Wednesday 30 April 2014

Art for Art's Sake?

I've been indulging myself recently with one of my favourite displacement activities. Research. In this case, art. Looking at pictures, learning about the artists, making up stories about them.

Actually the last part is the the author bit creeping in - inventing things to go in books - you know all about that.

A lot of writers seem to be drawn to plots involving famous works of art, usually paintings. How may books and films have you read/seen that involve something priceless in oils? Frequently getting stolen. The allure of a beautiful object that is also of very great monetary value.

And I'm doing it too. First I had an idea for a series of paintings that would be part of a time slip novel. Which is still out there, circling, waiting to get a landing slot, because I also wanted to write a heist book - and what better thing to steal than a work of art? Of course, I had to make it more fun by stealing three things, only one of which is a painting. Then I started to wonder about the history of all my invented works of art. And the stories of how they got into my museum, in order to be stolen, and then the stories behind that, of how they came to be created ...

And before I know it I have about three books and a couple of novellas and maybe the odd short story. And then they got tangled up with the the undercover intelligence service series that has been bubbling along in my brain for a while now.

Why do I have to make life so complicated, as I'm also supposed to be producing a eighty thousand word thesis at the same time?

If anyone knows a good formula for turning twenty four hours a day into forty eight, now would be an excellent time to share.

So - displacement activity. Go and look at paintings. Have fun, listening to experts talk about them. Make up stories.

Research. You really can't beat it.

Wednesday 23 April 2014

Author on a mission?

Am I just waffling about
my favourite things?
Authors get a lot of advice about what to do with social media - all of it avidly read in an effort to crack that elusive something that will make your message stand out from the crowd. I've blogged on a previous occasion about the suggestion that all an author's posts, tweets and comments should conform with their brand - and the problems that causes me as a writer of romantic suspense who doesn't spend all of her time thinking about how to kill people. And wanting to talk to the world about it. It's only part of the time and it's not always killing. I get to make people fall in love too, you know. My appearances on  Facebook and Twitter can be a bit erratic, depending on what happens to be going on in the real world at the time. I try, but sometimes something has to give.

Like ice-cream.
I did promise myself when I started this blog that I would put up a post every Wednesday, if only a brief one. So far I've managed it, with a couple of extra ones thrown in, when there is something particularly exciting to say. There seem to be mixed opinions amongst the pundits on the usefulness of blogs - a lot of authors suggest that it's an optional extra, if you enjoy doing it. I do enjoy it, so here we are.

The latest piece of good advice I've read is that a blog should have a mission statement. All posts and messages should be part of it and should carry the mission forward. I can see the value in the audience knowing what to expect, but putting it into practice? I've been giving it some thought, and I haven't been able to come up with anything yet.

And walks on the beach?
When I started EvonneonWednesday my idea was that it would be a way of adding a bit extra to the books and talking about things that interested me and might interest other people. So maybe that's my mission statement? Maybe my message is 'Expect the unexpected?' Actually that sounds rather good, but I suspect that it's been used before. Perhaps the mission statement is 'This is a rag-bag of work in progress, or not in progress, art, history, places I've visited,or would like to visit, or have entirely made up, walking on the beach, gardens, parties, the weather, Christmas shopping ...'

And the occasional glimpse of mayhem and murder?

It would be nice to have a mission statement. Good advice should not be wasted. I'm still thinking about it, and inspiration can sometimes take a while to arrive

When I work it out, I'll be sure to let you know.

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Marking Time?

I've always wanted to write a Christmas book - something that goes out in November, with holly and red ribbons on the cover. Unfortunately, when you write thrillers, even those heavy on romance, the traditional Chrismassy stuff doesn't quite work. That red on the cover is more likely to be blood than ribbons. Doesn't stop the hankering though. I've toyed with the idea of something based on a ghost story, as they also seem to be traditional around Christmas, but nothing has presented itself. So - I'll just keep hankering.

I have to admit that some of the more obscure time markers and celebrations are a particular fascination of mine. Solstices and Exquinoxes, festivals like Beltane, Lammas and Halloween - although that one is not so obscure in the UK these days. A book that incorporates Halloween and Guy Fawkes is in the pipeline, so that's one hankering off the list. The slightly spooky aura of ancient festivals is a big attraction when you write the scary stuff - names that come drawing ready made trails of atmosphere behind them. Dangerous times, when change is in the air.

Twelfth Night is another celebration when I'd love to set a book - that one might be a possibility for the Chrismassy one, so who knows? Another date I've picked up and stored away is the Eve of St Agnes - thanks to the poet John Keats. I must confess that it is years since I read the poem, but the idea and images have stayed with me, probably as much for the paintings that the story has inspired  - from Millais, Holman Hunt, Arthur Hughes. Poetic inspiration and the Pre Raphaelites - how can I resist?

Dark and cold.
Do I really want
to write about this?

There is only one problem, as you may have noticed - a lot of these festivals take place when the weather is cold. And I always say I don't do cold when I'm writing - that my books have to be set somewhere warm. Things can be just as creepy when the sun shines and a comfortable author is a happy author. Which may be another reason for that Christmas book still being a pipe dream.

Not sure what I'm going to do about that, if I'm ever going to cross some of those dates off the wish list.

Maybe if I got away somewhere, where the weather is warm, to write them?

Dream on.

Wednesday 9 April 2014

A life of it's own?

The idea that I’m currently working on focuses on an object – what Alfred Hitchcock called a MacGuffin. 
It’s usually something like stolen plans, or a treasure map, and the search for it drives the action, although Hitchcock was apparently of the view that its importance to the plot was not necessarily all that great, once
Don't think any of these are my MacGuffin. 
the story progressed.
My MacGuffin is very important. I’m not going to tell you what it is, but it has been hidden for a long time and now people are looking for it. I’m in the phase of working out plot strands – the planning, pre-writing stage. Rude remarks are made about when I will get to the writing stage, but I am ignoring them in a lofty way. It will get written, because I’m enjoying it, and it will pester me until I co-operate – I just don’t know how long that will take.

Anyway, back to my MacGuffin.  I had a very strong idea of a set piece at the end of the book when the hiding place would be discovered, but having started to take that image apart I gradually realised that the setting I’d envisaged simply wasn’t going to work. See – that’s the benefit of this pre-planning stuff. I would have painted myself into a corner and had a problem getting out of it, right at the end of the book.

As a result of this, apart from having to re-think the end, I’ve reached the conclusion that my MacGuffin has its own story arc and that I may need to give it the same kind of attention that I would a character. Which is interesting, as I’ve never done that with an inanimate object before. Actually, it could be quite refreshing, as it can’t answer back, which live characters have a nasty habit of doing, even when they are only figments of my imagination, written on a page. Yes, I know that is wierd. I'm a writer - we learn to live with it. 

So – the latest thinking is that the MacGuffin gets its own time line and a life of its own. It could be challenging, because the thing is operating on a time scale that is way outside and much longer than the time frame of the book. We shall see.

And the so-called end of the book? It will still be there, but modified. And it won’t be the end of the book – which gives me that chance of yet more layers and twists of plot.

It’s fun, this writing lark. 

Wednesday 2 April 2014

Not lost in Translation

The first translation of one of my books into a language other than English has recently gone live. Never Coming Home has been published in Italian. It's now called Scomparsa, which apparently translates as 'Disappearence', and it has a brand new cover.

It's a strange feeling, knowing your book has taken on a life that you know nothing about.

So - this week I'm celebrating becoming just that little bit Italian. If you'd like to take a closer look, here's the link.

Amazon in Italy