Johnny Worthen is the prolific writer of BEATRYSEL success. His second novel, ELEANOR, THE UNSEEN, released just yesterday, is set to display more of the poetical, flowing prose delivered in the first. Immerse yourself in the catalogue page, if you want to be sucked into its intrigue and look out for the giveaway at the bottom (who doesn’t want a great book for free?).
Here, he explains the importance of theme to his books and the way he writers. Welcome, Johnny.
I approach my books differently I think than many other authors do. Whereas I think it’s probably the norm to write the book that’s welling up in you and then, after it’s done, discover what it was all about, kind of as a forensic exercise. I, however, tend to go the other approach. I usually have a clear idea what the themes of my books will be and write toward them.
When I say theme I don’t mean moral, like “good guys alway win” or “Zoroastrianism is the only true religion,” I’m talking more about concepts – questions that I’m exploring. Such, as in ELEANOR, THE UNSEEN, the central ideas was change, which grew to include acceptance, prejudice, loneliness and the struggles of the outsider and these became the soup from which a brewed the tale.
Knowing what the book’s about keeps me on track, thematically at least, as I turn events and let my characters act.
It’s probably a by-product of my training in literary criticism, but I find it invaluable to have identified and vocalized the heart of the book before I begin. When I teach writing I tell my students to do this and think of it as a lighthouse, shining a beacon on the story, giving you bearing and directions. If you’re ever going astray, look at the light and it’ll steer you back.
Of course writing a book is an organic process and sometimes the lighthouse changes color as you near it. As it should. The central theme is the original question, but as you explore it, other themes will necessarily arise like details in a tapestry on close inspection. This is what’s exciting about writing. The new questions are answers themselves and shed new light on the whole project while giving you more to think about.
I heard a publisher once say that your book should be about something. So true. Knowing something of what this is in terms of theme, gives the critical side of my brain a handle to steer while the creative side runs wild. Together, hopefully, the two sides of my brain can make art and a story worth telling.
Connect with Johnny Worthen. Go on, he wants you to
ELEANOR, THE UNSEEN giveaway!