Wednesday, 14 October 2020

The book of the heart


I spent a fabulous and challenging morning yesterday, courtesy of Zoom, at a workshop for the Marcher Chapter of the Romantic Novelists' Association, led by RNA Chairperson and tutor extraordinaire Alison May. Alison was coaxing us all - OK in some cases strenuously coaxing - to find or rediscover our author's voice, by way of a number of interesting questions about us and our work. Nothing about book writing as such - no tools or techniques - it was all about us - as people  and writers. 

I got a lot from the session and I know others did too. When it was my turn under the spotlight the question that I focused on was about the book of my heart. Yes I have one. It's been with me for a long time, and I have probably mentioned it before in blog posts. But I have never come closer to writing it than collecting a few notes and scribbling down a few ideas. Of course Alison called me out on why I wasn't writing it, and what was I going to do about it?

It's a complex answer. It's still romantic suspense, but it's quite different from the style I am writing at the moment. Will readers like it? It's going to be a big book, in all senses of the word, so it is going to take some work and time. Will I be able to do the idea justice? If start it, am I risking disappointment if I don't produce a perfect result? Better to keep the dream? Having just gone through the process of producing an academic thesis, am I ready to embark on another big, weighty project? I think the answer to that one currently is no. Is that cowardice? Maybe. Having been out of the loop while finishing that thesis, I'm having fun writing the escapist stuff, and enjoying the buzz of having a new book out there. You simply can't beat it. At the moment, after the thesis and with the world as it is, having fun with the writing and producing some escapism feels like the right thing. 

At some stage I really will have to step up to the plate. The idea of doing the PhD haunted me for a long time, until I finally gave in. This book looks like it will do the same. 

I'm not ready yet.  But I sense that it's creeping up on me. 


Wednesday, 7 October 2020

Met any good themes lately?

Doing a guest blog post for Books in my Handbag recently, on the subject of themes and tropes, got me thinking on the topic. This was reinforced when I listen to In Our Time on Radio 4 last week, when the topic under debate was the Shakespeare play Macbeth. The discussion was interesting, and took me back to days when I was studying it, or watching in in the theatre. It always strikes me that along with ambition and guilt, the play has an awful lot in it about children.  Macbeth and his wife do not have any, although it seems that they might have at some stage. The chief nobles have families, who Macbeth sets about wiping out. The sons of the former king flee to avoid a similar fate. It makes me wonder if this was a theme that snuck up on the playwright as he was working. If I ever get to be a guest at one of these fantasy dinner parties, where you can chose you favourite six guests, I'll ask him. 

Although using a theme is one of the pieces of advice that is often given to would be writers, I've never been able to do it. I find it too constricting, and to be truthful, it annoys me sometimes too as a reader, if it feels that the author has chosen and applied a theme, just because they feel they should. This is not to say that themes don't sneak up on me. In Never Coming Home it turned out to be lost children, both the ones who were missing and the hero and heroine's dysfunctional childhoods.  A prevailing one, when you write romance, is often that of trust. You can do a lot with that, and it is one of the bedrocks of a romantic relationship, so does not go out of fashion.

I'm more comfortable with the idea of tropes - often found in romance writing -  friends or enemies to  lovers, a marriage of convenience, rags to riches - the Cinderella story. Internet sites often run top ten polls of the most popular, which are fun to read, and possibly argue with. I can understand the attraction, If you are reading romance as escapism, then it is relaxing and maybe reassuring to be able to have an outline of where the story is going. The use of a trope does not mean that the writing is not good, or the telling of the story and the outcome not satisfactory to the reader - after all, we know that it's going to have a happy ending, and it does not spoil the enjoyment. 

I must admit I have a contrary streak though. My runaway bride turned into a runaway groom, and I'm wondering about the possibilities of riches to rags, although I think that might prove to be too contrived. Which is not to say my subconscious will not hit me with something it has cooked up at some time in the future. 

At the moment the WIP does not have visible theme or trope although there is a Beauty and the Beast style overgrown garden. I have come up with a couple of characters I intend to murder, so things are going well in that regard. I'll keep you posted if a theme crops up.