Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Guest Post: Benjamin Appleby-Dean - Author of The Stickman's Legacy

Benjamin Appleby-Dean, author of The Stickman's Legacy, stopped by the Howling Turtle to talk a bit about folklore and fable and how it has influenced his work on this book. Had you heard of any of this fairytale trivia before?

Guest Post
I’ve always been fascinated by stories – not just the actual reading and hearing of them, the beginning-to middle-to end rush, but by the pieces of them and how they fit together. Why we have heroes and villains, antagonists, and protagonists, morals and happy endings or tragedies that can’t be averted.
I tried to write stories of my own almost as soon as I learned to read, starting with simple tales of heroes and monsters – but even then I wondered why the monsters had to lose.
As I grew older and read more widely, I discovered Joseph Campbell and his beat-by-beat formula for heroic journeys. I noticed the similarities in folklore and fable across different continents – the version of Cinderella that goes back to ancient Egypt, the sunken-city myth that persists from Greece to India to China, the enduring archetype of little people living underground that recurs in country after country. I read about the changing of even our best-known modern fairy tales – how the Grimms rewrote their own collections to remove Rapunzel’s pregnancy and switch abusive mothers for stepmothers; how Beauty and the Beast once had elaborate backstories involving rival fairies; how Tom Thumb originally joined King Arthur’s court and battled giants.
Most of all I came to understand how much of what we are is built upon the backs of these persistent narratives – stories informing our language, our relationships, our aspirations, our ideas of good and evil. Stories woven through our basic ideas of self.
What would happen if someone tried to use them as a weapon?
I wanted to write a story about stories – but not in a postmodern, ironic, poking-fun kind of way. I wanted to drill down into how they worked and how they could be made to work. I wanted to see what happened to the survivors. How far an ending could be made to stretch.
Most of all, I wanted to tell the story of a girl who refused to give up.
The first ideas for THE STICKMAN’S LEGACY came to me nearly fifteen years ago. I spent seven years taking the ideas and building on them, trying to fit them together until they made sense. I read up on folk history from every country I could find, spotting new patterns and obscure fragments. I took six months writing a detailed, blow-by-blow plan to make sure my strange, experimental plot actually fitted together and then another two years finishing my first draft of the book.
But as many older, wiser writers will tell you, the first book you write is never any good. 
I wrote other books afterwards – simpler, less ambitious ones. I even got some of my other works into print. Then I came back to my unwieldly first manuscript, finally became aware of my mistakes, and spent another year re-writing it from scratch. I eventually cut out 60,000 words (the length of a short novel in itself!) and was left with leaner, better-paced book – still saying everything I wanted to say, but in 70% of the page count. 
It took me five years to find a publisher for THE STICKMAN’S LEGACY, and it’s still the most complex and ambitious thing I’ve ever tried to write.
I can only hope that some of you find it worth the wait.

About the Book
Mary never knew her father until he died and brought his enemies to her doorstep. Searching his house for answers, she unearths an ancient nightmare and is drawn into a world of corporate magicians, subterranean kingdoms and living architecture, all of whom have history with the Stickman - and their own sinister agendas for his daughter.

As a secret war breaks out across London with her at the centre, Mary finds fragments of her own past resurfacing, and has to understand the true nature of her legacy before it's too late...

Find it on Amazon
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Disclosure: this post contains links to an affiliate program (Amazon), for which I receive a few cents if you make purchases.

1 comment:

  1. Inspiring to hear you didn't give up on this story! You're very right...your first book you write is never good, but it's sad that people always repeat that mantra as if you should give up in it. Take lessons learned and move on, never to take a look again. You didn't give up though.


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