Thursday, March 23, 2017

Reviewing Reviews (part 2)

One longer and more comprehensive review of Clouds Over Bishop Hill brought up a series of questions worth discussing: 

“…there are no headlines in the newspapers and no radio or television reporters swarming the village.”

In my time, most Bishop Hill events were covered by a single reporter with a camera. Sometimes a reporter brought a camera person along, but that was rare. The best coverage usually involves Swedish royalty. Remember: Bishop Hill is the epicenter of a corn-field triangle formed by the Quad Cities, Peoria, and Galesburg.  Most of the papers in that triangle are weeklies and understaffed. However, it’s a good point for me to remember.

“…the tourists are absent.”

On most days the tourists come late and leave early. Late May and early June are times when the schools are still in session, therefore it’s not yet peak season for visitors. Again, it raises another point for my next book.

“None of the male characters … are developed.”

At one point I had four POVs and two were males. The guys suffered when I switched to focusing on Shelley’s first person POV. It’s one of the flaws of only using one POV.

“Shelley calls him [Roy Landers] Uncle Roy, but he’s her adoptive father and separated from his wife, Christina. …Her family history is unbelievably complicated.”

Yes, it is complicated. There was a huge age difference between Roy and his sister Nora, Shelley’s birth mother. I needed Nora to be out of the way with a little mystery. If Shelley felt like an orphan, that was good. I was always impressed with the stories I’d heard about the Colonists taking in orphans and wanted to use that fact in some way.

“Shelley seems cold and calculating.”

The steps I use when I’m building my scenes: I begin with the dialog. I create the physical setting. I set people in motion within the setting. I add bits of business for color and interest. My last step is adding appropriate emotions. Emotions are something I struggle with. Remember that Shelley at age twenty-two is a New Adult whose personality is not fully formed and set. She has no prior experience with serious crime, and then I’ve asked her to witness Herb’s death and become an amateur detective—that’s a tough character arc for anyone. Also, it is a mystery with a puzzle to solve.

“A character description would have been helpful.”

Yes. Others have mentioned this point. I plan on addressing the issue at my upcoming Read Local event at the Bettendorf library on April 12, 7 p.m.

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