01 December, 2016

Draft Two - Check!

I have finally finished the second draft of my novel-in-progress. I'm hoping it will eventually become my second published novel, Novel2 if you will. But that's still a long way off...

It has been three years and three months since I started working on this novel. In the past, a couple of drafts might have taken me six to eight months to crank out. This time however, I was somewhat waylaid by having two children (17 months apart) and being a full-time mum. Having abandoned the first draft before having my eldest son, I started again when he was six months old, then started AGAIN four months later when I realised I was writing my way into a dead end. I just about managed to complete the first draft a week before my second son was born in August last year. After that it got busy!

I started writing this draft in May, hoping - but not really believing - I could do it in eight months before the end of 2016. Well, guess who's feeling smug now? I have finished one month early, despite a slow start and weeks when the ill/stroppy/not-at-all-sleepy boys took up most of my writing time.

I don't know if this is going to be a great - or even publishable - book. It's certainly not polished yet. I might have several more drafts to do before it's even anything close to a satisfying novel. But I'm proud of it. I spent the first six months after Boy2 was born, working on getting him to nap regularly. It meant I never got a break, but it DID mean that eventually I got to the stage where both boys napped at the same time. I was so tempted then to use those precious minutes of silence to relax or at least get a start on housework, but I made myself write. Every afternoon nap pllus two evenings a week I'd sit at my desk and put those words down.

There are tonnes of writers out there who give up an hour of sleep, or their office lunchtimes to write their books. I have a newfound respect for them! To write and write and write, regardless of whether I'd had only four hours sleep the previous night and how late I was going to have to stay up doing housework that night because of it, was tough. I had to learn to write in a way I wasn't used to - picking up Novel2 in an instant, and leaving it again mid-thought when one of the boys woke for the afternoon. And you know what? I enjoyed the challenge. I had a lot of fun writing this, I really did. I feel as my characters and I have come through a battle together!

So what now? I am currently reading Novel2 through and doing a very light edit - continuity stuff and double-checking facts mostly. I expect that to take only a week or two. Then I will send it to my most trusted readers for their verdict and then (gulp) to my agent to see what he thinks. There is of course always a chance that nobody will like it and my agent will think it's terrible. I'm not sure what I'll do then. But unless and until that happens I am going to wallow in the contentment of having completed another novel draft. It won't just be wallowing though. I'm going to write other stuff. Glorious, beautiful other stuff! I've missed writing short fiction so much over the last eight months and I can't wait to stretch my writing legs and give a new mini-project a go!

12 November, 2016

The Best Children's Books of All Time

I recently came across this list of the 15 best children's books of all time, published in the Telegraph. I thought that title was a surprisingly definite one! Who decided these were the best of all time? That aside, the ones in their list are:

  1. Watership Down (Richard Adams)
  2. The Hobbit (JRR Tolkein)
  3. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (CS Lewis)
  4. Charlotte's Webb (EB White)
  5. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
  6. Pippi Longstocking (Astrid Lindgren)
  7. Emil and the Detectives (Erich Kastner)
  8. James and the Giant Peach (Roald Dahl)
  9. Winnie the Pooh (AA Milne)
  10. A Little Princess (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
  11. The Just So Stories (Rudyard Kipling)
  12. Journey to the Centre of the Earth (Jules Verne)
  13. The Wind in the Willows (Kenneth Graham)
  14. The Doll People (Ann M Martin and Laura Godwin)
  15. The Child That Books Built (Francis Spufford)

I have read all of these except Emil and the Detectives, The Doll People and The Child That Books Built ( which apparently isn't actually a children's book but "a guide on how to grow into reading; and it’s a wonderfully eloquent take on how growing up happens unexpectedly"). I also didn't realise Journey to the Centre of the Earth was a children's book when I read it as a teenager, but there you are!

Would you add anything to this list? I was surprised Harry Potter wasn't on there (although it was in their list of contenders at the end of the article). I couldn't pick a favourite from the list (could you?) but all the ones I've read fill me with a sense of nostalgia, that I also get from certain other titles. So if I was to cut out the three I haven't read, plus Jules Verne, I think I would replace them with:

  1. Tom's Midnight Garden (Philippa Pearce)
  2. The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
  3. Anne of Green Gables (LM Montgomery)
  4. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)

What are your top children's books of all time? Are there any children's classics you couldn't get on with?

04 November, 2016

Kindle Daily Deal

Delighted to say that The Art of Letting Go is a Kindle Daily Deal today on Amazon.co.uk. For today only, you can buy my debut novel as an e-book for only 99p. To take advantage of the offer click here, or search on Amazon.

I'd really appreciate you helping me to spread the word as once the clock passes midnight, it's too late! Thank-you.

04 October, 2016

Do You Have to Like the Author?

Is it possible to enjoy the work of an author if you disagree with, or even dislike, them as a person?

With all the celebrations going on for Roald Dahl's centenary last month, I came across this article: "Don't Ignore Anti-Semitism in Centenary." I hadn't realised there was any controversy about Dahl and anit-Semitism before reading this. This made me sad. I DID know that another popular children's author, Enid Blyton, has regularly been criticised for racism and sexism. There are many discussion about whether she was particularly unusual, or merely fitting in with the ideas of her class at her time; either way, racism and sexism are racism or sexism.

A year or two ago, when I first joined Twitter, I followed an author whose most famous book I'd just read. Within a week I'd seen a Tweet they'd written fiercely defending gun ownership and criticising attempts to introduce better gun control in the USA. I don't want to get political on this blog, but lets just say that my views are strongly and passionately different from his! I was disappointed in him. But what do I expect? That books I enjoy must be written by people I would get on with a cocktail party? (This is a hypothetical question - being socially awkward and teetotal, at a cocktail party I would be sipping water and laughing too hard at rubbish jokes or asking inappropriate questions.)

I haven't sought out any more books by that author. It hasn't been deliberate - at least, I don't think so. But every time I think of the thriller I had enjoyed so much, I also think of that Tweet and what it says about the author.

I wonder too, what people would think of me from my tweets. I am concious that it is the public face of me as an author. Not a high profile one, but public nonetheless, and I am careful not to post anything potentially inflammatory. I do however, post links and tweets about things I'm passionate about - such as Amnesty International campaigns. 

What do you think? Does an author's character (which we mostly never know, of course) affect how you think of a book? If you were an author (or already are), do you make the effort to be non-controversial on social media for fear of putting people off?

I stopped following my gun-loving author. In fact, until recently, I didn't follow any other famous authors because of that incident. I might have misread that Tweet, or got the wrong idea, or something. But it made me realise that we can know too much about the mechanism behind the fiction.On the whole, perhaps I'd rather not know the author at all.

25 September, 2016

Happy Birthday To Us!

For my son's first birthday, our friends James and Jo gave us a copy of Five Minutes' Peace by Jill Murphy. It's a book a lot of you will remember from your own childhood - I certainly do - or perhaps read to your own children. Jo told me that it was a special year to give this book as a present as it is 30 years old. James, Jo, my husband and I were all born in 1986, so we too are 30 this year! With my birthday approaching in a couple of weeks' time (I like chocolate and pretty stationery thank you very much) I though it would be fun to look at which other books share a birth year with me.

Here are a few highlights from the Goodreads list of most popular books published in 1986:

  • IT - Stephen King
  • The Light Fantastic - Terry Pratchett
  • Red Storm Rising - Tom Clancy
  • The Blind Watchmaker - Richard Dawkins
  • An Artist of the Floating World - Kazuo Ishiguro
  • The Jolly Postman - Janet Ahlberg
  • Batman: the Dark Knight Returns - Frank Miller
  • The Bourne Supremacy - Robert Ludlum

What surprised me, looking through the list, was how many of the top-rated books from 1986 were part of long-running series (47 of the Top 100). Most of them are series I haven't heard of, but you can find books from the Adam Dalgliesh series, the Riftwar Saga and the Babysitter's Club! There is also an overwhelming bias towards fantasy and science fiction.

What were the most popular books in the year you were born? If you click on the link I gave above, then change the date in the address bar, you can find out! Let me know in the comments!

I also thought I'd check which books were celebrating important anniversaries the year I was born. In 1986 Gone With the Wind, How to Win Friends and Influence People and several Agatha Christie books were 50 years old, and The Secret Garden and The Phantom of the Opera were 75. (There were no results for 1886!)

So now you know. Happy 30th birthday to us!