Friday 25 November 2016

Why I don’t do Black Friday

You’re reading here from the woman who goes clothes shopping and then spends most of her time in a bookshop, often coming home with books instead of shoes. 

It used to be different though. When I was a high school teacher a monthly visit around the shops was a must. Yes, it was definitely “retail therapy”. I just don’t feel the need for that any more. 

I’ve just “retired” from the day job. What a lovely day job that was, where no one would quibble if I sat writing my novel in my office on the university campus. Marking was a bit like editing and as we writers probably all know, editing other people actually helps you with your own writing. I almost felt I was being paid a retainer. Sure there were some things that rankled and were tough: student in distress, heavy amounts of admin, the feeling at times that some people who had power over us didn’t understand the basic job – but that’s what the pay was for. The rest of the job I would do even if I didn’t get paid if I had the time once I’d worked enough at whatever to have basic needs met. 

So, now that I’m “retired” the way I spend my time hasn’t changed a lot though I am now my own boss. I’m spending about four hours a day writing and two to three hours a day promoting my own work or working on other people’s writing and marketing. And getting out of my box at least once a day. I don’t need to spend money on material goods other than on what I need. E.g. I really did have to buy some shoes the other day. The old ones had holes in them. Money is tighter of course but there are some concessions: slightly smaller charges for the over-60s, no need to keep so many work clothes, less money spent on commuting and in the canteen – and a few others. I feel no regret, however, because my basic needs are met and I don’t crave anything else. How I’m allowed to spend my time satisfies me.  

However, I also operate as small company with my various publishing activities and ought really to do something, I suppose. Yet we operate on a tight budget and always in such a way that we remain solvent and we can’t possibly go belly-up. That is a service we provide to our writers, so we can continue to publish those that deserve to be published and haven’t managed to break into the Murdoch-controlled empire.
Okay, then here’s my not-Black-Friday-offer: buy any of my books or anything form the Chapeltown, Bridge House, Renascienta, or Red Telephone imprints and I’ll donate £1.00 for each book to Crisis at Christmas. Just email me to let me know: gill at btinternet dot com.  Any time between NOW and 12.00 midnight Greenwich MT Monday 28 November. Note this is my personal offer and not from the imprints themselves.

And could you do a review as well please?  

Enjoy avoiding the madness!    

Friday 11 November 2016

The life of our characters, as told to me by Lady Windermere

I’d only just started out on my writing career when this important point about character came to me in flash. It was the dress rehearsal of Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime by Constance Cox and I was playing the part of Lady Windermere. It was a smallish part but nevertheless she is the mother of the female lead. In one scene she leaves the Savile household and goes home to take tea. I then found myself wondering about what she would do for the rest of the weekend and indeed until the time that she appeared again in the play.
It’s kind of obvious really. Every character has a back story and a forward story. We have to consider them to be real.


Knowing our characters really well

We need to know about them physically, intellectually, emotionally.  We need to know what their personalities are like and what their fears, hopes and motivations are in our particular story. I used to give my students questionnaires about their characters.
“Do we really need to answer all of these questions for a character who has a walk-on part in a short story?” they would say.  Yes and no. I rarely do make notes on every aspect of my character but I think about them a lot and I could answer any question you might throw at me about them. That amount of knowledge is important.
Ironically, when this was said to me in response to the 20 questions I’d given to my students about their characters, I was on an advanced editing course and had been asked to write six pages of A4 about each of the characters in my work in progress.

A little spooky

Once when I was thinking a lot about my characters and commuting between Basingstoke and Southampton I had the distinct impression that they were sitting in the back of my car and would be prepared to argue with each other and with me.

Back to Lady Windermere

The actor and the writer have a lot in common. They have to make their characters real and give them a voice. Yes, even those with a walk-on part.