Writers view the prospect of doing a book talk either as one to be dreaded, or one to be embraced. Having been asked to do a talk on my novels myself, I feel a little of both. I am suddenly forced to reflect upon my writing experiencesand to try to make sense of what I have learned. But how do I package up the past twenty-five years into a coherent story for a room full of listeners, and most importantly, one that is interesting?
Author Site for Thriller Readers
This has spurred me to develop this author website for those who wish to find out a little more about my thrillers, which I pen under a pseudonym, Charles J Harwood. Articles here explore some of the issues covered in my stories, such as family dynamics, dyslexia, Stockholm syndrome, taboos, voyeurism, gambling, insomnia, office politics and what human behavior would say if it could speak. You will also find reviews of books I have found of interest. You don’t have to read my novels to find something of interest here (although it would be a bonus if you decided to try one of my books!).
Books via Pen Name
I also write art instruction books under my real name but wish to keep the two book markets separate. Harwood is the surname of my great grandmother, and Charles is an almost perfect anagram of Rachel, my Christian name.
Some might argue that that writing art books is more than enough to keep someone occupied in one lifetime. Why write fiction thrillers too? This is a valid argument. Only trouble was, vivid story ideas and characters have afflicted me from an early age. There is nothing unusual in this; many writers have entertained younger friends and/or siblings with stories and plays. But as I got older, it became a bit of a curse. What do I do to make my imaginary characters shut up and leave me in peace?
Books by Charles J Harwood
My first novel was penned when I was 17, only to discover how difficult it is to convey what is imagined onto paper. The result of my first dra
ft was less than satisfactory. I had a lot to learn about writing. In the meantime, these characters kept pestering me. And worse still, I only had a clunky old typewriter as my ally. I love Microsoft Word. No more tipex, no more messy ribbons and no more cheap typing paper. But sadly for me (and all other writers of the time) it was the eighties, and I couldn't afford a word processor (as they were called then).
I persevered with my writing, making gradual improvements over my writing style, and when I lost my way, I would work on my art books.
Taking Risks in Stories
A Hard Lesson is my first novel. It went through countless redrafts. Novel writing can be a risky business. After all, the writer is releasing imaginary characters into the minds of other readers. It is this risk that drives me to write, but this risk can also stick one on you when you least expect it, especially when others don’t see the point you are trying to make in your stories. It is a fate the writer has to accept and firmly take the blame.
Life Influences in WritingI was brought up in seventies Britain in a large working class family. I went to a comprehensive school and underwent a clash of attitudes, emotions and experiences. One only has to watch seventies reruns such as Top of the Pops to see what an odd time seventies Britain was. Consider Armchair Thriller, Punk, A Clockwork Orange, Glam Metal, Life on Mars, Progressive Rock, Tales of the Unexpected, Love Thy Neighbor and the Goodies. It is often the most ridiculed and lamented over decade and also one of the most distinctive. It is this decade that is responsible for some of the qualities of my writing. Also to blame is British irony borne from disappointment, mostly from the weather. I like experimentation and I hate formulas.
But other creations that stand out for me are diverse: books by Irvine Welsh, John Steinbeck, Stephen King, Harper Lee, Jane Austen, J D Salinger and films such as Education Rita, Jaws, One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest and TV programmes such as Blackadder, Frasier and The Office. There is much more that could be added to this list. For this reason, I have provided some book reviews on this site.
How to Put Emotions into Words
But the main influence for my writing was my bumpy emotional experiences in life. There is something liberating about offloading your experiences and dressing up your fictional characters with them. I’m sure other fiction writers have done the same. A child who experiences divorcing parents may transfer these feelings of alienation into a fictional immigrant during her transmission into a strange country. Implanting such emotional experiences can add depth to characters. Such themes are explored on this site.
So far I have written three novels: A Hard Lesson, The Shuttered Room and Falling Awake. I'm planning to add more to this list. All my novels are available in paperback, large print and kindle. You can find them on all main online book retailers, including Amazon, Kobo, Apple, Smashwords and Sony.
Note: since writing this, these 3 novels have been included in a trilogy, entitled Gone Too Far (3 Psychological Thrillers on Taboo) available exclusively on ereaders.
I have also written short stories, screenplays and countless articles on both writing and art. Find out more on this site about the themes covered within my novels. Scroll down to find book reviews.
Now, time to get on with my book talk!
Copyright has been asserted on all excerpts © 2012 by Charles J Harwood
Image credits on the header of this site:
Illustration for Beauty and the Beast (London) by Walter Crane: George Routledge and Sons, 1874. (Source Wikimedia Commons)
Venus and Mars, Tempera and oil on poplar (1485) Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510) The National Gallery, London
Bacchus and Ariadne, oil on panel (1520) Tiziano Vecellio (Titian), The National Gallery, London
Venus and Mars Circa 1600 (Oil on copper) Carlo Saraceni (1579 1620) Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid