Was He *Trying* to Offend Me?

NINCOMPOOP - Meaning and Pronunciation - YouTube

Yesterday we watched Red Dragon, the 2002 movie based on Thomas Harris’ 1981 best-seller. Harris struck it rich with Silence of the Lambs; and in the publishing world of the 1980s, his was a name to conjure with.

Which brought to memory an unpalatable experience I had with an editor at a New York publishing house.

They’d already bought and published four of my horror novels, but then the horror market imploded–maybe more on that later–and writers were scrambling to re-invent themselves.

My editor moved on, and I got stuck with someone else. He rejected everything I wrote, but bought stuff that was worse.

One day he said to me, on the phone, “Write us a Thomas Harris!” You know–shamelessly try to rip off a successful writer and ride on his coattails because you’re too big a doofus to write like yourself. Like anybody but Thomas Harris could write Thomas Harris. Like us writers have absolutely no respect for each other or ourselves. Certainly no more than editors and publishers have for us.

Later on I learned through my literary agent that this particular editor had a firmly-established reputation as a nincompoop. Well, heck, he kept my books off the shelves. I’m not saying they were great literature. But they were certainly no worse than the stuff that was getting published at the time.

Slavishly trying to imitate successful writers was probably the main reason the horror market folded. There was only one Stephen King, but a couple thousand Stephen King wannabes. Their stuff got published till the public simply spewed it out… which didn’t take a long time to happen.


Katheleen Draws ‘The Cellar Beneath the Cellar’


This scene is from the very beginning of Book 2, The Cellar Beneath the Cellar: Jack and Ellayne, having rung the Bell, find the assassin, Martis, swooning on the snow. Drawn by Kathleen.

I love the idea of having young adults fiction illustrated by young adults and children. I’ve been posting pictures drawn by Katheleen and her sister, Kerolyn, 9; they live in Brazil. If we ever get to the point where we can do a second printing of Bell Mountain or any of its sequels, I wonder if I can get one or more of these drawings included.

Well, back to work for me! I’ve got to write a cover blurb for Behold! and start the next chapter of Ozias, Prince in Peril.

Another Bell Mountain Picture

Screenshot 2022-09-09 at 09-15-04 AOL Mail - Message View

This drawing is by Kathleen’s sister, Kerolyn, who’s only nine years old. It shows Ellayne and Jack drinking tea with Hesket the Tinker, who turns out to be a very nasty villain. Kathleen and Kerolyn live in Brazil. These are very accomplished kids!

A book for young readers… illustrated by children. Why hasn’t anybody done that before? I’d love to see that for Bell Mountain.

Girls, hang on to those drawings! Who knows? We may be able to put them in the books someday.

Kathleen’s ‘Bell Mountain’ Illustration

Look at this!

Screenshot 2022-09-08 at 11-59-23 AOL Mail - Message View

This is a scene from Bell Mountain drawn by our friend Kathleen in Brazil. It’s Jack, Ellayne, and Ham the donkey meeting the hermit, Obst. I wonder if she’ll wind up illustrating my books someday. (Gee, that idea really appeals to me!)

So you’re here in New Jersey, you write a book, and someone in Brazil likes it so much, she draws pictures of it. It’s humbling!

OK, no more nooze! Get outside and work on Ozias, Prince in Peril

‘A Superb Sequel Takes Bell Mountain Readers on a Wild Ride’ (2015)

The Cellar Beneath the Cellar (The Bell Mountain Series ...

Every now and then I remember that this blog is supposed to get people interested in my books. Here’s a review by Robert Knight of Book 2 in the series, The Cellar Beneath the Cellar.

A Superb Sequel Takes Bell Mountain Readers on a Wild Ride by Robert Knight

How about it, folks? My Bell Mountain series has grown to 13 books, with two more being prepared for publication and another being written. I don’t mean you should skip No. 1, Bell Mountain, and start with No. 2: Bob’s review of Cellar just happened to be handiest.

Fantasies written from a Biblical point of view–that sums ’em up, I guess. It won’t cost you anything to click “Books” on our home page and get acquainted with them. And you’ll find some more reviews in the Archives.

‘Another Big Piece of the Story’ (2016)

See related image detail

Good lord! Was it really seven years ago, that I was writing The Silver Trumpet? How many years ahead will it be, the next time I wake up in the morning?

Another Big Piece of the Story

The people of Obann dread the sea. They don’t even like to look at it from the safety of the shore. And I didn’t know why. I never sat down to hash it out. I waited for God to make it clear to me.

Which He did!

I’m not the only writer who’s had this experience. We’ll all tell you–it’s positively great when it happens.

‘I Love My Characters’ (2018)

The Cellar Beneath the Cellar (Bell Mountain, 2) by [Lee Duigon]

Ellayne at work in Book 2

I’ve written almost 100 pages of my new book, Ozias, Prince in Peril, and have had to meet a whole new cast of characters–’cause it’s 2,000 years before the events described in my other Bell Mountain books.

I Love My Characters

I say I “meet” my characters because that’s what it feels like. It’s like they’re already there, waiting to come into the story.  I take pains NOT to pattern them on real people. Let that mask slip just once, and your book is toast.

Queen Maressa has already shown herself a top-flight villain; but can she outwit Lady Gwenlann, the scatterbrained wardrobe mistress who controls the late king’s spy network? (“Scatterbrained” is only an act.) There’s the little fat man, Mallen, who heads a troupe of actors: Maressa wants to buy them. And of course Queen Parella, Prince Ozias’ mother, written off my Maressa as “that goose-girl,” but with a lot of gumption to her.

Dagnabbit, writing a novel is fun! And if it isn’t, you’re doing it wrong.

‘Ozias’ Comes to Life

Medieval warriors fighting on a hilltop by ATWStock | VideoHive

Despite losing a whole day last week to allergies, Ozias, Prince in Peril seems to be shaping up very nicely. I’ve got eight chapters written, and already populated with a dozen major characters. They hear their cues and come onstage: I feel like I don’t have much of a say in it.

Friday I had to make up some lost ground, and it was 96 degrees at the time. Patty came out and asked, “Aren’t you hot?”

“Yes, I’m hot!” And that was that, had to retreat indoors to the air conditioning.

Hint to budding young writers: Maybe the worst thing any writer can do is make the story be about himself, thinly disguised as its protagonist. “I’m a macho stud he-man!” is a mindset guaranteed to destroy your fiction.

I strive to be invisible to the reader, to remove all obstacles between the reader and the story… so if you’re reading my book, you can be there! This effect is not easy to achieve; but read a lot, write a lot, work hard at it, and eventually you’ll get it.

And for heaven’s sake, let your characters be themselves! Never mind about paying back that bum who bugged you in third grade; frankly, the reader doesn’t care. And neither should you.

A Tribute to My Wife

Bell Mountain Series: Lee Duigon: 9781891375668: Amazon.com: Books

My allergies are at me again today–I don’t know how to write a fantasy novel while my nose is making like Niagara Falls–so I’ve been reading Hell’s Cartographers, autobiographical sketches by half a dozen prominent science fiction writers.

Very nearly all writers go through a stage of cranking out novel after novel, story after story, without ever selling anything they write. One winds up asking oneself, “Why in the world am I doing this? Beating a dead horse! I’ll never get published, never get anywhere. Might as well quit!”

I mentioned this to Patty today, and her reply scored a point:

“I wouldn’t let you quit!”

She feeds me. She manages our household. She reads my work. We talk about it.

And she’s right, you know–she never let me quit. So I kept writing, and writing, and writing, slowly getting better at it as I went along. And out of nowhere–or rather, out of God’s all-knowing providence–along came the Chalcedon Foundation and, after taking me on as an assistant editor and publishing dozens of my articles… offered me a chance to write a novel. Which was Bell Mountain. Thirteen books ago, with two more in the hopper.

And a fantasy novel, no less! My first love. And all those writers, an army of them, right behind me, pushing me forward by example–Tolkien, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Sir Walter Scott, Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, C.S. Lewis: I couldn’t possibly name them all. If I hadn’t read them, if I hadn’t learned from them, I could not have become a writer myself.

Nor could I ever come anywhere near achieving it without my wife’s support.

Thank you, Patty. Thank you, all you other writers who delighted me and mentored me.

And thank you, God the Father.

Where Do My Characters Come From?

Jacobean Drama & Theatre: An Overview Of Drama Of The Era

An Elizabethan stage play

If you write novels, people are bound to ask, “Where do your characters come from?”

Well, I write fantasy, so “write what you know” is out. Model characters after real people. But I’ve never met any kings, outlaws, hermits, or barbarian chieftains, so that’s out, too.

I don’t know where my characters come from!

It’s the truth. It’s as if the book were a stage set up for a play, with the characters all waiting in the wings for their cues to come onstage. They already know their lines! They know what they’re supposed to do. Pop goes the cue, and “Enter Lady Gwenlann,” who appears to be a scatterbrained wardrobe mistress but in reality is in charge of all the king’s spies. Cue again, and “Enter Jocky,” the king’s fool.

Really, it’s just as if the characters were already signed up and waiting to play their parts… and I didn’t have much to do with it. I need ’em, and there they are.

This is one of those things that makes writing fun. You don’t have to do it this way, but I’ve come to enjoy it.