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.
This week I have been thinking about how I read and write reviews and, in particular, a very special competition. The latter invites you to try something similar but a bit more substantial for my dear P G Wodehouse. See below for details.
Now, there are many ways of appreciating a novel.
You can study it, dream about it, carry on the characters in your own story (or several) and talk about it until your friends beg you to stop.
To share your enthusiasm with the whole world, all you have to do is write a review and post it on a bookseller’s website. Writers, desperate to let readers know that their work exists, are pathetically grateful for these reviews. I know. I am one of them. Continue reading →
A couple of weeks ago I gave a talk about romantic novelists in fiction and how they compared with the real thing. To be more precise, it was PG Wodehouse’s romantic novelists. Regular readers of this blog will remember that I have blogged about them before. (I am a huge fan of Rosie M Banks, before you ask.)
Two interesting things emerged from my researches. First, while PGW exaggerated some aspects for comic effect, in general he was pretty respectful of their work ethic – and success!
The second was – those exaggerations. I assumed they had sprung, new-minted, from the Master’s imagination. But just a bit of digging found that PGW had sources on which he might well have modelled even the most egregious. Glug. Continue reading →
This blog contains two main stories – what The Mousetrap did to Hamlet and how Superman distorted an Edwardian hero. For me, anyway.
For some weeks now I’ve been engaged in editing a book that I have re-visited over several years. It has made me think about references which may shift with time.
Something that seemed set in stone in 2008 may have become seriously misleading in 2021. Even downright counter-productive. As, I hope, my two stories will show.
I love Shakespeare. I saw my first Hamlet when I was fourteen and I have seen it countless times since. There’s usually something new to discover and always special moments of power that stop me dead in my tracks. These depend on the production, of course. But generally one of them is the play within a play in Act 3 Scene 2.
Hamlet is obsessing about his mother’s remarriage. His father, the King, died only four months ago and Hamlet suspects his uncle of murdering him. Not only has the Queen married him, Uncle is now King. Hamlet started with a vague suspicion, but then he encounters his father’s ghost walking the battlements. He confirms it. Continue reading →
I have just read PGW’s royal romance, The Prince and Betty. When I first wrote about romantic novelists in Wodehouse World, I knew that the book existed but I had never read it. Now that I have, the story itself and, indeed, the history of its publication is a jigsaw puzzle.
However, I’ve also learned something about how it fitted into PGW’s life and other writing. And it has made me think again about Wodehouse’s place in romantic fiction. And, indeed, of romantic fiction in his own life. So I thought I would share.
PGW’s Royal Romance – before the beginning
Wodehouse made his reputation initially with school stories. By 1909, however, he wanted to leave that behind and “butt into the big league,” as he told fellow free-lancer L H Bradshaw.
In New York, on leave of absence from his UK employer, The Globe, he found a literary agent who sold the two short stories PGW had brought with him for US$500. He was earning less that 10 guineas a pop from magazines in the UK. Continue reading →
Rather to my surprise, people have been asking me to recommend books for lockdown reading. Virtual strangers, some of them. I suppose they think a writer reads more than other people. Well, to keep abreast of the competition, if nothing else.
Now, I like talking about books. And I am congenitally incapable of ignoring a request for help.
But this particular question throws me into a quandary. I mean I can happily spout for hours on books I love. As you probably know. But…
Finding a story that somebody else might like, especially someone I barely know (not to mention that someone’s son, daughter or grandchild) is hard. To be honest, it has left me with eyeballs swishing about, looking for the escape hatch.
So far I’ve blundered through, hauling up titles from the cellarage pretty much at random. Do people want books they can read together? Or are they trying to read to block out the effects of too much togetherness?
With a very uncertain Christmas coming, I thought I’d try to be a bit more disciplined.
When two writer friends meet their first talk is of editorial revisions. You don’t risk a word on that unfinished book in case it stays that way. And you don’t talk about horrible reviews until you’re on at least your second glass.
But revisions are common to all writers and moaning about them – or sometimes sharing the joy – is a truly bonding experience.
This is the season when reports from the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers Scheme start to come back. Many of them will contain suggested revisions. Welcome to the club, guys!
But sometimes the report (or a book doctor or even an experienced reader friend) may say: “I don’t think you’ve found your voice yet.” “Inauthentic” may even be murmured.
Reader work is a new concept for me. Reading, especially with Companion Cat purring beside me, has always been my purest pleasure.
Fact, fiction, annual financial statements, cornflake packets, I read them all. And I revelled in the otherwhere of the printed word, quite apart from whatever I learned from the text in question.
During lockdown, I have been reading even more than I usually do. Some old friends, for the dark times. Right Ho, Jeeves never lets me down. Nor does Sylvester. Or Wyrd Sisters, Fire and Hemlock, Persuasion…
But also new voices. Recommendations, serendipitous discoveries, long postponed titles from TBR pile, curiosities. All were interesting, many fitted my mood or preoccupations of the time. A few were utterly fabulous and I binge read everything else the author had written.
But what surprised me was that reading a new book tired me. Especially the ones that I really loved. Nearly as much as writing the damn stuff.
Reader Work – Co-Creation?
Think about it. Reading a new book is nearly as tiring as writing a new book? Continue reading →
I find it really difficult to write a reader review of a novel. As an author I am hugely grateful to the kind people who leave reviews of my books on Amazon and other sites. I deeply feel I ought to reciprocate more. But the whole enterprise is fraught with danger.
This is a recurring problem at this time of year. Between Christmas and the end of the year I usually read a lot.
I finish books I’ve left midway during the year for some reason. And I read my Christmas present books. I read books I’ve been setting aside so I can take a good long run at them. And I experiment with books that other people have recommended during the seasonal socialising. And I go back to old favourites because, let’s face it, this is the time of year when memories get hold of you and I’ve got some lovely Bookish Memories. Continue reading →
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!