Thursday, May 7, 2015

Once Upon A Rhyme by Jack Heckel

Welcome, Jack Heckel, who is actually John Peck and Harry Heckel, , authors of Once Upon A Rhyme to It's All About Story.

1) Describe your book Once Upon A Rhyme in one paragraph.

Once Upon A Rhyme is all about what happens when a fairy tale goes wrong. For his entire life, Prince Charming has known that he would slay the Great Wyrm of the south, rescue Princess Gwendolyn Mostfair, marry her and live happily ever after. However, when the dragon accidentally impales herself on Will Pickett's pitchfork, and Will convinces his sister, Liz, to let him go rescue the princess, everything goes wrong. It's a comedic fairy tale fantasy about what happens when life doesn't turn out the way we thought.

2) What inspired Once Upon A Rhyme?

John had the original idea. It started with a simple question. Who is Prince Charming? Who is this guy who shows up in a plethora of fairy tales, has great hair, a fine steed and gets to bestow true love's kiss on any number of princesses? We wanted to see what would happen if his fairy tale didn't go as planned. Originally, it was going to be a tragedy, but Harry interpreted it as a comedy. Once that happened, we decided to write it.

3) Is this your first work of fiction?

For John, yes. For Harry, no. Harry's written two novels with another author under the pen name Lee Lightner, Sons of Fenris and Wolf's Honour, set in the Warhammer 40k universe. He's also had three small press novels, In the Service of the King (A Crimson Hawks Adventure), Souls of the Everwood and Balefire and Brimstone in addition to numerous roleplaying game books.

4) What song or music piece would you put on a soundtrack for Once Upon A Rhyme?

That's hard to say. We both listen to music when we write. For The Charming Tales, John listens to any 80's power ballad. After all, Charming's a rock star. Harry listens to the soundtrack to The Princess Bride while writing our fairy tales.

5) Which character was easy to write? Which was the most difficult?

The easiest character to write was probably Prince Charming because he has such an ego that he practically writes himself. We just have to imagine a man mentally composing an epic poem about himself while considering whether the color of his hose means he should have lace on his cuffs or not, and we are there. He's delightfully absurd.

The most difficult character to write was also our favorite by the end, Princes Gwendolyn. She's not who she appears at first and carries a dark secret. While she's ostensibly the villain of the piece, she's also a victim who was left by her love to rot in a dragon's clutches for decades. She contains both darkness and light, and she was a pleasure to explore.

6) What is your writing space like? Or can you write anywhere?

If either of us are within reach of our laptops, we can write. We both have day jobs that keep us busy and families who we adore. We have to take advantage of any time we can find, regardless of whether we are traveling across the country or finding some quiet time in our car during lunch.

7) Any odd writing habits?

Collaboration is odd. We create together and support each other. We argue and debate. We finish each other's sentences. When we write, one person finishes a chapter and then the other person rewrites it. It's a bit humbling and challenging to do that, and it takes a lot of trust. That's probably the strangest part.

8) Do you outline?

Definitely. We can't work on a book without an outline. Otherwise, since we collaborate, we'd be stepping all over each other. Having said that, our outlines usually only survive until about Chapter 4, as by that time, the characters have taken over. So, we redo the outline again and again. By the end, our outlines have been revised multiple times.

9) What is your favorite fairy tale?

John's favorite is The Seven Ravens. It isn't among the pantheon of Cinderella or Snow White or Beauty and the Beast, so it may be unfamiliar to most people. It is the story of a girl who takes up a quest to rescue her brothers, who have been cursed to live as ravens. It is an unusual story because the girl goes on her quest entirely alone and unaided. It is also unusual in that it lacks the presence in even a peripheral way of a romantic interest for our heroine.

Harry's a bit more indecisive, being torn between the more traditional Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, and claiming that Matt Smith's first season as Doctor Who may be his favorite fairy tale. However, we both hold a special place for The Bluebird which is the first fairy tale in which there is a reference to Prince Charming.

10) What is your favorite fictional world, one you'd want to visit?

No question or debate here. We both want to visit Middle-Earth. There are other worlds with incredible complexity and detail, but for both of us, we would want to step out of Bilbo's house and follow the road as it goes ever, ever on. We'd want to see Mount Doom and admire the wonders of the Elves. We'd like to stand next to the tree of Gondor and delve deep below the earth to the Mines of Moria. There's really no place that has captured our imagination like Middle-Earth.

11) What is the best writing advice you've ever received?

For Harry, it's this: don't leave the keyboard without knowing what you are going to write next. His mentor, Daniel Greenberg, told him that you come back to the keyboard in the same place you left. If you were frustrated and didn't know where to go, that's what you'd confront when you returned. Always leave before you are too tired and have run out of ideas. It's always hardest getting started.

For John, it was something Harry said. Don't try to write the perfect sentence. It's easy to get hung up trying to create the ultimate prose or striving for perfection. The worst completed work can be edited. The best first paragraph without the rest of a novel to go with it is only a first paragraph.

One last thing we'd like to include are the immortal words of Weird Al Yankovic - dare to be stupid.

12) In Once Upon A Rhyme, are there any hidden acknowledgements to friends, places you've lived, favorite writers etc;

Probably. We certainly have fairy tale references throughout, and we try to heap love on fairy tales. The one place that we both remember having hidden references are in several guards in the sequel Happily Never After, who are named after university friends.

13) Can you tell us what we have to look forward to in the sequel to Once Upon A Rhyme?

The good news is that the sequel, Happily Never After, is already available. It brings our story arc to a conclusion with the climactic wedding of Princess Gwendolyn, as well as the introduction of the Seven Players, a group of dwarfs (or is it dwarves?) and of course, Charming himself. It was originally meant to be the second half of Once Upon A Rhyme, and Harper will be publishing them together in a Fairy-tale Ending, later this summer.

If that wasn't enough, we've recently finished the third book in The Charming Tales, Pitchfork of Destiny. Without giving away too many spoilers, the Great Dragon of the North, Volthraxus, the Killing Wind, finally musters up enough courage to go tell Magdela, the Great Wyrm of the South, his true feelings for her. When he learns from Beo (a wolf) that she was killed, he turns his wrath toward the man responsible--Will Pickett. That means that Will has to face a living fire-breathing dragon, and he believes only Charming can help him. While those two quest for the dragon, Liz comes face to face with the man everyone else believes will save the kingdom, a mysterious figure known as the Dracomancer. By the end, fairy tales are fractured, and hopefully, there will be a lot of amusement for our readers.

Thank you!

Once Upon A Rhyme and Happily Never After are both available on Amazon:

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