Tag Archives: Writing

A Candle in the Darkness

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I realised recently that darkness and light play a massive part in all of my thinking. Whether it’s about creating an atmosphere in a novel or story, knowing which parts of the old prison I work in will freak visitors out most effectively and where a frightened child will feel safe, or about more philosophical, deeper feelings and the metaphors through which I understand the world, I see a lot of things in terms of darkness and light.

Image from Wikipedia

I wonder if this is really the most fundamental of all the ways in which we relate to our world? There is little more straightforward and predictable than night following day and the light coming again at dawn.  It is a part of the experience of every human culture, for all of time. So, many religions use darkness and light as a way of talking of the difference between evil and goodness, or sin and redemption, death and life. Shakespeare used the theme effectively in many of his works, Macbethsprings instantly to mind. We talk of the Dark Ages and the Enlightenment.

There are interesting paradoxes once you start to explore the concepts of darkness and light. The dark is frightening and dangerous…yet it is also a place in which we can hide, obscured and undiscovered. It is peaceful even while it can suffocate. It is a place of passion and restful sleep. But there is no clarity and all is guesswork. Meanwhile, the light can be too stark, leaving us exposed and vulnerable and blinking in bewilderment. We can see with clear vision, but that also enables us to see what is wrong and allows little comfort. And what of the twilight times, when the spirits walk and shapes blur and all is about transition, the eternal cycle of day and night? How do we feel as we slip from one state to another? Should we cling to the light and fight the darkness? Or accept its embrace?

Image from Wikipedia

I’ve been exploring Christianity just lately, going to church. My favourite Christian song of the moment is “Shine Jesus Shine.” It’s impossible, I find, whatever doubts I have, not to feel uplifted by the message of hope. And it’s all about light. Jesus, to a Christian, is light and hope, the way to fight the darkness. Most religions celebrate light and flame in some way, at some point in the year, often in the darkest depths of winter. Hanukah in Judaism, St Lucia’s Day in Sweden, candles and the Yule log in the Pagan and Christian European traditions of midwinter and Christmas, the Hindu festival Diwali…the list is endless. We even light candles on our birthday cakes.

Image from Wikipedia

Humans, it seems, need light every bit as much as flowers need it…we’re drawn to it more irrevocably than moths.

Sometimes though, it is hard to walk out into the light. Darkness, frightening though it is, obscures our faults, the things we are ashamed of. It allows us to be stealthy, watching the world without being seen. It can be a safe hiding place. Why leave it and be exposed? However much we long to bathe in light, it undoubtedly requires a greater honesty and acceptance of ourselves to do so. Being seen requires us to be brave and
steadfast in our belief in ourselves. But it is, undoubtedly—as scores of our traditions show us—also a basic human need.

My advice to anyone lingering in the dark is to remember that you’re a creature of light. The hope is there, however obscured.  You just need to find it and not be frightened of it. Light a candle or a gentle lamp in a dark room. Feel the golden glow spreading from its source and surrounding you, soothing you more than the darkness ever could. Let it show you for who you are and be proud. Let it be a halo around you. Be aware, for a while, of the darkness outside the halo. Examine it from your new perspective.  When you can bear that light and it becomes a fundamental part of you, you won’t want to slip back into the shadows, you’ll step into the brightest light without fear.

“As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.” Carl Jung

 “We are told to let our light shine, and if it does, we won’t need to tell anybody it does. Lighthouses don’t fire cannons to call attention to their shining—they just shine.” Dwight L. Moody.

 “As we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence actually liberates others.” Marianne Williamson.

Google “Quotes about light” and just see how many words have been spoken and written about it. Some of them very beautiful and thought provoking. Come out of the darkness. Shine. Today, I finally understand how that feels.

Image from Wikipedia

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Surprising myself…

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I’ve not posted for a while. I guess life has rather got in the way of reflections on life…I’ve also barely written a thing, depsite two  nagging streams of creative inspiration which I am convinced will lead to full novels at some point. I’ve just not had the chance.

But I have got a new job. A job I don’t mind telling everyone about, because it seems to compliment my writing, my academic interests…and is generally more reflective of who I am than any of my other recent employment. I’m now an Interpreter at the Galleries of Justice musuem (in the Shire Hall and County Gaol of Nottingham, the place I fictionalised as a setting for my first novel Truths).

The Galleries of Justice

I love my job. It’s very random. Just yesterday I sat down facing a severed head…walked past a sword propped in a doorway on the way to the staffroom…had a conversation with a witch who then went on to kill the Sheriff of Nottingham in a Victorian courtroom…dodged through the shadowy cells so as not to interupt the ghost hunters…oh and spent the day dressed as a stern Victorian. In the coming week I’ll be a reform school teacher and a drunken Georgian prisoner. I’ll also work, as myself, with groups of school children, helping them understand their experience of visiting such a historic building…

And I am constantly surprising myself. I first had a taste of the job when I was 18. At that time I was terrified of public speaking, but my desire to share my knowledge of history won out and I found I could talk to huge groups about what went on the gaol exercise yard. But I’m still not comfortable being the centre of attention, or with the sound of my own voice. So before every tour group reaches me, I have a moment of wondering “what on earth am I doing? This isn’t me! Why would anyone listen to what I have to say? I can’t even act!”

But then, anywhere from one to thirty pairs of eyes are on me and I open my mouth and…I surprise myself. I am stern. I am loud. I am authoratative. I share my knowledge. I crack jokes and get laughter in response. I gesture emphatically. I let myself become a character and don’t feel remotely reserved about it. And I am shocked every time. I wonder where Rebecca’s gone.

It’s an amazing learning experience. That surprise is very similar to how I feel when I remember I’m a writer. The revelation is “wow, I really can do this…and people are actually liking what I do…”

I hope to never lose that sense of wonder. Because I think it’s crucial to not taking life and it’s opportunities for granted. I think it’s essential to fulfilling the potential we’re all born with, to knowing just how much we can do. Just now and again you have to surprise yourself. And in order to do that, you have to push…you have to take risks…you have to try to do the things you don’t think you can. Because when you discover you can, it’s the most amazing feeling. You see the true miracle of how multi-faceted we all are, the skills and traits we all keep hidden because we’re not confident in them…and seeing that, you realise how much fun life can be if you stop being scared of it.

I’m not saying give everything a go. There are things you don’t want to try in life. I have no interest at all in adrenaline rushes and will never be a thrill seeker in that sense. But there are always those nagging thing. The things you want to try…the things you see others do and suspect you could do just as well…the things you’ve always wanted to do. If the opportunity arises…go for it. You have to. We’re here to live our lifes and keeping the things you want to do buried under a lack of confidence stops you living life to full…

So. Go for it. Let your light shine into the world. Tap into your creative side and trust your instincts. Surprise yourself by finding just what you can do. It’s the way I’m trying to live…one day at a time, learning about myself, one surprise at a time…I’m getting there…

Oh and my third novel now has a beautiful front cover! The Locket and the Flintlock will be released in May 2012 by Bold Strokes Books. That’s a thrill that never goes away…and the wonderful surprise of seeing my name on a book cover never really diminishes…

Please check out the Galleries of Justice on facebook and also add our very own Villainous Sheriff, to see photos and find out about special events!

The road less travelled…

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The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost

 
TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,  
And sorry I could not travel both  
And be one traveler, long I stood  
And looked down one as far as I could  
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

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Then took the other, as just as fair,  
And having perhaps the better claim,  
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;  
Though as for that the passing there  
Had worn them really about the same,

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And both that morning equally lay  
In leaves no step had trodden black.  
Oh, I kept the first for another day!  
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,  
I doubted if I should ever come back.

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I shall be telling this with a sigh  
Somewhere ages and ages hence:  
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—  
I took the one less traveled by,  
And that has made all the difference.

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Sometimes, there are moments when life seems to be giving you some kind of message. When more than one unrelated person   uses the same phrase or begins the same conversation. Intuition, instinct, fate, higher power, coincidence…who knows. But I think it’s important to listen. The phrase ‘the road less travelled’ has come up a lot recently, and reminded me of Robert Frost’s words, which I have loved for a long time. And I realised their relevance to me has never been greater than it is now.

I’ve not written a post on this blog for a while, though you can read some of my thoughts on vampires and lesbians over at the Girls Who Bite blog. This wonderful anthology of lesbian vampire erotica from Cleis Press, containing my subtly erotic ‘She Knows I Am Watching’ about a New World vampire in Oxford,  is released in a few days. An exciting reminder that, whatever else I’ve been doing, I am still a writer.

I haven’t blogged on here for a while because, I guess, I feel like I’m lingering at some kind of crossroads, and it’s not really the place for sitting down with my laptop and explaining my thoughts. There’s not just two roads diverging ahead of me. There’s several. There’s also the path stretching out behind me.

I’ve been gazing backwards quite a lot lately. Going through boxes of long-stored artefacts of my childhood and looking into the eyes of my six year old, ten year old and teenage self in photographs that look surprisingly dated. Those moments are a long way back down the path behind me, however well I remember them. I’m nearly thirty. Properly grown up and everything.

I'm the littlest witch with the green hair!

And yet, part of me has been lingering on that pathway. It’s not been a sunshiny, leafy road and there are points where I’ve tripped, fallen, and been chased by monsters. But somehow I’d wandered onto a path with no junctions, no offshoots. I just had to keep going and there didn’t seem to be anywhere to turn. And because I didn’t stray, it became familiar to me. Not safe, perhaps, but known. And by retracing my footsteps, I knew I could always get back to the little girl at the start of the journey.

Of course, eventually, I reached this crossroads. I’d been searching for it, and, as if by magic, suddenly here I was. And the roads ahead looked scary and unfamiliar. Looking backwards seemed to be the best way to keep hold of myself, as though part of me was always going to be on that road behind me. Surely I was defined by the path I’d already taken…

But, in looking back, I realised something. I’m here. I’m at the crossroads. I’m not still on that path. I can look back down it and remember what it was like, but I reached the crossroads, I made it to this point. And I can rest here a while, whole and complete, and contemplate a while. There is time to question. I’m not on my own here either. I have friends, people who care, people to help me. That’s a huge improvement on that lonely old path.

I’m looking at the roads ahead. The one which is well-worn is very obvious to me. But I don’t want to travel the same way as everyone else. It’s no fun, for a start. Plus, I don’t think I could. I’d feel lost, and finding my way by following the crowd is not something I’m comfortable with.

So I have to choose another road.  Looking along some of them, I can see where they might lead, but I’m not sure. There might be unexpected twists and more junctions. I have to decide, because I can’t take all of those roads. It’s a decision with a lot of responsibility, but I will be brave. I might even head out across the untamed land and make a path of my own. I have visions of wild flower meadows, shadowy woodlands, blue skies and dramatic storms; moments of peril and moments of breathtaking beauty. There will be hope, faith and love, just as there are dangers and doubts. I don’t know where the road leads. But I’ll be the one painting the signposts and deciding which way to turn next.

Because, I no longer believe you’re defined by the road you’ve already taken to get to where you are. I believe you’re defined by the road you choose into the future.

Wow, what a weekend!

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It’s taken me until Thursday to recover from the 2nd Annual Bold Strokes Books Author Event in Nottingham. I don’t think I realised quite how much I wanted it to be a success, just how important it was to me. Even when all the work that could be done had been done, there was still a certain tension. I suspected it would be wonderful, but I didn’t know for sure.

I shouldn’t have worried, of course. It was wonderful. Although it’s kind of a blur for me, I’ve heard enough feedback to know that people had a interesting and fun time.

Personally, I found it phenomenal that we’d brought together such an ecclectic bunch of people. Mostly women, and mostly gay, but not all. Mostly readers and budding writers, but not all. To see old friends and new chatting together, people from both sides of the Atlantic and from various UK and European destinations all getting on together. There are no words for how exciting that is. They appreciated the books, the readings, and my beautiful Nottingham. New friendships were made and old ones renewed. And knowing that it was, in part, because of me. Wow. There aren’t other words for it. I feel genuinely proud.

And how wonderful it is that words brought these people together. Creativity, inspiration and a love of fiction. This is why I write. I love words, I love imagination, I love escaping into a fictional world. I love to read. To have the ability to create those worlds, to give readers new words to respond to is an amazing thing. Facing a room full of those readers makes me only appreciate it more. And I’m aware of what a gift it is, how lucky I am. I felt humble and proud at the same time. So many discerning readers, mostly older and more widely read than me, and a whole bunch of talented writers…to be part of it was an honour, to know I was one of the reasons it was happening almost astonishing.

Reading from 'Ghosts of Winter'

I’m still vaguely bewildered when someone asks me to sign a book for them. I’m not sure I’ll ever get over that. I still have an inner terror that they’ll be disappointed and wish they’d not bought it. I signed a lot of copies of Ghosts of Winter. I’m just beginning to trust that people genuinely want to read it and aren’t just humouring me…And it means the world.

If you are a budding writer, this is for you: Write. Write with all of your heart and soul, as if you’re going to be published. Know, in the back of your mind that you might not be, but believe that you are. Write something you would be proud to see in the world. Don’t limit yourself by what you think the world wants to see. Write what you want to say, what is in your heart. And don’t listen to the people who tell you you’ll never make it. Because you just might. If you want to write, make it part of your journey. “We may run, walk, stumble, drive, or fly, but let us never lose sight of the reason for the journey or miss a chance to see a rainbow on the way.” (Gloria Gaither). As a writer, the chances are you will stumble a lot. There will be rejection, there might be criticism, envy, or people who tell you it can’t be done. But don’t lose sight of the rainbow or the fact that you CAN fly. This weekend was my rainbow. It was glorious and I am so grateful for it. But I wouldn’t have seen it if I’d not kept writing. Not been afraid to change direction when the first one wasn’t working. Not been afraid to send my words out into the world and see if someone would publish them. In what were very dark times for me, I reached for that rainbow and I wrote. On Saturday and Sunday, I really truly appreciated how vibrant those colours are.

Last year, this event marked my first event as a writer, and also, in many ways, my public coming out. It’s been quite a year since then, personally and as a writer…Without going into depth, it’s been a journey that’s brought me back to myself. To punctuate this phase of my journey with such amazing, special events is a real privilege. But it’s not a full stop, just a comma…there is more to come. Next year’s event will be more amazing. I have another book, The Locket and the Flintlock coming out in May 2012. And I’m still taking one step after another on my journey. I read somewhere recently that “Success is a journey not a destination…” (Ben Sweetland) and it’s true. The success of the wonderful BSB event was amazing. It reflected my own success as a published writer. But I’m going on…I won’t rest on the success and be content. If anything, it drives me forwards.

So I want to say thank you. To everyone who was involved in the BSB event. To my publisher, Bold Strokes Books, for letting my voice out into the world. To Victoria Oldham, for supreme and inspiring organisational skills. To every writer (and editor) on the panel (Gill McKnight, Lesley Davis, Justine Saracen, Stacia Seaman, Cari Hunter, I. Beacham, Jane Fletcher). To Waterstone’s for hosting a queer event in a mainstream bookstore. And especially to the readers, the ones who came, and the ones who couldn’t but wanted to. To everyone who has supported me personally. For every hug and every reminder to breathe. Thank you.

Onwards and upwards. Next year’s going to be amazing!

Discussing the publishing process...

No more limits…

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Today I spent four hours in Waterstone’s in Nottingham sitting behind–and occasionally meandering around–a table piled with copies of both of my published books, Truths and Ghosts of Winter. My first solo book signing. Or my first solo sitting-on-my-own-in-a-bookstore-hoping-I-at-least-sell-one-copy.

Truths

I set my target low. One copy. And I beat that target, several times over. No, I didn’t sell lots of books, and many of those I did were to people I already know. But I certainly sold more than would have ever been picked up from the shelves of Waterstone’s on an average Saturday. I also got to hang out with some great people, who came to keep me company, who I most likely wouldn’t know if I wasn’t a writer, including my fellow Bold Strokes author Lisa Girolami. And I got to sit and look at my books. MY books. All published and shiny in their beautiful covers, with my name on the front.

To begin with, it was intimidating. To be all on my own, with my books, in a store full of wonderful books of all kinds, and lots of literature-hungry customers. I couldn’t quite get past the idea that I was a fraud and that anyone who bought my books would be disappointed and wish they’d bought one of the thousands of other books in the store. I’ve always been in awe of Waterstone’s, of the brilliant volumes on the shelves and their myriad of compelling covers. So it was hard to make myself “part” of it. I felt like an intruder.

Ghosts of Winter

But then something happened. I wandered around and picked up some of those books. I revisited favourites, let titles catch my eye, examined the covers. I read the blurbs. So many intriguing stories. And my overall impression was one of a world without limits. Fiction really can go wherever it wants to. Within five minutes I’d found a book about the second coming of Christ in modern day New York, a depiction of a medieval queen, a Regency romance, and a book of vampire erotica. And that was such a small sample of what surrounded me.

Of course, I’m hardly saying anything new. Part of the point of fiction is that it is unlimited. The writer sets the rules of their own world and everything takes second place to the story. Those rules bend however a writer wants them to. However, writers can be limited. I was. My first novel, provisionally titled Butterfly will never be published. It’s not badly written and I very much like some of my characters.  But I wrote it with limits. I considered that my friends and family would read it. I considered that I didn’t really understand people that well and thus in dealing with the psychological mind-set of my characters, and didn’t want to present unrealistic thought patterns or motivations. I indulged in characterisation and description, but I never let my mind soar free. The result is something rather mundane and constrained.

The limits have relaxed a little. Becoming aware of my sexuality and finally grasping hold of my individuality led to Truths, written very quickly, in a time when I no longer worried what my relatives would think. Ghosts of Winter is unusual in some ways, but I was still frightened what people would think, so I made sure to stay “safe” with my second novel. There are really no controversial characters or ideas, nothing complicated to understand. Emotionally, it was a challenge to write, but it also fit nicely into the limits of what I thought I could achieve. There is nothing outspoken. Maybe nothing outstanding. That’s not a derogatory comment, but an acknowledgement of the fact that my novels are unlikely to provoke much comment or thought. I even worried a lot about the idea of including a short romance between gay men in a novel with a lesbian target market.

If I’m honest, I was scared to go further. Talk about religion, for better or worse? Include a character who does not have their wicked side in check, but is still appealing? Challenge expectations–of both the heterosexist world and the lesbian community? Many brilliant novels do none of these things. But the reason mine don’t, I realise, is that I didn’t feel capable. Who am I to delve into the mind of a villain? Who am I to present a confident, experienced, witty protagonist? Who am I to use psychological, philsophical or theological ideas as part of my plot?

Today I realised that I can do all of those things, and more, because I’m a writer. I DO have a talent for it. I can create worlds with my words. And in those worlds, I make the rules. I am the powerful one. The only limits are the ones I choose to impose. Any bookstore is a repository of worlds created by other writers. I’m as good as them. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. But I’m a writer just like any other. When I pick up one of their books and admire their bravery, at tackling a difficult or in-depth topic as part of their plot, or for taking on a twisty, complicated structure, I don’t need to be intimidated. I need to remember I’m a writer too, and I have no more limits than any of them. I can be intelligent, witty, wicked and fun…thoughtful, controversial, romantic, far-reaching. I can soar on the wings of imagination.

So, on with the writing. But I’m going to indulge that teenage rebellion I never allowed myself before. I’m going to open all the doors of my mind and see what’s lurking. I’m going to embrace my curiosity and the paths my intellect leads me down. I’ll even look in the dark places, the questioning places, and the fun places.

And I will trust my readers to come with me into that world. I’ll seduce and charm them with words until my rules are the ones that form the boundaries.

I finally believe that I can do it. I was perfectly legitimately placed in that bookstore today. Writing is the gift I was given and I am a writer.  That means I’m unlimited.

And, maybe, life will imitate art. 😀

By the way, I’m very much looking forward to the Bold Strokes Books 2nd Annual Author Event on 23rd and 24th of THIS MONTH!

Confusion and hope…

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Rainbow flag over Nottingham Castle

Hello World!

I’m still here. Haven’t blogged in a while. Not sure why that makes me feel like I have to reaffirm my existence…but still…here I am, in case you were worried.

It’s been a confusing few weeks. There’s been so many things I would have liked to write blog posts about. There’s been death and marriage…I’ve been a bridesmaid and read a poem at a funeral. I’ve spent a lot of time–by my standards–in church; contemplating, doubting, wondering, believing, crying, debating…I’ve also rediscovered my fascination with crystal healing. I’ve been up and down and in between. I’ve seen a rainbow flag flying from the flag pole at Nottingham Castle…I’ve come to identify with the Wicked Witch of the West…(as she appears in Wicked)

Elphaba, the "Wicked" Witch of the West

I want to talk about religion and spirituality. I want to talk about gay pride and my own pride at living in a country where a rainbow flag can fly high above the city. I want to talk about being gay and yet enjoying the very conventional and maybe even heterosexist event of  a Church of England wedding, complete with bridesmaid’s gown, flowers and sparkles in my hair…I want to talk about so much. But I can’t seem to dwell on one thing for long enough.

Oh and I’m a writer too, by the way. I’m reminding myself, here. When people ask what I do, I want to reply “sales assistant” more often than not. I’ve been asking myself why. I’m phenomenonly proud of being a writer. Ghosts of Winter is doing well, off in the world on its own, and I’ve recieved some lovely compliments about it. But somehow, right now, I feel disconnected from it. I can’t believe I wrote it.

And I’m trying to write short stories for some of the calls for submission I’ve seen recently. I really want to write them. I have ideas aplenty. But they don’t seem to want to emerge onto the page. Which has led me to think a lot about what writing is. There’s that famous quote about inspiration and perspiration. Thing is, I have both of those–I have the spark and I have the willingness to work. What’s missing is space in my brain. My imagination needs room to expand. But it’s being cramped…by real life considerations like work and death…but more than that, by life itself. While I’m contemplating religion and mortality and society and equality, it’s hard to think of stories. Stories themselves don’t even seem that important. What’s a romance compared to questions of faith and morality and the future? Imagination takes up a lot of space… and somehow I’ve been finding other ways of filling that space.

But then, like today, something always reminds me why it’s important to make the space my imagination needs. Two things reminded me of that today. The first is to do with my own personal castle, with big medieval, inpentetrable doors…which needs space in my head to expand and get taller…

Castle doors... (from nationaltrust.org.uk)

 

But I won’t dwell on that. The second is thanks to an e-mail I received from a reader (and a good friend–you know who you are, thank you!). Someone who was touched by Ghosts of Winter, who was inspired by the journey of the characters and the rennovation of Winter Manor…Someone who found a sense of hope in my words. Those words spring from my imagination. Imagination matters. Stories matter.

So I have to find clarity in the mess of confusion, throw out the clutter, and make room again. I want my imagination to grow…I want the flickering flame of hope to grow…until it burns bright enough for my friends, readers, even people I meet for mere moments, to feel that warmth.

What I hope is that all of this confusion, these meandering thoughts, these new avenues, have actually opened up the space in my head and painted the walls of that space in shades and colours I haven’t considered before. So when I find my clarity again–and I plan on meditating, relaxing, deep breathing and working on accepting myself until I do–my imagination is free to expand bigger, and with more colour, than ever before. And then, maybe, I’ll remember I’m a writer again.

Hope out of confusion and distress. Like a bright red poppy on a battlefield.

Poppies (from radiowaves.co.uk)

 

You can find Ghosts of Winter and more fabulous books at www.boldstrokesbooks.com. And remember to come along and meet some of us Bold Strokers at Waterstones in Nottingham on 23rd and 24th July.

Historical musings…

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I’ve been embroiled in the commercial side of my trade this last week or so…trying everything I can think of to get people interested in the Bold Strokes Books event in the UK in July. If you’re thinking of coming to event, you can now follow us on Twitter and add us on facebook. I’ve sent more e-mails than I’ve kept track of this week, with flyers attached. I really really want this to be a bigger event than last year. Not to raise my own profile, or to sell books…those things are nice, but not of primary importance. What I want is for aspiring writers to be inspired to keep writing…for queer readers to know there are more books out there written for them than they think…to bring a community together with a shared love of books and writing…

Do I sound idealistic? Good. It’s better than cynical. 😀

Oh I’ve been editing too. My new historical novel. But it’s got to the point that I’m just reading and making no changes…so time for a break from that too, methinks…

Anyway, I decided it’s time to think about something else. So a blog post called to me…I asked my facebook friends for questions they would like me to answer in a blog a few days ago. My fellow history lover Melissa McGuire asked me this: “What historical character would you most like to meet? What time period would you most like to explore in a novel?” Thanks Melissa! 😀 I’ll try to answer now. Although this could be an endless essay on one of my favourite topics if I let it run away with me!

What historical character would I most like to meet? It’s a hard one. To begin with, does it have to be someone well known? Historical figures usually are. Kings and Queens, heroes who made their name with some feat of daring or great invention, some clever battle plan or inspired work of literature…But if you’ve read my books, Truths or Ghosts of Winter you’ll know that I’m fascinated by the ordinary people and the untold stories…I’d love to have a chat with someone who watched the execution of Anne Boleyn in the crowd…with a factory worker during the industrial revolution… with a soldier on the field at Waterloo…with a maid in a Victorian household…

Truth is, I love history so much that virtually any historical figure, famous or not, would hold my interest. But, for the sake of an answer to this question, I can think of a few of the more famous names. In the world of literature, tempted though I am to say Shakespeare, or Jane Austen, it’s actually Lord Byron I want to meet. Would he live up to his “mad, bad and dangerous to know” reputation, given to him by Lady Caroline Lamb? Would he be as handsome as he was thought in his day? Just what did go on with all those women, and those handsome boys? I want to meet the man who gave the adjective “Byronic” to the world. I remember standing in the church where he is buried (in Hucknall, near Nottingham) and wishing I could conjure him into life.

Lord Byron

Outside of literature…well…The Duke of Wellington, just to see if he’s as obnoxiously intelligent as he seems to have been…Mary Wollstonecraft, mother of Mary Shelley and one of the earliest advocates for women’s rights…”Mad” King Ludwig of Bavaria, to see if he really was mad…

The list could go on and on. But I must just mention the one woman who has always intrigued me, from my earliest days of understanding history. Queen Elizabeth I.

Elizabeth I

 

Strong, powerful, in many ways tragic, the woman who defined an age, a golden age for this country. I would be terrified of the woman. But I would love to meet her too.

Okay, that was more than one figure. I hope you’ll forgive me… 😀

Now for the second part of the question…what time period would I most like to explore in a novel? This is just as hard! My favourite historical period is, without a doubt, from the French Revolution in 1789 to the end of the Regency in 1820. I love everything about the history, culture and literature of this period. Romanticism, the Napoleonic Wars, Jane Austen, the industrial revolution and the growth of the cities, the rise of the Gothic, the Enlightment…everything about the time fascinates me. I connect with it in ways I don’t entirely understand. The historical part of Truths and the historical novel I’m working on now are both set in this time period.

However, I’m not limited to one period! When I first thought of writing historical novels, it was the Tudor period I wanted to explore. All the power and poltics, life on a knife edge, a time of great discovery, hugely significant kings and queens…And at the moment, I am planning a late-Victorian novel, with all the decadence, anxiety, aesthicism and Gothic sensibilities of the fin de siecle period.

And yet, if I had to choose one period of history to explore…I would say the 1920s. That few short years between the two world wars, when Britain was already changed beyond recognition by the tragedy of World War One, but optimistic, full of the spirit of modernity, a drive to avoid the mistakes of the generations before…It seems such an exciting time. But all so futile. One shiny, glistening decade before the Wall Street Crash and the Depression…before the devastation of World War Two which followed…To explore that, to capture the spirit of that time in words, is something that is very much one of my writing ambitions.

1920s

I hope that answered your question Melissa! 😉

Now, I am going back to my editing. Otherwise known as banging my head against a wall constructed out of my own words…

Oh and Ghosts of Winter is out NOW!!! 😀