Monthly Archives: August 2012

Fifty Shades of Green

It wasn’t a good omen. When I told my colleagues I was getting a book published a few months ago the first thing one asked was ‘ are there any dirty bits in it?’ (Yes, you know who you are, AG!)

‘No,’ I sniffed, grabbing my third Welsh cake (nice ones from the market in a paper bag, not those nasty pre-packaged ones) ‘it’s not that kind of book.’  Mentally, I added it’s a proper thriller. It doesn’t need embarrassing sexy bits.

Ah, my foolish pride…Soon the weeks passed and copies of Telling Stories were snapped up by my family and friends, and then the family and friends of friends who were bullied into buying it by my number one fan (you know who you are, MS – gawd bless you!) and, on the whole, I was pretty happy with the way things were going.

And then it happened – the literary sales phenomenon of the millennium exploded into bookshops and Tesco stores and  Twitter and into the Daily Mail and across the world like pandemic flu.

You know which book I mean – I’m not saying it – suffice to say I am now 50 shades of green if I even suspect someone is going to start talking about it or says they’re reading and it’s great, it’s the best book they’ve ever read or occasionally, it’s good but a bit samey, or if she says Holy Cow or bites her lip one more time I might have to kill myself.

Then there’s the 50 shades of speculation about who’s going to be the perfect Mr Thingy revealing things about people you sort of wish you hadn’t had to know.

And the 50 types of domestic incidents in the salivating national media because boyfriends/husbands don’t like their wives/girlfriends reading it/talking about who their perfect Mr Thingy is – apparently one man squirted his partner with brown sauce after she refused to stop reading the book (and presumably to make him a bacon butty or something). Well, that’s what the Daily Mail said, so it must be true.

So this will be what I remember of summer 2012, not my own book release, not all that patriotic sporting malarkey in London but the book that cannot be named and its bazillions of sales and the Hob Nob dipping Mr Thingy discussions while watching the men’s gymnastics on the office big telly while fiddling with Twitter.

Is it actually any good, then? (You tell me you’ve probably read it.)

I could form an opinion of my own if only I could bring myself to buy a copy…

Okay I’ve borrowed one from a friend (who has impeccable taste because she says it’s overrated – but also sits within striking radius of my potential right hook…hmmmm…)

At least I turned my frown upside down yesterday after hearing it’s been knocked off the UK bestseller list by The Hairy Bikers’ new diet book. Try anything once right? You might like it? (I mean Si and Dave’s One-Pan dishes and ‘Fakeaways,’ of course). It’s a matter of personal taste after all.

 With that in mind…


Books I once read (or tried to read) and hated.

(One chapter of) The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown. Yaaawwn!

Three quarters of The Magus by John Fowles, because someone at Uni said it was epic. Dear God I’ll never get those two days back!

The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides – while trapped on a plane to San Francisco.Creepy. Better than sleeping pills.

Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larrson. Hard work and boy, did I REALLY hate the first film.

Any DH Lawrence, nuff said.


Books I wanted to hate but couldn’t…

Harry Potter And the Philosopher’s Stone – I really wanted this to be rubbish. Everyone was reading it on the train and it was for kids for God’s sake. Read it on a train. Loved it.

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters.  It was a free review copy from the newsroom. Sarah Waters was Welsh (like me) so it was bound to be rubbish. Read it on the train. Loved it. Read it twice since.

The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury – read it following a dare from my beloved. Mars for God’s sake! Read it twice since.

American Psycho byBrett Easton Ellis sick stuff and that’s just the riff on the merits of Huey Lewis and the News.

The Passage – Justin Cronin. Oh God ! He was everywhere with his massive bloody advance cheque.Vampires/ridiculous chapter cliff hangers – immense fun.

Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist – Swedish child vampires/ridiculous eighties rock – immense fun.


Come on then!  Argue with me/educate me by leaving a comment or have a 140 character scrap with me on Twitter!







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About the Author…


In November 2002 I was a young journalist sitting in a Starbucks in Mid-town Manhattan. It was a finger-falling off cold day of fog, scarves and drippy noses. A yellow taxi cab was sitting in traffic outside the plate glass window which framed the towers of New York stretching into a rain-streaked sky. The sidewalk grills were steaming with subway smoke, just like I’d seen in a hundred New York movies.

I had a screaming hangover – the night before I’d drank too much in a bizarre, Gothic bar somewhere in Mid-town called Bar Bat that was squeezing the tail-end of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer vibe for the last few blood-red drops.

My sister (also a journalist) was in one of the tower blocks above the street, interviewing an ex pat businessman-made-good from Merthyr Tydfil about his experiences of 9/11, a year earlier.

A few days before I’d picked up a novel to read on the plane called About the Author by John Colapinto, simply because it had picture of a yellow New York cab on the front and picturesque smoking pavements among steely tower blocks. It was about a young writer failing to write and then getting into a hell of a lot of trouble.

I didn’t know it at the time that this was a best seller by a 25 year old writer destined to make a lot of money. I was a young, wannabe writer, half way through a very weak initial draft of my first novel that would, many years later, become Telling Stories.

Colapinto’s vain and vacillating ‘hero’ Cal is so impressed with the idea of being a writer he can’t quite bring himself to put anything on paper. The snappy, sarcastic prose perfectly captures Cal’s endless excuses and hideous self doubt.

Cal wrestles with his literary greatness and tells his ideas and stories to his roommate – who actually sits down and turns it all into a novel of his own. Without spoiling it, Cal ends up stealing the manuscript and it all goes horribly wrong.

It took me eight years to finish the novel I was attempting to write while reading About the Author that day in New York, to make it into Telling Stories and see it published. Unlike Cal (or Colapinto) I’m not on best seller lists (yet) – but I remember that day, watching the yellow cabs and the steaming streets and the feeling that life and art was weirdly intertwining.

Why am I telling you this?

Because this is my first blog and I suspect that, like many writers, or just avid readers, certain books are intrinsically linked to different places and periods in our lives.

So I’m going to try and use this blog to talk about books that have a special meaning for me –books that I’ve loved, hated, or remind of particular things. And, of course, books I think other people might like to read!

So, if you’re writing a novel, know a writer or hate writers and just like to see them come a cropper – read About the Author by John Colapinto.

If the novel has a moral, and I’m not sure it does, it’s that if you call yourself a writer sooner or later you have to sit down, stop moaning and bloody write something.

And never try to be a ‘Writer’ with a capital W. It won’t end well.

You have been warned…..

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