The second heat of 'The People's Author' was won by a Romany storyteller called Rosemary - her lyrical childhood tale 'A Field of Butterflies' was chosen because she clearly - and warmly - evoked a sense of place. 'You are the people's author' judge Fay Weldon said ... which isn't too intimidating for those of us coming afterwards.
There is a minute and 43 seconds to pitch your book. It focuses your mind to say the least. I've been studying the questions the previous contestants have been asked carefully, and they are in today's prompt. It's a good exercise to answer these questions, whatever kind of book you are writing.
My memoir - I hope - is more than just a coming of age tale. I hadn't realised until I sat down and answered these questions quite how deeply this place - the village, the countryside, the characters I grew up around had affected my work. Stoodleigh Court - today's photo, was both my brother's school and our playground. It was at the bottom of our drive, and holidays were spent playing tennis and swimming there. Dad did a lot of the restoration work. To a child it was part and parcel of 'home' - and it is the real life model for the house 'Combe Grange' in my first novel. Today's clip is from a TV detective show that was filmed in the village during the 70s and it gives you a good feel for the place. Our own house became known less lyrically as the 'Psychiatric Hospital' for a while after it was used in the show as an asylum (not because of who lived there of course ...)
I've been talking to people still in the village to supplement my memories and it's been interesting to hear my own recollections are mirrored in their daily lives still - the three mile winding drive up from the valley with its hair-pin bends and deep wooded gullies still feels 'like going back in time'. I remember the village as one from a fairytale - deep snows, ice storms, arcing cornfields strewn with poppies in summer. There were mysterious tales of wild beasts and hairy hands (Conan Doyle located 'The Hound of the Baskervilles' not far from where I grew up). Which places have affected you? Do you think your work is rooted in your own life and experience, or no?
TODAY'S PROMPT: These are the kind of questions I'm going to be facing on Monday when the show is recorded. Wish me luck ... and why not have a go yourself and think about what makes your work unique:
- Tell me about the title of your book
- What makes your story special?
- Why is it different?
- How would you describe your style?
- Why did you want to write this book?
- What are some of the key events (dramatic, humorous etc)