Fleur has kindly let me drop by with a guest blog post to tell you about one of my latest projects, The Life and Times of Chester Lewis. In addition to being a contributing author, and the editor and publisher for this book, I run The Australian Literature Review www.auslit.net.
The book concept
The Life and Times of Chester Lewis is an integrated short story collection (some people prefer to think of it as a collaborative novel) written sequentially, with each writer reading the preceding stories before adding their own.
It began with the idea of a novel-length book which would chart the life story of a character with one story per decade throughout the character’s life.
The book is made up of eleven stories by eleven Australian writers. There are authors whose work has been published by major publishers and there are emerging writers with stories in the book. I mainly discovered the emerging writers through short story competitions I had run.
The writing process
With the general book concept in place, I asked Perth novelist Michael White (who is the internationally bestselling and major-award-winning author of thirty something books) to write a story leading up to the birth of the main character. Michael’s story followed the British parents of the main character, Chester Lewis, in 1931 Shanghai prior to the birth of Chester in Perth in 1932. Regional Victorian children’s author Bernadette Kelly (who was awarded the May Gibbs Fellowship for Children’s Literature in 2010) followed Michael’s story with one about Chester in Perth at eight years of age. Adelaide novelist Lia Weston (who has a novel published by Simon & Schuster) followed with a story about Chester in Perth at fifteen years of age, and the process continued throughout just over 100 years of story time.
The story and setting
The life story of Chester Lewis which emerged from this process is an epic story of family, responsibility, love, ambition, betrayal, secrets, successes, great deeds and great misdeeds. Chester lives a long and eventful life, from the 1930s to the 2030s.
Upon fleeing Shanghai amidst the pre-WW2 Japanese invasion, Chester’s mother makes a new start in Perth and, from humble beginnings, builds a business which will play a big role in the life of Chester, the Lewis family and humanity.
The primary settings in the book are Perth and the Whitsunday islands. Other locations which feature in the book are Shanghai, Prevelly Beach (near Margaret River) and England.
The fan fiction competition
Readers have the opportunity to enter their own 2000-4000 word story set in the story-world of The Life and Times of Chester Lewis in the official fan fiction competition, which runs until August 31st 2013.
The writers of the top ten stories will be listed on ChesterLewis.net as Top Ten Finalists, the top three stories will be featured in full on the site as Top Three Finalists, and the winner will receive a $2000 1st prize and the title of Winner.
There is also a private Facebook group available for entrants to discuss story ideas and their writing with other entrants, and receive fiction-writing tips. Contributors to the book and some of their publishing industry friends will also drop by the group from time to time to leave comments or interact with entrants.
The Life and Times of Chester Lewis has been an interesting and rewarding project two years in the making. The book is now available, and I invite readers to experience it for themselves and maybe add their own story and make some new friends through the fan fiction competition.
Book website: www.ChesterLewis.net
Facebook page: www.facebook.com/TheLifeandTimesofChesterLewis