Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Into the Dark ...

When you write thrillers your books have to be ...well, thrilling. Which means tapping into the dark side. We're not talking a walk in the park here, at least, not unless it's midnight and there's a serial killer lurking behind that tree.

There, you see what I mean - if you write stuff that is intended to be thrilling then you tend to see the world - well, let's say your perspective is a bit skewed. Nothing is innocent, everything is potentially dangerous. There is usually some form of crime involved and your protagonists should be under some sort of threat.

To write that stuff, you have to go somewhere ...

I don't actually know where that is. I suppose it must somehow feed off  bad experiences that have happened in life, although I'm rarely aware of drawing on anything specific. I like to think I am a reasonably nice person, but give me a pen and paper ...

Conjuring up the scary and the gory isn't easy, but when the thing is working, in a perverse way, it can be a lot of fun. Now call me weird. You won't be the first.

Writing books is an exercise in fantasy, although that term tends to be applied these days only to stories with elves in them. Writers live in two worlds simultaneously. Here - and somewhere else entirely. It's solely inside your head, and that can be dark as well as light. Maybe there is an element of adrenaline junkie too. If you write it, you feel it. And now we're back to the 'fun' again.

I like writing the dark stuff, although I run a mile from it in real life. But, and it's a very significant but, my black stuff has to be tempered by a fully realised romance. Not just an add-on love affair. That's why I write Romantic Suspense. If I'm walking on the scary side I have to have the payoff of a hopeful ending and a new beginning to look forward to.

If I'm going into the dark, I have to know that something good is going to be waiting on the other side.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Where do you get your ideas?

The classic question, asked multiple times of authors during their careers.

Answer - I rarely know - it just happens.

Inspiration is a slippery thing. I find ideas are like buses - nothing for ages, then a whole glut at once. I have four and a bit ideas that I'm working on at the moment. Working  on - as in staring into space, thinking, and going on research trips. No danger of anything being written down yet.

This post is getting a transport theme. Room for one more on top?

Then I went to London for the day, and another idea came rolling round the corner. I've wanted for ages to do something involving the London Tube. I'm not big on tunnels, so I'm not sure where that came from. It was another of those random thoughts, floating around in the ether. Until last week, when an idea suddenly jumped out at me, climbing the steps at Charing Cross. And that has fitted with something  else that's been bobbing about in the soup in my brain. Just like Lego.

Well, it's going to have to take it's place in the queue. I've got far too much sloshing around in there at the moment. There are four and a half older and bigger siblings all clamouring for attention. And that's not to mention the rom/com novella that I am also working on. That one is written down, but I'm doing a major edit on it and it's slow going. This may be explained by the fact that all these other inspirations are dragging me away, trying to impress me. And research them.

Well, for the moment they are going to have to form an orderly line.

But maybe I ought to be penciling in a few trips on the Tube, just to get the atmosphere ...

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Please leave your disbelief at the door ... Or not.

Since the last cinema in town closed I don't get to see many films on the big screen. So on my trip to London a few weeks ago I grabbed my chances. And one of the films I chose was Now You See Me. Robbery with magic - how could I resist? Especially as I'm currently planning my own heist story. No magic in mine, at least not at the moment.  Now You See Me has four magicians carrying out a series of exceptionally high profile robberies, chased by the cops.

I found the film great fun, but even as I was watching I was conscious of holes in the plot and unanswered questions. Thinking about it afterwards, the holes got bigger and the explanations which were offered more flimsy - but none of that interfered with my enjoyment. The story moved fast and the characters were engaging. That was all that mattered. I wanted to know 'What happens next?' I was quite prepared to suspend my disbelief in order to find out.

Books are a bit different from films in the cinema. You can't ask for the film to be wound back for you to check on something - you need to wait for the DVD to do that. During the editing process I get into trouble for avoiding explanations, and have to (reluctantly) fill in the blanks. But I'm still not convinced that we need to know everything. Maybe I'm wrong?

I suppose your willingness to let a few loose ends escape depends how much fun you're having in the process.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Research is Dangerous

To a writer research is like catnip, or crack cocaine - dangerously addictive. Procrastination and having fun, and calling it work? What's not to love? I have several books in the planning stage at the moment, which means I have multiple excuses to go exploring. In the last few weeks I have been to Brecon, to scout locations for some scenes for the heist book I keep talking about - a good place to hide out, in the Brecon Beacons, if the bad guys are after you. Even better if it's winter, and snow bound. Closer to home I've been taking pix of local landmarks that may end up in the trilogy that I also have in the works - that one features three heroines in jeopardy and an island. I'm currently designing the island. Did I mention that writers also have delusions of grandeur?

You'll have to imagine the snow.
Islands have lots of  beaches.

Being an academic/geek/nerd, when I want to know about something I like to go on courses, which is how I came to spend a day at the National Gallery in London, learning about the paintings of Caravaggio. If you're planing to steal something, you might as well go for something painted by someone famous and therefore extremely valuable. That's not me doing the stealing by the way, but my hero. Although I suspect I will be called on to help him plan the thing. And I don't have designs on a real painting. I intend to invent one for the purpose. And if you want to invent something, you need to know a bit about it first. And it won't be from an existing museum or gallery, so I have to invent that too.

Only looking at the pictures - not pinching them.

See what I mean - exhausting stuff, this research. And completely addictive.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Back from the Tenby Arts Festival

I had a good time at the Festival, met some nice people, gave a talk, which I hope the audience enjoyed - the chocolates probably helped - and had a excellent prowl around Tenby, with camera. I browsed in some quaint shops, admired the golden sands and ate fish and chips. And ice-cream. The weather was kind on one day and not on the next, but I now have some raw material for a location tour for Out of Sight Out of Mind, similar to the one I did for Never Coming Home. All I need to do now is find time to put it together.

I promise you'll be the first to know when it's done.

In the meantime, a few samples from the pictures.

The Tudor Merchant's House - it's not mentioned on OSOM,  but worth a visit if you're in Tenby. And the picture gives an idea of the narrow streets and tall buildings. 

A view of the beach in hazy sun.

And of the harbour in wild weather the next day.

It wasn't all hard work :)