Friday, February 2, 2018

Guest Post: A Writer. by Stephen Taylor

A Writer.

By Stephen Taylor.

Let me introduce myself, my name is Stephen Taylor and I am a writer. There I’ve said it. It took me a long time to be able to call myself that - a writer. I just used to tell people that, “I do a bit of writing.” I feel like a new recruit to Alcoholics Anonymous, standing up and admitting to the world that I have a problem. I needed to stand up and admit - yes, I’m a writer. Welcome to my world.

My addiction has been with me for over twenty years now; it’s the craving in my particular life. I need to write, I need to tell stories. When I was younger if somebody told me a good joke, when I retold it, it was twice as long, embellished, the story enhanced, the characters fleshed out. I’ve always done it, its something in me, I suppose. With me, it was never just about and Englishmen, and Irishman and a Scotsman. It was an Englishman in a bowler hat with a monocle, an Irishman in a donkey jacket with a pint of Guinness and a Scotsman in a kilt with a set of bagpipes. From my newly acquired lofty status as a Writer (there I've said it again) I can see that these are all descriptions that are clichés, they are racial stereotypes. I know; but then jokes were never PC were they.

But it’s a mighty big jump from telling an amusing gag to writing a novel. Novelists are these truly insightful people, aren't they? They write memorable things, don't they? “Call me Ishmael.” - Herman Melville, Moby-Dick (1851). “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” - Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (1813) or my particular favourite, ‘‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.’’ Charles Dickens’s terrific opening lines from A Tale of two Cities. (1859).

Well yes, it is, yes, they are, and yes, they do; but not all writers can be a Charles Dickens. But we all aspire to tell a compelling story, to engage our readers, to take them away from their humdrum lives and transport them to a long past time, or to a fantasy place where the rules of modern living do not apply, or to engross them in a nail-biting crime thriller where good fights with evils.

My first love is Historical fiction - I am an avid reader of it. I conceived the concept of a Georgian trilogy. Three stories, each standing on their own, but each set in Georgian London; a decadent time and a decadent place. And so, the long process of research started.

How could the most famous man in England in 1800 be totally unknown today? Why was the brutal sport of bare-knuckle pugilism regarded as noble by our Georgian forebears? What a story there was to be told? And so, lunch times and evenings began to be devoted to telling that story; and the Novel – No Quarter Asked No Quarter Given was born, (Later short-listed for the BritWriters Award). A Georgian romp of a story.

If the past is another country, (according to Leslie P Hartley) then the Georgian period exemplifies this. Research threw up other questions. Why were these people so different from us? Why did over 200 offences carry the death penalty? Why was a hanging a public holiday? Why did people take their children to see these executions? A callous time and yet a coarse word at the wrong time was considered unpardonable. And then the novel, A Canopy of Stars emerged. The story of a young man, David Neander in the dock on trial for his life. His crime? The theft of half a sheep’s carcass worth a mere 40 shillings. But can he prove his innocence, or must he hang. He needs help - will he get it? A Georgian courtroom drama, The Old Bailey, an unlikely romance and the story of two lives that are changed forever.

The third novel in the trilogy, Ripples and Shadows. A story of two very different people from different ends of the social ladder, one highborn the other a child of the Foundlings’ Hospital. There lives serendipitously entwined. Their stories told in their own words through their journals.

The key to successful historical fiction is the research. You have to understand the times that you are writing in; there are many hours of hard research involved. To put it simply, if you were to introduce a mobile phone into Jane Austen's time, then you blow the credibility of your story out of the water. But sometimes those hours of work open up a story line that you had not thought of.

Let me just share with you a piece of research undertaken or A Canopy of Stars. I wanted to write a Georgian Courtroom drama, so the first thing I did was go into the Old Bailey Website where you can read reports of cases going back hundreds of years. I came across a case in 1790 of an immigrant who was accused of stealing half a sheep’s carcass. Through an interpreter, his defence was that he had been offered a shilling to carry it to Oxford Road from the fields outside London. When he said that he did not know where this was, the man told him he would walk twenty paces behind him and when he came to a junction he should look behind, and he would signal which way to go. When he reached Oxford Road he was challenged by the watchman, and which point the other man legged it. Now this seemed a perfectly credible defence to me, but he was found guilty and hanged. Now, reading this, I appalled at the injustice, I felt for this man across the divide of two centuries. So, I determined to tell his story, to do what I could to right this wrong.

This whole new story line opened up; it would not just be a Georgian Courtroom drama told in the 3rd person. In each alternative chapter I would tell this man’s own story in the first person, of his life as a young Jewish boy growing up in Frankfurt, the horrors that he had injured, and then after walking across Europe to be falsely accused of steeling a sheep.

So, this is a glimpse into my world; it's what I do. I am a writer.

Contact details:

My Author Page -
To sample/buy my books (including e-book formats) visit my website and follow the links.

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