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Talking to other writers: Brentwood Writer’s Circle

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Talking to other writers is always disconcerting. They are, by their very nature, a knowledgeable bunch. Especially about the craft of writing. Brentwood Writer’s Circle is some 40 members strong. A wide-ranging bunch: newbies to the craft. oldies (in terms of writing); those with and without a publisher. I was invited by Colin – a fellow SALAD member, who has been very supportive of my work.

I paid them a visit on Saturday 4th February,at their Bardeswell Social Club venue. Very easy to find. Good parking. Lovely sized room. I was nervous. I needn’t have been. They were very welcoming. Asked loads of questions: about Symington Byrd; about Lucy and Mark; about writing history. I did some readings. And they were very gracious. Some going so far as to buy some books.

They asked two very interesting questions. one was how do I plan? I told them I used scapple. I tried to explain that it’s a mind mapping tool. Just on the computer. I’m not sure I explained that for a scattergun mind like mine, Scapple is wonderful. It lets my mind go wandering. It  turns chaos into order; and when I print it out and stick it on my wall for future reference, it makes me look like the most organised person in the world.

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I also told them about Claroread. Brilliant for discovering the basic punctuation errors, and with a range of voices – so you can choose the one perfect for you. Bizarrely American works best for me – which is strange as Symington is so quintessentially English. It’s a bit more expensive than I remember. I thought it was a one off payment. Seems not. But it’s amazing – and for me – worth the cost as I can send something to the editor that doesn’t look like a bag of bones. If you want to see what I mean. Here’s a small extract of the opening of the next book as delivered by Claroread:

 The other question was about costs of self publishing. I didn’t explain too much was that I self edited the first book and was so glad Kenny wafted into my life with an offer I coudn’t refuse.  Because I so need a proper editor. So what I touched on  was the image finding and the basics of DIY. Perhaps I should have said  was that I design my own covers to start with and then the publisher has final say. I do that because I need an image in my head as to what the final product has to look like. Otherwise, it’s a nebulous unreachable goal. I should have said that once I’ve found my images, I use Powerpoint to do this creativity. It’s nice and easy. And I can say that as someone who took to Photoshop like a stone takes to water. Someone who still has to revisit the tutorials to remember something she did last time. Someone who still does the final compiling of the cover in Powerpoint.

OH asked me if it was worth doing a tutorial on how to use powerpoint. I shrugged. No need. Here’s the link to the brilliant tutorial I used by William King.

I’d like to thank Colin for inviting me and the circle for making me so welcome. I’d also like to thank OH for the techie support and Kelli for coming to hear me. I hope you had as good a time as I did.

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5 Questions for Authors: Owen Knight

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Owen Knight is part of the Southend Writers and Artist Network (or SWANS) as we’re more commonly known, and was the first of this illustrious group to take me up on my invite to answer my 5 questions. Like me  Owen dips his toes into the YA market, with his dystopian trilogy of  sci-fi conspiracy mysteries – The Invisible College – which  are on my reading list for 2017, as the premise really intrigues me. As is his ability to turn books round so quickly. All three were published between August 2015 and October 2016. No mean feat!!  I wish I knew his secret.

If you like buying books from the author, Owen will be  speaking at the Essex Local Authors Event  at Chelmsford Library on Saturday 18th March before dashing to  SALAD, @theforum to spend Saturday afternoon and all day  Sunday 19th with us.  (If you’re happy to buy anonymously (so to speak) –  he’s stocked at all the usual online outlets and Waterstones in Chelmsford. If you want to get in touch with him this link takes you to his Facebook page.)

What is your favourite book from childhood?

937428-asterix.jpg I used to love reading to my children when they were young. In addition to the literary classics, their favourite books included the Asterix and Tintin series. Asterix instilled in them a love of wordplay, whereas Tintin reinforced the understanding that the world is larger than the Essex village in which they lived. Both series provided adventure and discovery. The books must have had some effect: last year one of my sons walked the entire 2,650 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail in four and a half months

What is the first book that made you cry?

The book that has had the most emotional effect on me is Le Grand Meaulnes by Alaintumblr_inline_o4y8uaxd4o1s61f2g_250-Fournier. Meaulnes returns after disappearing for several days. He tells of having discovered a hidden chateau, where a dream-like fête is taking place, with everyone dressed in costume, and where he meets a beautiful woman. The story tells of falling instantly in love, the search to find the chateau again, of longing, loving, loss, rediscovery, and ultimately sadness.

I have used the theme of a hidden village in my own trilogy, although the similarities end there.

Have you ever read an author whose books you didn’t like, and how has this impacted on your writing?

I have read a number of books by an award-winning novelist whom I ought to leave unnamed. Several of his novels open with highly original and attention-grabbing first chapters. Unfortunately, the remainder of the book often disappoints, by not living up to the promise.

This has provided me with the discipline to continually ask myself three questions while writing. Is this plausible? Is this interesting to the reader? Is it relevant to the story?

Do you want each book you write to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

My The Invisible College Trilogy (They Do Things Differently Here, Dust and Shadows, A Perilous Journey) was published between August 2015 and October 2016. The trilogy is intended to be read in sequence. Each book is written in a style to reflect the development of the plot.

Book 1 is written with hints of the Gothic, as befits the arrival of the teenage protagonists in a community apparently locked in a 1950s time warp. Book 2 continues in a detailed, analytical manner, as many secrets and references to myths and legends are uncovered. The final volume moves swiftly towards a dramatic conclusion.

I am working on a prequel, which explains the history and rationale for the hidden village.

What did you edit out of this/these book/s?

I was ruthless at removing superfluous dialogue, leaving the reader to fill gaps in the text and to research for themselves many of the references to science, myths and history. An enormous amount of research went into the books; I needed to take care not to burden the reader with too much detail. This demanded further cuts.

I believe that the result is that the trilogy can be read as a simple adventure, taking the text at face value. Alternatively, the curious reader can do their own research of topics of particular interest.

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5 Questions for Authors

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Ever notice when you read an interview from an author, they always ask the same questions: how did you get into writing? What inspires you? What inspired you to write this book? It gets samey after a bit.  So I had a trawl of the internet for different questions and came up with these 5 as my favourites of the moment.

  1. What is your favourite book from childhood?
  2. What is the first book that made you cry?
  3. Have you ever read an author whose books you didn’t like, and how has this impacted on your writing?
  4. Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
  5. What did you edit out of this book?”

Here are my answers:

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My favourite book from childhood was bought for me by my mum and dad. Written by Julie Edwards – or so it said on the front cover – it was the tale of three siblings: Ben, Tom and Melinda Potter, who through their association with Professor Savant travel to meet the last of the Whangdoodles; a mythological creature capable of growing his own slippers. As a kid, I was enchanted. As an adult I need to find it  at my parents and read it again.

The first book that made me cry was Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa  Pearce. It’s towards the end when Hetty gets older, falls in love with Barty and ceases to see Tom.

As for the author whose books I didn’t like – I have a confession to make. It’s Tolkein. It’s probably not his fault. It’s probably the fault of my English teacher in first year senior (year 7) for making us read The Hobbit. Whatever possessed them? It’s a book you should curl up with not be forced to read in school. It scarred me for life. How has impacted on my writing? I get to the action as quickly as possible. Also, I don’t write books worthy of literary study. In my mind, it’s the kiss of death.

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My books do have connections, yes. The historical research binds the three books, obviously, but I have cameos. Melville from book 1 of Aldwych Strand – pops up in Cowardice, as does Mark (in passing) and of course Lucy gives a little girl some words of advice in Whitechapel, which shapes how she deals with the pawnbroker…

As for what did I edit out of Cowardice of Crows? There was a newspaper article about Symington at the Savoy Hotel.  I wanted it to show him as the centre of the media, and provide a link to the previous books. The editor really didn’t like it. She was right. It was awful. It went.

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SALAD March 2017

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The First Review

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I received the first review of A Cowardice of Crows last night. From my 96 year old Great Aunt. She’s a wise old bird, a bluff northerner, who doesn’t pull any punches and tells it like it is. And this is what she said:

“I didn’t read the book as quickly as I thought I would. Got on well and enjoyed the build up and queries about the murder of Millie, had all the names and who they were in my mind, then new characters and names were introduced and my 96 year old brain wasn’t retaining them and had to keep going back to refresh.

However, the story made compulsive reading due to the intensity and colourful characters.

An extremely well written book, how you managed to keep the people where they should be I cannot think, but having done so gave me the enjoyment of reading it.”

 

I think she liked it 🙂

Interview with the publisher

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As part of the promotional week, my publisher sent me some interview questions. I love his questions; beautiful open ended things that allow you to think. I enjoyed answering them, especially as they bridge the gap nicely between the world of Lucy and Mark, and that of Symington, Lord Byrd. 

Click here to read the full interview

Summertime Special

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From 12th – 19th August – Each individual instalment of the Aldwych Strand trilogy can be purchased in ebook format from Amazon for the amazing 99p each (saving £3!) Click the picture below to go to Amazon

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