Monthly Archives: October 2016

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