Category Archives: Blog

Fairy Tales and Tarot Cards

I’m very excited. It’s been a while since I’ve written any proper magazine features, so to have my first one in eons as a cover story is fantastic. It’s in the May edition of Prediction and is about fairy tales and Tarot cards – two of my favourite topics and something I’ve been working with and studying for years. It was great to bring them both together for a feature, and Kat, Prediction’s designer has made it look beautiful.

The website is http://www.predictionmagazine.com/

Have a look!

And thanks lovely ladies at Prediction. You’re amazing.

The Two Elizabeths

18 April 2011

Ahead of me stretches three weeks of writing, broken up only by Easter and the Royal Wedding (funny, my invitation still hasn’t arrived). Even better, after nearly eighteen months of writer’s block, I finally have a novel fighting to get out of my mind and onto the page.

So, what do I do? Start the book? No, I write a blog, hang the washing out, pop to the supermarket for some butter, make a cup of coffee… Anything but actually sit down and begin.

What’s stopping me?

Fear.

Not the fear of the blank page. I love the blank page, the adventure it presents as you put down the first word and connect with your story. The thrill as the characters take shape and the tale unfolds, aware you are merely shaping these creations as they develop a life of their own, twisting and turning, growing and changing, taking you with them on the thorny path of their story.

No, this fear is more primal.

It’s the fear of the unknown.

Whenever I begin a new tale, ahead lies a strange, unpredictable and unchartered world. Once the first word is written, there is no return, only the irrevocable pull forward: one more word, one more word, one more word, until you reach the end. Whenever or wherever that might be.

This isn’t the firs time I’ve tried to write The Two Elizabeths. The story first came to me over six years ago. As a great part of the plot features Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots, there was a sizeable amount of research to do but even as I ferreted through books and browsed the internet, the story began to unfold before my eyes.

My then agent, however, gave me a piece of advice, which I took.

“Write it like The Da Vinci Code,” she said. “Short chapters, a cliff hanger at the end of each one. It’ll be easy to sell. I’ll get on to it.”

She didn’t. But then, she didn’t manage to sell anything despite endless positive feedback and interest, which is why she is no longer my agent.

Her advice, while commercially sound was entirely wrong, not only for the story, but for me too. While I admire what Dan Brown achieved with The Da Vinci Code, our writing styles could not be more different.

So, although I tried this approach, The Two Elizabeths juddered to a halt after about 10,000 words. Then it lay, disregarded, for several years. I still loved the story. I wanted to write it but fear of failing my idea again, stopped me.

For the next few years I viewed my characters from a distance, watching them dance and play, taunting me from their protective dome, high on a mountain top, completely inaccessible, while I skirted around the outside, watching and waiting, knowing that at some point I would find my way back in and this time it would be correct and I’d be able to capture their tale.

The door finally swung open in January this year. I had my way in. I knew what I had to do. I tweaked the plot, accumulated the extra research and today, I gather my courage around me like a cloak, or perhaps, more suitable for the time, a suit of armour, and re-introduce myself to Isabella Lacey, my protagonist. Together we will begin our journey back in time to Tudor England and the first part of our tale in The Jerusalem Trilogy.

Please come with us, I’ll be blogging about the book as I write it and when I have a substantial chunk I’ll upload it onto the site. In the meantime, if you’re interested, there is a short synopsis in the “Coming Soon” section.

And now, I take my first step…

28 March 2011

There is a statistic that claims people writing on the internet have lowered inhibitions equivalent to that of having had two drinks. Although it is often said journalists (like me) use statistics as a drunk uses a lamp post: for support rather than illumination, as I start writing this blog, it wouldn’t be a lie to say, this two-drink issue concerns me.

These days after my second drink I’m at the teetering-on-the-edge-of-the-startling-alter-ego-emerging stage. It’s not quite the telling-complete-strangers-I-love-them predicament or even the appalling end of evening, can-you-hold-my-hair moment (although it’s been a very long time since I’ve been there, thankfully, I usually fall asleep long before that event now) but I do get more chatty (usually talking nonsense, although it seems important at the time), so all I can say is, you have been warned.

My alter-ego is something I’m very fond of, she is the part of me who resides quietly in the background during every day life. Reading broadsheets, tabloids and any book she can get her hands on, wondering about the bigger questions, creating huge theories on the reasons why life on earth exists, on the human race, on why tie-die is always so disappointing as a fabric for clothing and, most importantly, creating plots for novels, film scripts, TV dramas and short stories. She also wonders why she must reside in the darkness when really she wants to release all her madness, energy and enthusiasm onto the world.

And to her, I say: “Look, until I manage to sell the books, I’ve got to continue to earn a living, and as a freelance journalist, if I went into offices and behaved in the way we both want to behave I’d never get any work again. So, stop whinging and think of a way to resolve the issue in The Two Elizabeths plot so when I’m free in a few days I can write the next chapter. Or think of something amazing to say in a letter to agents, managers and publishers for when we launch this site properly next week.”

Sometimes though, we collude (even without a drink) to startle people. Last week I was reviewing a car (for a well known car magazine, I wasn’t just standing in a car park giving my opinion) and when asked what I thought of it (trying to be positive even though the car was brown – BROWN?!) I replied: “I like the way you’ve disguised the doors at the back so the handles are hidden (pause as the interviewer wrote this down) but then I like hidden doors, whenever I stay somewhere new, like a hotel or B&B, I always push the back of the wardrobe to see if I can get into Narnia and I always look for secret doors in old houses…”

To be fair, he laughed, which was a positive response. Usually people just edge away…