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Sunday, 19 March 2017

Yorkshire, Source of inspiration since...I first thought of it.

I live in a lovely part of the world.  Well, I suppose that is relative, if you like lots of shopping opportunities and have a fixation on Harrods, you'd hate it here.  Also if you have a particularly intricate hairstyle this is not the best part of the world to be in, on account of the wind.  And also sometimes the rain..anyway, suffice it to say that North Yorkshire is a generally lovely place if you don't give a tuppeny stuff what you look like and also have a lot of laundry to dry.

Most of the books I write are based here.  Well, not here, because my sofa isn't that interesting and I'd be hard pressed to get more than a paragraph out of my living room, but here as in ...(I'm waving my arm to take in the general scenery here, but you can't see me doing it so I don't know why).  Location adds more to a book than just a place for it to happen in.  Think of Daphne du Maurier's books, 'Jamaica Inn' and 'Frenchman's Creek' - they are so steeped in Cornwall that you can practically smell the cream teas when you open them. 
Oddly enough, a lot of it was filmed in Yorkshire...
And then you've got all those Shetlandic detective thingies that are all rocks and isolation and fish and simply wouldn't work if you tried to transpose the action to Birmingham, not least because there just isn't that much herring in Solihull.

So books are coloured by their backgrounds, and, if you're writing a novel then it's very useful to have the sort of background that can also reflect the action in the book.  York, for example, has a lot of windey (also windy, see above) streets, and wandering through narrow, cobbled streets where the shops all lean against one another is a time-honoured way of having a character reflect on their circumstances, and if they can do this whilst buying a loaf of bread and a cabbage, then so much the better.  Wide open spaces give characters lots of 'walking about' time, and my characters go in for a lot of musing, so it's useful to have them doing it where they won't walk into other people or fall off the edge of the pavement.

Seasons and weather are also bigger in the countryside. In cities rain is just wet, out here it can be horizontal and blinding and hail can knock all your fingers off. All good stuff when you need a 'big moment' in a book...
My locality (not actual size)

Sunday, 26 February 2017

'How long does it take to write a book?' A lifetime and counting...

Everyone (and this is quite literally, everyone, from people who meet me at book signings, to the elusive milkman, who only speaks to me from the other side of the road, while running away) wants to know how long it takes to write a book.   Usually because someone suggested that they take up a hobby, and crochet or macrame seemed to involve too much committment, so they thought writing a book might be a nice way to pass a couple of afternoons when the weather was too wet to go out.
Does anyone else think this just looks like a really inefficient way of catching cod?

So. How long does it take to write a book?  That's a question that's a bit like 'how long is a piece of string?'  I wrote one of my books in six weeks.  Others take around six to nine months. One took over a year.  But that's just the physical writing, you see, the bum-on-chair, fingers-to-keyboard, biscuit-to-mouth stage. The stage where people can see what you are doing.  There is a whole stage previous to that one, which is a stage I call 'cooking the book' (which is not at all like 'cooking the books', which is strictly illegal and, since I cannot reliably count my own fingers and get the same number twice, probably not something I shall ever do).  This is the stage where a writer walks around a lot, talking to themselves, sometimes ejaculating such gems as "if it's purple, it could work!" and also sometimes wearing their pants on their heads.

You see, if you aren't a writer, you won't understand this a writer everything is writing. A writer, upon very reasonably being asked what the hell they are doing when they are standing in a field poking a large tree with a stick, can pefectly honestly answer 'I'm writing'. Because, in their head, they might need the information about what happens when you poke a large tree with a stick (no, I've no idea either, but maybe they are writing Swedish Crime Thrillers, where a lot of tree poking goes on. I understand. I don't read them. Because of the tree poking thing).
This was originally called 'The Girl Who Poked the Oak Tree with Really Quite a Long Stick.'
 Plus, of course, all of life informs a writer's writing. I'm told that life imitates art, but when I tried imitating Venus Rising I just got told to put my clothes back on and to get out of the fishmonger's, so I'm not sure how that works, but life certainly informs art.  You can always tell a writer because, when their house burns down, their husband leaves and their children appear on the front page of The Sun, they will say through their tears, 'It will all go in a book, one day'.

And it will. But it might be twenty years down the line when everyone else has forgotten. But writers Never Forget Anything.  Anything plot related, that is. I can't remember where I put the car keys.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

28th of March. Put it in your diary. Go on...'s when my new book comes out.

Unless anything terrible happens between now and then titlewise, it's called The Little Teashop of Horrors, and I hope very soon to have a cover to show you and a blurb and all those conventional things.  Until then you are just going to have to take my word for it.

It is, of course, set in North Yorkshire, in a stately home called Monkpark Hall (loosely based on this house)...
No, it's not my house. My house has more cats than chimneys.  This is Nunnington Hall.

It's about Amy, who lives with the grandmother who brought her up in a cottage on the estate, and Josh, who gives demonstrations of flying with his birds of prey and lives in a caravan.  So it's not about landed gentry in an Upstairs Downstairs way, it's more about what happens if you live in a tied cottage and need to work on the estate to keep your house, when the person taking over the management of the place threatens your job...

One of the stars of the story is a barn owl called Skrillex, who looks a bit like this
..only scruffier.

It also contains many mentions of tea and scones, considerable amounts of baking, a hidden staircase and a large quantityof brussel sprouts.  There's a ghost-that-isn't-a-ghost, a motorcycle and gratuitous mentions of Whitby Abbey too.

Now. You were going to put 28th of March in your diary, weren't you?  Go on, I'll help.  E-book, out on 28th March, called Little Teashop of Horrors.  By Jane Lovering.

And hopefully I'll soon have a cover to tease you with!