the edge of fantasy and mystery. The Stacy Justice series centers on a reluctant witch whose family tree dates back to a Celtic tribe from County Kildare in Ireland. They practice magic in the ways of true Old World witches. There is no twitching of the nose to make anything happen. There is ritual, spell casting, and enchantments based on pagan belief systems. The properties of the herbs and crystals mentioned in specific spells can be confirmed in any craft book. The holidays are real holidays, the traditions still upheld.
In other words, some of it is made up, but some of the narrative is steeped in research. At the end of the first book, I explained why the story was set around the Imbolc holiday and what that time means for a witch. I also included recipes to try that complement the celebrations that take place on that day.
The second book features a very important historical text with a curious history and a unique, ancient language that is all but forgotten, as well as a poison with a bizarre name and an even more bizarre effect on people. I thought it would interest my readers to know that those key ingredients that drove the plot forward exist in the world and were not a product of my imagination, but rather the fruits of tireless research. Although, the way I manipulated them was pure fiction. For that title, I added links in the author's note to the ancient text and the poison, as well as an image of what the lost language looks like.
My most recent title was set in Ireland, and you can bet I pointed readers to the locations mentioned in the story in case anyone was interested in a little armchair travel.
I've found that readers love these personal letters. It's as if you're speaking to them on another level, as a friend, or a fellow book lover, that they appreciate. The added material, I think, also makes them feel as if they've received a little something extra. A little freebie, or thank you, directly from the author whose work they've come to enjoy.
I myself love writing these endnotes. Pulling back the curtain a bit not only allows the reader a glimpse at what goes on behind the desk, but they like knowing that the book was thoroughly researched, and now they get to explore it further if they wish. In fact, my readers have called for more in the form of a recipe book, so I'll be working on that for them sometime between deadlines. It will not only include culinary recipes from meals shared by the characters, but lore and history of their path, as well as recipes for spells and enchantments that anyone can do at home.
I encourage every writer to give the author note a try, even if it means posting it on Facebook, a blog such as this, or in a newsletter. Your readers will thank you for it, and who knows? It may even spark a new project.
Barbra Annino is the author of the best-selling Stacy Justice series. Visit her at BarbraAnnino.com.