Welcome to the Dragon's Pen, the blog of an aspiring kiwi author ... chatting about reading, writing, querying and publishing

Friday, October 22, 2010

T K Roxborogh Part 2: Blood, Sweat and Tears

As promised here's the long awaited second part of my interview with T K Roxborogh, New Zealand author of Banquo's Son and Blood Lines. Here she talks about the challenges of writing a trilogy and offers some advice for the aspiring writer.


DragonsPen: So T K, let's talk about trilogies. Having written stand alone novels and now a trilogy, would you say there is a big difference between the two when it comes to the writing process?

TK: Yes. Firstly, if everyone loves the first book, you have to make the second one at least as good as the first. There is that expectation now. You need the book to be complete in itself so that your reader is looking forward to the next one but is also satisfied. You don't want them to throw it across the room. You have go from who the character is and take them to another place, to who they will become. You can't just start with a fresh canvas. There is that pressure to get it right, to remain consistent. You have to keep the continuity.

DP: What would you say are the unique challenges of writing a trilogy and how did you overcome them?

The challenge was to make sure that this whole story – which is the trilogy – had a beginning, a middle and an end. So that at the end people will have tears in their eyes and go … “Ohhhh!” and then they'll live happily ever after. Though Bree will probably be growing up and making a real nuisance of herself somewhere. I haven't written the third book yet but I think that, by thinking about that story arch the whole way through, we'll get everything sewn up. I keep copious notes and there are lots of threads that need to be tied up. You don't introduce stuff if it's not going to be important to character development.

DP: What have been the high and low points in the writing of this trilogy?

TK: The high point was Banquo's Son being short listed for the Children's Book awards, being short listed for LANZA and winning the LANZA. That was wonderful.

The low points have been the sheer hard work: to make yourself sit there when you don't want to and you have to and it's long, tedious and boring. When you know what you're writing isn't good enough but you have to keep going because you have to at least have something you can work on. That's the hard thing.

DP: You told us at the launch that you had a year to write the book, but you wrote the first 60,000 words and had to scrap them, was that the lowest point for you?

TK: I think at that time we, as a family, were going through a really difficult time and I had to not beat myself up about that. We were already in the place of grieving and being angry, we were involved in legal matters and financially it was taking its toll. I know my publisher was worried I wasn't going to do the job. She was worried I was going to tip over the edge. I almost did. The stress of everything the family was going through, continuing to teach, the pressure of trying to write and trying to market the first book. It was a really hard time.

DP: Given all these pressures it is amazing that you managed to produce the book you did, Blood Lines is great!

T.K: I wonder if some of the deeper considerations in the book are because I personally went to some pretty dark places. I was pretty angry with God. I knew I was going to test Rachel, to send her to a pretty dark place. There is a quote on page 41. I had been going through this thing, asking “why, why, why?” And I wrote this almost automatically, so I don't really feel that this came from me.

The dowager's words came to mind. They had spoken often over the last month but always Rachel had tried to grasp an answer to this question of why.

This is a dangerous question to ask, Rachel. For, after each answer, another question surfaces just like a weed in the garden. If you depend on knowing why, a good life, one that can makes a difference in this world, will be taken from you just as those weeds drain the goodness from the soil, leaving the plant gasping. If you why is to do with human behaviour, you must look only to the story of The Garden on Eden: why? Because someone had a choice and their choice has caused you pain.”

I finished writing that and I was sobbing. That was an answer for me. It didn't take away the pain but it stopped me thinking that I'd done something wrong. When I wrote Banquo's Son, I prayed every time I wrote. For Bloodlines, I didn’t because I was so angry with God, and yet the message is still there.

DP:What is the best piece of writing advice you've been given?

T.K: There are two things:

The first one is to do with the mechanics of writing. Bum Glue. Persistence. Not giving up. Go out there, do the hard yards. Just DO!

The other one is simple: Show don't tell. I see it creeping in, even in my drafts and I'll put a little highlighter to remind me to come back. Don't tell me that he is feeling guilty. I want to see it! Don't tell me she is cross. I want to see it!

I think it's really good to be part of a group of writers who are honest and supportive of you. People who have your back and want to see you succeed.

Writing is hard. I don't believe there are any born writers. You might be a great story teller but you still need to learn the craft of writing.

DP: So there you have it folks. Thank you so much TK for taking the time out of your busy schedule to chat with us. It's been fun! Congratulations too on how well Blood Lines is doing and we look forward to the next installment.


  1. Great interview, Pen.
    When I came upon that quote in the book, it really touched me. Knowing where TK was at when she wrote it, gives it so much more power.

  2. Great interview! Thanks!

    Interesting to her the comment about the second book, and how you need to keep up the consistency... I'm worried enough about my first one!

  3. I do like the term 'Bum glue' to sum up the fact you have to park your butt on the bl**dy chair and write. I hugely admire Tania for what she has achieved. She's a top lady!