Archives for writing

How Holly Bourne writes #writerslife #amwriting

Holly Bourne “People think that world-building is something you only need to do in fantasy novels. But [with the character of Tori] I had to think: what’s the name of her book? What’s her brand? How does she write to her readers? How do they respond? I had to work on this imaginary career trajectory that she has.” [in an interview with ‘The Bookseller’ magazine, March 9, 2018]  I reacted to this remark by young adult author Holly Bourne, who is now writing adult novels too, with familiarity and and a degree of puzzlement. Familiarity because I understand what she means, how she places her character into a world and sees what happens, how she makes decisions about the framework of that world in order for the story to progress. Puzzlement about the reference to world-building as being limited to fantasy novels; really? Isn’t that what all novelists do, whatever the genre? Imagine a world, create characters, let the two combine and see what happens. Isn’t that part of writing? Or am I missing something? How Do You Like Me Now? is Bourne’s first adult novel. She is a successful YA writer, her YA novels include It Only Happens in
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Categories: On Writing.

My Porridge & Cream read @JuliaThumWrites #writing #childrensfiction

Today I’m delighted to welcome children’s writer Julia Thum. Her ‘Porridge & Cream’ read is The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge. “The story is about a beautiful valley called Moonacre that is shadowed by the tragic memory of a Moon Princess and a mysterious little white horse. When 13 year old orphan Maria Merryweather is sent to live there she finds herself involved in an ancient feud and is determined to restore peace and happiness to the whole of Moonacre Valley. “I first read this magical story when I was eleven. My father had just died and we were living on a farm in Somerset. I still remember transposing Moonacre’s fantasy world onto my own life and spending many happy hours wandering around the fields pretending to be Maria and looking for the mysterious little white horse. “I read and re-read the story all through my teens and tweens, picking it up whenever I needed a safe space. In adult life, I’ve read The Little White Horse to all my children. Now they’re teenagers, and I’m moving from writing adult to ‘middle grade’ children’s fiction, I’m re-visiting the story, looking at the form, the structure, and trying to ‘bottle’
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Categories: Book Love, On Writing and Porridge & Cream.

#Bookreview ‘The Writing of Fiction’ by Edith Wharton #amwriting

Edith Wharton was the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. She won for The Age of Innocence in 1920; it was her twelfth novel. First published in 1925, her advice is still current today and will interest readers as well as writers of fiction. Part literary analysis, part writing recommendations, this is not an indexed guide on how to write but more Wharton’s thoughts on writing fiction. At the beginning she reviews the development of ‘modern fiction’ that she says began when the action of the novel was ‘transferred from the street to the soul’; moving through the trend for providing a ‘slice of life’ via the French realists to the early twentieth century ‘stream of consciousness’. The early chapter is a little dry but the meat of this book is in three chapters: ‘Telling a Short Story’, ‘Constructing a Novel’, and ‘Character and Situation in the Novel’. Wharton’s main points have lasted the test of time. Dialogue should be used sparingly. Originality is about vision, not about technique. Minor characters should all serve a purpose, or be cut. All novelists will to a degree write the autobiographical, Wharton says, but to be a truly creative novelist one
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Categories: On Writing.

#FlashPIC 42 Ethereal Rubbish #writingprompt #amwriting

A plastic bag is blown along a pavement by the breeze. Use this moody scene as your trigger to start writing today. An inanimate object like this is a useful tool to use in a short story or novel. This is a writing prompt from the Writers’ BLOCKbusters series. This plastic bag can:- Illustrate a particular theme. For example, perhaps your character is a rolling stone, always drifting, never settling in one place. Or your theme could be climate change; Reinforce a character trait. Perhaps you want to hint to the reader that a character is transparent, flimsy, without foundation. Or if your bag is paper, perhaps they are vulnerable, easily damaged and never repaired. You get the idea; Be a linking device to introduce two characters to each other. Imagine watching a film where a lonely man drops a plastic bag which is picked up by the wind. He runs to pick it up and put it in the rubbish bin, and collides with a woman who is part of a charitable litter collection scheme. If it helps, visualise this scene as if you are watching it on television; Demonstrate atmosphere. Perhaps your scene is described in black and white. The
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Categories: On Writing and Writers' BLOCKbusters.

Great Opening Paragraph 120… ‘The Pursuit of Love’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“There is a photograph in existence of Aunt Sadie and her six children sitting round the tea-table at Alconleigh. The table is situated, as it was, is now, and ever shall be, in the hall, in front of a huge open fire of logs. Over the chimney-piece plainly visible in the photograph hangs an entrenching tool, with which, in 1915, Uncle Matthew had whacked to death eight Germans one by one as they crawled out of a dug-out. It is still covered with blood and hairs, an object of fascination to us as children. In the photograph Aunt Sadie’s face, always beautiful, appears strangely round, her hair strangely fluffy, and her clothes strangely dowdy, but it is unmistakably she who sits there with Robin, in oceans of lace, lolling in on knee. She seems uncertain what to do with his head, and the presence of Nanny waiting to take him away is felt though not seen. The other children, between Louisa’s eleven and Matt’s two years, sit around the table in party dresses or frilly bibs, holding cups or mugs according to age, all of them gazing at the camera with large eyes opened wide by the flash, and all
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Categories: Book Love.

#WritersLife Jane Davis @janedavisauthor #writingcompetitions

The last time I saw Jane Davis was at the London Book Fair 2019 at 9am in the morning when she was standing on a stage talking about her eighth novel, a finalist in The Selfies. Later the same day, Smash all the Windows won the inaugural award. The Selfies is unusual in that while only novels by indie authors are eligible, the announcement took places at the UK’s major traditional publishing event. So Jane is a trailblazer. I asked her to share with us her journey with Smash all the Windows and her experience of writing competitions. “London Book Fair 2018 provided an excellent venue for the launch of Smash all the Windows. It was a high-concept (and potentially high-risk) novel, in which I created a fictional disaster to explore my outrage at the reaction of the press to the verdict of the Hillsborough second inquest. “It has taken conviction to right the wrongs. It will take courage to learn how to live again. For the families of the victims of the St Botolph and Old Billingsgate disaster, the undoing of a miscarriage of justice should be a cause for rejoicing. For more than thirteen years, the search for truth has eaten
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

#BookReview ‘My Dear, I Wanted to Tell You’ by Louisa Young @rileypurefoy #WW1

This is a Great War story of love/war, of duty/self-sacrifice, of denial of the truth and fear of change, of physical/mental scars. At the centre of the story is a lie told to protect. In My Dear, I Wanted to Tell You by Louisa Young, Riley Purefoy and Nadine Waveney, children from different classes, meet in a London park. When war is declared, knowing the gulf in their backgrounds prevents them from marrying, Riley volunteers and goes off to war. In the trenches he meets commanding officer, Peter Locke, whose wife Julia and cousin Rose remain at home in Kent throughout the war. This is the story of these five people. The first half of the book is a long set-up for the second half, when the interesting stuff begins. I made myself continue reading through the first half, and raced through the second. We see Riley and Nadine meeting, Riley’s transition from boy to teenager, his introduction to a new world. Nadine’s father is a famous conductor; their friends include musicians, writers and artists. He is taken under the wing of artist Sir Alfred who introduces him to art and music; good-looking Riley becomes a model for Sir Alfred
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Categories: Book Love.

How AJ Pearce writes #writerslife #amwriting

AJ Pearce immersed herself in the music of the 1940s and watched air raids on You Tube “with the volume turned up as loud as possible, trying to get some idea of what on earth it was like.” [in an interview with ‘The Bookseller’ magazine, January 12, 2018]   Any novelist who has set a story in the recent past knows the joys, and pitfalls, of online research. Such is depth of digitised records now that there is almost nothing from the 20th century that is not accessible online. Author AJ Pearce, whose debut novel Dear Mrs Bird, is set in World War Two, turned to contemporary novels and You Tube. In Dear Mrs Bird, Emmy Lake becomes an agony aunt on a magazine, offering advice, or not, to letter writers. Obviously Pearce immersed herself in magazines of the period. But she also read novels of the time, particularly Cheerfulness Breaks In by Angela Thirkell, published in 1940, and Henrietta’s War by Joyce Denys. “It’s funny and light but every now and then there’s a line that takes your breath away because it is so sad,” she explains. In The Bookseller interview, Pearce is asked why she chose the World
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Categories: On Writing.

#FlashPIC 41 Over-Exposed People #writingprompt #amwriting

These over-exposed people are simply a photographic trick but for today’s writing exercise, imagine this is what you see. Everything is blurred, fuzzy, indistinct. Create a character starting from this fact. This is a writing prompt from the Writers’ BLOCKbusters series. First concentrate on the practicalities. Decide what your character can and cannot see. How much definition is visible and how this affects their daily life. What they can and cannot do, what they would push themselves to do in an emergency. Next decide if this condition is new, perhaps temporary. Due to accident or illness? Or perhaps try a sci-fi spin; is this a side effect of a chemical attack? Whatever the reason, you must consider the character’s emotional reaction of reduced vision. Put yourself in their place. Or perhaps your character has only ever known this degree of vision. How has their life unfolded and what would have been different with full vision. Now it is time to put your visually-impaired character into a dramatic situation. Choose one of the following:- An argument with a loved one; A disagreement on public transport with a stranger; A disciplinary meeting with the boss; An emergency where your character must run to the
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Categories: On Writing and Writers' BLOCKbusters.

Famous #writers, writing… @jk_rowling

This is a typical writer’s scene. Laptop. Coffee. Intense concentration. Notebooks. Stack of reference books. JK Rowling appears to be writing in a hotel room [my assessment based on the hotel-style lamp and glossy table top]. Is she writing about wizards, or a private detective? I have a feeling she may be writing about Harry, rather than in her later guise as Robert Galbraith.   ‘The Cuckoo’s Calling’ by Robert Galbraith BUY See these other writers, writing:- Rose Tremain Zadie Smith John Updike And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Famous #writers, writing… is @jk_rowling writing about a wizard or a private detective? #amwriting https://wp.me/p5gEM4-3B1 via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Great Opening Paragraph 119… ‘Peter Pan’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“All children, except one, grow up. They soon know that they will grow up. And the way Wendy knew was this. One day when she was two years old she was playing in a garden, and she plucked another flower and ran with it to her mother. I suppose she must have looked rather delightful, for Mrs Darling put her hand to her heart and cried, ‘Oh, why can’t you remain like this for ever!” This was all that passed between them on the subject, but henceforth Wendy knew that she must grow up. You always know after you are two. Two is the beginning of the end.” ‘Peter Pan’ by JM Barrie Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘A Month in the Country’ by JL Carr  ‘These Foolish Things’ by Deborah Moggach  ‘Far From the Madding Crowd’ by Thomas Hardy  And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: PETER PAN by JM Barrie #books https://wp.me/p5gEM4-3Jw via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘The Long View’ by Elizabeth Jane Howard #literary #marriage

The Long View by Elizabeth Jane Howard is not so much a ‘what happens next’ novel as ‘what has happened in the past to lead to this situation’ story. It is a novel about choices and where they can lead. Howard tells the story, backwards from 1950 to 1926, of the marriage of Antonia and Conrad Fleming. As the story starts, the marriage seems doomed and you cannot help but wonder how these two people ever got married in the first place. In fact, once I finished it I was tempted to read it again from back to front. The first paragraph is a masterful example of scene setting. It opens with a dinner party to celebrate the engagement of Julian Fleming to June, who has secretly spent the afternoon alone at the cinema. As Antonia considers the complicated marital affairs of her son – and her daughter, Deirdre, who is pregnant by a man who does not love her – I wondered how her own marriage must have shaped her children’s handling of relationships and how hers, in turn, was shaped by her parents. I found Conrad an almost totally unsympathetic character, indeed in the first part he is
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Categories: Book Love.

#Bookreview ‘On Writers and Writing’ by @MargaretAtwood #amwriting

At times a glimpse into the writing life of the author of The Handmaid’s Tale and The Blind Assassin, On Writers and Writing by Margaret Atwood is a curious mixture of literary study of what it means to be a writer, and funny personal recollections. If you want a glimpse into how Atwood writes, this is not the book. If you want to understand more about the role of being a writer, the responsibility, the tricks, the two faces, the ego, then read on. This book evolved from a series of six Empson Lectures given at the University of Cambridge in 2000, aimed at scholars, students and the general reading public. That explains, I think, the eclectic subject mix which fluctuates between laugh-out-loud anecdotes and literary analysis. She is good on the state of the writer. “All writers are double, for the simple reason that you can never actually meet the author of the book you have just read. Too much time has elapsed between composition and publication, and the person who wrote the book is now a different person. Or so goes the alibi. On the other hand, this is a convenient way for a writer to wriggle out of responsibility, and
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Categories: On Writing.

#Familyhistory Was your relative a #gardener at a country house?

We are all familiar with the life upstairs downstairs at a great house thanks to Downton Abbey and Gosford Park. What is less familiar is the outside job of gardener to a wealthy family. The life is governed by the seasons and has evolved from a menial task to a highly skilled and qualified position. Gardeners have been employed to grow fruit, vegetables and to manage sometimes huge formal gardens, since Tudor times. And many more intrepid men and women changed gardening into what it is we recognise today. For example, father and son gardeners John and John Tradescant [below] travelled the world collecting plant specimens. John the father sailed to the Arctic Circle and fought Barbary pirates on the coast of Algeria. His son John sailed to America. Father and son were both, in turn, appointed Royal Gardener. So, having a gardener in your family tree could be very interesting! Where to search for your relative Gardeners employed at large houses should be found in the wages books, garden accounts or the  records of estate management. Start first at the National Archives Discovery catalogue. Also try regional trade directories, the autobiographies of landowners and histories of stately homes. Try local newspapers
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Categories: Family history research.

#FlashPIC 40 Rocks, as if Split by an Axe #writingprompt #amwriting

Some huge force is at work here. Imagine the scenario… a huge rockfall in the middle of a city street. Where have the rocks come from? How did they get here? And how were they split? Is this strength mechanical, human or alien? This is a writing prompt from the Writers’ BLOCKbusters series. Try creating a new character for this scene, rather than one of your familiar creations, and write a short story or a flash fiction exercise. Today try writing out of your familiar genre. If you usually write historical, try sci-fi or horror. If you write horror, try comedy or romance. You get the idea. Study the photograph and decide what split the rocks. Place them in a location and add your character, one or two people only. What is the conflict in the scene – perhaps an external threat to their safety, or an unexpected meeting that brings excitement, panic or stress? © ‘Writers’ BLOCKbusters’ by Sandra Danby Want more inspiration? Try these other FlashPICs:- Hotel Corridor The Meaning of Purple Wordstorm Lament What are ‘Writers’ BLOCKbusters’? I want to help you put words on the page. Those words won’t necessarily be the first line of your novel, or indeed
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Categories: On Writing and Writers' BLOCKbusters.

Great Opening Paragraph 118… ‘The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“In the middle of the lonesome town, at the back of John Street, in the third house from the end, there is a little room. For this small bracket in the long paragraph of the street’s history, it belongs to Eneas McNulty. All about him the century has just begun, a century some of which he will endure, but none of which will belong to him. There are all the broken continents of the earth, there is the town park named after Father Moran, with its forlorn roses – all equal to Eneas at five, and nothing his own, but that temporary little room. The dark linoleum curls at the edge where it meets the dark wall. There is a pewter jug on the bedside table that likes to hoard the sun and moon on its curve. There is a tall skinny wardrobe with an ancient hatbox on top, dusty, with or without a hat, he does not know. A room perfectly attuned to him, perfectly tempered, with the long spinning of time perfect and patterned in the bright windowframe, the sleeping of sunlight on the dirty leaves of the maple, the wars of the sparrows and the blue tits
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘The Wonder’ by Emma Donoghue @EDonoghueWriter #Irish #faith

What a compulsive read this is, starting slowly until its questions had me sneaking a few pages when I should have been working. The premise of The Wonder by Emma Donoghue sounds straightforward: a nurse and a nun are employed to observe and accompany an eleven-year old girl in rural Ireland who is surviving on ‘manna from heaven’. Is she a miracle or a fraud? This story is very far from straightforward. The task of Nurse Elizabeth Wright, who trained under Miss Nightingale at Scutari during the Crimean War, is to watch and and ensure no food is secretly passing the child’s lips. Strangely, for a nurse, Lib is not responsible for the health of the girl. A local committee, set-up to establish if Anna O’Donnell is secretly eating or if there is a religious wonder living in their village, pays the wages of two nurses, Lib and Sister Michael, for two weeks. Accepting nothing until she can prove it herself, Lib approaches her task with professional thoroughness, observing, measuring, weighing. Feeling isolated in a cramped home, surrounded by a religion she does not practise or understand, Lib gets little help from local doctor Mr McBrearty or priest Mr Thaddeus.
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Categories: Book Love.

Famous #writers, writing… Zadie Smith

Not your normal shot of a writer, writing. This looks like a stylised photograph of Zadie Smith, beautifully lit and posed, unrealistic. I certainly don’t look like this when I’m writing. I’m sure it’s not a normal part of Zadie’s writing routine to be naked, but it did make me wonder if any other authors write naked? If you’re a writer, have you ever written while unclothed, and what did it feel like?   ‘White Teeth’ by Zadie Smith BUY See these other famous people, reading & writing:- Bella Lugosi Iris Murdoch Madonna And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Famous #writers, writing… Zadie Smith writing, naked? #amwriting https://wp.me/p5gEM4-3AW via @SandraDanby
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Categories: On Writing.

#BookReview ‘On a Night Like This’ by @BarbaraFreethy #family #love

On a Night Like This is the first in The Callaways series by Barbara Freethy about the extended American-Irish Callaway clan in San Francisco. Freethy is a new author for me, a best-selling American author of romantic drama. I would class this as a feel-good holiday romance, so not my usual choice. Freethy is an expert at writing series, which lock the reader into the characters. The basis of the story is the relationship between Aiden Callaway, smokejumper, and Sara Davidson, lawyer, who grew up next to each other in San Francisco. Aiden is an alpha-male, adventurous, a risk-taker, who has never taken a woman with him to his secret camping ground in the wilds north of Napa Valley. Sara is a workaholic New York lawyer who rarely lets anyone get emotionally close. This is a story of opposites attract. At times I found their connection unconvincing, as it seemed to be purely chemical and physical. Sara had a teenage crush on Aiden which re-emerges when she revisits her widowed father in her childhood home next door to the Callaways. When a fire damages the house and her father is in hospital, Sara and Aiden are thrown together. This is
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘The Invitation’ by Lucy Foley @lucyfoleytweets #romance #historical

A romance, almost an anti-romance, The Invitation by Lucy Foley is a poignant novel with two parallel stories of dangerous obsession and fantasy. Hal, who has drifted to Rome after serving in the Royal Navy in World War Two, leads a cheap life, surviving on writing assignments, living in a cheap area, Trastevere. One day he accepts from a friend an invitation to a party, an invitation the friend is unable to use. Arriving in his dusty suit, Hal feels apart from the glamour and wealth on show, the jewels, the gowns, the dinner suits. There he sees an enchanting, puzzling young woman who appears icy, untouchable, out of reach. They meet again when Hal is invited by the hostess of the Rome party, the Contessa, to be attached as journalist to the forthcoming promotional tour for her film, The Sea Captain. They are to sail along the coast to Cannes where the film will be premiered at the film festival. Invitations, accepted and refused, feature frequently throughout the novel, forcing decisions to be made, plans changed, opportunities grasped. The close proximity of the group of disparate passengers begins to unveil secrets, cracks in carefully-controlled behaviour, shameful secrets and lies.
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Categories: Book Love.