Today’s our stop on the Muffin Man blog tour and I’m excited to welcome Stephan Collina to Lit, etc. I asked Stephen about nuances he encountered while writing Muffin Man. I really like his guest post because it’s an insight to how an author writes.
The “Muffin Man” is a tale set in the 1970s that, through the personal lives of its key founding staff, the rise of a secret organization that carries out assassinations away from Congressional or other Governmental supervision. Thus, with its target audience located in two culturally similar but different countries, and with events set forty years earlier, there are inherent within the story a range of nuances I had to consider.
Some of these nuances were simple enough to consider, reducing to a selection of word usage. For example, a rowhouse in the US is a terraced-house in the UK but, in the context of its Georgetown location (well-known to many Americans), a mansion would be a more apt description. In the end as the setting was in Washington DC I used the American word and left readers to deduce its scale by a description of the building and its interior. Another example is the selection of a Buick as Ed’s car of choice – such a choice has many associations for Americans that are entirely lost on Britons who have not been subject to the brand.
Cultural differences between the US and Europe required more thought. Most Americans now know Iran as a hostile country run by intolerant clerics and know or care little of its Persian history. Most Britons would know more of its location and cultural heritage but only history students or those readers over fifty years of age would likely know much of the Shah and his downfall. From a writer’s perspective, this led to considerable difficulties in selecting the location and in choosing how much of that background to include within the text. I left the reader to deduce from the setting of the explosion and its aftermath the brutal nature of that regime and the amateurism of its opponents, at least before the Shah’s abdication.
Our perceptions of the extent of government surveillance have also modified. Indeed following the Wikileaks and other exposés these are likely to have changed radically since the book was written. Hence the assumptions I made concerning readers’ likely non-acceptance of such surveillance having been routine even in the 1970s – which lie behind much of the story – would now be far less shocking.
Finally, within the novel there are many nuances of behavior: the manners and similar language used by the main characters in England make it clear that they are all from middle class backgrounds. This selection was very deliberate, probably betraying my own prejudices as to who really runs our democracies. Equally, Ed’s family life is taken straight from a ‘rural-idyll’ view American life – a ranch in rural Atlanta, a home-making wife and a husband in the military. The intent was to make it clear that such an organization would have stemmed from absolutely ordinary people with, of course, the ultimate goal of the author being to change at least some aspect of his readers’ views of the world.
Stephan Collina grew up in the 1970s: a troubled time of recession, poverty, industrial disruption, political tension and terrorism. But for younger people, it was also a post-1960s wide-flared, drug-enhanced and extravagant-haired innocence.
Stephan later became a prominent businessman, acquainted with a number of high-ranking politicians. Stephen ran international technology businesses, spending a great deal of time in the USA and various European and African countries.
The Muffin Man grew from a combination of these unique experiences: his early knowledge of the sometime innocent business of drug dealing (although he never inhaled), and of the much dirtier businesses of covert political and military action, and of international business practices.
Stephan’s first novel explored the nefarious and complicated emotional and sexual relationships of a remote village in Wales, where he had spent his early years.
Stephan holds a degree in Philosophy. He is also a qualified commercial ship’s captain. He now lives quietly by the sea, and concentrates on his writing and related filmmaking activities.
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I have a copy of Muffin Man to give away courtesy of Stephan Collina and Teddy from Premier Virtual Author Book Tours. It’s international, but paperback copy is for US residents only (unless you want an ebook). Giveaway will end on Friday, March 28th 6th at Midnight MDT (2 am EDT). Good luck!
Synopsis: The President’s wife has a premonition, setting in motion a transatlantic story of love, sex and betrayal.
Set against a backdrop of drug dealing, covert political manipulation and murder the Muffin Man is an authentic and atmospheric tale from the 1970s. Based on real events, the story begins with a premonition that leads to the formation of a secretive political organisation. The plot unfolds in twists and turns through the ordinary lives of innocents who are sucked into an accelerating and dangerous vortex of drug dealing, assassination and murder.
A former high-flying US Army Colonel, his alienated daughter, an accidental drug dealer, his beautiful but manipulative girlfriend and a corrupt police inspector all become sucked into the secretive organisation, initiating a succession of assassinations. Rewards lead to arrogance and an early death, or do they?