Hi! I’m – TONY LEE MORAL
I was born in the historical town of Hastings, Sussex, England. From an early age I looked to the horizon, with a keen quest for knowledge and an avid interest in writing.
Following an early publishing success, with the formation of my own software company for the booming home computer market, I moved on to the internationally renowned BBC Natural History Unit, where I spent many formative years filming in remote places around the world, everywhere from the Himalayas to the Amazonian rainforest.
In 1999, I moved to California to work on the award winning ‘The Shape of Life’ series, to write my books on Alfred Hitchcock, and to continue making my diverse and eclectic documentaries, ranging from biographies to current affairs, in the course of which I have interviewed a veritable A-Z of celebrities from the arts and sciences.
As well as making films around the world, I have launched my own production company, Sabana Films, dedicated to making bespoke documentaries.
Check out all the latest news on my website.
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Ghost Maven is the first in a series of Young Adult novels featuring Alice Parker, a 16 year old girl who discovers she has the power to slay ghosts.
Alice’s mother passes away and with her father and little sister, Sophie, she moves to Pacific Grove in California. Alice is deathly afraid of the water despite living in a community surrounded by it. In order to push through her phobia, she joins the Kayaking club in high school.
During a routine kayaking drill, a fog rolls in and Alice becomes disoriented, losing all sense of direction. A large wave turns the kayak over, dumping Alice into the icy-cold pacific. She nearly drowns when a young man dives in after her. . .Henry Raphael.
After Henry’s rescue, Alice gains more than her life. Henry is a beautiful seventeen-year-old or more accurately, one-hundred-seventeen years. The relationship between them takes Alice on a journey for which no one could prepare her.
Long distance relationships are difficult – how can Alice bridge a divide between planes? Henry died over a century ago but lives on in the fourth plane of existence waiting for an opportunity to atone for past deeds that caused the death of his ship’s entire crew. Their vengeance still hanging over his head, Henry and Alice learn their love will be tested by more than the passage of time and living in different dimensions.
THE RETURN TO ROMANCE
In my Young Adult novel Ghost Maven, I write a love story that transcends time, about two young people from two different worlds. It’s also a departure from the genre as it focuses on the return to romance and traditional values.
Having written three books on Alfred Hitchcock, I specialise in mystery and suspense. Many readers become confused by the two terms. They are actually two very different processes. Mystery is an intellectual process like a riddle or a whodunit. The mystery surrounding Henry, who saves Alice from drowning, revolved around whether he really is a ghost. Where does he come from? What secrets does the island hold which he inhabits? What will happen to Alice when she finds out? These are all central mysteries that run through the book.
Suspense on the other hand is an emotional process, rather like a ride in the ghost train at the end of the pier. As Alfred Hitchcock once said, in all suspense you have to give the reader information, such as a bomb going off under the table, so that they have something to be anxious about. The suspense in Ghost Maven is when will Alice discover who Henry really is? How will she react? What will happen when the vengeful ghosts come looking for her? This suspense drives the narrative core of the book and invites readers to keep turning pages.
Teenagers are impatient, and like to get to the story quickly, rather than having to wade through pages of backstory or exposition. So I start with Alice, the heroine who tells the story in the first person, in great danger, and facing her worst nightmare – open water and the fear of drowning.
Having lived in Monterey and Pacific Grove for two years where the novel is set, this story about first love is incredibly personal to me. The novel is also partly inspired by the British playwright J.M. Barrie who wrote Mary Rose in 1920. The whimsical and nostalgic play is about a woman who disappears on a mysterious island and reappears unaged 20 years later. I first read the play when I was researching my books on Alfred Hitchcock, as it was his favourite play and a film he wanted to make for the rest of his life. He thought about how he could create Mary Rose as a ghost. So Henry is my version of Mary Rose – someone who never grows old, and is tied to a mysterious island.
I thought about how sad it was for Henry who never dies, but carries on living, while he watches those around him, including his loved ones, get older and die. How terrible and poignant that must be for him. There was a mystery and aura surrounding Mary Rose, as there is a mystery about Henry.
When writing Young adult fiction, I also think it’s very important to channel your inner teen. Writing authentic teen dialogue is important, especially if you want young readers to connect with your story. As a zoologist and psychologist by training, I find it fascinating to observe people and listen to the way they speak. Most writers are natural psychologists and I’m like a sponge observing human behaviour. When I’m queuing at the movies for example, I enjoy listening to young people talk about the film they have seen or are about to see. Capturing the intensity and feelings of being a teenager is vital, where everything seems so exaggerated. But I was wary of using slang, which quickly dates your work.
Another challenge I had was that Henry and Alice are literally from two other worlds, so Henry’s style of speech was more formal and romantic, which contrasts with Alice’s modern style. Anything that doesn’t advance the plot or reveal character should probably be cut. In early drafts I had scenes of Alice shopping in the outdoor markets of Monterey, but these scenes were the first to go, as they did nothing to advance the story. My advice when writing for teens is more immediate scenes and less narrative exposition.
Ghost Maven revolves around the many first experiences of being a teenager; going on a first date, first love and first prom date. Falling in love and losing a parent are intense feelings for a teenager, both of which Alice goes through, and which I can relate to. Teenagers don’t tend to think of their own mortality, as they have their whole lives stretching ahead of them. It’s only after Alice loses her Mom that she starts to think about the possibility of an afterlife and then Henry appears.
Alice and Henry embark on an old fashioned courtship which involves, ball room dances, first kisses, coffee dates, writing love letters, walks along the beach, picnics. They have a shared appreciation of nature, and see the beauty in the ocean, but underneath that beauty, there also lurks a terrible danger. That partly arises from own fear of water as a child and the fear of drowning.
I think teenagers should savour their youth; and enjoy the innocence and freedom of being young. Why rush into adulthood, when you can enjoy the carefreeness of youth? Love is so important to teens, with the preoccupation of finding a partner and settling down, and your whole life seemingly stretched ahead of you.
I think it’s much more romantic to write such a story today, rather than one loaded with sex. Teens grow up so quickly in our communication era, they should savour their years. I grew up in the 1970s by the sea, and I remember the long, hot summers and how carefree and idyllic everything seemed. In this story, I wanted to savour the romance of being a teen where everything is so new and exciting.
A romantic novel should also maintain the mystery and suspense about a character, which mirrors real life when you are getting to know someone for the first time. A classic love triangle then develops in the book between Alice, Henry and another suitor named Christian. First love remains with you. Henry is the one Alice is drawn to, but Christian senses something is wrong and tries to protect her.
The world is in a frighteningly fragile state at the moment, with random acts of terrorism happening all over the globe, from France to the US to the Middle East. A good old-fashioned romance is the antidote to escape from the harsh realities of the world.
I can’t believe it was way back in January 2015, when I last stopped by Fiction Books with my guest post:
If you missed it the first time around, why not stop by and take a quick look.