Friday, 25 September 2009

The Road Home

This will be a shorter WKDN than usual - my hard drive crashed this week taking everything (and I mean everything) with it. Please don't ask me if the files were backed up. My computer man has already told me off enough. So I'm tapping away on the pilot's very butch aluminium notebook, accidentally deleting as much as I manage to write ... Normal service will be resumed once they manage to stick my computer back together.

Back in April I suggested you might be interested in entering the People's Author competition ITV was running - just to show I do use my own prompts, I entered and found out last week I'm through to the televised finals. 16 writers are going head to head to win a publishing contract with Orion, and my heat is at the end of October. It will be shown on the Alan Titchmarsh Show on Monday 2nd November. I had a meeting in London at the publishers this week and it's all very exciting.

When you start out writing you get so used to rejections or a deafening silence when you submit work. It's all par for the course. Eventually your work gets better and things start getting accepted. Finding out about the TV show was a genuine, lovely surprise. To all of the WKDN regulars who are having tough times with contracts, agents, publishers - hang in there. It just goes to show if you stick with it and don't give up in spite of what's going on in publishing, things will turn around.

TODAY'S PROMPT: The book sample was great fun to write - I've never tried memoir writing before, but it's something I'd recommend to anyone. After all our recent losses it was good to take 'the road home' and go back to the past. The book spans twelve years through the seventies and eighties, and it will be as much an exploration of the countryside, childhood and a time that's gone as about one person's life. Writers have the chance to make sense of their lives in a way most people don't - we have the tools and skills to turn memories into stories. Why not take one important event in your life and write about it today?

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Fact is stranger than fiction ...

First off some thanks - while I've been away finishing the new book, WKDN has received three awards. The Bella Award from Aurora, the Honest Scrap from Josephine, and the Lemonade Award from Jessica. I really appreciate them, and I'm so glad that this blog has turned out to be useful and entertaining for writers from Australia to the US. In turn I'd like to pass them on to every writer in my blogroll - they are all great writers and anyone who comes here I'd recommend visiting each and everyone.

So, how's everyone doing? I'd love to catch up on news of your books and projects in the comments. Here, the new book is done. The hound has gone unwalked, the children have forgotten what I look like, dust-bunnies have gone ungathered, and the pilot is sick to death of the sound of swing bands but 106,000 words have been submitted, and now we wait. I enjoyed writing this book an almost indecent amount, and hope that comes through.

Any long time readers will know I favour the 'method' approach to writing. For the past few months I've been immersed in the music, films, museums and archives of WW2. I've raided old documents and diaries to get the historical details down, studied photographs of dashing pilots and actors (well someone has to), and most interestingly been in touch with the real women who did the work my characters do. In their eighties and nineties now, they are every bit as sharp, brave, modest and feisty as I hoped they would be.

This new book has so much historical truth in it that it has become a kind of 'faction'. Months ago I wrote the basic story I wanted to write thinking it was a bit far-fetched, dangerous and glamorous. What did I know? It turned out not only did some of the things I thought I'd invented actually happen, but the really epic parts were probable - and bizarrely my plans for this book (and the next), even mirror the life of one of these amazing women who went on to work for OSS trapping Nazi spies. So, fact has interwoven with my fiction and Evie, the heroine (who I've always pictured as Ava Gardner), came to life.

So, now we hope that other people get as much enjoyment out of the story as I had writing it. In the meantime, on with the next book (more of that next week).

TODAY'S PROMPT: Isabel Allende once said that if fiction documented fact no one would believe it. The old cliche that fact is stranger than fiction is entirely true. I couldn't believe half the information I turned up. Today why not think about some of the great shaggy dog stories from your family, browse today's paper (or even better something really outlandish like the National Enquirer)? Life's complex, perplexing, heartbreaking and amusing - you may just find the picture or story that triggers a new character or piece of work.

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