Looking back over the two Victorian and one modern novel under my belt, it is pretty obvious that I am a story-teller, not a literary prize-winner. There are others, of course, like my writing buddy Jenny, who are most definitely ‘writers’. They are lyrical and have flights of fancy; clever metaphors and similes abound. Respect – huge! Don’t get me wrong – my love of the English language inspires me to use it to the best of my ability but my inspiration comes first and foremost from the lives of my characters – their surroundings, the events that change their futures, the people they meet, those they love (or hate) and what drives them. (More often than not conceived in the bath, not on a windy hilltop surrounded by daffodils.)
I can still enjoy the most esoteric novel, as long as it lives up to Bernard Cornwell's criteria – Do I want to turn the page? Having digested reams of published writer's opinions on what constitutes a 'good' book, to my mind it all comes down to that – whatever the genre and whether it be fiction or non-fiction.
"Thou shalt not" is soon forgotten, but "Once upon a Time" lasts forever. Philip Pullman
HOW THE STORIES STARTED
Have you ever formed an unusually strong relationship with a story and its characters? I suspect that most avid readers' would answer 'Yes'. It starts with becoming so involved with the feelings and the events which touch the characters that they are your constant companions, not merely the products of someone's imagination. You walk the street with them, you eat with them, their sorrows are yours, you glory in their triumphs. Hopefully your involvement stops short of obsession – even if there may be a sexual element!
This is all very well (and an author who can achieve this should be applauded) but the end of the novel will inevitably approach and despite the many times you may have re-read it, you wish you had savoured it more along the way. For, as you walk on, the characters with whom you have co-habited will freeze-frame. The desire to prolong your shared journey is irresistible. This is how 'fan fic' is born. For Russell T Davies it was Dr Who; for hundreds, possibly thousands, it was Pride & Prejudice. For me, like many, many before me, it was Mrs Gaskell's North & South.
So I revelled in prolonging my time in John & Margaret’s company (Unmapped Country), thoroughly enjoyed the massive amount of research required, and came out of the process – a writer! And then couldn’t stop. Another novel set in Victorian Manchester followed (In Her Fashion) while at the back of my mind a very different story was bubbling away. Change of voice, time and setting and Secret Smile was conceived.
Having just completed this venture into the present millenium, I’m having to concentrate on the things that I’ve ignored while hunched over my Netbook (they are many), while, being a storyteller, there are fragments whirling around my mind, slow coalescing into another tale . . .