There’s got to be something awe-inspiring about looking out on a view like this, especially if you’ve been feeling less than sparkling, but when we left for our much needed adventure by train to Switzerland, inspiration was the last thing on my mind. Chocolate, yes. Mountains of sticky cake, yes and yes. Wine…oh yes.
Deep gloom had set in over the last few months. I’d had quite a few family worries. The novel that I’d finished in 2016 was lacking something. I hadn’t got the oomph to decide what was missing and although I’d written a new children’s book for NaNoWriMo, it had taken a lot of editing and courage-plucking to send it out to agents (it’s still out there). My confidence was, and is, at a very low ebb.
The Swiss holiday that had been booked to celebrate ten years of knowing my other half came just at the right time, but even better, the reading material that I’d shoved into my travel bag minutes before we set off turned out to be the biggest inspiration of all. Without giving too much away, Mark Haddon’s intuitive story was the missing link for me, and my novel is now facing a huge rewrite.
So a change of scene, some clear mountain air, a LOT of wine and a brilliant book have given me my mojo back. See you on the other side…
Last month when my friend, Leanne, tweeted me saying ‘this looks good, we can go after uni!’, it was the start of a very exciting conversation. She is fantastic and is sometimes an extra pair of eyes on Twitter for things exactly like this event. Because I spend a lot of my time either writing books, writing university papers or reading textbooks, my time on social media comes about in fits and starts, so I sometimes miss these great announcements of events and by the time I see them, they are sold out! This is where it is handy, as a lover of books and writing, to have a friend like Leanne to scout these events and tweet me about them! She did the same about the Paige Toon event I went to last month which I shall blog about next week as I totally forgot to at the time! (I blame university/book brain!)
So fast forward to yesterday, the day had finally come. We were off to London to the offices of Fabulous Magazine for their author event. Not one, not two, but THREE fantastic authors were there to chat to everyone and sign books. A-MAZ-ING, right?
So, we had the very lovely and VERY funny Lindsey Kelk, author of the ‘I heart’ series alongside other novels. Her latest book, ‘We Were on a Break’ is OUT NOW and promises to be another incredibly funny and witty read.
Next we have the amazing Giovanna Fletcher, super talented author of books such as ‘Billy and Me’, ‘Dream a Little Dream’ and her most recent novel, ‘Always with Love’ is a great read. Mum to Buzz and Buddy and wife to Tom, Giovanna amazes me with how she manages to fit everything in and still manage to meet fans and
enjoy an evening out.
And last, but by no means least, the incredibly talented and super friendly Mhairi Mcfarlane. Mhairi is one of the nicest people I have met; easy to chat with, identifiable and a total word wizard! Mhairi’s latest book ‘Who’s that Girl’ is OUT NOW. I am about a
third of the way through it and LOVING IT!
So, what do you get if you add three FABULOUS writers and a FABULOUS magazine – you got it, a FABULOUS evening! A free glass of wine – tick – a free book – BIG tick and a stunning view – phenomenal tick! The ladies chatted about their books, how they write, what they write, why they write. The topic went from cats with urine infections (don’t ask) to Tom Mcfly killing off Giovanna’s characters and using the lives of friends to help create the most craziest stories. There was laughter, lots of it, and great questions from audience members. The interview was filmed for a short while on Facebook Live which added a great dimension to the evening and the room in which the event took place was kitted out amazingly with lights, music from a DJ and a wonderful buzz of excitement that flew around and into every nook and cranny of the space.
I had the chance to meet all three wonderful ladies and have my books signed. We did have to queue for quite sometime (they are popular women) but when each and every person arrived at the front desk, it didn’t feel rushed or awkward and each person was given adequate time to chat and enjoy the company of their idols. I had some lovely conversations with each of the ladies, I almost wish I could have pulled up a pew and indulged in conversation all evening.
But unfortunately, as all good things, the evening had to come to an end. My friend and I left – with another friend of mine from back in high school who I recently have started to bump into at these book events (Hi Hannah!) – and we strolled back to London Liverpool Street station ready to embark on our journey back home.
But not before a quick snap on London Bridge to add to our souvenirs from another very enjoyable event.
Thanks to Fabulous Magazine for hosting a great event.
I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s in a small Gloucestershire village – back then, there were only four channels on the telly and as a teenager there was nothing to do and nowhere to go. My nearest library was ten miles away, my nearest bookshop twenty.
I was never one of the hanging-round-on street-corner kids, I preferred to stay in and read. As a teenager, I remember endless rainy Saturday afternoons when there was nothing but horse racing and darts on TV and my mum and dad’s bookshelves became my escape. Lack of access to bookshops meant I had to make do with what I could find and expand my reading genres – once I’d worked my way through the teenage reads in the school library, I read anything and everything we had at home. On my mum’s shelf, there was Mills & Boon and Catherine Cookson, Jackie Collins and Shirley Conran. On my dad’s, it was Alistair MacLean, Stephen King and James Herbert. I read my dad’s non-fiction books about nature and war, I read cookbooks, I read the bible. I read every copy of 2000AD stashed in my brother’s room and I even read the Watchtower magazines the Jehovah’s Witnesses stuffed through the letterbox.
I learned a lot from all of them, but most of all I learned not to be a reading snob: I appreciated a good thriller or a sweet romance as much as any of the classics we read at school.
Some of those books still sit on my shelves – all my old Enid Blyton and Noel Streatfield books, the Narnia books, What Katy Did and Little Women. But also my dad’s Stephen Kings and Alistair MacLeans, my mum’s Catherine Cooksons and Jackie Collins.
Now I’m all grown up and writing my own stories – whether it’s short stories, flash fiction or novels, I’ve written thrillers and romance, comedy, fantasy, sci-fi and horror. I like to think the access my parents gave me to all those wonderful fictional worlds has helped shape me as a writer and I want to thank them for that – I only wish they were still alive to see where their love of books has taken their daughter.
At the moment, my eldest daughter is only interested in books with horses in them and my youngest books about fairies, but I’m hoping they’ll find their own inspiration in my bookshelves as they get older – shelves that offer romance and crime and horror and fantasy, a fictional look into the past and the future, classic books and future literary classics.
I hope that some rainy afternoon when there’s nothing on TV will open up a whole new world for them like it did for me.
So many things and people have in the past, and continue to, inspire my writing, it’s difficult to know where to begin.
Going way back to my childhood, I suppose my first influence was Enid Blyton. I loved her books, especially anything where a mystery was involved, ‘The Secret Seven‘, ‘The Famous Five’ and my favourite series, ‘The Mystery of ….‘ books. Later on, I became a fan of Agatha Christie and more darker authors, such as, Minette Walters or thriller writers like, Chris Kuzneski and James Patterson with his ‘Women’s Murder Club’. As you can see, mystery and thrillers have been a long held passion of mine.
At the other end of the scale, I do enjoy a good romance and it was through reading Jilly Cooper‘s ‘Riders‘ that I learned how, over a period of time, you could turn a villain into a hero – think Rupert Campbell-Black. Through reading Sue Moorcroft‘s novel ‘Starting Over‘ I discovered the Romantic Novelists’ Association and I was delighted to be able to join under their New Writers’ Scheme. Without the support of the RNA and the wonderful people I have met through it, I’m not sure I would have made it this far in my writing adventure.
Special thanks must also go to Julie Cohen, Sarah Duncan, Sue Moorcroft (again 🙂 ) and Margaret James as I have attended or been enrolled on courses delivered by each of them at some point over the past four or five years. Words of encouragement, advice and general support is much appreciated – they’ve fulfilled their end of the deal by inspiring me to continue with my writing, now it’s up to me to fulfil mine.
It’s not only people who inspire me but the whole world around me, locally, nationally and internationally. Absorbing everything around me, consciously or sub-consciously, it all go into the Ideas and Inspiration Pot.
I couldn’t close without saying that daily, not only do my family and fellow Romaniac girls encourage me to keep writing but readers do too. Hearing how much someone has enjoyed one of my books both humbles me and inspires my writing.
At Romaniac HQ recently, the conversation of our writing influences and inspirations came up. Although we all started off writing romance, our influences have come from the four corners of the writing page. We thought we’d share them with you over the course of the coming months.
Laura is kicking off the feature this week …
Laura: It’s no secret I attribute the lovely Jill Mansell as one of my major influences. I adore the way her novels can make me laugh on page one and cry on page two. It’s a skill to which I aspire, despite writing ‘romance without the soft edges’. It was through Jill’s books that I discovered the RNA and subsequently joined the NWS. Had I not read and enjoyed Good At Gamesthere’s every chance I wouldn’t have my own books ‘out there’. Other influences are Sheila O’Flanagan, Joanne Harris, (I thought Blackberry Wine was genius) Alice Sebold, Erica James (another author whose writing has me in tears), and Jodi Picoult – I love how she tackles huge issues. I’ve been extremely fortunate to meet Jill, Shelia O’Flanagan and Jodi Picoult, and recently, with much excitement and a necessary degree of fangirling, I discovered the audio version of Follow Me Follow Youshares the same narrator – Antonia Beamish – as Erica James’ Summer At The Lake.
Since joining the RNA, I’ve met so many wonderful authors whose work was new to me but who have helped and inspired me – Sue Moorcroft and Julie Cohen, who are not only skilled writers, but fantastic tutors, Margaret James, Rowan Coleman, Carole Matthews, Miranda Dickinson, to name a few, who are all accomplished in their art and extremely generous with their time and encouragement.
Outside of the RNA, historical novelist, Isolde Martyn, and my writing pals at Off The Cuff, have been a major influence, teaching me different approaches to writing, and continually supporting my efforts. Before Off The Cuff, I had no idea what Flash Fiction was, and now it’s one of my favourite disciplines.
And I love the wide variety of styles my wonderful Romaniac friends share, and the safety net they provide when it comes to writing outside my comfort zone.
Books that made an impression and stayed with me from my youth? Enid Blyton’s Folk of the Faraway Tree, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Stella Gibbons’ Cold Comfort Farm, and George Orwell’s 1984. It would be interesting to revisit them and see if these
authors influenced my writing, or if it was the pure joy of reading such excellent books that put the cartridge in my fountain pen.
Finally, it would be remiss of me not to mention Kate Bush, Stevie Nicks, Annie Lennox and Paloma Faith, whose music and lyrics are a constant source of inspiration, and in my humble opinion, examples of superb writing.
You are all an inspiration and I thank you from the bottom of my inkwell.
It’s that dragonfly time of year again – the time when there’s often a hint of autumn in the air, and the urge to buy a new pencil case and felt tips is irresistible.
Dragonfly time, for me, is when those thoughts that you want to get down on paper just keep flitting away. I’m in the middle of book number three, I’ve hit a snag and it’s time to grab some inspirations/distractions to get out of the mire. Here are my top ten ways to fire up the muse again:
1) Find someone to cuddle (see dragonfly picture – you may not want to go quite this far, especially if you’re in Sainsbury’s).
2) Get up earlier than usual, see the sunrise, make strong coffee/peppermint tea (recommend not having gin at this point, although later on it may be needed) and write something. Anything. To do list, poem, rant to newspaper, blog post, FB status with attitude, competition entry (see number 4).
3) Have a huge, bubbly bath. This bath isn’t mine, sadly, but I have used it very happily. and it does the job well. Especially if a nap follows. (Also good therapy for writers’ block).
4) Enter a competition. It’s a great distraction, somebody’s got to win, and being short-listed gets your name out there.
5) Meet up with friends; have a bit of a larf, some cheering hugs and some cake.
6) Relax, and read something that you’ve wanted to catch up with for ages. Even better if it’s funny.
7) Go for a walk. Sea if possible, fields also acceptable.
8) Spend some time with a small person or two to ground you. Tip – always check with their mum first. I’m sure Catherine Miller would let you hug her babies if you ask nicely.
9) Make jam. (Substitute your food of choice here). Then have a party or a picnic to celebrate and eat lots.
10) And if all else fails, open the best bottle you can find. Cheers!
Once the new year celebrations were finished and we had all regrouped at Romaniac HQ, we found ourselves reflecting over the past 12 months, taking stock of how far we had come and how far we still had to go with our writing careers. Naturally, the conversation turned to how it all began. Not surprisingly, our love affair with writing began at an early age for us all and we took a trip down Memory Lane, thinking of the influences and experiences that have shaped us. We thought we would share our nostalgia with you.
We would, of course, love to know where your writing aspirations began and what your memories of that time are.
Laura: The late seventies and early eighties are the years I remember well. I loved music, and I became aware of the world around me. 1979 was the year of the UK’s first female Prime Minister, in Margaret Thatcher – that was a big deal, especially for women. We lived under the threat of nuclear war, there were bombings in Nothern Ireland, Sid Vicious was found dead from a heroin overdose, and China introduced their One Child Policy. As a twelve-year-old, I worried about how the world would survive. I yearned for the power to put everything right. I was going to be a doctor, or a child psychologist. Maybe a speech therapist – something that helped. Failing that, I’d entertain – become a singer. I realised songs were miniature stories and became fascinated with rhymes, patterns and words. I loved reading, but looking back, my love for writing began through songs.
The world changed during my formative years. Whether or not one agreed with Thatcher’s policies, women had a positive role model. I loved Blake’s 7, a Sci-Fi programme with a strong female character in Cally, Gloria Gaynor was belting out I Will Survive, and my mother, bless her, by this point in my life, was a single parent, who had successfully secured a mortgage in her name alone. Not easy. Is it possible these childhood factors led me to writing issue-driven romances, with strong female characters? By producing stories, my desire to entertain is fulfilled, my love for words is put to work, and I create my own worlds where ultimately, everything will be all right.
I’m beginning to think it was inevitable I would become a writer.
Sue: Being roughly the same age as Laura, I can identify with all the things she mentions above. The early 80’s saw me knocking on the door of my teenage years when I was living in a rural village and had a very free rein on what I did with my time. All the local kids used to hang around together, but to be fair, that didn’t actually amount to many – put it this way, in my year at school there were only three girls and six boys. I look back on those days with fondness as age didn’t really come into it and we all mucked in together. Sometimes we’d have a big game of football or cricket, other times we would swim/paddle in the river or generally hang out, usually at the bridge. I’m not sure what the attraction of the bridge was, but we spent an awful lot of time just congregating there. Having said that, living in a small rural community did mean it often had its dull moments and my answer to the boredom was to take myself off somewhere far more exciting via a good book, courtesy of the mobile library which visited us once a fortnight.
With regards to the larger world outside of this Cambridgeshire village, I have very clear memories of things like Shopper bikes for girls, Chopper bikes for the boys, Bermuda shorts, Haircut 100, Dexy’s Midnight Runners, Ultravox, Grange Hill, Crackerjack (‘It’s five to five and it’s Crackerjack!’), Why Don’t You, using a cassette player to try to record the Top 40 on a Sunday evening, deciding I’d give up on my dream of marrying Nick Skelton and set my sights on Adam Ant instead. It was around about this time I received a Silver Reed typewriter for Christmas and began typing up my stories; making them into books; illustrating them and designing the cover. Today, I am still trying to do pretty much the same thing (although the Adam Ant dream has gone the same way as the Nick Skelton one).
Jan: The late seventies evoke such fond memories for me too. We had lots of children living down our road and a great crew of us would play in the street (not nearly so many cars to worry about then!) racing each other up the road when we heard the tinkle of the ice cream van. We had a huge street party for the Queen’s silver jubilee celebrations with long trestle tables groaning under the weight of food and fizz. One of the neighbours set up some speakers in their hallway and played DJ for the duration, blaring out the likes of Abba and Stevie Wonder. I can remember our milkman and postman turning up, flares swishing, and hardly recognising the pair of them out of uniform. They were doing the rounds; such was the camaraderie amongst everyone in the area.
This is me in the early seventies, clearly deciding I wanted to try on my cousin’s Cub cap & tie!
I always took an interest in anything creative at school, from writing stories and poetry, to singing in school choirs and auditioning for Christmas and end of term plays. I can see my Dad now, three rows back, big cheesy grin on his face, trying to make my best friend (a notorious giggler) and I laugh, Mum nudging his elbow and giving him “the look”. Ever since those days, I’ve loved writing in all its forms, so to now be working on my debut novel really is one of my dreams come true.
Celia: Well, I’m a little bit…ok, quite a lot…older than the other Romaniacs, so my teenage and pre teen memories go back to the earlier seventies. By the time the redoubtable Mrs T was in her element and nuclear war was threatening, I was a young mum, panic stricken at the world I’d brought my daughters into but not really quite ready to be sensible. On a more cheerful note, I remember oodles of Motown (still can’t help dancing to ‘Needle in a Haystack’, in fact I brought the New Year in to it), lusting after Roger Daltrey, The Osmonds – all of them, I wasn’t a fussy teenager – and David Bowie. I was sure David, Marc Bolan, Freddie Mercury and Elton John were straight, and I’m still not convinced otherwise, so don’t try to mess with my dreams, ok? My favourite songs, as with Laura, inspired my writing, in fact my first book had song words at the start of every chapter. They took me ages to choose. Shame the book itself was so awful, really.
The past year has been a roller coaster ride for me. The downs were a very long way down but the highs were incredible, and I am so grateful to the Romaniacs for being there with me. Group hug? Left over mince pie anyone?
Debbie; Ahhh, the seventies. What lovely memories my fellow Romaniacs have evoked. It was a happy, carefree time for me as it was for many children back then, (other than bread strikes and having to queue at the stand pipes for water.)
I remember long hot summers, days that never ended, going off on my Raleigh Shopper bike (I had one Sue) with my ‘cozzie’ rolled up in a towel alongside some limp sandwiches in the front basket to the local park where there was a paddling pool. The rest of the time I’d be in the back garden, playing in my Wendy house, making ‘perfume’ from rose petals and lavender crushed in a couple of coconut shells with water added until it became a putrid mush. I also remember spending hours alone in my bedroom with my dolls and teddies playing teachers, being a Librarian, or pretending to do book signings. It’s strange now, looking back how I even comprehended that writers wrote and signed books at that age, but I remember it clearly. All my solitary activities revolved around books. As well as the pretend ‘classroom,’ the library and book signing, I spent hours in the bedroom simply reading and sometimes writing my own little stories.
It was, as they say, written in the stars, that I might pursue a career in writing…