Author Archives: Sophie

Georgette Heyer: Debut With Highwayman

Georgette Heyer The Black MothConstable published Georgette Heyer’s debut novel, The Black Moth, in September 1921. Houghton Miflin brought it out in the USA. Last year I celebrated its centenary with a blog on Who made Georgette Georgian.

Initially, the book attracted perfunctory but largely friendly reviews. Indeed, a cracker in the Boston Evening Transcripts of 23 November even took a stab at imitating the book’s faux Georgian narrative style. Interestingly, Heyer is a whole lot better at it than the reviewer. His delight in his own efforts cannot quite disguise several errors in his account of the story. We forgive  him for the entertainment value. And he does make it sound like a good fun read. So it probably wasn’t bad for sales.

Anyway, the book was a commercial success pretty much immediately.

Wot The TLS Said

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Escape With Rupert Bear

The Chinese curse of May You Live in Interesting Times well and truly struck this week, didn’t it? I have tried to keep away from news media, I really have. But the appalling tragicomedy that is our current government just wouldn’t leave me alone. And then I re-encountered Rupert Bear.

I was really grateful to my friend and fellow writer Lesley Cookman for spending a happy few hours in the Rupert Bear Centenary Exhibition at the Beaney (House of Art and Knowledge) in Canterbury. She came back and told our Zoom Circle all about it. Continue reading

Airy Nothing’s Timeline

Lady in Lace, Regency Timeslip, by Joanna MaitlandI used to think that only historical novelists needed to write a timeline for a novel. Someone like me, writing contemporary fiction set pretty close to the real world, didn’t have any use for it. I read Joanna’s excellent (and detailed) account on this blog of the timeline she constructed for her Regency-set Lady in Lace. And thanked my lucky stars that this was so. (It’s a lovely book, by the way.)

Only, of course, she is not just talking about setting her characters into a sequence of historically documented events. She is talking about the timeline of the whole novel, including the stuff she’d made up. Scene by scene Joanna records what her characters do and feel as well as well as facts of place and history.

But I still thought I didn’t need that sort of hassle in a contemporary story.

And boy, was I wrong. Continue reading

Queen Elizabeth II RIP

the Queen, white haired and dressed in yellow jacket and yellow broad brimmed hat decorated with pink roses smiling in the sunshine

Image by WikiImages from Pixabay

Hail and Farewell

Last week the Libertà Hive and several fellow authors were on a writing retreat in the north. It was a great shock, when I came down to raid the fridge for lunch on Thursday, to find four of them, very serious, sitting round the table looking at the  news feed on various laptops. “It’s over,” said one. “The Queen is going.” They had heard the announcement made by the Speaker of the House of Commons.

Grand white staircase at Hotel Royal EvianAt first, I didn’t believe it. I may even have said, “Going where?” But then someone else said, “Of course it’s been coming for a long time.” And I realised what they meant.

It was like that moment on a staircase, when you trip and think you’ve righted yourself, only then to find you’re still falling. All the way to the bottom. (I’ve done it twice.)

The shock was profound. This couldn’t be happening. But it was. Continue reading

Reader Loves Book

inner Reader“One of the great problems of attracting attention to a new book,” said a much loved novelist friend of mine, “is that Writer Writes Book is a crap headline.” Reader Loves Book, sadly, is not much better.

X Thousand Readers Love Book might do the business. Publishing phenomenon – which could include contested auction, record advance, film deal or all three – would be even better. That’s talking about cold hard cash, not ephemeral stuff like love.

Actually, even the last headline probably wouldn’t intrigue me as much as Reader Hates Book So Much She Throws it in Bin. Because that’s serious feeling there. And yes, I admit I have done it, but only twice and I’m not proud of it. Continue reading

Points of View

I’ve called this blog Points of View because that is what I’ve been thinking about, off and on, since the Romantic Novelists’ Association Conference two weeks ago.

Not just in a relation to writing, either, as you will see.

I admit, however, that I have been struggling for some time with POV issues. I’m in the process of an Absolutely Last Edit of a book that, when I first imagined it, had a first person vibe. It didn’t last and it has much improved as a result. But in some places the “I voice” has left an uncomfortable shadow.

At least, I think that’s the answer. Especially after a really excellent workshop on Psychic Distance from Emma Darwin.

RNA Conference

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Conversation on the Page

Man and woman sit cross legged on the ground in front of a body of water, and deep in conversation.

Image by pasja1000 from Pixabay

Conversation on the page fascinates me.

Even when I’m writing an email, describing a recent meeting to a mutual friend, for instance, I find myself overtaken by the desire to report the real words one or both of us spoke.

I hear it, of course, as I’m transposing it. Or at least, I am hearing what I remember. But does my reader hear it? And hear it in the same way?

Conversation off the Page

Apple orchard in sunlight

Image by Hans Braxmeier from Pixabay

Unwritten conversation very often kicks off a story of mine. I will be elsewhere, not even be thinking about writing, and my imagination will pluck something out of the whirlwind and give it to me. And I know there is more —and the more is a story.

It’s almost like eavesdropping. Even a bit spooky sometimes.

For instance – I was once dozing gently in someone else’s garden. We’d had a good lunch and lot of laughter and she had gone inside to make tea. The other two were talking and I was looking at a couple of apple trees and not paying attention to anything much.

And a voice in my head said, “I can never forget it.” Continue reading

Healing Story

This week I have been desperately searching for a healing story. To begin with, I dug into my memory for what R S Thomas called something to set against the heart in the long cold.

But the state of remembered tranquility was not enough. I wanted a story, with a beginning a middle and an end. Particularly I wanted a happy ending.

And serendipitously, the search got me back to a place where I really did feel healed. This is how.

Stage One – Reason for the Quest

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Platinum Jubilee, Royalty and Romance

Confluence of strings of union Jack bunting against a bright blue skyFor me, this week has mostly been about the impact on my diary of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. I don’t mean just the parties, though I admit I prepared food for two, and attended three (so far).

But there were also the logistics. The “holiday” encompassed the spring Bank Holiday, now transferred to Thursday 2nd June, through Friday to Monday or even Tuesday. Parking charges were waived on Friday and Monday but not Saturday by my local authority.

Some shops  closed but, in my area of Central London, most didn’t, though some of them adjusted their hours. There were queues round the block for my local Italian ice cream purveyor every time the sun came out.A Mini painted like the Union Jack parked on the pavement between the end of Royal Avenue and the King's Road.

And then there was the chat. Everyone I met had something to say about the celebrations, the Queen, the royal Family, the decorations and, of course, the weather.

There was a positive rash of Union Jacks in shop windows, They were on cars and even bicycles. Strings of them cross the King’s Road. And, at the end of Royal Avenue, there was a Mini dressed as a Union Jack. My photograph shows the display in the course of construction. Continue reading

Changing Perspective

Small copper butterfly Image by Meatle from Pixabay

This week has been all about changing perspective. That is mostly inside the novel which is now nearing completion. But also in my routine, my expectations and my approach to filing. It’s been a lot of fun, after the initial shock. But I am still in the process of adjustment. That, incidentally, is why this week’s blog is late.

What happened is this: most of last week I was wandering about the Dorset coast with the Birdwatcher, looking at birds, butterflies and bees.

We’ve done this several times before and I love it. Not that I’m any sort of ornithologist. But I love watching people going about their business. And at this time of year, birds are very busy indeed.

Naturally Changing Perspective

Male chaffinch Image by Meatle from Pixabay

Normally on these holidays I bask in the light, the fresh air, the countryside and being completely completely divorced from my normal life. But this time something else happened.

The weather was volatile. We had mist and then blinding sunlight. We were stalked by a chaffinch whom we only caught sight of in silhouette. The perspective kept changing all on its own.

And then one day we drove along the coast road to Lyme Regis through low cloud and driving rain. It was like the start of a Gothic thriller. Continue reading