What to write about

tom-stoppard_2318390k.jpg

I caught the end of a interview on radio 4 with Tom Stoppard this morning. The interviewer asked him what he felt he might wish to develop next as a play. With a rather heavy voice he said something along the lines of: “With so much terrible stuff in the world there is a lot of material but maybe I’d rather reduce my subject down to something smaller –  family relationships, a farce, perhaps – ha-ha.” And I’m not quoting, as I can’t remember the actual words he used but I’ve been having the same feelings myself.

I naturally want to write about what I feel we may be ‘in for’- an end of this chaotic, money-obsessed, creative, beautiful, politically and environmentally-fucked, terrifying, ridiculous and awful 21st century society. Hence I’m on the third volume of my series Hoxton and nature is well and truly making a comeback; humans where perhaps where they/we should be, just another species of animal living with respect and in awe of everything natural that surrounds us.

But. As Mr Stoppard observed, perhaps it’s also important (and good for the soul) to write about something well removed from the screaming headlines each day. So, I’m currently also working on an ‘enlargement’ of my short story, The 158th book: set in the early 80s (not quite sure about exact dates yet) before screens and phones ruled the day, and starring a hapless but thoughtful poet who stumbles on great fortune, ultimately brought about by himself . . .

Up to 35,000 words now and its a great antidote each day to thinking about what unnecessary havoc has been added to the previous day’s havoc on this particularly wood-wormed political stage of the current time.

Photo from The Telegraph

The usefulness of cafés

images.jpeg

For many reasons: tea, coffee, toast . . . but also as a sanctuary for writing, especially if ‘forced’ to be in one.

This morning after taking the car in for a ‘small service’ the mechanic phoned to say that they would be obliged to clear out our bank account as all disc breaks needed replacing. Shit. So I’m stuck in the local supermarket café with an endless supply of cheap tea and no need to do anything else but write; no distractions of cleaning, in-tray investigation, chickens to deal with, dogs to walk, people to phone, etc.

French cafés are particularly good as, although my French is reasonable, I don’t tune in to other conversations as with my mother tongue, AND, there’s no gabbling TV screen in this eatery, so just me, my laptop and no excuse . . . right, back to the novel.

Genies and/or sub-conscious

Unknown.jpeg  Last night, in the bath, I was listening to a Ted talk by the author of Eat, Pray, Love – a book I have still to read but was hugely put off by the glacially-long and tedious film of the same name.

Anyway, Ms Gilbert gave an engaging lecture with some great ideas and illumination to anyone facing the odd day/week/month/lifetime of artistic struggle. The part that particularly intrigued  me was the suggestion that ‘outside forces’ might be assisting with the creative process; in fact in Roman times they apparently  believed that ‘genies’ lived within the walls of an artist’s/writer/creative person’s work space and would appear, insinuating themselves into the tortured virtuoso, to help steer the work in the right direction.

Certainly when I am at my most involved it’s true that words and phrases do shuffle forth and present themselves, seemingly with me having nothing to with it, and those are often the most flowing and free sections. So, is there a genie sitting on my shoulder having materialised from behind the plaster-board  or is it just the brain shutting off all exterior influence and ‘going for it’?

At the moment one of my projects in re-writing a short story as a novel. This morning I was ambling around a paragraph of said work, stopping and starting, changing, not quite sure what I was doing. As I added in a couple of lines which were possibly more decoration than moving anything concretely forward, the genie suddenly poked me and we were off on a completely different plot line, me running behind: ‘wait . . .I’m not sure if this a good idea.’ But having looked at it a few times, it works, and I’m looking forward to continuing with this whole new tangent that I don’t think would have occurred to me if I had sat down with notebook and tried to plan ahead.

I run to the main road, catch a bus and claim the upstairs front seat. Poems are still shuffling about in my mind: stanzas, couplets, brave paragraphs and solitary dangling words. I stare out on pubs, hardware shops, hairdressers, couples arguing and couples entwined.

Miniature universes surround me, even on the seat across the aisle; that young man engrossed in reading a letter . . . his expression when he opened drew the sheet of paper from the envelope then folded it, put it away to then retrieve it again. Something he couldn’t take in the first time: love, death, revenge, hatred . . . loss?

Above, the section I was fiddling with when seized with the idea of making the young man and his letter part of the plot rather than more of an embellishment to the main storyline – a whole new direction in the book which I hadn’t planned at all . . . confusing; quite a bit of re-juggling but a new turn that I’m happily reflecting on as I go about the rest of the day’s jobs.

images.jpeg

Christmas present

From Lulu (publishing) My first edit copy of Smithi, and I’m pleased with the way it looks after a quick glance – cover not developed yet. There is something so totally amazing about receiving a book through the post after you have loaded up a PDF and sent it off some time back – bye, onto the next thing, almost forgotten, and then wow! a book, of mine! pages, words, paragraphs . . . mistakes, lots of, no doubt, but it’s so exciting!

IMG_0246.JPGIMG_0249.JPG

signpost

Yep . . . that point again. What to do next – which way to follow – which project to start/re-start.

Scan.jpeg

But it feels all right this limbo stage; I’m not suffering from the blank page thing, more a need to concentrate on one idea at a time. Hoxton, the novel I’ve been working on for a couple of years, is now being looked at with a regard to some possible action happening, agent -wise, and the follow-on book, Smithi, is finished up to serious editing point.

So where to go while I’m sort of . . .  waiting for the possible action. I’d quite like to spend some time putting my various blogs into book form – being someone who imagines the Net could just evaporate at any point; then there’s several follow-up book ideas beyond Smithi; a story about souls; a story about cryogenics, and my latest idea – to develop one of my short stories into a novel. So far this one is winning and I’ve started on a few chapters – an interesting exercise and perhaps good to get away from London 2070 – the place and time my mind has largely inhabited for the last few years.

 

 

 

And finally . . .

I have my style sorted for ‘Smithi’s drawings. – Following on from previous posts. I have finished (until an editor peruses it in detail) the second in my series of novels set in 2070 (amended from 2090). Each chapter will have a heading either in the form of a letter written on the main character’s travels, or a sketch depicting his surroundings or thoughts.

Below, a sketch of the ‘horse-letter-man’ who visits the pub where ‘Smithi’ temporarily resides  – the Cat and Fiddle in the Peak district – (second highest pub in the UK; the highest being in Swaledale, Yorkshire).

Scan 1.jpeg

 

And Smithi’s inky-splashed sketch of the soaked Peaks during an unproductive mushroom-gathering forage; after which he returns to the pub to encounter the sinister Reverend Christie.

 

Scan 3.jpeg