Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Life imitating art

I seem to write about my life. Not in a self-conscious 'look at me' way (possibly an unconscious 'look at me' way, though) but it just sneaks in. Life has been very, very busy and I have no energy left at all. Writing is reduced to a hundred words here and there - slow progress really doesn't cover it. In the last two months we have (big breath) emptied two shipping containers into our family car and moved it in (one still to go), painted two large rooms and started on a third, installed half my books and all of Russell's music equipment, reorganised the kitchen by moving units around and putting a washing machine in, reorganised the whole garden, Russell has built me a huge shelf unit in the dining room, he's been to Arvon, I've finished the historical strand of a book and started another and have organised two new chimneys and wood-burners. Phew. All of that has sneaked into the books I'm writing.

My characters are tired out, stressed out and away from the familiarity of home. They are trying to find their way in a  new world, too, and perhaps other people don't understand the difficulties they are having.  I wonder how much of us is woven into each book, how much of our experience and personality is woven so tightly in our words that we can't take it out - or maybe even recognise most of it.

My present book (the dreadfully titled 'B&B' book) has a character who just wants to be left alone by the Aga and never bothered again. Get me an Aga, stat. On the plus side, it's crept up to 16k words in a  few days, so she obviously wants me to tell the story. 

Our anti-depressant kittens are definitely working even though they have both had surgery in the last few weeks (Jasper is sick of having his bottom examined, thank you, let alone stitches, but his castrate went wrong). To our amusement, they have started watching TV, from about three inches away, so we have to find programmes they will like. Autumnwatch, that worked, as did a programme about meerkats, but they also chase the clouds on the weather forecast. This was a cat programme...

Thursday, 9 October 2014

It’s out – The Secrets of Blood and Bone

It’s publication day – on Super Thursday no less. This pretty little thing is out at bookshops and online.

I loved writing this one, it flew off the page and wrote itself. I think it’s hard to write the middle book of a trilogy, I’ve tried before, but I never thought of this as a middle book until the last few chapters when it needed to connect with a future book. I wrote a book, a found a sequel, and late in the process, a third book suggested itself more and more strongly. So don’t blame me for the last few pages, they do (I promise) lead onto book 3, which will come out next year.

Before I got a book deal I imagined publication day was a big thing, but in some ways it’s a quiet celebration, the full stop at the end of a really long sentence, and a bit of a relief. It comes out in paperback next year, I’m looking forward to the cover, always a pleasure to see what they are going to do with it!

Writing here is a bit subdued. We’ve moved house (Yay!!) but now boxes are invading every room, and demand things like new bookcases or plate racks or shelves. I’ve reached a natural break halfway through my new book, and need to stop and catch my breath with that before I move on. I’d like to start a new book completely now, just to be moving over new territory, but as I’m a ‘pantser’ not a plotter, that’s always a bit terrifying. I have a main character, and a location (based at least loosely on my old house) and am just wondering where it will go. It could go anywhere. Really. 

Monday, 6 October 2014

Publication in America!

In a few hours, The Secrets of Life and Death comes out in America. This feels like an astonishing gift, a real surprise. I was so much more connected to the UK release, it seemed there was so much to do, so much to think about. It wasn't that long since I had been making changes, responding to edits, thinking about publicity and marketing, it wasn't that long since I had signed the deal, in fact! But a year later I haven't had to do anything but let the team at Broadway package and look after the book, which they have done beautifully. I have marvelled at the different covers a few times - one of my sons is at university with a number of US students - who universally approved the US cover. The English students preferred the UK cover (I wanted him to canvas the university's student body to see if there was a Finnish student lurking there somewhere). The publishers really do know their business! I hope it sells, as much for Broadway Books as for me, I'm still carrying a copy of the paperback around with me to make it seem real. There's a little article written by me about Elizabeth Bathory ahead of the launch.

Two days later, The Secrets of Blood and Bone comes out here. I felt more confident to take Edward Kelley to Venice, and explore a whole new culture. Writing the past is like writing science fiction in some ways, we can't put ourselves back so far, everything was so different, the smells, the textures of linens and the connection to temperature were so different. There were no waterproof, lightweight fabrics, no softness against your skin, no elastic. Things got damp, clothes were rarely washed and so you carried a history of your recent life in your clothes alone. In the contemporary strand I had fun putting my characters in a similarly medieval environment of an old house that isn't welcoming, just like the one I had once lived in. 

Some years ago I fled to the Isle of Wight, still battered by the recent death of my daughter and husband, and viewed a number of houses in my price range. The one we bought was hemmed in by a spectacular block of ten foot high brambles the estate agent called 'the garden'. He took me upstairs to see it, pointing out the trees in each corner that bounded it. Downstairs it was like being underwater, the leaves were plastered onto the windows, as if it was trying to get in...