Posts Tagged who am I?

Me, me … again: My career hat and my creative hat

Thank you Margaret Adams of The Adams Consultancy and Susie Nott-Bower of Strictly Writing, who have both hosted me as an interviewee this week!

With my careers hat on

Margaret is a careers consultant and has a blog that delves into the less commonly discussed aspects of writing – namely building a long-term career that will pay the bills. She interviewed me about my strategies for making a living as a writer, which you can find here. And you can find her latest post, Planning Your Bestseller, here.

Strictly Writing is the blog of eight writers, brought together by their enduring love of writing. They let me witter on here about my creative process for far longer than I should probably have been allowed.

With my creativity hat on

Thank you, Margaret and Susie et al, for hosting me!

Anyway, now it’s your turn. I’d love to know how writing fits into your life.

How much is writing a career for you? Are you writing for the pure creative love of it, maybe with the hope of publication someday? Have you already had fiction published? Do you make your living from words in other ways, such as journalism? Or do you have a job that is totally unconnected with the writing? 

 Tell me in the comments!

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Me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me

I have the great honour to have been given the Sunshine Award and the Fabulous Sugar Doll Blogger Award, both by Catherine Andrako of A Thousand Clapping Hands. Catherine, thank you! Catherine is an artist and a former dancer, creative to her last twirling atom, and I urge you to check out her site of ‘Art, Letters, Visual Delights and Strange Coincidences’.

Footnote: I also got a nomination from Roberta McDonnell of the divinely named Subliminal Spaces, so a heartfelt ‘thanks’ goes to her too.

 As with most awards, there must now be speeches and games. For the Sugar Doll I have to tell you 10 interesting things about myself.

I once volunteered for an experiment in ESP. I sat in a room and was told to close my eyes and think of nothing while someone in another room beamed thoughts at me. A researcher put wires on my head to record my brain patterns and see if any communication was taking place. To help me zone out he put a swirly mandala on the wall and played me white noise through headphones.

Honestly, I tried to think of nothing but it was just like an episode of The Avengers. Brainwashing, EEGs, far eastern symbols; and all in a leafy suburb of London.

With some difficulty, I locked in on the husky hiss in my headphones.

After a while I began to hear voices. Inside my head. Very faint, but definitely people talking.

Eureka, was this ESP? I heard the crackly whisper of a jingle, and then … was that Bon Jovi’s Living on a Prayer? It was Radio 1. Being picked up on the 30 metres of unshielded headphone cable from the white noise generator in the next room.

And so I went on for half an hour. Trying not to notice things that would obviously spoil the game, being sucked into busy diversions and then remembering I was meant to be relaxing. When my time was up, the researcher showed me my results unhappily. ‘This is what your brain waves should have looked like,’ he said, and pointed to some sleepy undulations along the bottom of a graph. ‘And this is you.’ He showed me a frantic jagged line like a seismograph about to freak.

‘You know your equipment is picking up Radio 1?’ I said.

‘No one else has heard it,’ he muttered, and I was out on my ear.

This probably tells you a few interesting-ish things about me.

1. I simply can’t ‘think of nothing’.

2. When I was a child I wanted to be in The Avengers, getting up to peculiar derring-do in leafy parts of London.

3. At college I was in a band. So I know that long cables can pick up the radio.

4. I love using things for an unintended purpose, which is why I remember things like #3.

5. I can never resist an adventure to add to the writing diary, which is why I answered the advert to take part in the ESP experiment.

6. I like living in London because it’s the best place in England to find these sort of adventures. Although I have tried not to ruin anyone else’s experiments.

7. My best adventure was the time I turned up for a dance class at Pineapple Studios and found a film crew holding auditions.

8. I’m not good at right and left. And I took up dance just four years ago. But I decided what the heck.

9. To my utter astonishment I was hired. For two weeks of night rehearsals in a deserted station, I was a professional dancer.

10. As with all properly given awards, there should now be a musical interlude. This is what my friends were all scrutinizing, trying to spot me. Honestly, I’m there somewhere.

Speeches done. Now there’s the serious business of the onward nominations. I’m going to pass both awards on together, as Catherine did. I have to nominate 12 recipients, which isn’t nearly enough as I want to thank all of you who comment, encourage and spur me on, and the even wider circle whose blogs I regularly enjoy – as evidenced by the list on the right. But here goes – and don’t forget to leave me a comment with a link to your 10 answers, if you have the energy to do them.

Cat Woods at Words from the Woods

Paul Greci’s Northwriter

Natalie Whipple’s Between Fact and Fiction

Suzy Hayze’s Tales of Extraordinary Ordinariness

John Simpson’s Running After My Hat

Darcy Pattison’s Fiction Notes

Janna Qualman’s Something She Wrote

KM Weiland’s Wordplay

Jon Paul’s Where Sky Meets Ground

Maribeth Graham’s Writing Like Crazy

Jane Kennedy Sutton Jane’s Ride

Catherine Ryan Howard’s Catherine, Caffeinated

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Tagged!! Now I’ve got to tell you the last thing I wrote, the first thing I wrote, and a lot of stuff in between

A good friend and fellow writer, Cat Woods, has just paid me the huge compliment of tagging me on her blog, Words From The Woods. In case you haven’t come across tagging before, it means I now have to answer a few questions about my writing… 

1)What’s the last thing you wrote? What’s the first thing you wrote that you still have?
I’m currently revising Life Form 3. I can’t tell you anything about it as it’s not fit for outside eyes yet, but I’m really excited about it and keep wanting to say its name. Return of the repressed, I guess.

The last thing I delivered to an outsider was The Unseen Hand, a ghosting project for 9-12s.

The first thing I wrote that I still have is a short story, Odin’s Ravens. It’s about a young woman, Polly, remembering when she was six and stayed with her eccentric uncle, a writer. On the day she arrives, uncle goes swimming in a secluded lake and someone – or something – steals his clothes. The ‘thing’ then turns up at the house and proceeds to sabotage the novel he’s working on and generally causes poltergeist mayhem. Polly befriends it, and is surprised to discover it arrived in the house at the same time as she did. Gradually Polly realises it’s connected with the past history of her family.

Actually, it doesn’t sound too bad, explained like that, but I’m sure that if I looked at it I’d see plenty of reasons to rewrite the whole thing.

2) Write poetry?
I dabbled in it when I was a kid, and in songwriting too, but found them too limiting. I tend to have ideas that take many thousands of words to explore. Even my short stories always came out long!

3) Angsty poetry?
When I was a teenager I wanted to be Kate Bush. So I wrote angsty lyrics with weirdness.  I wrote the music as well. I can still remember them, distressingly clearly.

4) Favorite genre of writing?
I adore stories about people having bizarre relationships that are full of profound resonance. For instance, Santa Evita by Tomas Eloy Martinez and The Four Wise Men by Michel Tournier. I suppose it’s literary fiction with a twist. It’s what I love to write too.

5) Most annoying character you’ve ever created?
Tiff, a rebellious teenage girl on an outward bound course. She had been stuck there by her parents and hated it, so she whinged about being cold and wet all the time and then went off by herself in a pothole so that the organisers would have to rescue her. When our heroes uncover a drugs factory in the hills, Tiff eats the evidence. She causes chaos the whole time and was great fun.   

6) Best plot you’ve ever created?
I wrote one about organ snatching in India. It featured a family in a desperately poor village. The mother tries to sell one of her kidneys to a rich businessman so that she can provide dowries for her three daughters. But she’s found to be too unhealthy. Her eldest daughter arranges in secret to go in her place but at the last minute gets scared and tries to back out. So the businessman kidnaps her.

The easiest plot I ever created was for Mirror Image, my first ghosted novel. I came up with the plot in 45 minutes and then sat down to watch an anthropology programme by Desmond Morris. Then I wrote the synopsis as quickly as possible, sent it to the publisher and they loved it. It was the easiest synopsis/planning stage I’ve ever had. Sometimes if you whack it down it comes out just right. (Most of the time it doesn’t, though…)

7) Coolest plot twist you’ve ever created?
I read about Carlos the Jackal and thought it’d be great to have an incredibly resourceful villain. When he eventually got trapped, I had him cut his own hand off. Years later Prison Break did something similar!

How often do you get writer’s block?
I don’t really get blocked. I get fidgety. Some days I can’t settle to work on my current project and it’s usually because my subconscious knows there’s a problem I haven’t yet faced. Once I break through, I snatch any excuse to run to the computer and do a bit more.

9) Write fan fiction?
Not any more. But when I was a kid I was deeply into Dr Who (Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker incarnations) and Sapphire & Steel, and tried writing many stories about strangeness. Most of them were too complicated to ever get published.   

10) Do you type or write by hand?
Type. My fingers do the thinking for me. Plus, my handwriting is truly dreadful, and when I make notes I frequently find I can’t read them. When I was at school we were compelled to use fountain pens, but I made such a mess that I got a special dispensation to use felt tips, which were usually regarded as slovenly.

11) Do you save everything you write?
Yes, I am a compulsive hoarder. I have often found that early versions of stories or chapters are very useful at later stages in a revise. I also make multiple back-ups.  

12) Do you ever go back to an idea after you’ve abandoned it?
I don’t abandon ideas. If they’ve run up against a dead end, it’s usually because they need another ingredient or a different slant. I usually find that something that didn’t work one way comes alive with different characters.

13) What’s your favorite thing you’ve ever written?
A story called Ever Rest, set in Tibet. Everyone who read it really loved it and said I should turn it into a novel. So that’s one of my WIPs.

14) What’s everyone else’s favorite story you’ve written?
Apart from Ever Rest, a lot of people liked Basnelli’s Skeleton, a story about a daft but sinister art phenomenon.

15) Ever written romance or angsty teen drama?
Mirror Image was an angsty teen horror romance, written under the pen name Maria Palmer. Originally my husband Dave was going to write it, but for various reasons I wrote it instead. I enjoyed it so much I did another for fun. I definitely have a taste for drama – I could never write one of those novels where nothing much happens. And I am a huge romantic – although I like to lace it with something rather offbeat.

16) What’s your favorite setting for your characters?
It’s always whatever I’m working on. At the moment it’s an area of the Surrey Hills, the setting of Life Form 3 (see, I said it again). But another setting I’m quite chuffed with is Vellonoweth, a sleepy village I invented in the West Country which is completely normal except for its decommissioned nuclear power station. And its spiritualists.

17) How many writing projects are you working on right now? A ghosting project I’m going to do a rewrite on; an adult novel I’m collecting ideas for; the next Nail Your Novel book.  And shall we mention that other thing again?

18) Have you ever won an award for your writing?
No, sadly. It’s one of the perils of being an invisible ghost. Although I do still have the English Essay cup I won at school. Hope they don’t read this as I should have given it back.

19) What are your five favorite words?
Oveleth (an old-style oven as big as Stonehenge), triessu (an elaborate dress worn for the saddest day of someone’s life), podos (toe marks in a second-hand shoe from the original owner), emardie (embittered by working with Emu).

These are the strange poetic offerings of word verification, which seem to cry out for meanings. I’m starting a hashtag list for them on Twitter – @dirtywhitecandy #wordverificationlexicon, so do come and play. My fifth word is helytola and I’d like to know the meaning. Can anyone help?

20) What character have you created that is most like yourself?
In some ways my characters are all like me, because to write them with truth I have to put myself in their shoes (feel those podos). Or they’re like people I know and have made outrageous suppositions about – but no harm done as they would never be recognisable. All my significant characters spark from something real – but then I embroider.

21) Where do you get your ideas for your characters?
Everywhere. Something someone says will itch in my brain and I’ll think, what if you said that to such-and-such a person? I quite often look at what people wear and wonder why they chose those things. Superficial but satisfying.

22) Do you ever write based on your dreams?
When I worked full time I used to write a dream report every morning, and Dave would read it before he started writing for the day. It was great discipline. I found them a few months ago and they were surprisingly creative, so I might do it again.

23) Do you favor happy endings?
I favour the right ending – the one that is the most satisfying resolution to the problem. In the genre novels I’ve ghosted a happy ending has often been necessary, but it has to be earned.  

24) Are you concerned with spelling and grammar as you write?
I am a detail nerd. I work part time as a magazine sub-editor, so I have an internal spelling and grammar checker running from the moment I open my eyes. It drives me nuts if I see illiterate posters and signs. I think people should be allowed to carry marker pens and correct them.

25) Does music help you write?
Definitely. I’m hugely sensitive to it, and putting music on is like mainlining a scene’s atmosphere. It can make all the difference to me getting into a story or not – and to the way I write it. It guides me to a better understanding of my characters’ mental state and what they want or fear. 

26) Quote something you’ve written. Whatever pops in your head.

‘Two divers are swimming through the underwater garden, planting eels in the rockery.’ The opening line of My Memories Of A Future Life, the adult novel I have on submission.

And finally I’m tagging three bloggers to continue the game: 

  1. One for the soul – Life At Willow Manor – I love her quirky, poetic world
  2. One for the intellect –  Brainy Writer – by a neuroscience researcher with her own unique take on writing
  3. One from a lady with many titles on our shelves and much wisdom to impart Help I Need A Publisher

Choosing only three was tough as there are so many creative people whose answers I would be fascinated to see, so I’ve tried to find ones who might not have played yet. 

Anyway, that’s quite enough from me from one post. Have you been tagged, either now or previously? Put the permalink in a comment below so I can see what you said and everyone can get to know each other a bit better!

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