Fell – The Making Of

By Jenn Ashworth

 

Fell arrived out of the blue. Just one scene. It happens like that sometimes. The scene was this: Jack, Netty and their daughter Annette are sitting on the concrete terraces over Grange-over-Sands old lido on a hot afternoon in August. I saw it all before I wrote it: the murky dark blue of salt water pool, the glare of the sun giving Jack the worst headache he’s ever had, and Netty watching a good looking young man swim lengths of the pool like a sleek white dolphin.

As soon as I started to write these details down (they demanded to be written – it’s a cliché, I know, but it was also true for me) the character spoke and moved and acted: Netty was sick and Jack was worried about her overdoing it. Annette went down to the lido to swim and Netty was worried about her, in the pool with the big boys who were messing about. Netty sent Jack to ask the boys to calm down an the strangest thing of all happened: this beautiful strange boy who introduced himself as Timothy Richardson (where did the names come from? I don’t know) laid a hand on Jack’s face and not only wiped away his headache – as if by magic – but cured in one fell stroke his life-long short sightedness.

What happened next? I typed in order to find out. Jack was nearly struck dumb with the shock of the strange healing – but not dumb enough to fail to seize the opportunity and to ask Timothy to come home with him and take a look at Netty. The doctors can’t help her, he says, but perhaps there’s something you can do for her…? The scene ended there.

I didn’t write anything else for six months. But these characters waited at the lido and I was tormented with questions about them. What was wrong with Netty? Did Annette know her mother was sick? How seriously was she sick? Who was Timothy Richardson and had he really cure Jack, or was it just a trick? Would he be able to help Netty, and if he could, what would he ask in return? Would the price, whatever it was (and there is always a price – I knew enough about angels-in-disguise to know that) be worth paying?

I spent days and days at Grange-over-Sands, looking at the boarded up and now derelict lido and inhaling the salt-and-mud smell of the unbiddable, dangerous Morecambe Bay. I travelled to London and spent a day on Savile Row speaking to cutters and tailors and watching them chalk outlines of suit jackets and trousers on rolls of grey cloth. I visited a retired nurse who told me what caring for someone dying at home was like in the early 1960s, before chemotherapy, before palliative care, before the hospice movement.

A few months later I went back to the scene, and started to write. I didn’t have much of a plan, which meant tonnes and tonnes of drafts, following my nose, and letting characters and the landscape they lived in shape the structure and tone and plot of the novel. In an early draft, Timothy Richardson, the butchers boy and aspiring tailor from Edinburgh, had an entire backstory: much of that was cut because in the end I wanted him to be as mysterious to the reader as he had been to me. After a few drafts, the ‘frame’ of the novel developed – a present day strand where grown-up Annette returns to her parents’ empty house in Grange and attempts to come to terms with her past, with the stories her parents never told her, with the magic she was never allowed to see. She isn’t quite haunted, but the house certainly is, as I would be, until three years had passed and I was able to close the computer and say goodbye to the novel.

 

Jenn Ashworth’s first novel, A Kind of Intimacy, was published in 2009 and won a Betty Trask Award. On the publication of her second, Cold Light(Sceptre, 20011) she was featured on the BBC’s The Culture Show as one of the UK’s twelve best new writers. Her third novel The Friday Gospels (2013) is also published by Sceptre, as is her fourth and new release, Fell. She lives in Lancashire and teaches Creative Writing at Lancaster University.

You can find her at jennashworth.co.uk, or on Twitter @jennashworth

 

 

 

 

Review – Terrace – by Richard Skinner

It’s about Time.

Richard Skinner is skilled at unpacking the moment. His observations, like drops of ink into a bowl of water, blossom out in unexpected directions, unfolding and unfurling the world. His language is deceptively simple. It’s almost possible to miss the way that he plays with sound to draw the reader to a conclusion. The work engages the senses with a studied intensity taking them almost to the edge of comfort.

It’s about Time

He uses ekphrasis, haiku, lists as litany, to interrogate the instant and out pour colour, perfume, light, life, and death. They are laid out before us for observation. They are the What and the How. The Why is a personal exploration of his own place in the maelstrom of Time. This is the thread that runs through every poem in the collection. The question is one of where he stands and what that means. What does that mean for a man? And, given a man’s place in time, how does he move forward?

“They say that a Yew can walk an acre in a year.”

If so, how far might a man walk?  How far might I walk?  And do I have the wisdom to do that?

The work of Richard Skinner is a beautiful example of condensed questioning.

The Terrace by Richard Skinner is published by Smokestack. You can find him here:

@RichardNSkinner   http://www.richardskinner.weebly.com

Criticism: what it is and why you want it.

Criticism is an inevitable part of the job for a writer and is commonly available in two flavours.

a) Lemon – the expression of disapproval of someone or something on the basis of perceived faults or mistakes.

b) Orange – the analysis and judgement of the merits and faults of a literary or artistic work.

The difference between these two flavours lies largely in the degree of bitterness evident.
Some reviewers will try for an Orange and succeed only in supplying a Lemon. These reviewers lack skill and prefer to avoid thoughtful judgement by jumping straight to the disapproval. It’s a thing that they do.
Do not mind this.

Mind the Oranges.

If anyone who reviews your work can show balance of judgement, if they can show understanding of both fault and merit, if they can demonstrate a knowledge of literary form, function and phrasing, an interest in your genre, and a willingness to be open minded, then, you should listen to these people.
Let me be clear here, Oranges are not always right. Any review is opinion. But, if you have reason to believe that this is a person who knows their bananas, mind the Oranges.

And then your work will never be a complete fruit salad.

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 

Stronger than we Look

Writing is a strange profession. It calls for a certain amount of stubbornness, a dogged bloody-mindedness, that keeps you writing and working when it all seems hopeless, and that isn’t all. The stubbornness has to be met with an equal if not greater desire to learn and the ability to accept and weigh criticism when it inevitably comes our way. That isn’t an easy thing to do. Writers put a level of self into their work which sometimes leaves them feeling very vulnerable. Add to that the financial constraints of working in the Arts and you can see that it takes a very special balance of qualities to make a writer. It amazes me sometimes that so many people succeed. Ray Bradbury puts it like this, “You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.”

The one thing you can guarantee about those who do succeed is that they love to write. For many of those writers the act of writing is the end and purpose and the finished article almost serendipitous, to be put aside as they move on to something new. There isn’t really any lesson in this other than a call to love, love, love what you do. Love it. Love the pattern of the words as they fall onto the paper. Find joy in the phrasing. Because the love of your work will take you through whatever comes your way and out the other side.

Writer’s Reflections: Rebecca Mascull

This month I am starting a Guest Post series on my blog. I want to ask writers not so much how they wrote what they wrote, but why, and what did they learn from the experience. The marvellous Rebecca Mascull has agreed to be the first writer to ponder.

( If you are interested in contributing to this section of my blog then feel free to contact me @stirlingwriter or by leaving a comment and contact after this post. )

Rebecca Mascull: A Writer’s Reflections

My latest book is my first to published, THE VISITORS. It came out in January this year but I wrote it from January to May in 2012. I was researching it for about a year before that. Time can move in a stately fashion in the world of publishing. Since, then I have finished my next novel and started researching another one( but I’ll save those for future blog posts…) This book is about a deaf-blind girl called Adeliza living on her father’s hop farm in late Victorian Kent, her relationship with her teacher Lottie and the mystery surrounding the Visitors.

Why did I write THE VISITORS? Well, I’d worked with deaf students when I was teacher training and loved the experience. I also watched a Hellen Keller bio-pic as a child and was fascinated. I wanted my character to learn to communicate, to experience friendship and love, and to go on an adventure. I also wanted her to learn some truths about herself and the world. I’d written an historical novel before this one and it was a huge learning curve. I taught myself how to research, how to find what was required and resist the temptation to waste time down fruitless avenues. I learnt how to record my findings efficiently so that I could find them easily when I was writing; to always look for at least two sources for every key fact; and that I needed to leave the research for the second half of the book until I came to write, as otherwise I’d forget it all by the time I got there. All of this came to fruition when I wrote THE VISITORS. Files of research were distilled into an intensive five-month period of writing.

I’d written three other novels before this one, and two text books. The novels I wrote before THE VISITORS were not as good as this one. They were very good practice though. Some lucky writers get it right the first time, but for the rest of us who try, try and try again, it’s encouraging to note that. I thought it felt good when I was writing it, but I had no clue if it was good enough for publication. I was more surprised than anyone when Hodder and Stoughton made an offer. I’d had a good few years of publishers( and agents) saying No Thank You and you get kind of jaded about this stuff after a while. But now THE VISITORS is out there, and I’ve read some lovely reviews from people who have been moved by the book, have perhaps looked at the world a little bit differently after reading about Liza, and at the very least have enjoyed it as a good read. And that’s been wonderful and made it all worthwhile. It really has.

Keep Writing, my friends!

Rebecca

 

Rebecca Mascull author of THE VISITORS published by Hodder and Stoughton Jan 2014

http://rebeccamascull.tumblr.com

@rebeccamascull

http://www.facebook.com/RebeccaMascull

How do I write? – A writing process blog tour

Thank you to Sandra of http://www.sandradanby.com for tagging me in to the Writing Process blog tour, an ongoing train of travel to writers and their writing methods. For creatures so often alone we are intensely curious about how other people work. In my experience there are as many different methods as there are writers, and this is the time and place to let you in to mine.

What am I working on at the moment?

At the moment I am working on a collection of twelve 5-6k stories. Each one may be very different in content and tone, I really don’t know until I sit down to write. In the words of EM Forster,  “How can I know what I think, till I see what I say.”

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I would describe my work as loosely Literary in style. The one thing it has that no one else has, is me. Sometimes that is a blessing and sometimes a curse. Like anyone else my written work is a jumble sale of the heart, my life tangled with the lives of those I’ve met and those I’ve read. I try to write without reference to what other people are writing but that shouldn’t be confused with a lack of interest. I love writers and their work. If you were to run an efficiency analysis on my day, you would probably decide that I am wrong to call myself a Writer and should call myself a Reader. But I think that, on the whole, each writer has to travel their own path and find their own words. That is what I am doing, finding my words.

Why do I write what I do?

I couldn’t tell you. I never know what each story will hold.

How does my writing process work?

I sit down each day and write a thousand words. I usually stop after a thousand and try to stop when I know what will happen next. Then I put the work aside and get on with the rest of my day, running errands, reading, and more reading. Before bed I sometimes think through the story but I don’t re-read until the following morning. I usually work on my laptop, largely for speed and ease of correction, but sometimes I treat myself and curl up to write longhand.

I don’t write a plan. That doesn’t mean I have no structure. I’ve spent many years reading and studying craft so, although I seem to write very simply, I am always, underneath it all, thinking about paragraph structure, storytelling, fore-shadowing, theme, language choice, and construction.

Once a story is finished, and I’ve had a brief run through for corrections, I send it to my Editor Rosie @iamrosiest who returns it with thoughts. These I work through and I usually accept most if not all. 

 

Next week it is the turn of the following writers to describe their process

Sandie Will – ia an aspiring author located in the US. who has completed a Young Adult Thriller as well as a Middle-Grade Historical time travel novel. She also has two blogs including http://www.sandiewill.com where she describes her social media adventures and http://www.rockheadsciences.com where she shares her fieldwork and travel stories through the eyes of a geologist. Sandie is currently a manager in the water sustainability industry, but is best known for her homemade cupcakes and occasional beer pong championships by her college sons and friends.

Joanna ‘Meika’ Maciejewska – was born is Poland but has been living in Dublin, Ireland for the past six years. She works as a video games localisation specialist and tries to write whenever she has the time. Her short stories have been published in Polish magazines and anthologies, and now she tries to write in English. Her first story to be published in English was “Miye’s In” in Fiction Vortex and she hopes this was not the last one. When she’s not writing, she’s playing video games, reading or trying to use up her enormous stash of arts & crafts supplies. You can find me at http://www.Melfka.com or @Melfka

Roger Bishop – is a writer living and working in the South of Ireland. His writing is a thrilling mix of fact and fiction. His last novel
‘Unholy Orders’ combined experience and storytelling to produce a sometimes frightening look at the inner workings of the Church of England. You can find him at http://www.rogerobishop.wordpress.com or @rogertheriter

I am lucky enough to be able to direct you all towards a writing team whose process will be very interesting to many of you. The following is in Kaisy’s own words:
James Courtney and Kaisy Wilkerson-Mills are the creators and authors of City-State, a dystopian paradise set around 3211 after the united states fell to a horrendous war. The City-State government hopes to maniacally control its citizens through vile government policies and procedures. However, there is hope with the illegals who live in the underground metropolis of Nocturnity. James and I have been working together for about two years and we thoroughly enjoy one anthers creativity and vibrancy in regards to city state, its evil Dynamic, and influential characters, and its vivid atmosphere.
@KaisyWMills
@JamesaCourtney
citystatewritings.wordpress.com