Monthly Archives: January 2013

Here comes The Fear again – but if it’s good enough for Ian Rankin, it’s good enough for me!

Uh oh, here it comes again – The Fear, as I always call it.

Indie band Pulp wrote a song about it on their This Is Hardcore album:

‘Here comes The Fear again, oh, oh,

‘The end is near again, oh no!’

I know how Jarvis Cocker felt.

Why? Because I’ve just sent my third finished manuscript to my agent and now have to wait and see what he thinks.

 And because it might be total rubbish and he might hate it and my publisher might hate it and everyone in the world might hate it, and then they’ll hate me and then I’ll hate myself and…SITS UP – SLAPS FACE …Deep breath…

It’s frightening isn’t it? Trying to write. Writing stuff. Showing that stuff to other people?

Do other writers feel like this? Probably. And recently I watched a documentary that made me feel a bit better about the whole cowardy custard thing. BBC’s Alan Yentob interviewed Ian Rankin, best selling author of the Rebus crime series, about his work and resurrecting Rebus after he ‘retired’ the character last year.

What a nice chap he seemed. Nice selection of jumpers and a bit in need of a haircut. And how completely un- ‘writerly’ (no burbling about his ‘muse’, not a smoking jacket in sight). So much so, he confessed that, when he starts each new book, he often has no idea how they’ll progress, end or even ‘whodunit’!

He writes a book a year, vanishing into his study, leafing through his folder of newspaper articles featuring bizarre or unusual crimes – picks one, gets the germ of an idea and, well, makes a load of notes and just starts writing, trusting it’ll all work out.

 A bit like Geoffrey Rush playing Philip Henslowe, theatre director, in my favourite scene in the film Shakespeare in Love, (starring Joseph Fiennes as Willy Shakespeare with writers block, written by Tom Stoppard.) At each juncture where crisis is looming, here is his philosophy.

Henslowe: Allow me to explain about the theatre business. The natural condition is one of insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster.

Fennyman: So what do we do?

Henslowe: Nothing. Strangely enough, it all turns out well.

Fennyman: How?

Henslowe: I don’t know. It’s a mystery.

This approach seems to work for Mr Rankin but, reassuringly, even he gets THE FEAR.  Yep, he calls it that too. A few months into his draft, well quite specifically apparently, around page 65, he gets the heebie-jeebies, and thinks I have no idea what to do next.

Watch him describe The Fear himself in this short clip from the BBC where he talks about his favourite Iris Murdoch quote – ‘Every book is the wreck if a perfect idea’ !

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p010h3yc

 

So what does he do? With the help of his very supportive wife he ploughs on and then… it passes. How? He doesn’t know. It’s a mystery.

I guess the fear never passes. Even for a self effacing, obviously skillful writer like Mr R who literally has people queuing round the block for his next release.

I felt so inspired by the sight of him, the blank look of abject terror in his eyes, I read a Rebus novel, Black and Blue. Guess what – no secret at all – it’s a cracking read. And I don’t  ‘do’ police procedurals.

Because I used to work as a police press officer I’m that annoying git that sits on the settee during Inspector Morse/CSI Coventry going, well you just contaminated your evidence and you’d never get away with that search under PACE (Police and Criminal Evidence act). But Rankin doesn’t let silly police-ey stuff get in the way of a buzzing plot, a great character and a lovely turn of phrase.

So, courage, Bev! On to the beginnings of novel number four (while I wait for the verdict on three). I’ve got a load of ideas, it’s just I have no idea yet how they’ll become an actual plot! 

But, strangely enough, it may all turn out well…

And if it’s good enough for our Ian. It’s good enough for me!

Ready, steady…er…write?…

***

Are you in the gang with me and Mr R? Do you believe in the mystery of the muse? 

Or are you a precision planner? 

Come on, sympathise or gloat by leaving a comment right here 🙂

 

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Vampires, fast cars and Twits – A Purely Subjective Review 2012

 

2012, eh? The Olympics, The Golden Jubilee, Gangnam Style, the shenanigans of Carrie and Co in Homeland and all the other things that made the year so special! As they slide into hazy, fond memory What about the books? I hear you literary fiends cry.

The publishing event of 2012 was, of course, not Fifty Shades of all that, but that two of my own novels Telling Stories and Holiday Money were published by Cutting Edge press. (Both future classics and bestsellers, obviously….) But, as an avid guzzler of all things bookish, (and for the rest of the world who don’t live within five feet of my laptop or my fantasy-addled head) what else brought little moments of literary delight to Bev’s house of books in 2012?

Here are my purely subjective hits. Technically some of these were out in 2011 but I only cottoned on to them this year. If you’ve missed them too, you might nab them in the New Year sales. (But, don’t forget, both my book are really cheap on Kindle…#ShamelessPlug)

 

Gee you cant trust no-one!  Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn.

My own super-favourite crime novel of the year, for selfish reasons – chiefly, that when I wrote my own first novel  ( Telling Stories http://amzn.to/U8Z3pd ) I wanted to create a heroine who would be self-interested, brutally honest and difficult to like. Gillian Flynn does this brilliantly with her ‘heroine’ Amy in this page-turning mystery where no one is what they seem and you certainly wouldn’t want any of them coming round to dinner. Twisted brilliance! Selling by the well-deserved bucket-load. (If you like this, you’d probably like my stuff as well #ShamelessPlug2.)

 

It’s all gone a bit Pete Tong (wrong)

1.  Shhh! It’s the apocalypse. The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson-Walker explores a very near future where the earth’s rotation is slowing, meaning days and nights are stretching out to increasing lengths. Crops are failing, the economy is starting to crumble and no one can get a decent night’s kip. But what does this mean to a girl on the verge of adolescence who likes a boy? Understated, and beautifully written.

2. Tool up! It’s the apocalypse! Justin Cronin’s The 12. This long-awaited sequel to The Passage is the yin to ‘Miracles’ yang – vampires, survivor colonies, explosions and all sort of mad stuff. No chance of a doze, soldier!

3. The kids are alrightBlood Red Road, Moira Young. Ms Young is about as unlikely a ‘novelist’ as you’ll ever meet, far more interesting than say, Hilary Mantel who won the Booker Prize this year, again. Not that I’ve got anything against Ms Mantel but she can’t count her former jobs as alternative comedian, tap dancer and opera singer. But this does beg the question how is this YA story of girl’s quest to find her brother in a dust-land dystopian future is so good. Uber-director Ridley Scott agrees and has ‘reportedly’ bought the film rights! You heard it here first, or from your 14 year old son or daughter, over and over again!

 

Pure’ class! 

Costa Book of the Year, Pure, by Andrew Miller, is the one to read if you want to look cultured on the train or in er, Costa Coffee. (But resist the urge to get out your nosegay or lace handkerchief!) It’s based loosely on an 18th century project to move a Parisian cemetery which was overflowing with corpses and poisoning public health –it has sinister overtones of the approaching French revolution but is written in a lovely, lyrical, easy-reading style that makes it feel like the best kind of historical fairy tale.

 

E-book Wild Card  

No sheep, no leeksIronbark by Stephen Venables. I read this with my new Kindle to repay Stephen for a very nice review of my own novel,  hoping it wouldn’t be some awful Welsh-cliché-ridden pastiche. Luckily it’s a beautifully-written mystery/historical romp that starts in the South Wales Valleys, with a funeral and the bequest of a Jacobs cracker tin, then turns into a cross continental adventure spanning 50 years. It has laughs, a twisty-turny plot, and loads of corned beef sandwiches! Epic! ( http://amzn.to/PGdL0m )

 

No time to read a whole blooming novel?!

Got 90minutes? Then buckle up and watch the movie version of James Sallis’s noirish thriller Drive – starring Ryan Gosling. Discover LA as we follow the exploits of taciturn ‘Driver’ who does car stunts for the movies / moonlights as a getaway driver. Displaying some brilliant silent ‘face’ acting (he only has about 30 lines in the whole film), you’ll be hooked as Gosling gets in a bit of bother over a girl. Sit back, feel like a cool kid and enjoy the fab soundtrack. But when Driver starts kicking the man in the elevator, look away!

Got ten minutes? Take a bite of the poisoned Apple and read The I-Hole.  Sci fi meets consumerism in this BBC story competition shortlisted tale by Julian Gough .  The ‘I-Hole’ is the next, near-future must-have piece of technology – a little black hole you can keep at your desk. What could possibly go wrong?

Got ten seconds? Try the Lit-lite soundbites of Twitterature by Penguin. Does what it says on the tin – The ‘classics’ in 140 characters or less. Your sixth form English teacher would hate it but if you don’t laugh yourself silly you aint got no bidnes being all up in this literature n sh*t. #Totally!

 

Happy 2013, reading pals! 

 

Think I’ve missed a little gem of 2012? Do tell? 

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