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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Santa comes early – but Scrooge isn’t far behind! (A cautionary tale for writers)

Santa came early this week when I learned that e-thriller.com http://www.e-thriller.com/  had selected Telling Stories, my first novel, as one of their e-thrillers of the month and given it a glowing review. (I’ll get to the Scrooge later, or maybe it’s a Grinch – anyway, stick with the Santa thing for now.)

Reviews, eh? They’re a funny thing. You send you’re little book, the one you’ve cuddled and crafted over many years, out into the bleak mid-winter world. You tuck it up in a warm scarf and gloves with a little note in its pocket saying, take a look at me, tell me what you think.

You hope a nice man or lady or will be kind to it, or at least not openly cruel. Like that first day at school, you know some people will be friendly, some people will be mean about it behind its back and others will just knock it down and kick dirt in its face.

But them’s the breaks! You can’t control it.

Basically, Telling Stories is set in Cardiff and is about a young journalist who is sent to cover a story about a girl whose body has been found in the city’s river. Soon she realises she has met the girl before and her suspicions turn to a group of her old University friends who are harbouring secrets and jealousies of their own.

So far readers have been jolly nice about Telling Stories. http://amzn.to/Pesgrl Not all of them, of course, one woman on Goodreads actually called it ‘drivel’. Fair enough – everyone’s entitled to their opinion!

But it was nice to get the email from e-thriller saying they’d enjoyed it and selected it as a book of the month.

Hurrah! A big glass of Harvey’s Bristol Cream, or egg-nogg, or whatever, for me!

 The full review is here http://www.e-thriller.com/  but here’s a stocking-filler sized taster of what Ms Helen Hayes had to say.

She begins:

“This is just the sort of intriguing storytelling peppered with characters that hook you in that I love in a thriller.”

Ooh, good start…

Then:

“Jones has really defined the characters, all are intriguing, and you want to know more about their relationships.”

Nice!

Then:

“ This is….not the chick-lit type of story you might expect; it’s not as formulaic, nor is it a standard thriller. This is more of an unsettling tale, one that makes you question the complexities of friendship and love.  At its heart is a good old fashioned murder mystery – with a contemporary twist.

A compelling story with deftly drawn characters that will keep you turning the pages’

Ho, Ho, Ho! I thought to myself. Merry Xmas!

Ah, but wait! Just 48 hours later, here comes that ‘Scroogey’ and ‘Grinchey’ bit, in the form of a review in Buzz magazine  http://www.buzzmag.co.uk/the-magazine/  (Bah! Humbug! etc)

The mercifully short review starts:

‘Fancy spending some more time with all those self proclaimed ‘crazies’ who bored you at Uni?’

…er that’s not so good…

‘Fancy hearing them going over their own unremarkable experiences mythologising every fag packet and dildo?’

Huh?…Oh dear! That’s definitely not good! 

It then goes on to call the dialogue ‘so lacking in character you’ll be re-reading every sentence to find out who’s speaking’. It even suggests you might ‘doze off’. The only vaguely generous thing it manages to say is that;

‘On the plus side one of the annoying berks gets killed!’

Basically it’s the equivalent of a six sentence dirt-kick in the face. (Yes, just six, though it feels like more!) Better make that glass of Harvey’s a bottle, then!

No doubt, like me, other writers spend a lot time wondering how the same book can generate such dramatically different reviews. Maybe they just didn’t get it, you muse to yourself, they misunderstood it, it’s not their thing!

Who knows? The fact is they just didn’t like it and they’re entitled to say so! Them’s the breaks!  A timely yuletide reminder that as a writer, there’s nowt you can do about it except grow a fat Santa-like skin around your soft and tender ‘creative’ bits!

In conclusion? Reviewers, eh? God bless ’em, every one!

(Though some might want to bear in mind that, as Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol reminds us, like Jacob Marley, we will ‘wear the chains we forged in life’…just a thought…)

***

E thriller’s other featured books for December are:

Sedition by Tom Abrahams
Nightshade by Jonelle Patrick, published by Penguin/Intermix
Death in Bordeaux by Allan Massie, published by Quartet Books
The Hiding Place by David Bell, published by NAL (Penguin)

* You too can send your little e-baby to e-thriller. http://www.e-thriller.com/?page_id=10 They’re always looking for submissions for Thriller of the Month. You never know, you might get a nice New Year present!

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Dressing Gowns Off! We’re Storming the ‘Castle’ (look out, Mr Fillion)

This week Castle the smash hit US TV series, airing in the UK on Sky, has been nominated for a People’s Choice award. For those of you not in the know Nathan Fillion plays Richard Castle, a phenomenally successful murder mystery/thriller writer who ‘shadows’ the impossibly lovely yet terrifyingly capable Det Kate Beckett (Stana Katic) at the Noo Yoik police department. Hilarious japes and mild peril ensues.

Look ! http://exm.nr/UJFa26 (www.examiner.com)

Before I continue I should point out that I’m very fond of the show, and more than fond of the lovely Mr Fillion, but it has occurred to me that Castle is not a good role model for insecure and aspiring (read skint) writers.

Castle is far too handsome and ridiculously charming. He’s smart, sells gazillions of books, lives in a millionaire’s Manhattan ‘loft’ and solves loads of tricky crimes while flirting winsomely with Det Beckett.

 Is this a realistic role model is this for young writers?

Quite frankly, I think it’s damaging to our fragile and impressionable little minds. In the same way that the fashion industry is berated for its use of super skinny and size zero models, making young women (and men) feel inferior and fostering eating disorders, what about writers?  Castle is probably single-handedly responsible for thousands of cases of ‘writing disorders’ and pyjama-clad bouts of moping and self-doubt among wordsmiths who live in London bedsits (or Cardiff semi-detached houses with damp ceilings and write in a spare bedroom full of suitcases) No one campaigns about realism in role models for writers!

 

Be they fictional or actual there really aren’t many great role models for writers to emulate through the ages.

In the ‘Romantic’ era of the 18th century to be a ‘writer’ you had to be rich or ‘of independent means’, off your face most of the time, have lots of spare cash to enable much lying around in opium dens, renting villas on lake Geneva or swimming across the Bosphorus for a laugh – see Byron, Shelley/Mary Shelley/Keats/Coleridge et al. Consumption/gout and syphilis were an occupational hazard – Uuurgh! Nasty!

In 1920s and 30s London you could call round each others’ nice houses in Bloomsbury, drink tea, discuss aesthetical and liberal ideals, wax lyrical about ‘a room of one’s own’ and then walk into a river with your pockets full of stones – downer! (See, obviously, Virginia Woolf)

 

Late 20th and early 21st century fictional role models are little better.

Mega bestseller Stephen King has done a lot to reinforce the ‘writer as eccentric’ trope in his books. See The Shining – 200 pages of writer’s block and the phrase all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy would send anyone axe-happy if they were in a caravan in Brighton let alone a scary hotel in the Rockies with phantom bar tenders.

Also in Misery – Paul Sheldon is an eccentric egotist who apparently never makes copies of his manuscripts (eh?) and drives out in snowstorms in a wholly unsuitable car. He suffers at the hands of his number one fan Annie after he ungratefully decides to kill off the popular romantic heroine who’s made him squillions of quids, ending up one foot short of a set of sneakers for his presumption.

I think you’ll agree there’re not many laughs there.

 

For me – a child of the 80s – lady writers were synonymous with two women.

1. Every nan’s favourite sleuth Jessica Fletcher from Murder, She Wrote (Angela Lansbury as a sort of modern day Miss Marple on Red Bull)

2. And dowdy Joan Wilder, the ‘romantic’ novelist from Michael Douglas fun-fest Romancing the Stone. In this holiday classic Kathleen Turner (hair in a ponytail, no make-up, awful sweater) is dowdy ‘hopeful romantic’ Joan (lives with cat, talks to cat, wears heeled court shoes on a trip to rescue her sister from kidnappers in Columbia). Once jungle-side she meets up with Jack Colton (Douglas) and becomes all adventurous and sassy – like, you know, the stuff she writes about in her books comes true, like, art imitating life, imitating art etc. By the end Colton’s hero brings out the ‘woman’ in her (Kathleen – now wearing lip gloss, a revealing skirt and with BIG 80s hair – yeah, in the jungle, like they’d have Braun hot tongs there. Anywaaay…)

 

But still not much to aspire to. You can’t sit round waiting for Michael Douglas all day. I think they have big spiders in Columbia which rules out any jungle larks, and Turner was obviously always a total fox pretending to be a plain Jane by wearing a saggy brown suit.

 

So maybe it’s time we started campaigning for real role models for real writers.

That’s pretty much a slogan already! There must be some European funding available or we could organise a telethon, featuring sad mini profiles of ‘real’ writers in their slippers going on a Baileys run to the corner shop. Donate your pounds now – save these poor souls from excessive tracksuit wearing and bad haircuts, that sort of thing. We could get Morgan Freeman to do the voice-over!

Or maybe pressure could be put on producers for more realism in our TV ‘writers’. For the next series of Castle perhaps Mr Fillion could try and at least ‘look a bit rough’ of a morning, don a scruffy dressing gown, not bother to shave – or there could be a scene were he constantly checks his sales on Amazon or his blog  stats. Maybe he could even have a bit of a verbal dust-up with a bloke called Adrian or Javier on Goodreads over a dodgy review. It’s not perfect but it’s a step towards ‘Real Role Models for Real Writers’.

 

Yes, I think it’s a winner. I’m actually glad now that I haven’t left the house for five days or blow-dried my hair for a week – more time for great creative ideas to flow…

In fact, I might actually tweet Mr Castle right now…Dear Mr Fillion…

 

*If American, vote here for Castle in The People’s Choice Awards (if not, look at a nice picture of lovely Mr Fillion anyway.)

http://bit.ly/arSy9z (peopleschoice.com)

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On The Road? Pass the cranberry juice…

A few years ago I was sitting in Vesuvio – the bar next to the City Lights bookstore in San Francisco’s North Beach – the place where Jack Kerouac and his Beat poet mates were said to have hung out.

Me and lil’ sis were drinking something called The Jack Kerouac – can’t remember what was in it exactly, except it contained Jack Daniels’ and er, cranberry juice.  I remember thinking at the time I can’t believe Jack Kerouac ever drank something with cranberry juice in it. But it was very nice and obviously a good seller.

So this week, with the screen adaptation of On The Road finally making it into cinemas I’ve been thinking about that cranberry juice – and  wondering if the film will bear any resemblance to the manic, slightly desperate whirl of the book or will it be something sweeter and more palatable, like that cocktail.

On the Road is not the obvious choice to make into a movie – it has no real story arc or narrative to speak of (that being the point) but movies tend to like structure and actual ‘stuff happening’. I mean, books are adapted because producers think they can fill theatres and make money, right? So take On the Road, add in the cranberry juice of startlingly cool Brit actor Sam Riley (from Control ) and every tweenager’s favourite fang-banger Kristin Stewart out of Twilight and you immediately up the audience crossover appeal.

What would Jack Kerouac think of the cranberryisation of his classic? Does it matter if it introduces a new audience or era to classic and maybe even, who knows, encourages them to go and read the original book?

I’ll have to see it before I make up my mind but  here are some of my ‘do’s and don’ts’ for the perfect book to screen translation – let’s see how many (if any) On The Road ticks…..

 

1. Ignore The Author (a bit).

Look at Emma Thompson’s adaptation of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility in the 90s – while sticking pretty closely to the original story she injected a massive amount of froth, wit and humour into what is essentially Jane Austen most didactic and moralising novel (whisper it –it’s really quite boring.) Yes, most of the actors are much older than in the book but who cares?

*Casting cranberry juice genius? Actually making Alan Rickman adorable as Colonel Brandon!

Children of Men – 2009 dystopian thriller from the book by PD James. (That’s Baroness James to you.) Yes, her wot writes the crime stuff with Inspector Dalgleish in. Whereas the original was a bleak thriller about a time when women have become infertile the movie ups the ante throwing in a ‘fortress Britain’ scenario and some astonishing tracking shots to create a haunting vision of Broken Britain that’s uncomfortably familiar

*Casting cranberry juice genius?  – Michael Caine as long-haired hippy mentor to Clive Owen’s damaged everyman Theo.

 

2. Don’t Ignore The Author (at all).

We Need to Talk About Kevin  – a compulsively gripping novel by Lionel Shriver about the nature of a mother’s love. Like the book the film treads a superb line as to whether Eva Khatchadourian’s inability to bond with her son leads to tragedy or whether it’s because she knows from the start he’s just plain bad. Will divide readers/viewers like Marmite.

*Casting cranberry juice genius?  Note to the Oscar people: Tilda Swinton was robbed!

 

3. Have Leonardo di Caprio In It

Decades before Donald Draper made compulsive capitalism and casual misogyny cool Richard Yates wrote Revolutionary Road, a compulsive tale of a ‘perfect couple’ fallen out of love with the stifling reality of the American Dream. In the movie, with dialogue and scenes pretty much word for word from the book, Leonardo and Kate Winslet perfectly capture the couple whose relationship is a cauldron of barely contained violence, resentment and disappointment. The most realistic love-hate couple rows ever committed to paper.

See also Leo in Alex Garland’s The Beach – despite several departures from the book, and All Saints’s warbling the theme track, this is an enjoyable debunking of the student gap year dream.

And Leo in Shutter Island (Dennis Lehane). There’s a psychiatric hospital on a storm tossed island…I can’t tell you anything, it’ll spoil it. You’ll find out when Leo does (but by then it’ll be too late).

*Casting cranberry juice genius?  – Duh! Weren’t you paying attention?

 

4. Adapt An Early(ish) Stephen King Novel

The Shining – Kubrick captures the genuinely disturbing vibe of isolation, madness and the fact some building are just born bad! Don’t watch late at night, though – the music is very unnerving (and the ’70s carpeting is hard on tired eyes).

*Casting cranberry juice genius? – Yes Jack Nicholson’s at his best but Shelley Duvall is superbly highly-strung as his wife.

 

5. Adapt Stephen King short stories (set in prisons)

Before ‘More Than’ Freeman sold insurance on TV, Morgan Freeman’s honeyed tones narrated this prison story of Andy Dufresne and his ‘redemption’ at Shawshank. From Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption.

The Green Mile – more depression era prison drama featuring a death row inmate with a special gift. If you aint crying by the time Fred Astaire sings ‘Heaven, I’m in Heaven’ you aint got no heart, boss!

 *Casting Cranberry juice genius? – Sam Rockwell as ‘Wild Bill’ and the late Michael Clarke Duncan as simple minded John Coffey (‘like the drink, but not spelt the same’.)

 

6. Don’t worry about upsetting people

Before Christian Bale ‘went medieval on the ass’ of some hapless runner on the set of Terminator Salvation he was the biggest psycho of all – Patrick Bateman in American Psycho. Okay there’s stuff in the book that could never, EVER make it to the screen but this is a surprisingly enjoyable adaptation of the controversial Brett Easton Ellis novel. Disturbing and funny – yes, funny, honest! It includes a several page riff on why Huey Lewis and the news are modern cultural gods.

*Casting cranberry juice genius? – Letting the kid out of Oscar winning epic Empire of The Sun play New York’s most fashion-conscious killer!

 

Now I’m just waiting for On the Road – and I quite fancy a cranberry juice…

Best /worst book to screen adaptations? Come on, tell me your faves….I’m ready for a movie scrap… 

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Big Blog Hop – The Next Big Thing!

This week I have to thank Renata F Barcelos for tagging me on the Big Blog Hop. She writes edgy, mystery fiction and her upcoming novel, My Sore Hush-a-Bye, promises more dark and damaged characters. You can find out more on her website http://renatafbarcelos.wordpress.com/about/

So, from Brazil, where Renata is based, to Cardiff, Wales and me – let the Hop begin. (A very international blog hop this week.)

 

BIG BLOG HOP Q and A commences about my novel Telling Stories http://amzn.to/PobIhW

 

What was the working title of your book?

For a long time (and I mean long – about eight years) the working title for Telling Stories was ‘Afterlife’ because it’s set partly among a group of friends at University and made reference to the idea that these ‘supposedly’ wonderful days will end and there’s a life ‘after’ them – often one very different to the one imagined! But it had a ‘supernatural’ implication that was confusing. Lizzy, the narrator, is a journalist who tells stories for a living and, as time went on, it became more about the way people shape the stories of their lives and relationships to hide or alter the truth – so the title became Telling Stories.

 

Where did the idea of the book come from?

There were two main inspirations.

I worked as a journalist at The Western Mail in Cardiff, covering lots of crime stories and I often wondered what it would be like if I started covering a story and found it led me to people who I knew and felt were hiding something – what would I do?

Also, it came about from a story a friend told me about a wedding she had attended. It appeared quite a few people, but not the groom, knew the bride and the best man had been having an affair for years! It made me think of the secrets that couples can keep, often in plain sight. The two ideas combined to make Telling Stories.

 

What genre does the book fall under?

It’s a literary crime/psychological thriller. I wanted to write something that would be at odds with the ‘chick-lit’ format. Lizzy isn’t really a ‘plucky/sassy’ heroine – she has a dark and self-interested side that often makes her quite selfish and sometimes unlikable but I think her motivations are ones everyone can recognise and might not like to admit they sympathise with!  (Or they might hate her, either’s good!)

 

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie?

That’s hard because I started the book a long time ago! I always envisaged Welsh actor Matthew Rhys playing ‘Mike’ and someone like Kate Winslet playing Lizzy! They might be a bit old now as the characters are in their late 20s. I’d have to try and find another actress who could bring out Lizzy’s cold streak but still make her sympathetic. It would come down to who can do a decent Welsh accent! Maybe Carey Mulligan could play Cora. I think they’d need to be actors with a British ‘indie’ feel unless Charlize Theron would like to play Lizzie! Oh and can I have Joss Whedon to direct? He’d get the 90s vibe just right and he’d put in some banter to subtly offset the nasty goings-on!

 

What is a one sentence synopsis of your book?

Stories lie. Truth hurts. Secrets can be deadly.

Okay, that’s a tagline, not a synopsis, but I’m rubbish at synopses. They just ruin everything. I don’t even like to watch movie trailers because of the ‘spoilers.’ I’m going to keep you guessing.

 

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I’m very lucky to be with the excellent Ampersand Agency and my UK publisher is indie outfit Cutting Edge Press.

 

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

About ten years, to be honest! Version after version was scribbled out and then whittled away on weekends and holidays. But once I decided to really finish it and try and get it ready to send into the scary, big wide world – about a year!

 

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

People have kindly said it reminded them of Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, Fay Weldon’s The Life and Loves of a She Devil and even Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr Ripley – being told my writing is anything like any one of these is a massive compliment! But you’ll have to make up your own mind. I’m too biased. Reader gets the last word!

 

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

 Well, it’s set in Wales but not as we know it! No sheep, no leeks, no miners, so choral singing, no rugby (but the narrator is called Jones. Well, there are quite a lot of us…). I think there’s been a gap between dealing with historical themes and Welsh culture and presenting the real 21st century Wales. The book touches on ideas of its cultural identity but it could be any post industrial city, really. My second book Holiday Money expands the setting to coastal south Wales.

It’s part of my bid to make Cardiff and South Wales the new edgy crime capital of Europe –  forget Ian Rankin’s Edinburgh or the Steig Larsson’s Stockholm and Scandanavia – Wales and ‘The ’diff’ is where it’s at! Honest!

 

That’s me done…

 

I now get to tag two others authors for next week’s hop. May I present The Two Tims, from opposite sides of the Atlantic.

 

Tim Davis (@TimDavis_Author) from San Francisco, CA, who has written about adventure, thrills and spills on the high seas in his YA book Sea Cutter– Book 1 in The Chronicles of Nathaniel Childe. It’s due out in paperback this week and has already won 1st Prize in the International Digital Awards for short YA fiction. http://bit.ly/JrPNGD

AND

Tim Vicary (@TimVicary) from York, England who is so versatile he writes reams of historical and legal thrillers. His latest, A Game of Proof exposes that justice and the law aren’t necessarily the same thing!   http://bit.ly/PhK61M

 

Take it away Tims!

(I can tag up to five authors on the hop but it seems many of my mates are busy bunnies in the run up to Halloween. If you’d like to be tagged on the hop send then me a tweet @bevjoneswriting and I’ll tag you!)

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Me and my celebrity ‘mates’ by Bev Jones: an interview with Bev Jones.

Times, they are a-changing, as Bob Dylan said, and for me that means the time has come to finally start doing some interviews to publicise my books. So this week (for a laugh) I interview myself about doing interviews. Postmodern or what?

Here goes….

Me and my celebrity ‘mates’ by Bev Jones, an interview with Bev Jones.

Bev ASo Bev, this week Indie Author Land have been kind enough to interview you on their webpage here at bit.ly/IndieAL20  (@IndieAuthorLand, IndieAuthorland.com).You used to be a journalist at The Western Mail and then the BBC– is it weird being the interviewee now and not the one asking rude and nosy questions?

Bev B – Yes Bev, it is strange now that the tables have turned on me. But a good interview, especially a nice feature, should be like a chat not an interrogation!

***

Bev A – Really? So what’s the secret of a good interview, smarty-pants?

Bev B – Well, as a journalist the idea was not just to ask someone a load of questions but to ask questions that get people to open up. Then you follow the conversation where it leads to find the hidden bits of info that make that person and their experiences stand out. It’s called finding ‘the line’, ie finding the best ‘story’ and a hook to hang it on.

*** 

Bev A – Well, you don’t seem to have a problem with talking about yourself. I must be good at this interview lark!

Bev B – It’s actually a ‘no-no’ to be sarky and condescending during the interview (that goes for the interviewer and the interviewee.)

***

Bev A – Okay, so what’s your ‘line’ then?

Bev B – That depends who’s writing about me. For instance, I was recently featured in the local paper I used to work for, The Rhondda Leader. Their line is ‘Writer Beverley lands book deal’ and it says I’m due to become an international novelist. I may also have shamelessly name- dropped to them that I share an agent with the man who wrote the brilliant Slumdog Millionaire, Vikas Swarup. This ‘celebrity’ connection has little to do with me, or the success or otherwise, of my book, of course, but it’s a ‘good line’ so I’m gonna keep plugging it!

If I could get Danny Boyle on to adapting one of my books like he did Slumdog then it’d be a different story. But I think he’s lying in a darkened room recovering from the Olympic opening ceremony watching DVDs of Shallow Grave.

***

Bev A – Okay, more obvious namedropping here. During your days as a reporter did you ever interview anyone famous?

Bev B. Yes, sort of! Rhys Ifans, Welsh actor of Notting Hill and TwinTown fame as well as numerous other movies. The interview lasted about 70 seconds at the launch of one of his films in Cardiff, way back – 20 seconds of which was him putting me in a headlock. He was very excitable and he’s a big fella – but he gave me a nice quote when he finally let me go. That’s my big claim to fame.

***

Bev A – Anyone else?  

Bev B – Lots of UK TV entertainment folk like orange-hued antiques guru David Dickinson from BBC’s Bargain Hunt and Laurence ‘your curtains are abysmal, darling’  Llewelyn-Bowen interior designer from Changing Rooms – neither of whom put me in a headlock but did give me tea and biscuits – lovely guys!

***

Bev A – Any ‘writers’?

Bev B – Yes, when I was a trainee I interviewed Rachel Tresize, from Rhondda near where I grew up. She had published her first book In and Out of the Goldfish Bowl. She was shy. I was jealous. She went on to win the inaugural Dylan Thomas Prize for her book Fresh Apples. I did not… bugger!

***

Bev A -Tell us about your writing, then. Where do your ideas come from? Are you methodical, etc?

Bev B – Leave it out! That’ll just make people doze off (besides, I’ve been tagged on the blog hop by the lovely Renata F Barcelos (  http://bit.ly/RF5Pjn  @RenataFBarcelos) for next week – more about writing stuff then.) Next question!

***

Bev A  – You’re bit hostile! I might put the ‘brain-phone’ down on you. Did anyone ever hang up or walk out on you during an interview?

Bev B – Spoon-bending mentalist Uri Gellar put the phone down on me once. He was doing a show at the Grand Pavilion in Swansea but my editor wanted to know about his friendship with Michael Jackson (it was round the time of the allegations against MJ). I did as I was told and every time he tried to tell me about his show I slipped in a question about his mate Michael. The he hung up – I probably deserved it!

***

Bev A – Sounds like you’re not best placed to give interview advice. Actually the title of this post is misleading too. You don’t have any real celebrity mates, do you!

Bev B – Are you an idiot? The headline doesn’t have to bear much relation to the piece – don’t you read the papers!

***

Bev A – Okay. So in the same vein, in your first novel Telling Stories – does someone actually tell stories?

Bev B – Yes – Lizzy, the narrator. But she’s a journalist so you might want to take what she says with a pinch of salt

 ***

Bev A – And in Holiday Money does anyone pop into the Thompson travel shop for 400 quid’s worth of Euros?

Bev B – No.

***

Bev A – Okay, here’s the shameless plug bit at the end. If people are a glutton for punishment where can they find your books?

Bev B – Telling Stories and Holiday Money are available on Amazon US and UK http://amzn.to/Pesgrl and lots of online retailers like barnesandnoble.com. Also if you bump into my mum she has a supply and is shifting a fair few!

***

Bev A – Well, better fly – got a deadline!

Bev B – Me too!

 

Bev’s idiot guide to interviews

The interviewer

Don’t just ask pre-arranged questions – listen to the responses and build on them.

Find a fresh line/hook to hang your story on by finding something unique to that person or their work – then have a bit of fun!

Paint a picture of the person but don’t be afraid to edit out the boring bits – they’ll thank you in the long run!

 

The interviewee

Think of some nice sound-bites or snippets that make you stand out and shoe-horn them into the answers at every opportunity!

Sell yourself but don’t pretend to be something you’re not – try to focus on the things that make you you rather than what you think a ‘writer’ should be.

BUT – Don’t be too honest – eg never bitch about other authors’ work!

Have a bit of a laugh! People want to read an interview with someone who doesn’t take themselves too seriously, someone they think they’d like to chat to in the pub/bus queue.

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