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That Loving Feeling …Valentine’s Day and all that

Hearts and flowers and all things romantic tend to divide opinion radically when it comes to literature. Mention the word, ‘romance,’ and many people think immediately of Mills and Boon. Of unlikely handsome heroes and beautiful, loving heroines who will find each other after various obstacles have been conveniently removed from their respective paths and all will end happily ever after. Of course writing a Mills and Boon novel is, in many ways, like writing any novel: it’s hard work, difficult to get right, demanding – and not nearly as easy as it possibly appears to those people who often...

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RECLAMING OUR PASTS

When does the past begin to be interesting to us? I don’t mean history. I am not talking about Tudors and Stuarts and all those wives of Henry V111. Nor that litany of Medieval kings or various wars and battles and disputes: Crimean War, Tolpuddle Martyrs, Corn Laws and Luddites and the like. I’m talking about our own personal histories – the ones handed down to us by previous generations. Because it seems that for years such detail is of no interest to us at all. The lives that our grandparents and great aunts and uncles and their parents lived...

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Goodbye 2021 and All That …

Already, 2021 seems like a distant and unpleasant memory. But perhaps that’s being unfair to a year that, unlike its predecessor, did give us a few gems: The Vaccine. Wimbledon. The Olympics. The Booster. The historians in a few decades ahead will no doubt link the two – the years marred by The Virus. And as for novelists – there’s already a novel out by Jodi Picault that evidently takes the wretched thing as its propelling subject. I was very set against reading it simply because it’s bad enough hearing Covid matter every time you turn to a paper or...

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We Wish You A Very, Merry …

There’s a familiar pattern to the arrival of Christmas cards. At least I find there is. Every year, it’s the same friend whose card arrives early when December is still in single figures. Just as there’s always the one that arrives late, just scraping in by Christmas Eve, with the tang of suggestion that it was only sent after receiving mine … It’s a good way of staying in touch, often the only connection with some people through the year in spite of our mutual scrawled messages about we really must make this the year we meet …. What is...

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Christmas Fairs and all that …

What more ideal gift is there to give than a book? Think of it. It’s easy and satisfying to wrap. It suggests careful thought and consideration. And if signed by the author it is particularly personal to the receiver. All of which, of course, is my unsubtle way of drawing your attention to the fact that this coming weekend I am going to be at Milestones Museum in Basingstoke – 4th and 5th December – as part of their Christmas Fair. Along with two other writers I will be hoping to entice shoppers to buy copies of my novels to...

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She Wears it Well …

How much do you want to know, as a reader, about what a character is wearing? Is it important for you to feel as familiar with the inside of a protagonist’s wardrobe as you are your own? Probably not. Yet clothes tell us so much about a person. In life outside fiction, that prosaic place where most of our lives are lived, we make constant judgements about people from what they are wearing. Meeting someone for the first time, swift assessments are likely to be made about their personality and temperament from their clothes. It’s not superficial – it’s simply...

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How much Information is too much Information..?

Characterisation is obviously key for a writer. All writers. For writers whose novels are character driven rather than dependent upon a page-turning, precipitous plot, this becomes even more vital. But the problem is: how much information do readers want or need? Obviously, if an aspect of physical appearance impacts upon their nature or disposition, knowing key details – the vital statistics, as it were – of a character is key to understanding them. And in that case, it may well be something that propels the plot. But if facts about colour of eyes and hair are insignificant does the reader...

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Season of Mists and All That …

Dark mornings, brief afternoons, cold nights – the foliage might be spectacular, the chance to pull out the wool sweaters and warm slippers vaguely engaging, but let’s face it: Autumn is a herald only to one thing and confirms that long, bleak months lie in wait for us. So it’s books we can turn to. And without any guilt. After all, it’s unlikely that days ahead will be too fine to compel us to stay outside taking the air or offer sufficient vitamin D to justify time in the elusive sun. No. Abandonment to the written word upon pale parchment...

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It’s All Made-Up, Anyway …

Writing fiction makes no sense at all. As an occupation that delivers scant financial reward, it is something only a fool would do. Logically, it is absurd to pursue it. After all, what does writing fiction contribute to an author’s well-being? Their sense of worth, stability, equilibrium and peace of mind? Absolutely nothing. Instead, it detracts. Constantly and perpetually, a writer is confronted with an inner voice – a laughing monster mocking efforts, seeking to humiliate attempts to justify the activity. Forever this voice says: Who do you think you are, making up silly stories about fictional people that no-one...

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And the Living is Easy …

Summer. Even the word has a softness about it – the sibilance of the ‘s’ then the two syllables of the word itself. Spring sounds like it is – it’s almost onomatopoeic. The word for the season of spring in Greek is the same as the word for ‘open’ – how appropriate and logical is that! And people constantly tell me that Greek, however difficult, is a logical language. Which takes me both to my ongoing struggle to learn to speak it as well as this particular summer when I have already spent six weeks – and am still counting...