I’m thrilled to have The Pale (Chronicles of the Pale #1) reviewed by esteemed author and reviewer Isobel Blackthorn.
Here’s a snippet: a classy read with an important moral message, making the reader question where we are heading and whose side we are on and what it means to be fully human. Add to this an elegant writing style which makes The Pale accessible to teens and adults alike, and I imagine it won’t be too long before this novel catches on big time – Isobel Blackthorn, author of A Perfect Square and many other great books
Prime Day on the big Zon: just a heads-up that there is a whole day left to make the most of Prime and grab some fabulous books at special rates. Here’s a link to some book recommendations from a few of us authors at Odyssey Books. We’re a well-read bunch and if ever you want to know about ‘more books like X’, we are your go-to folk!
Dawn Reno Langley – writer, traveller, blogger, teacher – provides today’s fascinating Last Word of the Week. Dawn has a PhD and loves gardening, and is a natural-born writer. Immediate connections! I’m so pleased to have the opportunity to speak with Dawn and find out a bit more about her. All those mysterious writing aliases, for example…
LWOTW: Welcome, Dawn, great to meet you. When did you first realise that you are a writer?
Dawn: It was so long ago! My first article was published in the local newspaper when I was 9, and I knew even then that I wanted to be a writer. I’d already read everything in my little local library, and my imagination had already begun creating my own stories. So, I guess I could say I realized I was a writer around the time I started putting sentences together.
That makes sense! As a writer, do you rely more on dreams, imagination, and planning?
You know, I was thinking about this just the other day. I’m a planner. I create outlines and know where the story is going, but I add to that with the dreams/imagination and keep me awake at night. When I’m writing fiction, I can rip into the story and totally take it apart, then put it back together again in a very different manner. Usually my imagination is more likely to be employed at the beginning of the process of writing (to birth the story) and during the rewrite process. That’s the time for long walks in the woods where I can’t get connectivity . . . .
I know what you mean about staying awake at night with ideas! The bane of writers. What’s the highlight of your writing career so far?
There are two, actually. One, during the peak of my nonfiction career, I wrote the first book on African American art and collectibles, and when my book Collecting Black Americana was introduced in Washington, D.C., I had the front page of the Living Section of the Washington Post – and when the doors were opened to the antiques show where I had a tableful of books, people ran to the table. Ran! I still can’t get over that.
The second one is when I introduced my last novel, The Mourning Parade.I travelled across the United States via Amtrak, stopping at 18 different cities and visiting friends, family, and old students of mine along the way. I started the trip in my hometown, a small city near Boston, and I invited all of my family and friends to a local art gallery for a big launch party. It was the first real launch party I’d had in my career (and by that time, I’d been making a living as a writer for about 30 years and had written more than 30 books), and it was simply amazing. Almost everyone from my graduating class gathered to celebrate with me, and it gave me wings to do my cross-country trip.
What fabulous experiences! How wonderful. What are you most looking forward to at the moment?
Right now, I’m working on a rewrite of a novel that had its genesis when I was doing my PhD. My agent has suggested some changes that gave me the impetus to find a lot more depth to the story and exploded the main character. I’m excited about working on it and can’t wait to finish it. What I’m looking forward to most is my agent’s response to the changes I’m making.
That sounds very exciting. Now, you’ve made a career out of writing, among other things. If you could say one thing to aspiring writers, what would it be?
Read the best writers. Gain experience. LISTEN to other writers, editors, and readers. Read. (Did I say that already?) Take classes, go to free readings, write things that make you uncomfortable. Read poetry if you’re a fiction writer. Read memoir if you write poetry. Read novels if you’re a memoirist.
That’s more than one thing, huh? Okay, the most important is to read.
Dawn Langley author in tropical garden
And finally: Who would you be if you were a fictional character?
This one’s easy. Sherlock Holmes. He’s got a distinctive character, is amazingly complex, and has equal parts humour and drama. Besides, I think brains are sexy, don’t you?
Brains are very sexy. Thank you so much Dawn, it was a pleasure speaking with you.
About The Stars in the Night Harry Fletcher is a confident young man. Harry’s sure that he will marry Nora MacTiernan, no matter what their families say. He’s certain that he will always be there to protect Eddie, the boy his father saved from the gutters of Port Adelaide. Only the War to End All […]
The Stars in the Night is the product of my many years of research into Australian WWI literature, and of course my love of narrative.
History is a story, when all is said and done.
Like the Southern Cross constellation, Australia at the time of the Great War was a significant and enduring feature of the southern hemisphere, but was relatively unknown in the northern hemisphere.
The Anzacs changed that. They became better known than our southern bright stars.
My book is dedicated to their sacrifice, endeavor, and legacy. They were a mixed bunch of fellows, ranging from godly teetotallers and idealistic heroes to raffish no-hopers and irreverent likely lads. In between was the majority of ordinary, decent, naive and complacent everyday blokes, every one of whom volunteered to serve. Among the many reasons they signed up, one stands clear: they wanted to participate in the war which would ‘end all wars’.
A century on, we’re still searching for a way to do just that.
The fact that my book now sits on a library shelf seems very surreal. I must visit and take a photo before someone borrows it – NO, wait, I really want someone to borrow it!
There is this thing where authors get paid micro-microcents for each time their book is borrowed, but really, you wouldn’t want to hold your breath to use it for a cup of coffee. What’s much much much more exciting is that the story could possibly, maybe, perhaps, get into the hands of a reader. An actual live person turning pages.
The thought that somebody unknown might go in and have a look at my imaginary world is just amazing. It’s strange how even the chance that it might happen affirms the world of The Pale as somehow more real.
And very motivating. Right, out of the blog and back to writing Pale #2!
Sometimes I look up from the imaginary world I’m writing and take note of what’s around me. Sometimes I ask, What am I doing? Is this worthwhile? Can stories have value? Is this how I want to spend 2018?
A dear friend recently sent me this link from Literary Hub on the moral agency of the fiction writer. I include it here because it makes total sense. The quote is from Susan Sontag’s At the Same Time: The Novelist and Moral Reasoning, and addresses the morality of the writer:
“Obviously, I think of the writer of novels and stories and plays as a moral agent. . . This doesn’t entail moralizing in any direct or crude sense. Serious fiction writers think about moral problems practically. They tell stories. They narrate. They evoke our common humanity in narratives with which we can identify, even though the lives may be remote from our own. They stimulate our imagination. The stories they tell enlarge and complicate—and, therefore, improve—our sympathies. They educate our capacity for moral judgement.”
See the page with many more snippets of Sontag’s wisdom at
I have been re-reading this passage as I write. It seems to me to be very apt for the stories that come out of Odyssey Books, where nothing exploitative or repulsive gets a look in. Odyssey – where books are an adventure – and very often, a moral one at that!
Thanks to the British Library free Flickr stream for the image taken from: “Italien … mit 12 Städteplanen und 40 Ansichten in Stahlstich”, by Georg von MARTENS, p. 1775, Stuttgart, 1846.