SERIES / Themes & Premise

What is the Gist of Your Story? #3

THE HALLMARKS OF GREAT WRITING
A Sound Premise and Compelling Themes

In another addition to the series on literary themes and premise, I’d like you to join me in welcoming Kim Wright.

Kim’s bio

Kim3[1]Kim has been a fulltime freelance writer for over thirty years.  Along with a longtime travel series for Fodor’s, she is the author of a novel, Love in Mid Air, and a how-to guide for writers: Your Path to Publication. You can read Kim’s blog, follow her on Twitter at Kim_Wright_W, or receive updates about her mystery series on Facebook at City of Mystery.

Kim says, “I’ve had a long history with conventional publishing and like most authors, I suspect, I had both good stories and bad stories to tell. But I developed impatience with the New York ‘Big Six’—with how slowly they moved, how willfully blind they were to changes in the industry, how narrow-minded they could be in their sense of what might sell. So I decided to self-publish my mystery series, and in doing so I was tackling a bit of a mystery of my own, plunging into a whole new world in which I would not only be the author, but the editor, publicist, and marketer as well.”

Kim’s ‘City of Mystery’ series

Kim says she’s always had a yen for mysteries and last year she began to wonder what it would be like to write one. As a teenager she had traveled with her dad to Europe and somehow ended up on one of those terrifying Jack the Ripper tours in London.  Ever since then Jack has always held a certain morbid fascination for her—she says she can name his five victims in order, just as she can name the six wives of Henry VIII. So that seemed a logical place to start.

The premise of Kim’s series

The City of Mystery series is set in London in 1889; through various volumes it will follow the first forensics unit at Scotland Yard around the world as they solve, or at least attempt to solve, high profile cases. The cast of characters are trying to do things differently—they’re using science to solve cases in a time when the traditional methodology was logical deduction. Hence, the protagonist, Trevor Welles, is being thwarted at every turn not just by the criminals but also by his superiors. Loyalty to the old ways dies hard. Trevor is a ‘modern man’ with all the discomfort that term implies.

The first book, City of Darkness is set in London and deals with Jack the Ripper. The second, City of Light, explores the opening of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. The third book, City of Silence, will be out in February and it takes the unit to St. Petersburg where Queen Victoria’s granddaughter Alexandra has fallen in love with the young tsar Nicholas, much to her royal grandmother’s dismay.  Next up is City of Bells, which will transport readers to Calcutta.

cityofdarknesscityoflight3-03[1]

The themes that drive Kim’s series

Mystery, criminality, and law and order, of course. And the contrast between the old ways and modern times. Kim says, “In my decision to self-publish as well as continue to conventionally publish, I see myself as a present day Trevor—someone with a foot in two very different worlds, trying to innovate while simultaneously keeping the best of the traditional system alive.”

Remember, effective book publicity relies on strong promotional messages, which are extracted from the themes contained in your writing that, collectively, make up the premise of the story. 

Promotional opportunities for Kim’s books

In promoting the books, Kim is thinking outside the box. She runs contests—sometimes auctions for charity, sometimes just for fun—in which you can nominate your name or that of someone you know to be a victim in an upcoming book. She has themed drinks to go with each volume—for instance: Siberian Snow (a vodka and cream delight) for City of Silence—both to serve at her events and as suggestions for book clubs who choose the book. She’s had signings and launch parties where she has talked her sainted friends into dressing up as characters from the books and mingling with guests.  It’s all about making it fun, because books aren’t things any more—they’re experiences.

Kim says, “In short, embracing the concept of mystery means learning as I go. I’m a lot like a Victorian detective, working with the primitive tools of a new science. Not everything I’ve tried works. But some of it does, and each effort brings me a bit closer to solving the puzzle of how to reach readers in 2013.

Join me as I discuss the need for compelling themes and a sound premise with published and newbie authors over the next few months. If you want to participate as a guest blogger in this series, please do not hesitate to contact me for details. You can also participate by leaving a comment for Kim below.

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3 thoughts on “What is the Gist of Your Story? #3

  1. I am an indie author who has a bit of a different background. I am a classroom teacher who writes YA. My target audience is the child I teach every day, and I use them as editors and cover designers. What I have found is that even non or reluctant readers “own” my manuscripts and want to read them. It creates a platform as well as a generation of readers!

    But I need more ideas. More of that “thinking outside the box” you speak of.

    • You’ve certainly created an ideal critiquing scenario – well done! Unfortunately, YA is not a genre I have any experience with, but maybe you should challenge your students with a ‘how-to-publicize-a-book’ competition; let them come up with ideas in terms of where, why, and how youngsters would buy books. What about getting them to support a charity and offering your book as a means for raising funds – they should see it as an entrepreneurial project: from product research and strategizing marketing tactics through to setting up a sales booth somewhere?

  2. Pingback: The Gist of a Great Blog Series | My Rite of Passage

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