The last couple of weeks I have been contemplating the magic of a Georgian Library. As a result I have been researching libraries in general and, in particular, libraries I have known intimately. There are a surprising number of them scattered through my career. My spiritual home, maybe?
Grand Library at Osterley Park, not like my poor house at all!
Partly this must be due to the novel I am currently editing. It stars a distinctly down-at-heel stately home. Its library was put together in the eighteenth century on the basis of some sketches by the Adam brothers and a certain amount of DIY on the part of the servants and the cash-strapped owner. A classical frieze in the library, indeed, was constructed out of clever paint effects and paper mâché. I’m rather in love with that frieze. Continue reading →
This week I spent a day with Georgette Heyer. Billed as The Nonesuch Conference, this was at a hybrid gathering at London University, offering a selection of papers from accredited academics together with reader/writer participation from people labelled in the programme as independent scholars.
Clearly, and heartwarmingly, most of the speakers I heard were also fans.
It was preceded by a writing workshop the day before. And there was a Regency Soirée in the evening after the conference, which sounds like a lot of fun.
Sadly, I couldn’t make either of these events. For one thing I’m still convalescent. (My energy gives out unexpectedly, so I didn’t want to push it.) For another, the programme was really full. Academics seemed to be supercharged, cheerily steaming from session to session, enthusiasm still at white heat.
When I read my notes I was astonished at the sheer volume of ideas I had noted down for further consideration. Continue reading →
Writer on holiday is not a natural role for me. I admit it. I’m not good at holidays. We never had them when I was a child and somehow I’ve never really got the knack of it. But sometimes I accompany The Birdwatcher on one of his birding trips. It is a delight.
Well, for me it is a delight. And The Birdwatcher is kind enough to say he enjoys it too, in spite of my not knowing much about either ornithology or birdwatching etiquette.
I probably won’t read much but I get uneasy if I haven’t got a book to hand. So I like to take one non-fiction and one novel, both chosen wholly for fun.
This time my non-fiction was a memoir by Lev Parikian, Why Do Birds Suddenly Disappear?The author’s situation is the reverse of mine. Basically he knows what he is doing in the matter of puffin-bothering and just fell out of the habit when he grew up. Whereas I have been going along with it for a while, without ever getting much better. He decided that he would take it up again for a year.
His book is a thoughtful and very entertaining saunter through his bird pursuits, memories, music, encounters with experts and much else. It’s a charming journey with delicious laugh-out-loud moments and life-enhancing digressions. Continue reading →
I hear hollow laughter from my friends and fellow authors.
And yet only a couple of days ago someone was telling me a story which appeared to demonstrate the exact reverse.
Writer in Control While Lecturing?
The story is this: some time ago a Very Distinguished Author was holding one of those literary Events in an overseas capital. I detect a faint whiff of the British Council. But possibly it was just a simple commercial book tour. At some point the Very Distinguished One invited questions. As they do.
In control? I don’t think so.
Anyway, my interlocutor, a kindly soul, recognised her civic duty. She bit on the bullet, braced up and did, indeed, ask a question of the Very Distinguished Party. Did his characters ever get away from him? Continue reading →
First, I don’t know if the loneliness of the long distance Writer is any different from the horrors that come with any other profession. When we close our eyes at night, we are all alone with our demons, after all, from Accountant to Zoo Keeper.
But I do wonder if there is something peculiar to the occupation of writing which attracts this shadow companion.
And then chains it to us, hip and thigh, when the going gets tough and the carpet disappears under discarded drafts.
So I thought I would share some thoughts on it. Just in case they may be useful to some writer who thinks he or she is alone in the cold and dark. Continue reading →
My discovery of the week: hearing is a crucial sense. A novel needs a soundtrack just as much as any movie does.
I’ve always known that the sense of smell is important when I imagine the worlds of my novels.
But I’d never previously thought much about sound, though I savour it enormously in other people’s writing. (There may even be another blog on that!) I think I did put it in, mostly. Well, a bit. And not just conversation, either.
But somehow I’d forgotten when it came to my latest novel. So over these last few days I’ve been on a roller coaster of exploration and experiment – and revision! Continue reading →
This weekend Easter Memories came flooding back to me unexpectedly. And they stopped me dead in my tracks. Disturbed me. Then, made me smile.
Easter Memories – Anniversary
Easter was a turbulent time of year for my family when I was a child. My parents had married on 29th March – on the same day as the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race, the Grand National and the Football Cup Final. So there were lots of uneasy-making reminders for my otherwise oblivious father.
I well remember being sent out on an emergency mission to buy “flowers for your Mother’s Wedding Anniversary”.
Fortunately she thought it was funny – and she always loved the flowers. That stinging smell of daffodils always reminds me of her laughing. Continue reading →
Ever since I blogged about what a reader may take against in 1st person narrative, I’ve found the idea of reader chemistry nagging away at me. Why are some words so loaded for one person, and totally neutral for another?
But I never meant to blog about it so quickly.
But then, as some of you will know, I was struck down by a monster virus. I couldn’t stop shivering. Or coughing.
I went from bed to fireside and back again, accompanied by regularly refreshed hot water bottles and The Companion Cat.
I had absolutely no physical energy. All I wanted to do was read. But I was quite likely to fall asleep in the middle of a page.
And I’d become very, VERY picky about the books I was willing to pick up. And not at all in the usual way. WHY? Continue reading →
The first thing my agent ever said to me was, “Readers hate first person narrative.” I had sent her a thrilling escape-from-the-bad-guys romantic suspense set in Greece under the Colonels. And, yes, it was told in the first person.
Still she’d read the thing. And then taken me to lunch.
So I nodded politely and murmured that it seemed to have worked all right for Jonathan Swift, Charles Dickens, P G Wodehouse and Mary Stewart.
“Yes, but they’re great,” she said impatiently.
I couldn’t deny it.
“What you need to do is forget all this ‘I think, I feel’ stuff. Readers won’t buy it. Concentrate on what people DO.” Continue reading →