When I started writing stories, I always set off flying into the mist. Well, I was very young. Often – no make that always, at least to begin with – I ran out of steam. Can’t tell you how many snippets of unwritten novels I have in my filing system.
One of the things I have been doing during lockdown is reading my way through them.
It was part of my general de-cluttering objective. And no, that hasn’t got very far at all, if you’re wondering. To be honest, I have binned very little yet.
Partly, this is because of how long it has taken me.
Stories Flying Into the Mist
I got back into the stories pretty quickly, to my surprise. Even more surprisingly, I remembered pretty nearly every one. Continue reading →
I hear hollow laughter from my friends and fellow authors.
And yet only a couple of days ago someone was telling me a story which appeared to demonstrate the exact reverse.
Writer in Control While Lecturing?
The story is this: some time ago a Very Distinguished Author was holding one of those literary Events in an overseas capital. I detect a faint whiff of the British Council. But possibly it was just a simple commercial book tour. At some point the Very Distinguished One invited questions. As they do.
In control? I don’t think so.
Anyway, my interlocutor, a kindly soul, recognised her civic duty. She bit on the bullet, braced up and did, indeed, ask a question of the Very Distinguished Party. Did his characters ever get away from him? Continue reading →
At Sophie’s prompting, I’ve recently been reading a new (to me) crime writer, Barbara Cleverly (a writer who only just missed the cut for 12 days of Christmas). Cleverly’s first 4 books are set in India in the 1920s, after the horrors of the First World War (which haunts many of her characters) but while the British Empire still rules.
What stayed with me, apart from her genius for plotting, was the atmosphere she created for her pre-independence India — an underlying feeling of unease, even menace.
Cleverly’s British Raj is like a thin and very fragile glass lid on a huge cauldron of broth. Readers can see through the lid to the liquid below. Not quite boiling yet, but with the occasional large bubble forcing its way through the shimmering and (apparently) serene surface. As readers, we sense that it wouldn’t take very much to crack through that flimsy lid from below. Continue reading →
This is the tale of how an apostrophe changed my life. It made me open my mind, in spite of deeply entrenched prejudices, and endowed me with hours of reading pleasure I would never have expected in a million years.
Don’t like thrillers
Some years ago a colleague whose taste in books hardly ever chimed with mine, recommended a thriller he’d just discovered. “Fantastic plot”, he said. “Great writer. None of that stodgy grammar and fancy image nonsense. Just a plain man speaking plain thoughts.”
I groaned in spirit. “Lots of action?” He nodded enthusiastically. That meant dead bodies. Continue reading →
I am a writer. Plotting is part of my business. Which makes me a plotter-writer. Only — just sometimes — I forget it isn’t other people’s business too and they Don’t Want To Know.
When I got my first flat, I would go home every three or four weeks for a weekend. It was my one big opportunity to communicate with my father, who thought the telephone was for emergencies. Even face to face he didn’t chat much. So, after my mother had gone to bed, we would end up watching a late-night movie on television in affectionate but largely silent companionship.