I never think of myself as a British writer. Most people who read my blog and books are from other climes. But I’ve been invited to play ‘A Very British Blog Tour’, which was set up to celebrate authors in our small isles.
I was nominated by fellow Electric Author John A A Logan and he was tapped by Christine Miller. You can find my own list of Brits at the end.
There are rules, which I’ll keep in small print because John covered them already. Magnify by Ctrl++ if you feel inclined, otherwise let’s glide onwards.
We British have certain conventions, traditions and procedures that are expected. There is a dress code in the reading of this British blog and you are expected to comply with it. Gentlemen will wear suits, white shirts and dark ties (or kilts, sporrans, baggy T-shirts etc). (Tartan ties wherever possible). Ladies will wear dresses (one inch above the knee, no higher, no lower) and floral summer hats (or baggy troosers and bunnets). Jodhpurs and deerstalkers welcome if accompanied by a moustache as big as a poisonous caterpillar. A break for TEA and cucumber sandwiches (or Irn Bru and Girders) is expected at some stage and is permissible. The list at the bottom of the page is not a queue. We British hate queues and will accept them no longer. It is an invitation and you are expected to accept that invitation and support the home-grown product. Now then, let us proceed in an orderly fashion. As you know, we are all very boring and staid in Britain, aren’t we? Well, there’s a myth about the British and your starter for ten is - stuffy, class conscious, boring, staid! But is this still relevant in today’s world? Let’s find out from our wonderful writers what they feel about it.
Q. Where were you born and where do you live now?
I grew up in Alderley Edge in Cheshire. Nowadays it’s famous for rich footballers, but it’s also the setting of The Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Garner. Behind my house were woods full of mysterious caves and rock formations – the very landscape in Garner’s Arthurian tale.
From my bedroom I could see the giant radio telescope far away at Jodrell Bank (thanks for the pic, JA Holland on Flickr). Where all else on the horizon was a flat band of blue, Jodrell Bank was a great structure of steel, softened by the distance to a fine spiderweb. It moved all the time. Sometimes it was a bowl facing straight up into the air. Sometimes a half bicycle wheel. Sometimes it looked directly at our house, a giant white eye. I'd watch it through binoculars, trying to catch it move as it tracked a vast mystery beyond the clouds.
Another formative influence was 1970s Doctor Who. Not because of outer space or aliens: back then, Doctor Who explored what could be strange and disturbing in the everyday - gargoyles on a church, a science experiment or a seed brought from the Arctic.
Where do I live now? London. Still haven't found the TARDIS, though.
Q. Have you always lived and worked in Britain or are you based elsewhere?
On the page I've travelled extensively, especially in my ghosted novels. I've visited every continent, including their hostile wildernesses. I'm doing this again in my new WIP, currently titled The Mountains Novel.
But away from the desk, I don't get the urge to go abroad. Partly because it’s so expensive and also because I travel so much in my brain.
Q. Have you highlighted or showcased any particular part of Britain in your books? A town or city; a county, a monument, well-known place or event?
Definitely. My Memories of a Future Life begins in London, then travels to the West Country. Dave and I often drive there to visit friends, which is like going back in time. We avoid the motorway and take the A303, an ancient road that passes Roman remains and Stonehenge. Several hours later we're in villages with early closing day, family businesses and their own cultural traditions.
I drew on them to create Vellonoweth, the town my narrator moves to. Its ancient moors seal off radio signals, so the only programmes on airwaves are from a tiny local station in a wartime fort. The town is sleepy and humdrum, but beating at its door is the merciless sea. Waves throw rocks through windows. The hills hold the remains of an early nuclear power plant, sealed in concrete but still ticking away nuclear time. In such a place, my narrator has to confront an earlier, hidden part of herself.
Q. There is an illusion – or myth if you wish - about British people that I would like you to discuss. Many see the ‘Brits’ as ‘stiff upper lip’. Is that correct?
Pull yourself together.
Q. Do any of the characters in your books carry the ‘stiff upper lip’? Or are they all ‘British Bulldog’ and unique in their own way?
In My Memories of a Future Life, I have a character who is the very essence of both. Her name is Eleanor Lear, and she plays piano accompaniment in the music shop when the narrator teaches singing. Eleanor is an indomitable descendent of English eccentrics. One of them was a painter, whose garish works outraged the local church. Another was an explorer. He had to be rescued when he got stranded in the Arctic. He was found to be in excellent spirits, having boiled water every day so that he could shave.
Eleanor herself could lead a regiment. Soldierly in her deportment, gung-ho in her tastes, and unashamed that she has a palate like a boot sole (she sprinkles salt on pickled onions, makes Earl Grey tea with two bags instead of one). She plays the piano as though she's trying to reduce it to rubble.
Q. Tell us about one of your recent books?
As we're talking about MyMemories of a Future Life, I'll fill in the rest. I was inspired by stories about reincarnation, where people feel they're being haunted by experiences in a previous life. I thought, instead of going to the past, what if someone went to a future life? Who would do that? Why? What would they find?
The narrator is a classical musician, forced by injury to stop playing. She fears her life may be over. Then she gets in touch with this soulmate, possibly her future incarnation or a psychological figment. Will it tell her how she came through this crisis? And can his story help her discover how to live now?
Q. What are you currently working on?
Several projects. I'm editing the next book in my series for writers and will be called Nail Your Novel: Bring Characters To Life. That's coming out in May.
I'm also talking to a designer about a cover for my second novel, Life Form Three, which I'll be publishing in autumn. It's a fable in the tradition of Ray Bradbury and could qualify for its own very Brit post... but more of that another time.
If you're curious about either title, or just want something very English to read with a cup of tea, sign up for my newsletter...
Q. How do you spend your leisure time?
Running, which I find dull, but I make a rule that if I listen to music or podcasts I must be on my feet and moving. I also ride horses and I'm addicted to dance classes at Pineapple Studios in Covent Garden. I'm on the books of an extras casting agency, which brings me occasional paid adventures on film sets.
Q. Do you write for a local audience or a global audience?
Although my stories germinate in the environments I know, my characters and concerns are universal. I write for anyone who is curious about the puzzles of human life - how we love, lose, recover, forget, remember, haunt, and wonder.
|Where my blog visitors come from. We're all global now|
Q. Can you provide links to your work?
My books are Nail Your Novel: Why Writers Abandon Books And How You Can Draft, Fix and Finish With Confidence, available in print and on Kindle My novel, My Memories of a Future Life, is available on Kindle (US and UK) and also in print. You can also listen to or download a free audio of the first 4 chapters right here.
Q. Who's next?