I’m Gonna Write Till I Die

This extract does not do this Kate Colby post full justice. However, an extract of hers rarely does. Click over: she always makes us think, so it is worth reading in its entirety:

…I’ve spent several sleepless nights reading and re-reading the perfectly poetic prose of Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita. I’ve spent many an afternoon curled up in my windowsill with Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway. I’ve spent countless evenings imagining myself a faceless extra, one of the glamorous flappers dancing in a party from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby

…What if that one book is all I get from that author? What if the next is an utter disappointment, undeniable proof that my beloved novel is a fluke? What if I read a chapter, a paragraph, a sentence only to discover that the author I thought understood me at the deepest level is a hack, a con artist, who knows nothing of human nature?

And what if, when I am a published author, this happens to one of my readers?…

Of those authors, I know Fitzgerald best. The Great Gatsby is, by consensus of opinion nowadays, his “masterpiece.” Although his output over his career is uneven, he’s written much else that is satisfying.

Continue reading

“Just keep going”

I’ve had various jobs over the years in academia and in business. I’ve never been especially “fragile.” I’ve always been confident about my skills and what I bring to the table.

But throw that out the window the instant you take up something creative, such as fiction writing. No matter what you’ve done before, what degrees you have, and what you may have accomplished in other life realms, suddenly you’re returned to about age 14. Others’ approval matters to you a lot more.

Continue reading

Canary Surprise

My wife received an email yesterday from a former neighbo(u)r of ours. She’s flying to the Canary Islands today. She and her husband are selling a holiday flat they’ve owned there for several decades.

The Canary Islands. Wikipedia. [Screen capture by me, 2015.]
The Canary Islands. Wikipedia. [Screen capture by me, 2015.]

In the message she explained to Mrs. Nello that she’s taking Frontiers (the paperback) along. (She doesn’t do Kindle.) She wrote she hadn’t read it yet and is looking forward to it for the airport wait and plane journey. She wanted Mrs. Nello to let me know.

Hmm, I wonder…. what she’ll…. think of it?:

Continue reading

Sneak Peek: “Are you a Parisian?”

Happy Friday! Good Morning!:

[Photo by me, 2015.]
[Photo by me, 2015.]

I’ve been writing lots in recent days. There are just those times it “flows” and you find you just keep “going with it.” It’s sorta like being on a “winning streak” in sports. (Thus decidedly unlike England’s current World Cup cricket team’s experience.)

When you find yourself “in the zone” you don’t want to do anything to mess it up. You pray it keeps going for quite a while. Given that, after the first “sneak peek” last month into the new novel’s manuscript, I figured I’d share a second here.

Continue reading

Screenwriters: I Don’t Envy Your Job

My uncle has been at me again. Out of the blue, he sent me a Facebook message early yesterday:

Screen capture of my Facebook messages page.
Screen capture of my Facebook messages page.

Obviously I’ve removed his name and replaced his photograph with a stock silhouette image. As you may know he’s a HarperCollins published novelist (his first books appeared in the 1980s) and also writes screenplays. As you probably also know if you stop by here regularly (Hello again!), he has no idea (yet) that I’ve taken up writing.

His message got me thinking about the process of turning novels into movies – helped along by the fact that currently we’re seeing lots about a newly released major film that’s based on a massively selling recent novel.

Continue reading

“In the lobby of the Savoy….”

I’ve detected a pattern in myself post-publications. I can’t look at the books for some time afterwards, probably because I’ve been so swallowed up by them for over a year while writing them. But after a few weeks working on a follow up, simultaneously I start to re-read its predecessor.

Writing is draining. My own experience has been that by the time I’ve set pen (well, technically keyboard) aside at the finish, my head’s spinning. I can’t think straight.

Free Stock Photo: A row of antique books.
Free Stock Photo: A row of antique books.

And when you write so much that’s so complex and layered, you can forget some of the things you yourself wrote. Small things. Little bits.

Continue reading

That Awful Mr. Grey

Happy Sunday! I stumbled on this yesterday. Back on Friday, a 21 year old commentator in Britain’s Independent newspaper shared this Fifty Shades analysis:

Screen capture of the Independent.
Screen capture of the Independent.

Evidently this now needs pointing out: both Mr. Grey and Anastasia are – let us recall – fictional. That means they are not real people. Insofar as I understand it, the books are novels, not biography.

Continue reading

Genève Aéroport

On Saturday, our ski week in France sadly ended. As all good things do. :-( We flew back to London from Geneva, Switzerland – which is about an hour’s drive from where we’d stayed in La Clusaz.

View from our chalet, La Clusaz, France. [Photo by me, 2015.]
View from our chalet, La Clusaz, France. [Photo by me, 2015.]
Geneva Airport isn’t huge. It feels rather “dated” as well. However, it also has corridors covered with wall ads for the likes of wealth management companies, astronomically expensive watches, Dubai, and stuff George Clooney’s hired to endorse; but before we got to any of that, we were in a mob scene at check-in.

Continue reading

Coping With Textus Tinyus

I didn’t wear reading glasses before writing Passports. Although I do suspect now that I probably could have used them before. Since 2013-14, though, I have noticed my reading sight has deteriorated a bit more: it’s probably at least partly due to all the time in front of a screen.

Having some fun, I gave “Virginie” reading glasses in the novels. I also infer “James” is going to need them eventually. I did so because as I was writing I was feeling I was going to need reading glasses for my real-life self.

Free Stock Photo: A laptop keyboard with glasses
Free Stock Photo: A laptop keyboard with glasses

My own eyes had begun to require glasses in my twenties for long distance. But as my eyes “matured” further my distance vision oddly improved. Eventually I no longer needed those glasses – they went to charity years ago.

For some years I needed no correction at all, until I began to find reading was becoming more challenging. Probably like many of you (and like “Virginie” and “James”), I began to discover my arms weren’t long enough: I couldn’t hold a book far enough away to make out smaller text comfortably. So glasses for myself were again in order – this time for reading.

Indeed, they’re now absolutely necessary. I mean look at the text in this book. (It was a Christmas present.) Someone’s got to be kidding. Seriously:

image

Itsy bitsy text is much more common in non-fiction (especially academic books) than in fiction, I grant you. But still…. come on….

No way this is just me. The book’s roughly 15cm x 23cm, which is about 6 inches by 9. The print is tiny; it must be a 6. Maybe. And the pages are white, which is not exactly easy on the eyes either.

In comparison. Ahem. My novels? 5 x 8 inches, cream pages, and Georgia 9 font – a reasonable reading size.

An open letter:

Dear Routledge:

After reading of the Emperor Trajan’s life, I anticipate need of my eyes for other tasks going forward in what time on this earth may remain to me.

Yours truly,
Struggling with the Minuscule Print in Wiltshire.

Have a good last day of January, wherever you are in the world. :-)

Watching Our Words

Like so many – perhaps including you – I followed yesterday’s coverage of the massacre at the Charlie Hebdo magazine office in Paris by gunmen apparently claiming to have been avenging the magazine’s caricatures of the Muslim Prophet Muhammed.

image

Last night, on France 24, during discussion of the killings, a studio guest wondered at one point if too much criticism of Islam was stoking tension with Muslims in France. Michel Houellebecq’s new novel, “Submission,” came up. (The other day, just before the attack, I saw noted that “Submission” had been “Number 1″ in Kindle book sales in France.) Bloomberg View summarizes the book this way:

It was at least symbolic that the cover of the latest issue of Charlie Hebdo was a newly published book, “Submission,” by the French author Michel Houellebecq. The novel’s plot imagines France in 2022 after the election of an Islamist government, which has excluded women from working and opened Islamic schools. The premise is ludicrous (even by 2030, Muslims are projected to make up only 10 percent of the population, and France is among the world’s most determinedly secular countries).

The France 24 guest had made much the same argument about the book being “ludicrous.” (I think he called it “preposterous.”)

Anchor/ presenter Laura Cellier quickly – and quite rightly – replied that the book is fiction. She questioned: Should fiction not be allowed?

Can they both have been right? That there may be “too much criticism,” but that criticism – in all its forms, including via fiction – is going to come everyone’s way in a democracy? Well, yes.

It was – to me anyway, as a writer – eery how the issue had been framed in those terms.

Caricature cartoons, of course, can be hard-hitting stuff – especially if you are on the receiving end. Charlie Hebdo assailed politicians, the religious, most anything, in often the most crass and vulgar manners. In fact, its attacks on Islam have often been relatively “tame” compared to how it has regularly skewed Christianity. For example, this was published last month, and tweeted last night by Paris-resident photojournalist, and Syrian anti-Assad activist (and regular guest on France 24), Emma Suleiman:

image

We have all seen what we may support, or treasure, torn apart by critics. Most of us also just take it in stride. We understand it’s called freedom of speech and that it’s a bedrock of our democracy.

Yet we can easily forget not everyone everywhere thinks that way. If you are an author, are you mindful of what you write? Do you ever worry about any possible reaction beyond just a “1 star” Amazon review?

I think on some of the things I’ve touched upon for story purposes – race, religion, immigration, Israel, Palestine, even police brutality, among others – and I do wonder occasionally how some readers might receive them. Sometimes it’s only a sentence or two, and I admit I’ve thought to myself briefly, “Is this such a good idea, writing this?”

I’ve not consciously cut out anything out of “fear.” But I have also been “careful” at times, partly (as I reflect on it now) out of an innate respect that I may actually feel, and which I am perfectly entitled to feel. Moreover, being rude should not be elevated to a virtue that’s beyond criticism either.

There’s a line here, and I can’t say I know where it is. Yet if we ever lose the ability to feel free to speak our minds even in an “offensive” manner (to some), where are we? Somewhere I suspect most of us surely don’t want to find ourselves.

______
UPDATE: Anne-Elisabeth Moutet, in the Telegraph….

image

….is well-worth a read.