Wednesday 27 November 2013

But is it research?

The weekend before last I spent the whole of Saturday in the theatre - the Ustinov, which is the Studio attached to the Bath Theatre Royal. Three plays from the Spanish Golden Age - morning, afternoon and evening, with meal breaks and time to wander round a rather dank city. I even squeezed in a little Xmas shopping.

I do this sort of thing because I love the theatre, but I also like to think of it as research. Many of the themes were similar to those used by Shakespeare - girls dressed as boys, unsuitable suitors, fortune hunters, tragic lovers. Okay, not the sort of stuff you necessarily get in modern romantic suspense, but the emotions and the tensions are still the same.

The programme notes (Great extravagance - I actually bought a programme!) listed a number of Varieties of Comedia  - categories of play - and one of them particularly appealed to me:

Plays of Intrigue - complicated plots, disguises, and mistaken identities, often cape and sword plays.

Cape and sword plays - I loved that image. My heroes don't wield a sword or possess a cape - although I'm working on that one - but they are that kind of man. And I certainly go for complicated plots. Disguise and mistaken identity? Why not?

See  - it was research after all.

Wednesday 20 November 2013

And the Award goes to ...

Excitement - the moment the envelope is opened. My publishers, Choc-Lit, had one of those moments at the recent Festival of Romance when they were honoured with the Publisher of the Year Award. I wasn't there to share the fun, but I gather a good time was had by all who were.

Go Choc-lit.

My debut novel, Never Coming Home, has won an award or two, and been nominated for a few more -  but I was only able to be there for the opening of one of the envelopes - for the others, a rather large expanse of water separated me from the proceedings.  Which is a pity, as it would have been a wonderful experience. Getting the e-mail to tell you about the win is good, but not as good as the real thing. What does it mean to get an award? Honour, validation, the knowledge that readers have liked your book enough to vote it into first place. It's a fabulous feeling, and a big thank you has to go to all the organisers of all the contests who put so much work into making that happen.

I wasn't able to be there for the presentation ceremonies in the United States, but the arrival of the trophies was a great day. And to celebrate that, the Cardiff mini chapter of the Romantic Novelists' Association - all three of us - had lunch. I wasn't there when the envelope was opened, but the event was still commemorated. And yes, we did drink something sparkly ...

Vanessa, Lorraine and me, a bottle of bubbly and a trophy or two 

Wednesday 13 November 2013

Welcome to my world?

World building. Something I associate mainly with sci-fi or fantasy. Except that at the moment, I'm having a go at it for some new romantic suspense. I'm creating an island off the Welsh coast, where three new books will hopefully be set. On it I'm also creating a house, which was built in 1793, so it's not just the architecture and the furnishings but how the place has evolved since it was first constructed, and the people who have lived in it ...

The house - Ty Newydd* -  began as a setting for an historical series (smugglers, revenge, gorgeous men, wearing lace and velvet - you know the sort of thing) which is currently trapped in the bottom drawer of the filing cabinet, but which I'm sure will escape one day and refuse to go away until I write it/them. When I was thinking of a discreetly out-of the-way site for my new  branch of the security services - more world building - the house popped into my mind. It's been through love, marriages, children, Victorian modernising, two world wars, the hint of a ghost or two - and I get to work all that out. It may not all make it into the final books, but it's enjoyable, if time consuming. And I have to say my ability with drawing plans and maps leaves a bit to be desired, so my attempts at explanatory doodling leave a bit to be desired too. :)

My security service also needs a London HQ. Which is why I was wandering around the side streets near St Paul's on a recent away-day, looking for suitable locations. It was tipping down with rain, so I have no photos and my explorations had to be curtailed as I was in danger of being soaked to the skin, but I now have a sense of the atmosphere of the part of London I want to use. I think I'm going to have to invent the tiny Georgian Square I have in mind, so that's another to add to the list.

At the risk of drowning by torrential rain, I took refuge at the Wallace Collection, one of my favourite London galleries/museums. And one with a large number of exhibits from in and around the time that my Ty Newydd would have been built. I may well be pinching some of their fireplaces, and I'm pretty sure that the original owner of my house is going to have a small collection of paintings by Canaletto, mementos of a youthful Grant Tour ...

World building is complex but so much fun. And all that lovely research - such a wonderful way to procrastinate ...

* New House, in Welsh.

Wednesday 6 November 2013

The Weather in the BooK

You're not supposed to begin a book with a statement about the weather. I don't know where I read that, but it's stuck in my mind. I've not been tempted to do it, which is probably A Good Thing, but the state of the seasons, the weather and the ratio of dark to light in the day has been on my mind lately.

I'm always saying that I prefer to write about beautiful places, bathed in sunshine, which makes it  slightly disturbing to find that I am currently brewing two books that are set around this time of year - Autumn. Halloween, Bonfire night and the cold dark days of November/December. One of them even has snow in it. What happened? I haven't a clue, but that's where my mind is going and as there are complex plots and some rather interesting men involved, I'm going with the flow. 

It does mean that I am watching the weather with an especially keen interest. I'm even clipping weather maps out of the newspaper for my filing system, as well as making a note of what time it gets dark and what time it gets light in the morning. I can still do more or less what I like with the climate - if I decide on sun and mild winds in October, no one can stop me - but I can't ignore sunrise and sunset. The long hours of darkness are one of the things I hate about winter, but it certainly adds to the power of the creepy stuff.

I suppose it comes down to atmosphere - and Autumn fits the mood of these particular stories. Having said that, the one that involves Halloween is the first of my projected trilogy so will be followed by Spring and Summer - something to look forward to - and to keep me watching the state of the sky and the time it gets dark for a while to come.