Hello to the Sid Love crew – thank you so much for having me!
My paranormal novella Devil at the Crossroads was just released by Riptide Publishing, and I’m glad to have the chance to chat a little about how this story was born. And, at the end of the post, there’s also a juicy giveaway for all lovely readers…!
I have made a few posts over the last few days – you can check out the blog tour schedule here :)!
I (heart) short stories!
When I first started writing, I used to suck at short stories.
I used to get all these vague ideas for long, convoluted stories, picturesque scenes with poignant thoughts and elaborate descriptions . . . and then never get anywhere with any of those. I was a bit too enamoured of my own prose and, to put it mildly, totally unable to plot. I would go on for two pages of flowery description about some inspiring scenery, ramble on a stream of consciousness for another three, insert an oh-so-bohemian dream sequence for another five, all the while basking in just how fancy all those words looked and completely missing the fact that they were, well . . . completely useless. They weren’t taking the story anywhere. Heck, there was barely a story in the first place, just a collage of very picturesque chunks of prose.
Don’t get me wrong, fine prose is a very nice thing, and I even managed to win a couple of prizes because of how artfully I was able to arrange those pretty words to hide the fact that I wasn’t actually saying anything! But . . . it turned out soon that it was not enough. I would ramble on for pages and pages until eventually I would just . . . drift off and towards some new project. Which would, of course, never be completed either. I spent a few years writing and somehow feeling that ‘my thing’ was leaving unfinished stories that meandered nowhere, but did so in a very wordy way – what a depressing specialty!
That was when I started my Creative Writing BA at university. Now, like every degree in an artistic field, this is a potentially very useless one: because nobody can really teach you how to write, or paint, or play music, and nobody can make you do it. What they can do is teach you a set of more or less standard skills or tools, that you are then free to use or not use as you please. They did it in my fine arts high school, and I was able to work for a while just relying on those technical tools, albeit not having any real talent (as I mentioned in my recent post at Fiction Vixen). But, when they did it in the Creative Writing BA, the results were incredibly different, because this time I did have some rough talent that could be harnessed and trained.
What helped me the most were not the lectures about prose style – I was too bogged down with that already! – but courses that focused on plotting, on the bare mechanics of storytelling, on how to make sure that a story works and has a strong, solid structure before adding to it and embellishing it. I realized then that I always used to just slather on the embellishment, but without having any structure under it. Curiously enough, the best course for this wasn’t a prose writing one at all, but one on ‘Writing Short Films,’ where descriptions and long musings were entirely absent and I was pushed out of my comfort zone and forced to work on the substance of the story.
Now, assignments for university were of course very short, and that was when I smashed my nose against my wordiness. For the first year, I hated, hated, hated having to work on short pieces – it was so different from what I was used to! But my reaction was to obsess over it, reading piles of short stories and hammering at the keyboard every day, determined to get it right. I started to appreciate short stories in a way I never had. I had never possessed the ability to sum up something with a few concise words instead of blathering on for five paragraphs, the skill of taking one clear idea and execute it cleanly in a page, such as in the classic Sentry by Fredric Brown, the ability to develope a whole plot, complete with the classic inciting incident, turning point and climax, in a flawless miniature version . . .
I started seeing short stories as bonsai trees, requiring a lot of care and hard work in order obtain a small but precise result, a miniature version of a novel. It was a challenge to know what to prune, where to tighten, what words to discard, what branches of the story would need to be sacrificed – but slowly I started enjoying the challenge more and more.
And, well! The result is that I, the former queen of rambling wordiness and sworn enemy of briefness, somehow ended up specializing in short stories. If you have read something of mine already, you’ll know that I have only published novellas and short stories up until now! I know that they aren’t the most popular format – I too wasn’t a fan until but a few years ago, and it is difficult to find a well-executed short story, at that – but I have just grown to love them a lot. It might partly be because I have some attention issues, so a strong short story can hold my attention in full throughout the whole thing, while with novels I often find myself drifting off along the way. Occasionally, I even find myself wondering if a particular story was watered down to get it to novel length, and I wonder whether it might have worked better as a short.
That is one of the main reasons why I have only written shorter works so far, including Devil at the Crossroads. Those stories seem to just naturally fit the novella/short story format; that amount of words was enough to tell that particular story, so, when it was done, I stopped. I suppose I could have added bits and bobs, stretched scenes, piled on words until the story grew into a novel: but would the work be better for it? I’m afraid I would have a relapse in my blabbering habits of stories past! I’m afraid I will remain specialized in short stories until a plot comes to mind that just naturally fits a novel length. And I promise – when that happens, you’ll be the first to know! 😉
Attention, dear readers – this release comes with a trivia contest, and the winners will receive a free ebook of their choice from my backlist!
There are three easy questions, whose answer can be found reading Devil at the Crossroads. Keep an eye for the answers as you read the story, then email me the answers at corneliagrey [at] yahoo [dot] com – do not leave them in the comments, remember, you don’t want to make life too easy for the competition ;)!
The deadline for the contest is September the 30th: I will randomly select two readers among those who emailed me replying correctly to the three questions. The winners will be officially announced on my blog (as well as emailed!) and they will receive a free ebook of their choice from my backlist!
Ready for the questions? Here we go…
1) What is the model of Logan’s guitar?
2) Throughout the story, three spider tattoos are mentioned. Where are they located?
3) Farfarello happens to mention a future birthday of Logan’s. Which birthday is that?
Good luck! And remember, email me your answers by September the 30th to be entered in the contest :)!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Cornelia Grey is a creative writing student fresh out of university, with a penchant for fine arts and the blues. Born and raised in the hills of Northern Italy, where she collected her share of poetry and narrative prizes, Cornelia moved to London to pursue her studies.
She likes cats, knitting, performing in theatre, going to museums, collecting mugs, and hanging out with her grandma. When writing, she favors curious, surreal stories, steampunk, and mixed-genre fiction. Her heroes are always underdogs, and she loves them for it.
You can find her at www.corneliagrey.com
Annd also on [Twitter] [Livejournal] [Blogger] [Facebook]
Devil at the Crossroads Blurb:
The devil covets more than his soul …
Six years ago, Logan Hart sold his soul to the devil to become the greatest bluesman of all time—and now the devil has come to collect.
The irony is that Logan squandered his gift. High on fame, money, and drugs, he ignored his muse and neglected his music. And despite managing to escape showbiz in a moment of clarity, it’s too late to redeem himself. All that’s left is to try to go out with some dignity. Alas, the prospect of an eternity in Hell isn’t helping much with that goal.
But Farfarello, the devil who bought Logan’s soul, isn’t ready to drag him down to Hell quite yet. He’s just spent six years working his ass off to whip a bluesman into shape, and he refuses to let that—or the opportunity for more sinful pleasures with Logan—go to waste.
You can read an excerpt and purchase ‘Devil at the Crossroads’ here!