Monthly Archives: September 2010

Writing Like an Actor

I once saw an interview with Ian Holm (think Bilbo in The Fellowship of the Ring) where he described this approach to his film roles: for each take of a scene, he would adopt a fresh angle.

The lines were the same.

The setting was the same.

But he always tweaked his delivery, just to see how it could be different. The end result was that he thoroughly explored his character and gave the director a whole slew of different options for the final film.

Are you stuck on a scene? Do your characters feel wooden? Or maybe something’s just not right, but you can’t put your finger on it.

Try writing from a fresh angle. Play around with your characters. Give them…

Come read the rest at Project Mayhem.


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Interview with Hilary Wagner

Today, we have Hilary Wagner, debut middle grade author with us.  Here’s what folks are saying about Hilary’s book, Nightshade City:

“Fans of Redwall and the Warriors series will love this heroic tale of good versus evil in a subterranean society of rats.”
–Rick Riordan, author of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series

“The writing is flawless…I felt like I was there….This book is superb.”
–The Bookanistas: Books are the New Black! Author, Bethany Wiggins

And here’s a brief description of the book:

Deep beneath a modern metropolis lies the Catacombs, the kingdom of remarkable rats of superior intellect. Juniper and his maverick band of rebel rats have been plotting ever since the Bloody Coup turned the Catacombs, a once-peaceful democracy, into a brutal dictatorship ruled by decadent High Minister Killdeer and his vicious henchman, Billycan, a former lab rat with a fondness for butchery. When three young orphan rats–brothers Vincent and Victor and a clever female named Clover–flee the Catacombs in mortal peril and join forces with the rebels, it proves to be the spark that ignites the long-awaited battle to overthrow their oppressors and create a new city–Nightshade City. View the trailer on the Nightshade City website!

I love The Warriors series and Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh, so I have a sneaking suspicion that Nightshade City is going on my list of great books.  I’m always curious about how authors come up with their ideas, and Nightshade City, with its otherworldly feel intrigued me.  Thankfully, Hilary agreed to answer a few questions.

M: So, why rats?  What drew you to them?  How did they capture your imagination?

H: I love creepy and I love animals. The Halloween charm of rats is perfect! They are misunderstood creatures–just trying to survive–like we all are. I also love bats too–so watch out! 😉

M: Most people think rats are kind of disgusting creatures, but you seem to adore them.  What is your favorite rat-like quality?

Gosh, I just never saw them that way! Why are similar animals like mice, squirrels and chipmunks considered so cute in children’s literature, but rats have such a bad rep? Not fair! Rats are truly amazing creatures. I think the fact that they swarm city alleys and streets makes them so abhorred, but when you think about it, it’s pretty smart! They eat what we call garbage, as opposed to doing all the work themselves! Pretty clever, if you ask me, though I wouldn’t be inclined to eat somebody’s leftover Chinese I found in an alley! 😉

M: Ha!  I suppose they are resourceful…I have a feeling reading about your characters might tip me over to team rat.  ;I once read something you posted about rats laughing.  What are two other unusual facts about rats most people don’t know.

H: For starters, they did not carry the plague–fleas did! They’re actually amazing jumpers and can easily leap from the ground to a windowsill (be warned fresh air lovers)! They use their tails as an extra appendage, which allows them to run across telephone wires and ropes without falling. Another cool thing about rats, they can digest everything from wood to concrete–safely! Not many creatures are capable of that!

M: Wow!  Concrete?  That is pretty incredible.  I suppose leftover Chinese food is nothing for them…Will you introduce us to one of your favorite rat characters from NC?

H: Oh, I will have to introduce you to one of my bad guys, Billycan. He is the only albino rat left in all of Nightshade City. He is wicked, but complex, my favorite sort of villain. He plays a huge part in Book II, revealing much more about him. Here is an excerpt (Topsiders are humans by the way!).

The Topsiders’ testing had caused Billycan’s spine to grow coiled and elongated, making his neck and angled jaw jut out far in front of his body.  His milky coat ended at the base of his extended tail, which trailed behind him like a hairless garden snake, revealing flaky skin, a powdery, encrusted white, more reptilian than vermin.

Cursed with a nagging and insatiable hunger, no matter how much he gorged and gobbled, Billycan could not keep weight on his bones, giving him a lean, cadaverous look, like a half stuffed scarecrow.

M: Very creepy.  I would not want to meet Billycan in a deserted alley.  But I am excited to meet him in Nightshade City when I pick up my copy this weekend.  Thanks so much for being with us today, Hilary.  I’m thrilled for you and wish you all the best.

For the rest of my readers, you should be able to find Nightshade City at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, or anywhere great books are sold!


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