For a few years during my childhood my mother accidentally went out with a man who thought that sending me to boarding school was a really good idea. From the age of nine to thirteen I spent most of the week wondering who I would be going to spend the weekend with, as the man also thought it was a good idea to live in France leaving me unable to see my mother for weeks at a time. It was down to a handful of relations and school-friend’s families to look after me from Saturday to Sunday during the school term.
My grandparents lived fairly close to the school and occasionally my grandfather would rescue me for the weekend in his little white Mini, but this meant two days of keeping myself entertained as grandmother was riddled with Parkinsons disease and watched soaps like Coronation Street and grandfather spent most of his life in the garden shed with a soldering iron and a collection of ham radios. A weekend with the grandparents was a welcome relief from the monotony of prep-school, but it wasn’t exactly exciting. There was nothing else to do but read.
Behind my grandmother’s large upright chair was a cheap glass fronted bookcase that housed a collection of weathered old paperbacks. Lining the shelves were a pot-pourri of romance novels featuring horses, countesses or heists, the occasional Agatha Christie thrown in for good measure; hardly the tales of adventure suitable for an overactive nine year old. Apart from a few collections of short stories, there was nothing of any interest whatsoever. By short stories I’m talking about The Pan Books Of Horror Stories, selected by Herbert Van Thal. They were interesting.
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Recital. So, I’ve researched. I’ve sketched. I’ve blocked. I know who is who, what is what, and I’ve got a fair understanding of most of the why and I have a spreadsheet the size of Manhattan showing about 80% of the when. Which means, after two false starts and a lot of other stuff in between, finally I feel that I can sit down and write my ‘real’ first draft.
This isn’t how it all started. It started when I sat down to write Recital and got to about ten thousand words before I realised there was no way I had enough structure to keep going. Too many unanswered questions and confusing dead ends, and unlike other ideas I’ve had for books which I could probably rattle off without a scrap of evidence to the contrary, this book just wasn’t feeling like that.
So I started again, and threw down about twenty thousand words before realising that I just didn’t have a firm grasp on the world that my leading lady inhabited. This is some pretty specific stuff I’m writing about and although it’s fine to make up the events surrounding other people’s worlds, you can’t go about re-creating a world that already exists. I needed to research.
Research changed everything. It changed the plot, the direction, even the theme. Research became, as I’m sure many other authors would understand, more akin to archaeology; digging up hidden gems that were there all along, just waiting to be part of a story. Rather than simply fleshing out an existing yarn, each discovery made me re-evaluate what had gone before as I unearthed clues I could easily have missed. It turns out that a simple process of fact-finding can help uncover the true fiction and the most compelling ideas lie beneath the surface where the real and the unreal meet.
I’m done with exploring Recital. Time to dust myself off and show you what I’ve discovered, one word at a time.
One of the nicest things about writing my first novel is that’s it’s centred around music, and sourcing the music for the novel, as well as listening to it while I write, is a great source of musical inspiration and has helped propel the actual writing.
The time period, although not necessarily obvious in the writing, spans the last hundred years or so but some of the music is far earlier than that as the protagonist, initially at least, has rather conservative tastes. I thought I’d share some of it with you.
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I’ve been off Twitter for a while, but since I resumed book writing mode I’ve been back with a vengeance, following and reading about what other authors, fans and reviewers are doing these days and how they use Twitter to interact with each other and the wider world.
It’s not pretty.
Twitter today is borderline unbearable. Every other author appears to think that the rules of engagement were written for everybody else to follow, and are confusing conversation with exclamation. It’s like being at the worst literary dinner party ever, each guest shouting out the title of their book as loudly as possible simultaneously, at set intervals, over an infinite number of courses. Even a spot of one-upmanship would be nice, but everyone is so busy composing their next ear-shattering tweet that there’s little chance of anybody noticing what everyone else is up to.
I thought bands were bad (and I’ve plenty of experience with those), but it turns out that authors are far, far worse. For people whose passion it is to communicate, I find it unfathomable that so many authors seem unable to construct any form of cohesive dialogue on Twitter.
If, as a reader, you were offered a free copy of someone’s new book based solely on a months worth of their tweets, whose book would you choose? The repetitive, automated Twitter exclamations of a writer simply telling you to buy, buy, buy his book, or the tweets of someone letting you into his world, tweeting as he writes, being human and, more importantly, actually being there? Continue reading →
Deciding on the horror genre for my first novel has come as a bit of a surprise to some of my friends; I’m an upbeat kind of guy, I don’t restrict my wardrobe to black and I’ve not had one goth girlfriend. I’ve been known to wear some horrifically loud shirts over the years, but that’s about it; I’m just not that well known for being scary.
The truth is, I’ve been into horror for as long as I can remember. One of my earliest memories of witnessing a horror film was when, aged six, my mother left me alone briefly to go to a party in the flat downstairs, unaware that I’d be sat up, alone, watching ‘Let’s Scare Jessica To Death‘ for the next hour and a half. Instead of sleeping I’d chanced upon the damn thing while clicking through all three TV channels in succession until something interesting showed up. Well, it was interesting. Bloody interesting and completely terrifying, actually.
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I’ve been working on (and off) my novel ‘Recital‘ for a fair while now, and I’ve come to some less than earth shattering realisations that, even though they may not help you finish your own incredible novel may at least help you sleep at night, safe in the knowledge that you’re not as hopeless as me or, at the very least, that we’re both as hopeless as each other and you’re not alone in your hopelessness.
So here, in no particular order, are my five startling realisations:
1. Life gets in the way
Even if you block out an entire three months to sit on your backside and ‘just write’ it’s amazing what can happen. Burglars. The flu. Washing up. Accidental visits from relatives. Sudden lapses in reality. Trees falling down. Lightning. Power cuts. Weeks of accidental drinking. Weeks of recovery featuring self-loathing. Scurvy. Lice. Mumps.
‘Hitting ones stride’ appears to be almost entirely unobtainable, whereas ‘can write at a moments notice’ seems to be a real thing and is the only tactic that has propelled my writing forward in any way whatsoever. Life will never bugger off, and I think I’ve realised that people who finish novels are able to commit pen to paper the moment that there appears to be, at least for a fraction of a second, a lapse in the humdrum distractions of everyday living.
Someone once said ‘Life gets in the way when you’re making plans’ and if your plan is to write a novel then apparently it doesn’t just get in the way; it gets to know you, moves in and has your children, and no amount of pretending you’re not married to it makes it stop.
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If Dracula’s tomb was discovered you’d probably want to open it up and take a look inside. Ok, perhaps not. But some guys in Italy think they’ve stumbled across the grave of Vlad Tepes III, better known as Vlad the Impaler.
I hope they open it in broad daylight.
Draculas Tomb Discovered In Italy