The Indie Showcase presents, Barbara Spencer.

Please welcome this weeks guest.

How I wrote one book and ended up with five

The Series: Children of Zeus

‘Where Historical Fiction and Fantasy collide’

After a decade or more writing for children and young adults, I pretty much know my way around a children’s book. And a couple of years ago, deciding I need a new challenge, I turned my attention to writing magical realism for adults.

But what is magical realism and how does it differ from fantasy? I think of fantasy as being set in a mythological world in which there are rules but maybe not the rules we live by in our humdrum human world. Magical realism takes place in our world and follows its rules, except occasionally those rules are skewed.

Which is so exciting.

I had already found a story, plotted it and written the introduction. And yes, I admit, I’m a plotter not a pantser, using tables and graphs, blurbs and a storyline.

The title was never in doubt: The Year the Swans Came (See my blog – why I wrote Swans) only the names of the characters.

I had called my main character: Yöst. But when I completed the first draft, I realised the name didn’t fit. The character stalking his way through the story and dominating its action wasn’t Yöst – that was far too gentle a name. And so Xander was born except the spelling very soon mutated into Zande.

I had never planned to write for adults, considering adult relationships far too complicated, yet in my very first novel for this age group, I created Zande, who is divine but unbelievably complicated. I promise, I’m not the only one to have fallen in love with him.

But why is he like this? What has happened to tear this character apart?

As I explained in my earlier blog, in 2013 I sent The Year the Swans Came to the agent Felicity Bryan. Love the storyline and the writing but suggested I should introduce the magical element earlier … and this created quite a problem. Not able to resolve it, I decided to write a prequel, which would explain all. On the way, I attended a lecture about ‘book titles’, when it was suggested that titles should come from the first page or pages of your novel – and so, The Click of a Pebble was born.

‘You must promise never to speak out about your heritage,’ his grandmother said, her old voice fearful and faint, ‘because people fear anything different.’

‘Fear us!’ Yöst laughed in protest. ‘We are too few to fear.’

‘It makes no difference. You are carinatae, descendants of Zeus, magical creatures …’

Naturally … the writing of Click (as I call it) solved nothing. 100,000 words and three characters later, I had explained the magic but was no closer to ending Zande’s story than I had been at the beginning of the book. Instead, I had introduced a completely new story line with a raft of new characters, each one with a story to tell. This is one of the blurbs:

Persecuted throughout the centuries for their ability to shape-shift into swans and heavenly beings, three children, Yöst, Zande and a little girl, Tatania, are the sole survivors of the latest purge. Unaware of their real nature, Ramon, a gypsy farmer offers shelter on his farm in return for work. Striking up a close friendship with Rico, the only son in a house full of girls, it is Rico who helps Yöst through the first difficult year. As their relationship strengthens and deepens, Yöst begins to think of staying and making his life there as a farmer … forgetting that as carinatae, his date with destiny is approaching.

And so I began Book 2, An Ocean of White Wings, hoping to settle the matter once and for all.

Has it?


It has taken a third book, The Drumming of Heels to bring the series to an official close and explain what happens to all three characters: Yöst, Zande and Tatania.

One last problem to solve.

The original book, The Year the Swans Came was set in Holland in 1951, two years after the third book of the trilogy, Children of Zeus, ends. Logically that makes it Book 4, except I’m not sure if you can apply logic to magical realism. In any case, it was published first because of the secret in it.


        I felt the words ticking away inside my head like an unexploded bomb, ‘One that involves you all.’

        Zande got to his feet in one graceful move. ‘Oh, that secret.’

        ‘You don’t play fair, Zande,’ I burst out.

        ‘Why would I possibly change the habit of a lifetime and play fair?’ I watched his face; grim, his eyes hooded.

        ‘Because we’re friends.’

        ‘So be satisfied with that.’

Right – that’s it.

Tomorrow, I really ought to start writing the opening chapter of Book 5, the sequel to The Year the Swans Came.

About Barbara Spencer:

In 1967, considering herself to be destined for a life of mediocrity, Barbara Spencer hi-tailed it to the West Indies to watch cricket, the precursor to a highly colourful career spanning three continents, in which she was caught up in riots, wars, and choosing Miss World. No stranger to schools and book-signings at Waterstones, after twelve years writing adventure stories for children and thrillers for young adults, Barbara began writing historical fantasy for an adult audience. Her first novel The Year the Swans Came was published in 2018.


Award Winning Author
Connect with me on:
Twitter: @BarbaraSpencerO

Blog spot:

The Year the Swans Came – Winner of  a Chill with a Book – Readers Award January 2019

Discovering Diamonds Review – March 2019

Barbara Spencer

Award Winning Author
Connect with me on:
Twitter: @BarbaraSpencerO

Blog spot:

My thanks to this weeks guest for a great post. I hope you all enjoyed it.

While you’re here, why not have a look around the site? There are FREE things and a whole lot more, just follow the links at the top of the page.

You might also like to join my team. I’ll send you a bi-monthly newsletter, filled with news, updates and extra content, as well as more about me and my worlds. You’ll also get a free short story and offers on my novels. Subscribe by clicking HERE

If you want to be featured in a future Showcase, where you can write about whatever (within reason) you want, then please let me know. Use the comment box below and I’ll get back to you.

You can catch up on previous Showcase posts by clicking HERE

Don’t miss the Saturday Rewind, next Thursdays Showcase post, and my musings every Monday.

Have a good week,



2 Responses

  1. Jane Risdon

    How fab, what a story. Really enjoyed learning about Barbara. Good luck with her books and future writing.

    • Richard Dee

      Thanks, Jane. I love the variety of the posts I get on the Showcase.

Comments are closed.