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August 2009

The White Queen by Philippa Gregory

Most writers know the feeling that our fictional characters have lives of their own, but I never thought when I set out to write A Secret Alchemy that one of my characters would turn up on Twitter. The paperback of A Secret Alchemy was published last April, and in the last couple of weeks Elizabeth Woodville has been tweeting. Philippa Gregory has just published a novel based on her, and has been promoting it by this extremely twenty-first century means. Neither of us is the first, of course. As I've described elsewhere, it was seeing Shakespeare's Henry VI plays which... Read more →

A different skin

Perhaps because I was rash enough to embark on explaining Why Modern Poetry is Worth It to an assortment of people who don't think it is, or perhaps because because I've been swapping some of my old poems with a friend, a poem occurred to me yesterday for the first time in a very long time. Not the whole thing, of course: it hasn't “arrived” all in one, as stories sometimes do. It's a powerful (to me, anyway), purely visual abstraction from a lifetime of taking photographs, and a conviction that there's more to it than at the moment I... Read more →

Guest Blog: Writing for radio

When my friend Kellie Jackson started telling me how she came to write a story for BBC Radio 4, and what she learnt from it, I found it so fascinating that I asked her to do a guest blog for me. So here it is. The story itself, The Indian Hospital, is broadcast tomorrow, Wednesday 19th August, as part of a series of threePavilion Pieces stories (the first is this afternoon, the third on Thursday). Listen again link here. ----------------------------------------------------- After completing an MA in Creative and Life Writing at Goldsmith’s College, I’ve been blundering along trying to complete my... Read more →

The third way

A while ago, in Ask Your Talent, I was thinking about what you do when you've learnt your craft, done your time, are writing really well, and just can't quite get an agent or publisher to take you on. The rejectors like your work so much that they're trying to help, but what they're saying is things like "The ideas and characters are subtle in a literary way, but the writing style is very commercial." Or, alternatively, "It's quite plot-driven and the characters are lively, which doesn't sit well with your sophisticated and allusive style". And the writer howls, "Why... Read more →

Work in progress

This afternoon I suddenly hit a winning streak, and wrote just over 4000 first-draft words in eight hours, when I normally reckon to write 1300 in four, and then lie down in a darkened room. Or go out and conquer the world. I think it helped that it was the end of the chapter and took me to exactly half-way through the novel, and that I knew exactly what needed to happen - well, almost. Having spent much of the last five chapters making two people who shouldn't be falling in love do so, and manoeuvring them into a situation... Read more →

All sorts of things from all sorts of places

The most difficult chapter of my PhD's critical commentary has been the one on voice. I don't see how you can write about the practice of historical fiction without tackling it, but as I've talked about before, it's both the most crucial and the most un-pin-downable aspect of writing. Its effect is simultaneously micro - a single choice of word - and macro - the thing which creates the world of the novel: the thing which makes the characters live and breathe for the reader. Different voices are central to the way that both The Mathematics of Love and A... Read more →