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June 2013

Dreaming the first Queen Elizabeth

When I first started dreaming Elizabeth Woodville, fifteen years ago, it seemed to me that the centre of her story was her marriage to Edward IV. But what was that marriage made of? And since writing a novel is "like remembering something that never happened", as the novelist Siri Hustvedt says, how could I write Elysabeth as if I could remember her, so that readers, too, would feel she was someone they knew? If you want to read how I remembered her in full, you can buy or download my novel A Secret Alchemy at the Independent Bookseller's site The... Read more →

The Book Doctor will (not) confuse you now

Winchester is just finishing, York is in September, then there's Verulam, Swanwick, the Historical Novel Society, which is not just historical but international,since it alternates between Britain and the United States, Getting Published, WriteConZurich, the Romantic Novelists Association and another which I can't talk about yet ... and dozens more. I'm talking about Writers' Conferences; you may well know the kind of thing I mean. If you don't, my impressions of York 2012 are here, and if you think that asking an aspiring writer to spend a money on their aspirations is like the Pope suggesting that putting money towards... Read more →

Elizabeth Woodville, that indestructible beauty with the silver-gilt hair

I've lived with Elizabeth Woodville - Lady Grey, Queen Elizabeth - on and off for more than fifteen years. In many people's introduction to one of the great mystery stories of English history, The Daughter of Time, Josephine Tey describes her perfectly as "that indestructible beauty with the silver-gilt hair"; she was the mother of the Princes in the Tower, the wife of Edward IV, and she's also one of the narrators of my novel A Secret Alchemy. I always knew that I wasn't the first, any more than Tey was, but I wrote about where my Elysabeth came from... Read more →

"Who is that judge that sits perpetually in your head?"

A writing friend picked up something I posted in a forum years ago, and has it on the wall above her desk. It's from a letter which journalist and scriptwriter Robert Presnell wrote to the great war correspondent Martha Gellhorn. Gellhorn was one of those writers who is driven to write as a way of making sense of the world, but is never satisfied by what she has written for more than a few moments. The result is to make writing excruciatingly difficult and slow. I'm not, of course, saying that tackling a major project, whether it's flash fiction or... Read more →

Why I'm a convert to writing with Scrivener

All I actually need to write a novel is a stack of identical A4 notebooks (makes keeping the wordcount easier), a good biro (fat enough not to get RSI), and a plotting grid. Oh, and piles and piles of scrap paper for all the notes and ideas and snaglists. A word processor is essential next, but the many "novel-writing" programs on the market seemed to be little more than toys dreamed up by non-writing geeks, to sell or give away to beginners writers desperate for ways to make the weird business of creating something out of nothing more manageable. But... Read more →