Sometimes the door is firmly shut. You can faff around with the wrong bunch of keys for a while, wander off and perhaps come back with an axe. Even that won’t break it. Then a small key you had overlooked, fits, the lock turns and light seeps in as the door opens slowly.
Ed-ited /checked by Kate and Mark 15/1/2012
Re-checked by Ruth, corrections made 19/02/2012
Re-checked by Kate and the computer 21/02/12
Re-checked by Kate 26/08/2012
Look for Claire’s corrections.
Re checked by Kate 16/09 2012
Rechecked by Kate and partly Ed 2/11/2012
Rechecked by Kate 30/10/2012
Rechecked by Kate 5/11/2012
Edited with Gill 2/2013
Final Edit 17/3/2013
Further final edit 20/3/2013 81,472 words.
It’s incredible: I just thought I would take one final little tiny look . . . just to check the margins, and there was a word, a smallish word. Susan. Who the Hell’s Susan?. When I had I ever put Susan in the book? Never that I could remember. Margaret had briefly become Susan.
I changed it and had another quick scan.
He walked over window. WHAT? Don’t you mean: He walked over to the window? But of course I did. How many times have I, (and countless other extremely kind and patient) people, read that sentence and not noticed the absence of those two words?
Maybe just once more — tomorrow.
Douglas Adams used to take frequent baths, not so much as to soak and think of new scenarios, more to procrastinate. Apparently he is said to have hated writing.
I tend to write first thing in the morning as my head is still empty of ‘things that must be accomplished’. It might only be for twenty minutes sometimes, but if I leave a thread hanging to pick up later or the next day, it’s a satisfactory ongoing process. Ideas usually float around the rest of the day and become embedded, consciously or un-condciously.
Walking is the best ideas generators. But It doesn’t seem to work if I ‘set out’ to think. More a sort of general ‘being on the planet’ letting in visual observations, hearing conversation, birdsong, a city’s soundtrack or a river’s murmur. Swimming is equally good. Empty mind, regular movements of arms and legs, breath in and out — ah, yes, that could work, perhaps at the end of chapter 33.
Car journeys, sometimes, but not so good if I’m driving — a touch hazardous. Trains are brilliant, especially very long voyages. The lulling movements, dozy, half awake, inability to be able to do the washing up or any other jobs, the blurring, changing landscapes, peoples houses and gardens — imagined lives.
Gardening. Very good. Our friend Mike, a gardener par excellence, said that when you turn the earth and pull it apart, chasing out the weeds, you inhale certain bacterias, which create endorphins in the brain, rather like exercise, sex, chocolate, chilies. True, I always feel accomplished after a weeding session, and tangled plot ideas often become unravelled and ready to put into words.
Going out in the midday sun
Holly saw the yellow blur through the slanting rain. Her heart sank. Forth time that month — what was the point of clamping anyway? The car was still there causing an obstruction. Towing was worse, the body chill on seeing the space where the car had been, followed by the sickening knowledge that there would be a trip to the car pound. The shouting mob of car owners, the thump of fists hitting shatterproof glass, handing over another heard-earned 150 quid, and then the trek back over the Acton flyover to be late for another meeting.
Mmm, it seems mightily complicated to load my original word documents into the blog . . . Anyway, above is a patched version of the first paragraph of book one, with it’s chapter illustration. Maybe I’ll figure it out later, but things outside the writing bubble are calling.
Today I finished the final (possibly) edit, now into the unknown world of self-publishing and all the technical frustration that will no doubt be thrown up . . .
As a child and a million years before Youtube and the internet, I spent most of my time inventing stories and illustrating them. My first full length (exercise book) tale was called Mr Mint and the monster — I found it a few months back while cleaning mum’s house out, the pages soft with layers of coloured pencil and rubbings out.
My next epic story writing was at Art College where I studied photography and film. Rather than writing a thesis on an aspect of photography or semiotics, I requested that I write a series of short stories: which I did and luckily the examiners seemed to like. Sadly for me I have lost the black bound book containing the hundreds of pages that I painstakingly typed in front of a mobile gas heater in our hideous freezing student house.
Next big stage in writing/illustration for me was a children’s book. When we had arrived at the ‘fussy eating’ stage of our child’s life, I felt compelled to share the frustration with everyone else and started on an idea involving ‘The Beastis’, dog-like characters that had first appeared on our home-made jam labels. After a zillion rejection letters and many style changes, I was lucky enough to find an agent, (hello Celia, if you read this) and the book was published by Puffin in 2004. I then wrote many many stories, mainly for our son, involving the Beastis, but wandered off into the realms of landscape painting when we moved to France.
So day jobs . . . yes. Why did I do all those different things? Necessity certainly, but all those jobs have proved useful, however boring they were at the time. Useful for writing for sure.
I was just thinking earlier about writing them all down. So I think I will.
First job ever: working at Mrs Batchelors corner shop for fifty pence a morning.
Following on, series of babysitting jobs, car washing, dog walking, paper round, looking after a baby for a whole summer (that was terrifying).
Later: Bar maid in four different pubs, waitress, kitchen assistant, assistant in old peoples home, bookshop staff person, Boots staff person, Mars bar factory worker, gardener, cleaner, painter and decorator, brief flirt with car bodywork, after school childcare.
At College: Fish and chip shop staff person, bar maid, waitress, cook, ceramic rooms cleaner, DJ.
After college: Photographic assistant then apprentice to a room-set stylist. Estate agent blurb writer, magazine article writer/photographer, architect impressions maker.Then full time stylist and china hire-shop partner. Styling needs a sub category of just about anything you could think of: Detective, taxi driver, model maker, painter, cook, dog trainer, school teacher, robber, inventor, bullshitter, diplomat, location finder, actor, director, etc etc. One day is never the same as another.
I tried to escape this mad world by taking a sideways jump into textile design, painted furniture, jewellery making, illustration and back to writing. Finally stopped styling by moving countries.
Now we ‘get by’ by doing anything that comes along while working on our own real projects, in my case, writing and painting. Et voila. Sorry about the list, I just had to do that. But if you do read the books later, you’ll see where the jobs slot in.
East, West, love, intrigue, crime: what does the cover need to say. Mmm, very difficult. I tried something that would put across in a fairly literal way, what the story is about. So . . . four characters in front of a view of London. Some kindly folks said ‘that’s nice’ some more frank characters including Mark, my husband, said ‘berk — very nasty, boring’ and other gut reaction words. End result, a painting of mine that I made a few years back, called ‘Lifemap’ which is fact about being in and leaving London. It possibly could lose out on the visual impact in some ways, especially when reduced to the size of a large-ish peanut on the internet, but it feels right.
What books have I picked up and got as far as the till with, on account of a cover. Not many.The only one I can think of off hand was ‘Keep the aspidistra flying’, it was just such a lovely painting of the said plant in a suitably shadowy front room. A cover might intrigue for a moment: turn the book over, scan the blurb then open the book and read the first few lines: is there an impulse to continue, or not. ‘It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. —George Orwell, 1984 (1949) — that’s a good one: read on . . .why were they?
Looking on the internet is a different process. The cover intrigues. You click and are invited to LOOK INSIDE, but for me anyway, there are things missing. The smell of ink, the feel of the pages, the type style used. I don’t actually buy books very often, (Mark compensating for that) but when I do, I wait for the bookshop. Preferably a small one without a chain coffee shop lurking in the corner.
Oh, I’ve just thought of another favourite cover. Will Self’s ‘Book of Dave’ Cleverly printed as if it has faded scumbled edges, in an aged pinky-red colour as if left on the back shelf of a car in the sun.
Looks rather more orange here
Nearly two years ago while swimming, an idea appeared in my mind. This often happens, swimming being a languid spacy sort of activity where ideas do tend to present themselves. Most ideas re-submerg along with millions of others in the grey stuff, but this one stuck. I got out and started writing and haven’t stopped. It follows a now familiar pattern: 6.00 am — Me — ‘er . . .what.’ Mark — ‘tea? Me —’mm, yes, thanks,’. Light on, glasses on, screen on, tap, tap, tap for as long as possible before the daytime realities click in.
So . . . the idea. Four characters in London and their coincidental meetings: some that last, some that are momentary but reoccur in the second book. I am fascinated by such incidents, and how seemingly minute happenings can change the course of life, especially in the vastness of somewhere like London: a phone call taken before leaving the house, two minutes chat, a missed train — resulting in a conversation on the platform with someone who you would never otherwise have encountered.
When I was a child London was my world, and was again when I returned in the late 80s and 90s to be a photographic stylist. A world I loved and hated, and was eventually glad to escape from, first to the Midlands, then to France. I now return from time to time to revel in nostalgia, tramp my old haunts and weep as treasures are lost — no great monuments, mainly formica tabled, bench seated cafes . . .
My main four Characters, Holly, Jasper, Peter and Sandra are Londoners each seeking their ‘way out.’