Oct 042012
 

Fearful Fascination, photograph by Jake Phlieger

When I was a young child a little girl called Fiona Harvey was kidnapped from the same town where I lived. Parents of that town - my parents, my friends' parents - clamped down on our freedom out of concern for our safety and taught us about "stranger danger" - as well they should have. I still walked home from school almost every single day, but things had changed.

My fears grew slowly. I travelled to the UK and felt able to take risks I wouldn't have dared to in the place where I grew up. I lost more innocence, not because I took those risks, but because others felt entitled to abuse my naivety simply because I had it. I took a lot of supposedly far bigger risks that had no negative consequences for me at all. Continue reading »

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Sep 042012
 

Photograph by g_kat26

Photograph by g_kat26

A week or so ago I had one of those sparks of inspiration that usually stop me short as I backtrack in amazement to work out how my brain cobbled together something that seems so, well, inspired. I was tidying up (yes, housework), putting some books back on a shelf, when I noticed that the author of one of the books had the same name as a character from my work-in-progress. I thought nothing of it at the time, but about half an hour later I found myself mulling over what I remembered of a Wikipedia entry I'd read a year ago, that had a connection to a plot strand involving this same character. Suddenly the phrase "everything's connected" popped into my head, and an element of the Wikipedia entry that I hadn't considered important before wound up being the thread that tied an entire dangling subplot back into the main plot. I was so blown away I just had to sit there for a moment with my mouth open.

I've had others like that. An advertisement for a Hannah Montana concert led to me reminiscing about my own childhood aspirations and the games I'd invented around Alice in Wonderland (we had a wonderful embankment in our garden that made for a perfect tumble-down-the-rabbit-hole sequence). Within a day I had an entire novel outlined involving crossing over to another world.

My not-so-pleasant experience at a hotel in Torquay led to an idea for a comedy a la Fawlty Towers, but set in a family residence. My characters had other ideas when they started killing each other. That book was a mess and I eventually "frogged" it (a knitting term I love, meaning to rip all the stitches out and reclaim the yarn to start again from scratch). But I was drawn to the premise of a dysfunctional family with layers and layers of secrets, and the moment I saw a photograph of a manor house that just had to belong to this family, the pieces clicked together and I started writing.

My most bizarre inspiration was from a dream. I've written about this one before. The dream involved a pygmy hippo, but in the book the hippo is simply a dog. Despite it's psychedelic beginnings, this story is my most "normal", with no elements of fantasy or magical realism.

I'm being deliberately cryptic, I know. None of these books are published yet because I have editor's block. And a distinct lack of time these days. I'm working on both those issues.

What about you? What inspires your stories? Do you sit down to deliberately craft ideas, or do you wait for flashes of inspiration and grab for the nearest shopping receipt or sheet of loo paper to write them down?

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Aug 252012
 

Open Book Gateway

Open Book Gateway, Photograph by Jacky Oh Yeah

The long awaited update post. I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl in December - another easy homebirth, but another silent reflux baby. She hasn't yet fully outgrown the reflux, but she started crawling at six months and is now pulling herself up to stand at eight months. Her brother hasn't coped very well with the addition of a constantly crying baby to his life, and turning three didn't help, either. We have had to take several steps back and re-group often. But now that the doldrums of winter are finally beginning to shift into spring, we are all feeling a little bit lighter-hearted.

A month after my baby was born, my mother died. It wasn't unexpected; she had been seriously ill and partially disabled since 2007. But when someone is given a prognosis of 18 months or so remaining of their life, but fights for another four years, it comes as a bit of a shock when they succumb after all those extra years. One becomes used to the seeming invincibility of that person, however frail they may be. I had a very troubled relationship with my mother, and last year she was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder, which answered a lot of questions, and which was a huge relief to her because she said she felt she was finally understood. I will cover more detail in other posts, but I stood up to her last year and provoked a change in our relationship, received an apology from her for her abusive behaviour throughout my childhood, and we reconciled in the last few weeks of my pregnancy. I was (we were) lucky to end that chapter with no regrets. I'm just a little sad that I didn't get to test that new relationship, to have conversations with her that I never would have dared have before. And I feel sad that circumstances meant she never got to meet her grandchildren in person.

I did successfully complete the first draft of my novel before my daughter was born. 156 days in a row of writing every single day. That's five months. 111 days in a row of hitting a target greater than 270 words. My daily average across the six months was 317 words per day (so I tripled my starting goal). I feel very happy with what I achieved, and especially with the knowledge that I can repeat that process and succeed again any time I choose.

You would think, therefore, that I would be in the process of editing that novel, but, true to form, I've taken on something else. I'm in the middle of a major editing job on another author's novel. I'm thoroughly enjoying it, though, and my client is a pleasure to work with.

So. Come up for air. Breathe. Dive.

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