Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Author KJ Steele: Where A Novel Begins

5205017It’s me pleasure to welcome KJ Steele, author of the literary fiction novel NO STORY TO TELL, to Thoughts in Progress today as she tours blogdom on her first virtual book tour with Pump Up Your Book!
KJ Steele is an emerging writer who has learned that the process is not so much about choosing what to write as it is about having the courage to write what chooses to be written. Having spent the first half of her life creating an amazing family with her husband, Victor, she intends to spend the rest of it creating equally amazing fiction. 

KJ joins us today to talk about her writing and where a story begins.

Where does the novel begin? I suspect that for most people, they begin with a concept. An idea of a storyline, or a character that causes some sort of question to begin firing in the author’s mind. Inevitably, the actual writing out of the novel would be a search to find answers to satisfy that question. And eventually, most stories will lead the writer into either somewhat unfamiliar, or totally foreign, territory. And, arriving at this point in the writing, the author will be propelled forward into spending some time doing research in order to authenticate the validity of what they are writing.

The novel I am currently working on is set around the turn of the century in an insane asylum, (as they were then called). Obviously (and thankfully!) this is very uncharted terrain for me as a writer. In order to create a world that is real for my readers, I have immersed myself into a great deal of research on the history of psychiatry. I am now part way through a book called Mad in America by Robert Whitaker. It is a fascinating, but also sometimes an emotionally taxing, undertaking. It is also vitally important that I, as the writer, have a solid understanding of that which I write about. 

In preparation for this next novel, I also spent time in the mental health archives, reading patient’s files from years ago. A heartbreaking undertaking, I can assure you. But, again, entirely necessary if I am to write from a deeply honest, and informed platform. One other thing I’ve done to broaden the expanse of my understanding of the world I am to create, is to actually go to a former asylum, and walk through the abandoned under-ground tunnels. Creepy is the only word that qualifies to describe that experience.

No-Story-to-Tell-front-coverWriting NO STORY TO TELL did not require much in this style of research. The story itself did not spring from a concept, or question formulating in my mind. Or not consciously, anyhow! It entered my life through quite a different door. I had taken a writing class, and our first assignment was to: create two characters and a conflict, and write a paragraph. NO STORY TO TELL, this dynamic, poignant, and often hilarious novel, is the result of that paragraph.

Which isn’t to say that there was no research required during the writing of it. But, it was of a more visceral type. NO STORY TO TELL emerged from a place deep within me. Often, I was the last to know where the story was headed. Characters arrived, and unveiled themselves across my page. I watched, I wrote, and I was often astounded by their antics. 

The research–if one can correctly use that term–had been one great, protracted observance of life. My unconscious observations of the lives swirling around me, as well as my own life, and the questions that arose from that observance, formed the basis of research which undergirded this novel. And, I truly believe, that when all things are said and done, life will always prove to be our best teacher.

KJ, thanks so much for guest blogging today. I love the last line of your post. Life, indeed, proves to be our best teacher in so many things.

For more on KJ and her writing, visit her website, find her on Twitter and she’s on Facebook.

Here’s a synopsis of NO STORY TO TELL: Victoria Lackey, a once extraordinarily promising dancer, now finds herself mired down in a joyless marriage, tending to a heart full of secrets, her dream of being a dancer buried deep within her.
Buried within her, that is, until Elliot, a newcomer to the small, gritty town of Hinckly and a sensual artist, recognizes the dancer’s spirit within her. Believing in her abilities, he encourages her to open a dance studio, something previously forbidden by Victoria’s boorish husband, Bobby. 

With Elliot’s attentions sparking the flame of desire within her, Victoria suddenly begins to receive softly seductive anonymous telephone calls. Encouraged by her best friend, Rose, Victoria slowly allows herself to start enjoying the calls, eventually creating a perfect fantasy lover in her mind. Eventually, she slips from listener to speaker and begins to divulge the intimate and profound secrets that haunt her soul. 

Inevitable tensions begin to arise between Victoria and Bobby as he attempts to keep her newfound freedom from taking root. Desperate to resuscitate the woman she was truly meant to be, Victoria is in for the struggle of her life. With a burden of secrets collapsing around her and a life hanging in jeopardy if she embraces her own, Fate devilishly delivers her to an impossible fork in the road. 

Here’s a book trailer for NO STORY TO TELL to entice you a bit more.

Does life prove to be a good teacher for you? I appreciate you stopping by today, have a wonderful day.


  1. Mason - Thanks for hosting KJ.

    KJ - I think writers tend to be observers of life. Those little things in life that others might not notice can make a real impression on a writer and somehow they make their way into stories. So yes, indeed, life is an excellent writing teacher.

  2. I agree, definitely. Life is the best teacher, and the best inspiration for the creative muse. It's moments are behind so much of our words.

  3. KJ, thanks again for guest blogging. I'm in awe of the research you're doing for your next novel. Wishing you much success.

  4. Margot, I agree that you writers are great observers of life. The little things you spot and add to your books makes life interesting for us readers.

  5. Joanne, so true. Without those moments the words are rather empty feeling and the story doesn't hold the reader's attention.

  6. It is so interesting to read how other writers go about the writing process.

    And the book set in an asylum sounds fascinating indeed, but I think it is one of those books I can only read when my own life is not too wobbly.


I'd love to hear your thoughts on today's post. Thanks for dropping by.