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My Writing Style - and Influencers

What is my style? Who has influenced my writing? If you haven't read my work yet, knowing this might help you to decide if my work is for you!


The style of my books varies according to point of view (POV). It has to, because there's a huge difference between the remote third-person viewpoint (as used in Sandman and Flying a Kite) and first-person viewpoint (used in The Grave Concerns of Jennifer Lloyd).

Here's an extract from Flying a Kite illustrating third-person POV:

"Bruce had killed fifteen minutes in Bath Abbey and ten minutes admiring the river from Grand Parade before he crossed Pulteney Bridge."

And the following is from The Grave Concerns of Jennifer Lloyd. This illustrates the very direct first-person POV used by the protagonist and narrator, in which she talks to the reader, her presumed friend:

"Did you ever receive a threatening letter? Hopefully not. It's not nice, but I guess I brought it on myself. . ."

The latter style builds a very close relationship with the lead character and, hopefully, creates a great reader empathy. It does, of course, introduce its own demands, and that aspect has to be carefully considered before an author chooses a first-person approach. When I first visualised Jennifer Lloyd, she came through to me so strongly she 'demanded' this very direct viewpoint.

First-person POV is normally restricted to showing you the thoughts of the character, and that is easier to handle. But in the more direct form shown above, that character actually addresses the reader. You might argue that is a form of authorial intrusion (discussed below), but there is a significant difference between an author talking directly to the reader and a character doing so! When it's the author, he intrudes into the story and pulls you out of that imaginary world; when it's a character, the character lives and breaths! However, style consistency is everything in first-person.

I often like to inject a little humour into my novels, where appropriate, and that even goes for my more serious non-fiction work: Reality Check: Science Meets Religion - because that lightens something that could otherwise become rather deep.

As for influencers, this is only relevant for my fiction. I have my own unique style for non-fiction, developed over many years, and that is always to 'keep it simple'; the latter results from decades of writing manuals for commercial and military clients.

Now let's focus on fiction. I like to get inside the head and study the psyche of those unwittingly caught up in circumstances which are very much beyond their control: for that unpredictability - or danger - is what makes a novel more interesting. The reader wants to know what happens to the hero.

Here are some of the authors whom I greatly admire and who may, therefore, have had some subconscious - but not conscious - influence on my style. They all write really well and include:

  • Sophie Hannah -crime from the viewpoint of those most affected

  • Robert Goddard - ordinary people put in extraordinary circumstances

  • Jodi Picoult - great character and plot depth

  • John Irving - unusual characters and strange circumstances

  • Peter Carey - similar to John Irving, often with a humorous twist

  • Gillian Flynn - with her psychological twists

  • Alexander McCall Smith - brilliant characters, with humour

  • Pat Conroy - locations, strong characters and control freaks

  • A. J. Cronin - an early influencer in characterisation.

I am interested in creating very real characters. I really admire the way Jodi Picoult both gets into the heads of her principal characters and researches her major themes so deeply. To me, characterisation is rather more about their psyche than their physicality - readers whip-up their own images of characters, anyway. So forget the Sherlock Holmes image of someone with a shuffling limp as a handle, and instead think about how a character behaves in given scenarious and how they speak and move. That's what I try to do.So far as fiction is concerned, I always like an interesting twist to the plot; or, if possible, several! I like readers to think: 'I didn't see that coming!'

I like to create realistic scenes. Wherever possible the setting is somewhere I've been. This is the art of 'creating a sense of place'. Not only does that chime with a reader who knows it, it helps me to visualise it when writing.

One of my strongest aims to to try to keep away from authorial intrusion. Creative Writing classes go on about 'show not tell'. While this was the last thing that the most famous authors of the past were concerned about, it is a good maxim, and one I try to follow. Basically, if an author describes a scene from a third-person point-of view, the reader is aware of the author's presence in their head. What I try to do is to describe a scene as naturally observed by one of my characters, because you then observe it through their head. That avoids breaking the spell and keeps your head in the scene and makes the author invisible. This is more difficult than just diving in and describing a scene, of course, but it's worth it. I have noticed that well established novelists often throw this principle to the wind, perhaps in order to increase their literary output - and, maybe, their pecuniary input - but aspiring authors would do well to remember the principle, for it is likely to be one of the judgements agents and publishers apply.

Here's an extract from The Grave Concerns of Jennifer Lloyd which shows how a description is perceived to be from the protagonist's point of view:

"The hallway was large, the floor a highly polished marble, the walls papered in a rich red flock, and the pictures, of what I assumed were relatives, were resplendent in ornate gold frames . . ."

The phrase shown in italics above is evidence we are seeing the scene through the eyes of the character and not reading the author's description.

I also like to start my novels with a kick. Well, you do have to hook the reader pretty quickly, don't you?

You might say that my latest novel, called The Grave Concerns of Jennifer Lloyd, might be the results of Gillian Flynn meeting Sophie Hannah, although I think the pace is quicker than in their typical stories. I believe this is the best novel I have written so far with respect to characterisation. Authors should improve with age, like a good wine! (If that is so, I ought to be rather more intoxicating by now!)

Flying a Kite was a rather different novel because it is contemporary fiction on the surface but similar in thought to novels produced by Wm Young (The Shack) and James Redfield (The Celestine Prophecy). A Book Viral reviewer said it is comparable to both of these. It differs from The Shack in that it presents a more biblical approach to the Trinity, and from The Celestine Prophecy because it actively talks about God (rather than mysterious forces). Having made these comparisons, I have to say it was not influenced by either because I was writing it at the same time as Young was writing The Shack, and I hadn't at that time even discovered The Celestine Prophecy series. I had already writing a non-fiction eBook called Reality Check: Science Meets Religion - the title says all - and what I discovered in my research for that became source material for use within Flying a Kite. Because I didn't want the solid underlying research to be lost in Kite, I included End Notes in the novel which provides links, via this website, to the supporting research and science. I think my characterisation is deeper in Kite than that in Shack and Prophecy - but I reckon I occupy a similar place to James Redfield with respect to belief.

I NEVER try to copy anyone else's style; that would be an anathema for me, and it should be for other writers. All I am trying to do here is show how other authors' approach to writing may either have inspired me, or be similar enough for new readers to realise my work might be on interest because they already like those writers.


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My LATEST...

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GB£ 8.99 | US$ 14.95

AVAILABLE IN MARCH

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"Jennifer Lloyd is not the superwoman lead of some mystery novels, yet neither is she a simpering fool. Ian Kingsley has created a charming and real young woman whose ambition and logic usually prevail, but who has genuinely believable faults which could also be her undoing. The narrative style allows Jennifer to speak directly to her audience, creating a sometimes cosy atmosphere which is engaging to read, but also allowing access straight into the character's mind at the most tense moments of the plot." (K. C. Finn, Readers' Favorite)


"A fine melding of mystery thriller and contemporary fiction. An inspired touch allows for a timely infusion of humour. Kingsley's first-person narrative paves the way for a cracking denouement." (Stephan J. Myers - Book Viral)


"From its first paragraph, The Grave Concerns draws readers in with a flash and a bang. Can a TV reporter who has invented her career solve murders that baffled the police? What happens when she truly has to face down a murderer? It's a powerful, compelling read that's hard to put down." (D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review)



WHAT PEOPLE SAY about earlier novels...

FLYING A KITE...

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"Fluid, smooth and flows at a lovely pace. Really engaging from the start. Like The Shack, there is a niche for this kind of book." (Gillian McDade, author of The Standing Man)


"Tight writing… using dialogue to give just enough detail to hook us into the story, leaving the snippets of backstory until the reader is well and truly engrossed. Great stuff!" (Jo Carroll, author of Over The Hill And Far Away)


"Characters are direct and effective. I enjoyed the pace which allows the reader to think about the important concepts by himself." (Heikki Hietala, author of Tulagi Hotel)


SANDMAN...

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"An emotional thriller with just enough twists to keep the ending undistubed by the reader's attempts at guessing... perfect for that weekend escape to the beach, just don't let your imagination run away with you." (G. Reba - Amazon.com)


"Set in lovely scenery this book is really enjoyable and gripping. It's very hard to put down once you start reading it and will keep you guessing right to the end. Highly recommended." (Alison Cole - Amazon.co.uk)



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