Epiphany — 6th January — marks the end of the 12 Days of Christmas, and the day when the Three Kings brought gifts to the infant Jesus. The tryptich above is by Hieronymus Bosch, dated to around the end of the 15th century. But, with apologies to those who prefer the religious meaning of Epiphany, that’s not what I’m writing about in this blog.
In the UK, Epiphany can be a bit of a downer, an end to things. It’s when we take down our Christmas decorations, put the cards in the recycling bin, and chop up the tree ready for the bonfire. We go back to work, if we haven’t done so already. The fun and games are over. Once we’ve hoovered up all the pine needles and the glitter that gets absolutely everywhere, the house looks a bit drab, doesn’t it? (And, next year, glitter is definitely banned in the Maitland house!) Continue reading →
The BBC’s recent 100 Books that Shaped our Worldhas started me thinking about comfort reads. What are they? When do we want them? Maybe even need them, indeed. What do they do for us? And how do we find them in the first place?
And is comfort reading a Bad Thing?
Escapism, after all, has got a bad press ever since the word was first coined, apparently in thirties USA i.e. at the height of the Depression. The Oxford English Dictionary defines escapism as “the tendency to seek distraction and relief from unpleasant realities, especially by seeking entertainment or engaging in fantasy.”
Apart from, “Where do you get your ideas from?” that has to be the question writers are most asked.
And the answer is, for me, yes, actually.
Quite a lot.
Pinterest, Google, Youtube
Even before I put finger to keyboard I scour Pinterest, seeking ideas for locations, looking for photographs of places and characters as I build my storyboard. This is the one I’ve created for A Harrington Christmas (it’s a working title!)
Mostly, after that, it will be diving into Google as questions crop up? What is the temperature in Nantucket in March? What is the time difference between Paris and Singapore? Is there already a restaurant in London called any of the half a dozen names I’ve come up with — and yes to every one. Continue reading →
This month, rather to my surprise, I have found myself thinking a lot about romantic fiction and where it sits in readers’ lives. I write it, read it and love it, as regular readers of this blog will know. And there are some times in my life when nothing else will do. Not every romantic novel, of course. Maybe Persuasion. Or Sylvester. Perhaps The Morning Gift. Or…
This week, I finished a book. Writing a book, that is. So I’m feeling smug. (No mention, please, of the fact that the agreed deadline for the MS was end of July.)
And when I finished it, I thought:
“I’m a completer-finisher. Eureka!”
She’s off again, I hear you groan. What on earth is a completer-finisher? Continue reading →
Recently, I have been thinking a lot about lies and liars. I am writing one story and editing another and find that my characters in both lie much more than I am used to.
The lie is a major tool in the writer’s workbox. Often it turns the plot a full one eighty degrees. Sometimes it drives the whole story. Think of de Maupassant’s The Necklace.
But for a lie to work in a novel, you have to have a convincing liar. By that I don’t mean someone who is habitually economical with the truth. I mean someone who has a good reason to lie and does so. And, even more important, someone whom another person, or even many people, will believe.
The writing life is hard. And some parts of it are harder than others. [Yes, I know. Cue violins?]
When i do talks for readers, they regularly ask me, “Where do you get your ideas from?” I answer. Of course I do. But for me — and, I suspect, for a lot of other writers — the challenge isn’t finding new ideas to write about. My challenge is turning the zillions of ideas fizzing around my brain into words on the page.
Thousands and thousands of words.
If you’ve read any great books recently, the chances are that you raced through thousands of words in a few hours. Perhaps you missed out on several hours’ sleep because you just had to keep turning the pages? That’s really pleasing for the writer. But it’s also daunting. Because you, dear reader, may well want another book by the same author.
It takes a few hours to read a great book. It takes months, or years, to write one.
Those who know me from Social media will probably realise that I have moved. A big move. Massive. After 30 years in one house I have moved to the Scottish Highlands. To Wester Ross. It has been described as Britain’s last great wilderness, and with good reason. Moving here is not just another country, it is another life and a very different one. The language is almost the same. Almost, but not quite. One has to think more about it. No one asks where you live, it is where are you staying, as if you are just passing through.
Hospitality is generous, tea, cake or biscuits are often offered as a matter of course. Which means I need to brush up on my baking skills.
Okay, I doubt I will EVER bake anything this good!
The Scottish Highlands from a writer’s point of view
I travel through this land with my writer’s hat on. The landscape feels old. Continue reading →
There are a couple of months to go before we need to start to panic, but the groans are undoubtedly justified.
The children have only just gone back to school, the supermarket aisles are full of the momentary distraction of fake pumpkins and Halloween costumes, but they are already piling up the Christmas chocolate. (I took these two photographs just this morning.) And greetings cards are on sale for those organised enough to get them written before they get swept up in the season.
A few weeks ago, I blogged about author Ursula Torday and how I had a sort of virtual not-quite-relationship with her which was like a haunting. I fell over her books on three different occasions in my life, years apart. And now, ten years on, I have just done so again.
So that makes four.
We clearly have unfinished business.
As a result, I have been reading her books and digging a bit – and reconsidering the very helpful email that her godson, Robert Torday, sent me 10 years ago. This is how it started this time…