Friday, 29 April 2011

Kiss Me Kate

Not one kiss, but two - what a swell day. It was incredible seeing London in the Spring, the beautiful McQueen gown, the thousands of happy people lining the Mall. Watching from the compound cinema thousands of miles away it made me proud to be British - and rather homesick. Seeing images of streets and parks only a short distance from where the pilot and I married was moving. We walked from the church along the Thames with our guests to a reception at Fulham Palace - it was magical. I don't know about you, but today has made me think of what it was like to be young and full of love, and hope - and it's made me think of home.

I always love seeing writers' and artists' homes - it was always one of the big privileges of my 'day job' visiting studios to select work. I remember minimalist studios overlooking the Seine where calligraphers worked with jars of ink stained brushes, and ramshackle workshops on the wrong side of the tracks with steel and welding equipment. They were all great. We've looked at a few writers' rooms on WKDN in the past, and today it's my turn - Deborah Carr (you must check out her great blog), interviewed me for 'My Writing Room'. My nine year old sighed when she looked at the article: 'Oh Mum,' she said, 'it's so ... messy.' Enjoy.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Some Day My Prince ...

So tomorrow is the big day, when Kate becomes Princess Catherine - will you be watching? Personally I was only ever called Katharine when I was naughty - I guess it is more dignified for a new Royal, but I think Miss Middleton will always be 'Kate' to her public, like Queen Bess, and tragic Lady Di. I reminisced last night with some friends about the day Charles and Diana married ... there was such hope and romance. For me, it led to a disastrous 'Lady Di' haircut (French customs asked my father that summer 'where is your other son?' when they looked at my passport ...). I wonder if Kate will inspire the same adulation Diana did. What will she do next?

All the Brits on the compound are gathering to watch the wedding in the cinema, so it should be fun tomorrow. What will Kate be wearing ..? My money is on McQueen. In the meantime, we have a few stops on the blog tour today. Why not start with a visit to Arleigh's brilliant Historical Fiction site in the US, where I talk to her about the real inspiration behind The Beauty Chorus? If you love historical fiction, you'll enjoy her site. When you are weaving in factual events, you have to be selective - as someone said to me the other day, there wouldn't have been much of a story if the girls just jumped in their planes, flew straight and level and had an early night. Of course you focus on the most surprising and dramatic events - that's what makes a great story, and that's what inspired me. As the old saying goes - well behaved women seldom make history.

Then, over at Novelicious in the UK, I'm interviewed by the lovely Deborah Carr, who is not only a cracking writer, but owner of the most envied writing shed in the whole of the UK. Novelicious is a treasure trove of interviews with authors of women's fiction. Enjoy - and enjoy the wedding. Let's hope this is one story that ends happily ever after.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Big Girls Don't Cry ...

Historical Fiction is a tricky genre because you are weaving fact and fiction so closely that hopefully people won't see the joins. With 'The Beauty Chorus', the reactions I've found most interesting are from the people who lived during that time. Hearing from the real ATA girls has been particularly interesting. Someone once said they were a bunch of 'tough babies' and boy were they right.

Overall, it's been positive (the archivist called it a 'masterpiece' ... I think he meant it). Comments have ranged from 'oh, you do like the old stories, don't you dear', to queries about whether you really could do *that* in a Spitfire (you could, it was dangerous, many lost their lives doing it but it did happen). I'm glad my research was rigorous because these girls don't pull their punches. The comment that has given me most pause for thought was passed along second hand - one of the old veterans had said 'nonsense - none of us cried'. I imagine she was talking about sections of the book where the girls lost people they loved during the war. I know there was little time for grieving - there was a war on, but were lips really that stiff I wonder that they didn't shed a tear? I've read real accounts of women comforting one another ... of women seeking the solace of dark cinemas to cry in peace. Again, I'm sticking to my guns. My characters are feisty and 'tough babies' but they're not made of stone. I think modern readers would feel cheated, that the character was too 'hard' if they didn't break open and grieve their losses. In fact, when people have said to me that the novel made them cry in places, I've felt pleased that the fiction felt real enough to move them - to put it simply, I've done my job. What do you think?

Today on our blog tour we are off to a great blog, where they know all about debut novels, the First Novels Club. Donna, Sara, Frankie and Janine run a terrific blog full of advice for new novelists - the internet equivalent of a shoulder to lean on while you're getting your first novel together. Enjoy joining them and their adventures in reading, writing and life - today we're talking about writing historical fiction.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Blue Hawaii

The only time I've been arrested was in Hawaii. After a long flight, we arrived to find our hotel was not ready. We were travelling around the world with hand luggage (yes, *obviously* in the days BC - before children). It was a few months since we had left London, I was red-eyed, all I could think about was sleep. We staggered along the main drag in Honolulu, each jetlagged step an effort. 'Excuse me Ma'am,' someone said. I looked blearily up to see a policeman taking out his notepad. 'I'm afraid I'm going to have to give you a ticket.' What? What had I done? Where was the carefree Hawaii of Elvis and Magnum, or the friendly cops of Hawaii 5-0? 'Ma,am ...' he went on, scribbling something down. 'You're in Hawaii. It's a felony to wear head to toe black and not smile ...' I had been hauled up by the Hare Krishna Smile Police.

It all got a lot more enjoyable after that - Hawaii was every bit as beautiful as I'd hoped, from the Banzai Pipeline on the north coast, to hills that smelt of sandalwood and frangipani. One of my favourite blogs now is Pseudo's Spot over in Hawaii - Pseudo also does the work/family/writing juggling act, and her work as a High School teacher is an inspiration. That's what we are talking about today over on the blog tour - the amazing teachers who inspire us to become the best we can be. Hope you enjoy your visit with Pseudo - just wait til you see her banner photo ... I know, makes you long to book a ticket to Hawaii right now.

Meanwhile, there's a few days left of the Kindle Spring Spectacular - thank you to all of you who have downloaded or bought The Beauty Chorus. There are signed bookplates on the way to several of you - anyone who would like a dedication, you can send me an email via the 'profile' page on the left, and I'll post them to you anywhere in the world. The Beauty Chorus is currently the #1 bestselling War Fiction book - and it's amazing (not to say humbling), to top Tolstoy, Faulks and many other writers I've admired my whole life. So, thank you.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Savage Beasts

Incredibly, WKDN is coming up to its third birthday. The first post was in the summer of 2008 - the pilot was, (in fact is), rather perplexed by the whole blogging thing. Like a lot of people, he couldn't understand the appeal when I started posting about books, writing, kids and the adventures of the famous Hound. I could see the indredulity on his face - who would want to read about that? But here we are, three years, 170 countries, a few awards and a debut novel on.

At its best, I think the blogosphere is like a collective consciousness - this little part of it has turned into a global writers group. Your support and comments have made WKDN what it is, and today I'm glad to be able to share a couple of 'thank yous'. For a limited time, 'The Beauty Chorus' is part of Amazon's Spring Spectacular - you can download it here at over 90% off the list price for £1.49. For anyone who prefers real books, if you drop me an email and tell me who you would like it dedicated to and your postal address, I'd be glad to post you a signed bookplate and some Beauty Chorus postcards.

Today we are off to the US on the blog tour, to our long term writing friend and G K Chesterton fan John over at Running After My Hat. John's blog should come with a health warning - it's addictive. It would be easy to spend your entire life rifling through the intricate, thoughtful posts and I can highly recommend dipping your toes in the Friday 'whiskey river' posts of poetry and music. If you've read WKDN for a while, you'll know music plays a big part in the posts here too, and that is what we are talking about today. Enjoy x

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Keeping it fresh ...

'Home' again to a distinctly cold and dusty desert after a whirlwind week in the UK for the launch of 'The Beauty Chorus'. It was so great to hold the launch party at One Tree Books in Hampshire - not only Independent Book Seller of the Year in the UK, but my home book store, whose cafe was the scene of hours of scribbling on manuscript pages while my son coloured at their kids' tables.

The whole week was amazing - from a morning spent at the BBC talking to radio stations all over the UK, to filming for ITV's 'London Tonight' with an ATA girl now in her nineties. If you have vpn or are in the UK you can see the clip on - just scroll down the headlines on the left until you find 'Female Pilots'. Then there was a dinner at the Canadian High Commission for the London Book Fair - the highlight of which was meeting an all-time hero, Fay Weldon.

Perhaps comment of the week goes to my 94 year old grandmother though. We drove half way across the country to see her for lunch, and when I handed her a copy of the book, her eyes lit up briefly. 'Oh, well done dear,' she said. 'Isn't it big! I'm so glad you're giving people value for money ...'

Today, we are off to Fresh Fiction on the blog tour, where I talk about how to keep your writing fresh through all the editing and rewriting that goes into a book ... and over at the Romantic Novelists' Association blog, I talk about what it is like to have your first book published, and people's preconceptions about writers. Enjoy.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Scandalous Women ...

Laurel Thatcher Ulrich's famous phrase should be pinned in every girl's classroom or bedroom. The women I researched for 'The Beauty Chorus' were anything but well-behaved - and today I'm delighted to talk with Elizabeth Mahon about them over at the brilliant Scandalous Women blog, based in New York. (I should warn you, you can lose hours on that site :)

I admire these Spitfire girls more than I can say - they were brave, modest, disicplined, skilful and tremendous characters. Their work was vital to the Allies success in WW2 - and yet it has been all but overlooked. I'm hoping The Beauty Chorus might introduce a few more people to them. What I love when you hear the veterans talking about their experiences flying is that they all say how much fun they had. It was dangerous, exhausting - but they had the time of their lives.

Meanwhile, I'm flying back 'home' to the desert today. More news on the launch later, and I'll see you with the Scandalous Women ... x

Sunday, 10 April 2011

We have lift off ...

Photo: Sam Featherstone

Today the blog tour swings over to debut chick-lit author Talli Roland's blog where we talk about how it feels to have your first book published, and I give you my five top tips to help launch your novel. Talli's book 'The Hating Game' takes a hilarious look at reality shows, and if you enjoy chick-lit you'll love her site.

Meanwhile, in the 'real' world, I'm in the UK for the launch of 'The Beauty Chorus' at the wonderful One Tree Books. They were voted Independent Book Seller of the year (an accolade they should get for their cake and coffee alone, IMHO). They also happened to be my 'home' bookstore, the place where I would hide away editing a scruffy looking manuscript while my son happily coloured at their kids' tables. It was a 'home from home', and I'm thrilled to celebrate the launch with everyone there.

Hope to see you over at Talli's blog ... x

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Carry On Regardless

From The Rug Company (and on my wishlist ...)

Hello everyone - how are you? I'm packing, and ridiculously excited at the prospect of a whirlwind few days in the UK for the launch of 'The Beauty Chorus'. As well as the launch party, there are interviews coming up across the UK, so if you're at home, do tune in!

Saturday 9th April: 10.30am, BBC Radio Berkshire
Monday 11th April: 10.4am BBC Radio Leeds; 11.00am BBC Radio Manchester; 11.30am BBC Radio Solent; 12.00pm BBC Radio Bristol; BBC Radio Wales and BBC Radio Sussex - the Roy Noble show.

I can't wait to be in England for a few days - we haven't been home since November. I imagine the whole country is in full Royal Wedding frenzy by now. I've been thinking a lot about what it means to be British, living out here - all those slightly old-fashioned qualities we take for granted (our ability to queue, our general politeness, our 'stiff upper lip'). In the flying circles that 'The Beauty Chorus' is set in, the ability to 'carry on regardless' was prized. That perseverance stands you in good stead as a writer, and that's what I talked to Cally Taylor about today on the blog tour, over at Writing About Writing. Cally is the bestselling author of the fabulous paranormal romance 'Heaven Can Wait' (Orion), and her blog is a treasure trove of writing tips and advice - have fun.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Amazing ...

Publication day. Still can't quite believe it - even when an unexpected DHL delivery arrived while I was doing the karate class run, and I saw - and held - this beautiful book that Corvus have produced. It's amazing. And reviews are coming in from people I've never met. That really is amazing.

So here we are ... the pilot is in Tokyo, and I've spent the morning at a yard sale with the children (buying books, naturally). And somewhere out there, someone's reading my book. Amazing.

Today, we're off to Scotland on our blog tour, to the lovely Misssy Martin, comedy writer extraordinaire, and co-author of 'Cocktails At Naptime' (every new mother should have a copy). Enjoy. Meanwhile, I'm going to tidy up. It's typical - a gorgeous box of books arrives, and all they want to do is play with the packaging ...

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