Archives for books

I agree with Lynn Barber…

Lynn Barber “At Vanity Fair I had to ‘pitch ideas’ and then go through layers of editors, all of whom asked what my ‘angle’ was going to be. I have always deeply hated and resented this question. If you have an angle on someone, it means you have already decided what to write before you meet, so you really might as well not bother interviewing them.” [excerpt from ‘An Education’ by Lynn Barber] As a journalist, I hated that question too. And I find the same principle applies to writing fiction. It’s good to have a vague plan at the beginning, but it is good to change that plan as you write as the characters and story develop. Predictable = boring. It’s good when your characters start surprising you. If you agree with Lynn Barber, perhaps you will agree with:- Truman Capote – learn the rules then re-arrange them to suit yourself Roddy Doyle – learn the rules then re-arrange them to suit yourself Sarah Hilary – research can become an obsession – and a distraction   ‘An Education’ by Lynn Barber [UK: Penguin] And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Don’t
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Categories: On Writing.

A book I love… Swallows and Amazons

What a heady mix: adventures on a lake, sailing, camping on your own island, a battle with a pirate. I did so want to be Nancy, though I admired Titty’s night alone on the island. I eventually went to the Lake District on a school trip, and learned to sail in Filey Bay with my brother. I never fought a pirate though. After this book I read all the other adventures of the Swallows and Amazons, and the Big Six. ‘Swallows and Amazons’ by Arthur Ransome [UK: Vintage Children’s Classics] And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: SWALLOWS AND AMAZONS by Arthur Ransome http://wp.me/p5gEM4-dQ #bookreview via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love.

I agree with… Hilary Mantel

Hilary Mantel “I remember the first time I read Jane Eyre: probably every woman writer does, because you recognise, when you have hardly begun it, that you are reading a story about yourself.” [excerpt from Giving up the Ghost by Hilary Mantel] I remember the first time I read Jane Eyre too. I must have been about 12 or 13, and I still retain a clear picture in my mind of Jane and Helen cuddled together in a hard wooden bunk. I’m not sure I thought it was a story about me, though. If you agree with Hilary Mantel, perhaps you will agree with:- Frederick Forsyth – all authors are separate, taking notes, watching Antony Gormley – everybody says what does it mean, but what does life mean? Deborah McKinley – the lean years focussed me on what I really wanted   ‘Giving up the Ghost’ by Hilary Mantel [UK: Fourth Estate] And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Do you remember the 1st time you read JANE EYRE? Hilary Mantel does #writing via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-cQ
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

A book I love… Stig of the Dump

To my sadness, I haven’t got my original copy of this book. I read Stig of the Dump by Clive King it when I was about 9 or 10, I guess, and it opened up a new world of possibilities to me. That you could be free to live your own life, free of adults, free of rules, free to imagine, free to believe.  The writer Clive King grew up in a house near a chalk pit, so I’d like to think he did actually meet Stig. I re-read it recently and the story was just as fresh. It was published 40 years ago but it hasn’t aged at all. ‘Stig of the Dump’ by Clive King [UK: Puffin] And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: STIG OF THE DUMP by Clive King http://wp.me/p5gEM4-7f #bookreview via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love.

Great opening paragraph 5… ‘Moon Tiger’ #amwriting #FirstPara

” ‘I’m writing a history of the world,’ she says. And the hands of the nurse are arrested for a moment; she looks down at this old woman, this old ill woman. ‘Well, my goodness,’ the nurse says. ‘That’s quite a thing to be doing, isn’t it?’ And then she becomes busy again, she heaves and tucks and smooths – ‘Upsy a bit, dear, that’s a good girl – then we’ll get you a cup of tea.’ ” ‘Moon Tiger’ by Penelope Lively  Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘Spies’ by Michael Frayn ‘Room’ by Emma Donoghue ‘After You’d Gone’ by Maggie O’Farrell       Here is my old copy of Moon Tiger, well-read and much-loved. And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: MOON TIGER by Penelope Lively via @SandraDanby #amreading http://wp.me/p5gEM4-7w
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

A book I love… The Language of Flowers

This book was picked up from a supermarket bookshelf in Moab, Utah, during a tour of South-Western USA in 2012. I didn’t realise when I bought it that the story is set in San Francisco and the countryside north of the Golden Gate Bridge, somewhere we would visit later in the same holiday. It’s about a damaged young girl Victoria who leaves the foster-care system with minimal social skills but a deep understanding of flowers and their meanings. Hydrangea, to Victoria, means dispassion. She struggles with intimacy until she meets a man who tells her that Jonquil means desire. Thoughtful, gently-paced but with emotional power. ‘The Language of Flowers’ by Vanessa Diffenbaugh [UK: Pan]       Left, is my American copy. I think I prefer this cover. And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: THE LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS by @VDiffenbaugh http://bit.ly/2bdZACF #bookreview via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love.

Reading for research: Man with a Blue Scarf

I am writing this in Spain where our internet connection has been intermittent for the last few days. We live in such a rural place that our telephone and internet are by satellite not land line and both are unpredictable. So, unable to blog, there should be no feasible distractions from the process of writing. The weather here is foul – cold and wet, yes in Andalucía! – so I hunker down in front of the fire with a book that’s been sitting on my bookshelf here for a while. I’m reading about art and artists, as on-going research for my current novel, Connectedness. Having read last summer The Yellow House by Martin Gayford, the story of Van Gogh’s stay at Arles in the South of France when he painted the Sunflowers series, I would read anything he writes. Man with a Blue Scarf: On Sitting for a Portrait by Lucian Freud is a diary kept by Gayford as he sat for a portrait in Freud’s studio from 2003-2005. The book made headlines when published in 2010 because Freud was initially dissatisfied with the portrait. He couldn’t get the blue of the scarf right. Gayford finally admitted there were two scarves he
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Categories: Book Love, On Researching and On Writing.

If books were real, Elizabeth Bennet…

Elizabeth Bennet would read Grazia, subscribe to Granta and secretly fancy Benedict Cumberbatch.     ‘Pride and Prejudice’ by Jane Austen [UK: Penguin] How would other fictional characters behave, if they were real? Katniss Everdeen in ‘The Hunger Games’ Mattie Ross in ‘True Grit’ Jo March in ‘Little Women’ And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: If #books were real, Elizabeth Bennet would read Grazia magazine: PRIDE AND PREJUDICE by Jane Austen via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-5N
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Categories: Book Love and If books were real....

Great opening paragraph 4… ‘Sophie’s World’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“Sophie Amundsen was on her way home from school. She had walked the first part of the way with Joanna. They had been discussing robots. Joanna thought the human brain was like an advanced computer. Sophie was not certain she agreed. Surely a person was more than a piece of hardware?” ‘Sophie’s World’ by Jostein Gaarder Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘The Heart is a Lonely Hunter’ by Carson McCullers ‘The Sense of an Ending’ by Julian Barnes ‘That They May Face the Rising Sun’ by John McGahern And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: SOPHIE’S WORLD by Jostein Gaarder http://wp.me/p5gEM4-4S via @SandraDanby #amreading
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

I agree with Stephen King…

Stephen King “Let’s get one thing clear right now, shall we? There is no Idea Dump, no Story Central, no Island of the Buried Bestsellers; good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky: two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun. Your job isn’t to find these ideas but to recognise them when they show up.” [excerpt from ‘On Writing’ by Stephen King]  He’s right. Ideas come at me all the time, doing the most prosaic things. Doing the washing-up, queuing to park at the supermarket, wandering around an art gallery, sitting in a traffic jam. The fun starts when I realize two [or three] bits belong together. It doesn’t work if I force things to fit, so I’ve had to learn to be patient and let things be for a while. Some of my ideas have been kept for years until they find the right home. When a character finds a setting, a setting finds a story, a name in the newspaper fits a so far unnamed character, the resulting buzz is incredible.   ‘On Writing’ by Stephen King [UK: Hodder] If you
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Categories: On Writing.

If books were real, Mikael Blomkvist…

Mikael Blomkvist …would have a white Eames chair and stool in his flat, but rarely sit in it.     ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ by Stieg Larsson [UK: MacLehose] How would other fictional characters behave, if they were real? Hercule Poirot in ‘Death on the Nile’ Mr Wickham in ‘Pride and Prejudice’ Torak in ‘Wolf Brother’ And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: If #books were real, Mikael Blomkvist would own an Eames chair: THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TAGOO by Stieg Larsson via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-5u
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Categories: Book Love and If books were real....

Great opening paragraph 3… ‘Herzog’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“If I am out of my mind, it’s all right with me, thought Moses Herzog.” ‘Herzog’ by Saul Bellow Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘Enduring Love’ by Ian McKewan ‘Lord of the Flies’ by William Golding ‘The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry’ by Rachel Joyce And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: HERZOG by Saul Bellow http://wp.me/p5gEM4-4G via @SandraDanby #books
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Book review: The Last Runaway

Tracy Chevalier is so skilled at getting under the skin of the protagonist in a specific period whether it’s a 19th century fossil collector or a 15th century Belgian weaver, you always believe her. Honor Bright is a real person from page 1 of The Last Runaway and you are rooting for her. The book tackles a difficult subject: the rights and wrongs of helping escaping slaves, and the moral issue this poses for Ohio’s Quakers. Honor struggles to understand this sometimes frightening new country with its huge skies and geometrical roads, forthright people and different social rules. Even the air seems strange. “I feel when I am in it as if the air around me has shifted and is not the same air I breathed and moved in back in England, but is some other substance,” she writes to her parents. Chevalier does her research thoroughly, but feels no need to wave the depth of her research in her reader’s face. Instead it informs every simple description. Woven throughout the book is Honor’s sewing of quilts. Even this is different in Ohio where Honor’s calm nature and precise sewing is admired by the local hat-wearing ladies, but her needle
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

If best-selling albums were books instead

This week’s Bookseller magazine has just arrived and there is a gem in Bent’s Notes on the back page. Graphic designer Christophe Gowans has re-made rock and pop albums as if they were classic book jackets. My favourites are:- Patti Smith’s ‘Horses’ as a DK Eyewitness Guide to Horses Level 42’s ‘World Machine’ as Catch-22 Adam and the Ants’ ‘Kings of the Wild Frontier’ as a Wild West book for children ‘What’s the Story Morning Glory’ by Oasis as a religious pamphlet Check out Christophe’s blog. © all photos Christophe Gowans And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Imagine, if best-selling albums were #books instead: by Christophe Gowans http://wp.me/p5gEM4-4Z via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love.

Not all books are good

I can’t remember the specific book which caused the epiphany: not all books are good. I grew up devouring books. All books. Any books. From my father’s James Herriot to my mother’s Mary Stewart [This Rough Magic and The Moon-Spinners being particular favourites] via Agatha Christie loaned from the library, Shakespeare and Kingsley Amis at school, EM Forster and Virginia Woolf at university, I read it all. The epiphany of realizing that not all books were good was disappointing, almost a betrayal. A little like the realization that Mendelssohn was not English and that Fingal’s Cave was not in Scotland. No-one warned me that bad books got published too.   ‘This Rough Magic’ by Mary Stewart [UK: Hodder] And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Not all #books are good: an epiphany as a teenager http://wp.me/p5gEM4-3z via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love.

Great opening paragraph 2… ‘Middlesex’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974. Specialized readers may have come across me in Dr Peter Luce’s study, ‘Gender Identity in 5-Alpha-Reductase Pseudohermaphrodites,’ published in the Journal of Pediatric Endocrinology in 1975. Or maybe you’ve seen my photograph in chapter sixteen of the now sadly outdated ‘Genetics and Heredity.’ That’s me on page 578, standing naked beside a height chart with a black box covering my eyes.” ‘Middlesex’ by Jeffrey Eugenides  Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘American Psycho’ by Brett Easton Ellis ‘Astonishing Splashes of Colour’ by Clare Morrall ‘Queen Camilla’ by Sue Townsend And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: MIDDLESEX by Jeffrey Eugenides http://wp.me/p5gEM4-2q via @SandraDanby #amwriting
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Categories: Book Love.

Great opening paragraph 1… ‘1984’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. Winston Smith, his chin nuzzled into his breast in an effort to escape the vile wind, slipped quickly through the glass doors of Victory Mansions, though not quickly enough to prevent a swirl of gritty dust from entering along with him.” ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ by George Orwell  Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘Catch-22’ by Joseph Heller ‘Room’ by Emma Donoghue ‘Jack Maggs’ by Peter Carey       It is 38 years since I first read this paragraph, here’s my old university copy of 1984.  And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: 1984 by George Orwell via @SandraDanby #amreading http://wp.me/p5gEM4-2d
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.