Wednesday 27 November 2019

Visiting London

Regular readers - you know who you are, and thank you - will know that I usually make a trip to London in November, to attend the Romantic Novelists' Winter Party. Actually, I will jump at any reason for a trip to London, but this is an especially good one. I hadn't actually been away anywhere since submitting the PhD, so I had a few extra days, with the party as the high spot at the end.

As I stayed in the Premiere Inn at County Hall, the first night I got myself a ticket for Witness for the Prosecution, which is an Agatha Christie court room drama which is staged in the old Council Chamber for the Former Greater London Council. Not a really a court room, but it was very atmospheric, the acting was good and I enjoyed it. I also had a chance to see the posh end of a building I used to visit many moons ago when working for a London Borough, like any public building, plenty of boring offices behind the facade. I was particularly interested in wall plaques with the names of former leaders, including Herbert Morrison who left in 1940 to become Home Secretary in Churchill's wartime cabinet. He gets a few mentions in the PhD as a result.

Next day I did a very special exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery on the PreRaphaelite Sisters - the women who inspired, modelled for and generally supported the more famous male painting group. The exhibit was the best I have seen for quite a while, staggering in the amount that these talented and dedicated women achieved, largely out of the spotlight, as well as raising a family. I'm sure they will find their way into a book sometime. After that I took myself off to afternoon tea in the National gallery next door and then to see Ian McKellen in his one man show which is touring the country to celebrate his 80th birthday. His Richard II was my first experience of seeing professional Shakespeare in the theatre. I'm not admitting how long ago that was, but it got me hooked and it has
been down hill ever since.

Thursday was the party. I didn't take pictures - camera wouldn't fit in my handbag, just as I didn't fit in the first three outfits I was hoping to wear. PhD spread!! It was a new venue, lots of space and lots of old friends. Plenty of pictures on the RNA website, if you want to have a look.

In between I found lots of locations and ideas for future books, including the Christmas market on the South Bank and a very very grand and expensive apartment blocks where a future heroine is going to live. All in all, it was a very good trip. 

Wednesday 20 November 2019

Ten things I will probably never write about.

With all the stuff about elections flying around, I started to think idly of things I would be unlikely to write about. I say unlikely, because never say never. I wouldn't really have expected to write about Christmas or about snow, but I've done both. I think we are pretty safe on the following though:

Although this was a big part of my working life, since I've turned over to being a writer/academic I've left it behind. I probably wouldn't write about religion either. I'm quite happy to admit that the other famous taboos, money and sex, do find their way into my books.

I might possibly have a hero who played rugby or cricket, off the page, but the heroine - well, probably not. This is the girl who organised dental appointments every Wednesday morning for a month, in order to avoid playing hockey. I was much happier at the dentist!

A heroine who can't cook
Or a hero for that matter. I like to cook, and I have to say I am very snobby about people who can't or don't. I like to eat, and write about meals. One of my quirks.

A heroine who doesn't like shopping
I LOVE retail therapy. Even buying a loaf of bread does it for me. A shop is a shop.

Outdoor pursuits
I have to be a bit careful here as I have a hero in the pipeline - well, let's just say he is a bit of an outdoors type. But you won't get books built around climbing, or marathon running, or camping holidays. Glamping, maybe. I rather fancy a yurt, just for a night or two. 

Locations that require long distance flights.
This is a bit of a regret, but as I like to set books in places I have visited, or hope to visit, and I hate flying, that rules out anything that involves long haul. 

Maybe a bit might occur in a book, if absolutely essential, but  nothing more than a little light dusting. Decorating, yes - I'd rather paint it than clean it, and my tile laying skills are awesome, or they used to be, when I didn't need a crane to get off the floor. 

Wimpy heroines
My heroines have to be able to look after themselves, up to a point. They have to have careers, and be capable of supporting themselves, which is another of my quirks. 

Anything involving survival skills
Heroes have to be able to take care of themselves, so they might have something rufty tufty in their repertoire, but you won't get any heroines lost in the jungle or the mountains after a plane crash. I'm a city girl to the core.  

Sad endings
I get teased about my love of a Happy Ever After, but I don't like downbeat endings to a book, so I wouldn't write one. No problem with plenty of angst on the way there, but it has to be over by the end.

That's it, ten. Looking at them, I can see a theme - a writer has to be committed to what they are writing. If it doesn't interest you, and you have no emotional experience to draw on, then it is probably going to come over in the book, so it's a good idea to write the stories you would enjoy reading. 

In that case,  I can confidently say that no-one will be playing hockey in any of my books. ☺

Wednesday 13 November 2019

How did this happen?

Can someone please explain how I seem to be writing a Christmas novella that is a prequel to a series that I haven't written yet?

Writers are weird.

A. I am not supposed to be writing anything at all. I'm supposed to be doing preparation for my PhD Viva which is approaching far faster than it ought to be.

B. If I was 'writing' I have a completed half edited book and two half written manuscripts that come first in the queue.

C. How can this be a prequel to an unwritten series? I know. I can hear you saying it. If the series isn't written, then why isn't it just the first, not a prequel? I don't KNOW. It just is.

It's driving me nuts, but in a fun way. I told you - weird.

You see I had this idea, and as it wasn't going away, I decided to write a bit until it stopped. So far it hasn't, but I am going to have to pull the plug on it imminently. Hah!

I blame reading too many Christmas books. I ordered a raft of them from the library, ready for festive reading, and they all arrived much earlier than I expected.

A writer's mind is a very strange place.

Wednesday 6 November 2019

Theatrical Inspiration

Having shaken loose, at least temporarily, from my academic bondage - although preperation for the forthcoming viva has to begin this week - I have been indulging myself with a few trips to the theatre. Writers can get inspiration from other writers and I always find it interesting to watch how dramatists have done their thing. So - what have I learned from four productions?

The Mousetrap - vintage, but still going strong, the current tour visited Cardiff and I enjoyed the performance. What did it offer a writer? Suspense, and red herrings, from a mistress of the art. Agatha Christie knew what she was doing. I'm going to see Witness for the Prosecution in a few weeks time - it will be interesting to see how the two compare. Classic detective whodunnit against court room drama.

Midsummer Night's Dream, the current Watermill tour. If it's Shakespeare it has to be the poetry. A play full of words and all about the power and madness of love. What more could a romantic novelist ask?

Frankenstein - now this was an unknown quantity, a new play by Rona Munroe, which I saw on Halloween. It told the story of the book, but included the original author, Mary Shelley, in the production. It was an intriguing concept, and Mary's struggles to get he characters to behave, to make connecting bridges between the scenes she had tumbling through her mind, and frightening herself with what she had imagined and called into being, in the monster, were very familiar.

Cyrano de Bergerac, at Bristol Old Vic. I'd not been to the theatre since it had a major revamp, so it was interesting to see the results and try and fit what was there now with how it used to be. The play - love, poetry, swordplay and swashbuckling, a damaged hero, and a poignantly tragic ending. Not one I would have written as I am firmly wedded to the HEA, and my publisher expects it, but still a masterclass in love and the tension that accompanies it. And I have not given up the idea of finishing that Georgian smuggling story I have lurking in a drawer.   

Four very different plays, but I got something from all of them, which I hope will inspire future writing.