Wednesday 26 September 2012

Editing Frenzy

Only a short post today, as I am deep in the first round of edits for Out of Sight, Out of Mind - that's the part where your editor points out that your plot has a hole in it on page 200 and weren't his parents living in Spain in Chapter Four?

I do have something special in mind for a future post - I hope next week, which I have been working on for some time. Something to look forward to.

Before I shoot off, there is one thing that I've been meaning to say for a while. Blogger has a device that lets you find out where in the world people who are reading your blog are living. Don't panic - it's only the country, not the address :0)

From that I have discovered that I have regular readers from the UK, US, China, Sweden, Russia, Ukraine, Canada, Singapore, Hungary, Italy, Germany and Malta.  It's nice to meet you, and I am flattered at your interest in what I have to say each week.


Wednesday 19 September 2012

Why do we fall for a hero?

An awful lot of ladies seem to have fallen for Devlin, the hero of Never Coming Home. I've been told, on a number of occasions, that he is 'to die for.' This, I know, would surprise him, as he would never consider himself hero material. And that 'to die for' quote might be a little too close to home for comfort, considering what he's done, and been, in the past. But Devlin is 'hot'.(I'm very glad to know this, as I put a lot of effort into making him that way.)

It's more than good looks and physique, although that helps. I try not to describe my heroes in too much detail, so that readers can fill in the blanks for themselves, but they are usually fairly tall, and I have a personal weakness for a good set of shoulders, which inevitably creeps in somewhere. A man with the physical stature to protect the heroine, even if she doesn't actually feel that she needs protecting. He's experienced, in and out of the bedroom. Quiet competence, wherever it occurs, can be very compelling.

Protection, experience - and trust. Again, readers have identified this one. Do you trust this guy? If you're going to fall for him, then the answer ought to be a resounding yes. But this is a thriller, so the questions get scarier than that. Would he die for you? Even more scary, would he kill for you? For the hero of a thriller, the answer has to be yes, to both. He has to be powerful enough to follow through, and live with - or die by - the consequences. Shiver down the spine territory.

In terms of classic stereotypes, thriller heroes probably belong in the knights in shining armour category, although the armour is usually decidedly battered and rusty in places. These men have flaws, which is what makes them interesting and, in certain situations, vulnerable. The bad boy, the damaged warrior, the hunted, the driven, the outsider - who nevertheless lives by some personal code that stops him from tipping over into being a villain. A fine and dangerous line.

An irresistible line?

Wednesday 12 September 2012

Visiting Strawberry Hill. Research, or just having fun?

I've got a taste for Gothic revival architecture. I've also got the glimmerings of a plot  for a book that will allow me to indulge my interest. So my most recent trip to London included a long awaited pilgrimage to Strawberry Hill, the grand-daddy of Gothic flights of fancy, created by Horace Walpole, who is also credited as the creator of the Gothic novel tradition.

I think there may be a pattern emerging here.  Books, and over-the-top architecture?

Walpole's house has recently been restored - it's mostly empty, but the rooms are magnificent, if you like that sort of thing, and I do. It's also not what you anticipate from a Gothic mansion. Gothic these days conjures up unrelieved black, skulls, bats, spider webs - very Halloween.

Strawberry Hill is not like that. It isn't like anything that you might expect. It's not on a hill, for a start. A large part of the exterior of the building is gleaming white and  although it has its share of what Walpole christened "gloomth" it is definitely not dank and dark. The gallery, in particular, is a light-filled space of red walls, mirrors and extravagant gold leaf. Walpole's idea was to create a progress though the house that involved a journey from dark to light and back again. There are cubby-hole rooms, where treasures were stored, painted windows, fireplaces based on some of the famous tombs to be found in various English cathedrals, fake cloisters and an impressive library, minus books (They are looking to fill it, should you have any antique tomes you want to dispose of.) There is/are also a very nice cafe, gift shop and knowledgeable volunteer guides stationed in every room.

The staircase where Walpole saw the vision of a mailed fist that inspired his book, The Castle of Otranto, no longer has a full set of armour on the landing, and I found the model animals holding shields on the balustrades cute rather than threatening, but it is certainly distinctive. Walpole was a magpie collector and in his time the rooms were stuffed with art and oddities, like the mirror belonging to Dr Dee, astrologer to Queen Elizabeth I. You have to imagine everything lit by candles, and the impact of a progress thorough the house, as made by Walpole's many visitors, to the sound of a hidden orchestra.

Walpole, it seems to me, was a showman, with a strong sense of theatre. Almost everything you see is created from wood and papier-mache, not stone or marble - the tricks of the theatre. Artifice, as high art. That ambiguity, of things not being as they seem, speaks to the thriller writer in me. I hope eventually that there will be a book in it, although probably not my version of Otranto!

It's in there. One day it will find its way out.

Wednesday 5 September 2012

Things to do in London

I'm just back from a research trip to London - at least, that's my story, and I am sticking to it! No question about enjoying myself, or going to theatres, or anything like that. The research is supposed, one day, to become a book. And a thesis. In the meantime I thought I'd share a few odds and ends about being in London. Some are odder than others. A kind of unofficial guide book.

  • Trail following. These trails pop up from time to time - decorated objects on display around the city. At Easter it was Faberge type eggs, at the moment it is Wenlocks and Mandevilles, for the Games. Apparently there are 82 of them. I came across 6. My friend in the picture is the Novel Wenlock (I'd have said Oscar Wilde was drama, but as you know, I have theatrical leanings.) He's just off the Strand, behind St Martin's church, alongside the Wilde statue.  

  • Plaque spotting. Blue plaques, recording the former homes of famous people. I find who lived where fascinating. 
  • Looking up. This actually applies in any city - all sorts of things are visible on the tops of buildings - my favourites in London are the occasional weird glimpses of trees that indicate a (probably very posh) roof garden. 
  • Window boxes. London is full of them. Usually they have predictable stuff - bizzie lizzies, geraniums, begonias. I spotted one, outside an up market restaurant, that looked like a small wild flower meadow. I might have thought they'd forgotten to weed it, but there were contract gardeners carefully renewing the planting at the time.  
  • Scooters. If you see someone on a scooter with a map propped up in front of them it may be a would-be cabbie, doing The Knowledge. Black cab drivers have to have an exhaustive knowledge of the city and are tested on it, hence the riding around the back streets. Someone I once worked with was studying to apply for his licence. Lunch times were spent testing him on fictitious routes. 
  • Buskers. For some reason all the saxophonists in the city seem to emerge in hot weather. 
  • Walking. The centre of London is not as big as you think. On Sunday morning I was on Hungerford Bridge (the pedestrian, Jubilee bit)  looking at the newest landmark on the London skyline, The Shard. Three quarters of an hour later I was standing almost underneath it. It's big - and a very strange shape for an office block. 

So- that's it, my odder guide to London.