Archives for research for writers

How Anne Tyler writes

Anne Tyler: “For 20 years sometimes I’ll pass a card and it does nothing for me. But the 21st year I’ll pick it out of the box and it will feel like something is flowering in my mind.” [talking to ‘The Bookseller’ magazine] Keeping track of ideas is something that every novelist does, in their own way. Pulitzer-winning novelist Anne Tyler [she won in 1989 for Breathing Lessons] uses a box of index cards. She writes one note per card, sometimes a possible character’s name, other cards may be more detailed. After she uses the card, she throws it away. I like this idea. At the moment I store all ideas, fragments, no matter how small. But they are in different places and it can be frustrating tracking them down and matching them together. Keeping them in an index box means they are in one place. Somehow it is more tactile to write it on a card rather than type a note in a Word document: the difference perhaps between free writing in a notebook, and free writing on a keyboard. Read my reviews of A Spool of Blue Thread and Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler.   See how these other
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Categories: On Writing.

Rose: jogger or stalker?

The scene in Ignoring Gravity which sees Rose jogging at midnight along the Thames Riverside path is based on a real place in Battersea, London. Rose has met Nick Maddox a couple of times and is intrigued, pulling on her trainers late one night she drives to Battersea and sets out to ‘jog’. The ‘jogging’ of course is an excuse to check out where he lives. So is she a stalker or a jogger?Maddox is a successful businessman and I decided he would live in an apartment block like Montevetro: stylish, modern, it couldn’t be more different than Rose’s first floor flat in Wimbledon. Rose looked up at the glass-and-steel building looming above her. Nine, no ten storeys high, tall for this part of London excepting Chelsea Harbour opposite. A couple of windows were asleep behind pulled curtains, some were bright and awake and staring at her rudeness, more blinked at her with half-pulled blinds as if saying, ‘Hello there, I am cool aren’t I? Fancy coming up for a cocktail?’ Like Rose, on my research trip I found my way from my parked car, headed for the church and found a cut-through to the Thames. The water was grey,
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Categories: Book Love, Book publicity and My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity'.

The angel statue, again

There’s a scene in Ignoring Gravity where Rose has an important letter to open. Prevaricating, she sits on a bench beside a memorial to contemplating life. The memorial, a statue of an angel, is based on a real statue near Sadler’s Wells opera house in Islington, London [above], in a small garden called Spa Green. Rose sits and watches the pigeons. I revisited Spa Green recently, and it hasn’t changed. The pigeons are still there, the statue, and the primary school next door, children running around the tarmac. The buildings do look rather different, the road is gentrified and the beaten-up shops I remember are now replaced by a trendy wine bar.  To read what book bloggers are saying about Ignoring Gravity, click here and read a sample chapter.   ‘Ignoring Gravity’ by Sandra Danby [UK: Beulah Press] Buy now And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Inspired by real life: the angel statue in IGNORING GRAVITY #writing http://wp.me/p5gEM4-17X via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love, My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity', On Researching and On Writing.

Reading for research: Lucky Kunst

I admit to a wry chuckle as I see the double-takes from my fellow passengers on the Easyjet flight from Malaga to Gatwick. My reading material for the 2 ½ hour flight is Lucky Kunst: The Rise & Fall of Young British Art by Gregor Muir. I’m still researching for my second novel, Connectedness. I’ve come to Malaga to tread in the footsteps of my character, artist Justine Tree, as she treads in the footsteps of Picasso.‘Freeze’, the 1988 art exhibition held by 16 Goldsmiths art students in a London Docklands warehouse and organised by Damien Hirst, first launched the yBa’s into the fusty art world. It wasn’t until 1992 thought that Charles Saatchi introduced the phrase ‘Young British Art’ with his exhibition. From then on, the 1990s were the time of Cool Britannia when artists and pop singers were invited to 10 Downing Street. This is Justine’s time too.I made Justine older than Hirst, Emin, Whiteread, Lucas etc. She graduates from art college in London in 1984 and is noticed by Charles Saatchi in 1993 when he anonymously buys three collages from her collection ‘Blues I, II & III’. In 1997 he exhibits two pieces from Justine’s next collection, ‘The
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Categories: My Novel: 'Connectedness', On Researching and On Writing.

My favourite writing notebooks

I am quite particular about my writing notebooks. I can’t be without a stack of pristine Muji notebooks. There’s something about the uniformity of the covers, the satisfaction of a pile of used notebooks collected together with a rubber band in the cardboard box I keep for all notes pertaining to my current novel. Everything gets tossed into this box, pages torn from newspapers or magazines, scenes with feedback notes from my writing friends, old photographs, photocopies of pages from books, maps, leaflets from places I’ve visited for research. Inside my Muji I guess the contents are like anyone else’s writing notebook – random ideas, character sketches, research notes from books, first drafts and re-drafts of scenes, diagrams for plot development, even poems if the mood strikes me. My friends and family know I love notebooks too, so my cupboard is full of pretty ones received as birthday or Christmas presents. They all know the most important element – no spiral-bindings, they must be saddle-stitched so the notebook can be opened flat and I can write comfortably from the left edge to the right edge of the page. The notebook comes into its own on days when it seems impossible
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Categories: On Researching and On Writing.

My favourite library… The British Library

I only visited the old British Library, when it was at the British Museum in Bloomsbury, once. When the plan to move to a new building St Pancras was mooted in the late 1970s, I was a student at Goldsmiths’ College, University of London. I saw the plans of the architect, Colin St John Wilson, and it was a case of instant dislike: all that red brick. Brutalist architecture, not my favourite. But I have an inbuilt love of all libraries.Now the building has mellowed and so have I. Now that I’ve been there, worked there, spent many days there all day, I have fallen in love with it. The quiet of the reading rooms [my favourite is Humanities One], the excellence of its systems, the large workstations… The British Museum’s Department of Printed Books was founded in 1753. From its inception it had the privilege of legal deposit, giving it the entitlement to a copy of most items printed in the UK: books, periodicals, newspapers, maps and printed music. Space was always a factor, with the storage of newspapers being moved early in the 20th century to the British Library Newspapers at Colindale. The building survived bombs dropped by
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Categories: On Researching and On Writing.

My favourite library… Hunmanby Library

Sadly, my childhood library at Hunmanby, North Yorkshire, closed in 2012. The property was sold in February not, as first feared, to a housing developer, but to a local businessman who plans to move in his existing company. Local councillor Michelle Donohue-Moncrieff was relieved that the property had been bought by someone local who planned to use the existing building, rather than demolishing it to make way for nine new homes. Hunmanby Library was a magical place for me, before its opening I had been used to visits to the village by the library van. Eight local libraries were threatened with closure in 2012 under North Yorkshire County Council’s plan to save £70m. Despite efforts by volunteers in Hunmanby, it was the only library of the eight not to find a workable solution. The village was promised fortnightly visits from the Supermobile library van. This completes the circle for me. I have clear memories as a young child, long before the existing library was built in Stonegate, climbing up the steep steps into the back of the library van to choose a book. But how can a fortnightly visit replace a bricks-and-mortar building? This was the wrong decision. And if
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Categories: Book Love, On Researching and On Writing.

Reading for research… Tracey Emin: My Life in a Column

I bought this book in the gift shop at the Hayward Gallery in London after Emin’s ‘Love is What You Want’ exhibition in 2011. My Life in a Column is a collection of the columns written by artist Tracey Emin for The Independent newspaper over four years. I picked it up because a) I remembered reading some of the original columns and finding them amusing, and b) at that time I was toying with the idea of making a character in my new novel a controversial artist. So who better as a role model then Tracey Emin? The book turned out to be so much more than the controversy linked with Emin by people who don’t know much about her. I found her fascinating, the highs and lows of her creative process were a great inspiration for my character Justine Tree in Connectedness. She writes: “Faced with the daily prospects of failure and self-loathing, a numb chrysalis starts to develop around you, and if you are not careful you wake up one morning to find yourself not awake, but in a semi-comatose state, baked into a hardened shell, breathless and mind-numbing. You have to poke your finger through the hardened
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Categories: On Researching and On Writing.

Reading for research – Forgotten Voices

Coffee at Costa today, not tea. A medium soya wet latte with an extra shot. My regular morning drink which the staff know by heart. Coffee in the morning, tea in the afternoon.  I picked up a great book in the British Heart Foundation shop. Forgotten Voices of the Blitz and the Battle of Britain by Joshua Levine, in association with the Imperial War Museum. It is a compilation of oral and written memories and, like the other book I’ve just finished reading Young Voices: British Children Remember the Second World War by Lyn Smith, the voices of real people vividly bring their stories to life. I’m particularly interested in the Auxiliary Units which were set up throughout England in case of invasion. I’d love to visit one of the underground bunkers. It sounds like a Boy’s Own story, a secret hideout hidden in a field, bunks and a stove, going out in the dark to sabotage the Germans. It’s the sort of story I grew up with, raised during the Sixties on a diet of Alistair Maclean books, The Dambusters film and the TV series The World at War.   ‘Forgotten Voices of The Blitz and the Battle for Britain’ by
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Categories: On Researching.