Monday, 28 April 2014

SPIDERS (and books) by Enid Richemont

I've recently been sent the first cover image of my newest little book with Franklin Watts. ARABELLA'S WEB is the story of a spider trying to build a web in all kinds of unsuitable places, and who finally gets it right. The inspiration for this came, as always, from things observed - late September spiders in my garden starting their webs in places where they'd inevitably be destroyed, and then, suddenly, one morning, I was looking at bushes draped in silver - like frost or a Christmas tree - and there they all were (not much fun for passing flies, though). I'm not sure about the Hollywood eyelashes, but the composition's nice.

At present, I've been re-reading Jeanette Winterson's 'WHY BE HAPPY WHEN YOU COULD BE NORMAL?' As with all good writing, there's always more to discover, and what an amazing question posed by Jeanette's extraordinary and terrifying adoptive mother. On the surface, the question's almost a joke - of course we would opt for happiness, why not? - but it wouldn't have been once. Until relatively recently, gay people would have been ostracised and severely punished (it was a criminal offence for men). Queen Victoria may not have recognised lesbians, but gay men were criminalised in the early Twentieth Century.

And - to digress totally!  - would Jeanette Winterson have become a writer if she hadn't been exposed to the totalitarian Biblical views of Mrs Winterson, who read aloud the King James Bible daily? I think not. Words brand people. They're powerful. And what richness of language she was exposed to, despite the ghastly shortcomings and cruelty of Mrs Winterson.

Recently I was sent a brief for a new series aimed at boy readers. It needed adventures, swords, gore, mystery - quite a challenge, because it's not the way I usually write. By chance I picked up a book by Diana Wyn Jones - 'Castle in the Air' - an event per line (I exaggerate, but only a little), and perfect for this kind of brief. This kind of complex, event-filled plotting, comes close, in my mind, to mathematics - a subject I always found challenging. I've always written slowly, allowing plot to develop with my characters (and often run away with me). I wish I could write 'plot first', as some people can. I usually start with an idea and a vague notion of where it's going to take me.

To complete a very booky blog, I must mention  'My Innocent Absence'.
First published by Arcadia, these are the memoirs of Miriam Frank, whose early childhood was spent fleeing, with her mother, Kate, across Europe from the Nazis, and who ended up first in Mexico and then in New Zealand, where she studied to become a doctor. She, along with her husband, painter Rudolf Kortokraks, and their two children, became our next door neighbours a very long time ago, and since then, Miriam and I have forged a deep friendship. She was very new to writing and publishing when she started this memoir, and worked for many years to get her book published. This is the e-book version, currently available for 99p. She is a hugely talented writer, and this very well-reviewed book is fascinating. Do take a look.



4 comments:

Elizabeth Kay said...

I love spiders! When my younger daughter was a teenager, she was into invertebrates, and eventually did a PhD on dung beetle ecology. One weekend we did an identification course with the Field Studies Council, and once you look at spiders under a stereoscope, everything changes. They're no longer little unpredicatble scuttly things, but proper creatures that can be very beautiful. Some of them have iridescent hairs on their bodies that make them change colour like oil on water. And a few years ago I found a wasp spider in Nonsuch Park, and the photo I took was published by Bug Life (an execellent organisation) in their calendar.

Enid Richemont said...

Thanks, Elizabeth. You have almost - but not quite - converted me. Fascinating.
And, of course, there's also Arabella...

Susan Price said...

Liz - I realise that spiders are very beautiful and fascinating creatures - I can admire their shape. I still hate them! There is an argument that this strong dislike so many people feel for them is instinctive, akin to many birds' instinctive dislike of hawk shapes and snakes. Possibly this is nonsense.

Enid - while not agreeing at all with Mrs. Winterson, I think that title, 'Why be happy when you could be normal?' is a very loaded one.
Define 'happiness.'
Is your definition of 'happiness' the same as, say, Fred West's definition? Could he achieve his happiness at no cost to anyone else?
Are we all entitled to be 'happy', however we define it?
Define 'normal.' Define 'abnormal.' Is either of these states incompatible with 'happiness'?
We're supposed to respond with an automatic rejection of Mrs. Winterson's position and take up the opposite stance - but the question has no meaning and neither has any position you take up to it.
Discuss. In Anglo-Saxon.

Lydia Bennet said...

had some exciting encounters with spiders in Australia over Christmas... I don't like house spiders in the house and remove them with a spider hoover! I overcame arachnophobia to a great extent but they still give me back shudders especially if indoors with me! It's deffo instinctive, I'm happy to pick up insects, snails, snakes, lizards, most critters. Susan, I agree with you - in her case her mother's question has meanings for both terms,as a general question it lacks context.