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SANDMAN REVIEWS


A gripping psychological read with characters that reach out and grab you. A real page turner.

SOPHIE KING
bestselling author of The Wedding Party and other novels

Sandman touches our primary emotions: jealousy, love, fear, hatred, and grief... Kingsley has written an intriguing mystery/psychological thriller with interesting, believable and well-developed characters. There are twists, turns, red herrings, and a healthy dose of hair-raising fear and suspense to keep even the most fickle reader captivated. The dialogue is authentic, and, along with the scene-painting narrative, you’ll feel like you’re on the beach witnessing the unfolding action.
Highly recommended to readers who enjoy a great mystery!

WILLIAM POTTER
Reader’s Choice Book Reviews
(5 Star Rating)

Readers can't help turning the pages compulsively as we are seduced with small details and quick punchy dialogue... nothing is as it seems... it made me think I was watching a movie focusing on several characters that are all subtly interwoven into the threads of each other's lives... a novel you may want to re-read, once for the sheer thrill of the story, and again to fully absorb its implications.

NORM GOLDMAN
Bookpleasures.com
(5 Star Rating)

Ian Kingsley interviewed by Norm Goldman

Norm Goldman is a 'Top 500 Amazon Reviewer' (ie one of the world's most prolific and respected Amazon reviewers). The following interview of Ian Kingsley took place during September 2010 just after he reviewed 'Sandman'.

[Source interview]


Today, Norm Goldman, Publisher and Editor of Bookpleasures.com, is
pleased to have as our guest Ian Kingsley, author of 'Sandman'.

Norm:

Good day Ian and thanks for participating in our interview.

Ian:

Good day, Norm, and thank you for this opportunity of talking to you.

Norm:

I believe 'Sandman' is your first fiction-writing project. Did you
enjoy the process? How was it different from your typical format in
writing non-fiction?

Ian:

I've always wanted to write, Norm, and my first articles and a booklet were published before I left school. Various non-fiction articles and books followed during my career in technology. It's not too difficult to get non-fiction published if you can write, have technical knowledge and can find a niche. It was a natural development for me to move from design and technology into technical publications. Finally I could write for a living. But my real ambition was always to write fiction. 'Sandman' was not my first fiction-writing project, but it was the first worthy of publication. I always wanted to be a novelist and I began trying in my late teens with two-fingers bashing it out on an ancient typewriter. That was far too soon, of course. Looking back, I realize my greatest shortfall then was an inability to create fleshed-out characters - or to fully appreciate its importance. That's hard. It's therefore very pleasing that many people have commented that 'Sandman' has good characterization. It seems I'm finally getting there. Writing, itself, comes pretty easily. Creative writing is a lot more challenging than non-fiction, though, and you need to acquire a whole load of new skills. Yes, I've really enjoyed developing those. Achieving your 'voice', maintaining it, sometimes varying it consistently according to viewpoint as in 'Sandman', creating tension, changing pace, so many things you don't even encounter when writing non-fiction. Plus all the hard work revising and improving. It is said that everyone has a story within them, but what they really have is the germ of an idea. Crystallizing this into a viable story and actually getting it down onto paper is a very different matter. I believe that only someone with a compulsion to write can achieve that, given it generally takes at least a year of persistence. I confess to having had that compulsion from a very early age. It's just a pity it's taken so long to become fruitful.

Norm:

Did you know the end of Sandman at the beginning?

Ian:

Yes, I did. That was just about the first thing I knew - apart from the setting. Personally, I consider knowing the ending before you start to be one of the most important aspects of writing a novel. If you don't know where you're going, how can you take a sensible route? In my early attempts at writing novels I didn't always know the ending, but then you ramble and have to amend it when you discover where you're going in order to cut out the dross. I don't think you can achieve a good flow this way. There's a big difference between being led by a muse and learning to tame it. Now I would never begin without an idea of my destination. I believe in efficient writing. As you get older you realize time is precious on such a long project as a novel. The other thing I knew from the start was the intended setting and the concept of two men feeling totally justified in contrasting aspects of their their head-to-head conflict. I wanted the reader to understand that. And I wanted to set my novel in the region of Mudeford Sandbank in Dorset, England, because the area is dear to my heart and very familiar. I believe that novelists should ideally base their settings on places they know in order to be achieve a good sense of place; knowing the setting gives you the depth of knowledge that allows you to capture the special elements of that place and this makes it seem more real on the page. I wanted to use the beauty of this setting as a foil to the horrors of murder and rape and to show the fragility of apparent tranquility, given a dramatic change of circumstance. Your review mentioned that I 'paint scenes'. I try to do this as briefly as possible rather than run the risk of wallowing in purple prose, but by creating a quick mental image of the surroundings you can place the reader right there in the scene; I like to give an almost filmic image, but I try to portray this from the point-of-view of a character's perception rather than intrude as the author. This imagery is also a useful tool with which to control pace. After some heart-throbbing incident, it allows the reader's heartbeat to temporarily relax - in anticipation of the next high.

Norm:

How did you develop the characters of Paul Vincent and Stevie Clarke?

Ian:

As you so well spotted in your review, Norm, Stevie Clarke is based on a flawed psychological type. If you understand a character's psyche then you automatically know a character in some depth. I undertook extensive research into the psychology of character types before embarking on 'Sandman' and, as a result, I developed a tool I called 'P4 Personality Mapping' that is suitable for use by other novelists - or anyone who wants to better understand people and their motivations. It is based on an accepted model of 16 'normal' plus 16 related 'abnormal' psychological types, and it uses a graphical interface to make it easy to intuitively select detailed character types according to a story's needs. It helped me a lot, and it took about 6 months to devise, which is why I decided to share it with others online. P4 also helped me to create Paul Vincent and some of the other characters.

Norm:

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in Sandman?

Ian:

Actually, I did do it over again, Norm. Many times, in fact. I rewrote and fine-tuned 'Sandman' too many times to count. But you have to be pragmatic and leave it alone eventually.

Norm:

What was the most difficult part of writing 'Sandman'?

Ian:

Keeping to a word count for each scene. Book length is directly proportional to cost and, as a debut novelists, I wanted to ensure that writing too much didn't scotch my chances of finding a publisher. Okay, a publisher or agent can tell you to cut, but I hate cutting. When I write, the words flow in such a natural manner that I find it brutal to subsequently cut passages out. The knitting tends to leave frayed ends. I would sooner not include them in the first place. For this reason, I set 80,000 words as my limit, and because there were so many specific incidents required to fulfil this plot, I did actually set word counts for all of the scenes I knew I needed - plus some spare for those which I would discover I needed later on. Keeping to these targets explains what you called 'quick punchy dialogue' in your review. It enforced it, and that was definitely the most difficult aspect of the writing. That, plus working out how to shift point-of-view in order to create the greatest tension. I spent a lot of time before I began writing on working out how to handle point-of-view. Get this wrong and you have a major rewrite on your hands.

Norm:

Did you learn anything from writing Sandman and what was it?

Ian:

I guess it's obvious that I consider planning and mulling it over essential before you even begin. But there are many ways of actually writing a novel, and if you read writing magazines, you will soon discover many different techniques are used by successful writers. When I first started out I was inclined to keep reading and rewriting chapters to get them up to their best. But because flow is natural for me, I discovered with 'Sandman' that it was best to go with the flow of your inspiration and keep on writing rather than revising, ad-hoc. When a reader 'experiences' a novel it is as a serial work, so working in an iterative manner while writing is contrary to the experience you are trying to create. By keeping on with the natural sequence, uninterrupted, you can better hold the sequence clearly in your head. To keep going over earlier chapters ruins the appreciation you have of your reader's experience. As a result, you spoil the chances of writing with a more natural flow. Also, I realized it was pointless to agonize over earlier chapters too early in the process, for if changes are later needed to satisfy plot or character development, all that effort may have been wasted.

Norm:

What do you see as the influences on your writing?

Ian:

I remember books because of well-drawn characters. Plot is important, of course, I can't bear a rambling book without any clear plot, but realism comes from a reader's deep involvement and affinity with particular characters. I am influenced by techniques used by skillful authors who also think this way. I love the way Peter Carey and John Irving draw out their eccentric characters and how Pat Conroy gets into the psyche of his troubled characters, for example. I admire the way Alexander McCall Smith paints his characters so finely and with such innate humor. I don't want to copy the style of any of these, for style and voice are things that have to develop naturally, from within, so you are comfortable with them, but I would say the skills of authors such as these are a definite influence. They set targets, and while I might not always achieve them, they give me benchmarks. I hope to introduce a bit more humor in a future work and would suggest you would go a long way to find a greater inspiration for this in the extreme, combined with in-depth characterization, than to read Marina Lewycka's amazing novel called 'A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian'; don't let the title put you off!

Norm:

Do you feel that writers, regardless of genre, owe something to
readers?

Ian:

Absolutely. In a word, I would say 'integrity'. It's almost morally wrong to make a character do something that would not be natural for them in order to meet your story needs, or to say something false to mislead the reader - other than a character's intentional lie, later revealed as such, of course. If you know your characters you know how they react. I remember once reading something by Agatha Christie that her character would never have thought because it was untrue to their conception. It was clearly put there just to mislead the reader in the hope they would later forget it, and it made a deep impact on me as a definite 'no-no'. That's just not fair. You should also do your best to make sure your words flow well so the reader never has to stop, ponder or re-read a sentence in order to get its meaning. On the other hand, I think readers may also owe an author something, in these difficult times. If they really enjoy a work, they owe it to spread the word amongst their friends and maybe even write an Amazon review. Especially so with debut novelists in order to give them the chance to achieve a high enough profile to make a publisher want to publish their next work. I'm sensitive to this because typically 95% of a publisher's marketing budget goes on 5% of their titles today, which leaves some very barren ground for newcomers who have to spend far too much time promoting their work rather than writing. And the future of literature, inevitably, depends on newcomers. Readers need new writers just as much as writers need new readers.

Norm:

Talking of which, where can readers find out more about you and 'Sandman'?

Ian:

From my website, iankingsley.com. That covers both what I am about and where my fiction is set. So far as 'Sandman' is concerned, there is a page which describes, and even includes photographs, of the settings used. I have included this to complement the book because the region is so beautiful. After reading the book, people might be inspired to go there. I'm also webmaster of a travel website, synergise.com, so I guess that's my travel writing experience prompting me to provide more facts.

Norm:

What is next for Ian Kingsley and is there anything else you wish to
add that we have not covered?

Ian:

I don't want to commit myself other than saying I am working on an idea for another novel. I am not one to be type-cast, however, other than saying character and plot will always be deeply considered. I am not afraid to cross genres so long as there is a strong and entertaining storyline.

Norm:

Thanks once again and good luck with all of your future endeavors, Ian.

Ian:

Thanks very much for you time. It was nice talking with you, Norm. Oh, and many thanks for your encouraging review.

 


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