Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Magnolia madness

Spring is here and I am looking out at my magnolia tree in full flower outside my study window. If that scrawny old tree can produce such magnificence, then hey, so can I! Where's my pen?

Spring is my favourite time of year. Not only does the garden look glorious but also, after the lazy, sluggish, dead days of winter, the blood starts to flow faster. The heart beats stronger. Each year I find this is my most prolific period of writing.

The new book is well under way - I can't tell you too much about it yet, but suffice to say it is one final outing into Russia. This time under Tsar Nicholas II. So it's all grand balls and fancy dresses, a radical change from the miseries of the Stalinist regime.

This will probably be my last book to take place in Russia because I'm already planning to move on to pastures new with the following book. But notice that I said 'probably'. Never say 'never again'!

The wrist is well on the mend, though still on a strict physio schedule, and the new bicycle that caused all the problems is up for sale. Good riddance!

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Out and About

Last week I was out and about - wrist in a splint - meeting and greeting my readers in Kent and in London. In Sevenoaks Library I had the huge pleasure of sharing the platform with a fellow Sphere author, Nina Bell.

We discussed and compared our inspiration for starting a book and how we go about our research, avoiding pitfalls and blatant errors. Nina has set her book, The Inheritance, in the horsey world of eventing, so her experience of research is very different from mine. It was both amusing and enlightening. We had a great evening with a keen crowd of readers.
For the signings at the end I had to strip off my splint and apologise for the wobbliness of my signature.

The next evening in Westminster Arts Research Library Nina and I were joined by the historian Mackenzie Ford, whose first novel The Kissing Gates is set during World War I. He sat between us, bringing an impressive gravitas to the occasion, and together we answered questions from our audience and from the enthusiastic Dr Sasha who was in the chair.

What struck me forcibly was that however much we differ as individuals, how similar are our work routines and techniques in the way we get ourselves to the end of a book. It's obvious really. Basic self-discipline and gritted teeth. A publisher cracking a whip encouragingly in the background also helps!

I always tell would-be writers that it's not starting a book that counts, it's finishing it. The world is littered with first chapters hiding at the back of drawers, gathering dust. Set yourself achievable goals along the way - and go for it. The most satisfying words in the English language are The End.