Tag Archives: books

Fermez les yeux and brace for impact

I’m so excited today I can hardly string a sentence together. And that would be ok, because what I’d really like to do is to cut the prose and list, shamelessly, the places you can see my book online.

That’s MY BOOK.

My. Book.

Oh, but you’d be interested to take a look? So kind of you to say so! I don’t want to bore you. And I won’t be offended if you don’t click on any of the links. Though the cover art really is quite fab. Intriguing, even. Just the right sort of thing for a thriller.

Well go on then, you’ve twisted my arm…

Fermez les yeux 

Just - aggghhhhh!

Just – aggghhhhh!

Didn’t I say it was in French? Ah well, they have excellent taste, the French – everyone knows that. The Germans too – there may be a post on that subject coming up in, say, July or so.

So… here it is, at long last. I have the artwork and a publication date – 10 February – and in the next day or so I expect to get my hands on the book itself. That’s a real live, honest-to-goodness book, with an actual cover, and a spine, and pages with words on them. My words.

Not that I’ll actually be able to understand many of them, it being in French and all. I only have a GCSE and my characters don’t spend all their time telling each other what their name is, and that they live in London, and asking if they could they have a white coffee and a ham sandwich, and what’s the best way to the post office.

But still. They’re my words en français. At least I hope they are.

I’ll be honest: alongside the excitement, there’s more than a hint of trepidation. One part of me understands that this is a first book being published in translation. That it’ll be a pebble dropped into the ocean of new books. That it’ll be a struggle to get anyone to read it at all.

I know all of that, and it doesn’t matter: I’m still ridiculously happy to think that my characters will be let out to make their way in the world. At the same time, I feel the first faint stirrings of obsession and paranoia.

They’re feelings that aren’t entirely unfamiliar.

Because there were times when I hated this book. When I was so sick of rewrites I felt I knew every single word off by heart. That I felt like I never wanted to look at it again. It brought me some of the greatest highs of my life (getting an agent; hearing that the big five were taking it to acquisition stage) and some of the biggest disappointments (none of the buggers were offering).

After a while, the disappointment faded. I appreciated what I had – a brilliant agent who was passionate about my book and who’d given it as good a chance as it could ever have got; a deal for the French rights with an established publisher; the idea for the next book and a glimmer of an idea for the one after that. I might not have had Euromilions-winning levels of good luck, but it was definitely five-lotto-numbers-and-the-bonus-ball territory.

All my passion for Waking Sara – for that’s what it was called back then – both love and hate, subsided into a gentle affection. I looked back on the days of the rewrites with a head-shaking fondness. I regained a sense of perspective.

Until now.

The release date is 10 February (just in case you didn’t get it the first time). That’s a whole 24 days away. And yet – someone has already given it three out of five!

I mean, I suppose it could be worse. I think I’d rather have a boringly middling mark than out and out disdain.

I think.

But couldn’t my unimpressed reviewer even had added a few words of explanation?! I mean, that book was the result of three years of my life! But no, he/she (or possibly even the default setting on a computer programme somewhere – I live in hope) has just given me my mark and got on with their life as if it doesn’t matter. Hmph, I say. Hmph.

And then there are the discounts. Not that I mind them in themselves – €15.90 is a lot of money for a paperback novel – but it’s the indecent haste of it! My poor little book isn’t even out and it’s having 5% lopped off its price without so much as a by-your-leave. It’s as if it’s already on the way to the bargain baskets! (Mind you, though, it is a bargain. So if you want to brush up on your French…)

And then the final indignity. Amazon, whom I once bravely defended on this very site, have got my name wrong. How they’ve managed this, I’ve no idea, but I can say with absolute certainty that I have never, ever been called Clarence. Not even in a French accent.

Anyway, if you or anyone you know speaks French/would like to speak French/ knows someone called Clarence, there’s a book out next month you’d absolutely love.

Let’s Talk About Sex

Writing a sex scene is a tricky business.  Having someone you know read it is even trickier.

There’s only one sex scene in my book. I knew from the beginning that it would feature. It is, as the director said to the actress, “integral to the plot”. It was also a full-on nightmare to write, taking me the best part of two days for a relatively short – er – passage.

There were two reasons for this.

First was the language used for body parts.  There’s no getting round talking about those unless you’re going for some soft-focus, romantic, camera-panning-away-at-crucial-moment scene.  I wasn’t. So what do you call people’s bits?

Let’s take the bottom (and no, I don’t mean it like that). “Bum” is funny.  “Rear” is something horses do.  “Rump” just sounds like a joint of beef. It’s okay for the Americans, who bandy about “ass” with aplomb, but a Brit can’t use “ass” without sounding like, well, an arse. And “arse”, in turn, is so British that it immediately conjures up scenes from seventies soft porn films with names like “Confessions of a Used Car Salesman in Rotherham”.

I'm sorry, Geoffrey, it just feels as though there's something missing...

I’m sorry, Geoffrey, it just feels like there’s something missing…

And that’s before you get on to the really rude bits.

You know, just know, that choosing the wrong word is going to immediately shatter any erotic tension you’ve managed to build up. It’s the literary equivalent of comedy underwear. It’s like getting hot and heavy with your lover when the iPod changes tracks and you’re suddenly listening to My Ol’ Man’s a Dustman.  (To be clear, there’s no Chas ‘n’ Dave on my iPod. I’m not saying anything about the Husband.)

The other problem was that my sex scene comes, as it were, towards the end of my book. By the time I started to write it, various kind friends and colleagues had agreed to read through the first draft and tell me what they thought. The idea of them – actual living, breathing people I knew – reading my attempt at erotica was almost terminally embarrassing.  What if they thought it was vile /perverted /laughable /just plain rubbish? Imagining people I’d worked with, professional people with whom I’d sat in meetings discussing local government finance, reading The Scene was almost enough to make me abandon the whole idea.

In the end, I did actually cross a couple of people off my readers list.  Ridiculous, I know, when I want to be a published author, but there it is. I warned the others and gave them a get-out – i.e. if the thought of reading something I’ve written that’s a bit rude turns your stomach, feel free to say “no” and I promise not to be offended.  No-one took it, bless their hearts, but I still can’t help imagining them finishing those paragraphs, putting down the manuscript and taking a deep breath to keep down their dinner (“I know she said there was a sex scene but, really, I wasn’t expecting that!“).

Ultimately, of course, I just had to get on with it: write the words and hand ’em over.

Now I’m waiting for the feedback. Wish me luck.

Time After Lyme

Andrew Davies changed my life.

I speak, of course, of the Andrew Davies who wrote the screenplay for the BBC’s wildly successful 1995 miniseries of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.  P&P, as it’s known in our house, is my very, very favourite book.  (Yes, I know, me and fifty million other women.  So sue me.)  If I’m feeling ill or low or just in need of an excellent read, out it comes.  There are times – thankfully rare – when I’ve felt too rough even to read. Thanks to Andrew Davies, for almost twenty years now I’ve had an alternative – first the video, now the DVD.

Darcy at Lyme

“Mr Darcy! We had not expected to see you…”

That shiny little disc has been my friend through hangovers, bouts of food poisoning and quiet nights in with a bar of chocolate and a bottle of wine for company. Yesterday, I had a rare treat – I visited Lyme Park, the location for the exterior shots of Pemberley, Mr Darcy’s stately pile.  There, they’re celebrating the 200th anniversary of P&P’s publication with – wait for it – a twelve foot fibreglass model of Colin (I like to think we’re on first-name terms) as Mr Darcy, emerging from the lake, all clingy, transparent white shirt and dubious sideburns.

You can’t argue with something that’s done with so much affection – if you could, I might take issue with the size, the quality and indeed the taste of what, for want of a better word, I’ll call the installation – but that would be ill-natured, so I won’t. I will say, though, that out of sight of the fibreglass Colin, seeing Lyme Park across the lake did make me catch my breath and say, with Elizabeth, “I don’t think I ever saw a place more happily situated.”

Oddly – or perhaps not, given its temporary tenant – it wasn’t the lake that gave me my greatest Darcy Flutter. It was instead the inner courtyard, to be specific, the steps down which Darcy runs, hair still wet and tugging at his hastily-donned jacket, as he rushes to find Elizabeth before she leaves Pemberley after their embarrassing meeting at the lake.  Seeing it, I found myself imagining again his feelings as he seeks her out, desperate to find some way to show her he has changed for the better, unsure of himself for perhaps the first time in his life, unsure of anything except that – despite his vows to forget her – this woman is everything to him.

How could any woman not fall in love with Mr Darcy? And somehow, with Andrew Davies’s screenplay and a cast of talented actors, a new and different dimension was brought to that wonderful story.  Whenever I read Jane Austen’s words, Colin Firth will be my Mr Darcy (I won’t mention who’s cast as Elizabeth – you might have guessed it’s not Jennifer Ehle).  And Lyme Park will be my Pemberley.