Stuff that holds you up.

Now I’m not doing Nanowrimo – which for those who have never heard of it is a group of people who all try to write a novel in a month.  It leads to massive word counts and finished novels and is probably a thoroughly good thing, but personally, not for me.

I am though, trying to write a novel in a month. Or at least, finish one that I started a while back – I’m motoring through, huge word counts, massive chunks of plot down on virtual paper and the end is in sight.

But then I get stuck.

And its the silliest thing.

Two girls get into a boat and look for some food.

Olivia reached out for Grandpa’s lunch package.  Oh no. Innuendo.

Olivia rummaged around under the seat and found Grandpa’s sandwiches. Now I can’t stop the innuendo.

Chloe handed Olivia Grandpa’s packed lunch.  Even worse.

Reaching into a bag Chloe took out the lunch that Grandpa had given them.  Too  long.

“Time for lunch” said Chloe, digging out Grandpa’s package.  Arghghgh!

At which point, I go and have lunch and spend all afternoon looking for an old photograph.

 

As you were….

Being the lousy horse rider.

pony-club

Murder in Midwinter has more than a passing reference to ponies – Children keep asking me about it, so it’s time to come clean.

There were two things I loved when I was a kid, adventures, and horses.

What I didn’t love, was adventures on horses.

I wasn’t terribly brave, even though the rest of my family seemed to think I was, and although I completely loved riding in a calm controlled environment, and I adored caring for a pony, I was utterly useless at the whole riding out there in the world thing.

On more than one occasion a pony came home without me. Once it left me in a field not far away, the other time a larger, scarier horse ran across the main A33 dual carriageway and I had to walk several miles wondering where it was.

This was all before mobile phones.

There was the time my pony sat on a car.  The people were terribly nice about it.

There was the moment when I was tipped head first over a jump in the middle of some ill advised competition and tore a gash in the seat of my jodhpurs.

There were the anxious nights spent sleeping on the floor of the weighing room at Tweseldown Racecourse before enduring hours of my own incompetence and humiliation at Pony Club Camp.

Just thinking about it makes me blush.

But I kept on, because I thought I loved horses. Incomprehensible really.

I would return, sore and grubby from each episode of horsemanship to my bedroom and sink into a book, curl up in the corner of my bed, as far away from the horse as possible and escape from the awful pony reality.

it was a repeating ritual.  Put myself through some physical or emotional agony, and then retreat into reading in order to forget about it. It took me years to realise that books were kinder than horses.  That, no matter how many times I put myself up there to fail, I was never going to master riding. That really I should give it up.

And more than that – I never told anyone how difficult I found it.  My parents must have despaired, but they were nice enough to say nothing.

And then I sort of grew up.  I realised I didn’t have to do this any more. I could do other things, like go for a walk, stroke a pony over a fence, watch someone else fall off.

You’ll be glad to know I haven’t been on a pony since 22nd November 1990 – and I have no intention of getting back on one.  But I still watch the racehorses gallop up the field opposite every morning, and I still kind of wish, I could ride. I mean, really ride.

Wanting a reaction. Cry, laugh, but don’t ignore me. With apologies to Liz Flanagan.

 

kathleen-turnerThere’s a bit at the beginning of Romancing the Stone when Kathleen Turner is typing out the end of her epic love story and is in pieces over the typewriter. She’s wiping snot off her face and it’s a full on tear moment.   I love that bit – it’s what I always try to achieve when I reach the end of a book.  If I can make me cry I’ve done something I like.

Mad, isn’t it?

Actually WANTING to cry.

Then I saw this on Twitter – a response from Author Liz Flanagan to a reader who had just finished Eden Summer.

A couple of days before that someone sent me a text about Murder in Midwinter, suggesting that by the end of it they had cried.  I was delighted.

How strange to want to produce tears?  To want to make people cry?

When (in a former life) I used to do window displays, I longed to cause an accident at the traffic lights. Not a big accident, a little tiny bumper scrape accident would have been a major result – or someone just missing the lights, failing to take off when they turned green.

I think I wanted it  because it was a reaction – and essentially, we long for a reaction to our work. Positive or negative.  From when we’re very small, and we experimentally pour sugar into our brother’s fizzy drink on a train and it erupts all over the carriage (this happened by the way) and our  mother leaps up and shouts and everyone runs around – we want a reaction. It’s normal.  When we write a passage that makes people cry, we’ve reached them – our words have actually touched someone, which is a major victory.

it’s possibly kind of why we writers put ourselves out there. All that advice about not reading reviews – well I can’t help doing it. Good or bad. I can’t possibly pretend I write entirely for myself – I write for an audience, and I want that audience to react. Cry, laugh, write me a good review.

Write me a bad review.

But please don’t ignore me.

Wales – but no snow?

murder

Tomorrow, I’m driving to Wales – land of my fathers as it happens – but I won’t be going up the mountains, or riding the ponies or getting stuck in the snow. Instead I’ll be sticking to the M4 and winding up in the seaside town of Mumbles, where I spent my first lot of university years.  I’ll be seeking out a warm spot on Caswell, or Three Cliffs, maybe having an ice cream, almost certainly a cup of tea – but a large part of me will be hankering after the mountains, the slate mines, the Red Kites.

I’ll be thinking about Maya, a softee Londoner stuck in the inhospitable hills. I’ll be looking out for a farm that’s just like the farm I invented for the book.

I’ll be thinking dark thoughts.

About mysteries. And murder.

Like I often do.

Murder in Midwinter is published by Nosy Crow on Thursday 6th October – price 6.99

 

 

Feeling the frost

I’m in Cornwall. Two days ago I swam in the sea, lay on the beach, got a little burned. Then, almost overnight the families in the houses alongside us began to pack up their sandshoes, their wetsuits, their body boards and cram back into the sandy family cars.  The village shop emptied enough to actually get to the till. The cars left, the mist came down, the lighthouse began to boom across the bay.

I noticed that the blackberries on the walls were ripe, the grass yellow, the air was damp, smelling of autumn.

My own daughter packed up her stuff, donned her school shoes and went home to do all the work she was supposed to have done all summer.

Autumn is here, I thought.

Winter is nearly with us.

And Nosy Crow posted this – perfect timing….

Murder In Midwinter-72656-3-360x555

 

 

 

Thinking about Agatha…

Today I took my mum and her best friend, Vicky to to visit Agatha Christie’s holiday home, Greenway, on the banks of the river Dart.

It was overly hot and overly full and Mum struggled with the stairs, but it was stuffed with stuff, much of it collected by Agatha and her children, some by her various husbands.  It was all fascinating and little fragments of Poirot or Miss Marple sprang to mind as we wandered around the various rooms gazing at objects that showed insight into Agatha Christie’s thinking- kind of like an author’s slideshow, but in 3d.

In one room, they had this:

Agatha Christie

I stared from the window, recognising exactly what she meant, and applying it to my own writing – just downstairs I had seen a typewriter and written it into a plot – I know it wasn’t Agatha Christie’s, but it might have been.  The house was beautiful, the trees falling away to the river breathtaking, the distant glimmer of water stunning.

All of it was marvellous, inspirational,

She wrote so much,

So many stories, so many hours bent over that typewriter.

I really needed to be more disciplined, use every scrap of the day.

Then it occurred to me, she never had to do the washing up.

 

 

 

 

Writing from the heart…

busstopsignJust about a year ago, when the world seemed a more innocent place than it does now, I had a conversation with my editor at Piccadilly Press, Tilda Johnson.  It wasn’t the first conversation we’d had.  In fact it was probably the last in six months of conversations by phone and email that had been circling around what kind of book I would write next.

Before Tilda, I’d been having that conversation with Sara O’Connor, about the same book.

It had been going on for the best part of a year and it felt like the third wish. The last book in a contract, what was is going to be? It needed to be good, heartfelt, emotionally true, compelling, funny in parts, sad in parts.  I needed to believe in it, Tilda needed to believe in it.

The date was 16th July, and I started, once again to put down an idea on paper. But this idea was different, it came from somewhere else, definitely not my head. It came too fast to ram into a synopsis, it was running out of me like sand and I felt the need to tell Tilda really quickly before it disappeared.

I spewed out Amy’s story, Zelda’s story, the book’s story – and Tilda listened.  At the end there was a silence and she said: “I sense that you really want to write this?”

I realised that I was going to write it anyway, whether or not she liked it.

“Yes,” I said. “I really do.”

It had to go to various channels, editorial meetings, sales chats in which an incomplete synopsis and a hasty first chapter stood their ground. It was called Phone Box Baby.

By 29th July it had a new title. Bus Stop Baby.

I promised it would be written by the end of September – ” Hurrah!” replied Tilda, “I knew this was special as soon as you started pitching it on the phone – it feels very real already somehow.”

I began writing on 3rd of August and by the 19th August, there was a first draft.

Even for me that’s fast.

It wasn’t the end of drafting – that went on for months, and backwards and forwards it went, some parts getting bigger, others smaller, but a remarkable amount of it went through just as it was written – straight from the heart.

Bus Stop Baby is published today.  £5.99 Piccadilly Press.