The Page a Day Writers Group

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Q & A with James Rhodes

Hello Page a Day readers! Give a warm welcome to our author tour guest blogger and friend from across the Atlantic, British author James Rhodes.

1) What am I working on?

I am currently working on a summer special of the Hettford Witch Hunt series. Hettford is my tribute to the small English villages that I grew up in and around and the small minded self-importance of “special-interest” groups. I started the series mostly out of my own frustration with extremely long novels with extremely thin plots that dominated fantasy and horror in the mid 2000s, and as a failed attempted to merge my two favourite formats (short novels and sitcoms) thereby coining the term “litcom.” A term which I have failed to mention on any of my marketing material and that has resolutely failed to catch on.  I wanted to write something short, snappy, fun and escapist for my own benefit as much as anyone else’s. Hettford is very much character driven and writing it is a lot like spending time with my imaginary friends. It should be available in early July.

(Note: you can start reading the Hettford series for free via Kindle! Just click to download.)

I am also working on a series called The Days of Mr Thomas which is my attempt at creating dirty three chord punk songs in the shape of loosely connected flash fictions. This runs weekly on the Schlock webzine. It’s a difficult format and it doesn’t always work out but there have been some great installments and I have a lot of fun spewing bile into it.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

A not entirely favourable review of Hettford criticised its approach to horror for not being shocking and ‘scary’ enough. Whilst this wasn’t entirely a compliment, it is exactly what I was trying to accomplish. I am a British writer and one thing the British don’t do well is big budget spectacle; my favourite horror writers are M.R. James, Nigel Kneale and Kingsley Amis. I grew up on the supernatural psychological thriller. The Omen, The Medusa Touch and The Night of the Demon where always scarier to me than Halloween or Driller Killer (the other films I was watching at 9 years of age). This is perhaps because I also spent quite a bit of my childhood walking around unlit country roads and being told ghost stories. That’s the feel I want from my work, the subtle horror that could be waiting anywhere and that can’t be beaten because it can’t be touched.

As a child I was a devout Catholic and to me the Devil was a corporeal being that might appear in your bedroom at any given moment; especially if you were foolish enough to have a mirror in there. When I was about 8, I took an orange from the fruit bowl without asking. I had never seen a blood orange before and when on peeling it I discovered it to be the colour of blood, I assumed it was a sign that Satan had seen my sin. I spent the majority of the night clutching a set of rosary beads to ward off the coming evil. This is the kind of experience I want to convey in my work; a childish and irrational fear of the dark will always be more unsettling than a perfectly reasonable fear of physical danger.

3) Why do I write what I do?

I think I started writing with the idea that one day people would read my stuff and say “OK, that bloke isn’t as stupid as he looks.” However, a good two decades have passed since then and my efforts to write incredibly clever fiction have fallen flat on their faces and it is painfully apparent that I am, if anything, more stupid than I look. So now I write to enjoy myself because I love reading and I love escaping in to the fantasy world that books provided and the type of brief psychological fantasies I love reading are so hard to find these days.

4) How does my writing process work?

I start with characters. I used to just base them on people I know or, if they got to have sex, on myself. These days I like to start by building them a personal history (a technique I nicked from Stanislavski’s theatre practice) and using their personal history to dictate how they would respond in certain situations. I have some idea of where I want them to end up and then I put them in situations to see how they react. I generally need to map out the whole book before I start writing and then to map it out a few more times as I’m going along; the characters often ignore my direction and do more interesting things than I had planned for them. Or the plot that I had written turns out to be a bit boring.

I realised in my third novel that I had a classic Doctor Who reference in everything I’ve written and that’s something I’ve continued with. My most consistent process is that I come up with an idea that I think people will really love, work at it violently for a couple of months, realise it’s crap and then hide it for the rest of forever. I think that’s why Hettford has been as successful as it is because it was never intended to be great; it was always just intended to be enjoyable.

Next week (June 23), drop by the blog of Paul Melhuish, author of ironic anti-heroes and malevolent beasties, to learn about his writing process.

Welcome to the My Writing Process blog tour!

Terena Scott, the fabulous author and publisher/founder of independent press Medusa’s Muse, invited me to participate.

Q & A with Kirsten Imani Kasai

Kirsten Imani Kasai

1) What am I working on?

Right now I’m wrapping up the first draft of my fourth novel, The Book of Blood Magic. It’s a deconstructed Gothic horror novel novel about a time-traveling succubus and a Creole plantation in 1850s New Orleans. Lydia, a present-day architectural historian, discovers journals and letters from Isidore and Emilie Saint-Ange, owners of Belle Rive, the only Creole plantation in 1850s New Orleans. Through the medium of a dream realm and mysterious house, Lydia and Isidore ​​become entangled in a supernatural shared psychosis.

The novel’s triple narratives explore: The onset of psychosis and mental health treatment as viewed through contemporary and 19th century lenses—BOBM contrasts modern care with the burgeoning revolution in psychiatric care and asylum reformations; Slavery, the abolitionist movement, caste and class systems as experienced by mixed race (mulatto/Creole) French and American citizens in the 21st and 19th centuries; The juxtaposition of religious Spiritualism, Vodou and the advent of rationalism (preceding Darwin’s Evolution of Species).

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

My writing is lyrical, poetic and dense. I’ve heard it described as “ornate.” I am just as concerned with the musicality of the writing, its imagery, sensations and textural impressions as the standard structures of dialog, plot, pacing etc. I like to write stories that leave “what happened?” open to interpretation, like a puzzle you can return to and solve in new ways each time. I believe fiction should be challenging, emotionally stimulating and intellectually nourishing. Additionally, it’s very female-focused, exploring the realities of women’s complex physiologies, the interplays of internal and external experiences, how the layers of our lives are impacted by and, conversely, affect the world around us. Sexuality is a topic I’m forever examining and dissecting: sometimes, that makes readers uncomfortable, but the topics that discomfort us tend to be the ones we most need to explore and evaluate for their roles in our own lives.

3) Why do I write what I do?

Hmm, see above! I’m drawn to the dark side, the seamy underbelly, the disturbing, creepy, weird and unusual. Humanity and life in this world is endlessly fascinating.

4) How does my writing process work?

I’ve learned to wait until an idea has completed its gestation phase and demands attention. Then I start work, writing just to get the feel of the idea and let the voice of the story express itself, for they are always distinct and unique from the other stories/poems I’ve written, and follow the trail to see where it leads. More of a discovery writer than a plotter/planner, I like to open myself to the process, almost as if channeling it. Sometimes I think of myself as a radio. I need to tune in to the right frequency to hear the broadcast, then I basically take dictation, and go back later with an editorial eye to technically shape and refine it. Sounds a little “out there” but it works. Storytelling is a collaborative effort between me and the characters who need to speak–I act as an interpreter of dreams and the hidden world. With the Book of Blood Magic, there’s more work on my part to piece together the story as its presented to me. It requires a lot of research to make certain I’m getting the details right so that they feel as real as waking life.

Next week, June 16, 2014, Page a Day guest blogger James Rhodes and Michelle Augello-Page will answer these questions. Be sure to visit the sites below to read more insight into the writing process.

James Rhodes is the author of The Hettford Witch Hunt series. He grew up in a small sheltered village on the Wirral where there was very little to do except read and write stories. After drinking his way through university he moved to live with his wife in Baltimore City. He has taught at university level, worked as a day labourer and spent a happy time working as a gardener. He currently lives in a small sheltered village on the Wirral with his wife and three children. He would much rather you read his books than paid for them. Read his interview at

Michelle Augello-Page writes poetry, erotica, and dark fiction. Her work has appeared in art galleries, online and print publications, anthologies, and audio and e-book formats. Michelle’s collection of dark and erotic stories, Into the Woods, was published by Oneiros Books in 2014. She is also the editor of Siren, an online zine for artists of all genres who create new, edgy, and experimental work. Read her interview at

Eytan & Dani Kollin

Dani Kollin and his brother Eytan are the authors of the sci-fi smash, The Unincorporated Man and its sequel, The Unincorporated War (releasing May 11, 2011). The Kollin Bros. are also finalists for this year’s Prometheus Awards (for the best pro-freedom novel of 2009):

The Unincorporated Man by Dani and Eytan Kollin (Tor): “…explores the idea that education and personal development could be funded by allowing investors to take a share of one’s future income. The story takes a strong position that liberty is important and worth fighting for, and the characters spend their time pushing for different conceptions of what freedom is.”

So it’s only fitting that these freedom fighters got published their own way, defying the industry’s conventional tropes and forging their own brilliant path. Here, guest blogger Dani, shares his insight on the  process:

We didn’t have an agent,  at least not someone who’d ever agented before. We submitted our story with the wrong typeface, leading, and font size. We even had the temerity to keep David Hartwell, one of the most respected and famous editors in the business waiting (or at least our pretend agent did). We didn’t purposely break all those rules it’s just that we hadn’t bothered reading them. Why? Because we were writing blind and never thought for a moment there were any rules that mattered other than to write something compelling. We may have been naive but in this instance it turns out that we were right.

Barring all the typos, screwing up all the POV’s (general rule we didn’t know: only one POV per scene, please), and everything else about that first submitted manuscript that marked us as newbies, the one thing we got right was the idea. At the risk of boring you I humbly submit a paraphrased Philip K. Dick quote as to what makes an idea stand out – specifically with regards to science fiction–but certainly applicable across the board: Science fiction is “not merely a story set in the future, and it’s not merely a story featuring high technology… It entails a fictitious world that comes out of our world, the one we know: This world must be different from the given one in at least one way… sufficient to give rise to events that could not occur in our society…There must be a coherent idea involved in this dislocation…so that as a result a new society is generated in the author’s mind, transferred to paper, and from paper it occurs as a convulsive shock in the reader’s mind, the shock of dysrecognition. In good science fiction, the conceptual dislocation—the new idea, in other words—must be intellectually stimulating to the reader so that it sets off a chain-reaction of ramification–ideas in the mind of the reader; it so-to-speak unlocks the reader’s mind so that that mind, like the author’s, begins to create.” (Philip K. Dick, Letter, 1981, Reader, 41-42, xiii-xiv).

My brother and I may not have known much about the minutiae when we started writing The Unincorporated Man (and it certainly would’ve been easy to get lost there) but we instinctively knew that we’d better damn well do more than create cool or fantastical characters and place them into a cool or fantastical world. Every SF editor in NYC has a stack of unread manuscripts on their desk with WELL WRITTEN – BEAUTIFULLY DESCRIBED worlds but a dearth of raisons d’etre for those worlds. It’s a tall order, but it’s not magic. Ask yourself: is what you’re creating enabling your reader to create too? If all it is is your own imaginary world described then perhaps it needs something more. What that “more” is I couldn’t say. What I can say is this: get that one thing right and feel free to screw the rest up to your heart’s content (don’t tell my editor I said that). Because by piquing the editor’s curiosity you’ll have accomplished something extraordinary : you’ll have set off the “chain reaction of ramification ideas” that will separate your story from the rest. You’ll have accomplished the one right thing and I can promise you this: it won’t be a long wait from there.

Visit them at

Last year, I had the pleasure of participating in a discussion panel with Dani and Eytan Kollin at San Diego’s Comic Con last year. It was my first public appearance as a newly-minted author, and the guys very generously offered me a few pointers. Dani is fantastic about sharing information on the business of writing, and has given me insider tips and marketing info I never would have figured out for myself. Us newbies are all grappling around in the dark, trying to figure out how to bend the book-beast to our will, or at least, make friends with it. Remember to pay it forward when your turn comes. When you’re the seasoned pro with one or two books under your belt, you’ll also have a wealth of experience to share with the writers coming up behind you.

Anyway, Dani invited me to be on a discussion panel at, in LA. It was plenty fun. I’ll post the panel when it’s up, in the meantime, snack on this:

Who are we?

The Page a Day Writers Group is a diverse collection of wonderful writers based in San Diego, CA. We've been meeting monthly since 2004. Our primary function is in-depth writing critique, marketing and brainstorming, but there's usually some wine, chocolate and ribaldry involved too. We write fantasy, humor, literary fiction, nonfiction, romance, thrillers and YA. Join us on our journeys to publication and the wonderland beyond!