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

 

 

 

 

Curated Crowd Funding – Alice Jolly

Crowdfunding is the talk of the publishing industry right now. But what exactly is involved in crowd funding a book – and would it work for you? Numerous companies now offer crowd funding for authors and each has its own approach. I can only tell you about my publishers, Unbound, who are the most high profile and successful of these companies.

Unbound is a ‘curated’ crowdfunding publisher. That means that it carefully selects the books that go on its site. The reality is that Unbound are as selective as any mainstream publisher. However, it is also the case that, because they take less financial risk, they are frequently more adventurous than other publishers.

So, if Unbound agree to publish your book, what happens after that? First Unbound help you to make a video and write a pitch about your book. This then goes up on the Unbound website and then you, as author, need to bring in the pledges – which are effectively advanced sales of the book.

In general, for a hard copy book you need to raise around £ 10,000 in pledges which equates to around 500 people pledging £20 each. If your book is going to be produced only as an e-book then the figures are much lower – £3,000 to £4,000.

Two years ago I published a memoir with unbound called Dead Babies and Seaside Towns.

It took me six months to raise £12,000 and it was hard going. But once the money was raised, Unbound operated in the same way as any other publisher. They worked on editing, proof reading, cover design, printing, publicity, marketing and distribution.

Now that the book is out, I don’t receive the normal 10% royalty. Instead, I receive a 50% profit share. In my case, I am not taking this money. I’m giving it to Sands ( The Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Charity). But that only makes the this highly favourable financial arrangement more important to me.

I am now publishing a novel with Unbound. That decision wasn’t easy. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to raise the subscriptions a second time. But so far I’m doing well. It helps that I know exactly who signed up for the memoir and I’ve got their emails. That is part of what Unbound are about – building direct links between writers and readers.

It is also exciting to be part of a publishing experiment. And finally, I didn’t want to go back to a mainstream publisher. Perhaps I’m not the only writer who has got questions about the mainstream publishing industry and what it produces. I’ve reached a time when I want to publish my own work in my own way and unbound are helping me to do that. Who knows what the future may be.

 

You can subscribe to Alice’s new novel which is called ‘Between The Regions Of Kindness‘ here:

https://unbound.co.uk/books/between-the-regions-of-kindness

Alice’s website is here:  http://www.alicejolly.com

You can find Unbound here:  https://unbound.co.uk/books

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

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 

NaNoWriMo Isn’t Proper Writing

I’ve heard this many times and often with some venom behind it. Of course it isn’t true. If you write then you are a writer. It doesn’t matter if you are sitting studiously in a library or running naked in Bermuda, if you write, you are a writer. And please note here, those of you who’ve produced several thousand words so far, if you do it, you are it, no ifs, no buts, and no Aspiring.

But, the mind splurge of Nano produces some truly awful work, you say? Well, yes, yes it does. It produces first drafts, which as Hemingway always reminds us are…horse apples. But some of those pieces of work will be edited and revised and turned into really great work. Some won’t. Some people have the temerity to enjoy the whole experience and miss out on the angst altogether. Some people just aren’t ready to be edited. 

But, some of them are so proud of sub-standard stuff, you wail. Well, yes. Of course they are. So were you before you learned to handle an adverb. You can’t tell me that you haven’t looked back at your early writing and cringed, properly cringed. That’s okay though, because you were learning. And that is what all of the Nano writers are doing without any concern for the level of craft they have reached. They are all learning. And they are writing. And that’s a good thing.

Some people don’t want to be told they are anything less than a genius – those people will learn slowly regardless of the task.

Other people seek out the errors and hunt them down with a scary level of commitment, because they know that they are never above a mistake. –  those you need to watch, because they will get there. They will get better. They will be good. And one day the Aspiring Author, will be an Author.

None of this should rattle any Writer’s cage. You know why? No one else in this world is you. No one has your thoughts, your life experience, Your voice. We can look around at other people and say, he’s not this or she’s not that. That is just so easy. But we’re not in a race with them. Writers are always in competition with themselves and on their own journey. Our own journey.

So let other people be….Not You

And show me what you can do.

 

I write Bad Words

Sometimes I write bad words. No, let me correct that. Sometimes I write truly awful words. Shocking. The thoughts in my head good sentences will not do. Like that one. Sometimes sloppy thinking meets sloppy sentence structure and before I know it I’ve confused myself never mind anyone else.

But that’s okay. 

It’s okay to write bad words.

It can be difficult not to sink into the Slough of Despond when the words don’t flow, but if you are sitting there with your head in your hands and mentally melting door knobs with an Edvard Munch type scream, let me just point out this one thing,

You know that they are bad words.

How do you know that?

Because your mind is comparing them to a checklist of things that you ought to be producing and sending up the red flag. Even if you don’t know why they are wrong your mind is gently prodding you in the right direction. Our wonderful minds notice and compare so many more things than reach our conscious awareness. Each one of us is brighter than we think.

If you know that something isn’t right you are at least halfway to fixing it. So put down the knitting Miss Marple, put aside the tisane Poirot, and get the little grey cells working on the problem. Each case of mistaken word identity, adjective kidnapping, or punctuation theft that you solve makes you significantly better as a writer, and sometimes the solutions that evade us the longest are the lessons that teach us the most.

 

Like Me!

It seems recently that never a day goes by without an email or a direct message from an Artist or a Writer begging me to like them.

Apparently it’s irrelevant whether or not I even know them, or their work. And the question of whether I actually like what they do is, well, that was never on the table was it. You see, no one is asking for my personal opinion ( It’s a shame, I have good opinions. ) What people are actually asking is for me to give them more visibility in the market place so that they can sell what they do.

 I have no objection to people selling what they do. In fact I’m all for it. I sell what I do for heaven’s sake. But I’m not sure anyone’s career can be greatly assisted by a lie, however well intentioned. 

Before anyone gets hugely upset let me just say that I don’t ever ask anyone to validate anything of mine. You don’t have to like it unless you like it. And I don’t assume that I will dislike what people do, I am charmingly non-committal until I have read a thing. If Facebook swaps is how you work then it is how you work but please remember that this is false data. It is a manufactured marketing tool and  not opinion. The numbers will go up and down based on the hours spent rather than quality of your work. There will be times when you write something wonderful and you don’t get the “likes” you are looking for. Don’t be disheartened. The numbers are a fiction. We are writers. We understand fiction.

The other despairing communication I get is that “Nobody is following me.”

That is an easy one.

What are you doing for them?

People are busy. People have complicated, wonderful, disorganised lives. But people will follow you if you give them something they want. What are you giving them? Some people write a weekly book review. Some people provide pictures of beautiful Art. Some pictures of funny cats. Some provide intelligent comment. Some provide silly comment. It doesn’t matter what it is, you will find a niche market, but it has to be consistent and people need to know what you do.

If they truly LIKE you, they will follow.

So decide what you provide.