I've just been reading Wendy Jones's blog on this site. For a best-seller, and also someone so positive about publicity, I found it disconcerting that she omitted to name herself as the blog's author - I had to scroll through the date column on the right to find it.
Otherwise, I was impressed, but at the same time, somewhat questioning. Does Wendy enjoy other people's publicity? Like most people, I find advertising generally irritating, and for that reason, I've installed an ad blocker on my computer, but... if we don't tell people about our work, and if it isn't mentioned in the media, how is anyone going to find it? I've recently been singing out about my two picture books which are finally on sale in my local Sainsbury's, albeit in the DVD section and at a ridiculously low price (but hey! I've got my advance and the royalties are trickling in).
Recently I've managed to re-publish as an e-book "KACHUNKA!" - my much-loved junior novel from the Nineties, published by Walker Books. The result isn't perfect, and I clearly have much to learn - I may well un-publish and edit (what a wonderfully flexible system e-publishing is). I naively assumed that Mrs Kachunka would live for ever, and was only informed of her decease when I was going to the Northern Children's Book Festival in Newcastle to publicise my Y/A novel, "FOR MARITSA WITH LOVE", and I wanted to take some "KACHUNKA!" s to sell. It was a shock.
But working my way through the text again, I was suddenly struck by the presence of recurring archetypes in my writing (any shrinks out there?) notably a down-to-earth, powerful old (or ageless) woman. In "MY MOTHER'S DAUGHTER", she has a form of dementia which makes her commune with angels - explicable because she's a simple, devout Welsh chapel-goer a bit like my mum was. My 'Mrs Kachunka' is a powerful female/cat alien wearing charity-shop clothes, and convincing the most unlikely people that they are 'everything' ( this book has always appealed to Buddhists, but my contact with Buddhism has been minimal). And the smelly ancient female 'clochard' on the Paris Metro in MARITSA - she's yet another one. Where do these characters come from? I look back at my own life, and can't really find them. Do you discover disconcerting archetypes in your own writing? Interestingly, in my two unpublished adult novels they're totally absent.
Now to bad, wicked, despicable women. I've been developing one in a junior novel I'm working on. She's a demon, several millenia old and very glam and glitzy - I think, at present, we rather like our villainesses to be sexy, although the stepmother in Sally Gardner's "I, CORIANDER" is far from that - she is simply ugly and evil, and one of the nastiest bad stepmothers I have ever encountered. This book, of which I'd never heard, was described somewhere as a classic of children's literature, so I thought I should read it, and it's well worth it. Sally's an illustrator, too, like Chris Riddell - it must be wonderful to be able to do the two things simultaneously.
Are novels a form of Virtual Reality? Yes, I think they are. Do writers suffer (or not suffer, but enjoy) a mild, but creative, form of Multiple Personality Disorder? Yes, I think we do. We give birth to characters, but then they often take over. I have a very close friend whose daughter suffers from schizophrenia, which, in her case, takes the form of loathesome voices inside her head. She is about to take part in a psychological experiment in which avatars will mimic these voices, and she will respond. The results should be very interesting, and at the very least maybe tell us more about ourselves and what it means to be human. Joan of Arc heard voices, and what she, a peasant girl, did in response has gone down in history.
And still on the subject of the human condition, if you're in Edinburgh right now, do try to make it to "SPILLIKIN" at the Pleasance (www.pipelinetheatrecompany.com). This unique production features a real, working robot, and it's a love story about a guy suffering from a terminal illness who programs a robot to take care of his wife in her old age. It's already attracted five star reviews, and it's both thought-provoking and unmissable. My daughter's company's latest production - go see.