Jun 4, 2010

Friendly Friday - Joshua Perkey

I've written about this before in previous posts, but I find this topic particularly on my mind after discussing my current interests with other authors, agents, and publishers. For the longest time, I considered myself purely an epic fantasy novelist. Oh, I have a couple of human interest books in mind--I've got one particularly good one brewing about challenges in the conversion process and how to see through others' eyes--but those are just a few specific plans.

In truth, ever since I read Tolkien in my youth--perhaps 10 or 11 years old--I fancied traditional fantasy. I was never much interested in science fiction, and fantasy that did not have a particularly strong medieval component didn't seem my thing. I was a bit of a snob, really, turning down books of many categories, even subcategories of my own interest, for such reasons.

But recently I've been telling my children fantastic fairytale stories that I create on the fly. Episodic in nature, these tales have found themselves woven together in an interesting tapestry of myth and plot that make a compelling story. At the urging of my children, I began to take notes of these stories and turn them into a written book.

The process has required a great deal of additional material, mostly to smooth out transitions, to create character arcs and evolve the story, and moving events out of original sequence to create a more logical chain of events building to the eventual climax and denoument. Characters have to be more fleshed out, dialogue added, and an overarching plot conclusion known now from beginning to end creating the complete plot sequence have all been mapped out.

But here are a couple of things I find curious:

1. I'm having a blast writing for the middle grade audience. I always thought it possible, but nor likely, that I might consider writing for audiences other than epic. After all, I obtained my master's degree in medieval history and studied Classics and medieval history for many years. I developed quite a sophisticated way of communicating. I thought that's where my main talents lay.

Yet here I am, finding this method of writing as though storytelling to youth not just fascinating, but downright exciting and entertaining for me as an author. Who knew that would happen?

2. I'm finding it easier to maintain the correct voice. For epic, I tend to hear a rather falsely eloquent, 'high' voice as though I were some pompous bard, pronouncing the tale in my head. That voice has to be gently nudged to the side, sometimes forcely and at gunpoint, so that a more accessible and engaging voice and tone can come through.

But with this middle grade, I find it more natural to slide into the voice I want. I still tend to hear things a little high minded. Yet turning on the storytelling voice comes more naturally. I have simply to imagine my children, or others of a young age, and try and tell it to them. Then I have to add sensory details and character voice to complete the spell. It's just a more natural experience for me.

3. I can keep the novel in my mind so much more easily. A plot of 190,000 words, now that is daunting to keep together in my head, especially when I've got plans for sequels. But 40,000 words? I know the end from the beginning much more easily.

4. It's just so much fun! And my kids are really enjoying the experience, too. They are my captive audience and focus group.

This experience begs the question: what genre are we really suited for? And is there only one? I no longer think so. In fact, I've become a believer that to really hone your craft you have to write things outside what you normally write. You have to experience different audiences. Not that you have to write to every audience and every genre. But even this simple change has opened my eyes to possibilities, reinvigorated my excitement and interest as a writer, and brought new waves of plans and potentialities that I had never considered.

So if you find yourself stuck in a rut, try a different audience or genre. If you just feel a change might do you good, go for it. Grab a group of kids, or adults, or just imagine they are there, and practice telling a story to them. How different would the story be from what you normally do? How would this impact your voice? Your tone? Your style of delivery? Your characters?

It's made a huge impact on me and for my career.

Joshua J. Perkey writes epic, YA, and middle grade fantasy. He also dabbles in human interest writing and works as a senior editor for the Ensign and Liahona magazines. While not playing with his kids or spending time with his wife or serving in church or the community, he's trying to catch up on his favorite pasttime: sleep. He gets far too little of that!

You can find Joshua's blog HERE!

Thanks for being my guest today, Joshua. I totally agree. I started out writing adult romance with a little fantasy and now I'm in YA paranormal and loving it. Who knew it could be so much fun.

My guest next week will be Keith Fisher.


  1. Nice post! It's always good to switch gears now and then and get a fresh perspective.

  2. Joshua - I love how you discovered a genre you love and the enthusiasm you have for writing your stories. Delightful post!