I have an author friend who is currently writing a Phantom of the Opera retelling in a contemporary, young adult, academy, Christian multi-genre blend style. It is beautifully crafted story, and I can’t wait for her to publish it so I can share it with all my friends.
But in talking with my author friend about what inspired her to focus on a gothic horror story, I got thinking about my favorite gothic horror book. Well, books. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley and Dracula by Bram Stoker. And I was drawn to the idea of writing my own Frankenstein retelling that focused on the creator’s responsibilities for its creations. That has always been my favorite theme in Frankenstein. When the monster says to Frankenstein that it did not know how to act because he (Dr. Frankenstein) failed to teach him ethics, I am always like *mic drop.
So I took the time to re-read Frankenstein and focus on the themes of the original text, and think about what I would like to include in my own retelling someday.
I love this book. There is so much more to the original story than scary serial killing monster.
Using guilt as a motivating factor. So much of Frankenstein’s life after the monster wakes up is driven by his guilt. When I eventually get around to crafting my own Frankenstein retelling, I need to remember the power of guilt as a motivator.
To be honest, I already can’t wait to read this again and glean from it what I can to help inspire my own writings. That’s the power of favorite books, I think. Every time I read my favorite books, I find a new reason to love them.
I will be honest, this was not my type of book. But even when I don’t like the plot, and don’t agree with the characters, I am teaching myself to still learn something.
Steinbeck is an amazing author, in my opinion. He did a great job at developing the characters so I understood them, even if I didn’t like them. He described the landscape so well, I saw it.
Before reading East of Eden, I used to think that the most talented authors at world-building created new worlds. After East of Eden, I realized that the best world-builders describe their landscapes in a way that the reader can see and feel the droughts, the dry ground, the lush farmland. It’s not just about creating something new, it’s also about describing the world in a way the reader can see and feel the world.
JQM LITERARY SPOTLIGHT PRESENTS The Great Convergence by Thomas Kast
FIRST, LET’S GET TO KNOW YOU A BIT. TELL US SOMETHING UNIQUE ABOUT YOURSELF:
I’m an award-winning independent photojournalist and illustrator based in Zurich, Switzerland, and have published a number of photography art books. I’ve spent a big part of my life in Israel, where I taught photography and illustration at the Shenkar College of Engineering and Design and other Israeli colleges. As for unique stuff: I’m native of the 234’s dimension and only come to Earth to conduct psychological experiments on humanity for my own amusement. My debut novel The Great Convergence is an absurdist-philosophical science fiction piece. It evokes many of my real-life experiences fused with unhinged fantasies.
WHAT IS THE GENRE AND AUDIENCE FOR THIS BOOK:
Anyone who likes to reads something different from the run-of-the-mill hard sci-fi full of aliens and robots shooting lasers at one another just because they can. A subversive philosophical science fiction and social satire, I wanted the Great Convergence to take the readers out of their comfort zone, exposing the absurdity of many ethical and intellectual ideals. If you like the wry humour of Kurt Vonnegut and Douglas Adams or the philosophical insights of Stanislaw Lem, you’ll enjoy it too.
WHAT WAS THE INSPIRED YOU TO WRITE THIS BOOK:
As I said earlier, it’s a philosophical and humorous science fiction. I wanted to create a book that can be enjoyed, read and re-read and could give the reader a memorable experience. I’ve noticed that most contemporary sci-fi often ventures into the strictly commercial territory. Not entirely happy with this trend, I wanted to use science fiction as a vehicle to highlight many social and philosophical problems, but with a healthy dose of humour. There are several recurring themes in my book, which result from observing and analysing the world around me. One of those inspirations would be stupidity. It’s a subject that has always fascinated me. All of my characters make inexplicably unwise and shortsighted decisions despite being exceptionally smart (some of them). Superheroes are great but, often being no more than mere archetypes, they often lack humanity. It’s the crazy ones who provide all the fun. Another inspiration and recurring theme in my book inspired by real-world observation is miscommunication. My characters are all stuck in uncomfortable situations. Constantly missing the point, they don’t understand each other’s motives, and they’re unable put themselves in someone else’s shoes. They oscillate between being inordinately overconfident or hopelessly insecure but can never think on two feet. Above and beyond, they’re blinded by their personal goals they consider of great consequence and which are insignificant and trivial. As irony would have it, they all have a profoundly important part to play on the universe’s stage — something they’re never to discover.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR BOOK:
Here’s the premise: 10.000.002 A.D. A cantankerous scholar slipping into obscurity is out for revenge. He time-travels to the year 2022 to stop his nemesis, Scott — a successful scientist at a competing university — from thwarting his research into the origin of a mysterious phenomenon, the Great Convergence. Cunning and ruthless, Scott will stop at nothing to defend his tenure track. The feud quickly spins out of control, and the damage to reality grows unchecked. Caught in the crosshairs are three characters responsible for triggering the Great Convergence: an art-hating professional art critic who, unbeknownst to him, spontaneously switches between universes wreaking havoc as he goes; a talentless artist whose sculptures act as trans-universal portals; and a schizophrenic astrophysicist trying to avert the invasion of alternate versions of himself from different realities. As their paths converge, the apocalyptic event takes place, and the inescapable tragedy of human existence unfolds. tist at a competing university — from thwarting his research into the origin of a mysterious phenomenon, the Great Convergence. Cunning and ruthless, Scott will stop at nothing to defend his tenure track. The feud quickly spins out of control, and the damage to reality grows unchecked.
My Thoughts on Wednesdays in the Tower by Jessica Day George
Oh Castle Glower book 2.
There is rather hot debate in home about what events occur in which book of this series.
My favorite aspect of the story that the author did in this book was make the castle a character, even more so than in the first book. I thought it was enjoyable that the castle had such a fun a personality, and how the castle acted and reacted with the inhabitants.
My Thoughts on the Castle Glower Series by Jessica Day George
This is another book series that my children absolutely loved, so I read them. And while I enjoyed the books, I did not love them as much as my children did.
After reading Tuesdays at the Castles, my biggest takeaway was that is a fun children story. And that while the happily ever after was predictable, the how that ending came about was not. I was as surprised as my children at how this book ended.
As an author, I think my biggest takeaway was to let the story surprise you. Kids love surprise twists as much as adult readers do.
I read this on a recommendation from a friend. I am not a huge fan of thriller books, and I didn’t really engage well with some of the characters, but I loved the behind-the-scenes puppet-master who invested in the drug. And I loved all the characters that acted with integrity and stood up for their values no matter what.
And I think that is my takeaway from Collateral Carnage. That even when a reader doesn’t care much for the plot, if you write compelling characters that are relatable, and willing to take a stand, your reader may enjoy the book even though it is not their usual genre. I know that was my case. I didn’t care about the big corporate corruption or the bad guys chasing the good guys, or any of it. I cared about the characters, and I loved the characters that were willing to take a stand, even though they knew it would cost them their lives. In this case, I mean going into witness protection and literally starting a whole new life.
My Thoughts on Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
One of my daughters is a fan of Kate DiCamillo’s work, and so I thought I would read Because of Winn Dixie and talk with her about why she loved it.
I enjoyed the plot. I enjoyed everything about the book, but to be honest, I enjoyed talking with my daughter about it the most. Turns out she loved the dog. Well, everyone loved the dog, so who can blame her.
I don’t know if any one aspect of the story, or the way DiCamillo told the story, really stuck with me on a writing level. But on a personal level, I was reminded that people are human, and that just because a neighbor strikes you as odd at first impression, doesn’t mean that your neighbor is a bad person. It is just means they are different from you, and can have a lot to teach you if you give them a chance.
My Thoughts on You Beneath Your Skin by Damyanti Biswas
The author, Biswas, invited me to read this book and share my thoughts on it. He asked me to do this a couple years ago now, but after I had my concussion in August of 2020, my reading time and ability really died down, while my frequency of migraines and other post-concussive symptoms intensified a great deal.
But on the bright side, after a few months of physical therapy, I am feeling much better and feel like I can read more once again.
So, back to Biswas’s story.
I do not read much contemporary fiction, but this was a wonderful story.
My greatest takeaways are, one, write locations you know. This book was set in India. I have never been to India, and anyone from New Delhi, or who had visited New Delhi, would know instantly that I have no idea how people talk, what the landscape is, at all. The author did a masterful job of showing me what life in New Delhi was like for these characters.
Second, character development. I thought the character development was well done. And while I disagreed with Anjali’s decision at the end of the book, I understood why she chose to do what she did.
“Now that was an epic Space Opera.” and “Why didn’t Disney make this trilogy instead of the Force Awakens movies?”
My goodness. Zahn still lost my attention whenever he described the different types of ships or weapons, or other scientific/technological advances. But Mara Jade and Thrawn are now two of my favorite characters in Star Wars, and in all literature.
I loved seeing how the author got me to care about both Thrawn and Jade, while at the same time hoping they would fail in their respective goals.
Another takeaway was what I said last week about Dark Force Rising. I loved seeing Zahn bring together all of his individual character’s story arcs into one epic space opera.
Zahn is a master storyteller, a master world-builder, and a great writer.
Whenever I read a great story, I always pick on small things, like how an author chose to show the story rather than tell it. Or how to use dialogue to move plot.
But I think what my greatest take away from Dark Force Rising was how to tell a compelling story from multiple points of view, with every character experiencing their own sub-plot, while as whole moving the plot to the climax. There were so many smaller side stories going on. What Luke was doing. What Leia and Chewy were doing. Hans and Lando adventuring. Thrawn plotting. And yet, at no point during the did I loose track of who was doing what, or even get confused about who the secondary characters were (maybe that was because this was not my first introduction to most of the secondary characters, or maybe it was because of my love for the Star Wars-verse.)
I do admit that I got confused about the different planets. And it took me a second to remember what was special about this location compared to a different one.