World Book Day

I genuinely think a book can alter the course of your life.  For children uninterested in reading, the right book can open up an infinity of worlds, trigger new emotions and enable children to think outside the parameters of their own life and their parents’ views.

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A book is a companion to those who find it hard to socialise. You simply don’t feel lonely when you’re reading quality books. There’s no pressure to respond; to say the right thing.  Even the super confident can struggle conversing in this climate of political correctness. The older generation are under pressure to remove vocab and phrases they’ve used for decades. Their language might be narrow, racist, sexist; unacceptable but not easy to delete when you’ve been fed it from infancy. So I could see some of the elderly losing confidence and relying on books as company. A book accepts you regardless of your disabilities, struggles, insecurities and prejudices.

helperI’m unsure if YA books were around when I was a teen. I’m losing my memory and my faculties because I feel like I progressed from The Famous Five to P D James. I can’t remember any books in between, other than difficult English Lit books.  Chaucer? For goodness sake what were the examining boards thinking of. A teen is not going to develop a love of books when faced with The Canterbury Tales at fifteen/sixteen.  They need novels that captivate, with characters they identify with. Adults might love reading YA but that’s not automatically reciprocal.  I have four children and Mice and Men and An Inspector Calls four flippin years is a killer. Some contemporary books please!

I introduced The Famous Five to my children and Gerty, Tom and Paddy stalled. They  couldn’t connect with the kids, they were too far removed from their reality…but Kitty was well in there and funnily enough Literature emerged as her career path.

yaFrom my first born to my last, YA has sprouted like dandelions.  I was literally salivating each time I took my kids to Waterstones. I loved touching the books, feeling the covers, especially when titles were embossed.  I wanted my kids to be swept up in fantasy or on a knife edge or gooey over kissing.

A Series of Unfortunate Events, Harry Potter, Darren Shan, Martyn Pig, Shadows; some fantastic YA literature was emerging.  I fell into a habit of reading my children’s books probably to justify the cost but also to make it a shared experience. Just like we watched Disney together, Dr Who, X Factor, Buffy and now Love Island

Alongside I’d be reading Val McDermid, Stephen King, Mark Billingham, Jilly Cooper.

I can easily reel off my three favourite books:

  • Killing Me Softly by Nicci French
  • The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter
  • 13  Reasons Why by Jay Asher

I don’t read for reading’s sake; I’d rather watch NetFlix. I’m not someone who can read any genre, in any style.  I avoid overly descriptive novels with a plethora of multiple syllable words. Not because I don’t understand them but because the author showing off can effect the flow of a book and the depth of the characters. My only exception to this is Donna Tart; I’ll happily engage my brain there.

I can’t help think how fortunate I am to have access to so many books. When I’ve a little spare cash spending £7.99 on a book is worth it. Consider the cost of the cinema or any activity that takes an hour or more and you’ll see it’s a bargain. When I’m broke (regular occurrence) it’s the library and the charity shops for me.

As a teen, living on a council estate, in a flat charged with emotion, I would escape to the library.  I actually remember resting my head against a row of novels, silently crying. It was my refuge; here I could be anyone and go anywhere. Libraries need to flourish, to connect with the kids that aren’t coming to the library.  We, the people of Britain, debate no end why children turn to antisocial behavior? Millions is probably spent analysing and procrastinating when the answer is simple.  Children need free facilities: school breakfast clubs, social clubs, swimming and libraries; lots of libraries. Ones with cafes and I don’t mean Costa, I mean a hot chocolate for 50p, a bag of crisps for 50p, a coke for 50p.  There should be sofas and cushions and a free book section where a kid can take a book without being a member.  Let’s be fair, unfit parents don’t sign you up to the library.  I was terrified joining the library. I thought they wouldn’t want someone like me.  I never understand how, surrounded by amazing literature, some librarians can be unwelcoming and unapproachable. Jolliness should be on the person spec and there should be book recycle schemes.

As an author I love that my book is on a journey, from one reader to another, one home to another. I’m more than happy for my book to be passed to a hundred people.  I count myself lucky if  someone has purchased my book and liked it enough to pass it to a friend. I just hope I didn’t disappoint…but it’s good to know…I’d like to think being new to writing I can improve.  That the girl holding a book in front of her face to hide the tears can learn to put a smile on a similar kid, forty years later.

I hope every reader and writer has a lovely WORLD BOOK DAY.

 

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Jafaris myelopathy & me

It’s midweek and I’ve been yo-yoing between conquering social media and hiding under the quilt. Editing one book and trying to sell another. Wobbling about the coffee shop to whaling on the sofa. Oh and going to the loo like every fifteen minutes. Kids, Music, Marriage, Writing, Two Barking Dogs and Books are my life.  Here’s my latest vlog, that I’ve edited badly but life is one long lesson https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dXuDkpZeg84&t=91s

 

Disappointment

Enjoying a book is subjective. I know this from the many rejection letters I received from agents when I first started out.  Then when I had an agent, rejections from editors saying ‘I liked it but I didn’t love it’.

I am prepared that for every five-star review my novel receives, there might be twenty one-star reviews.  I can’t be more accurate because so far Random Attachment has only 3 reviews. In a way this feels worse, it’s like you’ve gone to the school disco and no one wants to dance with you. I feel rather rejected. It’s early days I tell myself.  Life is so busy that readers most likely won’t review my book which is disappointing when you are literally a struggling writer.

In between tweeting about my amazing, spectacular, potentially YA version of #FiftyShades meets #Psycho (I have to be this confident because doubt won’t sell copies) I’m reading.

Lisa Jewell – Then She Was Gone: Slow start but boy does it get a grip of you and twist you around.

C.L. Taylor – The Treatment. The well plotted adult thriller writer diversified into Young Adult. I’m such a big fan that perhaps my expectations were too high.  It simply did not take off.  The YA voice was lacking, the characters flat, the story predictable.  I think the biggest challenge of writing YA is that I’m a middle-aged woman who needs an authentic teenage voice. This is one of the reasons I’m going it alone.  With my first (unpublished) novel The Rebirth of Henry Whittle my agent felt the YA voice was too street and too sophisticated.  I don’t think she gave credit to the savvy young adults out there ruling the world. I also feel she found the slang and swear words unpalatable, as do I, but the protagonist’s voice is central to the success of the novel. I don’t say f**k but Mia does. And she wants to make love with Flynn, on a bed, against a wall, once, maybe more; she views intimacy as a natural response to finding someone attractive. Promiscuity is possibly an outdated verb. It’s these key issues that I compromised on first time around with my agent. My daughters advised against diluting the vocab and the darkness and they were right.  I’m not saying CL Taylor’s characters should be swearing and jumping each others bones but they should be 3D. I hate blandness; I want to love, hate, fear characters. I remember when I picked up 13 Reasons Why long before the hype and I couldn’t put it down; I felt sick to the pit of my stomach, not just for Hannah and Clay but her family, Jessica, Justin – that is a book that doesn’t come around often.

I’m new to writing, I’ve been working at it for about five years on and off; barely any time at all.  If I could write one totally, mind-blowing novel like 13 Reasons Why that would mean the world. Perhaps I’m incapable…I don’t know.

I am confident in my writing though; I don’t shake at the knees that my friends are reading stuff and nonsense.  I’m widely read in the YA/NA market and if I can make sales I think Random Attachment can hold its own out there.

I recently read The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer and other than a cool name and a great book cover I didn’t rate it. Random Attachment is all about the characters. Could the premise be better constructed? Yes, with the help of a professional editor or maybe by me in ten years when I know what I’m doing.  I’m winging it at the moment.  I guess I expect more of traditionally published novels because of the expertise and resources they have to bring a book together. I didn’t connect with Mara. The story seemed all over the place.

I daren’t think about the criticism coming my way.  Or perhaps readers are so pee’d off they won’t review it. I hope that’s not the case.

Right now I’m focusing on social media, getting my name out there, trying to sell my book.  The paperback is as low in price as I’m allowed, I’m only making 25p on each sale and 20% of that is going to charity @myelopathy.org and @YMCAWestLondon.  So reviews are key and for anyone that has purchased the paperback, passing it on would be great. If you liked it then please Instagram it, Twitter, Facebook, whatever you can do is greatly appreciated.  I’m relying on reviews and word of mouth. To date I’ve sold 43 copies, not exactly mind blowing so all support appreciated. I’m not too proud to accept help, go for it!

 

 

MY RANDOM VLOG

Us myelopathers live in a higgeldy piggeldy world. Nothing is straight forward, nothing is set in stone when it comes to our condition. It’s eight years ago this month that I had my first operation. When I think of the physical and mental battle I’ve had since then it’s amazing I’m still here never mind have written a book. I don’t say this lightly; my battle with myelopathy has been as exhausting mentally as it has physically.  I can’t tell you how often I’ve been on the edge of madness.  Connecting with others sufferers through http://www.myelopathy.org/support.html has helped me understand my condition as well as supported my mental health.  Any long term illness with chronic pain can lead to depression, acting out of character, gambling, drinking, debt – blogging is a way of letting off steam whilst connecting with the myelopathy community.

My husband and children have been total rocks. They understand the condition well because they live it with me. They’ve seen me on my hands and knees trying to get from the sofa to the kitchen to put the kettle on because I want to do it for myself.  They’ve seen me bent over double, breathing like I’m in labour because the pain is so acute it takes my breath away.  I’ve spent the last seven years stumbling, swaying, knocking into, tripping over, falling onto a world that seems to be erratically spinning around me.

I’ve always been a glass half full person. When I couldn’t work, walk, sleep I wrote.  I poured all my pain, frustration and despair into blogging and writing Young Adult romantic thrillers.

Two weeks ago I self published Random Attachment. For me this is a huge thing.  A massive achievement.  Also it’s my ray of hope.  I won’t bore you with what I’ve lost, with what my condition has stripped me of because I don’t feel sorry for myself. But writing has enabled me to reinvent myself, to be Gertrude T Kitty, author. It’s taken the spotlight off my condition and has given me back some self esteem.

I don’t imagine my book will make multi million sales or I’ll have royalties into the thousands but whatever I have once Amazon take their cut I hope will support my writing and help YMCA West London, Centrepoint and http://www.myelopathy.org/  Up to now I have written for myself, now I am writing for others.  I’ve worked this last fortnight on Twittering, Facebooking, vlogging, anything to get my book promoted. My husband has been photocopying and cutting up little adverts for Random Attachment. I’ve been very unwell and immobile during this time so have only left the house once but I did put it up in a newsagent and coffee shop in Pinner.  I am up and feeling well today so have my photocopies and pins in my bag ready to pin it up whereever I legally can.  I’m asking you, if you could print out the advert and pin it up on a board where you work, or where your children have clubs.

My lovely bookclubbers have bought my book. Thank you for supporting me. I’m dreading feedback because I know how high our expectations are when we critique some of the greats in literature…remember I’m a minnow.

So here I am before Christmas, with a book that is all the more precious to me because my daughters were so instrumental in supporting me during writing and getting it out there.

Yesterday I filmed my first vlog about my book.  It took me five attempts because I was so waffly and repeatedly said ‘you know’, ‘so’, ‘erm’.   But here is the link to it and the link to my Young Adult (unsuitable for under 14’s) romantic, thriller.  I would love if you’d follow me on Twitter @gertrudetkitty. If you buy my book that would be wonderful…if you read it that would be even better and your critique would be the icing on the cake…oh and sharing it. It’s a lot, I know, because it’s hitting your purses, wallets and your time. God I hope the book’s not terrible after all this.

 

Thank you.

We were liars

IMG_0364Titles and straplines are funny things.  “Which are lies? Which is truth? You decide.”  This is a novel of repressed memories, of withheld facts but lies? I’m not even sure why the close-knit group were named ‘the liars’ by their family. I get that whenever tragedy strikes there is gossip and twisting of facts.  That those involved have their own perspective of events.  But if you’d asked me what the title hinted at, it would be children weaving a web of lies.  A novel challenging the reader to differentiate between lies and truth.

Saying that my strapline A Boy, A Girl, A killer is embarrassingly basic.  Regarding titles, I named RANDOM ATTACHMENT in a minute.  I don’t deliberate, if my first idea fits the brief then onward I go – writing is what I love…or my imagination is limited! The strapline was harder than writing the book; I failed the challenge miserably but I think it’s pretty clear what the story is about.

IMG_0357 I enjoyed WE WERE LIARS. I read it over a few days. The story is beautifully and brilliantly told. I didn’t see the twist coming which is a credit to the author’s skill.  I was intrigued by what was being kept from Cady but I didn’t feel desperate to find out.  But that can be a good thing because you were with the characters whist they idled their holidays away.

I need to connect to characters. I liked Cady but I wasn’t gutted for her.  Yes she had headaches that immobilised her, yes pain was severely affecting her life but I knew by the end of the book her issues would be resolved.

Her love for Gat felt more like a crush – it didn’t burn within her.  It was more a response to a close friendship and an awareness of physical changes as they blossomed. I didn’t feel he was the love of her life. Had I, the conclusion would have hit me harder.

The fairytale concept I liked but they were too long and one too many.

I wasn’t totally convinced by Cady as a character.  THE REBIRTH OF HENRY WHITTLE (TRHW) has multiple pov’s.  RANDOM ATTACHMENT is a third person narrator; sometimes the young adult voice is lost within an adult narrator and I felt this true of WE WERE LIARS.  The writing is quality but there was no differentiation between the eleven year old cady and the fifteen year old.  I think that is common of YA books and it’s not always down to the writer.  My former agent loved the premise of TRHW and Phoenix’s voice. Yet throughout the editing process, bit by bit, she toned it down to the point it was lost.

Here’s what HotKeyBooks had to say about TRHW This has a pretty dark premise at its core, I actually really liked the story. It was weird and twisty…but Phoenix’s voice ended up feeling a bit self-conscious.”

And so began the withdrawal of my agent who’d steered the book in the direction of ‘making Phoenix’s voice more palatable’ because it was in part angry and frustrated. It was at this point I decided to self publish.  I couldn’t go through another year of editing to find out it’s not what publishers want.  My years are too precious and I love my writing too much to lose control again.

WE WERE LIARS was hugely successful and I see why.  I’m glad I read it. I enjoyed it. I didn’t love it but I would highly recommend it. I’m not going to hold the publisher HotKeyBooks against e.lockhart.  Instead I’m giving WE WERE LIARS an 8.5 out of 10.  My 10/10 would be a book I miss once it’s finished, a book I wish I hadn’t read so I could read it again, a book like Laura McHugh’s THE WEIGHT OF BLOOD or Sarah Pinborough’s THE DEATH HOUSE and undoubtedly 13 REASONS WHY which I read in a night I was so engrossed and in despair for Hannah. These are books that have huge crossover appeal, anyone over 14 could love them.

Opinions are subjective; I would never severely criticise a writer because what I dislike another reader could love, so I simply don’t review.  I have read many more books both YA and ADULT that didn’t meet my blogging standards. So to all those authors on my pages I salute you for the fantastic books you’ve written. WE WERE LIARS would make a great Christmas pressie for the 11-15 age group. Thank you e.lockhart for a wonderful read.