Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Where do you set your stories?

Or to put this question another way – would you ever set a story somewhere you’ve never been?

I’ve met authors who do and they don’t seem to have a problem. They feel they can get enough of a feeling for a place through reading about it, or through film and television.

But for me that isn’t enough.

You see there’s more about a country than can be gleaned from the web – every place ‘feels’ different, smells different, and it’s these small things that bring a place to life, the telling details, the rats in the market place, the smell of spice on the old man’s fingers, squabbling gulls on the harbourside.

So you’ll find that most of my stories are set in places I’ve visited.

But not always.

Sometimes it’s simply not possible to visit the place you want to write about. And in these cases decent research is vital. I once read a story a friend of mine had set on the Moon. He made me believe he had flown through space and walked on that lunar surface, even though I know he hasn’t! But it was those telling details that convinced me.

So have you ever set a story somewhere you’ve never been?

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

The Booker Shortlist 2012

This year I have, for the second year running, been invited to join the panel at the YCAA annual Booker debate.

It’s an interesting shortlist this year with small publishers Salt and Myrmidon making the cut. It’s always good to see this sort of recognition for the smaller presses.

It’s also interesting reading the comments in the media. I have to admit I’m a bit concerned by remarks along the lines of ‘The judges have turned their backs on readability’ opting instead for ‘the shock of language’ and books that are ‘Conceptually challenging’.

Last year I was allocated ‘The Sense of an Ending’ by Julian Barnes, which went on to win. Yes, it was readable, beautifully written and I thoroughly enjoyed it. So why is readability such a dirty word? A book can be literary AND readable!

So now I’m wondering what I’m going to be allocated to read this year.

Here’s the shortlist – just in case you haven’t seen it:

The Garden of Evening Mists – Tan Twan Eng (Myrmidon Books)
Bringing Up The Bodies – Hilary Mantel (Fourth Estate)
The Lighthouse – Alison Moore (Salt)
Umbrella – Will Self (Bloomsbury)
Narcopolis – Jeet Thayil (Faber)
Swimming Home – Dehorah Levy (Faber)

Monday, 10 September 2012

An End... and a Beginning

Yesterday the Olympics came to a close. The children took part in a huge parade through the town, dressed up as sea creatures in a vast array of colour. And when we got home we watched the closing ceremony spectacular on television.

I’m sad to see it go. The Olympics have been wonderful. They made this summer special. But summer too is coming to an end.

The seasons turn.

Yet there’s no time to be sad. Good things are happening. New adventures beckon. And for me it’s time to pack away the beach gear and get back to the serious business of writing. The WIP is entering the final act – the race to the curtain – and I hope that I’ll get the first draft down by the end of the month.

And there’s more…. Only I’m going to make you wait….