Wednesday 11 October 2017

Author’s Inspiration ~ Stephanie Churchill #historicalfantasy @WriterChurchill

Please give a warm welcome to Historical Fantasy author, Stephanie Churchill. Stephanie is going to share with us her inspirations behind her fabulous new book…

The King’s Daughter

In this gripping sequel to The Scribe's Daughter, a young woman finds herself unwittingly caught up in a maelstrom of power, intrigue, and shifting perceptions, where the line between ally and enemy is subtle, and the fragile facade of reality is easily broken.

Irisa's parents are dead and her younger sister Kassia is away on a journey when the sisters’ mysterious customer returns, urging Irisa to leave with him before disaster strikes. Can she trust him to keep her safe? How much does he know about the fate of her father? Only a voyage across the Eastmor Ocean to the land of her ancestors will reveal the truth about her family’s disturbing past. Once there, Irisa steps into a future she has unknowingly been prepared for since childhood, but what she discovers is far more sinister than she could have ever imagined. Will she have the courage to claim her inheritance for her own?

Author's Inspiration

“Every story can be broken down into three parts: the beginning, the middle, and the twist.”
 R.L. Stine

Remember the movie The Sixth Sense, the 1999 ghost story?  In this chilling psychological thriller, eight-year-old Cole Sear is haunted by a dark secret: he is visited by ghosts. He is terrified and confused, too young to understand and too terrified to tell anyone about his torment, except child psychologist Dr. Malcolm Crowe. As Dr. Crowe tries to uncover the ominous truth about Cole's supernatural abilities, the uncovered consequence is a jolt that awakens them both, including pretty much every movie-goer.

Like most people, I was dumbstruck by the ending. The solution to many of the film's conundrums had been in plain view the whole time, but the very boldness of the storytelling whisked viewers past all the crucial hints, right through to the end of the film, where everything came to a stomach lurching conclusion that no one saw coming.  Well played, M. Night Shyamalan.

Another film that stands out to me for similar reasons is Memento, the 2000 film starring Guy Pearce.  Pearce plays a man who, as a result of a past trauma, suffers from an inability to form new memories resulting in short-term memory loss that resets about every five minutes.  Throughout the film he searches for the people who attacked him and killed his wife by using a system of Polaroid photographs, notes, and tattoos to keep track of information he can’t remember. The movie progresses along two different sequences of scenes throughout the film: one in black-and-white, shown chronologically, and one in color, shown in reverse order. The two narratives connect at the end of the film to produce one complete and cohesive story.  And just like The Sixth Sense, Memento ends with a jaw-dropping conclusion.

While each of these stories is a film rather than a book, they share a type of storytelling that attracts me over and over: twists which mercilessly take advantage of viewers’ assumptions by choosing a sudden and unexpected route rather than meander along a well-established and predictable line.  What you think you know is supposed turn left, but it actually turns right, shaking the very foundations of what is supposed to be.

When I sat down to write my first book, The Scribe’s Daughter, I wanted to echo this type of plot device in literary form.  Even if I couldn’t pull off something as dramatic as either of those movies, I still wanted to find ways to lull readers into a series of safe places through the narrative, easing them into the basic belief that matters would end predictably, that everything would wrap up nicely like a good Walt Disney fairy tale - familiar and comfortable.  So it was with mischievous glee that I dropped in a few plot twists, adding enough red herrings to magnify the twists.  Safe assumptions were turned on their heads, disrupted in a way only safe things can be disrupted.  It was only at the conclusion of the book that readers could finally rest, satisfied in the knowledge that matters finally did settle, coalescing into known, comfortable truths.

Or could they?

Not wanting anyone to become too relaxed, it was time to write the next book, The King’s Daughter.  Tenting my fingers in my best impersonation of a mad scientist, I decided it was time stir the pot again.  If readers thought matters were settled at the end of the last book, why not flip the known things on their heads one more time?

Inspired by storytellers who expertly smash through expectations of what is supposed to be, The Scribe’s Daughter and The King’s Daughter explore the heart of perspective by telling the individual stories of two sisters, each of whom fights to find herself amidst the turmoil of her family’s past.  Set against the backdrop of dirty city streets, mountain vistas, and glistening palaces, each sister discovers a reality of truth that will by turns revolutionize then taint her opinion of the past, thrusting her into a future far more complex and more sinister than either could ever have imagined.  Facing the shifting realities and fragile facade of these new truths will require an inner strength that neither one recognized in herself before.

While readers may not get whip lash from similarly-sized gravitational plot shifts that exist in The Sixth Sense, my hope in the telling of these stories is that readers will find surprises aplenty, cultivating feelings of unpredictability as they journey along with Kassia and Irisa on their adventurous tale of discovery.

Links for Purchase

About the author

Stephanie Churchill grew up in the American Midwest, and after school moved to Washington, D.C. to work as a paralegal, moving to the Minneapolis metro area when she married.  She says, 'One day while on my lunch break from work, I visited a nearby bookstore and happened upon a book by author Sharon Kay Penman.  I’d never heard of her before, but the book looked interesting, so I bought it.  Immediately I become a rabid fan of her work. I discovered that Ms. Penman had fan club and that she happened to interact there frequently.  As a result of a casual comment she made about how writers generally don’t get detailed feedback from readers, I wrote her an embarrassingly long review of her latest book, Lionheart.  As a result of that review, she asked me what would become the most life-changing question: “Have you ever thought about writing?”  And The Scribe’s Daughter was born.'

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  1. Thank you for sharing your inspirations with us! Fascinating!!

    1. Thank you for having me! Sometimes it takes having the question asked to be able to explore these otherwise intuitive inspirations. I had fun exploring my own motivations!

  2. I believe a writer's hardest job is to surprise the reader. Kudos for working on twists that surprise.


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Mary Anne xxx