Second review

For the Hundred and Eighty-Fifth Book.

I was delighted to receive this review from Andrew, avid reader, and book-obsessive – (biggest personal library I have seen yet, I think.) I asked him if he could name another book or author that the writing reminded him of and he said: ‘No, not really, but that was why it was so good.’ Encouraging for me in one way, but difficult when agent-hunting as they invariably wish to know where to place the book – fair enough but I don’t know either. I can see a tad of Iris Murdoch, perhaps . . . he mentions Laurence Durrell; my ‘other half’ suggested Calvino.

 

The Hundred and Fifty Eighth Book.  Kate A Hardy.

The Hundred and Fifty Eighth Book is actually a book called ‘Five’, which mysteriously appears on the shelves of second-hand bookseller Hamish, back in 1985. Hamish himself is working hard, most of the time, at being a writer, having started sixteen years previously with a collection of poems, much derided by his father,’a disgruntled gangly hornet with an ever ready sting’.Nevertheless it is his father’s library that forms the basic stock for Hamish’s shop.

The parallel literary world of second-hand book selling in 1980’s  Bloomsbury [almost]’, is a world where a struggling author could feel trapped. The small cafes, pre-cappucino yuppy world is well defined with plenty of tea and toast. A comfort zone frequently subverted by the chain of co-incidence relentlessly bowled along by Kate A Hardy’s seemingly innocuous prose. In reality a density of quotidian details which seep into the reader’s consciousness by stealth.

Hamish has no sense of smell, a serious condition for second-hand booksellers and bibliomaniacs.

‘Five’ is dedicated ‘To whoever picks this up’,and almost the first co-incidence, in a book of co-incidences, is the revelation that its’ protagonist has just been cured of his own lack of the sense of smell.From here on in Kate A Hardy structures her novel with generous helpings of chance, pre-destination and synchronicity. A layer cake of intrigue and complexity which compels the reader to continue to the very end, which, of course may not actually be the end.Along the way, an assortment of memorable friends and relations, and chance meetings reinforce the structure of Hamish’s journey.

With a Durrellian sense of different views of the same events, all, or none of which may have been precipitated by the appearance of ‘Five’ in Hamish’s world, our sense of reality is cannily manipulated by the author.The author being possibly any one of at least four candidates on offer.

Read this new novel from Kate A Hardy, guaranteed to intrigue, entertain, and install a nuance of unease which will keep you going to the end, and beyond. A follow up is surely necessary…

So what do we have here? Certainly a mystery story. A closely observed period piece. A well written

and imaginative take on the issues of self determination vs the blind watchmaker. A really good read from the outset.

Enjoy!

AWGilman

UPM

 

First review for the 158th Book

as a novel.

I had many for it as a short story, and nearly all of them enthusiastic, which then spurred me on to write it up into a novel. Actually, for me anyway, it’s a great way of commencing a book – launching off into an unknown sea of imagination but with distant landmasses of information all around as reference points.

After receiving two copies of the second edit from Lulu-publishing, I had a quick check through to make sure chapters hadn’t slipped out from the process somehow, and gave them away to be read. I’d like to feel the book could be enjoyed by any age-group from young adult to vintage adult, and was delighted that Bill, (in the latter category, although to speak to him you wouldn’t know it) an avid devourer of novels, was willing to read and give his opinion.

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“It was a first-class read from start to finish. I marvel at your imagination and ability to constantly put everyone, especially the reader, in a whirl. I must now read your other volumes and am, of course,  looking forward very much to your next book.”  

The tricky art of synopsis writing

It’s the worst bit. Book finished, many edits done, rough copies printed, agent research done, presentation chapters duly spaced correctly, checked for typos, letter written . . . synopsis.

How to distill down 90,000 words or so into a page? My latest technique is to write out exactly what happens in each chapter then keep whittling it down, jam it all together, hone it until it makes sense and then give it to long-suffering friends for their comments. Luckily I have quite a few who are willing to scan through and add their thoughts whether it be on structure, grammar or whether the thing is dull, interesting, could be better, etc. Maybe everyone does this, or maybe not. I certainly used to spend little time, wanting to get the job out of the way as quickly as possible. But what’s the point unless it’s done as well as can be? Putting myself in an agent’s chair, staring at yet another badly constructed synopsis, yes, I’d just slide it into the ‘thanks but no thanks’ bin.

For this current book I have gone through many, many sheets of paper, over several days gradually adding and subtracting words until the page felt ‘done’. Someone came back to me yesterday when I thought I’d nailed it only to say, ‘Hmm, but what about this’, and they were totally right. A few hours more work and the few paragraphs were so much more succinct, the plot so much more strongly outlined. You know it all in your head, and everyone out there, doesn’t.

One more check though, letter thoroughly investigated for stupid errors and I’ll strike out once again into the ocean of ‘well, you never know, this could be the one . . .”

 

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Stalking an idea

So . . . next book.

A few days have passed where my usual morning writing slot has been filled with going over ‘old stuff’, looking through filed projects and odd folders marked: “ideas.” It is a little disturbing not having the ‘rolling’ project, something solid to work on everyday; the comforting pattern of writing, editing, and re-writing crammed into the rest of the everyday-ness. The last book is being ‘looked at’ by someone at the moment, and waiting for a response is, as I’m sure any writer knows, a strange time-bubble of possibilities, trying not to get any hopes in any way, but it’s rather nice to go about the day-stuff thinking something could happen.

So . . . the stalking and the idea. The idea is the follow on to the last book, (The Hundred and Fifty Eighth Book) and – I think – will be set on Hampstead Heath in some unspecified very far away time. The stalking will be much walking/wandering and thinking on the Heath, possibly swimming in the ‘Ladies’ Pond, and recalling childhood/student/post-student times spent on this rather extraordinary bit of the Earth.

Before the Heath-derive I need to visit certain roads and places that featured in the last book, (mostly around Camden and King’s Cross) and sketch, preparatory to making full ink drawings to be included in the (finished . . .) novel. An interesting challenge as the book is set in 1985/1990 and 1995, so cars/buses/fashion/ street furniture, etc will have to be researched and segued into the artwork.

Apparently it’s not going to rain.

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Constable painting of The Heath and a pond – not sure which one

Website

I think I do need one – mainly to grab together all the loose bits of ‘me’ information out there. My brother has promised to help ‘build me’ one but in the meantime here’s a mock up of the opening page I would imagine to exist out there in web-land – sort of.

If he’s really clever, and I think he is, You, the public, will be able to click on a photo of me and find a short biography; click on various books – Hoxton, Dog, and other tales, Going out in the midday sun, The hundred and fifty-eighth book . . . and a notebook perhaps which will then reveal a page of my sketches and musings over characters/places/overheard conversations, etc. Oh, and a few links to this blog and the another one, Goodreads reviews, and so on. Simple.

He said it’s a bit like writing a book only easier . . . for someone who has just about mastered turning the computer on and off, the idea of ‘building’ something like his own wonderful website is utterly beyond me. Watch this space, as they say . . .

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Oh, I remember those

 

How exciting cassette recorders were back in the 70s. I recall receiving one for, I think, my ninth birthday. It was oblong and black with chrome (plastic) bush-button keys at one end: stop, start, fast forward, etc, and I loved it, mainly for inventing and recording, with a group of friends, The Muck-spreaders, a  piss-takes of The Archers. The days before Youtube . . .

My current book is set in 1985, the main character being somewhat techno-phobic, like me. After being told by his ex-wife who can never get hold of him that he must purchase an answer machine, he ventures into an alien environment to do so . . .

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An hour later, I’m walking up the Tottenham Court Road in a post-beer dreamy state, mind still buzzing from Mr Narche’s extraordinary words. In passing I glance in the window of one of the many electrical shops and notice amongst the avalanche of sleek and grey, a display of answer machines. Time to join 1985, Hamish – within reason.

    I step into the burrow of technology and stand gawping uncomprehendingly at the mass of bleeping, flashing . . . stuff.

    “What you after today, sir?”

    I jump at the voice coming from behind the counter. A youth clad in a satin purple and turquoise outfit is grinning at me. He pushes a hinged lid down on a small rectangle of orange plastic in front of him. I can just make out the upside-down words: Donkey Kong.

    “What is Donkey Kong,” I hear myself ask.

    He looks at me as if I have travelled in time from 1837.

    “Game and watch – hand-held games. There’s tons ‘appening – the future innit . . .” He gives up realising his adolescent enthusiasm is wasted on me. “VCR? SLR? Pack of VHS?”

    “Actually . . . I just want an answer machine – a simple one.”

    He nods: “Right-o,” lifts various chunks of plastic off a shelf, places them reverently before me and instructs me in their various attributes. I glaze over after forty seconds and point at one with a rather fetching band of real wood veneer.

    “That’s nice.”

    He says something that sounds like: ‘sgdtfsj’, ‘tvjjjdsds,’ and ‘sdchduhd’, plus it can, ‘dcsdumaadd’.”

    I smile and say I’ll take it. A boxed version is found, slid into a slippery, yellow logoed bag after which I hand over the required sum, walk out into real air and wonder what just happened.

Oh, hello

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I’m feeling a lot happier after posing the question ‘authors who write without a plan’to uncle Google. Seems as if it’s an accepted way of working and even if it wasn’t I don’t think I can work any other way. I’ve tried making chapter plans , thinking ahead – who’ll do what, where, when, but a mind-block always seems to appear suggesting I need to plan other things like car repairs, vet trips, earning a living . . .

It’s an odd way to work; a little scary, like walking a bit too close to a windy cliff edge just to see what’s down there. Often the path meanders into good terrain, fertile and exciting and equally often comes to a halt in front of a huge pile of literary manure from which I have to hastily back-track to find a different lane.

Characters I find equally difficult to pin down. Like the lady above, they often appear, semi-formed and reveal their true identities as I write. I have heard people say that you should work ever last thing out about a character before you introduce them into the story. A great idea except characters change and morph as I write, sometimes slightly, sometimes to almost take over the story, causing me to re-write and re-think – maybe a useful process in itself.

So, my planning: an early morning scramble to get words down, reflecting throughout the day, occasionally with a Eureka moment at some point and some hasty note-making followed by a re-cap early the following morning before the story moves on, slowly, speedily, sideways, backwards and (happily)mostly forwards.