Wednesday 25 January 2012

Jacobean Inspiration

Blogging about villains on the Choc-Lit site on Friday got me thinking about my own villainous impulses.  American author Karen Rose claims that accidentally reading Edgar Allen Poe at a tender age put her on the path to writing nail-biting thrillers.  With me it was theatre, and specifically the play The White Devil, which I saw in London as a young teen.  I've seen the play a number of times since, notably a performance in Greenwich, with Rupert Everett and Ciaran Hinds amongst the cast, but that early experience is the one that fixed the idea of what made a villain firmly in my head.  I'd gone to see the play with a friend, because a TV actor, on whom we had a severe crush, was starring in it.  Neither of us knew what we were getting into -- I don't know what impression it made on Diane, but I loved it.  Webster is not the sort of play that you would choose for an impressionable adolescent’s first trip to grown-up theatre, - decadence, corruption, excess, evil, dense poetic language -- I didn't understand all the poetry, and still don't, but the sheer fascination of the words and the performances had me hooked.  It simply glittered, and I was entranced.  Just about everyone in the play is a villain of some sort -- Duke, assassin, Cardinal, courtesan. 
Say the word villain now, and it automatically conjures up in my mind sword fights, poisons, women in rich Renaissance costume, eavesdroppers hidden behind tapestries -- the whole works.  And that, I realise, is what is in the back of my mind when writing a thriller -- a Jacobean body count – why have one body when you can have a whole stage full -- and a villain with endless fascination, but no redeeming features at all.  The body count in Never Coming Home is 10 -- and some of them very nasty ends indeed. Where it comes from I don’t know. Perhaps I’m tapping into whatever prompted Webster, with his parade of evil, and Shakespeare, with the last act of Hamlet and a stage littered with corpses.  It's gruesome, scary and a heck of a lot of fun to write -- well not fun, exactly.  At least …

On a much lighter note, today, 25th of January, is Saint Dwynwen’s day.  Not much is known about her, except that she has an affinity to Anglesey, to wells and to the sea and has become the Welsh patron saint of lovers – Wales’s answer to Saint Valentine. 
Happy Saint Dwynwen’s day!

Saturday 21 January 2012

Interview in Writing Magazine

Just a quick reminder that I am talking about being a debut author to Adrian Magson in the February edition of Writing Magazine. The one with Sophie Kinsella on the cover.

Wednesday 18 January 2012

Learning to be Gruesome

Reading the interview on the RNA blog this week from author Natalie-Nicole Bates, who is talking about her collection of vintage post- mortem photographs and a heroine who owns a funeral parlour, inspired me to think about my own excursions into the gruesome.
Being a nerdy academic at heart, when I’m considering a new book, my first thought is -- Is there a course I can do that will help with this?  I like to learn things, and access to an expert over a period of ten weeks, learning about stuff, is my idea of fun. Well, we all have our eccentricities.
When I began to dabble in crime, courses on spying and burglary were a bit thin on the ground, but something that was available from Cardiff University’s Lifelong Learning Department was forensic science.  With some trepidation, I signed on.  I must say that you do have to have a strong stomach and a certain appreciation of black humour, but otherwise the course was great.  We learned a lot about falls, fires, blood splatter and DNA.  The lecturers were excellent – all larger than life figures and particularly enlightening about forensics as depicted on TV. I got the distinct impression that, while excellent entertainment, images of beautiful people in designer ensembles drifting elegantly around crime scenes and solving dastardly crimes in five or ten minutes were not quite how it happened in real life.  Real life was more likely to involve blood, sweat and tears – literally - and to take a lot longer than ten minutes. As a result of their guidance, I do try to get my science right.  Sometimes you might have to bend things just a bit, to fit the story line, but I try hard to get the essentials in place.  And I salute all those experts who do a difficult job with a level of expertise and dedication that has to be seen to be appreciated.
So, that’s me -- I'm a course nerd—most recently I’ve been at the other end of the spectrum, learning about King Arthur for my next work in progress.  But if anyone comes across any good burglary training, do let me know.

Wednesday 11 January 2012

At last - the Book

There's only one post possible today. On Monday my author copies of Never Coming Home arrived. I didn't kiss the nice man from UPS who brought them. He will probably be relieved about that. Then I tore open the box and sat on the stairs and cried, just like the old Rod Stewart song. So there was only one place to photograph the books. The books. Real books. With my name on.

I can't claim credit for the way they look - a big thanks goes to Berni, the designer, Helen for the back cover copy and to author Meg Gardiner for giving me a lovely cover quote.

Yesterday I had coffee with Lorraine and Vanessa, my fellow members of the tiny RNA Cardiff Chapter. And they were the first people, after my mum, to hold the baby and coo over it. They said all the right things, so thanks to them too.

It will be available to the public in March. Although you can pre-order a copy now. :)

PS - Update on the resolutions - I can't speak for Devlin and Kaz, but my resolution about having fun is coming along nicely. Funnily enough, I seem to have had a lot of offers to help with that one!
I'm not doing too badly on the social media front. I'm twittering, a bit erratically - another thanks is due to all the people who have helped and welcomed me there. My Facebook pages are still 'work in progress'. Translation - 'A bit of a mess'. I will get there, honest, and to all the friends requests waiting. Everyone needs friends.

Wednesday 4 January 2012

Resolutions - hers, his, mine.

It's that time of year again - new start, new ideas, fresh beginnings - New Year Resolutions. 

I'm not usually much of a New Year resolver - if it needs fixing I get down to it straight away - at least that's what I tell myself. But then, I'm a novelist - so, as Margaret James always says - I tell lies for a living. 

This year I do have two 'sort of' resolutions:
  1. to make sense of Twitter and Facebook - not got far yet, but it's early days. 
  2. to have as much fun as I can as a published author. You only get to make a debut once - so I really want to enjoy it.
Never Coming Home will be out in March, so I don't have long now to wait. If you'd like a taste of the Prologue and opening chapters, you can find them now on the Choc-Lit site.

I'm not the only one who might be making New Year resolutions. I know what Kaz's would be - to guard her independence and prove to the world, and especially to herself, that she can stand on her own feet, and that she doesn't need a man to take care of her. And what about Devlin? His would probably be to get on with the new life he's made for himself and not look back to a past he wants to forget.

But Kaz needs help, to find out what happened to her daughter ...
And something very nasty indeed is about to come out of Devlin's past ...