Firsts and Lasts

In my first book, The Last Dance, Alicia Donaldson says that the last time a person does something is as significant as the first. But I have to argue that the first time you do anything is going to be more important for the simple reason that it is always possible to know when you are doing something for the first time but not necessarilyThe Last Dance Cover possible to recognise a ‘last time’ until it’s already in the past.
Usually a ‘first time’ can be anticipated. You know (admittedly not always exactly) when you are going to start at a new school or job, first exchange of bodily fluids with a new partner, move into your first home, get married, do a book-signing. The first time for all of these is important and is usually no surprise. You can plan for them – and worry.
Perhaps it’s an age thing but I have to admit to worrying about the less important ‘firsts’ to do with moving house for about the thirty-first time.
I put off for days driving up Crowther’s Hill in Dartmouth for the first time; I’ve had to master how and when to put the correct rubbish out for collection by South Hams District Council and tomorrow we must let The Lodger out. The poor cat has been stuck inside for more than two weeks and is getting stir crazy but I cannot help but dread that on that first ‘escape’ he will not find his way home.
Yes, many firsts are significant steps and are recognized as such.
But also, recently, I have done a lot of things for the last time; booking a return ferry from Yarmouth to Lymington, walking into The Wheatsheaf or The Kings Head to find our drinks already on the bar. But I didn’t worry about these things because I had done them before, they were familiar and anyway, were they necessarily the last times? Who can tell?
I know The Last Dance was my first published book but is A Set of Lies my ‘last’ or simply my ‘latest’?
Will A Second Strand (sequel to Her Parents’ Daughter) ever see the light of day?
Will there be others after that? Who can tell what the last will be?
So, Alicia, I have to disagree, first times are always more significant – and more difficult.

Goodbye Yarmouth

YarmouthGoodbye Yarmouth, Isle of Wight, it’s been nice knowing you.
This coming weekend I, along with my husband and our long-suffering cat, The Lodger, will be leaving the Isle of Wight for new adventures in Devon.
Almost exactly four years ago we decided we had to leave Shropshire and started looking for somewhere to live. We could have gone anywhere in the world really but we hit upon the Isle of Wight for reasons I can’t quite remember.
Now it is time to move on once more.
I have enjoyed being an Island Author and consequently my two most recent books (A Set of Lies and Her Parents’ Daughter) are firmly set on the island as is my next one A Second Strand so as I continue to market the old ones and set about selling the latest one the island will not be far from my thoughts.
My twitter tag @iowauthor (used more or less exclusively for tweets about The Archers) will not change neither will @Carolyn_McCrae (used for tweets about my books) but there are a number of amendments to be made to Twitter and Facebook profiles and to my website which will all take time and will, no doubt, make me wish we were staying.
Thank you Isle of Wight, and especially Yarmouth, for your inspiration, encouragement, friendship and hospitality for the past four years.
You will, no doubt, crop up in other books in the future as Fergal and Skye Shepherd continue their adventures.

Being (or not being) a Local Author

Local AuthorIs there any advantage to being known as a ‘local author’?
On the one hand the description implies that this is not a well-known author of national or international renown. There is something quaintly parochial, patronizing and possibly even pathetic about having to try to appeal to potential purchasers because you all happen to live in the same vicinity.
On the other hand, for whatever reason, it is certainly easier to get bookshops, newsagents, corner shops and pubs (thank you Holdings, The Wheatsheaf and The King’s Head in Yarmouth) to stock books and to give you the opportunity to do signings (thank you Waterstones and The County Press Shop in Newport) if you have some kind of local connection.
But what is the attraction of reading books by an author who is ‘local’? Is it to support someone you may pass in the street, or sit next to in a pub, or queue up with in the Post Office? Or is it perhaps because if the author is ‘local’ then the subject matter may well be locally relevant too? Or is it that the places referred to(and, heaven forefend, people) will recognizable?
When I was writing my first book, The Last Dance, I lived near Sandwich in East Kent. That area didn’t feature at all in the book, instead it was based in The Wirral, Cheshire, where I was born and lived for the first twenty or so years of my life. I lived in Shropshire when I was writing the second which, although also based in the Wirral ventured as far afield as Cambridgeshire. I was still living in Shropshire when the third book Runaways was published. Also based on The Wirral large sections were located in Kent and Mumbai. My fourth book, Highly Unsuitable Girl, was also written whilst I lived in (a different part of) Shropshire and failed to feature anything to do with that county.
It was only when I became ‘local’ to The Isle of Wight that my books became primarily based in the area in which I lived. Her Parents’ Daughter, written in Yarmouth, Isle of Wight, is the story of a murder in Yarmouth (as is A Second Strand – also written in Yarmouth).
The difficult book was A Set of Lies. The early drafts of this were written when I lived near Ludlow, Shropshire and the main characters lived, and the main settings were located, there. I then moved to the Isle of Wight and it was suggested by various people that the book should be based on the island. So the fourth, fifth and sixth drafts effected that change.
Since I started writing books that have been published I have moved house five times, lived in five different counties and so even when I have been ‘local’ it has only ever been for a short time.
I have now been ‘local’ on The Isle of Wight for three and a half years. This is a record. Perhaps it’s getting near time to think about moving on again.

Bad Ideas

Bad IdeaThe words have flowed this past week and the story in the follow up to Her Parents’ Daughter has developed well. (At least I think so and if I don’t then it’s unlikely anyone else will).
I’ve given up worrying about the title – that will fall into place in good time – as most of the ones I’m coming up with are really not very good. Bad ideas like Tit for Tat and Tip for Tap have been floating around in my head.
The focus of my cast’s activities is currently in Dartmouth, Devon (not Dartmouth, Massachusetts, USA) which is a town I’ve been visiting quite often recently. But with only a small number of visits packed into a matter of weeks it is impossible to get a true feel for a town so I apologise in advance if I upset anyone in or connected to one of the nicest places I’ve spent any time in for some years.
The main progress this week is that I can now see what the denouement of the book is going to be and how it is going to come about and this is not quite as I saw it when I started out six weeks or so ago (was it only six weeks?).
No doubt when I read it through, and put in some of the back stories, it may change again – not all my ideas are good ones!
But then Steven Spielberg (no less) has been quoted as saying that all good ideas start as bad ideas – that’s why the creative process takes so long.
So there’s hope yet!

 

One step up two steps down

Down the upI’m currently going up the down escalator of life (or down the up?).
Because other things are getting in the way of the writing at the moment when I actually had some time to sit down at the laptop I realised I needed to re-read the whole 42,000 words to regain the threads. This re-read showed up some inconsistencies and repetitions which needed clarification and re-writing so, despite getting up at 3.15 one morning, incidentally completely confusing the cat,  I find myself no further forward in telling the story than I was last week.
Incidentally it became clear that the working title A Different Coast was not going to work so those hours I normally spend lying awake thinking what will be written the next day have, instead, been spent trying to think of the right title.
It is the sequel to Her Parents’ Daughter so I was thinking the title has to reflect that somehow but all those that sprung to mind (A Father’s Revenge and Three Fathers’ Sons etcetera) were either unwieldy or already taken.
At the moment I’m thinking of it as Tit for Tat but can you have “Tit” in the title of a book? I then tried Tip for Tap apparently the original saying and may go with that for the time being anyway.
Hopefully (in all senses of the word) progress will be made before my report to you next week.

Hard going…

A different Coast 4Did I write a blog post recently with the title Books write themselves?
Who was I kidding?
Progress this past week continues to be slow. The ‘day job’ has been time consuming and other things have kept me away from the lap top. 4,000 odd words in the week is not enough as I had hoped to complete the first draft by Christmas.
There are three threads in the book. Two sets of characters are trying to find the truth behind the murder that took place in Yarmouth (the police and the wife of the chief suspect) and one set of characters (including the chief suspect) is trying to do the same on the ‘Different Coast’ (Dartmouth, Devon). When I am able to write for at least an hour every day I can keep up with who knows what and when but if I have to leave it for a couple of days I have to spend the time re-reading bits to make sure I’m not laying any hostages to fortune.
I also have to allow for the fact that few readers will be able to sit and read the whole book through in one sitting, so there have to be recaps for them – but not too many or those who do read quickly get fed up with the re-caps (like in TV programmes where there is a resumé every few minutes in case a viewer isn’t keeping up!)
With a bit of luck I will be able to get back to being a full time author in the coming week and will report better progress next week.

Progress – but slow

Cat with KeyboardProgress with A Different Coast has been slow this past week.
I have had to do some work (until someone spots that my books would really make very, very good television mini-series and/or films I have to keep up with the day job and that has been quite demanding since last Monday) but progress has been made. There are now over 30,000 words. The format is set as we dart backwards and forwards between two sets of protagonists  and get some back-stories (Berlin Wall, East Germany) and already the characters are making their own decisions. One chap, who appeared in Her Parents’ Daughter, has decided he wants a bigger part in the sequel and has elbowed his way in to dominating a whole chapter. Still it was the right decision and I’m glad it was made. His appearance solved a problem I was beginning to worry about.
Apart from the ‘day job’ slowing me down I’ve had help from The Lodger.
As a cat he can’t really help though he does try. I suspect it’s the warm flow of air from the laptop’s fan that he’s really interested in – that and the clicking of the keys.
With a bit of luck I’ll be able to concentrate a bit more for the rest of the week and will raise my average to more than the 1,600 words I’m doing a day at present.
I would really love to have the kind of life where I could start writing after breakfast and end when supper was on the table – or do you have to be a male writer to have that luxury?