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Of course, that’s Gmail. Silly me…

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What? Wait a minute is that work? I know…

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You’re kidding me? Facebook? It must be…

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FFS. I am so stupid…

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We’ve gotta check. Are you human?

Oh sod you twitter – I’m going to the pub




The Next Big Thing

I feel a bit of a fraud with this…I am nowhere near being a published author, I haven’t got an agent and have yet to self publish anything. (Though I do have a few short story credits to my name – see sidebar) However, my dear lovely twin sister Julia Williams who IS a best selling author (25th on the best seller list this week!) kindly tagged me in this game of The Next Big Thing. And since the questions she has given me are simply irresistible, I’m delighted to be joining in.


What is the title of your book?
Echo Hall.

Where did the idea for the book come from?


I was living in a remote hamlet in Northamptonshire a few years ago. Our home was a converted schoolhouse next to the parish church and graveyard. We were several hundred feet from our nearest neighbour and a quarter of a mile from the rest of the village. I’m a townie by birth and by nature, and (unsurprisingly for a writer) I’m blessed with an over-active imagination. I used to wake up in the pitch black night and imagine I heard voices, much to my husband’s amusement.* It used to scare the beejeesus out of me. In fact, I was such a scaredy cat, if Chris was away, I used to bring my then one year old son into bed to protect me. And one day I thought, what if you came to a remote country house, woke up in the middle of the night and such voices were real? What would they say and why? And that’s how it began.

*Though to be fair we once did wake up at 3am and there really were voices. It was the local police who’d been called out because the sheep from a neighbouring farm had escaped down the road and were holed up in our car park. Country life eh?

What genre does your book fall under?

I’m not a huge fan of pigeon holing writing, mine or anyone else’s. However, I’d say this book is unashamedly gothic, with a political twist. So I’d like to think I’ve invented a new genre – political gothic.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Ooh good good question. Hmm. I have three generations of a family (so I suppose it’s a bit of a family saga as well, see how much I don’t like pigeon-holing?) Let me think now.

Ruth, who is the 1990’s heroine is very calm and restrained. I think Carey Mulligan would be good. Her husband, Adam, is a little bit unreliable, Tom Felton, perhaps? Elsie in 1940’s is passionate and lively, and auburn, so definitely Karen Gilligan . Her husband Jack, as a young man could be Harry Lloyd. Jack is 76 in the 1990’s so the older version would have to be um Michael Gambon?  Jack’s cousin Daniel could be Daniel Radcliffe, though he’d wear a curly wig. I think Bonnie Wright would make a good Rachel in the previous generation, with maybe Benedict Cumberbatch as her husband Joseph (he too would need curly hair). Her sister Leah would be Emma Watson maybe, and Leah’s husband Jacob would be Skandar Keynes. And maybe their older versions would be Kate Winslet and David Morrisey?

Will your book be self-pubished or represented by an agency?

The aim is to get an agent and go the traditional route. However, if that fails I’ll definitely self-publish,


How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

Erm…dare I say 7.5 years? In my defence, for three of those years I was looking after pre-school kids. For the next 4.5 I was back at work with children aged 3-7. The kids are a lot older now, so the second draft has only taken just over a year. I’m optimistic I might finish a third draft in less time!

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I don’t dare do that. I would say I’ve definitely given a nod to Rebecca and Wuthering Heights. But I’ve been avoiding books like  The Little Stranger, or The Thirteenth Tale for fear of being influenced by them.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Well the original inspiration was imaginary ghosts, but after that I had to think about who the characters were and what they were doing in the house. And it quickly became about people living in times of war, so it is infused with the spirit of my grandmothers, my aunts and my mother who all lived during World War 1 and World War 2. My 1940’s character Elsie shares a Liverpool background with my paternal grandmother, and like her, she was denied an education. It’s only a minor part of her story, but important to me none the less.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

My central theme is that unresolved conflicts spill over into the next generation and I have deliberately set family conflicts in times of war. So I hope it will appeal to anyone who is interested both in relationships and politics. I have a particular take on these issues, but  I hope that readers will be able to make their own minds up and disagree with me if they want.


I’ll be tagging the following writers for the Next Big Thing on their blogs next week….

Anne Booth, who is one of my oldest friends and who like me is unpublished. She’s a fine writer and I hope this will be rectified soon. She’s written a brilliant (as yet unpublished) novel about nuns, and just completed her first young adult novel. The Hidden Hours is a great story about a young girl, her relationship with her grandma and Nazi Germany. And because she doesn’t have a blog, I’m giving her space to come here next week and tell you all about it.

Marc Nash is one of my Friday Flash compadres. He  has written and self published three novels AB,and E,
Not in My Name and Time after Time and 2 collections of Flash Fiction 52FF and 16FF. Marc is experimental, challenging, entertaining and has the widest grasp of the English language of anyone I know…Marc blogs over at Sulci Collective.

John Wiswell is another one of my fellow Friday Flash writers. He is currently working on a fantasy novel. John has the most surreal and creative imagination and his regular Bathroom Monologues are an absolute delight. He seems capable of writing in any genre and he always always makes me think.


I think I’m supposed to have four writers but one of the other people I asked had already done it, and the other wasn’t ready to talk about her book. They’re both great writers though so do look up Icy Sedgwick and Shelley Harris

The Jumper

The jumper is left draped over the futon with a casual familiarity. He notices it minutes after she has left. The jumper is turquoise flecked with green. It looks comfortable against the cushion, as if in this is the place it should be when not adorning her long slender back. He can’t help feeling she has left it behind deliberately, as a message: get in touch.

He steps over to the sofa, picks it up, buries his face in the wool. He wrinkles his nose in anticipation of her smell, imagining  lily-of-the-valley, soft, subtle – his mother’s favourite perfume. But the aroma exuding from the left-behind garment is less fragrant. Cigarette smoke and sweat. She hasn’t washed it in weeks. Now he looks close up he can see red soup stains by the V-shaped neck, sugar crystals stuck to the mid-riff, and what appears to be chocolate on the hem. He hasn’t expected this. For a moment he hesitates.

Then he remembers her smile as she left. He picks up his mobile and texts: You left your jumper behind. Shall I bring it to you? He sits back on the futon, hugging the jumper close to him. It is a little piece of her. Soon, he will have the rest.

***
She arrives at the bar and orders pernod and blackcurrant. Tiny Tempeh is blaring out from the music system. It is early still. Soon this place will be full of Friday night screeching, but right now she has time to nip out the back for a quick fag. She has her pick of tables, so she chooses one furthest from the door. She takes the cigarette packet from her back pocket, pulls out a slender cigarette, caresses it in her fingers. The lighter flares orange as she places the cigarette in her lips, lighting the tip. She drags in the sweet smell and breathes out a long sigh. The first fag of the evening is always the best – full of hope and desire, before a night’s smoking causes her throat to rasp.
Though there are heaters in the courtyard, she has placed herself too far from them. That was stupid, it is November after all. She shivers, reaching in her bag for her jumper. It is not there. Where can she have left it?  She retraces her steps in her mind. The post office? No, she wasn’t wearing it then. The tube. She definitely didn’t have it then. She knew she was wearing it at lunchtime because  it was cold when she nipped out for a sandwich. She is still trying to work it out when a message blinks on her phone. You left your jumper behind. Shall I bring it to you? For a moment, she struggles to remember the number and then it comes to her. Jan’s friend. The one who’s DVDs she’d borrowed. She’d dropped them off earlier. She’d forgotten all about that.
She is about to text back, but the door into the patio opens. Her date for the evening. “I thought I’d find you out here.” He smiles. She smiles back, shoving her phone in her bag. She’ll phone wotsisname tomorrow. There’s no rush.
***
It will take him three weeks of persistent texting to arrange a meeting which will last five minutes. His love will last for a few seconds more.

At the top of the scree slope

If you’ve been paying any attention to my blog in recent months, you’ll have noticed me banging on about the second draft of my novel. And how I intended to finish by the end of the summer. Or at least by the time I went to the Festival of Writing in York.

Well I didn’t manage it. Of course, I didn’t. My life is just too busy for that. But going to the Festival of Writing was so inspirational that, once I returned, I was possessed by a manic energy to race to the top of my particular novel mountain. For the whole of September, and most of October, despite an absolutely crazy workload and busy family life, I’ve been getting up at 6, and sometimes working to 11 just to revise , add to the word count and generally beat the book in submission. For several weeks this was an absolute exhiliarating joy. The kind of joy you get, when the air is in your lungs, the sky is blue, the breeze pleasant and the sun warms you on your way. I strode the slopes with energy, verve, each day finishing with me looking forward to the next

But as I began to near the end of my goal, with only a few chapters to go, I hit a nerve wracking scree slope. For every step up, I slid three down. The sun went behind a cloud, the wind whipped up, no longer exhiliarating but cold and hard. I was bone tired, and desperate to stop, but I knew that if I did, I might never start up again. Inch, by inch, I clambered over sharp pointy stones, now forward, now back, some days stuck at the same point, paralysed by the effort. Until, at last, this time last week, I found myself inches away from the ridge. There was half a chapter left and it literally raced off my fingers and on to a screen. And for the time being I was done.

The view from here is rather satisfying. I’ve printed my second draft off, satisfyingly twice the size of the feeble first draft I finished last year. I’ve read it twice, and though there are still places where the language makes me wince, where I’ve lost my thread, where I’ve been inconsistent, it’s beginning to take the shape I want it to.

I’ll be off again in a minute, pushing myself through a third draft which will no doubt be as painful as the last two. But I can see the summit now, and I know, without a doubt, that I can reach it. And after eight years, I can tell you, that’s quite a sight.