The Life of a Book: Patrice Chaplin reflects . . .

To celebrate the launch of her new novel, Somewhere in the Picture, Patrice Chaplin reflects on the writing process and the strange, special lives that books have – both with and without their authors:

A book has its own life. The writer tells its story.

The writer even thinks he or she owns the story but where does it really come from?

The journey of the book begins with expectation, doubt, aspiration, adventure. It becomes “The Creation”. The pregnancy and finally the birth and then it’s over. Then it goes there out into the world and the writer is separated, as this new creation finds its feet like a child starting school.

And it is liked, applauded or rejected, copied, passed from hand to hand, recommended or otherwise. Some aspects of the book thrill the reader and changes lives. And the writer steps forward proud, trying for an attractive modesty. And tells the book’s story.

And then the book is returned to the shelves and waits to be picked up, and it’s out of fashion and the pages yellowing, the covers a little discoloured with damp, dying on some collector’s shelf or slung in a charity shop, or as a door stopper depending on its remaining strength.

And then a new generation produces an inquisitive reader who finds some long-forgotten review, or even the ragged item itself. And the pages are turned and the story rediscovered and its covers are changed.

The inquisitive reader loves it and its back in fashion, alive again, its writer long passed on.

It happens.

Wild Latitudes and Writing Inspiration by Barbara Else

Before I started to write Wild Latitudes my published adult fiction was five contemporary satirical novels mostly about male-female and family relationships. People were startled at the switch: the earlier work had won a lot of attention in my native New Zealand, why change at all? Truth is, I had always wanted to write an historical novel that ripped the prim veil off part of NZ history. I also wanted to use what I knew of 19th Century Literature and mix it in a fantastical pastiche where the sober exterior conceals a seethe of passion. Choosing the City of Dunedin was a no-brainer. It was established in the 1840s by staunch Scots Presbyterians. By 1860 the population of the city was still less than 2,000. Then in 1861 gold was discovered in the hills of the province. To use a cliché, all Hell broke loose and that’s certainly how those […]

Read More

My Journey In Print by Patrice Chaplin

My editor at Duckworth, Alice Thomas Ellis brought several of my books into the world. She was the midwife for many writers, including acclaimed Beryl Bainbridge who gathered in her house in Gloucester Terrace, Camden Town at that fruitful and in hindsight carefree hopeful time in the 70s and 80s when Duckworth was the nucleus, the crossroads for celebrated personalities and talented newcomers. I loved Anna and was privileged to have her editorial support. She was a respected writer with a weekly column “HomeLife” in The Spectator. I remember once she found fault with an article of mine for The London Magazine because it would be “taken the wrong way. You have to be clever. Impress them.” “Impress who?” “The critics darling.” This was one occasion I did not agree with her but she still upgraded a phrase and added a word I have long forgotten but undeniably it added […]

Read More

My Writing Process, My Inspiration by Maggie Freeman

I like writing in pencil on thin yellow card. Not with any old pencil – with soft Faber Castell pencils, usually between a 3B and a 6B. I love the earthy scent of the lead when I sharpen them, the smell of wood shavings that takes me back to my father’s carpentry when I was a child, to the wood-carving I learned to do when I was planning The Girl in the Great House and needed to know how Elaine would have felt when she was carving. The solidity of the chisels in her hand. I love the soft murmur the pencil makes on the card when I’m writing, the grey of the lead against the yellow, so much gentler than the black and white of print. I like working in quiet; no ticking clocks, no music. Nothing to distract me from the story growing in my head. Right now […]

Read More

Eva Hanagan: The Jane Austen of the 20th Century by Patrick Hanagan

Eva came from an established Highland family and was brought up in Inverness. However, to describe her as a Scottish writer is only part of the story as her writing is in the mainstream of literary English women writers. Hence the Auberon Waugh comment that “she was the Jane Austen of the 20th Century”. Her seven primary novels were very well received over the years of publication, with glowing reviews ranging from “a delicious piece of water colour gothic” to “one of those rare novels, small and perfect.” A number of factors were very influential in guiding her subject matters in the novels. First, her family background in Scotland where she was brought up in a cultured and well read family. This is reflected in the mannered middle class sensibilities of many of the protagonists in the novels. The world she was boroughs up in centred on the great depression of […]

Read More

When Does an Idea Become a Story? Author of The Death of Tarpons, Les Edgerton, tells all…

THE SMELL OF THE RAIN ON THE ROAD AT DAWN I’m borrowing this idea and term from the wonderful series of three books on screenwriting by Blake Snider, the Save the Cat series. I’m convinced this is at the heart of many unfinished novels and short stories. What does the term mean? It’s that germ of an idea for a story triggered by any number of stimuli. It can be a glimpse of something—the “smell of the rain on the road at dawn” for instance. Driving home from a night of partying, hung over, you turn onto a country blacktop and see a man hitchhiking in Army fatigues in the fine mist that’s falling. Aha! There’s a story about this guy, you think. You begin to imagine a character who’s passing through town—and you kind of visualize a story about him. If you’re David Morrell, you end up with a […]

Read More

All Good Things Must Come to an End – The Inspiration Behind The Heart Beneath Quartet by Carey Harrison

The Heart Beneath quartet began so long ago – 49 years ago, in fact – that although the characters and their stories have been in my mind for all this time, I only recall where they began, not why. I was in the Cornish town of Liskeard, which features in every volume of the quartet. I had no connection to the town; I spent the night in Webb’s Hotel, built in the 1840s; it intrigued me greatly, its majestic staircase contrasting painfully with the shabby decor and orange leatherette seats at the bar. I fell in love with the hotel, and subsequently with the town, which I visited repeatedly during the following decades. I never got to know a single inhabitant. I was dreaming up a parallel-universe Liskeard, which was how I’ve always understood the novelist’s practice. I find inspiration in a place rather than an idea, a real place which renders […]

Read More

My Inspiration for Dead End Close by Dominic Utton

How do writers get inspired to write their novels? It’s almost always the first question asked of them… and there is very rarely a simple answer. For some it might be a newspaper clipping, an overheard conversation, a photograph… anything that sets off a mental narrative, an intriguing storyline. For others, it’s a location or a character, a film or a piece of music; for still others simply something personal from their own experience or upbringing. So what inspired me to write Dead End Close? I’m tempted to say all of the above. Dead End Close is not a “normal” novel – and the inspiration for it didn’t come in a strictly “normal” way. There was no grand moment of revelation, or inspirational plot device… but rather a gradual unravelling of ideas, a slow accumulation of themes. And underpinning it all, the city in which the action is set. When […]

Read More