Writer’s Reflections – Sandra Danby

Many thanks this week to Sandra Danby for telling us a bit about her writing journey

 

My new book : Ignoring Gravity is the story of Rose Haldane’s own “Who do you think you are?” television programme. Rose is confident about her identity. She pulls the same face as her grandfather when she has to do something she doesn’t want to do, she knows her DNA is the sam as his. Except it isn’t: because Rose is adopted and doesn’t know it. Ignoring Gravity connects two pairs of sisters separated by a generation of secrets. Finding her mother’s lost diaries, Rose begins to understand why she has always seemed the outsider in her family, why she feel so different from her sister Lily. Then just when she thinks there can’t be any more secrets…

The publishing world is changing rapidly now, as indie publishing becomes established alongside the traditional business. Ignoring Gravity is a part of this, published by a new crowd-funded publishing imprint by BNBS books, called Britain’s Next Bestseller. This is a hybrid indie/traditional publishing deal in which the author has control in the early stages (cover design, PR, Book trailer, social media promotion). Once an agreed pre-order target is hit, BNBS takes over as a traditional publisher, publishing the book in traditional and e-book formats. My provisional publication date is September 2014 when the book will be available from Amazon.

Why I wrote Ignoring Gravity: I was an imaginative child. I would lie awake in bed at night and wonder what it would be like to live in another country, with a different family…what if…I was a boy, or lived in a busy city, or was good at arithmetic? If I had grown up in France not England, with a father who was a businessman not a farmer, would I be a different person now? Or have I, through my personality and life experiences, essentially made me, me?

This idea stayed with me. It wasn’t something I actively thought about but it stayed in the back of my mind. I’m not adopted and had a happy rural childhood in Yorkshire. When I turned from journalism to fiction 15 years ago, I started to think about my identity again. One day, when I was at my creative writing class,  a sentence came to me fully-formed. Rose Haldane thinks children should be served lightly grilled with a green salad. Rose has a very clear idea of who she is until the day she discovers she is adopted. Her family history is a blank page, but Rose is still Rose.

My tutor Nina said,”That’s it, that’s the first line of your novel, now go away and write the rest of it.” And that was the beginning of ignoring gravity. It changed along the way; the biggest alterations were a switch from first person to third, and the introduction at an agent’s recommendation of a storyline for Rose’s sister Lily.

The first draft was a whopping 140,000 words. The thought of cutting it was frightening, but I was ruthless and cut it to 99,000. Anything less, and the story would be lost. “Rose”, as the manuscript was (and still is!) known in our house, spent various periods sitting in a box while I wrote other things. It is 13 years since that first writing exercise, and the story has changed out of all recognition. I learned to let the characters do the things they wanted to. I learned a lot about story planning, character arcs and sowing clues and red herrings to keep the mystery alive.

Watch the book trailer http://youtu.be/dGjnw-7qaa4

Watch my author interview here http://youtu.be/VOnFDPr90y0

Becoming

 Strange creatures, writers. You will seldom meet a group of people so acutely aware of the world, aware of the place where they fit or, more often, don’t fit. We squeeze ourselves into boxes called genres because marketing likes a good box. They make things easier to package and shelve. They make them easier to sell… to describe.

Describe (v) – to remove the personality of the writer from the equation

 I jest but it’s a dark one, because, whatever you are as a writer, you are not a genre. You are not even who you were last year and you won’t be the same person next year. You are Becoming.

What are you becoming? Well, I don’t know it’s your journey. You might pass through several phases of writing and many genres. And then you find a genre where you settle for a while and it will be the right one for who you are at the time, because you are not a genre, because you are Becoming.

It is part of the thrill of being alive to watch people Become. And who we become is influenced every day by who we want to be. We don’t always get what we want and we seldom if ever get what we expect but we all get to change, to develop, to be new. I don’t know the final destination of the journey. I haven’t had the opportunity to peep at the last page of my story and I don’t think I would want to. I am enjoying Becoming and I look forward to seeing you Becoming, for all the days of my life.

The Chocolate Book Challenge

Thank you to the wonderful @janeisaacauthor for inviting me to this blog challenge. You can find her post at http://www.janeisaac.co.uk/blog.

This post is a little late due to network problems (do not get me started ) so I apologise for that in advance.

The idea of the challenge is very simple, to liken some of your favourite books to chocolate bars. At least it seemed simple at first glance but it took me quite some time to whittle down my reading list to the following contenders, even though I limited my choice to books read in 2014 to give myself a smaller task. Here goes,

Dark Chocolate – 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

A beautifully written story which explores the nature of reality. It is a surprisingly gentle read for a book covering very dark and difficult themes. Thought provoking with touches of bitterness the content moves from the banal to the shocking and back with the same unnerving ease that Murakami moves across the boundaries of reality. Expect the occasional talking cat.

 

Milk Chocolate – The Analects of Confucius

This is not an easy read but well worth the perseverance. It is a collection of snapshots from the life of one of humanity’s great thinkers.  The passages jump from event to event and conversation to conversation but, if you relax and let them wash over you, you begin to appreciate the warmth and the humour of the man. These works provided the foundation for one of the world’s greatest civilisations. You were not considered educated unless you could quote the teachings of Confucius and as such they are the wonderful Milk Chocolate of all that is China.

White Chocolate – Bridget Jones – Mad about the boy  by Helen Fielding

As white chocolate isn’t really chocolate so this isn’t really literature but I did enjoy it. Admittedly I listened to the audiobook rather than reading it but I appreciated the silliness and the glimpses of a rushed home life were all too familiar. The eponymous heroine seems to have aged without maturing at all, which made me feel slightly sad for the character, but this is not a book to engage deep thought, it’s frothy and silly with an occasional effort to touch on darker themes. Great company while cleaning the kitchen.

 

 

The follow up post will be courtesy of the lovely Rebecca Mascull. You can find her at
http://www.rebeccamascull.tumblr.com
@rebeccamascull

Famous writers, writing: Agatha Christie

restirling:

If you like to write you should visit Sandra Danby’s blog.

Originally posted on sandra danby:

agatha christie 20-10-13Agatha Christie
“If you are to be Hercule Poirot, you must think of everything.”
In other words, you’d better have thought of everything, every twist and turn, every character trait, every possible and impossible plot angle… or your readers will catch you out in unpredictability, spot your mistakes. And then there are the things that happen out of your control. So beware!

Click here to read The Guardian’s article about bloopers in books…
… and here to read how the UK edition of Jonathan Franzen’s Corrections had to be withdrawn from print because the wrong version was printed.
Click here to read The Bookseller’s report on how Penguin had to pulp copies of Lolita because of a missing foreword.

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Writer’s Reflections – Jane Isaac

For the second post in the Writer’s Reflections series I am pleased to welcome Jane Isaac, to talk to us about her latest novel.

 

Thank you so much to Rachel for allowing me to guest on her lovely blog. My second book, THE TRUTH WILL OUT, was released last month. I started this novel in the spring of 2011 and it took me almost eighteen months to research and write, six months to find a publisher and another twelve to work with Legend Press to transform the pile of paper that it was into the book that sits on my shelf today. THE TRUTH WILL OUT is a police procedural/psychological thriller crossover, the second in the Detective Chief Inspector Helen Lavery series, although written as a standalone novel and sees her biggest case yet.

Why did I write the Truth will out? Aside from being a crime fiction fan for most of my life( I was raised on Enid Blyton and Agatha Christie which later broadened into Peter James and Jeffrey Deaver), my main interest lies with people. I’m fascinated by putting ordinary people into extraordinary situations and watching how they react. In this novel Eva Carradine witnesses an attack on her best friend over Skype and, due to a shared secret, is unable to go to the police. Fearing she will be next, she goes on the run. We follow the police investigation into her friend’s murder through the eyes of DCI Helen Lavery and the other side of the story through Eva’s eyes.

I researched extensively into Helen’s character for my first book, An Unfamiliar Murder, and interviewed police officers at different levels in my local force to create a character that is based on reality. She is not a lone divorcee, that role has be carried out by so many other authors – she is a single parent of teenage sons, juggling her home responsibilities with carrying out a murder investigation.

I genuinely like Helen: she is a strong, focused character with a vulnerable side. She is not interested in promotion or management, more in making a difference to the people of her town by catching the really bad guys and that often pushes her to pursue unorthodox methods to solve a case. When I finished the first book, I found it hard to leave her behind and it wasn’t so difficult to find new challenges to stretch her further.

What did I learn from the experience?

First drafts should be viewed as such – a rough diamond to work into shape. I set out to write page turning roller-coaster rides with characters that feel real and twists and turns aplenty; a book that I would like to read myself. My biggest challenge is unravelling a plot and developing characters while keeping the pace fast and the tempo high, and it can take several re-drafts of each and every scene before this is achieved. 

Much like your last reflections post this book may never have been published. I decided to switch from an American publisher to a UK one to help distribution, but I received several knock backs simply because it was the second in a series. Luckily it was picked up by the lovely Legend Press team, who have been great to work with.

It can be difficult to write a second book featuring the same character. There is always the worry that people will be disappointed in their further development, but so far we have been blessed with wonderful reviews and it’s great to receive  messages tweets and emails from readers who have enjoyed.

I wish your readers all the very best with their own writing and look forward to reading about their experiences in future weeks.

Jane x 

http://www.janeisaac.co.uk

Twitter: @janeisaacauthor

Facebook: Jane Isaac Author 

Coffee Break – With a Writer

Hello, come in and take a seat. I’m just taking a short break from work, it’s a great time to chat. What have I been working on today? Well, I’m writing a short story in which my protagonist has quite a distorted world view. He may or may not have killed a man and I’m not sure that I’m going to find out in 6000 words or so but he certainly believes that any action he took was inevitable. It’s quite nice to write in first person as a different character. It gives you a bit of a break from the self and lets you explore other people’s motivations and thought processes. I suppose it could be viewed as quite a dark story but the tone is deceptively light because the narrator isn’t particularly concerned by his actions. It works well because it’s a nice juxtaposition.
I’m enjoying writing in short story form at the moment. Every day is very different. It allows a lot of time for play. I like to play about with words and ideas and the whole format works supremely well for that.
Yes, I probably should get back to it too. Good luck with your current piece. Drop in soon.