I’ve been a fan of This Old House for many years. I came across this story of a victorian-era house that was filled with melted wiring and soggy plaster. The experts at This Old House did a lovely remodel, including this author friendly writing space up on the third floor. Read more about it at This Old House.
Book Name: Fahrenheit 451
Author: Ray Bradbury
First Published: 1953
Ray Bradbury was an American fantasy, science fiction, and mystery fiction writer. He was known for his dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451 and for the science fiction and horror stories gathered together in The Martian Chronicles and The Illustrated Man. Many of Bradbury’s works have been adapted into television and films and he has left his stamp on the science fiction and fantasy genres as one of the masters other authors set their own standards by.
Bradbury was born in the mid-west, but his family moved back and forth between Waukegan, Illinios and Tucson, Arizona for most of his formative years. When Bradbury was fourteen, his family settled in Los Angeles, California and he remained in the Southern California area for much of his life. Bradbury was a reader and writer throughout his youth. He claimed that he was inspired by Edgar Rice Burroughs and his John Carter of Mars series and even wrote a fanfiction based on those tales at the age of twelve. However, he cited H.G. Wells and Jules Verne as his biggest science fiction influences, followed by Robert A. Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke, Theodore Sturgeon, and A. E. van Vogt. As Bradbury matured, he drew more from the style and works of Alexander Pope and poet John Donne. When later asked about the lyrical nature of his prose, Bradbury replied that it came, “From reading so much poetry every day of my life. My favorite writers have been those who’ve said things well.” He also has said, “If you’re reluctant to weep, you won’t live a full and complete life.”
Bradbury did not go to college and instead took a job selling newspapers once he graduated from high school. He said of this time, “Libraries raised me. I don’t believe in colleges and universities. I believe in libraries because most students don’t have any money. When I graduated from high school, it was during the Depression and we had no money. I couldn’t go to college, so I went to the library three days a week for 10 years.” In fact, Bradbury wrote Fahrenheit 451 at the UCLA’s Powell Library where he rented a typewriter in one of their study rooms. The rental rate for completing the entire novel was around $9.80 since the rental of the manual typewriter was ten cents per half hour.
Ray Bradbury lived at home until the age of twenty-seven when he married his sweetheart, Marguerite McClure. They had four children together. He was an active member of Los Angeles Science Fiction Society where he made his first connections in the writing community of Los Angeles. From these connections, he began to meet publishers and gained a following for his work that now spans the globe. Bradbury is credited with writing 27 novels and over 600 short stories. More than eight million copies of his works, published in over 36 languages, have been sold around the world.
In his later years, Ray Bradbury became a well sought out speaker at literary events in the Southern California area. He never obtained a driver’s license and did not enjoy travel. It was well known on the speaker circuit, if you wanted Ray Bradbury to speak at your event, you had best arrange to have a driver come and get him. I regret that I did not take the opportunity to meet Mr. Bradbury in person before he passed away in December of 2011. He was a favorite on the literary speaker’s circuit in Southern California and I personally know many writers that consider him to be an inspiration and mentor, in fact, my own writing society meets in a public library room dedicated to his name. Mr. Bradbury’s burial place is in Los Angeles with a headstone that reads “Author of Fahrenheit 451”. This one novel was his favorite and the one that he was likely the most proud of.
Fahrenheit 451 is a novel that has many layers. On the surface, it is the story of Guy Montag. He is a fireman, but instead of putting out fires, his job is to seek out books, which are forbidden due to his society’s views as their being the source of all unhappiness and discord, and burn them to cinders. One day on the job, he picks up a book and instead of burning it, it reads it. His life is transformed. Now, instead of being a normal part of his society, he is a dissent who wishes to protect and preserve these ideas and words from the past until a new generation may come to pass that will appreciate these pearls of wisdom hidden in books. He discovers a group of people that have memorized the books of the ages and repeat them orally in order to preserve the words in a way that their society can not destroy.
However, is this really what this classic novel is all about? Is it all censorship and book burning? Bradbury predicted a future where people wore radios that plugged their ears to the world around them so that they would focus on the world of media only. A concept that is a precursor to iPods and smartphones where the world of social media becomes as important to us as the physical world outside. In the novel, walls of televisions soothed the souls of people that only wanted to be happy and not look too closely at what was happening around them. They did not think for themselves, but rather based their views on what was fed to them by their media. With our giant HD television sets and giant computer monitors, it could be a mirror of how people perceive the world of today. The burning of books by Fireman Montag almost seems a throw away plot to the theme that is placed under the fast paced action of this story.
Bradbury always claimed that this was not a book about censorship, which the burning of books suggests, but rather a social commentary about what happens when society presses in and takes away individual freedom and thought. In the world of Guy Montag books were ultimately banned because they made people feel “bad” or insulted some minority group. Individual expression or original thinking was not encouraged. I sometimes can see in my mind Ray Bradbury typing away at the public library as he writes this book. He was a child who could not afford to go to college, to be molded by society. He was an independent thinker who took his views from the tomes that surrounded him in his library setting. I can understand his love of books and the value of treasuring what went on in the past in the way that it was preserved by previous generations and taking from it ideas to change our own futures. To allow the quiet of a book speak to you in ways that social media can not.
Fahrenheit 451 is not in the public domain, so you will need to purchase it at your local bookstore or online. It is frequently found at your local library to borrow for free. When the publishing rights for Fahrenheit 451 came up for renewal in December 2011, just before Bradbury’s death, he allowed that the work could be published as an ebook provided that the publisher, Simon & Schuster, would allow the novel to be digitally downloaded by any library patron. The title remains the only book in the Simon & Schuster catalog where this is possible.
There are some great articles this week. One explaining the companion of the hero’s journey, the heroine’s journey, another about how to build your worlds for gaming dungeons that would also work well for fantasy world building and other odds and ends that should prove to round out your week.
I was seated at my local Starbucks coffee house the other day and fell into conversation with an artist. I was asked, as our conversation went on, “So what is your novel about?” I started to think about all the threads that run through my current novel and was at loss for words. This is a common enough question that I will face as an author and it is one that should be addressed even before a novel is finished. What I needed was a one or two sentence summary of what my story is about, one that is designed to capture the interest of a reader or listener. It is known as a “hook line” and beyond its use in conversation, it also serves as a pairing with the book cover in online catalogs to entice readers to buy your book.
What are the Elements of a Hook Line?
Characters – Who is the main character of your story? What does that main character want? What is his/her main goal?
Conflict – Who is the antagonist of the story? How does this villain stand in the way of the main character obtaining their goal?
Originality – What makes your book different from others? What is the unique element of your story that makes it stand out?
Setting – State the location, the time period or perhaps the genre if it is not obvious.
Action – Your hook line needs to have an action that catches the reader’s attention. A little detail can go a long way.
Examples of Good Hook lines from movies, also known as Loglines:
BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY (Clint Eastwood, 1995) – An Iowa housewife, stuck in her routine, must choose between true romance and the needs of her family.
FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE (Sergio Leone, 1965) – A man with no name and a man with a mission hunt a Mexican bandit for different reasons.
MIDNIGHT COWBOY (John Schlesinger, 1969) – Naïve Joe Buck arrives in New York City to make his fortune as a hustler, but soon strikes up an unlikely friendship with the first scoundrel he falls prey to.
LONE STAR (John Sayles, 1996) – A small town Texas sheriff, despite warnings not to, investigates a convoluted case, when a brutal predecessors’ remains turn up 40 years after he was supposedly run out of town.
What are some common elements in these compelling loglines from famous movies? First, they mention the main character in some way. The main character is the star of the movie or the novel and needs to be someone that the reader can be interested in or they will not read the book. You do not always need to mention this character by name, but rather find a way to describe them to make them stand out as unique in the reader’s mind. Next, notice that in the examples, the location of the story is mentioned: Iowa, Mexico, Texas, or New York City. This helps to give the reader an idea of where or when this story takes place. Observe that the conflict that the main character will face is hinted at. A housewife must choose, a man hunts a bandit, an innocent man becomes a friend of a scoundrel, or a sheriff investigates a murder. This is exciting action. Hopefully enough of a conflict to interest a potential reader. Finally, an element of originality should be offered. This helps to off-set your hook line in the book catalog from all hundreds of other offerings in the book store.
The next time I am at the coffeehouse and someone asks me what my novel is about, I might answer this:
Alice dreams of romance, and when her handsome prince arrives, she follows him through the looking glass into a world of Victorian steam-powered engines, a mad queen, an assassin, and a charming rogue. Will she have the courage to be the heroine that Wonderland needs and find her heart’s desire?
What will be your answer?
I am happy to feature an Australian author this week, getting away from only seeing American authors for a change. Belinda has an interesting history and like many of us, begin writing as a hobby, but has now gone pro with her writing to the point where she is starting her own publishing house. I hope you enjoy her interview as much as I did.
I’m Belinda D’Alessandro. My dad was born in Italy and moved to Australia when he was seven. My mum was born in Australia. My maternal great-grandparents were from both Scotland and Ireland and I have extended family in Italy, New Zealand, the United States and Canada.
I grew up in Brisbane and on the Gold Coast of Australia, and earned a law degree from Bond University in 1992. I worked in the legal profession for 15 years and I moved to Sydney, Australia in 2000 to take a clerkship with a Federal Judge and after he retired, I ran my own law firm for a number of years.
I started my own publishing company in 2007 and worked with other authors (with freelance book design services) to help them get their books published as I was publishing my own. I currently have a “second” job in banking and finance industry… well really to keep my cats, Violet and Charlie, in the lifestyle to which they wish to become accustomed – as “royalty” of the house.
When and why did you begin writing?
I started writing my first novel, Discovering Wounded Justice: Cruel Menace, as a hobby in 2007 while I was running my own law practice (which I’d started two years earlier), as a bit of an outlet during my “off hours” when I wasn’t working as a lawyer. But then it snowballed and I just had to write it; had to finish. The legal profession is a tough profession for anyone.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I suppose it didn’t hit me that I was an “author” until I saw the finished proof of my first book in my hand. But, looking back over my life, my parents got me started as a writer. My dad helped to start reading as a kid. English was his second language and he always challenged me to find better ways to express myself. My mum started her working life as an English teacher and she helped me to understand the beauty and precision of language.
Can you share a little about your current book with us?
The protagonist, Alyssa Giordano, is a first generation American, who’d been taught by her grandmothers and her mother that women were the equal of men and there was nothing that they couldn’t do. And Alyssa’s grandfathers, and her father, knew who really “ran” things.
A year into her career, Alyssa’s boss, Duncan Kennedy accuses her of some unethical behaviour and sacks her after she’d rejected his advances.
Alyssa finally gets her career back in order, she finally starts her own law practice and finds that roles are reversed. Kennedy is labeled a swindler and a leading journalist, a woman no less, holds his fate in her hands. But he vanishes in a cloud of lies and creditors before he can be brought to justice.
As Kennedy dies an untimely death, Alyssa’s faith in justice returns and she begins to believe she is rid of the man who almost destroyed her. Until the day he walks back into her life… and tries to take it.
What inspired you to write this book?
I started writing it as a way of dealing with the struggles of being a woman in the legal profession, a profession that, although things are changing for the better, was in some ways still a man’s game when I first started. My grandmothers, and the struggles they faced, also inspired me. My dad’s mum came to Australia 5 years after my grandfather did, with small children in tow, and they spoke no English when they got to Australia. My mum’s mum was in the Women’s Army Corps during World War II and when she returned to Australia from overseas service and married my Poppy, they both ran a sheep farm in Victoria. They’re both very strong women and had to struggle in different ways. They just have an essence about them, quintessentially Australian. They just take the knock on the chin, without complaining, and get on with it.
Do you have a specific writing style?
There are times when my writing style takes a “splatter-gun” approach, when an idea pops into my head and the words flow. Other times, I structure and outline like there’s no tomorrow.
How did you come up with the title of this book?
The title came to me last. After I finished the first draft, I saw the potential to write a number of books with the same protagonist, Alyssa Giordano, a lawyer who “discovers” justice doesn’t always fit in with the law. I wanted the series titles, “Discovering Justice” to represent that.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Although my book is set in New York, I’ve written it with a bit of an “Aussie” attitude and spirit: toughen up and just get on with it – you can do anything you set your mind to.
Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Yes, I did draw on some of my own experiences working in the legal field for the book, but unlike the protagonist of the novel, Alyssa Giordano, I’ve never had a former co-worker try to kill me. I’ve worked with both good and rotten lawyers, and learned just as much, if not more, from the bad ones as I did from the good ones! Let’s just say the location and some of the names were changed to protect the guilty.
What authors have most influenced your life?
Tom Clancy – I love a bit of espionage. I’ve also read some of Ron Miller’s work in the “girl detective” genre. He’s an illustrator and author of over 50 books, mostly in the educational field but he also writes science fiction and in the crime thriller genre. He’s also given me some invaluable advice about what it takes to make a book, well, look like a book!
Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?
I designed it myself, after taking some advice from Ron Miller, who I mentioned before. I chose a stock image from GettyImages from the Imagezoo collection as I had a limited budget at the time.
I understand that you are also a small print publisher. How did you get started in publishing? What are your plans for the future of your publishing company?
As I started writing my first novel, I also started my own publishing company (BDA Books) at the end of 2007 to publish it. I signed with another Australian author, Ray Bird, to publish his debut novel Why, Old Lady, Why?. It is due to be released in October. And I have a number of submissions on my desk to consider, so hopefully I’ll be able to sign with other authors very soon.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Keep reading! And search out independent authors!
Discovering Wounded Justice: Cruel Menace, published by BDA Books
Cover illustration: GettyImages / Imagezoo
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