I feel I should start this blog, ‘it has been three weeks since my last confession…’
You’ll see why. Anyway, a slightly late post this time, partly because if I’d kept to the fortnightly posts, the next one would fall on Easter Monday, when anyone with any sense will be eating chocolate, not sitting at a computer reading my blog. The other reason is that this time last week, I was at the point of despair with my current draft and I couldn’t quite bear to talk about it. I’m feeling a little more positive now, though, so here’s what’s been going on.
First, I was ill. Not properly, seriously ill, but a lingering head cold which then turned to sinusitis. With a painful, bunged up head, I couldn’t even think straight, never mind sort out the complex structural problems with my novel. Even worse, I spotted a major plot flaw, and not surprisingly, this induced an intense plummeting in confidence. This was all Not Very Nice. I racked my brains (my poor, thickening, stuffed up brains) but I couldn’t think of a solution. Then I had a good chat with an author friend who reassured me that it was a solvable problem, that I’d just got myself into a can’t see the wood for the trees state. She made a couple of suggestions, I wrote the scene I’d been so worried about, and hey presto, it works! At least, I think it does.
I still have structure/viewpoint problems, but I’m sure I’ll find a way through those eventually. So not much tangible progress since last time, I’m afraid. Time has been a bit of an issue, mainly because of my teaching work, which involves a lot of reading as well as the face-to-face meetings. But, as I always tell my students, you need to make time, so I’m ring-fencing some days over the next two weeks to really focus on the issues with this draft.
Last week, I was lucky enough to be a guest speaker at the Yorkshire Post Literary Lunch at the Old Swan Hotel in Harrogate. There were around 120 guests, which is the largest audience I’ve addressed so far, so I was a teeny bit nervous. However, I managed to get through it without making a tit of myself. I could see smiling faces, I got the odd laugh, and a few people came up afterwards and said they’d enjoyed my talk, so phew! I was made very welcome by the organisers, and had the pleasure of meeting my fellow speakers, the acclaimed crime writer David Mark, and the poet and novelist Wendy Bardsley.
As you can see from this is not very flattering (of me) press photo, David, who writes ‘gruesome’ thrillers and is charming and funny, was more the star turn, with Wendy and me as his backing group! It was a lovely event, though, and I enjoyed the day immensely.
Being at the Old Swan in Harrogate was tinged with sadness for me, because the last time I was there two years ago, was to attend a family gathering in memory of my dear grandma-in-law, Winifred, who’d died aged 96 the previous year. I first met Winifred when I was in my forties and she was approaching ninety. My husband hadn’t seen her for some years, and we prepared ourselves to ‘make conversation’. But Winifred turned out to be an attractive, fiercely intelligent, witty, wise woman with whom I hit it off immediately. We soon became close friends, despite a 40-odd year age difference.
It was nice to be able to mention this at the lunch in connection with The Secrets We Left Behind. One of the themes in the book is female friendships, and my central character has developed a close friendship with her much-older mother-in-law. Yes, that character, Estelle, is based on Winifred! One of the joys of being a writer is that you can play God to a certain extent. Ian Rankin said in a documentary recently that if someone annoys you, you can ‘bump them off’ in a book. I wrote Estelle partly as tribute to Winifred, and perhaps as a way of feeling I was spending a little time with her. My great sadness, as I told the Literary Lunch guests, is that she died a few months before I got my publishing deal. She would have floated up to the ceiling with pride.
On the subject of publishing, my first novel, The Things We Never Said, is published in Germany this week, under the title Ich Habe Dich Immer Geliebt, which translates as, I Have Always Loved You. It has a rather lovely cover, too.
That’s about it for this time. I hope to have moved forward much more decisively by next time. My novel group is meeting this week, so I’ll get some feedback on that tricky scene, and I’ll also run my structural problems past them to see if anyone has any bright ideas. I have a few appointments over the next two weeks, and I need to start preparing the short story course and teaching after Easter, but apart from that, I should be able to crack on.
I hope everyone has a good Easter break, and let’s hope the weather is a little more clement two weeks from now!