Friday, 28 June 2013

Friday Feature: Toby Stone and Aimee and the Bear

Today we'll be going into the mind of an author as Toby Stone shares with us how he creates a writeable concept for a full length novel. He'll share with us how he develops an idea (and how to beat that big nasty, writers block) as well as read for us an excerpt from his debut novel, dark fantasy Aimee and the Bear.

Aimee and the Bear is the story of little girl Amy, who, when her mother's cruelty gets too much travels with her teddy bear to the Other Place - a world where teddies become real bears, children attend the Night School to escape whatever it is they face at home, Amy becomes Aimee, and there’s magic in the air. But the Other Place is in danger - the Witch has awoken, and Amy must find the courage to save her baby brother before it’s too late.

Don't take it from me though, hear it from Toby himself as he reads an excerpt especially for Enchanted Blogging:

And now Toby on coming up with workable ideas, writers block and upset spiders:

"For me, ideas for novels never come in ones. If an idea has enough about it to reach a format of 300 plus pages, it normally needs to merge with several other ideas, which forms a kind of molecule of attached concepts (they're the atoms, in this weak analogy). The best way to give an image of this is with one of my novels - the novel I hope to be my next full length publication. About seven years ago I thought that if anything is likely to be psychic it is probably a spider. There is something both misanthropic and powerful about them and psychic-arachnids chimed with me. This then festered in my brain until the thought that spiders are the victims of domestic violence joined with it, and I reckoned that a psychic spider might try to stop these abuses. Finally, the extra idea - that the best way for a psychic spider to stop domestic violence would be to take over a television station and broadcast to humans - came to my mind.

Once there are enough elements to the macro-idea, it gains a momentum that will carry it through 70 odd thousand words (in this case, very odd indeed).

I tend to take settings and occurrences I know / have experienced / other people's experiences and jumble them into an unrecognisable(ish) morass for the minutiae and detail of the novel. This informs the bricks and mortar (and roads, and parks, etc...) environment as well as little things that happen in the book (television extracts, music interludes, snippets of conversations, bus rides, and so on). The characters tend to write themselves in. They are normally relatively blurry and then, through the writing of the book, take a clearer form.

I see the plotting of the novel as a map with vast areas of unexplored territory, and ponds / glades of vivid detail. So, I see scenes that I am heading toward and (often) the end itself in colour, but have to fumble through the dark until I reach them. I'll take hot baths, long walks, and lots of alcohol / caffeine (and a fair amount of music on Spotify, at high volumes) in order to cough up scenes and keep the momentum (across the map) going.

Once I've finished, I will edit for years. The form of the book in my mind will then change, morphing from a map to something like a tower block where I can see all the storeys of my novel quite clearly in my mind (because it is already written) and, say during a long walk, I will 'travel' up and down the length of the book searching desperately for flaws, sentences that don't work, etc. For some reason, I can sort of 'feel' sections which are weak(er than the rest). Weirdly, I love editing, and find it hard to let go.

I don't really get writer's block (jinx!). I normally have several books on the go (each somewhere in the above process) and will simply churn from one to another if I reach what feels like saturation with one. Saying all of this (and my apologies, it is a lot) the most important part of the writing process, for me, is the writing. If any of the above ways of going about this isn't working, I'll stab it to death and hide it under the patio. Getting to the end of the book is the most important thing.

Why did I choose a female character? After all, I am (the last time my wife checked) male. Mmmm... I'm not sure I did. Scanning back up what I said above, it is worth adding that when the ideas / concepts clump together, they sort of come with a hazy character attached. In the writing of Aimee and the Bear one of the original atoms of the idea was of a child cuddling a teddy bear that granted her the ability to travel to a fantasy world. At its conception this came with the internal Polaroid of a young, brunette girl cuddling a brown, bead-eyed bear. It is blurry, shifting, vague but, like DNA, it is a marker that seems to determine everything that follows. And what followed was, in the main, smooth, although (given the content of the book) really quite emotional. I love writing, and I loved writing this novel, despite its darker surfaces (and I'll not even mention the depths). I'll be lucky, I think, if every one of my novels makes me feel the same way.

And as Toby mentioned in his video reading, here are some scans of his notes so that you can really get inside the inception of his ideas (click each image for a larger view):

I think we can all agree Toby has been an epic host for today so please send him lots of love via twitter @tobystone1 and find out how you can buy Aimee and the Bear here.


If you are a writer / musician / artist and would like to be featured on Enchanted Blogging please leave me a comment!


  1. Such an interesting post! The novel sounds really good. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thank you! Toby did a great job! I hope this blog helps his book get a few more reads :)


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