The Sexy Test

‘Do you know what the lady is going to do, Harry?’

‘Yes, mummy. She’s going to do the test to see if I’m sexy.’

‘Almost, sweetie. It’s to see if you are dyslexic.’

True story. Oh how we giggled. But it isn’t a laughing matter for the kids and adults affected.

Even in this world of alternative technologies, the written word is still central to how the world functions (or how the world ends given the current battle of juvenile tweets between power-crazed despots). It has certainly Continue reading “The Sexy Test”

2017: A year of reading and writing

There is no more valuable a gift than a book that makes you laugh, cry or think 

It has been an interesting year of books. For (almost) the first time, I’ve read several novels by people I know. Either in person or virtually (although some of those virtual relationships are as strong as friendships in real life). I find it nerve-racking, those first few moment with the first few pages, sussing out whether it is going to be a book I’ll love or one that will do nothing for me. I feel a responsibility to enjoy the work of the people I like. Which doesn’t always happen. But when it does, it is wonderful.

Like Maria Donovan’s Chicken Soup Murders. Aside from the fabulous title, it was obvious from the opening that it was beautifully written. I read it immediately after Joanna Cannon’s fabulous The Trouble with Goats and Sheep and it compares very well. Or Chris McQueer’s Hings which had me laughing, cringing and spurting my tea out of my nose (often at the same time). Continue reading “2017: A year of reading and writing”

#amwriting? #amthinking

Thinking, scribbling, planning. But is it really writing?

You: When is the book coming out? Are you writing your next one yet? What are you doing for Christmas?

Me: Sometime in 2018; sort of; flip, how can it be the middle of November already?

This is how my conversation rolls at the moment. I’m twitchy to say the least.

Sort of. What kind of answer is that? I’m sort of writing my next novel. You’d have thought it was a binary question. Are you writing your novel or not? It depends, I guess, on Continue reading “#amwriting? #amthinking”

Simone Veil

Squint a little and perhaps you can see a young Simone Jacob there with her fellow students.

Simone Veil, grande dame of French and European politics, Holocaust survivor and champion of women’s rights, died 30 June 2017. At her funeral at Les Invalides on July 5th, President Macron announced she would be interred in the Panthéon, one of only five women thus far to be granted this rare distinction.

Simone Veil, French politician, women's rights activist and Holocaust survivor

Veil was originally from Nice which is not far from where I live. When she died, I realised I knew only the headline facts about her, despite the fact she is probably the most celebrated and revered women from this city. To correct this lack on my part, I read as much as I could find about her. And what I discovered was both inspiring and terrible, and fed several of my obsessions as a writer.  Continue reading “Simone Veil”

Are you a plotter or pantster?

A fascinating insight into other writers’ working practices

Do you plot your novel to the last detail or do you fly by the seat of your pants? Do you know where you are going when you put pen to paper or are you winging it for the entire journey? In other words, are you a plotter or pantster?

Pantster is a great word, isn’t it (even if my spell check objects to it)? But, like all my best ideas, it is stolen. The question was raised by Tabatha Stirling, author of Blood on the Banana Leaf, during a discussion at our recent Unbound event at Golden Hare Books in Edinburgh. I’ve already written a little about the way I planned The Backstreets of Purgatory: a detailed plan for the first draft before the characters took it upon themselves to thwart Continue reading “Are you a plotter or pantster?”

Finding my inner feminist

When my debut novel, The Backstreets of Purgatory, was taken by Unbound I was forced to face a dilemma that had been bothering me for a while. Should I use my own name or should I use a pseudonym? I’ve written a piece about the very subject for the outstanding  The F Word, a webzine of contemporary UK feminism, which has just been published.

It was a great experience working with their fiction editor, Harriet Kilikita. It is the first time I’ve worked like this with an editor (if you don’t take into account my reports on the netball league for the local newspaper in Oxford; my masterpieces of sports journalism tended to be slashed to one or two lines—it was crippling). This was an altogether more positive affair.

Thanks to all those involved. It is great (if pretty scary) to get exposure on a site with as many engaged readers as The F Word. Especially when my feminist credentials were in desperate need of a good dusting down.

 

Featured image by Syd Wachs, Unsplash. Reproduced under Creative Commons licence.

Writer’s Block: How to generate your own writing prompts and never be short of ideas again.

I want to share a method that always works for me. It comes with a health warning because it is addictive.

Writers, we all know that awful feeling. The blank page or screen waiting expectantly for our brilliant words to fill it. And us, ready, desperate to flex our writing muscle or whatever the current expression is.

And…

nothing.

How can we get past that terrible block and just start writing? The thing is—I don’t know if it is the same for you—but the more I write, the quicker the ideas flow, but it is that getting started part that’s tricky. Of course, you’ll find loads of advice all over the internet on how to get those precious words down on paper. We’re talking free writing, dream diaries, character studies, writing prompts and the like. But honestly, if all that was needed from a writing prompt was any old word, we could—would—simply pick our own at random from the dictionary. True, these are all great ways of practising your technique (and like any craft, writing demands regular practice), but they don’t always give you a real connection to a piece of work. And that is because there is something fundamental missing. Continue reading “Writer’s Block: How to generate your own writing prompts and never be short of ideas again.”