Author, scriptwriter, podcaster & more…Mark Stay gives us the lowdown on his year and plans for 2022, plus some music, film & book recommendations…
The highs & lows of 2021… The highs… Going back to the movies has been great (even if we’re often the only people in the cinema wearing masks). We kicked it off by seeing the Lord of the Rings trilogy on the big screen, which our kids had never experienced before. Just magical. Also managed to write more this year than any other. A couple of books, a few short stories, and a bunch of screenplays, and there’s also a TV thing happening that I can’t talk about. It’s been a productive year. I prefer to keep my head down and write rather than wail on social media these days. That’s where the lows are.
Read any good books lately… The audiobook of Rutger Bregman’s…
I was delighted to be asked by Louise to contribute, and my story TWO CHICKENS FOR LAURA LONG ARMS is a Witches of Woodville tale where Faye Bright discovers that a little kindness can go a very long way. The story was edited by Julian Barr before I submitted it to the anthology and as always it was vasty improved by his input.
Publish or Self Publish? That is the question that three Canterbury local authors will discuss, and at the same time offer insights for anyone thinking of taking the plunge or simply curious about the business of getting your book out there.
Mark Stay, Raoul Morris, and GC Fisher, will spend a happy hour analysing the pros and cons of each path to getting your book to your readers.
I’ll be in conversation with the amazing Ben Aaronovitch at Waterstones, Canterbury on Friday 29th October at 6:30pm. A splendid time is guaranteed for all, though space is limited so grab your tickets here now.
You can read the first three chapters of my forthcoming book BABES IN THE WOOD right now.
Hello, folks, all sorts of good news to impart today. First off, if you want to read the thrilling opening chapters to my new book, Babes in the Wood, you can get it right now by joining the Woodville Village Library and downloading this chapter sampler, which also features an exclusive introduction from Woodville Village head librarian, Araminta Cranberry. Available nowhere else! The Woodville Village Library newsletter is for all things to do with the Witches of Woodville books. Sign up and you get all kinds of free and exclusive goodies.
I’ve got some exciting events news. A real life book event. I know, though, it’s not actually one of mine. But! I’m going to be in conversation with the mighty Joe Abercrombie at Waterstones Picadilly to celebrate the launch of his new book, The Wisdom of Crowds, the final book in the Age of Madness trilogy. Joe is an amazing writer and a top bloke, and the conversation will be as lively as you would expect. And a splendid time is guaranteed for all, though space is limited, so grab your tickets now.
Stay tuned for more news about a charity short story anthology featuring some amazing authors… and me. And I might… I might even have some movie news soon. Anyway, what are you doing listening to me? Download the Free Babes in the Wood Chapter Sampler. Sign up to the newsletter. Happy reading. Happy writing. See you very soon.
Fleeing the Nazi blitzkrieg, a trio of Kindertransport children come to stay with Lady Aston at Hayward Lodge in Woodville. Their arrival triggers a murder mystery involving a magic apple tree, modern art, a U-boat, and a demonic hound. Faye Bright must play nanny to the terrified children while gathering clues to uncover the dark magic that threatens to change the course of the war.
For fans of Lev Grossman and Terry Pratchett comes the second novel in this delightful trilogy of war, mystery and a little bit of magic . . .
Praise for The Crow Folk
‘Swept me straight back to days of losing myself in Diana Wynne Jones novels, and getting lost in truly absorbing, sometimes scary, sometimes emotive adventure with its roots in folklore and history. A story that is full of magic and delight that will thrill readers of any age’—Rowan Coleman, author of The Girl at the Window
‘Stay has brewed a cracking blend of charm and creepiness in The Crow Folk. A rip-roaring tale of bravery and witchcraft on the wartime home front, expertly told with lashings of wit and warmth’—Pernille Hughes, author of Probably the Best Kiss in the World ?
‘A delightful mash-up of Dad’s Army and Charmed. An absolute treat’—CK McDonnell, author of Stranger Times
‘Warm, witty, witchy wartime fun. With Mark Stay as writer you’re always guaranteed a magical read’—Julie Wassmer, author of the Whitstable Pearl Mysteries
‘You’ll love it: Doctor Who meets Worzel Gummidge’—Lorna Cook, author of The Forgotten Village
‘A jolly romp with witches, demons, and bellringing. Pratchett fans will enjoy this, and Faye is a feisty and fun hero. Dad’s Army meets Witches of Eastwick’—Ian W Sainsbury
How can you write a really satisfying ending to your story?
Hello, folks. I’m getting to the final few chapters of this first draft, and that’s when I tend to find that my daily word count starts to drastically go down. Why? Well, up to now, I’ve been getting ideas down on the page, putting my characters into tricky situations, given them terrible dilemmas. And they’ve all made choices with consequences. And it’s all been driving the story forward. But sooner or later, that story has to end and endings are hard.
Just ask George R.R. Martin or J.J. Abrams or anyone who’s had to wrap up a story with a neat little bow. So the creativity brakes tend to start screeching as you realise that you just can’t keep piling on story. If you see my previous videos, you’ll now I’m big on using theme as story fuel, and that’s definitely worked for this first draft. Having a thematic argument has really helped give me focus on how to make things work and I’ve never found myself stuck or blocked.
And just for reference, my thematic argument for this story is: Are we better off working alone or working with others? And I always like to pose it as a question. And I’ve enjoyed this as a thematic argument because there are times when it’s worked for both my protagonist, antagonist, and all the supporting characters. But the problem with a thematic argument is that you have to resolve it. That doesn’t mean you should come down hard on one side or the other.
Ideally, what you want for your resolution is some kind of synthesis. So if you think of your protagonist as the thesis of your argument, they stand for this thing here and your antagonist represents the antithesis over here, then your ending should resolve into a synthesis of both, or something new and unexpected. And that’s what makes for a satisfying ending. Think of The Godfather. So the argument is: can Michael be part of a crime family and maintain his moral high ground?
Well, Michael starts the story essentially disowning his family, but the family’s business tests him, and by the end he’s running the family the way he wants it run, but he’s also defending it with violence by ordering hits on the other families. A synthesis of ideas there. Raiders of the Lost Ark. Can a grave robber prove himself worthy of a great prize? Indy starts the film dismissing the Ark as superstitious nonsense. But by the end, his growing understanding and belief in its power is what saves him and Marion.
And don’t come at me with that Big Bang Theory crap about Indy not affecting the outcome of Raiders. Those people are confusing plot with story and are completely missing the point. Finding Nemo: Marlin, the overprotective father. He crosses a dangerous ocean and finds himself proven right again and again. Yes, the ocean is a dangerous place, but he realises that he has to let his son save Dory. Pixar, frankly, are masters at this kind of thematic storytelling.
Take the time to watch a few Pixar “making of” videos and you’ll get all this good stuff in great detail. This thesis/antithesis stuff is all horribly simplistic, of course, and easier said than done. But keeping this in mind, as I write these last few chapters, has really helped me figure out how to bring my story train to a stop and keep it on the rails and hopefully give the reader a really satisfying ending. Of course, the tracks behind me are a complete disaster, but, hey, that’s what rewrites are for.
I’m part of a panel for the online London Book Fair looking at how technology has changed things for publishing and bookselling in the past year. I’ll be giving the perspective of a writer, and I’ll be joined by Simon Appleby, director of Bookswarm, Hermione Ireland, MD of The Académie du Vin Library, and the panel is chaired by Justine Solomons of Byte the Book. We’ll be looking at how Zoom has changed meeting culture, our favourite apps, selling direct to readers, and the future of publishing.