Saturday, 12 May 2018

Wow. What a month.

OK. Deep breath. It's been a busy few weeks. I finished the Noah book that I started in January. A Baby's Bones came out on May 1st. Older relatives came to the end of their independent lives and had to move into a care home. It was horribly stressful, especially for them, they were devastated at the initial idea and fought against it for a long time. Then they had to accept it. It made me think, how do I envisage old age? How long do I really have, how long do any of us have? It's been painful.

Honestly, the book;s been well reviewed and is on its way in the world. I'm doing various book events including CrimeFest next week. I'm organised, I'm ready. But I'm sad, we're grieving for the past family life that we had when the kids were younger, when we would all meet up for days or meals or to play cricket or badminton in their garden. To help them settle in, I made a photo album of happier days for her, because her Alzheimer's gets in the way of her remembering good days. It was a sad process, and I find myself pushing my husband to be more involved, help him adjust, while trying to remember these are his parents, this is agony for him. So sad. 

So, yes, the book came out and I'm happy and I'm pleased about it. But it will keep travelling and family will not be the same. Today, two of the boys come home for their birthdays and we'll celebrate, and they will visit their grandparents, but it won't be the same without them. 

Sorry about the sad post. Writing is great but this is real life, you can't just change the ending.



Thursday, 29 March 2018

A Baby's Bones, out May 1 2018

There is this magical moment when the last rumbling of rounds of editing die down and you wait. And then the email comes in. 'We've put your copies of the books in the post...' along with some very kind words of congratulation. And two days later, these babies arrive!

A Baby's Bones, out May 1

The thing is, for me this book has been around for years. I wrote it before The Secrets of Life and Death even came out. I could even say, the book kind of wrote itself, I was filled with nervous energy and waiting to sell the Secrets books and tapped away to keep busy. the Del Rey bought the books and they wanted A Baby's Bones... But after I wrote The Secrets of Blood and Bone, I realised that ABB was very different in tone and we amicably swapped it out for The Secrets of Time and Fate, allowing me to finish the series, for which I am very grateful. So, A Baby's Bones just sort of sat there, waiting for a home, and I got on with writing other books. When we came back to it a couple of years ago, my then agent suggested it might translate into a crime novel, and there we were. I read crime so it wasn't a huge leap, but editing meant I had to rewrite almost every line. It's been a lot easier writing the sequel, crime from scratch. 

There's a lesson there for prospective writers, though. Listen to feedback. If you're in love with your sci-fi/romance/spy thriller (and who wouldn't be) that's fine. But if an agent or editor or your readers suggest you need to take it down a notch and focus on just one audience, then I would listen. Your own perfect version will always be on your hard drive (my fantasy version of A Baby's Bones sits there) but I know this new version will reach a wider audience.

Incidentally, Titan Books (Miranda Jewess, Jo Harcourt et al.) have done a lovely job in little time to smooth the edges and tidy the story up. It looks lovely. I almost want to read it myself, but the ending won't come as much of a surprise.  

So if you like archaeological mysteries in the present day and to see what really went on in 1580, this might be for you.  

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Fiction and faction

I'm busy writing while watching the snow fall thickly outside. I don't fancy skating down the path so I'm happy indoors while my husband builds new (and necessary) bookcases for the front room. I have a lot of hardbacks that need a proper home as well as a lot of research books. Having three books on the go is space consuming. I have written 80k words in two months which is astonishing for me and honestly, is because I'm so enjoying the characters and story. It feels so self-indulgent to be back writing fantasy for joy. 

The thing is, as I make stuff up I'm colliding with actual facts. I invented a drug that was rejected because it gave people serious (even life threatening) nightmares and guess what? An anti psychotic was withdrawn late in testing for that reason. I found studies that showed that extreme physiological stress could kill people who were suspected of having the worst nightmares. I invent a shared dream and it turns out there's quite a lot of empirical evidence for people connecting in dreams. New research leads me down some very funky paths, and that leads to new ideas in the book.

It almost makes me want to write a 'stranger than fiction' chapter at the end of each book. Or maybe a non-fiction book about some of this amazing stuff (well, I find it amazing). I am cursed with frequent and dramatic nightmares so perhaps I have an unusual level of interest.  

In far more important news, my granddaughter (16 months) had her first experience of snow today! The most uncomplicated joy and curiosity that reminds me not to overthink everything. 


Thursday, 15 February 2018

Dreaming of a new book

I'm loving writing the new book. This is the way I like to write, incubate an idea for a year or so, while I'm writing something else, then sit down with a clear direction in mind.  In common with several of my books, the character at the centre of my world is a teenager. The adults rotate around her but she is strongly the heroic figure, sorting out the adult world around her. Her story is pouring onto the page, while her father tries to find her and one of her carers starts to wonder if she's been told everything about this comatose, lost child.  

My focus is on dreaming, which by itself is a fascinating area. I remember my dreams (mostly) and some of them are very odd. It turns out some people have way weirder dream experiences that I do, from waking dreams to lucid dreams (when you know you're dreaming and can 'direct' the dream somewhat. Over Christmas I fell asleep in front of the news (bad idea), the stories fed into my dreams. This idea that your dreams can be changed by what's going on around you is fascinating. It mostly happens in non-REM dreaming (non rapid eye movement), which leaves our muscles working and our senses on alert. the dreams are more snappy and bitty, and less colourful BUT they form particular movements of energy and activation in the brain that is in the area of the brain that produces consciousness. It's possible people in 'comas' (although most have moved into disorders of consciousness if they don't wake up) may experience NREM dreaming before their brain learns new pathways to wake up. Now all I have to do is turn that into 100k words of story and characters to make it interesting. Which will be easier when family life stops getting in the way.


Meanwhile, I'm exchanging books with my fellow panellists at my first CrimeFest - exciting stuff! These are two of my fellow panellists - their books, anyway. Bedtime reading when family stuff calms down again...






Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Where did the time go!

Well, that was a crazy two months! Two bouts of nasty viruses got us, we went down one after the other until by Christmas week catering consisted of offering a selection of a Strepsils and maybe a Lemsip? I couldn't keep anything down except water, for eleven days (great start to the January diet) but it did ferment lots of ideas and sleepless nights were filled with research. I now know so much about disorders of consciousness, sleep and dreaming even if I couldn't sleep or dream. 

Saving Noah (working title) is turning out to be a terrifying roller-coaster about medical research and ethics. It's giving me nightmares which is funny because my character is sort of stuck in one. At least I've gone back to sleeping... 20k words in I've found my main characters and really, like most of my books, it's about a search for a missing child and/or saving a child. Wish fulfilment. But it's also about the lengths people will go to to save someone, how they will fudge the ethical consequences to try anything that might work. I'm not judging, I've been there. But pharmaceutical research is huge, and sometimes desperate people subvert the ethical guidelines. I've seen patients in palliative care offered 'last ditch' treatments which are not intended or expected to save them, the companies just need data about side effects and efficacy.

I've also met completely trustworthy and caring people who have been hoodwinked by someone who wants to make a name out of groundbreaking research. People selling cancer cures (although no-one calls them that) in private practice who are themselves drawn in by the need to help people. There's money, still, in snake oil.

Meanwhile, despite the bugs and coughing and insomnia, I managed to turn around a full edit of A Baby's Bones and now have... (drum roll) an actual, galley copy of the book!



It looks good, I love that the cover is about an aspect and character who isn't a principal but one of the victims. It is planned for 1 May 2018 so 89 days, two hours and thirty-six minutes (but who's counting). I'm very excited but as always, the current book is taking up all my time. A Baby's Bones will just get a final couple of polishes before it actually hits the bookshelves...

   

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Scary amount of work to do

It turns out, changing genre was a lot more work than I anticipated. I'm mostly there, I still have 70 pages (of 500) to sort out, including a whole scene that needs rewriting. Of course, it's just about the busiest time of the year with family... I'm making myself work, and I'm getting there.

It's humbling to have some many edits to do. Editors know about the impact your words will have on a reader, because the writer is always very close to it by the time they hand a much tidied and rewritten draft in. It would be easy to get really defensive about a word change or a question, but if they impact on the editor they will raise questions in the reader. My terrible tendency to repeat words has been thoroughly reviewed. My painstaking research has been challenged - it's no good knowing something is true if I haven't convinced the reader. It doesn't have to be true, it has to feel true, as well. For example, I know women didn't curtsy in the 16th century - they bowed. But would a modern reader know? Would they expect a curtsy? I don't want to be wrong, but it needs to feel correct when you read it. I want to reader to feel they can trust the writer's research, and just enjoy the story without being distracted. So sometimes we have to find a compromise between correct and plausible. 

When I first started writing seriously, accepting being edited was one of the hardest things. It's still difficult sometimes, but mostly I'm hugely grateful for that distant perspective. And happy to keep making the book better (and who knows, more successful).  

I can't wait to get this back and take a bit of a breather. I feel like I've been deep in Sage's world with two books back to back, and it will be a relief to step back for a few weeks over Christmas. 


Wednesday, 22 November 2017

The wonder of ending a draft

I feel like a hundred balloons are pulling me up, I feel relaxed, rested - I've just finished a draft. It's a wonderful feeling BUT just before I could really fall into a celebration with chocolate and a good book in the warmth, I got the line edits back for A baby's Bones. I changed the genre of the book from spooky, paranormal to crime, and it shows. there are thousands of changes. I'm grateful, my editor has done a fabulous job and made the book much, much better. But I can see it's going to be a lot of work. 

To make myself feel slightly better, I accepted all of her changes in one go, just to see what it looks like. Much the same as before, only clearer and better. I've found that being published has taught me more about writing than even the best course. So I will put the edit off until tomorrow and have a deadline of 4th December.  Hopefully it won't take that long, it's beautifully laid out in track changes and hundreds of comments, so all I have to do is fill in the blanks and consider the reader.

Which is such an important part of writing. I've managed to set a book on 'the Island' without mentioning the Isle of Wight until chapter 5 (oops) and not considered the US readers at all. I'm going to have to edit with an eye to explaining and describing for a reader from, maybe, Texas or Vermont. I love the idea that Sage and her book will travel much further afield than I will.  

Meanwhile, November is grey and raining and cold today, and December is just around the corner. I can't wait. We have done something that feels a bit radical - we've decided to stop giving (and receiving) presents this year. I don't need anything, and honestly, it's just a lot of worry and stress about what to buy not to mention the expense. We have a lot of kids, and they have partners, and now they're making babies. The last few years my main feeling has been relief that it's over. I don't want that any more. This year we are welcoming our lovely people, we will feast and play and catch up on all our news. The only presents will be for Lily, our one year old granddaughter. That feels right, and I'm glad we're reducing the stress for all our kids as well.

After the edits are done, I will be able to start a new project - which seems like a complete luxury. I love writing new stuff...