Thursday, March 31, 2011
Sunday, March 27, 2011
Thursday, March 24, 2011
For my current wip, I had to do quite a lot of background research, some of which was very boring (dry tomes full of facts I didn’t actually need), but other parts were great fun. The story is set in 1750’s Scotland, so that justified a visit to the Highlands to tour the areas where I’d decided my story took place. And I got to indulge in one of my favourite pastimes, going around ancient castles, since they might serve as models for the one in my novel. What could be better?
I also spent an afternoon at a Highland folk museum where they had built up houses original to the period I was writing about. Seeing these firsthand was invaluable and made me adjust several scenes in my novel which hopefully made them more authentic. Without going there, I might not have realised just how much you reek after just a few minutes of sitting by a real peat fire in a smoky hut or the fact that the doors were so low even I had to bend down to enter (at 5’3” that doesn’t happen much!). And if I’d never seen a real “shieling” hut, I wouldn’t have had known how uncomfortable it must have been for a six-foot-plus male to try and sleep in there.
I’m quite an impatient person and normally I don’t enjoy research much, I just want to get on with the story. I feel as if descriptions of any kind hold me back and prevent me from moving on to the interesting parts, like character interaction, romance and adventure, but I know they’re necessary. So I’ve reached a compromise with myself – I do a little bit of general research first (since I write historicals, I have to know about the main events of the period obviously), then I write a draft version of the story with very sketchy descriptions and after that I finally do the research and go back and complete the background details. This stops me from being jolted out of the flow, which can be so distracting. It also allows me to be more specific in the kind of background research I do, because by the time I’ve written the novel in draft, I’ll know exactly what I need to find out.
This might sound like a chaotic way of working, but somehow, it all comes together in the end. How do you do it? Do you do all your research first or are you impatient like me, leaving most of it till the end?
Please come back on Sunday to hear from Liz.
Friday, March 18, 2011
You see, it was Brigid's post about nosey parkers that got me thinking. I really found myself nodding along as I read, recognising that as writers we do tend to store up interesting details to use in our books.
Which got me thinking about morris dancing again.
I belong to a fantastic group of dancers, musicians and -perhaps most importantly - friends. We dance north-west clog morris, for fun, for fitness, to keep traditions alive, and either collecting for charity or performing at events for a small fee to cover travel. We're an eclectic group of people, each with their own story, told and untold. And, yes, I secretly pine to write a "morris" book, not about the dancing, but about a group of women brought together in the stamp of the clog, and the interwoven stories of their lives.
But the things I know, that I've seen and been told, have been shared not for research or to help me with books, but because we're friends. So, when I write the morris dancing story, have I been taking advantage of my friends?
Photos courtesy of Chris & Gill George, and Ally McGurk
Thursday, March 17, 2011
I’m a great believer in the power of high heeled shoes. They’re beautiful, they’re stylish, they can rescue a so-so outfit, and they make you appear to have legs up to your armpits, especially if you have passably long legs anyway. Also—and this may be obvious but it’s really vital—the taller you are, the more people will assume that you know what you’re doing... Most importantly, they’re uncomfortable. When you wear heels for every minute of your professional and social life you’re instantly proclaiming yourself as a person who is able to withstand blisters, pinching, and calf ache, because looking good is more important than pain. Besides, blisters can provide a handy distraction from an aching heart.
Monday, March 14, 2011
People who've read my books know that I've let the odd character wander from one story into another. When I needed a vicar for a few scenes in my thriller Every Secret Thing, for instance, it occurred to me that I already had a vicar — Tom from Mariana — so instead of giving someone else the gig, I just used Tom. Why re-invent the wheel?
But in this latest work in progress, I've done something that I've never done before. Inspired by a fan's suggestion, I've taken a character who was a child in a previous book, and I've let him age naturally into the hero of this one. I didn't know if it would work, but the moment he entered the story, no longer a boy but a man, I could see just how perfect he was for the part.
I've found it fascinating, watching him develop as a character and noticing what qualities and habits he's held onto as he's grown. I tried to make him serious and quiet, but in dialogue his sense of fun and mischief still came out. And he still tips his head to the side when he's thinking, a habit I'd nearly forgotten. (In case that sounds crazy, I should explain: I "see" all my characters moving and talking as though I were watching a film, while I'm writing — the gift of an active subconscious...)
Back when I first created Robbie sixteen years ago, I never could have seen him growing into a romantic hero, but he's got me thinking now of other heroes I first met as boys in books I loved, like Gilbert Blythe, who just gets cuter and more charming in the Anne books, or Almanzo Wilder, who matures from the Farmer Boy into one of my favourite kinds of heroes: the good-natured, strong and dependable type.
I think, with both men, it was having that background of where they had come from that made me so fond of them, and that's undoubtedly why I'm now so fond of Rob in this new book of mine.
I've been trying to think of more heroes who started as boys in a book (or a series of books), but I'm drawing a blank so far. Who else can think of one? And do you still see the boy in the man when he's grown?
(Don't forget to come back and read Julie's post this coming Thursday).
Thursday, March 10, 2011
Saturday, March 5, 2011
I couldn't believe after the years of dreaming and writing I had signed contracts with a legend. So this morning the Google alert led me here. It took away some of the unreal feeling that had been settling about me. I know that the hard work is just beginning. Carole needs to sell A Cornish House and I need to keep writing books that she loves, but sometimes you need to stop and shout YAY!!!! So often our hard work goes unnoticed let alone rewarded so I want to share this moment will all writers and dreamers. Dreams do happen. They may not happen when you want them to or exactly how you dreamt them. But if you believe and work your backside off they can happen.
I still feel a bit of a fraud though. I don't know if this will disappear when I have a book in hand or if it will remain always...
Have you fulfilled a dream? Was how you expected or did it surprise you?
Come back of Thursday to hear from Biddy.
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
This isn’t the first time it’s happened though – I had a similar feeling when I watched Howl’s Moving Castle. It's a typical Japanese cartoon film in so called manga style, and the hero in no way looks real, but he’s gorgeous and very well drawn. You can’t help but fall for him and wish he’d come and whisk you away with his magic. At the time, I thought perhaps I was weird, so put the whole thing out of my mind until it happened again when I read an actual manga comic.
A couple of years ago I picked up a YA book called “Wicked Lovely” by American author Melissa Marr and I liked it so much I couldn’t wait for the next instalment (it’s a series of five books and I’m very impatient). Since obviously there was a gap in between publication dates, I was thrilled to see that she’d produced a companion story, a little extra side-story as it were, in manga form, and I promptly bought that. It had yet another hero to fall in love with - Jayce. I was starting to wonder why this was happening to me!
Then I remembered that back in my teens, when living in Sweden, I used to read a seriously soppy romance comic series called “Starlet”, which featured heroines who were not in the popular crowd, but who eventually got the boy of their dreams. I wanted to be that girl and invariably fell in love with the heroes too, even though they were nowhere near as well drawn as today’s manga boys or animated heroes. So perhaps my subconscious is harking back to that time?
There seems to be a trend for romantic books to be “translated” into manga form. Apparently Harlequin Mills & Boon have been transforming their books in this way for years in Japan and they’re very popular (although the covers seem rather startling when compared to the ones we’re used to!). This was to attract younger readers, who were increasingly unwilling to read full-length novels. Certainly, both my daughters would much rather read a Manga novel any day than a real one, something I find difficult to understand, being a life-long fan of books.
I was also astonished to read somewhere recently that Diana Gabaldon is writing a special instalment of her “Outlander” series specifically to be turned into a manga comic. How can they possibly do it justice by translating it into drawings? A part of me thinks ‘no way, that can’t work’, but another part is now very curious to see how the artist will interpret Jamie Fraser, one of my all-time heroes. Oh dear, I think I’m going to have to buy it and I can feel another crush coming on ...
Anyone else hooked on cartoon guys?
Please stop by again on Sunday to hear from Liz