The words you are searching are inside this book. To get more targeted content, please make full-text search by clicking here.
Discover the best professional documents and content resources in AnyFlip Document Base.
Published by libraryptsbcrew02, 2022-07-11 08:15:02

Writing Magazine_Aug 2022

Writing Magazine_Aug 2022




IS YOUR £4W8,3IN05


ANY GOOD? £4.99
How to answer the
trickiest question we
ask ourselves

How to write a 08>
9 770964 916280
best seller
The secrets of Lisa Jewell’s CaonsdyDcclreirmgey
chart-topping success
Is Rev Richard Coles
SELL YOUR WORK! the loveliest crime writer

Can you make on the planet?
money as an online
content creator?

56 Opportunities 28 Competitions 15 WM Reader
to get published for you to enter success stories

Confused about

YPS are the one-stop-shop
for self-publishers

Copy-editing & proofreading
Full book design service
Printing & binding
Promotion & marketing
Book distribution

Commission-free online bookshop
eBook production & distribution
Free & friendly advice
Cup of tea and a chat!

Recommended by the
Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook

York Publishing Services Ltd
tel. 01904 431213

[email protected]

Your essential monthly roundup of competitions, paying markers, opportunities
to get into print and publishing industry news How does your writing affect

INTERVIEWS AND PROFILES you? Not just having a creative

14 Star interview: Reverend Richard Coles outlet, the sleepless nights
The bestselling author discusses the clergy, cosy crime and community life
24 My path to publication: Former police officer Graham Bartlett when ideas strike or the habit
shares his road to writing success
32 Shelf life: bestselling YA author Meg Rosoff picks her five fave books of listening to strangers’
39 Circles’ roundup: Writing groups share their interests and activities
40 Subscriber news: WM readers share their success stories conversations for ideas (which
57 New author profile: Domestic thriller writer Alison Stockham
81 My writing day: Bard of Barnsley Ian McMillan’s writing routines is clearly a guilty pleasure), but

CREATIVE WRITING on an emotional level. We often Jonathan Telfer
live through our characters and Editor
10 Creative writing: How to write a bestseller grow attached, understandably
What Will Brooker learned from Lisa Jewell about writing a bestseller
12 Creative writing: Is your writing any good? since we give ‘birth’ to them and spend so long
34 Celebrity under the microscope: F Scott Fitzgerald
42 Writing for children: The winners of WM’s Chapter Book Prize dwelling on their problems. And for the most part
46 Fiction focus: How to turn real places into locations in your fiction
48 Masterclass: How to use animal characteristics in fiction that is an enjoyable part of the process, leaving
50 Fantastic realms: Writing liminal spaces in horror
us fulfilled. But how do you respond when your
writing takes you to a dark place or brings feelings
18 Writing life: How author Elizabeth Noble got her writing back on track
22 Writing life: How to date a writer that are difficult to handle? That was how Elizabeth
30 Beginners: Don’t let rejection be the end of the story
58 The business of writing: Can writing for online platforms generate a Noble found herself, to the extent that she
useful income?
82 Under the covers: Having a book turned down hurts your heart subsequently felt unable to write, but shares her

ASK THE EXPERTS experience and encouraging advice on how she

9 from the other side of the desk: Hardy perennial trends in publishing came through it this month (p18). I hope none of
20 Ask a literary consultant: How a professional edit can help you
60 Research tips: Transport you are in quite the same position but sometimes,
61 Behind the tape: Get the details right in your crime fiction
writing through it can be the best therapy. If not,
we’re hear to listen. And if you’ve been there, do
52 Poetry winners: Read the winners of WM’s Love Poetry prize
54 Poetry workshop: The joys of a meta-poem write in to let us know your coping strategies.
56 Poetry launch: Enter our free verse competition
WIS RYIOTINURGANY GOOD?trHicokwaisetksotoaqunursseweslteviorensthwee WIN Never miss
21 Free-range writing: Celebrate young people in these exercises £48,305 an issue of
27 Short story competition launch: Enter the Love Story competition
28 Short story winners: Read our School Stories winners IN PWRIRZIETISNG Writing
38 Writers’ circles: Character creation writing group exercises
£4.99 Magazine
best sellerHow to write a D
4 Miscellany CaonsdyDcclreimrgey
6 Letters Tchhearst-etcorpeptisngofsLuicscaeJseswell’s
36 Editorial calendar Is lRooevnevlitRehisecthpcalraridmneCet?owlerister
69 Going to market SELL YOUR WORK! the
75 Novel ideas
79 Travel writing know-how Cmcoaonnnteyeoynutacmsreaaankteoonr?line

56 Otopgpeotrptuunbiltisiehsed 2 8 Cfoormyopuettoitieonntser 15 WsuMccReesasdsetorries

Get FREE access to our app

Direct to your device

ORDER A COPY DIRECT, with free postage


For daily prompts and opportunities



The world of writing

An enduring anti-hero, why bad guys rule, how the mighty fall and creating a
lasting legacy – traversing the highs and lows of the wide world of writing


The site of the bloodthirsty count’s rules for dress code and attendance, as didn’t suck.
landing in Britain in Bram Stoker’s English Heritage organised an attempt The attempt was indeed a success
seminal novel, and the spiritual home to set a new world record for the
of certain black-clad tribes, Whitby largest gathering of people dressed as a with a verified crowd of 1,369 vampires
played host to a pasty undead horde vampire. Rules stipulated the wannabe present, smashing the previous record of
in early summer. And no, it wasn’t the bloodsuckers must wear black shoes, 1,039, set in Virginia in 2011.
town’s annual goth weekend. That’s the black trousers or skirt, black cape,
weekend before Halloween if you want shirt, waistcoat and pointy fangs, with Guinness have yet to confirm whether
to plan your visit. stewards daring to draw near to check any other records were broken that
shoes were sufficiently shiny and fangs evening. We’d put money on ‘largest
This gathering had rather stricter hairspray cloud’, ‘palest crowd’ and ‘most
snakebite-and-black sold in a day’.


James Kennedy, author of Dare to Know, chosen by The Times as one of the
33 best books of 2021, recently told the website The Boswellians, ‘Some
readers get upset if you have an “unlikeable” main character who isn’t
immediately correct about everything in the way they’d prefer – or if the
writer isn’t always anxiously whispering to the reader, “Hey, I know this guy
is bad! You and I, the good people, can both agree he’s bad!” Such readers act
as if you had literally made a bad person and set him loose on the world to
wreak havoc. I’m fine alienating those readers. I’m especially happy if they
bought my book, because that way I made them suffer and took their money.
Win-win! (There: wasn’t that more fun to read than if I was being likable?)’

Gary Dalkin

4 AUGUST 2022


GREAT SCOTT Weekly about series’ creator Aaron
Guzikowski’s input. ‘Aaron is the master
If you ever feel that writing is a hard slog, legendary film director and producer Ridley builder and I’m the house painter,’ said
take heart from the views of one of the best Scott. After HBO Max cancelled ambitious Scott, who directed the first two episodes.
in their business. sci-fi series Raised by Wolves in June after ‘The hardest single thing to do is write,
two seasons, Scott talked to Entertainment full stop. Doing what I do is a lot easier,
Writing is the hardest job of all, believes I think. So my hat comes off to Aaron
every time, who comes up with these and
doesn’t weaken on his tactics or storytelling,
because it is like mathematics.’

Although Lucy Mangan in the Guardian
dismissed dystopian drama Raised by Wolves
when it was first screened in 2020 as ‘a
thin, unsophisticated story’, viewers and
other critics were much more positive, with
the New York Times describing it as ‘one of
the most entrancing series TV currently has
on offer’.

Raised by Wolves joins a line-up of cult
series that fans believed HBO cancelled way
too early, including Carnivale, Lovecraft
Country and How to Make It in America.


CC BY 2.0 Marcos Corrêa/Presidência da República) Following the tragic murders in Fishman, a journalist at The with nothing but a book in my
Brazil of journalist and regular Intercept, told FirstPost. ‘It was life and not even enough to live
Guardian correspondent Dom extremely ambitious but he had on while I write it,’ he told AP
Phillips and indigenous expert the experience to pull it off. last year.
Bruno Pereira, family and his We cannot let his assassins kill
many friends are hoping that the his vision.’ Dom’s wife and his family
book Dom was working on may are all keen that his work be
not be entirely lost. Dom, who was the editor published in some form so that
of clubbers’ bible Mixmag in the message that he died in
Four chapters of Dom’s book the 1990s, found the subject the attempt to convey – that it
How to Save the Amazon had that defined the second wave would be possible, with the right
been completed before he set of his career fifteen years ago: actions, to preserve the Amazon
off on his final journey upriver environmental reporting from – could be brought to its readers.
on what was intended to be Brazil. In 2021 he was granted FirstPost quotes an email from
one of the last reporting trips a year-long fellowship with the Margaret Stead, his publisher at
for the book. ‘Dom’s book Alice Patterson Foundation to Manilla Press, saying: ‘We would
project was on the cutting edge write his book, which built on very much like to find a way
of environmental reporting his previous research. It was his to honour the important and
in Brazil,’ his friend Andrew passion project. ‘I’m a freelancer essential work Dom was doing.’

Published by Warners Group Publications plc Advertising sales manager: Mark Dean, email: All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be
West Street, Bourne, Lincs PE10 9PH [email protected] reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any
Main office: 0113 200 2929 Subscriptions: [email protected] form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying,
Subscriptions: 01778 392 482 Typeset by: Warners Group Publications plc, West recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of
Advertising: 0113 200 2925 Street, Bourne, Lincs PE10 9PH Warners Group Publications plc.
Publisher: Collette Lloyd, email: Printed by: Warners (Midlands) plc, The Maltings, Manor © Copyright Warners Group Publications plc. ISSN 0964-9166
[email protected] Lane, Bourne, Lincs PE10 9PH Whilst every care is taken of material submitted to the editor
Editor: Jonathan Telfer, email: [email protected] Distribution: Nikki Munton, email: for publication, no responsibility can be accepted for loss or
Senior designer: Nathan Ward, email: [email protected], tel: 01778 391171 damage. Email submissions preferred.
[email protected] Warners Group Publications plc,West Street, Bourne, Warners Group Publications plc are not able to investigate
Marketing: Collette Lloyd, email: Lincs PE10 9PH the products or services provided by the advertisers in
[email protected] Writing Magazine nor to make recommendations about them.
Warners Group Publications plc cannot act as a licensing or
accreditation authority, but will investigate complaints against
advertisers. AUGUST 2022 5



CItsaotnbeRdppeEguaoaArunfsTtuthrhIeeNoeatrhdGswiiwsnaygChi.tohWTObihnrbNieytyiNeononugfEcrmCMopuiTaanrggIaeOaeg.szeYNimknoeSeueenaphtsyafevmraeorembagegooeonitn,hgwwerihtthrehernaomduIeegdrhseevcteihdreyed TEACHER, TOLD
cfpawdlloaseaiIrutxnrt’iemtnithiibenltceailguymwlesilstttaaisoyatyrdhsbrlettdyelhalmejyreeam..cntyhSItujwoiheohcouleyohdnasrv-heesskne.obreslemloyspewiudneedendecoloddelgfcw,bweptlRheiueitetebhrohnprswmaioCpetrs,ueyieFtsbimShitnlto/ietgysMiahmnlofteEgiphyrd.spodtciWonnhawryarmtnrsiluilt.iteynininInnieltggtagiylpeeihpssata.eaciycsrtcIoaaeatrluphlyytelaisntc,e Many congratulations, Daisy, both on your terrific literary
jmwouhWyTranphtrilaaItalnicsnckeaagnniynh’odtautdsmh,oareWna,egcwdwraoiorzwntiiirtnnnrlidineegt.scegM!trWeshdaawhgsmeahsnzoheinmohtewoay,vnsaheonmecgdaiieelvtttehowyn,hmhamaanytsdeIfseaohclnleaoolnipfwntedesdrnpoe.imadrdiinecegtrfasintedd achievements to date, including the publication of your
community! ‘Star Letter’ (WM Jul) and for your obvious strength of
sense of ROWAN MACDONALD character in meeting with ‘triumph and disaster’ and
clearly treating ‘those two imposters just the same’.
Kingston, Tasmania
Nothing angers me more than to read of any
The star lWetrtieterres’a&cchAorumtirstoetsns’ythYoeefaaBrbrlonoosomak sc2b0ou2pr2yy,. teacher, allegedly an ‘adult’ employed to hone skills
of the and encourage aspirations, who thinks it is acceptable
to squash enthusiasm at best and destroy a pupil’s
confidence at worst with such an insensitive response.
It makes me wonder why that person chose to enter the
teaching profession.

Having taught drama for many years, I knew that the
chances for even the most talented of my pupils to make
a living in the profession were slim, but I made a point
of following WB Yeats’ advice to ‘tread softly, because
‘you tread on my dreams’, a mantra that could usefully
be posted on our classroom walls.

Stockport, Cheshire

I was excited to read Alex Davis’ article The Trouble with Time Travel (WM At last I know what I am suffering from – Shiny
Jul) as time travel is a concept that has appealed to me for many years. New Idea Syndrome – thanks to Gary Dalkin’s
Some of the problems noted in the article are the reasons why I am yet to brilliant (it lets us off the hook for never finishing
begin expanding on an idea I’ve had for some time. However, I am writing anything) article in the May issue.
in regards to the reading and movie lists included, a subject that will no
doubt spark debates among your readers. While I’m almost certain that I wish maybe I had not actually read the article
Back to the Future was left off the movie list to mess with your readers, I as, like some would-be writers, I don’t even have
would like to suggest that Kate Mascarenhas’ excellent debut novel The the excuse of this syndrome, because of my ideas
Psychology of Time Travel should definitely be included on the reading list. do not have legs.

The Psychology of Time Travel is one of the rare books that I have read But perhaps it has made me feel I am not the only
and is one that I regularly find myself going back to. The plot is led by one to skip like a butterfly from project to project.
incredibly strong female characters and seamlessly rides the intricacies of
time travel to tell a story set across several decades. Mascarenhas explores Having confidence to push on with a piece of
the creation of time travel and the use of the concept in such a unique writing that may be worthwhile is so much harder
way that it’s really difficult to point to a better use of time travel in than we think. With so many distractions and
literature at all. For anyone who is looking to write a story where time intrusive thoughts like, is this worth finishing?
travel may be involved, please do yourself a favour and pick up a copy of
The Psychology of Time Travel and be inspired. As the article suggests it is only you or I that
can decide the fate of those written words.
Newark Whoever said writing was easy? Not me for sure.

Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands

6 AUGUST 2022

Hidden inside the pages of
July’s Writing Magazine, right I’ve just received my July edition of Shelf life A Town Like Alice © Wendy McAlpine
at the bottom of page 33, was Writing Magazine. Turning straight by Nevil Shute
a nugget: away to Shelf Life, I was keen to 2I[ =SVO 8MQIW FIWXWIPPMRK TSTYPEV ½ GXMSR EYXLSV 7YWERRE /IEVWPI] TMGOW LIV ½ ZI JEZSYVMXI VIEHW ‘Another writer whose work SUSANNA KEARSLEY
read Susanna Kearsley’s picks as taught me much about craft,
‘Sometimes I’m asked what she’s one of my favourite writers. The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen The Lion Nevil Shute was a master ‘My latest novel, The Vanished Days, grew out of an idea I had
advice I’d give to aspiring writers, How great to see Mary Stewart’s in Winter storyteller whose quiet, years ago, after I first learned of the attempt by the Scots to
and my answer is always the This Rough Magic featured. Another ‘Fairy tales were a big part of my childhood reading, and by James understated novels aren’t establish a colony at Darien at the end of the 17th century. My
same: remove the word ‘Aspiring’ of my absolute favourites and a though I’d be hard pressed to pick an absolute favourite, Goldman easy to categorise but live original plan was to write a sweeping, epic adventure in the vein
from your vocabulary. If your writer who has both influenced and The Snow Queen would be among them. Because my in your heart for a long of The Winds of War and other similar books I’d enjoyed reading
process life through written inspired me. own best friends were boys I could instantly relate to the ‘I saw the film time. A Town Like Alice was in my youth, but as often happens, the story took on its own
words, then you’re a writer. heroine Gerda, whose best friend Kai was changed by the with Peter written in 1950 and some life and once the characters were on the page they steered it in
Whether you’re published or not, shards of the shattered magic mirror and carried away by O’Toole and of the Australian characters their own direction, and it became a romantic mystery instead,
now or ever, that truth doesn’t the wicked Snow Queen, forcing Gerda to set off on a Katherine occasionally use casual racial centring not on the Darien colony but on one sailor who died
change.’ (Susanna Kearsley) perilous journey to find and rescue him. Reading the story Hepburn first, slurs that always bothered me, but the story itself is there, and the woman who comes forward several years later to
for the first time was a revelation – it was long and easy and loved it, unforgettable and is, I believe, the reason why I came lay claim to his wages as his wife, and the world-weary sergeant
So, shout it from the rooftops, to get lost in, and had an epic feel I’d never encountered before in a fairy tale. but later on I found to write so many of my own books with a dual-time assigned to investigate her claim, all set against the backdrop of
stick it to the front of your In a way, it set the pattern for the stories that I loved to read and, later, tell: an a published paperback copy of the structure. Shute’s use of a first-person contemporary the dangerous days in Edinburgh that followed the Union of
fridge, sticky-note it to your ordinary person caught up in extraordinary circumstances, distant travel, focus play’s script, and it became one of my narrator interwoven with a third-person past story is England and Scotland.
computer; affirm yourself and on the role of friends, just the right amount of danger, with a competent heroine treasures. Drawing a compelling story so beautifully done, and he manages to take ordinary
let this become your mantra saving the day... and that rarest of all things for a Hans Christian Andersen story from true history can be difficult, but people, set them in motion in a tale based on real ‘I’ve learned to trust my characters and follow where they lead.
– I AM A WRITER. NO – a happy ending.’ Goldman does it brilliantly, and does it history, and deliver a proper romance. There are It’s a twist on the old and good piece of advice to write the story
MATTER WHAT. using language that’s pure poetry. “Since scenes in this book I read over and over again, the you want to tell, only in my case I write the story my characters
This Rough Magic by Mary Stewart Louis died, while Philip grew, I’ve had emotional resonance of the ending sets a high bar I want to tell me. I don’t pay attention to what the market claims
JENNIE GARDNER no France to fight,” says King Henry always strive for myself in my writing, and I try to to want, or what others think will sell well, or what other people
Upper Swainswick, Bath ‘I should probably have listed this book first, since it II, and every word lands on my ear like keep spare copies lying around so I can pass them to think I should be writing. I always write the story that I can’t not
arguably came before all the others – my mother was open verse. I also write in cadences – it’s anyone who’s never read it.’ write – the one that captures my imagination – and I try to get
Thank you, Alex Davis, for reading it while she was pregnant with me, and we often something I do naturally, a sentence out of the way of my characters and let the story come the way it
your Fantastic Realms article To joke that I was born wanting to know the ending, so I has to sound a certain way before Guide to Fiction Writing wants to come, without worrying about anything outside of my
boldly (and quickly) go (WM suppose it was fated that Mary Stewart should become my I’m satisfied – so reading Goldman’s by Phyllis A Whitney writing room. That, for me, is when the magic happens.
June) about writing short own favourite writer when I got old enough to read her play was like a master class in how to
science fiction stories. I had for myself. Other writers have influenced my style, but I structure dialogue to keep the cadence ‘When my sister dared me, ‘When I had a full-time job, I used to work during the day and
tried to write and send SF believe she made her mark the deepest. The use of a first- while still making everyone sound in my early twenties, to stop write late at night – that’s a pattern I returned to when my children
stories to magazines a few years person narrator, a stranger coming into new surroundings, natural. And storywise, it’s wonderful writing first chapters and were small and demanded many of my daylight hours – but these
ago but without any luck. Now the blending of history and romance and travel and literature – all of these for showing how much conflict, growth actually finish a novel – finish days I don’t have an actual writing routine. I simply try to carve
after reading your feature it has things are her influence. And again, she uses ordinary, competent women who of character, and twists of plot can be it within six months, in fact, out a part of each day for my writing, depending on what else
given me the encouragement find themselves faced with extraordinary challenges, and who always triumph in found in a few days out of history.’ or else I’d owe her dinner at is happening in my schedule for that day, and I keep paper and
and confidence to try again. I the end. Her books not only shaped my image of what stories ought to be, but a Very Fancy Restaurant – I pens all over the house so I can capture lines and bits of dialogue
have already had one rejection they inspired me to write my own.’ took the bet, then panicked wherever my characters choose to “speak” to me (they’re especially
and sent out a couple more because I didn’t have the foggiest idea how to finish chatty when I’m in the bath).
stories. I am keeping my eye anything. Luckily my local library had a copy of
out for more markets, including Phyllis A Whitney’s Guide to Fiction Writing on their ‘Sometimes I’m asked what advice I’d give to aspiring writers, and
in WM. It is so true when you shelves. I took it out. I took it home. It changed my answer is always the same: remove the word “aspiring” from
said at the end, ‘The difference my life. Step-by-step, it led me through the process your vocabulary. If you process life through written words, then
between succeeding and not of turning an idea into a novel, with plenty of you’re a writer. Whether you’re published or not, now or ever, that
succeeding where it comes to encouragement along the way, and a final chapter on truth doesn’t change. Believe that with your whole heart, and don’t
short fiction is often nothing editing that allowed me to shape my rough draft into let anybody ever tell you otherwise.’
but persistence.’ I will persist. something that read like a real book. I’ve never found
a writing guide that equals this slim volume, and I The Vanished Days by Susanna Kearsley is published by
JULIE DAY recommend it highly (and I won the bet).’ Simon & Schuster
32 JULY 2022 JULY 2022 33

I’d like to add to Susanna’s list of Mary Stewart wonders her ability to set a

scene, particularly at the very beginning of a novel. Mary’s descriptive powers are

second to none (and I’m someone who often glosses over descriptive passages in

books). Whether it’s windswept Skye or an idyllic Greek island she conjures up the

sights, smells and sounds so vividly you are right there with her characters. Her

early romantic suspense novels are the books I’ve read and reread throughout my

life and, like Susanna, they have influenced my idea of what a story should be. I

love This Rough Magic but my preferred book is My Brother Michael. Please read

Mary Stewart’s books, you can learn so much from them as a writer – and you’ll be

transported to another time and place in seconds. Just what we need at the moment.


Seaton, Devon

FINDING AN OLD FRIEND minutes at my speed. Nothing, but
I met an old friend the other day nothing, gives a better return on an
and felt both the warmth of our investment than those twenty minutes.
relationship and pangs of guilt that I
hadn’t been in touch. I’ve reinstated my romance with
my fountain pen too and continually
Julia Cameron in the form of wonder at how words in my brain
morning pages is very forgiving – like get converted into muscle movement
any true friend. Non-judgmental and and appear in a flow of ink on the
we just pick up where we left off as page before me. There’s even a marked
if we’d never been apart. Every time improvement in my handwriting
we get together again, I’m reminded which was in danger of becoming a
of the practice’s power. I’m also forgotten skill and looking like a rather
reminded, perhaps, why I’ve been strange collection of hieroglyphics that
struggling with mental overload even I found hard to read.
and ideas generation for the last few
months. So, thank you Julia and thank you
Rosalind Moody (WM May) for a
If there were a ‘Queen’s Award for wonderfully insightful interview and
Writing’ it would go to Julia Cameron giving me permission to drink coffee
for her immeasurable contribution during my three pages.
to writers and writing. Three pages
of A4 every morning is about twenty CLIVE HOOK
Stroud, Gloucestershire

Write to: Letters to the editor, Writing Magazine, Warners Group Publications plc, 5th Floor, 31-32 Park Row, Leeds LS1 5JD;
email: [email protected] (Include your name and address when emailing letters. Ensure all letters, a maximum
of 250 words, are exclusive to Writing Magazine. Letters may be edited.)

When referring to previous articles/letters, please state month of publication and page number. AUGUST 2022 7


WEBINAR Join the WM team for more webinars to help
SERIES you achieve your writing dreams.

Writing Historical Fiction

27 July, 6.30pm

In association with History Scotland

Historical fiction is how many people consume their history. But
what made a respected academic turn to writing fiction? Find out
in this exclusive talk by FJ Watson, author of Dark Hunter. Medieval
historian Dr Fiona Watson explores the reasons why she decided
to write Dark Hunter – a whodunnit set in Berwick, the last English-
held stronghold after the battle of Bannockburn – how she went
about it and what she learned along the way.

Join us on 27 July for an approximately 45-minute online talk
followed by up to 30 minutes of questions from the audience.

To book this course, please visit:

The complete novel-writing course

At your convenience

This pre-recorded webinar series, led by author, tutor and WM
regular James McCreet, will guide you through writing your
novel. If there is one area you would like to focus on, you can
also choose to buy single video modules. In full, the 12-part,
8.5-hour course has been created to provide novelists will all
of the essential tools and information they need to produce a
polished novel. It starts at the very beginning of your project
with the idea and takes you through to the submissions
and publication process, with modules on characterisation,
dialogue, description, and so on – everything you need to
create a publishable novel.

To find out more visit

or call us on
01778 392492

From the


A right royal success

Trends come and go in publishing, but some things are hardy perennials, says 4MIVW &PSJIPH

Many years ago, back market was finished, no one bought forgetting these things. Neophilia is
when I was an royal books any more. This despite the the besetting sin of our industry –
editor at a small fact of The Crown’s ever more devoted arguably of our entire culture. The
press, I was sent a following and the vast number of new shiny is always sexier than the
delightfully irreverent gay memoir by a column inches devoted to the Royal tried and tested. But while it might
palace footman. The Royal Household Family in the pages of the press. get more column inches or retweets, it
is apparently a popular place to work Thankfully one publisher did bid for might not actually sell more.
for some members of that community it and a year later the book had sold
– who knew? Although it makes a 25,000 hardbacks, had a stonking great Of course this is why the industry can
certain sense when one comes to think serial deal with the Daily Mail and had have trouble remembering that there
about it – and the proposed book had earnt the author, publisher and agent a are people over the age of fifty who
one of my favourite titles of all time: very tidy sum of money. Her next book buy books, or indeed that large parts
The Platter of Tiny Fruits. Sadly the did even better, twice as well in fact. We of the country, the majority even, are
quality of the writing did not match the had the market to ourselves. Of course just as small-c conservative as they are
brilliance of the title and I passed. this year there are now dozens of titles small-p progressive. It’s possible to like
in the market. We, thinking this would and admire the Queen and to believe
The week of the Queen’s platinum happen, gave ourselves a year off. in tolerance and respect for people of
jubilee celebrations has been a reminder different cultures and sexualities to your
that royal books have long been a It is one of the great truisms of this own. Just not on Twitter.
staple of publishing and, despite the business that publishing is all about
incredible slew of them being published old wine in new bottles. It may be And of course social media has
this year, will long continue to be, even unfashionable to say it, but people don’t exacerbated this effect, by siloing
if publishing at times struggles to see change very much and tastes remain everyone in their belief bubbles and
beyond its metropolitan bubble and remarkably similar over the years. promoting the kinds of divisive virtue
remember that Middle England is, like signalling which do nothing but
it or not, still very much a thing. Richard Osman is an easy example promote social discord and the belief
of that. Even someone as lofty as that the people who you do not agree
I have a particular insight into this Sally Rooney, while her writing can with are ‘vile’.
because four or five years ago I signed be stunning, is also at heart a very
up a very experienced royal journalist traditional author. Normal People, for Of course, while this is all rather
and author whose then agent had all its voice of a generation, zeitgeisty tiresome and depressing, from a
stopped replying to her emails. At oomph, is a classic tale of a hot mess business point of view, it is also an
the time no one was publishing royal who meets a moody hunk with hidden opportunity. Markets are always
books. But she had what I thought was depths. While it might not be exactly cyclical and it is always a good idea to
a terrific idea, had a great profile for the Mills and Boon it most certainly is buy into one at the bottom of a cycle
market, and together we cooked up the Breakfast at Tiffany’s, which in its turn and frankly if publishers didn’t have
proposal and sent it out to publishers. was a retread of the novels of Colette. such short memories there’d be fewer
opportunities for people like me. I
A significant number of them came But publishers – and agents do wish everyone didn’t get so angry
back to me to tell me, loftily, that the – are perennially in the habit of about it all though. AUGUST 2022 9


Five things I learned from Lisa Jewell about writing a
bestselling novel. By ;MPP &VSSOIV.

In January 2021, somewhere in croissants. Not so, of course. Lisa mailed 2 FOLLOW YOUR MOOD A PLAN
the middle of the UK’s second me in between folding her family’s IS NOT A PRISON
lockdown, I began shadowing clothes, painting her nails and cleaning Lisa is not a planner, as a rule. She’s
the bestselling author Lisa Jewell. the fridge, between dealing with teenage- what’s sometimes called a ‘pantser’,
In many ways, it wasn’t an ideal daughter emergencies, between walking writing by the seat of your pants. Some
time for shadowing someone – the dogs and taking sick pets to the vet. of her characters thrive on control – like
streets were so empty, it would be Henry, the prissy, meticulous anti-hero
easy to spot a stalker, and if you did Lisa has a nice life, certainly, which of The Family Returns – but Lisa is the
track your target down, you couldn’t sometimes involves champagne and last person to have a clear sense of where
stand within two metres of them or cupcakes and being feted at festivals. their story is going. (She did once show
enter their home without opening all But she is also a working mum me a sheet of paper covered in scribbled
the windows – so I started on Zoom, with a large family, and sometimes predictions, but it was her daughter’s
watching her on webcam. struggles (don’t we all) with juggling notes for a Love Island drinking game,
Luckily, this was a consensual her responsibilities. When we first rather than a novel.) Instead, she lets the
stalking. Lisa, after months of spoke over Zoom, she’d rented a beige- characters lead her, and often they take
consideration, had agreed to let a looking apartment across the road her to unexpected places.
complete stranger into her life. I would from her family home, where there
follow her process through the writing were no distractions except watching I’m much more of a planner. I had
of The Family Remains, her second-ever the queues outside Waitrose. In normal the provisional chapter titles of my book
sequel, from one January to the next: times, outside lockdown, she would about our year, The Truth About Lisa
reading her drafts, interrogating her often spend the day at a coffee shop Jewell, drafted in a master document
about her back catalogue and ultimately – not a boutique, bijou or exclusive months ahead of time, as if I was plotting
becoming part of her creative process. club, I discovered when I joined her out our future. In October we’d do this,
I think it’s fair to say we both learned a there, but a completely average outlet in November, this, and in December we’d
lot, about each other and about writing, situated between the escalators of a say our farewells. I was the Red Queen to
and perhaps also about ourselves. shopping centre. This year, as she her Alice, bossily uptight – ‘At the end of
Here are some of my own take-aways, began her next novel (to be published two yards, I shall give you your directions. At
specifically on how to create a bestseller in summer 2023) she wrote to me the end of three yards I shall repeat them—
within a year. with excitement that she’d bought a for fear of your forgetting them. At then end
‘foldy desk’ from Amazon, and now of four, I shall say good-bye. And at then end
1 FIND YOUR SPACE AND TIME had somewhere perfect to focus on her of five, I shall go!’ – while Lisa remained,
Lisa lives and writes in a beautiful 1,000 words per day. for the most part, blithe and easy-going.
house. (She also has another beautiful (No wonder, perhaps, I started to think I
house, in which she does not write.) But So that’s all you need, really. A table was becoming like Henry, or that Henry
like most people – certainly, like most in a coffee shop, or your own foldy desk was becoming like me.)
women – she has to fight for her own (a very Marian Keyes phrase) bought
time and space. At the start of the year, I from Amazon. And that 1,000 words One thing I learned from Lisa, as a rule
foolishly assumed that her success would a day? She says that, in interviews. A for writing at least – though perhaps I
have lifted her onto some blissful higher lot of authors make similar claims. It should also apply it to life – is to let things
plane of life, where the author wafts out certainly sounds neat, and it’s a worthy go a little more. My outlines are now
of bed to a perfectly-assigned writing aim. But I’ve known her write between more like suggestions, which can change
table as assistants bring fresh coffee and thirty and 3,000 words a day; you write organically if that’s how things evolve.
what flows, and sometimes you just What seemed a good idea at the start
can’t force it. might simply not work when you reach a

10 AUGUST 2022


crucial later point. Go with what feels right; and threatening them with awful fates, epilogues than The Lord of the Rings.
follow the mood. but the reader won’t care because there’s But even without those bonus
nothing solid at stake: it’s like watching
3 PROSE SHOULD SERVE THE an empty CGI spectacle. On the other supplementary materials, Lisa is an ace at
STORY hand, you can create characters who feel playing the final twist, at turning over the
I’m a professor of popular culture, and as instantly real, complex, and nuanced, and last card that unsettles the whole deck.
well as studying traditional literature, I’ve the reader will be on the edge of her seat An envelope of hair, in Watching You; a
also spent a lot of time analysing graphic about their tiniest dilemmas, heartbroken hidden ski-mask in Invisible Girl; one well-
novels – what we used to call simply ‘comic by their everyday disappointments, placed line revealing a single detail can
books’. One thing I’ve taken from that cheering their little victories. send us back through the book with a new,
experience is that the most intricate painted uncanny understanding. Those twists keep
images and elaborate captions – what Lisa’s underlying obsession is not so much the novels alive in my mind, their mysteries
the creators might think of as ‘good art’, plot as people. She is endlessly fascinated by never quite laid to rest. If you want your
and ‘good writing’ – often slow down the people; not just people in books or fellow story to stay with a reader, consider not
process of storytelling. They demand ‘look authors, but the people she encounters, the wrapping everything up in a neat bow, but
at me’, pushing us back to a distance from barmen and baristas, the fans, the friends of leaving something – something puzzling,
the work, rather than drawing us in. A friends. She wants to know about people. something disturbing – at the bottom of
comic is based on pacing, on the rhythm The hook of our project for her was not the box for them to open when you’re gone.
between panels; it’s not a gallery where we’re just having a book written about herself
meant to linger on individual frames. – she is honest enough to admit that the In Autumn 2021, I stayed in Lisa’s big,
idea appealed – but finding out about me, beautiful seaside house with my own small
The same can be true for bestselling as a person around her age, with a hugely family. Listening to the waves through the
fiction, like Lisa’s novels. She writes well – different career and background. open window, in an airy room decorated
she writes, she told me, to the very best of with original art, I naturally began to
her own ability, as someone who was never She wants us to feel for her villains daydream: what if I followed Lisa’s example,
formally trained – but that doesn’t always – something I don’t think she’s always and tried to emulate her success?
mean writing fancy. Some of Lisa’s prose, achieved, as I still remember Noelle
I suggest in my own book, can stand next Donnelly from Then She Was Gone with I did a few quick calculations. Ralph’s Party
to the work of high-cultural craftsmen like crawling revulsion – or if not to sympathise, was published in 1999. Since then, Lisa has
Henry James, and modernist masters like then at least to understand their motives. written twenty novels, including The Family
Joyce and Woolf. But its main purpose Henry, the cold centre of The Family Remains, at a steady rate without stopping.
is to serve the story and the characters. It Returns, is sometimes hard to like, but at She’s survived market trends, shifted styles,
isn’t there to show off; it’s there to make heart we realise he’s a broken little boy changed genre. She’s worked on her art.
a particular moment in the fictional who’s built a brittle, shiny shell around his She’s pushed herself hard. She has earned her
world more vivid, to add extra shine and adult self. He might not be a perfect hero, success. And she’s earned it again, and again,
highlight to a detail. It might jump out for but like us, he’s very human. And once with each new book.
a moment, but it immediately pulls you we’ve seen him at his most anguished and
back in. vulnerable (that acid-orange sunset plays a Yes, if I started now, if I had the time, the
part, again) it becomes hard to hate him. tenacity and the talent, I could live like Lisa
And one more specific little secret Lisa We might not want him living with us, Jewell in around 22 years, in 2044.
shared with me: add a little pop of colour, but it’s a lot of fun to hang out with him
every few pages. (In The Family Remains, for a while in the Chicago of Lisa’s latest It might sound ludicrous. But you know
there’s a memorable scene with an acid- novel. (She didn’t visit Chicago that year, what? If you really want to be a bestselling
orange sunset). She trained, not in novel by the way. It’s all imagined from a desk in writer, it’s not. It’s a very good reason for
writing, but in fashion illustration, and I London; writing a bestseller is one way to you to start right now.
think that still comes across in her work. travel during lockdown.)

YOUR CHARACTERS EVEN THE I never quite got over the fact that Lisa’s
VILLAINS novels have different endings depending
Plot is important, of course, but one thing on what version you buy. Some special
I realised from my year with Lisa is that editions include an extra scene, opening
it’s the characters who carry her novels. I the door again just when you thought it
read a lot of other literature that year, too, was closed, and her latest is no exception.
and I found the same in the work of many She kept adding to it when it was officially
authors. You can move cardboard cut-outs over, sending me new pages that extended
around a global stage, subjecting them the plot: the final, ultimate edition of
to terrible things, placing them in peril The Family Returns seems to have more AUGUST 2022 11



Author James McCreet
considers one of the trickiest

questions for all writers –
assessing the quality of your work

How do you know if analyse exactly what makes her good In this sense, ‘good’ is a pattern
what you’re writing is for you. Likewise with James Joyce or and a series of choices each writer
good – and why is it Virginia Woolf. This means learning makes. Their style may be clean and
so difficult to know? to read as a writer. uncomplicated. It may be dense,
Most of us have convoluted and obscure. Underline
experienced the oscillation between Break down your chosen book into the ‘best bits’ as you read and go back
doubt and delusion, when a piece is chapters and then into scenes. Look later to work out why you underlined
great in the morning then terrible at the granular structure. How does those parts.
by suppertime. Even professionals the story unfold? What are its many
question their judgment when interconnected parts? How is research Recognising good
trying something a little different or detail folded into the mix? How long
more ambitious. is a scene and how is it structured? Sounds easy, right? But you know
How does the chronology work? the real problem is trying to see your
The problem is the sheer Make plans and diagrams. work objectively. Can we ever truly
subjectivity of the question. ‘Good’ read our own work without emotion
is such a moving target. There The next step is analysing individual and with the cold impartiality of the
must be some rational way to paragraphs and sentences. Extract a third-party reader? The truth is that
approach the matter and know to single paragraph from the book. Type we have to try to learn.
some persuasive degree whether it out yourself and pay attention to the
your work is good rather than punctuation, the sentence lengths, the One way of doing is this is to write
ambiguously and amorphously choice of vocabulary. Are you using ‘in reverse’. Don’t write something
‘feeling’ that maybe it’s good. the same techniques when you write? then try to figure out if it’s good or if
Why did the writer choose to structure it works. First figure out what works
What is good? their prose in the way they did? Learn – then write it. Let’s say you want to
to read in this way, going back over a shock the reader by having a character
As I say: a moving target. ‘Good’ page to understand how it was written. appear unexpectedly in a scene.
is better than everyone else in your What’s the purpose of this text? What
writing group. Good is published. Of course, the aim is not to will make it good? Actually shocking
Good is successful. Good is prize- copy your favourite writers but to the reader! How do we shock a
winning or history-making. It’s Lee understand at a technical level what reader? What are the techniques we’ve
Child and it’s James Joyce. All of makes them good. I often hear writers learned from our literary heroes to
which doesn’t help much. justifying their use of a technique spring a surprise?
with something like, ‘But Lee Child
You need to decide what good does it!’ Sure he does. But maybe You might avoid using the word
means to you. What is the standard he does it in a different way. It’s ‘suddenly’, which signals an imminent
you’re aiming for? Choose an important to fully understand how surprise to the reader. You could slip
example. If you want to write books the techniques work rather than just the character in at the start of a new
like Val McDermid, say, you need to lifting them from the page. paragraph, or at the end of one on

12 AUGUST 2022

a different subject. You could write a flaws of your work better than anyone you wrote the surprising text and
one-word paragraph to jolt the pace else. Maybe you do what I’ve done learn those lessons. There will be more
and grab the reader’s attention. There over the years: internalise the voices of where that came from.
are many techniques. your best critics so that eventually you
don’t need to show your work: ‘Ah, Good is also a surprise for the
The point is that you don’t need Barry would say this word is trying too reader. Even in the finest writing, there
to wonder if you’ve written a good hard.’ ‘Jane would advise me against are standout phrases or sentences. Aim
shock because you’ve used recognised that metaphor.’ to put such a surprise on every page.
and proven methods to create the
shock. This is how writing works. Another interesting method is to Getting better
It’s conscious and purposeful. You imagine that someone is going to test
know what good looks like before you on what you’ve written – like a Good can often mean ‘good enough’.
you write it. doctoral viva voce. Why did you write A lot of books are good enough to get
the sentence like that? Why did you published, but they’re not good by our
Trusting good choose a semi-colon over a dash? Why ever-increasing standards. There’s no
was that paragraph two pages long? upper limit to good – it’s potentially
Okay, but still... Is it really possible If you can’t answer these questions infinite. The narrative revolutions
to read our own work objectively? convincingly, then you’ve not written embodied in the work of Joyce or
There’s still doubt even if we’ve well because you’ve not thought about Woolf are now commonplace even in
used the techniques we’ve seen the exact effect on the reader. First think, genre fiction. The novel is always, by
work in other books. What if we’ve then write. This is the secret of good. definition, something new.
used them wrongly? What if we’re
ultimately kidding ourselves? These Of course, the process becomes We’ll never finally arrive at good
are common thoughts. internalised and automatic over because we’re always capable of
time. You just write for the reader at better. Every book we read offers new
One way to manage doubt is to a subliminal level. You know what techniques to learn, new ways to hook,
distance yourself from your work. The works. Apprentice writers also feel amaze and delight our readers. It never
popular method of putting the book this: like the writing just flows and stops – unless you’re happy with ‘good
away for a few months is a very useful the characters just speak. That’s great, enough’. There are writers who churn
way to improve objectivity. If you can but apprentice writers still have many out the same old thing book after
read the scene and feel the shock you of those blips and tics appearing in book and many of them make money
intended your reader to feel (even the automatic flow. They have to be doing it. Why not?
though you wrote it), the writing is eradicated through long practice.
good. It’s good because it’s effective. The way I see it, good writing is
Learn surprise something like a good kiss. It can be
We all have to learn to read our work anything: a quick peck, a passionate
as if we’re readers. It takes practice. How do you know when you’re snog, a first-night exploration or a
Another way to train yourself is to getting good? One sign is that you fifty-year-marriage smooch. A good
read a few chapters of your favourite read a piece of your work and you kiss works in the moment. It’s not
writers before turning immediately pause, thinking, ‘Wow. That’s pretty the same every time. It comes with
to your own work. The contrast may good.’ Not, ‘Good by my standards’ – emotion and some knowledge. It is
be traumatic, but your brain will just good. As if you’d read that line or aimed at another person, intended
automatically compare styles and phrase or paragraph in a book by your to please them, stir them, while also
you’ll quickly see the blips and tics in influences. Then you read over it again being a pleasure for the person doing
your prose that you hadn’t seen in the to savour the words and realise what the kissing.
professional writer. Too-long sentences? you’ve done.
Too much punctuation? Note them. Good writing is never just words.
Examine them. Repair them. To feel surprise at your own writing’s It’s intention and communication. It’s
quality might seem like conceitedness, technique and it’s intuition. It seldom
The opinions of other people are but it’s the opposite. Why should you ‘just happens’ unless you’ve put in
important as we learn to write – be surprised? You’re actually good. years of reading and practice. But it’s
especially if those people are more You’ve written good work and you’ll also always within our reach. We just
experienced. The goal of being good, do it again. Examine how and why have to know what it looks like and
however, requires that you know the how it feels. Pucker up! AUGUST 2022 13



Poking fun at British sensibilities with gentle, kindly good humour, 6IZ 6MGLEVH 'SPIW is
possibly the world’s loveliest crime writer, as 8MRE .EGOWSR discovers

There’s only one vicar in Great a cosy crime story, beautifully written phone from Sussex, engulfed in moving-
Britain that most people could with a light touch that nonetheless in chaos, the cadences of Richard’s
name, and it’s the Reverend weaves in stories of deep-rooted rifts in voice – mellifluous, patient, thoughtful
Richard Coles: parish priest, a village community, the aftermath of – are unmistakable. Oh he’s lovely: if
author, broadcaster, former war, theological and spiritual references he were preaching from a pulpit, you’d
pop star, even contestant on Strictly, and gentle, situational comedy. ‘As a pop be all ears. WM isn’t sure how best to
where he was lowered from the ceiling musician, and as a clergyman, I’ve liked address him, as a retired priest, but
sporting angel wings. Memorably to find ways of expressing complex or there’s no standing on ceremony. ‘Call
described by his late husband David as deeply mysterious ideas in a way that me Richard,’ he says, a kindly Eeyore.
a ‘borderline national trinket’, Reverend can be understood easily,’ says Richard. The warmth feels real, and his ability
Richard’s status is now inarguably to make connections is outstanding.
‘national treasure’. The book starts when Richard’s Which brings us back to Murder before
lead character, priest-turned-detective Evensong’s loo theme.
But Reverend Richard isn’t a parish Canon Daniel Clement, broaches the
priest any more. Two and a half years idea of installing lavatories in church to ‘Anyone who’s ever tried to install
after the death of his beloved David, parishioners intent on keeping the holy a lavatory has some sympathy with
he’s retired from his parish in Finedon building a toilet-free zone. Moses,’ says Richard. ‘You need to
in Northampton, and moved to a understand how these things matter
picture-postcard village in Sussex with ‘There is a beautiful image in the Old to people. They have their place, in a
his two elderly dachshunds. And his Testament of Moses striking the rock in church, and they don’t want that to
first novel, Murder before Evensong, is the wilderness and water gushes forth yet change. I consider myself an expert in
published on 9 June. It’s a delight of the Israelites are restive and not happy the theory and practice of lavatories –
about their leader’s efforts.’ Down the

14 AUGUST 2022


in my parish we failed. I did manage two favourite books are Middlemarch Listen not only to what people say, but
to get new lavatories installed in the and Moby Dick, he’s always loved what they don’t say.’
primary school. But really it was about crime fiction. ‘The first proper book
learning why these things matter to I read, given by my grandfather, was On the surface of it, Richard’s
you. They matter to them.’ the collected short stories of Sherlock detective character, Canon Daniel, bears
Holmes – so I thought eventually a more than a passing resemblance to his
The book’s comedy is gentle, deadpan, detective was going to pop up. I read creator – he even has dachshunds, and as
and very funny. ‘I’ve always loved Ian Rankin, Lee Child – I adore Jack we’re talking, Richard’s two, Pongo and
comedy,’ says Richard. ‘There’s a certain Reacher. Queens of crime and the Daisy, have made their way onto his lap.
C of E ironic detachment – Christianity Golden Age; Margery Allingham, DL ‘I really enjoyed writing Daniel – a bit
is lived out in the gap between what we Sayers, PD James. When I was on tour too much actually,’ says Richard. ‘But
wish for and what we achieve and it’s in bands in the 1980s my comfort I was very consciously not writing me
always richly comic. Comedy and sadness reading was Agatha Christie – they were as Daniel. I am interested how parish
are very closely entwined.’ very good companions if I was travelling, priests interpret the world – and, more
or under pressure.’ niche – how New Testament scholars
There’s something delightfully retro interpret the world – and Daniel does
and Ealing Comedy about starting
off a murder mystery with a tiff about “I’ve always loved comedy. There’s a certain
installing modern loos in an ancient C of E ironic detachment – Christianity is
village church, but the ever-thoughtful lived out in the gap between what we wish
Richard has reservations about the ‘cosy’ for and what we achieve and it’s always
label attached to crime fiction featuring richly comic. Comedy and sadness are very
‘heritage’ characters and situations. closely entwined.”

‘I think “cosy” is a bit of a misnomer,’ It made sense to Richard to turn his that too. He is much more buoyed up
he says. ‘It’s easier to see in descriptions hand to crime fiction. ‘I’d always thought than me, more patient and diligent,
of communities and people that seem how vicars would make very good and he’s not silly. I am much more like
amiable – but the murders in our books detectives,’ he says. ‘And then something his brother [an actor called Theo]– he
are anything but cosy. Though perhaps happened that triggered the germ of
you need that contrast – the undisturbed an idea – something that happened in
appearance – and the turbulence below. church. I missed something that was
Vicars are constantly looking at that blindingly obvious. Any vicar with
surface, the tension of the unseen experience in a parish will have ample
turbulence below. Cosy crime shows you experience to write a mystery.’
what happens to the calm surface of a
community when something comes to There are a lot of fictional priests in
the surface.’ literature but one written by an actual
priest is a rarity. ‘What people get
Departing from received ideas, or wrong is attributing to us extraordinary
‘the script’ as he refers to it, has always judgement, sympathy, engagement,
engaged Richard. With Murder Before principle,’ says Richard. ‘Someone
Evensong, readers are invited to look at who could help someone in spiritual
what goes on beneath the surface of the crisis. I got to know this person and
kind of village that gets viewed with said, “how do you know, you have this
a nostalgic lens. ‘I think we all have a extraordinary ability”, and he said, “it’s
script of the places as we want them to one of four or five things. You get to
be, archetypal village England. For a lot have a sense of what it might be.” He
of people the village is a retreat from the also taught me to shut up and listen and
competition of the city – but the village don’t interrupt – and that was hard for
is real – and that stuff fascinates me. We me, I prefer to transmit than to receive.
are people that compete regularly for
insufficient resources – that affects us as
individuals and communities. Sometimes
it comes out in a violent way – as a
parish priest you’re often confronted
with the violent and unpredictable. We
had a murder in my first week.’

Although Richard mentions that his AUGUST 2022 15


has a tendency towards silliness. Daniel the end of that generation who had lived struggling with addiction. It’s a generous

is extremely honest and truthful and a through the second world war, and what mediation on managing the immediate

man of consistent integrity. A model of it does to people.’ aftermath of a death. But above all, it’s a

priesthood. I know the sort of priest he Richard’s vision of a heritage version love story.

is and I’m not.’ of Little England encompasses the ‘The Madness of Grief was inevitable

What sort of priest are you, then? WM Church and the aristocracy as well as in that David’s death was always going

enquires, nosily. ‘I am a show pony, a his imaginary village of Champton. ‘I’ve to happen, he was an alcoholic,’ says

performer, compassionate, nosy and borrowed two friends’ grand houses Richard. He sounds ineffably sad. ‘And

curious and have a tendency to kick over and mashed them together,’ he says. it was important to write that book

traces a little bit,’ replies Richard. ‘I’m a ‘I am fascinated by how these places because I wanted to collect and curate

missionary. I like to go out into the world are forums for playing out class and and preserve his memory in the way

and see where people are. I am interested economic tensions. Vicars and aristocrats only I could. Truthful and generous. I

in the lost sheep and how we get them tend to understand each other a bit – wanted to capture him – when someone

into what we have to offer. I’ve been there we’re the incumbents of posts. I was the dies they instantly start to fade and I

myself, a large and lost ruminant.’ 59th vicar of Finedon. We are passing have this powerful impulse to preserve

Richard’s life story entails an unlikely through and we have a perspective of him. I realise in retrospect that the death

passage from gay activism, pop-stardom time and community. Heritage, passing of your beloved is such an enormous

with The Communards and loads of into history.’ thing. I’d be gutted by a piece of music,

hedonism to vicaring. The extraordinary Richard hasn’t decided whether he’ll but his absence was something I simply

story of his transition “Fiction is much harder than I couldn’t comprehend.
from pop star to pulpit And gradually I began

is colourfully chronicled thought. Keeping all the balls in the to understand he’s gone
in his 2014 memoir and isn’t coming back.

Fathomless Riches. As air. Knowing what’s happening with I’ve still got a sense of
Murder Before Evensong the architecture... There’s this thing him. Someone said, “in
is the first in a series, heaven?” And I said

he thinks it’s likely that about something working in your “no, the Co-op”.’ He
the 1980s pop world mind but not on the page.” knows it’s a funny line,
he inhabited in The and pauses, but when he
Communards might speaks again his voice is

make its way into a filled with yearning. ‘I

future Daniel Clement story. ‘There allow Daniel’s friendship with a police miss him very much.’

might be a book somewhere down the officer to turn into more. Throughout It’s probably the defining book of

line where Daniel may find himself the 1980s, Richard was part of the fight Richard’s life. ‘Of course I wish I’d never

involved in something related to pop for gay equality but he says at that time, had to write that book. I was asked to

music. Thinking of places he might Daniel might have had: ‘A different speak about courage at a conference

pop up – as vicars you do have a passe script. Daniel doesn’t see things he for prison chaplains and they said, you

partout and we still get everywhere. might have seen if he’d had a different wrote The Madness of Grief. I said that

People don’t challenge us when they see script – in understanding how two men I didn’t feel courageous – I was doing

us there.’ might love each other. I don’t know if what I had to do. I thought I might get

Murder Before Evensong is set in the there’s going to be a love affair. I don’t to the end of my life without having

1980s. For Richard, this was a defining know. They certainly become more loved. And then David came.’

decade of pop stardom and gay activism. than colleagues.’ Although Richard’s life has been

But for his first crime novel, he’s looking Yet of all people, Richard knows how extraordinary, he doesn’t believe that’s a

back in a different way, to the passing to write about love. The Madness of requirement of writing memoir. ‘I think

of a kind of Britishness that we associate Grief, published last year and written in some of the most compelling writing is

with heritage and nostalgia. ‘I am the aftermath of David’s death, is not not, “I had dinner with the Queen”. It’s

fascinated by the 1980s,’ he says. ‘Partly just a beautiful book, but an important the people who write stuff that happens.

because you don’t have to worry about one. David, who was a priest, gardener, The texture of things people say on the

the mobile phones and drones. But I cook, musician and former nurse, died bus. I’ve kept a diary for a long time

was looking back at people who endured of alcohol-related illness. In The Madness and I’d written an account of a glittering

World War II and its disruptions – I was of Grief, Richard’s readers are allowed to party and it was boring. It’s the everyday

very interested in the 1980s how many see the whole of the person who lit up stuff that’s fascinating. Someone like Ian

people had been through World War II. his life, rather than the grim, reductive McMillan on truth – he does it with a

I witnessed with my parish community cliches so often used to convey a person poet’s eye, it’s marvellous.’

16 AUGUST 2022

Writing bestselling non-fiction titles Kettering, people who wrote then I write but I tend to begin and
was, says Richard, no preparation for books and got published then I think I have it but it always
writing a novel. ‘With non-fiction were rather rare. Quite changes a lot in the middle.’
you do have a reality outside your recently I went to lunch
imagination to which you harness with my publisher and agent The process is different for a first
yourself. With fiction you have to in Soho and it was lovely – I and second novel, he believes. ‘When
generate stuff that would otherwise just like the idea of being an author.’ you write your first one, you put
be there; create a character’s take on their everything in it. I may not be so
own life. Fiction is much harder than How does he write? ‘I’ve always profligate with the next one.’ With a
I thought. Keeping all the balls in the written, scripts and sermons, but when series in the pipeline, is he now in the
air. Knowing what’s happening with the it came to writing in book form with treadmill of producing a new Daniel
architecture. And stupid obvious rookie Fathomless Riches the only thing I had Clement novel every year? ‘A book
things like pace, structure. There’s this written that length before was a thesis. a year? They can demand. Supply is
thing about something working in your And then I really started enjoying it. another matter!’
mind but not on the page.’ I go on cruises and you entertain the
passengers and it’s a very good place to Richard’s reluctant to offer advice.
Still, he says, ‘You learn on the job, write. I get a lot done on ships.’ ‘I don’t know how to write crime
and it begins to grow and flourish. Ian fiction,’ he demurs. ‘I’ve only just
Rankin, who’s a pal, says he just sits These days, though, it’s less luxury written one.’ But pressed, he offers:
down and writes and that’s what I do. lifestyle and more getting on with the ‘Write every day. Everyone’s got a
And the dynamics of it are very difficult job. ‘I’d love to tell you that I retreat book inside and you have to get it
– I’m writing the second one now and into my carefully appointed writing outside. That’s the point.’
it’s easier.’ shed. I did have one in Finedon,
David built it, but the dogs took it And now he’s retired, what’s his own
The experience of being a clergyman over. But I write on a train or in the motivation? ‘Well they’ve paid me in
allows a helpful perspective. ‘The art of café, at the kitchen table, on an iPad advance,’ he chuckles, the devilish
being a vicar is not getting in the way of and smart keyboard, it goes with me crime writer in him briefly one-upping
doing interesting things,’ Richard says. everywhere. I can write wherever I his priestly goodness. ‘And they’re not
And being an author is the fulfilment of am and I like seeing it all add up. getting it back!’
an ambition that goes all the way back to You think, first, how am I going to
his childhood. ‘I think I always wanted to fill however many pages, but then the
be a writer and rather liked the idea of it challenge isn’t how you fill it, it’s how
– I was a very nerdy child and read with you cut. I do plot it – one page of
a limitless appetite but growing up in A4, then a more detailed plan. And AUGUST 2022 17


Bill Waters Author Elizabeth Noble describes
how she overcame a writing gap after a
When I put the pen
down after correcting traumatic novel-writing experience
the last set of page
proofs of my seventh brain. Luckily enough, the next idea When I wrote it that way, it worked
novel Between a would have stuck before I finished the at once.) This is the stage when it
Mother and Her Child, I honestly previous book, so I had never suffered looks like I’m not really working, but I
believed it was the last act of my writing from the blank first page syndrome I know it works for me. The first 30,000
career. Worse, I knew it was me who understand afflicts some. I was always words are heavy going. I look at the
had derailed it. The truth was, I had excited about starting a new book. I word count too often, my plot is still
hated writing it. love getting to know my characters. too woolly for my liking and finishing
I create whole profiles for them as seems unlikely if not impossible.
I’m not necessarily the kind of author they live in my head for a while, so But there is a tipping point. That
I sometimes read about who adores that I know everything about them – disgruntlement with the project seems
every minute of their writing process, from their dress style to their voting to plateau out, and after, say, 50,000
and who cannot conceive of a day when history to their musical tastes. Even words, the story and the characters take
they don’t write something. I have many if I never use the information within on their own momentum and speed,
days when I struggle to sit down in my narrative, I know it makes them and there are whole, glorious days when
front of the laptop, and am often found more plausible and authentic, and it it almost tells itself and I just hope I can
engaging in mundane domestic tasks helps me tremendously when creating type fast enough.
like cleaning out that kitchen drawer a distinctive voice and speaking style
instead. And with my first five novels, a for each of them, as well as, when Everything about the sixth novel was
familiar pattern had emerged, so that I plotting, knowing how they would different, almost from the start. I don’t
had come to expect a bit of a love/hate react and behave. (I once tried to make know where the idea came from. But,
relationship with the process – a writing a character begin an affair – I wrote like all the other nine novels, once I had
rollercoaster. the scene several times and was very caught in the fibres of my imagination,
dissatisfied with it, until I realised I couldn’t ignore or replace it. From the
Ideas had never been a problem for that ‘Natalie’ might get as far as the start, I almost dreaded telling the story.
me. They had always just lodged in my bedroom door, but wouldn’t, in the If I look back, with the trajectory of my
end, be able to go through with it. own life as a parallel line to my stories,
I can see that some are more personal

18 AUGUST 2022


than others. The Friendship Test is a was Maggie, and she was me. Putting I could share a five-step plan or some
sort of fantasy version of my university myself in the shoes of a character has other secret. Or even that I could tell
friendship groups. Things I Want My always been my method, and I think it you that I wrote my way out of my
Daughters to Know is really a love letter has helped me write multi-dimensional, funk by diligently producing 1,000
to my own children, The Girl Next Door complex characters, and to explore words a day, whether they were rubbish
in part an ode to my loneliness as an the idea that good people can and do or not, keeping that muscle from
expat wife. behave badly. For the time I was writing, atrophying through sheer will. I didn’t.
Maggie was the person I was closest I don’t know whether that would have
Between a Mother and Her Child to, and I felt as though I was feeling worked. Perhaps for some. I stepped
shouldn’t have been personal to me at everything that she was. And I couldn’t back. During the time I wasn’t writing,
all. It’s Maggie’s story, an exploration of shake it off when I stepped away from my husband came home, my daughter,
the effect and process of grief on a whole the keyboard. Spending my working day with a great deal of hard work on her
family after they lose their firstborn imagining I had lost a child in order to part, about which I am profoundly
son tragically young, in the 2004 Asian write as authentically as possible about proud of her, started to feel better and
tsunami. I haven’t lost a child, and had that experience (and more than with more positive about her life, and we all
no connection to that event. Perhaps anything I’ve written before or since got happy again. And one day… there
with hindsight I should have shied I felt a tremendous responsibility to was a new idea, and a familiar urge to
away from the subject matter, but, as be factually accurate, so I’d done a lot start day-dreaming a character into life.
I said, the ideas, once they arrive, do of very harrowing research), and then Love, Iris, my seventh novel, is, I see
rather refuse to leave. And I couldn’t dealing with the reality of a child so now, first and foremost a story about
have known from my experience with depressed she was, at times, not sure she generational, familial love, its sadness
the previous five novels how absorbed I could see light at the end of the tunnel couched in plenty of joy. If I don’t sound
would become by Maggie’s life, or how (this memory is so painful for me you’ll too pretentious, I am very grateful to
oddly her fictional life and my real one note I write about it in euphemisms to the redoubtable Iris for being the idea
would merge. this day), and doing that without the that stuck, demanding to have her story
present support of my husband, made told. She brought my writing self back
I had moved back to the UK with our for a perfect storm of misery. When I to life.
two daughters, leaving my husband in typed the last word of that book, I felt Other People’s Husbands (£12.99) is
New York City, where we had lived for depressed and deeply sad myself. I was published by Penguin Michael Joseph
five years, and where he would need to sleeping badly, and waking full of dread on 21 July
stay for probably three more years. We and anxiety. Writing days were long, and
agreed to try and see each other every six miserable, and I had to force myself to Elizabeth’s top tips
to eight weeks, with him coming home the desk. I was very late delivering to my for overcoming a
for weekends, and us flying over for editor, which made me feel guilty and
longer school holidays. I found being, inadequate. And when I was eventually writing gap
effectively, a single parent to two teenage done, I found the finished novel without
daughters very lonely and very hard. much merit as a result. Interestingly • It seems counter intuitive to
My younger daughter – eleven years old enough, I reread it recently, and, frame this as advice, but I think
at the time – was having a very hard although I found it dredged up some it was important to accept that
time adjusting to being home. She was painful memories, I am proud of it and I might not write again, and
being bullied in the insidious, subtle its depiction of Maggie’s family. that the sky wouldn’t fall in.
ways prepubescent girls can bully – with It removed a lot of pressure.
casual, breath-taking cruelty – and But for the first time I had no new Imaginations need space. And in
the school was pretty useless. She was idea bubbling in my subconscious. this and my case, time.
profoundly unhappy, and I have horrible Very low confidence, and buckets of
memories of waiting at the window of self-doubt. I took a deep breath and • Re-read what you’ve written that
our living room to see the front door told my husband, and my agent, that I you are proud of.
open. I could tell from the set of her wasn’t going to write any more novels.
shoulders as she trudged up the path Their understanding and acceptance • It seems obvious but is obviously
how bad the day had been. was doubtless key to what I think of tricky – keep your written work
as my ‘recovery’, but for almost five and your personal stuff separate.
In the book, Maggie has lost her years there was no new idea, and I was Close a door on them when
son Jake. He’s travelling with friends almost comfortable to think of myself you press save and bring the lid
on a gap year and gets caught in the as someone who ‘had’ written novels, as down. There is still plenty of
tsunami. The grief has shattered her though in a previous life. ‘me’ in all my characters, but
marriage, and her life, and impacted all I try hard to maintain a little
her relationships. She’s trying to survive I wish I could explain a method distance these days
the very worst thing that can happen whereby I got back to writing. That
to a person. In front of the keyboard, I AUGUST 2022 19


Feedback frenzy

How can feedback improve your manuscript? ,IPIR 'SVRIV &V]ERX
explains how it will help your book’s chances of success.

Q I’ve written my first novel and was about to submit it • Manuscript assessment
to agents but a friend suggested I get some feedback.
Could you tell me what I can expect from an editor’s This service provides an ms with specialist attention and involves
input and how it might improve my chances? a developmental critique (8-12 pages approx), plus a 60-minute
consultation with the editor. This service is ideal if you have
A It’s really useful to have a professional editorial opinion agent or publisher interest, are on the cusp of being published,
on your manuscript before you send it out. As a or are looking for a more hands-on editorial approach.
writer I know how useful this is and it’s why I set up
Cornerstones in the first place. There will always be things you • Mentoring
won’t see yourself and some that you subconsciously know aren’t
working. When an editor identifies these areas it should (if we’re Mentorship package allows the author to book one-on-one time
doing our job well) be like a light bulb going off. with an editor to use however they want, whether that’s reading
the full MS or just a few scenes; working through show not tell;
Our job is to build on your confidence, tap into your inner brainstorming your plot; or preparing a subs package.
editor, guide you on how to identify your writer tics, and give
you technical know-how to strengthen your manuscript. If your You generally have one stab at submitting to each agent so
book has potential, going through this process should improve it’s good to get it into as polished a state as you can, one that
your chances of being noticed, and hopefully snapped up. should catch an agent’s eye. However, don’t tie things up too
tightly, as there will be further revisions down the line with the
So, now you’ve written your first draft and you’ve taken it as market in mind. Aim for a solid first draft (even if you’ve done
far as you can, it’s time for feedback. This is an exciting moment, many drafts) where there are no obvious technical no-no’s.
an often nerve-wracking rite of passage. But getting an outside Things to look out for: a slack pace, overwriting, a character that
opinion – one that you can trust – and learning how to self-edit could be stronger, expositional dialogue or dialogue that needs
is a process that is as much a part of being a writer as writing the cushioning, too much telling and not enough showing, and
book in the first place. The first things to consider are: so on. A professional editor should catch these on your behalf
before you submit. Their input should enable you to raise your
• Are you ready for feedback? writing to the next level, and if it’s at submission level, to catch
your dream agent’s eye.
Receiving feedback before you’re ready can have a negative
impact on your writing confidence, so ask yourself if you are CORNERSTONES
ready to hear what’s working and what’s not. If you feel excited
by the prospect, then you’re at self-editing stage. LITERARY CONSULTANCY

• Can you find the right solution? Are you thinking about submitting to the trade?
Do you want to learn the art of self-editing?
When a problem area is identified sometimes it’s up to you to
find the solution. For instance, if two agents (or editors) told you “Thank you [...] for developing such a
a minor character wasn’t working, and one said to cut him out challenging and rewarding course. I have been
and the other said to build him up, which would you go with?
They’re essentially saying the same thing – that the character searching for four years for this level of
is weak – and you need to decide what feels right. Receiving excellence!”
feedback before you enter the professional arena should clear
the path and help you to tidy things up in advance. Becoming – EYN course alumna
familiar with the editor’s language should also give you the
confidence to come up with your own solutions in future. Based on the #1 bestselling book ON EDITING, our
Edit Your Novel online course is designed to help
• Whose opinion can you trust?
you perfect your submissions package whilst
Usually not your friends or family if you want to remain on equipping you with all the tools you need to
speaking terms. Beta readers in your writing circle or a published
writer friend are a good place to start. But try not to get too become a confident editor.
many opinions as direction can become muddied. Another way
is to hire a professional who can deliver constructive feedback, Next course begins: 19 September 2022
has industry experience – as editor, agent or writer – and who is, Open for applications now!
ideally, aware of market trends. I cannot stress this enough.
+44 (0) 1308 897374
We are here to help. We always take an obligation-free look
at the first ten pages and synopsis so we can advise you on
what we think is the best way forward. We also like to chat
things through and hear your aspirations and vision for your
writing. Below are two of the most popular services we offer at
Cornerstones, to give you an idea of what to expect.

20 MAUAGY U20S2T12022

Celebrate younger people and pass on your own wisdom in these youth-related creative writing
exercises from .IRR] %PI\ERHIV

International Youth Day on the 12 August is a time to Make some notes on these two characters, and on the setting.
highlight the potential of young people in global society Where is the demo taking place? What do the demonstrators
and celebrate their achievements. As you’ll be harnessing the want? It doesn’t have to be about climate change or social
energy of youth in this month’s free-range writing, I probably equality, it could be a local issue or a peace march, for example.
won’t need to remind you to stick to the timings – you’ve got How many people are involved? Note the weather and the time

things to do, places to be, a future to create. of day, the sights, smells and sounds your protagonist will be

experiencing in the thick of the action.

Memoir Write the story, capturing the passion of the young

Being young is all about looking forward, imagining the protester and the strength of their sudden need for assistance

kind of person you want to be and the kind of world you set against the calm stability of the older person who helps.

want to see. When you were young, what were your dreams Take twenty minutes.

for yourself and the world? Who supported your dreams?

Who undermined them? Non-fiction

I always wanted to be an artist; my art teachers strongly Young people need hope for the future because they are the ones

supported my dream, but my parents blocked it because their who must inhabit it, and up until recently it has felt like a safe

priority, coming from very poor backgrounds themselves, was for bet that life will go on getting better, generation after generation,

their children to have careers that were secure and pensionable. because that’s been the general trajectory since the end of the

Some people achieve their youthful dreams, but most of us war. But the pandemic, the climate emergency, the cost-of-living

come up against limitations in our circumstances and natural crisis and now conflict on our doorstep in Eastern Europe, are all

abilities and must adapt or even abandon them. Children making it harder to have faith in an ever brighter future.

who dream of being premier league players might channel How can young people feel confident in their ability to forge

the joy of football into playing for a local team in adult life a good future in an uncertain world? What skills and knowledge

or teaching their own children at the park. might help them? Write an advice piece, as a supportive older

How have your youthful dreams for yourself changed person, about how to navigate a good path through life. For

as you’ve grown older? Have you managed to adapt your inspiration, you could look at Rudyard Kipling’s famous poem, If.

ambitions and hold onto the passions that fuelled them? What Choose your battles, that’s a good tip. Look after your health,

are your dreams for yourself now? Notice how having future that’s another. If you can’t risk failing, you will never succeed. For

dreams at any stage in life means tapping into the hopeful each instruction, give an example about how you learnt the lesson

confidence of youth. Write the history of the dreams you have in your own life. Take twenty minutes.

had and still have for yourself. Take twenty minutes.


Fiction There’s an uplifting poem called Ode to the Joyful Ones by

In the UK, young footballers like Marcus Rashford are Thomas Lux, where he celebrates those people who are always

pushing for greater social equality; on the world stage, Greta positive and upbeat, whatever difficulties they face. You can

Thunberg began her campaign for a more sustainable world find it online. This month’s poem is an ode to the young.

when she was fifteen. But just as the world needs young Young people are not always idealistic and hopeful. They

people’s energy and idealism to fuel change, it also needs the feel all their emotions more intensely, their joys, sorrows and

pragmatism and stability of older generations to help effect it. despairs, their romances, their rage. Youthfulness is associated

In this month’s story, a young protagonist gets into difficulties with physical strength and energy too.

at a protest march or demo, and an older person helps them. This Celebrate what young people bring to the world, just by

older person isn’t necessarily on the demo, it could be a police being the way they are. If you like, you can use the same

officer or medic, a local resident, a passer-by. Maybe it’s a parent repetition of Because they bring… as Lux does in his poem.

or grandparent on the phone. Take about twenty minutes. AUGUST 2022 21

HowWRITING LIFE to date a writer

Writers have their odd little ways. 6SWEPMRH 1SSH] has provided a cut-out-and-keep guide to
pass on to yout partners to guide them through the minefield.

J une is already behind us; if you’re I do daydream quite a lot. Friends 12 If we say we’re not free because
into astrology, that means we’ve just always know when they’ve lost me in we’re writing, it’s true. It’s more
passed Gemini season, the flirtiest conversation. But writing is my mental important than washing our hair (I
of all twelve zodiac signs. As a medicine, and if the world ended, you bet promise we do still wash our hair) which
gregarious Gem myself, I certainly agree we’d be writing about it. is most definitely an excuse. Ours is not.
that we do love to meet new people all
the time, and we adore dating, flirting 6 When a book or film comes out 13 We always have good wifi, because
and fussing others. But regardless of that had a simiar plot to a world we have THAT many tabs open at
our personalities, we writers all face the I’d created (hello, Birdbox) I can feel one time.
same pains and have quite similar habits competitive. If you’re around when this
when a deadline looms. We’re normal happens, please bear with me if I’m 14 If we go on holiday together, my
humans generally, but here is a survival irrationally jealous. laptop may be joining us. Holiday
guide just in case you suddenly find writing is not working, it is for pleasure
yourself in a relationship with a nocturnal 7 Keep the printer topped up with and for that creative project we’ve had in
lunatic who looked like your girlfriend toner and ink. Please help us make our heads for a while, that play idea we
earlier today. This guide can also apply to sure the minor inconvenience of the want to tinker with. Yes, it really is a treat
parents, children, housemates, family and printer failing doesn’t derail our sanity for us to work on it finally. See you at
friends, so share it with your circle and while we’re trying to proof the fifth draft dinner?
the world should be a calmer and more at midnight.
communicative place overall. 15 But when you are around, we
8 If we keep a writing pad on our appreciate every read you do on
1 Don’t call it journalling. bedside table or get up in the middle our work. Feedback is appreciated. Don’t
2 We constantly write, delete and of the night, please don’t think we’re crazy, hold back, except when it really is not our
we just have a good idea we need to get best.
repeat, and we make endless cups down. When we get back into bed, tired
of tea. You know this already. We may from tearing our ideas down onto our 16 We can turn anything into a
procrastinate then complain our deadline keyboard, please cuddle us tightly. limerick, story idea or creative
has come up too soon, though of course concept. Even airport delays. Even when
we knew our copy was due. So beware, 9 Please keep the cat entertained at her we’re really tired. Just take me on holiday
and know what you’re signing up for. 11pm Crazy Hour zoomies, because and you’ll get to hear one.
that is also the exact time our best writing
3 We’re empathic, sensitve beings, but gets into flow. 17 We need snacks at all times. The
we also like people-watching a bit crunchier the better, please.
too much. We’re great listeners, but we 10 If we don’t answer our phone, it is
might compare what you’re telling us to because we have turned it off (or in 18 We are mostly nocturnal around
something that happened in a book we’re my case, let it die on purpose) because we deadlines, so we’re usually up if you
currently reading. Just know that we’re really do have a Serious Deadline. Please need a midnight ear or can offer fun late-
sorry, and we really are here for you. leave a message and we promise we’ll get night distraction.
back to you.
4 We’re rarely people-pleasers. We’re 19 We can be very productive when
editor-pleasers. There’s a difference. 11 When we excitedly send you snippets procrastinating. Need your house
If our union brings us a project or great of good news about our work getting cleaned? We’re on a deadline, so we’re
contact also, it’s win-win! published, please respond with adequate on it!
excitement and encouragement, even if
5 It’s not that we live in a dreamland, you have no idea what any of it means. 20 We know drafting is
or fictional world, or some non- We’ll explain later, then after the tenth important, but know that we
reality. It’s that we use writing to soften time of hearing about it, you might wish will always secretly strive for a perfect
reality, to interpret it and to digest it. you never had. first draft. Which we can write in

22 AUGUST 2022

six weeks if we do three pages a day, keyboard, please don’t talk to us. while you enjoy your prime steak.
according to Julia Cameron.
30 Only read out to me my good 40 We are publishing nerds, so
21 If we quote Julia Cameron reviews and reader letters. Yes, please always keep us happy
frequently, please forgive us. She is we’re fickle; we want detailed feedback, but with a subscription to Writing
God in our world. Yes, even more than only good reviews. Magazine.
Stephen King.
31 We may be good fabricators of a 41 We might need you to help us
22 We still love handwritten or story, but we’re not always good interpret notes from our editors,
typewritten letters. Sometimes liars. We’re writers, not actors. agents or writing circle partners. You’ll see
we’ll surprise you with one too, written in it as a neutral suggestion that can better
a wistful, romantic hand. Someone pass 32 Cats come with the territory I’m our work, but we will see it as a personal
the stamps! afraid. Cats are allowed to sit attack. Thank you for helping us keep
where they like, but you are not. Our ego out of the creative debate.
23 We’re only interested in a TV show babies help in their own feline way, but
or film if it’s been adapted from unfortunately they can’t make a cuppa, so 42 We like gifts with non-cliché
a book or play. We must see how it was would you mind..? literary quotes on them.
done for research for our own. And no,
we haven’t written our story we long to be 33 We can be forgetful, so please 43 If oru prdiictble textss r emaadls
adapted yet. remember our best ideas so you t you don’’t make mcch sesne,
can remind us of them later down the line. it means our real work was really good
24 We might point out loopholes that day.
in the film on our cosy movie 34 When and only when we finish or
date. We’re thinking of more in our own publish work we’re really proud of 44 We have to do our three Morning
head, but some may escape from our will we truly relax. Then we’ll repeat the Pages before anything else in the
mouths from time to time. Sorry if we cycle the next morning. Forget sitting still morning. Please hush or have left for
ruin anything or predict the ending, but – we can’t think still. But that’s when we work already.
us novelists have to train our sense of shine our brightest, when we’re planting
foresight. our metaphorical flag on the mountaintop 45 Don’t joke with us that we could
of our manuscript. have just become an English
25 We’re the most creative people teacher and got six weeks’ holiday every
you know, so come to us with any 35 On our first date, take us to an summer. We’ve heard it before...
problem and we’ll help you solve it. Need independent bookshop and buy us
a greeting to write in a card? We’ll help. a book instead of dinner. 46 Please never make us read anything
Need a speech written? Let’s workshop it in Comic Sans font.
together. When you just don’t know what 36 It’s our birthday, buy us a second-
to say, we do. hand book and write your greeting 47 Please excuse our music choice
as an inscription. while we work. Whether it’s
26 We are great on-hand proofreaders simply the birdsong outside our window,
and need no payment other than 37 Buy us a new notebook in times sleep-inducing piano music, upbeat
simply being able to help put better of stress and strife – preferably Beach Boys (guilty) or ethereal Enya
writing out into the world. moleskin, please – with a Staedtler (also guilty), we’re in our happy place.
pigment liner pen.
27 We appreciate writer’s prompts, but 48 Just don’t call it journalling...
nine times out of ten we’ll remark 38 You may end up a character in our 49 We can be old romantics, so we
‘What a ridiculous opening line,’ before stories, but we are brilliant secret
we sigh and turn it into a story we end up keepers. We just like to hide secrets in sometimes wear our heart on our
being quite proud of. plain sight. Like Dolly Alderton said in a sleeves. Please never break ours.
recent Radio Times piece, she is far more
28 Dont be offended if we reply to private now than she was when publishing 50 We’re very creative beings. Dating
editors far quicker than we ever memoir Everything I Know About Love. us will be the best fun and biggest
texted you back. stress of your life.
39 Forgive us if we eavesdrop on our
29 If we’re in The Zone, which neighbouring diners while we’re What would you add to this list? I’d love
constitutes both hands on out to supper. Let us enjoy prime material to hear from other writers. AUGUST2022 23



The former detective and crime fiction
advisor describes how he landed a deal
as an author in his own right

©Helene Carter

‘Unlike most writers, the bug bit me late on. fiction, this time on my own. Peter was incredibly supportive
‘I’ve always read voraciously but never and reminded me how far my writing and storytelling had
thought someone with my police-speak come on.
style would ever produce anything
strangers would pay to read. It was only ‘Little did I realise what a leap that would be. Creating
when the world-class crime writer Peter James urged me to (and killing) characters, imagining perilous worlds and
co-write a non-fiction book telling the true stories behind his scenarios and deciding who’d make it to book two sounds
Roy Grace novels that I started to wonder. empowering, but it’s a massive challenge too.

‘For my first two books, Death Comes Knocking and ‘One of the best pieces of advice while writing Bad for Good
Babes in the Wood, given I co-wrote them with Peter, the was from thriller writer Dorothy Koomson who, on hearing
hardest part was creating cogent prose from real-life stories. how many times I’d gone back and forth fiddling with it, said,
I was incredibly fortunate to benefit from Peter’s agent and “How can you faff around like that unless you know how it
publisher so, once they had whipped my writing into shape, ends? Just write the bloody thing and edit it later.”
the publishing contracts followed.
‘So, that’s what I did.
‘However, when we were about a third of the way through ‘The next step was to find an agent in my own right. By
Death Comes Knocking, I was wrestling with my “voice” so chance, I was introduced to the legendary David Headley,
Peter called me. “You’re trying too hard. Write a prologue to founder and managing director of DHH Literary Agency,
give a taste of Brighton. Just let it flow from the heart in one Goldsboro Books and Capital Crime. We met for coffee close
draft.” In my schooldays I didn’t try hard enough, yet here to his Brighton bookshop and hit it off straightaway. Having
was one of the planet’s most successful writers telling me to sent him the Bad for Good manuscript, I hunkered down
kick back. I took this as both encouragement and my last waiting for the inevitable news that he, “Enjoyed it, but it’s
chance, so I plonked into my chair and let my fingers dance just not for me. Sorry.”
across the keyboard. ‘Instead, three days later, he texted me with, “Line of Duty
has nothing on you! Absolutely brilliant!!!” In fairness he didn’t
‘With an anxious press of the send button, I awaited Peter’s know that I have some issues with the popular TV drama, so I
verdict. Like when a jury comes back too quickly, my heart took it in the spirit it was meant. HE LOVED IT.
jittered and sank alternately when he called. “I love it,” he ‘One structural change later, then he sent it out to
exclaimed. “That’s what I was talking about. It’s amazing.” publishers. Surely they’d be climbing over each other for it.
I was two steps from the champagne bottle when he ‘Wrong.
continued. “Now go back and rewrite all the chapters in that ‘Six rejections in three weeks. All liked my writing and
style, and don’t you dare go back to your old ways.” found the story engaging but cited commercial challenges
either because they had authors who set series in Brighton or
‘Pan Macmillan published Sunday Times Bestseller Death because detective fiction is hard to break in to. I was gutted
Comes Knocking in 2016 and we followed it up in 2020 with but that was all part of the learning process.
Babes in the Wood, which tells of a double child murderer ‘Crime writer and DHH Literary Agency stablemate
who escaped justice for 32 years. Victoria Selman took me under her wing and explained that

‘After the success of those two books, I decided to write

24 AUGUST 2022

the rejections always come first and that, if David liked it, the right publisher David Headley,
would be just around the corner. Graham’s agent
at DHH
‘Sure enough, two days after the last rejection, Susie Dunlop of Allison and Literary Agency
Busby replied. “He has a great storytelling talent, and Bad for Good is one
of the most accomplished crime novels I’ve read in a long time, let alone a ‘I first came across
debut.” In that same email she offered a two-book deal, setting out her plans Graham Bartlett in
for Bad for Good and the investment they would put behind it. Of course, I 2016 when he co-wrote
asked David to accept the offer and my life changed. Death Comes Knocking: Policing Roy
Grace’s Brighton with Peter James, and
‘For the first time I’d be a solo published author, have a dedicated publicist then with Babes in the Wood released in
(the wonderful Helen Richardson) and the whole Allison and Busby team 2020, he had my full attention. So when
pulling in the same direction to bring my debut novel to the shelves. Graham contacted me last year, not only
was I intrigued, I was rather excited at
‘Now I’m delightfully sleep deprived preparing for Bad for Good’s publication the prospect of working with him. As
and the events Helen has secured around that, while finessing Book 2 for a former UK police officer and police
2023.’ procedural/crime advisor to various
bestselling authors, Graham is deeply
Graham’s tips for getting published are: knowledgeable and that experience
shows in his staggering and high-octane
• Listen to good people but follow because you’re told no, it doesn’t debut novel, Bad for Good. From the
your heart. mean your book stinks. very first page, it was clear that this was
• When you are lucky enough to going to be an incredible book and the
• Keep writing until the end, then get signed, celebrate hard but start of a brilliant new series.’
polish it later. work every hour to maximise the
book’s success.
• Take every chance to meet agents • Enjoy the moment!
and publishers and leech off
their wisdom.

• Rejections aren’t personal. Just


Get clarity on your writing with
Writing Magazine’s critique services

“The comments were thoughtful, insightful Whether you have a 500-word picture book or 150,000-word saga,
and invaluable in taking my novel in a new our specialist writers will give objective, professional, feedback to
direction. Your critique service is first class
get your book into the best possible shape.
and great value for money.”
Brian K AUGUST 2022 25




‘There is no such things as impossible, only improbable. The only
things that limit us are the limits to our imagination.’

Cressida Cowell

Your passport to publication

Novel winners and shortlisted finalists
go on to be published at the highest
level – visit
work/reader-success-stories for recent
Winners and three finalists of the Short
Story and Flash Fiction categories will be
published in Mslexia magazine
24 Short Story and Flash Fiction
finalists will be published in the Mslexia
anthology Best Women’s Short Fiction
[email protected] STORY FICTION
(+44) 191 204 8860
For complete short fiction of For complete short fiction of
CHILDREN’S & up to 3,000 words up to 300 words
YA NOVEL 1st Prize: £3,000 1st Prize: £500

For novels of at least 20,000 words by wom- JUDGE JUDGE
en who are not yet published as novelists DIANA EVANS AUDREY NIVEN
1st Prize: £5,000



WIN! £ 5 0 0



Who loves whom and how the situation plays out are up to you – we’re
looking for all kinds of love stories, from those that break your heart to

the ones that make you believe in happy ever after.

Your story should be 1,500-1,700 words. The closing date is 15 September.



With its closing date of 15 August, there’s still time to enter last month’s competition for dark
stories with a twist. Prizes and length are as above. See p62 for full details.


L[XXcQTothm E eYm jK[ueYdnVgWtMseXXs a’Vt W


£200 by Sam Palmer

Sam Palmer is a secondary school teacher
living in Staffordshire. She is currently
working on a novella-in-flash and loves
writing flash and micro-fiction. This is her
second win in a WM competition.

You planned to tell him you loved smiling, because you did the same brown. He should know – he’s stared
him a minimum of 21,915 times sometimes. What luck, to have found into them often enough). You were
– allowing for leap years, of course this person. mad, (you’re still mad, just a little, just
– once a day for the sixty years you a tiny bit). And even though afterwards
expected you would be married. By Eventually, you knew you had to get he gave you his best puppy-dog look
the time you reached this diamond up. Oh, but it was so warm and cosy. you weren’t ready to let it go. You were
anniversary, you knew that you would You remember that clearly, that feeling. quiet and heavy handed with pots and
be fat with affection, bloated by it. And you remember he dragged himself pans. You thought you would have time
You would both be old and grey out from under the duvet first. You felt to let him make it up to you.
and wrinkled, but it wouldn’t matter his weight shift and then disappear. The
because each of you would see your clink of the mugs being picked up. You were wrong.
younger versions in the face of the You have the time to be here now
other. You would see the gossamer You were dozing, eyes half closed, though, drowning in the lack of him,
trails stretched tight between you, when you heard him scream. You even though he’s still here – just.
joining you together, humming with opened them wide just in time to see The pale green hospital walls fade
the vibrations of shared memories. him jerk the dregs of drink against the away and in your head the beeps
paintwork. You saw movement on the of the machine become birdsong,
Like the time when he brought floor, spindly black legs scuttling to swooping high notes and trills, and
you tea in bed on a Sunday morning. the corner. A spider. A small spider. A it’s that Sunday again. You’re safe and
You cuddled up to him with your fact you find hilarious. Every weekend warm and next to him. You hold his
nose stuck deep in his armpit, one you saw the stain and said you should hand and tell him to take as long as he
leg thrown over his. Together, you paint it and every weekend your time needs. You have nowhere else to be.
listened to the early morning whistles was filled with other chores and the Under your breath you say – I love you
and chirps outside the window. You brown streaks remained. I love you
couldn’t see his face but you knew he I love you.
was looking at you, you knew he was Not that long ago he said he loved And you count them off in your head.
your blue eyes (even though they are
definitely brown, have always been

28 AUGUST 2022

SEPCLAOCNED OK Maria Dean lives in Yorkshire
with her husband and two
£50 by Maria Dean children. She doesn’t have any
fancy credentials or impressive
writing qualifications; she just
has a passion for storytelling
and an overused laptop. This is her third
placing for WM, and she is delighted that
her work has received recognition.

‘So, Dana, how are you feeling me now, that look that I know so is my job to knock down such walls no
today?’ I ask, my eyes clocking her well. What could I possibly get her? A matter how backbreaking they may be.
tired skin, stained uniform, and the bedroom of her own with carpet and
dark circles that appear to have been curtains and privacy. Central heating I watch Dana eating, knowing that
tattooed under her eyes. that would stop the ice thickening on it’s going to take more than a biscuit or
the inside of the windows. Honeysuckle two to ease out one of her bricks. But I
‘OK,’ Dana mumbles, her fingers shampoo and hot water to wash out the will try; I always try.
working the cuff of her frayed uniform. fetid smell of grease and weed that was
clinging to her tangled hair. ‘How was your weekend?’ I push
OK. The default response. I had slightly, hoping the creamy chocolate
anticipated as much. Only this morning ‘No, thanks.’ filling might have softened her.
I found myself batting back the two- I don’t want to send her to class; what’s
letter reply when the headteacher had she going to learn that’s going to be any ‘OK,’ she shrugs. I’m about to change
rolled out of her four-by-four in the help to her in her world? What use is a tactics when her gaze hardens, biscuit
car park. She hadn’t noticed me at first, fronted adverbial when she’s trying to work poised in her right hand.
my Nissan Micra dwarfed by her Range out how to use the washing machine?
Rover Discovery. I had clambered out, How is knowing all the square numbers ‘What about you?’ Dana asks. My
fighting with the tangled seatbelt, arms going to help her decide between feeding mouth hovers, the question having
loaded with bags. herself or her younger sister? thrown me off-script.
‘I’ve got some biscuits in the
‘Morning, Janice, how are you?’ she cupboard if you’d like one. I’m going to ‘What about me?’ I eye her carefully.
had said once she had realised that I have one,’ I glance at the clock, ‘Never ‘How was your weekend?’ Dana stares
was there. too early for a biscuit.’ It does the trick at me with intent, and I can feel the
and Dana gingerly puts her hand into hairs on my arms bristle. Then her eyes
‘OK, thanks.’ It rolled off my the tin and pulls out a Bourbon cream. move over to my arm. The sleeve of
tongue like a bowling ball down an We eat in silence, both of us my jumper has ridden up, evidence of
alley. ‘And you?’ regarding the other. how deep I had thrust it into the biscuit
I remember the first time I met tin. The purple bruise is garish against
‘Lovely, thank you,’ she had purred, Dana, the day after she’d been locked in my ivory skin, and it almost glows
the trim of her expensive coat looking the house whilst her mum had gone to luminescent in the darkness of my office.
like she had a Persian cat slung around find her next fix. I remember thinking ‘It was OK,’ I reply as I push my
her neck. ‘The weekend goes too fast. how young she was to have built such sleeve back down covering the bruise
Can’t believe we’re back here again,’ she a high wall around herself and how on and my lie.
had laughed haughtily before we had earth I was going to break through. As Dana looks at me, but something has
trundled down the path that led to the a primary school-based social worker, it changed in the room; I can feel it and
main entrance, fobs at the ready. so can she.
Dana reaches for another biscuit and
I wondered what her weekend had in that instant, I wonder if we might
looked like and how far removed from actually be OK.
my own it would have been.

Dana is kicking the chair leg, the Shortlisted
loose sole of her shoe flapping like she Also shortlisted in the 750-word competition were: Rosy Adams, Aberystwyth,
has a beached fish on the end of her Ceredigion; Ana de Andrada, Bracknell, Berkshire; Dominic Bell, Hull,
foot. She looks so small sitting here in Humberside; Laura Besley, Oadby, Leicestershire; Jane Bidder, Paignton, Devon;
my dreary office. Deborah Hugill, Northallerton, North Yorkshire; Mairibeth MacMillan, Cove,
Argyll and Bute; Damien McKeating, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire; Helen
‘Have you eaten this morning?’ I ask. Rogers, Whitley Bay, Tyneside; Deborah J Smith, Maidenhead, Berkshire.
She nods. Another lie. When did we
get so good at this?
‘Can I get you anything before you
start your lessons?’ She looks up at AUGUST 2022 29



No doesn’t have to be the end of the story
when you’re sending work out, says %HVMER 1EKWSR

There are more ways for an experience. Not that you have much re-hash. If so, deal with them honestly
editor or agent to say ‘no’ of that. You even consider whether and submit elsewhere. (Hint: Don’t
to a manuscript submission they never received the submission and send it back to the first one; you need
than there are hairs on a should maybe send an email, anyway. fresh ground.)
dog. (A cliché, I know – but
let’s live a little). Best not. Chasing these is a waste • Refusal 2: They’ve merely stated
of your time and creative thought. that while they ‘like’ your work, it isn’t
I’m sure you’ve already discovered Perhaps they were suffering a staff for them. As with social media, a ‘like’
their ability to set you back on your shortage that day or their dog ate is not necessarily an endorsement.
heels with an ego-scorching refusal. the PC. Maybe they got hacked and Maybe they lack real friends. A ‘no’ is
For the currently un-scorched among lost everything. Whatever the reason, still a ‘no’.
you, it goes with the territory. You’ve forget it and move on. (And for future
written your book, edited the bananas experience, sticking pins in wax effigies • Counter 2: A minor step up from
out of it and all you want is for really doesn’t help. Take it from one the previous case but should be dealt
someone in publishing land to give who knows.) with the same way. Take it for what it’s
you a big, fat cheque. Failing that, a worth and have another look through
‘yes’ would do nicely. Put simply, the only way to deal with the manuscript to see if you can find
a refusal is to counter it right back what might have put them off. Work
Sadly, they don’t want it and tell you with affirmative action. Sit up, curb and submit elsewhere.
bluntly, or they go round the houses your tendency to sob with self-pity and
with effusive explanations about the hit the ground running. • Refusal 3: They’ve included
state of the economy and various other a couple of reasons. Good ones.
reasons why they’re not about to set • Refusal 1: If they haven’t given any Reasonable ones. Maybe none that
you on the path to fame and fortune. reasons – maybe it was a templated you actually agree with, but consider
thank-you-but-no-thanks – then you’re them seriously and forget the idea of
Almost as bad are the ones who no worse off. fire-bombing their office or spreading
don’t respond at all. This leaves you rumours online about their secret love-
wondering whether to (a) email them • Counter 1: Go through the child. They have, after all, tried to be
a super-cheery, quick reminder or, (b) manuscript. Time and distance will helpful, which is a rarity.
get on with life and chalk it down to have given you some thoughts on areas
in the writing that might require a • Counter 3: It’s an improvement! It

30 AUGUST 2022

gives you something positive on which consider. Best not waste them. Work Sadly it never made it to film, but that’s
to focus rather than crying into your and submit elsewhere as directed. a whole other story.)
drink or eating half your bodyweight
in chocolate. Take the reasons one by The whole point about a refusal – Any book, all books, require stamina,
one and be honest with yourself. Can any refusal – is that it’s one person’s perseverance and stickability. But you
you do anything about them or are they opinion. It might have been passed know that. Sometimes it’s easy to lose
so horrendous you’d have to scrap the around the office for a second thought sight of the goal. You do, after all, have
whole manuscript and start again? (My or two but even so, no means no. a story into which you’ve poured heart
advice is, you won’t – and shouldn’t. and soul to get right, in the hopes that
It’s a step back but take it as a second However, one nyet does not mean someone will like it.
chance.) Do what you can to address your game is over. There are many
the problems if there are any, then more agents and editors out there, But you haven’t tried everyone out
submit elsewhere. each one looking for the next there.
bestseller because their jobs depend
• Refusal 4: A two-pager with on it. And the number of authors Also, you have other ideas swirling
exclamation marks! Someone has who have found a publishing deal around in your head. If you didn’t you
put in some work on dissecting your for a manuscript that was previously wouldn’t be a writer. Which leads me to
story while giving reasons why it isn’t turned down several times are legion. a final thought: when you’ve dealt with
quite right. In my experience this Some authors wear that distinction the counter to any of the above refusals,
only happens when there’s more than like a badge of merit. I don’t but I start writing something else. It’s a great
a grain of interest – or they’re being clearly remember the name of one cure for writer’s blues and if someone
genuinely kind. major editor many years ago who does get back to you with a request for
said my story-line was ‘unlikely and whatever else you may have written,
• Counter 4: If they wish you luck lacked any credibility’. (It was a spy you’ve got some-thing positive to tell
with submitting elsewhere, it means thriller involving Russia and Ukraine, them.
they still don’t want it, but you’ve for heaven’s sake! It went on to be
got some seriously decent points to published and optioned in Hollywood. Stay with it. Keep trying, keep
re-working and keep looking for new
places to send your manuscript.

AUGUST 2022 31

Shelf life


The Kon Tiki Expedition by Thor Heyerdahl The Essays of EB White

‘I fell in love with my father’s dusty fat copy of Kon Tiki ‘Searching a
when I was ten or eleven, and the way kids today read bookshop in
Harry Potter till the spine comes apart, I read it over and New York for
over and over, tirelessly, exhaustively, night after night, something to
month after month. Descriptions of violent storms at read on the
sea and shoals of fish leaping onto the raft are still with flight back
me half a century later. Although I didn’t exhibit any to London, I
particular interest in extreme travel literature as a child, in chose this book
later life a passionate taste emerged for writers like Wilfred by the cover
Thesiger, Isabella Bird and Maurice Herzog. I’m the last photograph of
person on earth who dreams of climbing Everest or taking a raft journey to EB White and
Easter Island, but detailed accounts by the people who did those journeys make his dachshund. So, if anyone ever
me entirely happy. Thor Heyerdahl was there. On the Pacific. I was with him.’ tells you not to judge a book by its
cover, tell them to jump in a lake.
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller EB White, author of such diverse
and essential books as Charlotte’s Web
‘I don’t really need this book on my list, as everyone in and The Elements of Style, was (as
the world already has it on theirs. But it is one of the best well as a children’s writer, novelist,
novels ever written. I read it when I was fifteen, at the and contributor to The New Yorker
same time I was reading Dostoevsky and Hemingway, and magazine for more than six decades)
couldn’t believe that such a wild, hilarious, anarchic novel one of the finest American essayists of
could also be such a devastating condemnation of war. I the 20th century. I couldn’t possibly
read it again three years ago (I’m not a big re-reader, so choose a favourite piece from this
this was momentous) and was stunned by the structure glorious collection, but everyone
almost as much as the writing. It feels as if Heller took should read Here Is New York, written
his manuscript, threw it down the stairs and arranged the in 1948. It’s as fresh today as it was
chapters as they fell. How he achieved that crazy free-wheeling feeling I have no seventy years ago (CS Lewis would
idea, but it adds up to a gigantic life-changing novel.’ approve) and will still make the hairs
on the back of your neck stand up. As
does all the best writing.’

32 AUGUST 2022

A High Wind ©Gloria Hamlyn
in Jamaica
by Richard Hughes MEG ROSOFF

‘A High Wind In Jamaica ‘CS Lewis once said of children’s book that “no book is worth reading
is probably my favourite at the age of ten which is not equally – and often far more – worth
novel ever, which is quite reading at the age of fifty and beyond.” Although I read anything and
a statement given that I everything in my teens and twenties, this is the principle I most often
must have read 10,000 apply to reading and writing at 65. As long as it’s life changing and
novels, give or take. will stand the test of time, I’m as happy reading a picture-book as a
Written in 1929, it’s about classic novel. Not much to ask, is it?
childhood, conscience and
cruelty, children’s surreal take on the world and the ‘Sometime during the writing of The Great Godden, I had the brilliant
dawning of self-consciousness. It’s also about sex. idea that a series of summer books would be a nice idea. I confidently
And murder. Suffering. The fathomless gulf between told my editor I planned to write three, and in the glorious hot 2020
children and adults. It’s about the structure of pandemic spring, began to write the second, based on the years I lived in
society. And then, all the way down at the bottom New York City between university and moving to London.
of the list, I guess you could say it’s an adventure
story about pirates. The most important thing to ‘New York summers were gruelling back then and presumably still
remember about this book is that it’s breathtakingly are. In the early 1980s the city stank of garbage and melting tar. The
strange, audacious, funny and very, very dark. In the heat could be so intense that in order to survive, city-dwellers lurched
olden days, people gave it to fourteen-year-old boys from one air-conditioned venue to the next, spending as little time out
but I wouldn’t let a fourteen-year-old near it.’ of doors as possible.

Duck, Death and the Tulip by Wolf Erlbruch ‘This was my first experience of real life, real job, real rent to pay.
Picture Sex and The City – without the glamorous clothes, apartments,
‘Luckily, this book was boyfriends, art openings, restaurants, cocktails, friendships, sex. Back
published way too late for my then, Greenwich Village hid small pockets of gentrification but on
childhood. I was the sort of the whole was tawdry, filthy and somewhat dangerous, a sort of favela
child who lay in bed at night, crammed with badly-paid young people and newly liberated gay men.
rigid with fear, contemplating It seemed that everyone was looking for love and settling for sex, lousy
eternal nothingness – so jobs and (if you were lucky) good friends. Some of my friendships
this might have finished me from those days endure. Most don’t.
off. My daughter, who was
terrified by such diverse ‘The resulting book, set in the hot summer of 1983, is called
childhood favourites as Friends Like These, and it’s about friendship, sex, work and love, not
Madeline and In The Night necessarily in that order. I wrote a first draft in the extraordinary quiet
Kitchen (which is, to be fair, a genuinely terrifying of pandemic summer 2020 – a terrible time for so many people. But
picture book and another of my favourites) says for a writer, who hadn’t had an empty diary in more than thirty years,
that if I’d read her this when she was five she’d have it was a gift.
phoned Childline. Nonetheless, it’s one of the best
picture books ever created, about a duck and the ‘Once I had the general arc of the book down on paper, I spent
wary, uncomfortable friendship she develops with about a year revising. How many drafts? Hundreds. I find writing
Death. Over the course of the book, Duck and relatively easy, it’s the thinking that kills me.
her friend discuss life and the after-life, until the
fateful day that Duck wakes up (or doesn’t wake ‘At the moment, I’m working up to starting the third summer book.
up) cold and stiff. It’s an almost cozy book – a little My brain, which for the past eighteen months has felt like Ernest
bit frightening, a little bit reassuring, and certainly Shackleton’s ship Endurance trapped in unmoving pack ice, has begun
the finest discussion of death I’ve ever encountered. to unfreeze and I’m thinking there might be some life in the waters
It reminds me why a really good picture book is as below after all.
difficult to create as a really good novel. CS Lewis
would have loved it.’ ‘I’m looking forward to starting because I spend most of the time that
I’m not writing in a bad mood – depressed, inert, convinced I will never
write again. I offer the same advice to aspiring writers that I offer to
myself (it’s advice that Ernest Shackleton would no doubt condone).

‘In a word, endurance.’ AUGUST 2022 33


Your writing critiqued
James McCreet
F Scott Fitzgerald, who coined the term ‘Jazz Age’ for the applies his forensic
flamboyant 1920s and 1930s and became its most famous literary criticism to a
figure, is regarded as one of America’s greatest writers. The four passage from the
novels published in his lifetime were This Side of Paradise (1920), great Jazz Age
The Beautiful and the Damned (1922), The Great Gatsby (1925) author’s unfinished
and Tender is the Night (1934). The Last Tycoon was unfinished at the time of his novel, The Last
death at the age of 44 in 1940, and was published posthumously in 1941. Tycoon

It was nine o’clock of a July night and there were still some the sounds are all different11—the padded hush of tires,
extras in the drug store across from the studio1 – I could the quiet tick of a motor running idle, the naked cry of a
see them bent over the pin-games inside2 – as I parked soprano singing into a nightbound microphone.12 Around
my car.3 “Old” Johnny Swanson4 stood on the corner in a corner I came upon a man in rubber boots washing down
his semi-cowboy clothes5 staring gloomily past the moon.6 a car in a wonderful white light13—a fountain among the
Once he had been as big in pictures as Tom Mix or Bill dead industrial shadows.14 I slowed up as I saw Mr Marcus
Hart—now it was too sad to speak to him and I hurried being hoisted into his car in front of the Administration
across the street and through the front gate.7 Building,15 because he took so long to say anything, even
goodnight – and while I waited16 I realized that the soprano
There is never a time when a studio is absolutely was singing Come! Come! I love you only over and over;17 I
quiet.8 There is always a night shift9 of technicians in remember this because she kept singing the same line during
the laboratories and dubbing rooms and people on the the earthquake.18 That didn’t come for five minutes yet.
maintenance staff dropping in at the commissary.10 But

1 In a novel that considers the gulf 4 The quote marks do the work empty nothingness.
between reality and fantasy, it’s of a more laboured description
significant that the people in the drug by alluding. Is Swanson actually old, 7 Swanson is thus a vestige of fame.
store (essentially a café) are extras. Are or has his lack of usefulness rendered He lingers as a living memory who
they extras in movies being filmed at him redundant: a human antique? people don’t want to acknowledge
the studio, or extras in this scene being Contemporary readers would have because he represents that blankness
written by Fitzgerald, or extras in their connected the surname with Gloria of outer space. He’s not an active
own lives? What is their reality? Swanson, the silent movie star whose character; he’s a metaphorical reminder
fame lapsed with the advent of the of what happens to fame-seekers.
2 One of Fitzgerald’s techniques is talkies (but revived briefly after
to pick out pungent or poignant Fitzgerald’s death). 8 The first sentence introduces the
or arresting details in a scene to give it subject of the paragraph. We’re going
veracity. Here, he offers a snapshot of 5 How should we understand ‘semi- to be initiated into this fantasy world by
people of people playing billiards or cowboy’? He’s not dressed as a someone who’s grown up with it.
something similar. It’s just a glance, but cowboy but looks like one. Is he in
it works. character or not? He used to appear 9 Note the contrasting juxtaposition:
in cowboy films but became less ‘ ...never a time... always a night
3 The end of this long sentence popular so maybe he’s in the process shift’. We’re speaking in absolutes.
neatly advises the reader that of becoming less like a cowboy. The
our first-person narrator Cecelia is adjective has layers of ambiguity. 10. Fitzgerald begins in broad
arriving at the studio where her father strokes, mentioning the different
works. This is necessary narrative 6 Not at the moon, but past it. parts of a studio that most people have
housekeeping. What’s past the moon? Black, never entered. Importantly, these are all

34 AUGUST 2022

If you would like to submit an extract of your
work in progress, send it by email, with synopsis
and a brief biog, to: [email protected]

background people – the nameless and as Alice’s Wonderland – a dreamlike 17. We’re reminded that the singing
faceless people who create the fantasy of realm. A man washing a car becomes a hasn’t stopped. It’s the soundtrack
film. They could be ants. scene on a movie screen that is the real to all of this, which is surreal enough
life of the studio. in itself. Now we hear the actual
11 Describing an entire studio could words as they are ceaselessly repeated.
take a lot of time and risk being 14 It was already a fantastic image but Why these particular words? This is
either too detailed or too generic. Fitzgerald caps it with this end to the voice of the sirens of Hollywood
Fitzgerald’s way round this is to the sentence, emphasizing the contrast luring mortals to disaster. Come! I will
choose a single aspect: the sound. It’s between physical reality and wonder. love you! But the phrase is repeated
bold and unexpected. over and over until it becomes empty
15 Sometimes when you spend an and meaningless. (Indeed, it may be
12 He could describe any sounds hour or two in an art gallery, you recorded rather than live.)
and he begins with the familiar begin to study everything as an exhibit
ones: tyres, machines. But the end of the (I once spent five minutes looking at a 18. What? The earthquake? The reader
sentence jerks us from those quotidian fire extinguisher in the Tate Modern). is pulled up short by this sudden
details to the bizarre disembodied ‘cry’ Having established the fantasy/reality revelation – not only because it’s a totally
– not voice – of the soprano and her nature of the studio, Fitzgerald asks us unexpected plot development but also
‘nightbound microphone’. It’s a striking to ponder whether the (apparently quite because the singer kept on throughout
image and a gorgeous phrase that captures odd) hoisting of Mr Marcus into his car the disaster. This is somehow even odder.
the oddness of the studio world. We is real or not. Does it matter? In fact, we learn later that perhaps the
might wonder if ‘nightbound’ comes voice was being played back in a loop
from Fitzgerald’s reading of James Joyce. 16 Cecelia doesn’t want to get caught and that possibly there was no singer.
in an interminable conversation Another figment.
13.‘Around a corner’ implies that with Mr Marcus so waits. How is this
magical or unexpected sights may important to the narrative when it 19. Having shocked us with the
appear anywhere at the studio. Note the appears to slow the pace? She’s waiting out-of-nowhere earthquake,
highlighted detail of the rubber boots, for a scene to end so hers can continue. Fitzgerald drolly advises us that it’s
which somehow capture the whole Fitzgerald is subtly drawing our five minutes away, thus giving the
man, and the wonderful white light. attention to the stitching/editing of his forthcoming paragraphs much more
‘Wonderful’ here has the same meaning own narrative. tension and expectation.

In summary Fitzgerald’s last, unfinished novel, may have become his Great writing means pausing to think exactly how
greatest if published in his lifetime. It’s still pretty good. to describe the sound of a car tyre moving through the
His genius – as with many of the greatest writers – is night. ‘Padded hush’ manages to be onomatopoeic,
to say much more than he writes. There are multiple evoking both the weight and the hiss or swish in its
thematic layers. Each scene, character and detail carries consonants. ‘Quiet tick’ also carries its own sound
additional meaning if we stop to examine them. Many with those juxtaposed ts. Say it out loud. There are
readers probably don’t, but we writers should because we any number of common or clichéd phrases we might
can learn so much. have used to describe such things. A great writer creates
something new because every phrase is important.
For me, the outstanding detail of this outstanding
beginning of chapter two is the rubber boots of the Some might wonder whether such authors do this kind
faceless man washing the car. They are such a utilitarian, of thing automatically. I’m sure they do when they’re in
common species of footwear, worn by those who need to mid-flow and drawing on decades of writing practice.
clean up or work in mess or protect themselves. And yet But I’m also sure that they read through their work and
here they are worn by a man servicing the magic of the ask themselves, ‘How can I say that better?’ They think
movie world, spraying his water in wonderful white light. about the sound and the shape of words. They think
The image represents the whole novel. about the significance and the cultural echoes. Why the
surname Swanson? Because it represented faded fame
Ostensibly, this chapter opening is simply setting the to a generation of early filmgoers. Ironically, the ‘hero’
scene for what happens next: the (minor) earthquake and of the novel is Monroe Stahr, a name that would attain
its aftermath. However, Fitzgerald pours all of his talent a different – but wholly fitting – significance only after
and technique into it, bejewelling almost every sentence Fitzgerald’s death.
with some striking detail or metaphorical significance. AUGUST 2022 35

Editorial calendar

Strong forward planning will greatly improve your chances with freelance
submissions. Here are some themes to consider for the coming months.

100 years ago OCTOBER1922 75 years agoOCTOBER1947

• The BBC was formed as the British • Politician, author and TV personality Ann
Broadcasting Company (later Corporation). Widdecombe was born.
• Wrestler Giant Haystacks (Martin Ruane) was
• The first public broadcast born in Camberwell. He died in 1998.
was made by a member of the
royal family – the Prince of • US actors Kevin Kline and Richard
Wales, later Edward Vlll, on the BBC’s daily radio Dreyfuss were born.
service 2LO. • US politican and former Secretary of
• Entertainer Max Bygraves was born in London. State Hillary Clinton was born.

90 years agoOCTOBER1932 70 years ago OCTOBER1952

• The London Philharmonic Orchestra was • Tea rationing ended in the UK after thirteen
founded by Thomas Beecham. years. The ration had been 2oz per adult per week.
• EB White’s children’s book Charlotte’s Web
• Oswald Mosley formed the British Union was first published.
of Fascists. • Henri Cartier-Bresson’s seminal photography
• Pultizer Prize-winning poet and author Sylvia book The Decisive Moment was first published.
Plath was born in Massachusetts. • US inventor Clarence Birdseye first marketed
• Pre-Code film Red Dust, starring Clark frozen peas.

Gable and Jean Harlow, was released. • TV personality and music
• French film manager Sharon Osbourne
director Louis was born.
Malle was born. • US actor Jeff Goldblum was born
in Pennsylvania.

80 years ago OCTOBER1942

• The Oxford committee for Famine • Bestselling US techno-thriller author
Relief was founded – better known and filmmaker Michael Crichton, whose
as Oxfam. books include Jurassic Park, was born.
• US children’s book series Little Golden He died in 2008.
Books launched.
• Swedish actress, model and singer • English actor Bob
Britt Ekland was born. Hoskins was born. He
• Indian actor and film producer died in 2014.
Amitabh Bachchan was born.

36 AUGUST 2022

60 years ago OCTOBER1962 50 years ago

• Dr No, the first James Bond film (starring OCTOBER1972
Sean Connery), premiered in London.
• The Beatles released their debut single, Love • John Betjeman was appointed Poet Laureate of
Me Do, on Parlophone. the UK.
• Edward Albee’s play Who’s Afraid of • The first episode of soap opera Emmerdale Farm
Virginia Woolf was first staged on Broadway. (later Emmerdale) was broadcast.
• John Steinbeck was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. • Access credit cards were launched as a rival to
• Psychological horror film Whatever Happened to Baby Jane was Barclaycard.
released, revitalising the careers of its stars, Hollywood rivals Bette Davis • Rapper and record producer Eminem was born
and Joan Crawford. Marshall Bruce Mathers III in Missouri.
• Rockers Motley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee and Red Hot Chili Peppers
bassist Flea were born.
• Novelist Tracy Chevalier was born in Washington DC

40 years ago 30 years ago OCTOBER1992

OCTOBER 1982 • Madonna’s single Erotica charted and she
released an accompanying video and her book Sex.
•The wreck of Tudor warship • Singer Sinead O’Connor ripped up a photo of the Pope while
the Mary Rose was raised from the Solent. performing War by Bob Marley on Saturday Night Live.
• Ford started selling the Sierra saloon car as a replacement
for its Cortina. • St Lucian poet Derek Walcott was awarded the
• The world’s first compact disc player, the Sony CDP-101, Nobel Prize for Literature.
went on sale in Japan. • Mortal Kombat was first released
• Actor Matt Smith, who starred as the 11th face of The as a video game.
Doctor, was born. • NYC rapper Cardi B was born.

25 years ago 20 years ago OCTOBER2002

OCTOBER 1997 • Yann Martel won the Booker Prize for Life of Pi

• Footballer and campaigner Marcus Looking ahead
Rashford was born.
Bradford has been announced as UK City
10 years ago OCTOBER2012 of Culture 2025. Get your pitches ready for
writing about the city, its history, and its
• The UK’s first 4G mobile service launched via EE. cultural contributions past, present and future.
• The UK became digital-only in TV terms when Northern
Ireland switched off the last analogue TV signals.
• The James Bond film Skyfall – the third to star Daniel
Craig – premiered in London.

Pics, all CC BY-SA, Wikpedia: Britt Ekland, Allan Warren; Michael Crichton, John Chase photo/Harvard News Office; Bob Hoskins, James Laurence Stewart; Ann Widdecombe was born, Brian Minkoff; Kevin Kline,
gdcgraphics; Richard Dreyfuss, DreyfussCivic; Hillary Clinton, Gage Skidmore; Sharon Osbourne, Eva Rinaldi; Jeff Goldblum, Gage Skidmore; Tommy Lee, Glenn Francis; Flea, Stefan Brending; Tracy Chevalier, John
Drori; Mary Rose, Geni; Sierra, Norbert Schnitzler; Sony CDP-101, Atreyu; Matt Smith, Stephen Broadhurst; Derek Walcott, Jorge Mejia peralta; Marcus Rashford, Oleg Bkhambri (Voltmetro); Bradford, Jonfar AUGUST 2022 37


Focus on character creation in these writing group exercises from .YPMI 4LMPPMTW

V ariety is the spice of open to interpretation as readers bring and its significance, any distinguishing
life. If you imagine their own experiences and expectations moles, blemishes, scars or tattoos, etc.
some dystopian to the mix. The same character can
world where we are appear very different to each reader. Then divide a piece of paper in half
all the same, with no For instance, sometimes, something and on one half, write down one thing
distinguishing features or personalities, a character says or does, or a physical that makes their character happy, one
it would surely be a boring place. For characteristic might remind the reader thing they are proud of, one thing that
this month’s workshop we’re going to of someone they know and they will they are excited about and one thing
look at everything that makes a person, see that person in that character. they are good at. On the opposite side,
from the physical to the psychological, write one thing they regret in life,
their behaviour and quirks – for here Ask the group to pair up and chat, one thing they are ashamed of, one
lies the magic ingredient for helping ideally with someone they don’t know thing that makes them sad, and one
writers to get to the bottom of who very well, and write down three things thing they are scared of. You need to
their characters really are. they notice about each other – positive know both sides of them to be able
only. You don’t want to start a fight! to present them as a living, breathing,
Ask the group to think about who Note one unique physical characteristic, human being.
they are. They can jot down a couple one personality trait and one detail
of things about themselves. Don’t give they know about them. This is a useful With all that in mind, write a few
them any direction. It’s important exercise to discover how other people paragraphs of a monologue from
they write down the first things that perceive us, what it is that people first them that gives the reader a sense of
pop into their heads as these will be tend to notice about us, and what we who the person is without actually
the most pertinent. Then ask them, first notice about others. These are going telling the reader who they are. Show
what makes them who they are as to be the things your reader will want them through their words and actions
opposed to someone else? What do to know about your characters too. It’s a and the references they make. People
they like and dislike? How do they great exercise for character development often try to hide the ‘real’ them and
identify themselves when they meet as it gives the writer something to start it’s a great writing device to throw the
new people for the first time? What with as they add layers to the scaffolding reader off the scent of what is really
information do they offer about of their characters. going on.
themselves? They aren’t going to share
their own personal notes at this stage Pass around a selection of images of Knowing as much as you can
but a general discussion around the different kinds of people, including about your character is important,
theme would be helpful. nothing that might give away what even if most of it doesn’t actually
they do for a living or who they are. make it into the finished piece. The
Next, ask them to think about a Ask the group to select one image and background is essential to creating a
favourite book character. What stands write an in-depth character profile on fully rounded and realistic character,
out about that character from the way them. Include an approximate age, flaws and all. For endless character
the author described them? If the book height, weight and build, hair and inspiration, once the meeting is
was made into a film or TV series, eye colour, skin tone, any facial hair, over, indulge in some covert people
did the way they had pictured the hair style and colour, piercings, made watching – observing people in the
character marry with what they saw up or fresh faced, style of clothing, street, cafe or library, any public
on the screen? If not, how did they expression on their face, what they space and tucking away any snippets
differ? When writers give descriptions might do for a living, where there that interest you about them for a
of their characters on paper, they only might live, any relationships they later date to mix together and create
give an inkling of them – the rest is might have, jewellery they are wearing another character. You will never be at
a loss for characters again.

38 AUGUST 2022



If your writing group would like to feature here, whether you need new members,
have an event to publicise or to suggest tips for other groups, email Tina Jackson,
[email protected]

SPOTLIGHT ON... Strathkelvin Writers Group

Strathkelvin Writers of the special anniversary and these were spectrum, for the benefit of writers
Group celebrated its all included in a special booklet printed of all ages and stages. This year’s
40th anniversary in and presented to members on the night. competitions were for flash fiction, first
style, with a special During the meal, all contributions were chapter of a crime novel, poetry, short
dinner after its read out by their authors. sketch, travel article, science fiction/
AGM, at the Glazert fantasy/horror story and general short
Country House The celebration followed a highly story. Entries were at record levels in
Hotel, Lennoxtown, writes Sharon Mail. successful year, with members delighted some of the categories
The prizegiving followed the meal, with to be meeting face to face once again
most of the competitions being won by and attendances were high. Seven new Strathkelvin also had one of its best
Strathkelvin newcomers. Special guests writers joined Strathkelvin and have years at the annual Scottish Association of
were Gerry O’Hare and his wife Gill. already made their mark. At the dinner, Writers Conference in March, winning
Gerry, the youngest son of the late, much- recent recruit Andy Raffan, who won the thirteen places in total, including five firsts.
loved member Theresa who passed away trophy for the most successful member
last November, cut the anniversary cake in competitions during the year, spoke Strathkelvin Writers meet every
and presented a quaich donated by the about how Strathkelvin had welcomed Tuesday at 7.30pm, in Woodhill
family in his mother’s memory, to Poetry and supported him and given him belief Evangelical Church, 30 Wester Cleddens
competition winner Matthew Keely. in his writing. Road, Bishopbriggs, Glasgow G64 2NH.
Members had been asked to submit The new session starts in September.
forty-word pieces in any form in advance There was a varied programme of Writers of any experience will receive a
talks, workshops, writing from prompts warm welcome.
and competitions across the writing Website:

Writing Well

I attended the Writing Well group at the bad memories of being stressed during my give us the choice
NHS No 93 Wellbeing Centre in order to high school years during the 2000s. Failure between listening to music/songs or not,
overcome my writer’s block, writes Wing to turn in homework on time resulted considering some of us can’t write better
See Li. It’s a ten-week course hosted by in detention or being reprimanded. As without music. It helps some of us to
Stephen Evans. It started on Thursday 10 a result, I had a negative perception of concentrate and get us in the zone.
March, 10.15am-12.30pm, and finished homework and it’s a word I don’t want to
on Thursday 19 May. Stephen teaches hear ever again. Fortunately, homework Despite the glaring issues which stick
writing techniques and we’re tasked is optional in the Writing Well course. out like sore thumbs, I very well enjoyed
with working on our worksheets, use However, this doesn’t change the fact my time at the Writing Well course.
our notebooks as journals and writing that homework is detrimental and it Writing is strangely therapeutic. It helps
in our notebooks. At the start and at the contradicts what the Writing Well course me take my mind off my insecurities
end of almost every lesson, we needed to sets out to do in the first place. Isn’t the and struggling with my disabilities and
meditate. Towards the end of the course, Writing Well course supposed to help us family strife. Unlike my abusive ‘family’
we were told to write about anything we with our mental health? Homework feels and my so-called ‘carers’ and ‘roommate’,
wanted. In my case, I wrote a review about like a complete chore and an obstacle, I couldn’t help but smile from ear to
Kao The Kangaroo (2022) to read out loud getting in the way of my journalism ear when some people including my
to the whole group for the final session. schedule. Stephen should’ve given us the Writing Well tutor praised my latest Kao
The review will then be published in Retro choice between using a pen to write by The Kangaroo (2022) review in the final
Format (print and digital) magazine and hand or typing on any of our devices such session.
Empoword Journalism. as a laptop, tablet or a phone. I already
have enough blisters as it is due to holding
The Writing Well course is not without on to the pen/pencil too hard in the past.
its faults. First things first, it could be I can’t stress enough that Stephen needs to
done without the homework. It triggers AUGUST 2022 39



To feature in subscribers’ news contact: [email protected]


‘Before I moved to Northern Ireland, I bought The Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook and how to, despite the
couldn’t lamb sheep or milk cows or write was fortunate enough to find, and then be wonderful guidance
books, but now I can do all three,’ writes published by, The Conrad Press. in Writing Magazine,
subscriber Holly Crawford. but that all changed
‘They navigated me through the whole when I moved to
‘In my former role as a newspaper and process and found a superb typesetter and Northern Ireland.
magazine reporter, I was constantly chasing illustrator for me who created a beautiful
stories and meeting deadlines, now I am book I am proud of: Stuck In The Middle ‘In addition to
chasing sheep and mainly meeting cows. With Ewe: Or How I found my flock and milking cows and
lost my heart in Northern Ireland. delivering lambs, I started my own
‘I met my now husband, Paul, when freelance writing business and my fiction
I attended a veterinary conference in my ‘When I was a little girl, my Dad, who stories and factual features have been
capacity as a journalist. After tying the knot is a fellow bookworm, said, “You’ll write published in national magazines including
I moved in with Paul and his 200 sheep. a book one day,’’ but I never thought it The People’s Friend, Yours Fiction, The
would happen. Dalesman, Ireland’s Eye, Ireland’s Own
‘I was thrown in at the deep-end, but and On The Couch. I also signed up for
love every minute of my new life. The ‘I’ve long been a fan of Writing Magazine a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing, so
sheep welcomed me into their flock – once and would flip to the subscribers’ section I am kept busy. Getting married to the
they learned to understand my funny to read about all the people who were love of my life, moving to this beautiful
accent – and the cows were very patient achieving their goals and think, I’d love to country and caring for our lovely flock
with me as I learned to milk! feature on those pages. But I never thought seems to have given me confidence that
I’d have the confidence to write a book. I can do pretty much anything. They say
‘I started penning adventures for family there is a book in every journalist and that
and friends in England. I wrote everything ‘I could say that I was honing my craft is probably where it should stay, but I have
down; from learning to milk cows to as a journalist for years, but that would written one anyway and I can honestly say
delivering my first lamb. One day, a friend be a massive fib. In actual fact, my Alice it is a dream come true.’
said, “You should turn this into a book as In Wonderland logic was, “If I don’t write
it’s hilarious and is really cheering me up.” anything, I can’t fail or be judged.” So, Website:
I’ve always wanted to make people smile I didn’t write anything for a long time
via my writing, so I plucked up courage, because I didn’t know what to write or

Prayers and prophecies

‘An ambition achieved… I’ve signed a reluctant to employ them. ex-soldier
three-book contract with Hobart Books, ‘My answer was to create a character for the
and they’ve published the first novel, crime. Ross
Rosary Road, under my pseudonym who carries out her investigations on is convinced
Robert Chandler,’ writes subscriber Iain the dark side. Kezia Lee is a young the accused
Andrews. woman with paranormal powers. She man is innocent and
doesn’t fully understand them and believes Kezia can help, and his interest in
‘I’ve always been an addict of the often believes they’re a curse. She trawls her soon turns more than professional.
so-called Golden Age British whodunits through dustbins and the internet
by authors such as Agatha Christie for information to allow her “psychic ‘Rosary Road offers fans of whodunits
and Dorothy L Sayers. I devoured consultant” mother to convince gullible a rare opportunity. Ross and Kezia
Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories. clients she has a direct line to the eventually argue and pursue individual
However, in an era where most real-life afterlife. investigations. They each uncover clues,
criminals succumb to forensics or their but the reader can see the big picture
own stupidity, many would consider ‘Even though the pair never stay long in before they do. And when they unmask
the concept of the gifted individual one place, they’re on the law’s radar. When the killer, Kezia is in mortal danger, and
triumphing by brain power outdated. It’s Kezia briefly becomes a murder suspect, Ross is too far away to save her…
also unlikely that even if such a skilled this unwanted attention increases. Enter
investigator existed, the police would be DI David Ross. He’s under pressure from ‘Rosary Road is now available on
his superiors to prosecute a traumatised Amazon and in all good bookshops.’

40 AUGUST 2022

Setting sail in Self-publishing
a new YA satisfaction
‘I took up creative writing during the around the world. In my case, I needed
‘Genealogy has always lockdown to give myself a sense of the assistance of two experts – an artist
fascinated me, and when I purpose,’ writes subscriber Elizabeth Kelly. to design a book cover for my novel
decided to do an Ancestry and a text formatter who could turn my
DNA test I had no idea ‘Right away, I was hooked. I joined an manuscript into a KDP file.
it would set my writing online course, started with short stories
career in a new direction,’ and then progressed to completing an ‘I particularly enjoyed the freedom
writes subscriber Shelley Wilson. historical novel called The Tudor Maid. self-publishing offers to choose the design
of the book cover according to my own
‘The (spit in a tube and send it off) results ‘I tried the route of traditional particular vision. And by publishing in
were interesting. I had traced my family tree publishing by submitting the trio of this way you learn a great deal about the
back to Mirfield, Yorkshire in 1805 before covering letter, synopsis and blurb to a overall process of book designing and
the clues ran dry, and the chance to see if number of editors and agents in the field publication.
my Northern roots ran even deeper was too of historical fiction. But as an unknown
good to pass up. author I couldn’t attract any attention. ‘I have had a very positive experience of
self-publication and I have learned a lot
‘It turns out that my DNA is ‘I then explored the avenue of Amazon about the technical side of publication in
predominantly from Northern Europe, Kindle Direct Publishing which enables the process. But above all, it has enabled
Scotland, and Ireland. With your results, authors to publish your novels for free. me to achieve my own creative outcome
you get lots of additional information about The challenge for a writer is to comply for my book. It looks and it reads just I
each of these areas and their history. The with Amazon’s submission requirements imagined and I can order extra printed
Viking invasions featured heavily and the for your work. You need to upload copies at any time. My next historical
thought that one of my ancestors could have separate files with your book cover design novel is already in the pipeline and I have
been a shield maiden was hard to resist! and your correctly formatted manuscript. plans to publish a series of them. But as
It was then that I discovered the Fiverr a self-published writer I am free to bring
‘My tenuous links to Scandinavia and an website. This is an online forum for them out as and when I please.’
author’s ability to find a story in anything illustrators, editors and formatters from all
meant I was ready to fully embrace my inner
warrior and try my hand at historical fiction. Hopes & dreams fulfilled

‘The Last Princess pushed me as a writer ‘“If you are going to write a book, we woman’s magazine (which
as my other YA novels are all fantasy should be in it!” was a tough brief) as well as
and supernatural stories. Running with articles and stories published
werewolves, hunting with vampires, flying ‘So said two eight-year-old children in other magazines.
with dragons and faeries is my usual in my class over twenty years ago when
stomping ground. Where on earth would I we were sharing our hopes and dreams,’ ‘These successes gave me
begin when the story in my head collided writes subscriber Stella Baker. the confidence to apply
with the history books? myself to a longer work.
‘I had confessed to them that it was my
‘Researching The Last Princess was the dream to write a children’s book one day. ‘The start of the story of
most fun I’ve ever had. I ventured up Amy Harrington had been buried in
to Bamburgh and Lindisfarne to get a ‘I promised them that should my dream my old laptop. I was now determined to
feel for what the area looks like and how come true, I would use their names for continue and write the whole book.
my characters would fit into this world. the title character in the book.
Blending history and fiction takes care, but ‘I had already decided to self-publish
there is still so much room for adventure, ‘And so, Amy Harrington was and I have never regretted that decision.
fun, and creativity. born. It was a long time coming, but Working with the publisher was exciting
I eventually realised my dream. Amy and interesting. I liked the feeling of
‘My biggest worry was always going to be Harrington and the Curse of Scarlet is my control I had over the finished book.
if I missed something in my research as we first children’s novel.
all know how quick a reader is to point that ‘Amy Harrington is a girl about
out. However, the early reviews have been ‘Leading up to this achievement, I had to become twelve. She thinks she is
amazing and it seems the storyline, characters, been encouraged by reading about other an ordinary girl but, as her birthday
and bloody battles are winning people over. It people finding their way to publication in approaches, everything changes with the
looks like my first Viking voyage is only the Writing Magazine and I was also having arrival of mysterious Great Aunt Scarlet.
beginning of this adventure.’ some success with short stories, articles Amy’s world is changed forever. She
and writing competitions. I won second must rely on bravery and love. But will it
Website: place in the Debt competition, and then be enough?’
Wilson_The_Last_Princess.html first prize in the First Line competition.
‘I had short stories accepted for a AUGUST 2022 41


A brand
new chapter
%Q] 7TEVOIW is delighted with the winners of
Writing Magazine’s Chapter Book Prize 2021

Congratulations to everyone who was longlisted, shortlisted Choosing from the brilliant shortlist was extremely difficult,
and placed in the second ever Chapter Book Prize 2021! There but finally we found our winners. Huge congratulations to
were a total of 82 entries, and the standard was very high. Jessica Nelson, Jon Cox and Stephen Rogers.

3rd Stephen Rogers Judges’ comments:
Place Zombie World Cup ‘Creatively anarchic and extremely playful.’

Chapter 1 How long have you been writing for?

The night was dark and the moon was full. The stars were twinkling in the sky My first attempt at writing for children was

and the badgers were tinkling on the ground. Bats and owls flew a merry dance an entry for the Writing Magazine Picture

and the stench of magic hung in the air like an angry moth. A lone wolf atop a Book Prize in 2018. It finished third, which

great hill let out a blood-curdling howl. The poor thing had stubbed its paw on a was a lovely surprise. Since then, I’ve had

badger. Such was the scene at the start of our tale. a few other podium finishes in various

Then from the north, an icy wind did blow and brought with it a sudden competitions, but this was my first attempt

storm. The rain lashed, the hailstones smashed, the thunder crashed, the potatoes at a chapter book.

mashed and the lightning flashed… and scorched the lone wolf ’s eyebrows. It

really wasn’t his night! And as the lightning struck, it was accompanied by a What made you decide to give the

boom loud enough to wake the dead. competition a go?

Creak! Somewhere in Old London Town a dusty coffin lid slowly opened. I’ve started writing longer books many

Crick! In Devonshire, a skeleton with a red wig gingerly emerged from a closet. times over the years but never seem to see

Croak! In Wales, a frog made an inadvertent noise in her sleep, but she’s not them through to the end. This competition

part of this story. gave me a definitive and achievable target

And in a Scottish glen, a shadowy figure poured himself a cup of ambition and to focus on and a fixed timescale to

yawned and stretched and tried to come to life. In fact, all over the world, ghosts complete it in. Besides, I thought it would

and ghouls and magical monsters were stirring from their slumbers and brushing be fun!

their fangs.

42 AUGUST 2022

What was your inspiration for How did you write it? Top tips for writers entering the
writing the story? I wrote the beginning, then the end, Chapter Book Prize 2022?
Zombie World Cup actually began life and finally the middle. Again, I suspect If you’ve had something rejected in the
as a rhyming picture book. It wasn’t this is totally the wrong way to go past, it’s not necessarily because it was
very successful, but I really liked the about things. But it seemed to work in a bad idea, or badly written. Maybe
title – I mean, who doesn’t like zombies this instance. I concentrated on jokes the story is just destined for alternative
and football? So, I started with the title and creating interesting characters and existence. Zombie World Cup didn’t cut
and went backwards from there, which unusual situations, rather than intricate it as a picture book, but perhaps it’ll go
I’m sure is completely the wrong way plot twists. Chapter books need to be somewhere in a different format. Or
to go about things. Very little survives able to stand on their own, but they perhaps it won’t – who knows? The key
from the original picture book, other also tend to be released in a series. So, thing is to enjoy the journey anyway.
than the name of the zombie team I didn’t want too much in the way of And remember, people rejected Harry
Maneaters United. However, a few of the characters’ personal development Potter and The Beatles…
the ideas may be incorporated in some – there’s plenty of time for that,
follow-up books I’m working on. hopefully, further on down the line. Twitter: @kentvariant

2nd Judges’ comments: this time as a boy on a mission to save
Place ‘A playful and entertaining reworking Sherwood Forest.
of a time-tested classic, brought bang
Jon Cox up to date for modern readers.’ How did you write it?
I started with a lot of research into the
Young Robin How long have you been writing for? original legends, which I thoroughly
I’ve been writing for children for about enjoyed. What was fascinating was
Chapter 1 five years, although I wrote reviews realising that the stories were constantly
and travel guides for Time Out in the reinvented over the centuries to match
I’m Not Sulking distant past. I started with picture the mood of the time, but always with a
Who are you staring at?! books before trying my hand at a backbone of the little man standing up
chapter book (and I’m currently giving to arbitrary authority. It made me realise
I’m not sulking. Just in case you’re middle grade a go). that I could very comfortably and
wondering. I WANT to be here. By myself. authentically adapt elements of them
Up a tree. What made you decide to give the for our current age of environmental
competition a go? catastrophe and rediscovery of the
It really doesn’t matter to me that Nothing ventured! Having parted importance of respect for the natural
Mr Lanky Pants beat me in the village ways with my agent last summer, my world. When I had my theme, I then
race. Again. confidence in my writing wasn’t high plotted the structure quite carefully so I
and I wasn’t sure what to do next. I knew where I was going, although there
THWACK!!! had really enjoyed writing this story are always surprises along the way.
[illus note: An arrow hits the tree by and felt it had ‘legs’. I just hoped the
Robin’s head.] judges might agree, and it seems they Top tips for writers entering the
“Hey, Robin… Stop sulking!” did, which was a lovely boost. Chapter Book Prize 2022?
“I AM NOT SULKING!!” • Do your research. See what’s out there
“OK, so stop ‘not sulking’ and come What was your inspiration for and how chapter books are constructed.
down. We’ve got stuff to do!” writing the story? • Humour and adventure are always a hit.
That’s Marianne, my twin sister. She’s I had loved the romance and adventure • Make it snappy and fun and exciting.
really annoying. And really cool. I’m of the Robin Hood legends as a child • Chapter books are great for little
never too sure which. She’s certainly pretty but was surprised to find that very ‘hooks’ like lists, songs, maps, character
awesome with a bow. little seemed to have been published profiles and other entertaining bits and
“All right, I’m coming!” about Robin in recent years. It felt the bobs to break up the text.
time was ripe to relaunch him, but
Website: AUGUST 2022 43

1st Judges’ comments: up Seraphina Wisp, almost fully
‘Unexpected and very fun.’ formed (though she might argue she’s
Place un-formed). Seraphina inhabits the
What made you decide to give the setting of my earlier novel but is a
Jessica Nelson, competition a go? completely new character. I wrote her
Seraphina Wisp Extract: I’m addicted to competitions, hooked story in first-person narrative because
for life after winning a national story she kept chatting in my ear so loudly,
Chapter 1 competition aged seventeen. I was refreshing my writer’s voice.
I always wanted to be a doctor when I lucky enough in the past to be placed
grew up. in competitions across genres, but over Top tips for writers entering the
recent years those little buzzes of success Chapter Book Prize 2022?
The trouble is I didn’t. Grow up, I dried up. Whether you are confident or really
mean. I’ve been the same age now for unsure about entering the Chapter
over a century. After more writing, reshaping and Book Prize competition in 2022, I
editing, the odds changed again in my would strongly encourage you to try.
I’m Seraphina Wisp. I’d still like favour with four recent longlistings of In spite of the attendant angst, I do
to be Doctor Seraphina, because my different manuscripts, one converting feel competitions have made me a
favourite thing is making people feel to winning the Writing Magazine better writer, helping me to up my
better. But that’s quite difficult when Chapter Book Prize!! game and understand more about
everyone sees right through you. For current markets.
now, I’m a Linen Services Assistant at How did you write it?
All Hallows, the hospital where I died. I’d never written a chapter book My next step is to show as much
before and only just finished it in commitment to the submission
My job is to collect dirty bedding time to enter the competition. I’m a process. I take my advice direct
from the wards and deliver it to the psychotherapist. I do profound and from Seraphina: don’t remain
Mummies in the laundry room. These meaningful, not zany and humorous. invisible; risk your work being seen
aren’t the sort of Mummies who take When an agent asked if my ironic MG and appreciated. Above all, keep
you to school and tuck you up in bed novel about death, set in a hospital run manifesting. Building the stamina
at night, by the way. The Mummies by vampires, could be made funnier, I to keep going is hugely important
I’m talking about came here from withdrew it from submission assuming for any author, and it certainly feels
Ancient Mesopotamia. They like it was missing its intended mark! Then as though my coming top again,
working in the laundry room because I thought, But could I? And what if? after several decades of writing,
it keeps their bandages fresh and their During lockdown, I attended Amy testifies to that.
sinews moisturised. Exposure to dry air Sparkes’ brilliant Writing Chapter
crumbles their limbs. Books and Make ‘Em Laugh courses. Good luck to anyone having a go
A year later, out of the ether, popped this year.
Twitter: @Jecca22Nelson

Steve Catling, Charlie Do Little; Clare Thompson, The Very Worried Fairy; Bernie Hughes, Izzy Blizzard and the Summer of the

Writing Magazine Children’s Book Prize Established in 1994, we are a literary
This autumn, we’re doing things slightly differently! The consultancy service providing advice and
two prizes are merging to become The Writing Magazine training to children’s writers. We offer:
Children’s Book Prize, but still with the two categories: Picture
Book and Chapter Book. You can enter one or both. t Manuscript appraisals
Submission window for the prize is 1 September-31 October. t Consultancy services
t Courses and workshops
For more information on the book prizes, check out www., the September issue of Writing Magazine We work alongside children’s publisher Wacky Bee Books.
and follow Amy Sparkes on Twitter @AmySparkes
Shakespeare House, 168 Lavender Hill, London SW11 5TG

T 020 7801 6300 E [email protected]

44 AUGUST 2022

Personalised writing courses
to help you achieve your goals

• Choose your own tutor from the comfort of your home
• Up to two years to complete • Spread the cost and pay monthly

Courses include: 10%
Fiction OFF
Short Story
How to write crime

How to make money from your writing




1EVKEVIX .EQIW looks at how you can transform real places into locations in your fiction

Where am I going to set my next novel? than the one in which he, his family and indeed my own
This is a question many writers daughter live.
of fiction must ask themselves from
time to time. It’s clearly one that Kate Atkinson’s private eye Jackson Brodie solves cases in
can occupy a lot of head space in a an Edinburgh that is both recognisably and comfortingly
novelist’s planning-and-reflecting stages, while he or she is familiar, but also worryingly violent.
thinking about starting a new story.
So maybe there are places in your own neighbourhood where
Of course, regional sagas, sex-in-the-city romantic you could set terrifying, romantic or supernatural stories?
comedies, crime series and even fantasy fiction can all be set
in recognisable places. But there’s nothing to stop an author There are plenty of novels in which demons, witches and
reimagining these real places to suit the action. vampires stalk the streets of London, and indeed London is
a city of many layers, giving both dramatists and novelists
How could you use real places in your own fiction? the incentive to reimagine the UK’s great capital in any way
How could referencing these real places help to give your they wish.
work that essential element of believability?
The writer’s first challenge is to build bridges that link What happens in your own imaginary London – in its
what the reader already knows (or can look up) about real sewers, its palaces, its hovels, its brothels, its graveyards or its
places to these same places in fiction. Some authors manage monasteries? As it burns, as it floods, as it’s bombed, and as
to do this superlatively well. I live in Exeter where bestselling it regenerates itself again and again and again?
crime writer Katerina Diamond sets much of her fiction.
Sometimes, it can be seriously weird to find myself walking Out-of-copyright novels are worth a look in order to make
through the suburb where Diamond’s imaginary DS Adrian a study of how classic authors reimagined the places they
Miles and I both live: a suburb which in my case is full of knew well. Anthony Trollope’s Barchester is allegedly a mix-
well-maintained parks, independent shops, riverside cafés and and-match aggregation of various West Country cathedral
one or two attractive churches, but in Diamond’s fiction is cities, including Salisbury, Winchester and Exeter.
haunted by murderers, child abusers, perverts and kidnappers.
Since reading Diamond’s debut novel The Teacher a few Sometimes, these classic authors have even inspired present-
years ago, I have never felt entirely comfortable about day writers to rework similar but reimagined material.
being alone in the shadowy Victorian galleries of Exeter’s
Royal Albert Memorial Museum. But I also find myself Elizabeth Gaskell’s novel North and South, for example, is
speculating about what other evil deeds could be committed set in Milton, a manufacturing city in the English county
in those twilit Gothic chambers where there are many dark of Darkshire. Milton is obviously a version of 19th-century
corners in which bad people could hide or even make a grab Manchester, and Gaskell’s Darkshire is Lancashire, at that
at me. time the home of many hundreds of cotton mills whose
The novelist Roger Stelljes, who was profiled in WM factory chimneys blackened the skies with their everlasting
July, writes stories set in a much more crime-ridden and smoke, choking the citizens and leading to far too many
frightening alternative (but still recognisable) Minnesota early deaths.

During the late 20th century, David Lodge set his
academic novels in Rummidge, an alternative version of
Birmingham, a university city with a proud industrial past,
but perhaps not much of an industrial future.

Lodge’s bestselling novel Nice Work reimagines North

46 AUGUST 2022

and South’s John Thornton (a working-class, self- with Ella Gyland
made man and factory boss) and Margaret Hale (a
gently-raised, middle-class, well-educated but also • When and where did your journey as an author begin?
somewhat naive young woman) as Vic Wilcox (a It probably began when I was ten and discovered I had an aptitude
working-class managing director of a factory) and for free story-telling (read: making things up), and then it lay
Robyn Penrose (a middle-class, rather-too-sure-of- dormant until my late twenties when someone suggested I write my
herself university lecturer), and in both these novels stories down for real. The fact that it then took me another sixteen
conflicts arise as two pairs of very different people years to achieve publication is a different journey, strewn with
learn some essential lessons in life. rejections, setbacks and some truly awful attempts at a first novel.

Maybe you have a favourite classic novel that you • What is (or has been) your proudest moment as a writer?
could rework, reinvent and reimagine? Perhaps you Not the publication of my first novel, as some might expect, but
could set it in the same place (or the same kind rather when my son said he thought it was cool to have a mum
of place) but at a different moment in time, and who wrote books, and also when my daughter and her friend read
therefore you could also say something new? Lodge the dirty bits (their words) aloud to each other. I realised then that
has plenty to say about the UK in the late 1980s I wasn’t just a mum in their eyes, but a person in my own right
and Nice Work makes a fascinatingly believable read with abilities beyond being a parent. This was their way of saying
set in an alternative Birmingham which many of they’re proud of me, and I get quite bashful thinking about it.
us probably know, but maybe not as well as we’d
originally supposed. • Who or what is your greatest inspiration?
I’ve always enjoyed the works of Charles Dickens: his intricate
Some writers have the enviable skill of bringing plots and larger-than-life characters just falling short of being
reality-based (but also reimagined) localities to caricatures, as well as his social commentary. But I think my
life. Brontë Country, Lorna Doone Country, even biggest inspiration are my writer friends and colleagues, some
Last of the Summer Wine Country – these settings very successful, others more moderately so, but all of them hard-
attract huge numbers of tourists who presumably working, humble and ever-supportive. I dare anyone not to be
don’t suppose they are ever going to see Catherine inspired by such poise.
Earnshaw or Carver Doone walking towards them,
but who derive great pleasure from visiting places • What is coming up next for you, fiction-wise?
in which the stories and dramas they love are set. I’m currently working on another Second World War novel set in
Denmark, this time in Copenhagen, and I’m really enjoying the
Bath will always be Jane Austen Country for the research phase. Also, I’m toying with another couple of ideas set in
thousands of Janeites who converge on the city the same time period, but this is very much at the developmental
every year. stage. Then, who knows? I like to let my ideas flow before I begin
to think about genre and so on. It feels more organic that way.
I love reading fiction in which places I know well
are reimagined and whose authors invite me to • What is your top tip for writers still on the journey
believe in their own alternative realities. towards publication?
Write the book you want to read.
I’ve often been to Cranford and Middlemarch in
my head.

I’ve spent a lot of time in Cornwall with Winston
Graham’s Ross Poldark and Demelza.

Where would you feel most at home in your own
imaginary but reality-based world?


What kinds of places have special resonances for you
– towns, cities, villages, the countryside, moorland,
deserts, tamed or untamed landscapes? Where do
you meet versions of yourself in your dreams, and
could you take your readers there, too?
The places we remember, or are able to research,
offer us not only inspiration but also the freedom
to reinvent them to suit the stories we want to tell.

AUGUST 2022 47

,IPIR 1 ;EPXIVW explores a short
story by Saki to look at using animal being clever, it is a vague reputation.
Nevertheless, Lady Blemley has
characteristics in fiction invited him to her house party in the
expectation that he will be entertaining.
This month’s story is recognisable tropes. Hunting (or in
clever and amusing, but this case, lack of it), playing cards, and Just when she is about to give up
also takes a bit of a dark singing around the piano, amongst on him, he reveals his big secret:
turn along the way. In others, are all gently mocked. he has taught the Blemley’s cat
Tobermory by Saki, a cat to talk. Unsurprisingly, the other
is taught to speak and causes all sorts But this is a house party with a members of the house party greet this
of mischief as a result. As always, you’ll difference. The hostess, Lady Blemley, announcement with disbelief. Cornelius
get the most out of this masterclass if has invited a certain Cornelius Appin has committed himself to scientific
you read the story for yourself: https:// to be a guest. The problem is, she achievement, however this isn’t in the isn’t quite sure why. Notice how his realm of science but that of miracle.
personality is described as ‘homely
The first paragraph sets the scene. negative’ and his ostentatious name Cornelius, we learn, has tried his
Our characters are guests at a country of Cornelius deemed ‘transparent method on other animals, but has
house party, which gives Saki the baptismal fluff’, and that, although he ultimately lighted on the cat in general
opportunity to bring in various is described as having a reputation for and Tobermory, a cat of extraordinary
intelligence, in particular. Cats are
described as being the ideal subject
because of their intellect and ability
to assimilate with humans. Cornelius
even implies that a cat may be more
readily teachable than some humans.
In addition, cats are superior and
haughty, but also preserve a wild
streak. Pay attention to this, as it
will become important later when
the human characters realise the very
reasons for the cat’s superiority are also
the reasons why the project is bound
for disaster.

Note that there are actually three
cats in the story. This will become
important later when the humans
realise the implications of the fact that
Tobermory may be able to pass his
skills on to other cats. We get simple
physical descriptions of the other two
cats which helps us to picture them.
The ‘stable’ cat is a tortoiseshell and
the ‘rectory’ cat is a yellow Tom.

But, what about Tobermory himself?
He is described as having a velvet tread
as he moves through the house. When
he speaks it is described as being with a
‘horribly natural voice’, almost as though
he sounds too human for comfort.

Both the way he speaks and the
things he says, echo the humans
around him. But there’s one big
difference, he says things the humans
wouldn’t dream of saying out loud.

48 AUGUST 2022


And by doing so he reveals their variously reported his surname wrongly, they are vain and given to preening
weaknesses and hypocrisies. but at least the name Cornelius which themselves. Perhaps a plot device relies
was regarded by the Blemleys as ‘fluff ’ on them being eagle-eyed. Do they
The various members of the house is restored to him. And, as Clovis learn a new skill like a duck to water?
party start to ask the cat questions, but points out, if he was trying to teach the Or maybe they start as an ugly duckling
they aren’t very comfortable with the elephant German irregular verbs, then but grow up to be as graceful as a swan
answers. Tobermory starts to spill the he got what he deserved. or as proud as a peacock.
beans about all of them, including the
things they say about each other behind Animal instincts Bird sounds can be very evocative as
each other’s backs. It also dawns on well. Maybe your character has a habit
the humans that Tobermory has been We’ve discussed the idea of using of speaking in a way reminiscent of
able to slink around on the balconies animals in stories in a previous chirping or clucking. Perhaps they can
and look into their bedrooms. He’s column, but this month I want to sing like a nightingale or maybe they
seen Mrs Cornett, who prides herself look at how we can use animal-like are as loud and grating as a corncrake.
on her natural complexion, sitting at attributes to enhance and bring to life
her dressing table, plastering herself our human characters. Don’t forget about the insect world.
with make-up. Miss Scrawen, who is Your character could be beetling
not nearly as interesting as she wants Animal characteristics can be used to about, as busy as a bee. Or maybe they
people to think she is, worries he describe various different aspects of our are a social butterfly with a waspish
might have become aware of the sheer characters. They could be used to bring personality. A character might have the
blamelessness of her life. Clovis, a them to life: how people look; how they attention span of a gnat or be the sort of
character that readers may recognise sound; how they behave and what their person who wouldn’t hurt a fly.
from other stories by Saki, ponders personality is like.
whether Tobermory might be open to a Some animals can offer
bribe of mice to keep quiet. In this month’s story we’ve already characteristics with a negative spin.
thought about the characteristics of a Characters could be as slow as a
The guests were all hoping for domestic cat that behaves like a human. snail, sly like a fox, a bit of a weasel or
entertainment from Cornelius and But what about humans that have a proper toad. Or maybe you have a
his cat protégé, but it turns out that cat-like characteristics? They may be character who is slippery and bit of a
the joke is on them when the whole aloof and independent. They might snake. Maybe they are given to rough
situation backfires spectacularly. But be someone who lurks in unexpected horsing around or bullish behaviour.
then, cats, as all cat owners know, will places and slinks around unobtrusively.
always get one over on humans. Or maybe, your character has the You might also be able to use
attributes of a wild cat or an alley cat contrasting animal characteristics
This is where the story takes a bit of – living on the edge and relying on no to describe relations between your
a dark turn. The humans decide there one. Alternatively, they could be more characters. Do they fight like cat and
is no option but to kill Tobermory, and like one of the big cats. Maybe they are dog? Or play like cat and mouse?
also the stable cat, to be on the safe as fierce as a tiger, as brave as a lion or Perhaps they are as different in pace as a
side. This is despite the fact that he is as fast as a cheetah. hare and a tortoise.
a family pet that they are supposedly
fond of. Does this dark turn of events What about if your character is As a writing exercise, try contrasting
make you feel uncomfortable? I think more like a dog? Are they faithful, these personality types in a suggested
it’s meant to. hardworking and obedient? Maybe scenario:
they work like a dog and end up dog- • A character who is usually as meek as
Notice the foreshadowing here when tired. Do they have puppy fat or look
the guests urge Cornelius to try a at people with puppy dog eyes? Your a lamb has to stand up to a character
different animal next time; maybe an tenacious character might be like a dog who is a bit of a rat.
elephant in a zoo which can’t creep with a bone, and when their efforts • Someone who is as hungry as a horse
about spying on people. This, of pay off, they might be like a dog with goes to dinner with a friend who eats
course, when the reader gets to the two tails. like a bird.
end, is revealed to be an even more • A lone wolf finds themselves having
disastrous idea. Or maybe you’ll go for some more to spend time with a flock of birds of
unusual animals. Perhaps you have a feather.
Tobermory comes to a sticky end. a character who hoards things and • Someone who is a bit of a cold fish
Not at the hands of the humans, as squirrels them away. Or one who warms up when they meet a friend
they’d intended, but at the paws of the beavers away at their work. Maybe they who wants to be as snug as a bug.
Rectory cat. Note the irony of Lady are given to crying fake crocodile tears. When you use animal characteristics
Blemley’s letter of complaint to the to bring your characters to life, you’ll
Rector about the loss of her beloved cat. Birds have some great characteristics help your readers to be able to picture
that could be shared with your human them and imagine how they sound and
Cornelius also comes to a sticky end, characters. They might be as wise as behave. Give it a go and see how you
at the feet of an elephant. Newspapers an owl, or as gentle as a dove. Maybe get on. AUGUST 2022 49


Getting into the


%PI\ (EZMW explores writing liminal
spaces in horror

H orror is a genre that is chock- we stay for the shortest time only. of transformation, or people existing
full of terrifying concepts, but It’s also more than likely you will have between a state of human and other. Ghost
one that has started to emerge stories ask a lot of questions about the
as a strong thread of late is that experienced liminal emotional states nature of spirits, who arguably exist in a
of liminal space – a location – puberty is a mental space between liminal space between life and death. Many
that serves as a transition between two childhood and adulthood, and we’ve stories of classic horror monsters depict the
places. This could of course be a physical all been there. The process of getting descent from human to vampire, werewolf
space, but there is also the growing divorced creates a state between being and zombie, a zone between person and
concept of liminal psychological spaces married and being unmarried, and monster as humanity slides away.
– emotional states that see us between equally getting engaged is a state
one location in life and another. The between being single and married. Then there are the many horror stories
odds are you’ve already encountered Moving house is often seen as a liminal that use liminal physical spaces – the
liminal spaces somewhere within mental space, a position where you Overlook Hotel of The Shining and Poe’s
horror, even if the term is absolutely haven’t quite left the previous home or The House of Usher leap out as immediate
new to you – and in this piece we’re moved into the new one. examples, not to mention recent horror
going to explore how to employ this movies the likes of Midsommar and It
exciting idea within horror stories. Uncertain times, uncertain places Follows. Even video games in the vein of
Silent Hill and Alan Wake use the concept
Finding a liminal space What makes all of these things work for to great effect.
horror is that key idea of uncertainty and
The odds are you’ve also encountered the natural order of things being unsettled Why the liminal frightens us
liminal space in life – long hallways, the in some way. All of us live in some sort
likes you may find in hotels or hospitals, of status quo – it might be a happy one, To expand upon the above, as humans
are ideal examples. Other very common an unhappy one, or even one we feel we thrive on certainty and on knowing
instances are spaces centred on travel – ambivalent towards – but the minute what is next. We can stand to be in
bus stations, train stations and airports that is shaken up we could be entering a liminal places – physical or emotional
are also locations between one place and liminal space, standing on that precipice – for a certain amount of time without
another, an inbetween space on a journey, between what has come before and what lapsing into distress, fear or depression.
something essential between a setting-off is coming next. But anyone who has been stranded at an
point and a destination. Even a hotel airport after a delay, or lost around an
room itself could be viewed as a liminal And of course the fear of the unknown unfamiliar building for any amount of
space because it lacks permanency, a place is essential to horror – and many classic time, will tell you of just how frightening
horror tropes do call upon ideas of these places can be. One of YouTube’s
liminality. Body horror explores concepts

50 AUGUST 2022

Click to View FlipBook Version