Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Starter Marriages - what do you think?

A really quick request here - I'm running a survey about Starter Marriages and I'd really appreciate it if anyone could add their views here:

Survey about Starter Marriages

It should only take two minutes and I hope it's interesting, thought-provoking and anonymous. I'll let you know the results...

Thank you very much indeed,
Kate x

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Bug city

Word Count: 118,904 (Two words less than a week ago)
Weather: head-cold grey

I have ANOTHER bug. It's really getting on my nerves. I was determined to be all positive and yet the microbes have other ideas. I've got a cough that's keeping me (and anyone else within earshot) awake at night, and during the day I feel too weak and wimpy to brush my teeth. I'll have to have a little lie-down after this.

I am so frustrated at myself for feeling like some consumptive Victorian heroine. But what can you do? Easter was a slight washout though we did still go to the glorious Hotel Kandinsky. I like the way hotels often get my ideas flowing and one day I'd love to set a novel in an hotel. I had some big thoughts about Brown Owl which made me rethink the plot. Floated around a lot, then we forgot the clocks had changed and were late for breakfast but - test of a good hotel - they still served us toast and coffee in the fabulous conservatory. We came back to London and then spent ages looking for a chemist open on Easter Sunday to sell me Benilyn.

I spent all of yesterday in bed or on the sofa in my dressing gown. Today I did manage to get dressed and then went back to bed after getting an electricity bill for £1800. I am hoping this is a mistake as it seems a trifle excessive for a two bedroomed flat.

All of this is ludicrously trivial compared of course to the earthquake news from SE Asia. Am hoping it's not nearly as bad as the initial reports. My sister is in Thailand and I know everything's OK there but if you're reading this, Toni, hope you're not too unsettled.

Lovely link of the day:
In the days before pharmacies, this is what I would be brewing up. Can't say I fancy it but the reports seem very positive...

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Daffodil days

Word count: 118,906

I am in a much better mood today. Well, since yesterday, really. I allowed myself an evening of irritation on Monday and then have decided to think positive from now on... and the sunshine today helped, there are pots full of daffs on my patio and I had a long walk round West London and felt all was well with the world.

I've also been going through the quotes from Brownie and Guide handbooks that I'd love to use in the new book, though getting permissions can be very complex. There's a lot of funny stuff but also a lot of wisdom and I'd love to be able to make people more interested in the history of the Guide movement as I think it says a lot about how women's roles have evolved. Ah well, we'll see.

Also had a chat with my editor at Orion about pre-orders for The Starter Marriage and it sounds like it's going well, so that's another reason to be cheerful.

Getting chilly now. Maybe March isn't the new June after all.

Kate xx

Monday, March 21, 2005

Bad news day...

Word count: don't care today...

So now we know. 51 per cent of producers in my department -which has made lots of top documentaries and won all sorts of awards - are being made redundant. People were expecting it yet it's still a shock when it comes. It's pretty savage in news and radio too... now we'll get letters asking if we want to volunteer but there won't be enough volunteers, and that's when it gets nasty.

None of us are immune from the way the world works - I've lost my job before and TV is very insecure anyway, because so many people want to work in the media so companies can afford to treat staff badly. Well, it is terrific fun, but if I had kids, I'd advise them to think very carefully about it. It's become like acting: a job where periods of 'resting' and no employment rights are part of the game.

I'm angry right now, so when I calm down I will probably see things differently. But despite an hour of listening to the Director General today I am not much clearer on why he's made the specific cuts he has. Or where the BBC will be at the end of them...

I'd be in a better mood if I'd been able to get to my writing critique group tonight, but the traffic out there is so bad it'll take me over an hour to get there and I can't face it. Ah well. Wine beckons, I think. Cheers, Mr Thompson...

Lovely Link of the Day:
Second plug for my web design guru James but his redundancy site seemed oddly appropriate today.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Counting down to publication – and more shyness

Word Count:118,679

One month and one day until publication of Book 2. Not that this matters to anyone but me, of course, but it is the culmination of so much work…

There’s been a long gap since the last book because of changing publishers. Ideally in commercial fiction, you need to be writing a book a year, but then schedules change and it takes longer. At the moment I don’t rely on writing as my only income but if that changes (which I feel ambivalent about, more I am sure in the weeks to come) then schedules can play havoc with your cashflow… for example, publication of my 3rd novel has just been moved from March 2006 to July 2006 – now this is apparently good news as my publisher will be aiming at the competitive but lucrative summer market. BUT it does mean a longer wait for the dosh!

I do feel like I’ve got my work cut out at the moment. As well as the revisions to my new book before I submit it to my editor, I am relaunching my website with the help of the wonderful James Williams – that should go live in the next week or so and, because I’m a glutton for punishment, there are two entirely new sections including the ‘Between the Lines Club’ which is a free newsletter featuring book reviews, interviews with excellent authors, writing exercises AND a problem page for new writers. If you want Dear Auntie Kate, agony aunt to authors and would-be writers, to answer your problem, click here…

More news on the other section – my Boot Camp for the Broken-Hearted – to follow.

There seems to be a mini-discussion going on about shyness in my comments section, so I’ve been thinking a little more about it… I’ve always been shy and I don’t know whether it’s shyness that made me an author, in a way. If you tend to be introverted then your natural position is to observe the world, rather than actively propel yourself into the action. So this can mean you see people’s behaviour with the eye of an ‘outsider’ – whereas if you’re an extrovert you’re too busy ‘doing’ to record your responses…

Of course, that’s a sweeping generalisation if ever there was one. I do know some very outgoing, lively writers. I’ve also ‘trained’ myself to approach social events with less trepidation (though I commented under the last entry that anything involving canapés still makes my knees knock under my posh frock). But I still rarely enjoy those things, unless I am among friends… maybe the trick is to keep going until the other people there are friends as well.

Anyway, pontificating aside, I’d love to know what other people have done to tackle their shyness…

The sun has been fab this last few days. I was in Putney on Friday night, down by the river Thames, and it felt more like June than March. The spring always makes me feel fantastic. But tomorrow is going to be grim, whatever the weather. It’s the day when the BBC redundancies will be announced and my department is going to bear the brunt. On a personal level, it’s disturbing but I am also fed up on a professional level: I don’t quite understand why the top brass are making the decisions they are making. We know money needs to be saved, and that will involve quite brutal job losses, but I don’t feel the logic of the specific cuts they’re making (to factual programming, where I work with some of the most talented, dedicated people I have ever met) has been properly explained.

Ah well… I don’t think we’re even meant to make ‘public’ comments but it does make me angry.
Lovely Link of the Day:

This is a really fascinating interview with TV reporter and novelist Tom Bradby which I just came across. I love reading lengthy interviews which get under the skin of how and why people write and live. Haven’t read any of his novels but I might now…

Have a great week,
Kate

Monday, March 14, 2005

W(h)ither the shy author?

Word count: 116,933 (and this is progress?)

Today I went to the London Book Fair - mainly for the magazine I'm working on, but also as I am very nosey about the place. I was there for the announcement of the Orange Prize for Fiction longlist, and Joanne Harris, author of Chocolat and other novels, read it out. I met her briefly and she seemed extremely nice and sweet, but I hate those kinds of gatherings and it made me feel very odd about publishing...

Writing is solitary, in the head, with particular appeal to natural introverts like me. Yet the LBF and launches and all the networky stuff is also part of being an author. When I am with people I know, I can enjoy these events - just - but on an occasion like this morning, I clam up. I did try with one woman, chatted about her work and also about people we knew in common, but she spent all her time looking past me for someone more important.

Then I walked out of the hall past the millions of publishers, frantic dealings already taking place over coffee and PDAs, even though it was only 9am. The truth is that an author doesn't really have any purpose here, but does after hours in the cafes and restaurants surrounding Olympia.

In the end, I headed back into work... and in Carrie Bradshaw mode, would pose the question: Is there a future for shy authors?

Lovely Link of the Day:

What else but a resource for shy people? You have nothing to lose but your inhibitions, your shaky handshake, your refusal to make eye contact, your - (OK, you get the picture!). But the site reckons we're in good company!

Friday, March 11, 2005

The sun has got his hat on...

Word count: don't ask!

Finally there's been some sunshine this week, which makes a big difference to my mood. The weather generally is milder so I can actually wear skirts, which suit my thunder thighs better than trousers. I feel like eating less (though in magazine land we have just had a delivery of Krispy Kreme donuts. I did have half a small one!). The first daffs are appearing in the pots I planted before Christmas...

Progress on the edits is slow but sure. I've read about four-fifths of it, scrawling all over the manuscript with questions and notes and stuff I hate or ideas that occur to me as I go along. Next stage will be to edit the 'interludes' I've been writing which I am worried are a distraction from the 'main event' of the central character's story... I really don't want to lose those stories as I have really worked hard to design four sub-plots that support and work with the central storyline BUT I may have to be ruthless.

Otherwise have been feeling a bit 'buggy' this week - sore throat etc - but have managed two fairly sedate evenings out with a couple of lovely friends, plus lots of reading. Am currently reading The Promise of Happiness by Justin Cartwright for the magazine, which is different from the books I'd normally choose, but enjoyable...

Lovely Link of the Day:

This is excellent - what most authors won't tell you. Extremely wry and funny... Confessions of an Author...

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Post First Draft Blues...

Word Count: exactly the bloody same. And one in two words is wrong.

You see, that's the downside. It's like Christmas when you're a kid - you look forward to it, you've got advent calendars and candles to burn for each day - then the Big Day arrives, all the presents are unwrapped in seconds, and you're suddenly sitting surrounded by discarded paper, feeling distinctly deflated and short of whatever battery it was that you really needed.

Batteries aside, I'm feeling pretty much the same this evening. The thrill of printing off Book Three - in 10 point, 1.5 spacing to save on paper - has given way to a kind of dejection about the thing. Some of it reads quite well, but some of it is distinctly 'so what?' to my eyes, and I am lost in a forest of sub-plots, contradictory character traits and above all the huge worry about whether any reader will actually care about my story. I care about it - care what happens to my protagonist, Lucy, and all her family and friends... yet you can't rely on a bookbuyer, with thousands of titles to choose from, to care as well!

It's all part of the process, of course, and today hasn't been all work and no play. Went off for lunch with boyf at a local gastro-pub, the Seven Stars, which was yum and also offered lots of opportunities to work out whose mum was whose as they were all out for mother's day meals Then had a long chat on the phone with my mum - she'd already spoken to my sister who is currently in Penang on the final six weeks of her world tour. Tonight there's a pot of lentilly wintry soup on the stove and a glass of red wine left in the bottle from last night and some good telly in store, so there's lots to look forward to...

Lovely Link of the Day:

Here's a piece on editing that first draft...

Saturday, March 05, 2005

The End! Hurrah! But also, the beginning...

Word count: 120,385

Literally, two minutes ago, I wrote the last sentence of the first draft of Brown Owl's Guide to Life. I am of course utterly thrilled about this, but there are caveats:
  1. There are two significant bits that will be in the final book that I haven't yet written - the epilogue, plus a final flashback to the Summer of 1979 that I currently have no idea where it'll go. To me, this does feel a bit like cheating. I am very much a 'no corners cut' sort of person (with the exception of decorating where I always choose one-coat paint and barely wash down with sugar-soap first). But there are good reasons for this. I do really need a re-read of the whole thing to work out if I have got the story right (the writing is more easily fixed, I think). This leads me to the second caveat:
  2. This novel needs a lot of work. Like, far more than anything I've ever done before. So I know I am going to hate it for the next couple of weeks minimum. That's not negative thinking as such, it's realistic.

So, that's my writing news. Lots else going on since my last posting. I've been feeling quite poorly all week, sort of mild gastric flu or something, which has meant I didn't go out as much as I planned. I've moved from the magazine where I was working to a new one, aimed at older woman (ie in their 30s rather than 20s) and I think it's going to be excellent fun there, really busy as well. My 'galleys' (the nearest thing to a book you get before it's actually all published) arrived from the US - thank you Kara - and I found out that the publication dates of various things have changed quite a lot, so that the paperback of Starter Marriage is going to come out sooner, but the hardback of Brown Owl will be later.

Um, can't think of anything else. Must go and find enough paper to print out my latest book and then go from there...

Lovely Link of the Day:

The UK Sunday Times newspaper recently recommended the Paris Review site. The best bit, for me especially where I am currently with the writing, is the part of the site I've linked to, where you can read interviews conducted since the fifties. But even more fascinating is that each of those people has submitted a page of annotated manuscript... some covered in scrawl, some beautifully neat, all giving an insight into the writing process. Excellent stuff!