Author Archives: Sophie

Author’s Shadow

Twelfth Night mask I deliberately called this blog “Author Shadow” rather than “Author Discovered” because its subject is not new to me nor, even now, wholly understood.

Sometimes an author grabs you. You know nothing about them. You don’t know why. Yet they speak to you as if you know them – or they know you.

In some ways this author has been walking beside me, in the shadows as it were, nearly all my life. Yet, just occasionally over the years, lightning has flashed and for a tiny moment my mystery lady has been almost revealed. Continue reading

Learning to Write

For some while now I have been thinking about the ways we novelists learn to write. Then three conversations recently presented the issue to me in quite individual and thought provoking ways. And I am missing the chance to discuss it with friends and fellow authors. Missing it badly, if I’m  honest.

For this is the season that the Romantic Novelists Associationholds its annual conference as I write. And I am missing the panels, the talks, the workshops – not to mention the kitchen chats and the goody bags. So  all the stuff that I regularly count on to raise my industry knowledge, various writing skills and sheer enthusiasm is happening. Only. I. Am Not There.

So this blog is a sort of wish fulfilment. Were I at the Conference, I would be hunkering down in a kitchen with like minds and a decent bottle or two and… Well, you get the picture. Continue reading

Writing Energy Renewed

Writing energyRecently, I learned some things about my writing energy which seemed to have reached an all time low.

They surprised me. So I thought that some other writers might find my experience helpful. Or at least interesting,

writing energy magic, book, bluebell wood

As many readers know, I sometimes go off into the countryside as a Birdwatcher’s Companion. He’s a great chap to walk the hills with, knowledgeable and generous when I ask about plants and wildlife

But he’s also happy for me to go off into my own little fantasy world, if that’s where the mood takes me.

I really love going into sometimes quite Writing Energy early morning walkremote and even lonely places. For there is always the Back-Up Person with the Binoculars, on hand in case I fall down a rabbit hole.

No matter how tired I am when we start, it seems that I always come back with my writing energy renewed and a spring in my step. 

Writing Energy Lost

Continue reading

For the Love of Owls

owls,. Little owlFirst you should know: I love owls. When I was at college, I lived for a time in a cottage opposite a field. We had a visiting Little Owl. I first encountered it when I came home at dusk to find Something sitting on the stone wall that surrounded our garden. I thought a child had dropped a stuffed toy and I reached to retrieve it. Until it OPENED ITS EYES.

It was a Little Owl. And they are really small, as you see. 1.5 bricks tall, max. But the message was direct, unmistakeable and compelling: DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT.

I’ve been a huge fan of owls ever since. Continue reading

Opera for Writers

OK, this blog is truly personal. I very much wanted to write it. I don’t know whether my experience will be of help – or even interest – to other writers. I hope it may. But no guarantees.

There’s something a bit magical, a bit otherworldly about opera. Lots of my nearest and dearest hate it. If you do too, you’ll be in excellent company.

Why I’m Thinking About This Now

Continue reading

Audiobook Bertie Wooster

Recently, a reader of this blog, noticing that I turn into a drivelling fan girl whenever P G Wodehouse crops up, invited me to review a new audiobook edition of Right Ho, Jeeves.

Hugely flattered, I returned a resounding “Gimme.”  Only rather more gracefully phrased. At least, I hope so.

And then the doubts set in. Had I implied I was qualified in any way to do this? I had never read/heard/listened to an audiobook. That’s ANY audiobook. The odd 15 minutes with Book at Bedtime on Radio 4 was the limit of my literary listening.

But this was a whole book. What if I didn’t care for the experience? AAAARGH!

When To Read an Audiobook

Continue reading

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