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

 

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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, (The Hundred and Fifty-Eighth 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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Shiiit.

Two rejections in a morning. I’ve just spent an hour wandering about the house, absent-mindedly doing chores, feeling a tad crushed and talking to dogs – “Why? Am I no good? Well obviously not . . . so, what now? What’s it all about?” What would it feel like to just say, ‘I don’t have to do this’. I could stop now, go shopping, worry about what my nails look like, hunt down a normal job . . .” Etc. But my soul would fall out of my person somehow and be left sulking, sitting on a bench in a dismal park with not even pigeons to talk to.

So, how do we deal with rejection? Me, personally, I usually have a few hours mentally kicking cans about and saying Shiiit a lot; then something generally occurs to make me feel me-normal again. In fact while writing this an email has plopped into the inbox saying ‘Hm, can’t find your chapters, please resend’.

Probably now’t but it’ll be enough to bale the water out of my own small, temporarily sinking boat of creativity today.

As other writers have done, no doubt, I just had a quick scan through the internet to see which now-famous authors had been rejected – or rather, how many times had they been rejected. Just about everyone, so it seems. Stephen King apparently received so many R.Letters that he speared them all on a spike in his bedroom.

Onward.

 

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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

Blank page banishment

So, follow-up book to my latest – The Hundred and Fifty-Eighth Book. Where to go, what to do and which characters to involve.

I spent a couple of days performing usual tasks – turning a dollar, putting washing on, walking dogs, making lists, and, feeling ill at ease with myself. I like that grounding feeling of the on-going project even though there’s editing to be done, maybe chunky re-writes and agents to try and beguile. I need the early morning fix of the big idea; the lines and paragraphs that will gradually meld into another 90,000 odd words to be tweaked, sworn over, possibly abandoned or hopefully read and enjoyed by others.

So, in my writing studio this morning, (bed with many pillows, cushions, tea, etc) I just wrote stuff, quite a lot of stuff; my brain soon became engaged (mostly) and I was enjoying the process, whatever the outcome. That seems , for me anyway, the way to work when faced with the scary empty screen page with pulsing cursor at the top – a clock marking time, or the notebook and chewed pencil.

I like this quote by David Mitchell on the subject:

A blank page is also a door – it contains infinity, like a night sky with a supermoon really close to the Earth, with all the stars and galaxies, where you can see very, very clearly . . . You know how that can make your heart beat faster?

 

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