The Reader Saves The Day

Today is my daughter’s birthday.  She’s in Brugge with her boyfriend.  My other daughter’s at uni, first year.  My novels and blogs are mechanisms that keep them in my heart.

I was horribly unwell when I first started writing.  What little energy I had I spent chatting to my four children.  Kitty and I would get so excited about the weekly episode of #vampirediaries.  We’d try to find films with a baddie that when faced with a dilemma would do the right thing like Damon.  There are two films that were flops, but I loved them, purely because the male protagonist is beautifully, sexily evil; The Guest and No One Lives.  Kitty and I would come up with scenarios for boys/girls of this ilk.  This led us to a scenario where an assassin steals an identity and comes into contact with a damaged teen girl.  This premise got forgotten for a while, mainly because I was so unwell.  After my second operation, feeling regenerated our concept reignited and my other daughter Gerty came up with a title ‘The Rebirth of Henry Whittle.”

The following morning I wrote all day.  Then the next and the next and so on.  It was addictive.  I was quite weak and housebound so the characters became totally real to me.  I loved them.  The girls critiqued, proof read, laughed at me a lot! I updated.  We came up with a pen name Gertrude T Kitty (my girls’ nicknames and T because it sounded good).  Then off went the first three chapters to literary agents. I struggled with that.  I’m too old and too unwell to be anyone but myself or to sell myself.  Luckily there was a lot of interest in the premise and requests for the full manuscript.  I had lots of ‘we liked it but didn’t love it’ or it’s not one for us but that’s subjective’.  I also had two offers of representation and an American publishing house that were considering it.  I went with an agent I immediately felt comfortable with. Sadly it did not work out.  But I learnt so much, from her and from the response of editors at publishing houses. I took a break then decided to go it alone. No having to compromise.

Readers for me are incredibly important. An unread book means I’m not an author. Yes I had the joy of writing it and sharing it with my daughters but it’s about identity.  I’ve a degenerative spine condition; there is so much I can’t do but I can write. I can Twitter. I can blog/vlog and endeavour to connect my book with readers. Readers are magic because they sprinkle fairly dust and they’re with your characters; turning each page, making them real.

My book is an invitation to connect with new people, of all ages, all around the world. I won’t feel awkward or have nothing to say because we’ll have Random Attachment in common.  Yes, lots of folk will tell me how wrong I’ve got it, but honestly it won’t upset me.  I’m a newbie, a wildcard; I am going to make mistakes.  I’m a different generation to my readership so I’ll be out of touch; sometimes say the wrong thing.  I’m actually my teenage self again, trying to find a place to fit in, unsure of myself, a bit fragile at times.

My female protagonists are not perfect.  Nobody is.  We are all flawed and talented in some way  but that’s what makes us special and unique.  I want girls to read my books then look in the mirror and know they are beautiful. There’s always those that will make you feel less than you are.  You might be unable to cut them from your life because you live with them.  I think that’s why teen years can be the hardest because you’re trapped; at home or at school.  I imagine that’s how a lot of battered wives feel.  Unless you’re wealthy you can’t just walk away from a marriage.

My male protagonists will never follow a stereotype.  I’ve never met the perfect, 6ft, chiseled cheekboned, 6 packed man.  My husband is small and roundish; during our marriage he’s been a villain and a hero.

Today I woke up fresh and I showered. That alone caused me to crumble.  I’ve had to lay still til Tramadol kicked in.  I’m moving poorly, my body is sluggish and unresponsive.  I’m weeing every 15 minutes.  What’s lovely though is I have purpose. I’m eager to check things out on Twitter.  Then Amazon to see if I’ve any further reviews (only have 4).  I check KDP to see if I’ve sold a book. Then I read some blogs.

Having any illness can be lonely, even when you’re surrounded by those you love.  Especially neurological diseases and mental illness because the unseen disabilities often have the least support.  I yearn to be an author because I need to live a fulfilling life; it’s self help for someone who spends long periods at home.  Life doesn’t stop for others when you’re disabled; friends work and socialise, your kids move out and rightly have lives of their own; so it’s up to me to make things work.

So when you read my book not only are you bringing my characters to life, you’re bringing me to life.  Thank you for that. X

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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!

 

 

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.