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January 2009

Sex Sells

I've just received my invitation for the launch party for the erotic anthology In Bed With... Since there are twenty of us authors, it's hardly surprising that we can only invite a certain number of friends each, but now, apparently, demand from the press and media for invitations has been much, much higher than anticipated. Since the good folk of Little, Brown's publicity department know their stuff, have run one or two launch parties in their time and so must know what the usual rate for accepting invitations is, I can only come to the staggeringly original conclusion that Sex... Read more →


Brain chocolate

I've just asked my daughter what to blog about - inspiration sagging after a day storming ahead with the novel, and then wading through a deskful of admin - and she said, 'Chocolate'. Unfortunately, this isn't really a cooking blog, or a chocolate eating blog, though both are high on my list of pleasures. I was wondering what had happened to fifteen years of education, when I remembered how a friend of mine described one of our favourite authors. Trying to pin down the joy, she spoke of Georgette Heyer as 'brain chocolate'. Just in case there are a few... Read more →


A vast meadow, or a tiny cell

A copy editor once pointed out that I'd written 'look', 'looking' or 'looked' five times in one manuscript page - say, 250 words? Of course it's a copy-editor's job to flag up things which contravene the usual principles of good, fluent writing. And it's my job to decide if, this time, I meant it that way, so I had a long, hard look [sic]. One of them was easily dealt with: it was one of those all-purpose 'It looks like she meant to...' where it doesn't really need to be a verb about the physical act of seeing at all.... Read more →


Being me

In Under the bugle-beaded bonnet I said, as something of an afterthought, that because what I most notice in excellent writing is the things I couldn't do myself and ideas which I must work to apprehend, I associate excellent writing with ideas and things I don't do and only sort-of understand. In which case my writing - which by definition is ideas and things which I do do and do understand - is not excellent. It's not just me, is it? At any rate, this phenomenon's a funny mixture: part of the necessary schizophrenia of the writer. On the one... Read more →


Geometry in motion

As I've grumbled before, I think that where in a writer's life fiction comes from is in many ways beside the point. And yet it seems to be the backbone of much of what people - readers, journalists, editors considering whether your deep-sea-diving chick lit is saleable - ask about your work. I do understand the curiosity, and as long as it doesn't shade into thinking that 'I lived through it' means your work is more valuable than 'I made it up', it's fine. But when I came across an obituary, the other day, I couldn't help having an autobiographical... Read more →


Timing the giant's strides

Time, in writing a novel, has two aspects. Obviously there's the time the story takes place in, both the 'real' time of a scene with full(-ish) dialogue and action, and the gaps which the narrative either skims through ("winter passed eventually, and with the spring came...") or jumps altogether. But there's also the time it takes to read the thing. How often the middle of a book seems to drag; but is that the writing, or the events, or our attention? One reason I prefer to read the novels I do reports on in a long, single sitting, is that... Read more →


Real people, even if it doesn't always look like it.

Today's amusement - which I was somewhat in need of while I waited in all through a brilliantly sunny afternoon for DHL to come and collect the proofs of the US edition of A Secret Alchemy - is that apparently several national newspapers have been trying very hard indeed to find out who wrote which of the stories in In Bed With. Emails have been whizzing round, beseeching all 24 of us to keep everything under our hats. I can't say that half Fleet Street's outside my door, but I gather there's been a certain amount of pressure exerted in... Read more →


A quick snack on the run

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear, the blog's hungry, and everything's been scuppered by the struggle to finish fine-toothed-combing the proofs for the US edition of A Secret Alchemy. So I'm going to do what I try not to do too often, and feed it with a series of links, and hope they're nutritious enough to keep it going till I've put the proofs into the hands of that nice man or woman from DHL, and got the bit further with Kindred & Affinity which has been displaced by them, which where displaced by... No, I won't bore you. Over... Read more →


Building the bridge

I've been thinking about structure a lot, lately, and one thing that keeps coming to mind is a story I wrote ages ago, which didn't really work for all sorts of reasons, mostly to do with my novelist's tendency to keep trying to squeeze not just a quart - that's easy - but a gallon into a pint pot, and partly to do with the fact that historical short fiction's a tricky beast at the best of times. It covered a long stretch of years, which is never easy in a short story, and as a way of placing and... Read more →


Under the bugle-beaded bonnet

A few weeks ago, in the piece I did for the Independent's My Book of a Lifetime slot, I found myself saying, "Both my first novel, The Mathematics of Love, and now A Secret Alchemy are about love, war, and the life of the spirit. At the most fundamental level, I sometimes think, what else is there to write about?" The rhetorical question was designed to get readers disagreeing, and of course it's only partly true of my own work, let alone anyone else's. There are a million other things to write about, from being conceived, to hunting a great... Read more →