Author Archives: Sophie

In Praise of Books with Friends

Books with friends. Right ho, JeevesThis week I want to praise books with friends in them.

I confess, this is pure sentiment on my part. I’ve had an emotional time in which I have been hugely grateful for my friends. They sustain me. This week I’ve been on a writing retreat with several of them, and they were stars. When asked, they gave me constructive suggestions. If necessary, they took the piss out of me. We laughed lots.

And they all held out a hand when I needed that, too.

So I started thinking about friends in books. It is not a genre that bookshops recognise. But it’s a quality that always enhances a book and often endears it to the reader.

Blessed Bertie Wooster is not just a silly ass, but a chap who touches your heartstrings for exactly that reason. He sets out his stall in Right Ho, Jeeves. “Gussie and I, as I say, had rather lost touch, but all the same I was exercised about the poor fish, as I am about all my pals, close or distant, who find themselves treading upon Life’s banana skins.Ah yes. A chap one can rely on. Definitely hero material. I knew there had to be a reason why I’ve always loved him so much. Continue reading

Romantic Novel Awards 2019

This Monday saw the party for this year’s UK Romantic Novel Awards. It was fun, warm-hearted and full of interesting ideas from inspiring people. Made me feel quite sentimental — indeed, cautiously hopeful for the human race.

The Awards are in their 59th year — which makes them older than the Booker, the Costa and even the renowned RITA awards by the Romance Writers of America. Continue reading

Electronic Benefit and Compulsive Micro-editing

boring micro-editing Confession time: I have a problem with compulsive micro-editing;  and I don’t normally believe in electronic benefits.

I am a quintessentially late adopter. Even when I have been pushed through the airtight seal into the orbiting 21st century, I’m not one who expects to find anything much good coming from the new technology at my command.

Mainly, of course, because it’s NOT at my command. It goes its own way. Sometimes it’s too fast for me and whizzes onto the next page, next program. And freezes. Or it’s too slow, so that I lose confidence and try to go back. And it freezes.

This is true of laptops, desktops, tablets, E-readers. The whole boiling. I hate ’em.

Except…

Except that they make my writing life just a little bit, well, easier.

Conviction Tiffler Addicted to Micro-editing

Micro-editing, the enemy of the finished bookYou see, I’m a conviction tiffler.

If, like Autocorrect, you don’t recognise the term, I borrowed it from a woman who was once my editor. What she actually said was — in a public restaurant, quite loudly —  “If you don’t stop tiffling with that sodding book, I shall come round with chloroform and forceps and remove it surgically.” Continue reading

Characters In the Shadows

Characters in Shadow - people at airport, in silhouette

As a story-teller, my process begins with a character. It is then my job to bring them out into the light of day.

Sometimes I know him or her well.

Sometimes I’ve just eavesdropped on a conversation or a thought. The whole person is still deep in shadows, waiting to reveal who he really is.Characters in the Shadows + napoleon

Stage Two is when I start to think about the What Ifs.

Sometimes this will be background and setting stuff –  like what if my hero stumbles across Napoleon? Or the Hadron collider? Or an international conspiracy?

But usually it’s more personal. Characters in novels are awkward sods.

What if my character insists on making a different choice from what I expect? Continue reading

Twelfth Night

Twelfth Night party by PhizI am posting this on Twelfth Night. Well, at least, what my family have always called Twelfth Night. That’s the 6th January. It is a family birthday in our house, so it kind of sticks in the memory.

Only — maybe Twelfth Night is 5th January. The Anglican Church think that’s the right date.

SO WHEN is Twelfth Night?

Continue reading

Rosie M Banks Interview

Rosie M Banks, mysteryRosie M Banks is a mysterious figure. In theory she is a writer of fiction (romantic) created by another writer of fiction (humorous). She is not even a major character in any of his novels. But she inhabits PGW’s world as solidly as Bertie or Lord Emsworth, albeit at considerably further distance from the reader.

Last week, I looked at her first appearance along with many other romantic novelists who figure in Wodehouse World. Though she stands head and shoulders above the others.

This week, as a Christmas treat – mainly for myself, I admit – I thought I would ask this towering figure of our genre to speak for herself.

Hello from Rosie M Banks

Rosie M Banks romanticRMB  How very kind of you, Sophie. Libertà Books is one of my favourite websites. I’m very honoured to be asked.

SW [you get the feeling she has been interviewed many times before. Many, many times] Our pleasure, Ms Banks. First question, if I may: did you always want to be a romantic novelist? Continue reading

PGW and the Romantic Novelist

Just over a week ago I asked an expert why     P G Wodehouse seemed so out of sympathy with the romantic novelist. Did he know one?

romantic novelist Barbara Cartland

This is where I should probably admit that I have a sneaky image of a young Barbara Cartland pursuing him. Well, PGW was a big name when he visited London in the 20s and she was a newbie author and playwright.

If they did meet,  I would put good money on him evaporating sharpish. He had perfected the technique. His family called it the Wodehouse Glide. But nobody I’ve come across has offered any evidence of Wodehouse encountering a romantic novelist in real life.

The expert said, quite rightly, that PGW was pretty brisk on the subject of all sorts of pretentiousness. And, anyway, PGW handed out as many knocks to male poets as he did to female novelists. Continue reading

In Praise of Dirty Drafts

This week I have been remembering the first draft of my first book. Well, the first book I actually completed.

First draft libraryI remember that it was written by hand, mostly while I was waiting for books to be retrieved from the stack in a very famous library.

The leather-bound tomes, the scholarly hush, the dust dancing in the sunbeams, the academics concentrating all  around me…. oh, I remember them as if I’ve only just walked in from that day with my book bag stuffed with notes and my head full of my characters.

First draft cafe napkinOr sometimes I wrote that first draft while I was waiting for an old friend in our favourite coffee shop.

When inspiration struck there, I sometimes scribbled the idea down on any old scrap of paper — including a cafe napkin once or twice.

By now, dear Reader, you will have realised two things: Continue reading

Armistice Day

Today is very special because it is both Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday. It is, of course, also the centenary of the end of fighting in the First World War.

“Armistice” is an interesting word. It is a temporary truce during which warring parties meet to discuss possible peace. I remember my grandmother telling me that, before she told me anything else. I was very small. Armistice Day - old radio

The emotions coming out of the radio into the small suburban sitting room awed me. And so did those of the two elderly ladies, tough as old boots in my previous experience, who were both damp-eyed.

From them I picked up a terrible sense that we had made peace at the very last moment. And that we might not have. It has stayed with me ever since. Continue reading

More Blondes

More Blondes feet in fountainIn my post on Fictional Blondes I promised that there would be another piece on More Blondes with further consideration of the phenomenon in the works of Raymond Chandler and other 20th Century masters.

So here it is.

MORE BLONDES FROM CHANDLER

More Blondes The Long GoodbyeIn 1953, Chandler wrote what was possibly his masterpiece – The Long Goodbye. The narrator is again his honourable loner private eye, Phillip Marlowe. He still battles the forces of corruption, injustice and conflicted loyalties. He is as clever, wary and tough as usual. But he is not invincible  – and this time the police arrest him for murder.

But this is a darker book than its predecessors. It is full of damaged people. Two in particular must have been very close to what Chandler felt himself to be: the self-doubting alcoholic writer, Roger Wade, and a psychologically wounded war veteran.

And it is this book, heartfelt and dangerously close to home, in which Chandler/Marlowe has a substantial digression on blondes – and it’s not for fun. Continue reading