A book dies every time you watch a reality TV show. #reality #books
Ned Hayes is a voracious reader (and writer). I wrote the national bestseller THE EAGLE TREE and the historical novel SINFUL FOLK,, illustrated by New York Times bestseller Nikki McClure. Both of these books were nominated for the "Pacific Northwest Bookseller's Award."
It's all about love during the Valentine's Week. So far we've read about book love from the reader's perspective but let's change that with the last story in our project. It's high time to look at the storytelling from the writer's point of view. We've invited author Ned Hayes to present his book love story.
A guest post by Ned Hayes
Storytelling as a Calling: A Book Love blog post
by Ned Hayes
Storytelling is a calling: we manufacture meaning out of events through the act of storymaking. After all, the human experience doesn’t really make sense on a day to day basis. Story is a fabric laid transparent over the bumps and bricks of random occurrence, a map showing the past and the future. It is as if we weave a web of story, from inside ourselves, like a spider, and live in it, and call it world.
I believe that story is in fact all powerful in our lives. To be truly human is to tell stories. Without stories – without that rhythm of beginning, middle, and end, without that hopefulness of meaning being given by seeing the pattern of a story – I believe that we become less than human. I believe that storytelling is what makes us human. We are homo storytelli or homo sinificans, the storytelling creature.
This idea of the importance of storytelling was first brought to my attention by the wonderful little book The Dark Interval: towards a theology of story, by John Dominic Crossan. The critic Frank Kermode also wrote a book called The Genesis of Secrecy: on the interpretation of narrative that made an early impact on me. And finally, Annie Dillard’s book Living by Fiction also influenced my ideas about what was possible in fiction.
Today, I write stories because they give me a way to make sense of the world. The world is a complex place, so I don’t restrict myself to one genre or one style. I’ve now written three novels that have ranged across the spectrum of storytelling, from mystery to historical fiction to young adult literary fiction.
In telling stories, I can also help others to also make sense of this often-confusing and often frustrating world as well. The web I weave can be of use to many people. I’ve discovered this to be true most recently through talking to readers of my bestselling novel The Eagle Tree. In this novel, a young boy on the autistic spectrum wrestles to bring together his disintegrating family as he strives to climb an old growth tree. He is trying to make sense of his reality, and in this poignant and difficult story, he finds a great meaning and purpose for his life.
I thought The Eagle Tree was a unique and unusual story. Yet what I’ve been happily surprised by is that many readers have written me to tell me that I successfully captured part of their story of life on the autistic spectrum. They have said to me that I have “told their story” or that my story “helped to show that my son’s life makes sense.” I’ve also been told by other readers that the difficulty of interacting with a family member who has development or neurological differences are described with authenticity and with compassion. They found meaning this book as well. My small words helped to give hope to their experience and made their stories matter. The Eagle Tree is a story that brought meaning to their lives.
Yet along with authenticity, there’s one other duty that novelists have: Entertainment.
“The first duty of the novelist is to entertain,” says Donna Tart, the bestselling author of the smash hit The Goldfinch and The Secret History. “It is a moral duty. People who read your books are sick, sad, traveling, in the hospital waiting room while someone is dying.”
Entertainment = storytelling as a moral duty. We have the deep and meaningful charge to write something that’s entertaining. We are not allowed to tell a boring or meaningless story. Our stories must be interesting, must be inventive, must – in the end – be entertaining to our readers.
Entertainment sometimes gets a bad rap. People think it’s a waste of time. Yet entertainment need not be shallow. Storytelling as entertainment doesn’t need to be meaningless. We don’t have to create something false like The Transformers – because a story like The Hunger Games or 1984 is equally entertaining, yet contains deeper truths and gives insight along with its momentum. Entertainment means delivering a tale that can lift us out of our present reality and give us a vision of something beyond our mundane reality. A good story tells the truth, and carries us along on a tide of hope and insight.
This is why I like to read fantasy, horror and science-fiction. These genres don’t hide their attempts to entertain: these types of books wear their badges of entertainment on their sleeves, plain for all to see. Even the covers of these books communicate their intent, with their spaceships and unicorns and fantastic sorceries. Some of my favorite fantastical and horrific stories include John Milton’s Paradise Lost, Garth Nix’s Abhorsen trilogy, The Ritual by Adam Nevill, and Tim Power’s The Stress of Her Regard.
In the science-fiction realm, I also have special favorites. Some of the stories I admire the most in these areas include The Sheep Look Up, by John Brunner, Parable of the Sower, by Octavia Butler, and Downbelow Station by C.J. Cherryh and of course, many books by Ursula Le Guin, most notably The Left Hand of Darkness.
All the books I’ve named above provide wonderful entertainment while providing deeper insight. Yet the charge we bear to entertain goes beyond the simple affectations of fantasy and spaceships. As storytellers, we have a moral charge to give our readers a removal from the world, an escape hatch into a new way of thinking. Even literary fiction must entertain – it must deliver some insight and tale that lifts the quotidian events of our lives into a higher mythical and hyper-realistic realm. The story must move us.
I found this truth brought home to me when I wrote my second novel Sinful Folk. The famous literary agent Jenny Bent read the first draft and told me “This is beautiful writing, but there’s not enough real storytelling here.” So over the course of one year after I received Ms. Bent’s feedback, I rewrote the entire book to bring my characters from just a land of beautiful (yet un-entertaining) prose into a story that was worth the telling. To learn how to tell an entertaining piece of historical fantasy, I went back and re-read some of the masters of historical fiction, especially those who wrote about the medieval period.
The books that most influenced my approach to historical storytelling included Morality Play by Barry Unsworth, Ella March Chase’s The Virgin Queen's Daughter, Brenda Vantrease’s The Illuminator, Kathryn Le Veque’s The Warrior Poet and Karen Maitland’s The Owl Killers.
The story that I re-wrote as the novel Sinful Folk was finally published. It had become a heartfelt and harrowing tale that moved my main character – a fourteenth century woman – from a place of peril and heartbreak through great danger until she achieved the heights of power and privilege. My character changed over the course of the novel, transforming from fearful subterfuge into a driven, motivated heroine who conquered the High Court of England. I changed the book into a real story. And when Sinful Folk was finally published, it was described by New York Times bestselling author Brenda Vantrease herself as a “A pilgrim tale worthy of Chaucer, delivered by a master storyteller” and received starred reviews in BookList, BookNote and many other publications.
In fact, all of the authors I list above -- whose work I read as inspiration – ended up endorsing the novel Sinful Folk (with the exception of Barry Unsworth, who had unfortunately passed away just before I published my novel).
I think this love of authentic tales that entertain goes back to my childhood, when I found myself alone much of the time. And alone with only a good book to read. So books became my companions and my friends. Donna Tartt points out that “Books are written by the alone for the alone.” C.S. Lewis said “I read to know that I am not alone.” This is true of every reader. We read to connect with other human perspectives, to know those voices and embrace those souls. We also read to be accompanied by other voices in our solitary trek through time.
When I was a child, the books that brought me companionship included Mischief in Fez by Eleanor Hoffman, Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea Trilogy, J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and finally, a story I’ve re-read many times – the deep and meaningful Watership Down, by Richard Adams.
Hoffman’s work brought me into other worlds, and showed me possibilities beyond my ken. Le Guin demonstrated the power of brevity in telling a fascinating tale, while Tolkien showed that fantasy could tell deeper truths, even while being tremendously entertaining. Adams continues to show me – every time I read him – that deep and powerful stories lie all around us, even in the lives of rabbits and seagulls, and that all we have to do is pay attention. The web of story surrounds us: all we have to do is open our eyes. Today, the tales told in these stories still resound in my dreams, and still are echoed in the books I write today.
Finally, for anyone who is interested in telling a story, it’s important to note that listening to a story is how you become a story-teller yourself.
I believe that to tell stories, we must read stories. Writers are readers. Therefore, I recommend anyone who wishes to write first become an avid reader. Read a book a month, a book a week, even a book a day. Become a reader, and you will be well equipped to be a writer. And you will never be alone as long as you have books and the tales within them.
And what's your book love story? Join our project, write your story, publish it on your BookLikes blog and tag with why I love tag so we could find it and share it. You can also add the link to your book love stories in the comment section below.
Dear BookLikers, writers and readers, thank you so much for participating in this amazing project. Presenting all those stories to You and about You was a fascinating time and we hope that you've enjoyed the book love story week as much as we did.
We're looking forward to creating more projects as such -- so, who's in? :)
Now there's a paperback of my special New Year's story -- Holy Trinity: An Eagle Tree Story.
To thank readers who made my novel The Eagle Tree into a national bestseller last year, at the end of 2016, I created a brand-new addition to the Eagle Tree storyline, and the story has caught some interest from readers.
Dan Simmons book DROOD is a masterpiece of sorcerous historical fiction. The sorcery doesn't lie in some otherworldly supernatural changes to history, but instead lies in the astonishing historical verisimilitude that Simmons brings to his portrayal of Victorian society, Charles Dickens and his milieu. Simmons helps us to smell, taste, and live in the often-crumbling and often-opium infused reality of that society, and to understand the complexities of the relationships around Dickens.
What's fascinating to me is that Simmons hardly ever has to bring in anything supernatural in order to make a book spooky, otherworldly and astonishing. Instead, he simply tells one version of Dicken's life, and the clarity he brings to that observance of a life is powerful.
I found the book enthralling: one of Simmons best works.
The Eagle Tree was published by Little A Books in 2016 and became a national bestseller, delivered to over 80,000 readers. Thank you for being part of this marvelous publication journey in 2016!
Author Ned Hayes worked with Kindle Select to provide a set of New Year specials to thank readers of The Eagle Tree for their support:
Holy Trinity: An Eagle Tree Story is a special Kindle-only release for the New Year that is discounted for this week only for US readers to $0.99. The author created a brand-new addition to the Eagle Tree storyline as a "thank you" to readers for 2016.
Read the NEW EAGLE TREE STORY here >>
UK 12 Days of Kindle Christmas featuring The Eagle Tree -- holiday promo 12/23/2016 thru 1/5/2017. (0.99 GBP) Get the UK Kindle deal >>
Australian 12 Days of Kindle Christmas with The Eagle Tree -- holidays 12/25/2016 thru 1/5/2017. (0.99 AUD) Get the Australian Kindle deal >>
"THE EAGLE TREE" PAPERBACK:
Now available in paperback, The Eagle Tree eloquently explores what it means to be part of a family, a society, and the natural world that surrounds and connects us. This unique novel was endorsed by authors Temple Grandin and Steve Silberman and embraced by readers worldwide. Read THE EAGLE TREE >>
I'm going to tell you a secret. Right here. Listen up.
So the publisher of my first big novel (Sinful Folk) is small and doesn't really have much of a marketing department.
However, a new intern over there decided it would be a great idea to give away a Kindle Paperwhite this year for the holidays. That's a great idea -- I immediately entered!
But here's the thing... they aren't publicizing it very much, and there aren't very many entries for the brand-new Kindle Paperwhite. Almost no one knows about it.
So here's your secret chance to enter a contest with very little competition and nothing to buy. You just enter here, and you could win a Kindle Paperwhite.
It's that simple.
You can tell Campanile Books that I sent you.
Oh, and here's the link: http://campanilebooks.com/paperwhite/
I'm very excited to receive news of three new editions of my novel SINFUL FOLK -- translated into French, German and Italian. If you read these languages, you can get the novel in your language here:
A book review for Halloween...
Lost Girl is a prescient and powerful story of the end of days. In fact, it is a story of the near-future set in a world that is only a minute away by any measure, where climate change-caused immigration and urban uprising have become a critical crisis, and the world is fast falling apart. In the midst of such upheaval, one man must find his missing daughter and confront a risen horror that is taking advantage of the chaos. Adam Nevill is one of the master storytellers, and this is his most incisive story yet.
Lost Girl is the searing novel by Adam Nevill about the all-too-close-to-reality possibilities that await us as the world becomes more crowded, more affected by climate change and less hospitable to humanity. However, it's not just a commentary on our present and fast accelerating condition. Instead, Nevill manages to weave fine touches of horror storytelling into his tale and link this terrible tale to his other works with subtle references as well. As always, masterfully written and astonishingly well crafted.
Highly recommended, but only if you can keep your eyes open as the darkness rises and rises around you. Powerful stuff: an amazing work by an astounding writer.
New characters often visit novelist Ned Hayes uninvited, so it wasn't all that strange a few years back when the voice of a fictional teenage boy kept percolating in the back of his mind. Then things got more intense: "A friend of mine took me to this amazing old-growth tree, and the first lines of the story, where the boy saw the Eagle Tree and wanted to climb it, just rose up in me. I had to write the story down. I felt kind of carried away by a rushing stream, and I didn't know where it was really taking me."
I felt like I'd given someone a voice who didn't have one.
--- novelist Ned Hayes
The rushing stream carried Ned to The Eagle Tree, a novel unlike anything he'd ever written. He was a published author of historical fiction, and – even though writing novels wasn't his full-time job, and his books had never reached massive numbers of readers – his work had earned him representation by an established literary agent. But far from being the historical fiction the agent expected, The Eagle Tree was set in modern times, and that percolating voice in Ned's head turned out to belong to a teenage boy diagnosed with autism. In the novel, young March Wong climbs dangerously high into Washington's forests to chase his passion for learning all about trees.
"When I first gave the manuscript to my agent, she read it through and said, 'Well, this is a really different kind of book, and I'm not sure I can sell this.'," Ned says.
Ned didn't push. He had his own doubts. "I was concerned that maybe it was a book that I had written just for my own pleasure and that I would be the only reader that really enjoyed it."
Ned knew a way to test whether the novel would ever speak to anyone but him. As a reader, he'd been participating in Kindle Scout, where authors can submit their never-before-published books. Readers see excerpts from each book, and they can nominate their favorites to receive a publishing contract from Amazon. Ned submitted The Eagle Tree and waited to see if anyone would nominate it. He was about to be carried away by another rushing stream.
"One of the earliest comments I received," Ned starts to say, surprising himself by choking up, "was from somebody who had a family member who was on the autism spectrum. They said that this book gave them insight into their family member in a way that they never expected, and it changed their entire relationship. And I just felt really moved by that. Because I felt like I'd given someone a voice who didn't have one."
The response from Scout users was overwhelming. The Kindle Scout team also saw serious potential in Ned’s work and shared his manuscript with Carmen Johnson, an editor at Amazon Publishing’s Little A imprint. Carmen loved it. She worked with Ned to release Kindle, paperback, and audiobook versions of The Eagle Tree. Thinking back to the exciting weeks when everything came together, Ned says, "Amazon really ended up opening a huge number of doors for me."
More than 75,000 readers later, the character of March Wong continues to connect with people. Steve Silberman, whose NeuroTribes appeared on many of the most prestigious lists of the best books of 2015, praised Ned's "gorgeously written" book for featuring "one of the most accurate, finely drawn and memorable autistic protagonists I've come across in literature."
The success of The Eagle Tree has opened new doors for Ned. He’s collaborating with fellow artists on a graphic novel and an independent film based on the book. He’s also using the bulk of his book royalties to launch OLY ARTS, an arts and culture magazine with print, online, and mobile app editions.
He says he wants to "spread the word about the wonderful artists, actors, writers and musicians in the Olympia area who don't have the megaphone they need to earn a living wage for the amazing work they do."
The first OLY ARTS issue's 10,000 copies were supposed to last 12 weeks. "It sold out in two-and-a-half weeks flat," Ned says beaming. "So there's a lot of interest and excitement, and it's fantastic to know that readers of The Eagle Tree made this all possible."