I read "Quintspinner" because I sponsored the award in the Historical Fiction category for the Reader Views Literary Awards. It was the first year I had sponsored the award, and since I had no role in the judging, I was curious to see what book would win. And I was not disappointed by the results. I was excited to hear a historical novel about pirates was the winner because I figured it would be a good read, but I had no idea what a talented writer Dianne Greenlay would be or what a great story she would spin. I was thrilled, after reading "Quintspinner" that it had won, and the award is well-deserved. "Quintspinner" is the story of Tess Willoughby, who lives in 1717 London. Tess, while walking through the marketplace of London, meets an old crone who reveals that Tess is a "quintspinner," someone who can control five magic rings. The crone says it's proven by the birthmark Tess has. When the crone is soon after murdered, Tess is left with many questions about her past and the destiny that lies before her, as well as the bejeweled ring the crone has left to her. Tess soon after finds herself on a journey to the West Indies with her adoptive parents. Worse, her adoptive father arranges for her betrothal to the man she witnessed murder the crone. But Tess also finds herself falling in love with a young sailor who was pressed into service on the ship along with his father. All these characters are in for the adventure of their lives, as is soon revealed when the ship is attacked by a pirate ship. Without going into the plot further, a great deal of action, high seas adventures, some magic, and a couple twists of fate make "Quintspinner" a novel never to be forgotten and even to be read and enjoyed again and again. Early on, Tess knows there are five spinner rings, but at the end of the novel, she only has three-a sure sign that a sequel is coming, and I can't wait to read it. To me, "Quintspinner" is the quintessential pirate adventure novel. It reminded me of "Treasure Island," but it was much more fast-paced and interesting than that somewhat boring book, and it reminded me of "Pirates of the Caribbean" for its action and magic, but without the quirky and somewhat stupid characterizations of those films. Like a good adventure movie-and this book would make an excellent film-we move from scene to scene, fluctuating between two storylines that soon come together. The settings in London, on the high seas, and in the West Indies create great visual scenes as a backdrop for a tale of love, adventure, secrets, and magic. I hope the epic Disney film version is not far off. What I most appreciated about "Quintspinner" was the powerful, effective writing. The book is Dianne Greenlay's first published novel, but I suspect she has been working at her craft for quite some time. She knows how to write crisp, tight dialogue, effective scenes, and short chapters that keep the plot moving, keep the action going, and keep the reader interested. More than a writer, she is a true novelist for how she masterfully handles all the elements that make good fiction.
History is a thing of the past and there are over five thousand recorded years of it to serve as an inspiration for writers in many different genres. Both historical fiction and time travel adventures, either for children or adults, show no signs of waning in popularity, but to be plausible to the reader, even stories involving magic or imaginary technology have to be well grounded in reality. In The Alchemist's Portrait, during a school field trip to the art gallery at a local museum, Matthew journeys through the frame of a magical painting, which acts as a time portal, to Amsterdam in the year 1666. A straightforward idea maybe, but how does this doorway actually work? Although time travel may remain firmly in the realm of fiction, the conditions under which it occurs still have to appear believable. If readers consider your means of time travel to be utterly ridiculous, they will quickly be turned off the story altogether. As a writer it is vital that you create a credible method, machine or device for your time traveler, and many so-called time travel stories often overlook this important aspect. Especially in relation to novels for younger readers, the main character goes back in time at the end of chapter one, has a series of adventures in the past, before the he or she returns safely home at the book's conclusion. While these types of stories are set in a distinct time period, they should perhaps be more accurately classified as historical fiction. In numerous classic time travel tales, the hero goes into the past or future only to discover that their machine or device has either malfunctioned, become broken or is stolen by the chief villains of the piece. This leads to an adventure in which the main character is stranded in a far flung time period, and a story in which time travel itself, along with all its complexities, is the key element.
Simon Rose is the author of science fiction and fantasy novels for children, including The Alchemist's Portrait, The Sorcerer's Letterbox, The Clone Conspiracy, The Emerald Curse and The Heretic's Tomb. He offers a wide variety of workshops, presentations and Author in Residence programs for schools and libraries around the world, covering such topics as where ideas come from, story structure, editing and revision, character development, time travel stories, history and research and more. He is also available for presentations, workshops and public speaking engagements with a wide range of adult audiences, offers creative services designed for writers, including editing, critiquing and manuscript evaluation and also freelance writing services, including website content and copywriting, for the business community. Details of school and library programs, plus online readings, excerpts from his books, reviews, and reader, student and teacher comments may be found at http://www.simon-rose.com/