Home, Hearth and Murder: domestic drama

Back in 1816, Jane Austen (yes, I always try to bring her into anything if I can) commiserated with her nephew when he reported that he had lost two whole chapters of his own tentative novel. She hadn’t stolen them, she promised. “What should I do with your strong, manly, spirited Sketches, full of VarietyContinue reading “Home, Hearth and Murder: domestic drama”

Drawing a Likeness: describing characters

How much detail do you give in describing a character’s appearance? Do you convey with precision the shape of their nose, their eyes, their lips, their hair, the quality of their skin, the size of their waist, or do you leave it vague? I have read and enjoyed cinematic book in which every detail isContinue reading “Drawing a Likeness: describing characters”

Sealed with a Kiss: The End

I often have difficulty knowing how to start a book, even when I have the whole story clear in my mind. But it can be even more difficult knowing when to stop. Don’t spoil the impact of the natural ending by drifting on into slow sludge. Sorry, Shakespeare, but you should really have stopped whenContinue reading “Sealed with a Kiss: The End”

Believe It Or Not: paranormal fiction

When my father left the air force at the end of World War II with a bit of money in his pocket, he spent some of it on a complete set of the latest edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. I still have it, well worn, with some of the 24 spines barely legible any more.Continue reading “Believe It Or Not: paranormal fiction”

In Praise of Dots…

“He threw his manly arms around her, carried her to the bed and …” That was how scenes involving people, you know, DOING IT, used to end. Dot dot dot. Leaving school girls giggling and fantasising about what the dots actually implied. Then baldly honest liberation intervened, the dots disappeared and we readers were draggedContinue reading “In Praise of Dots…”

The House that Time Built

In case anyone hasn’t noticed, I like houses. I like to treat them as characters in my books, sometimes even the central character. Just as dogs are supposed to resemble their owners – or is it the other way round? – houses reflect the people that live in them. It’s something that has long beenContinue reading “The House that Time Built”

Back and Forth; prequels and sequels

I love reading book series. My shelves are filled with them, from Trollope’s Barchester Chronicles to Poldark via John le Carré’s Smiley books and Earthsea. There is something comforting about being able to follow one story as it winds on through the years, or one character who keeps marching on down different alleys. But thoughContinue reading “Back and Forth; prequels and sequels”

The Question Is…

I write novels which are more concerned with motivation and effect that with who, when and where, because, for me, characters provide the central element of a good story. Just to be conventional, I am willing to concede that a novel also needs a plot, to carry the reader from A to B, preferably byContinue reading “The Question Is…”

Apples and Other Memories

My novel, The Unravelling, begins with Karen Rothwell driving home from work on a miserable night. An apple drops from her bag and rolls into a gutter. That is enough to spark memories of a girl she hasn’t thought about for 35 years. I don’t think I have been blocking out any memories, all theseContinue reading “Apples and Other Memories”