But the itch to read over the shoulder of my forebears was already there. It covered just about every genre, too.
I had access to three sets of bookshelves when I was a child. My parents, marrying late, also united their reading matter.
My father brought a complete set of Dickens, H G Wells and Wisden to the marriage; my mother a rather wider selection, including Gone With the Wind and golden age mysteries. The extended family offered encyclopaedias, a lot of household tips (which I loved) and gloomily improving childhood literature, like The Water Babies, which I detested. Continue reading →
Earlier this week, our own Liz Fielding published a blog about her series covers over 30 years of her writing career. It was fascinating. And it made me think about brands and series.
What makes Series Covers?
Harlequin Mills & Boon have been producing different series for decades. Readers may be fans of one or more of these series. Perhaps they love Medicals (left), or Historicals (right).
Readers expect to be able to identify their particular series covers the moment they look at the shelves in the bookshop. It used to be easy because of the colour coding: for example, Medicals were the jade green shown above; Historicals were Dairy Milk Purple. Modern and Romance (of which more below) also had the swoosh against blue (for Modern) and orange (for Romance).
And within their favourite series, readers want to be able to pick out the authors whose books they love. Preferably without having to peer at tiny or barely legible print. The two cover images above don’t get very high marks on that front. It would have been easy to remedy, though.
To give the paying customers what they want. Simples, no? Isn’t that what branding is about? Well… Continue reading →
This week I have been considering the nature of a sentimental romantic – and wondering whether I qualify.
Let me put this in context. On Thursday a friend phoned me to say that he had just read a story which he had much enjoyed and thought very romantic. He had told the writer – whom he knew – of this response.
The writer said he was “intrigued”. My friend – let us call him Robert – explained his reasons. Eventually the writer decided that he was OK with the romantic label “as long as he didn’t mean sentimental.” 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 →
Let’s hear it for the heroes! Tall, dark and handsome?
Hero = handsome; heroine = beautiful? Bestselling author Susanna Kearsley published a blog last week that asks a thought-provoking question about romantic heroines: — why is it that “some readers, when faced with a blank face, are programmed to fill in the features as ‘beautiful’?”
Good question. A disturbing question, too, perhaps.
But what about the heroes? Do we readers fill in male features in a similar way? Why? Do the heroes of our imagination have to be tall, dark and handsome? Continue reading →
This isn’t the first time that the Libertà Hive has pondered the advice to writers to “murder your darlings.”
Indeed, Joanna got seriously confessional about doing exactly that a few months ago. Actually, in her case, it wasn’t so much wilful murder as a contract killing. Editors can be ruthless.
WHO WANTS YOU TO MURDER YOUR DARLINGS?
Well, Stephen King does a pretty good job of it in his On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. “Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.” He was following William Faulkner. But even Faulkner wasn’t the originator.
It turns out to be Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch — that’s the Victorian Arthur Double-Barrelled who was NOT the author of Sherlock Holmes. He did write novels, lots of ’em, signing himself “Q”. But I’ve never read one. (Hmm. Maybe this year?)
But he was also a serious critic and anthologist. And from 1912 to his death in 1944 he was the King Edward VII Professor of English Literature at Cambridge. I’ve always thought that he pretty much invented Lit Crit, in fact. Continue reading →
Empathy with characters: what is it and who has it?
Empathy? Roughly, it’s feeling what another person is feeling, from their point of view. Even if that other person is fictional. So readers may identify with the heroine in a romance, or with the spy in a thriller, or with the detective in a crime story.
Writing Regency romances, my aim was always that my [mostly female] readers would identify with my heroine and fall in love with my hero.
But readers don’t all react in the same way to our characters and our plots. And I’m beginning to wonder if age is one important factor in that. Continue reading →
I don’t know if I’m a particularly picky reader, but I do like a novel to have some sort of resolution. It doesn’t have to be a traditional happy ending – though, as a writer, I always end up with my characters looking forward hopefully. But that’s my quirk.
I can take bereavement, despair or the end of the world in other people’s books. Even enjoy them in a Having a Good Cry sort of way.
What I can’t be doing with, is to turn the page and find that there’s no more book. And in the last few months I’ve found that happening more and more.
It was Samuel Taylor Coleridge, he of Ancient Mariner fame, who coined the phrase “suspension of disbelief” in 1817 in his Biographia Literaria or biographical sketches of my literary life and opinions. He did so referring to his contribution, more than twenty years earlier, to the Lyrical Ballads. Published in 1798, these are generally taken to mark the start of the romantic movement in English literature. William Wordsworth wrote most of them, of course.