Saturday, 29 December 2012

Victims and survivors

This was taken on the Isles of Scilly on a sunny April day - yes we did have some sun last year!

Last Christmas was one of the best I’ve had for a long while, whereas this year it was really hard. I was looking forward to it, but on Christmas Eve morning a load of gremlins crept into my pillow and took up residence and as a result I had a very soggy time. (I was talking to a friend later and said, “don’t you find crying makes you terribly hungry?” She laughed. “Sue. Everything makes you hungry.” She has a point.)

Anyway, I’d just about struggled through the Festive Season, tearing down my Christmas cards in a fit of weeping rage, swearing that next year I will go away and not have anything to do with it, when Boxing Day came along and I breathed a sigh of relief.

Then on Friday 28th I had a very cheering phone call from a dear friend, and came back home feeling happy for the first time in a while. Turned on the computer and saw an email from the agent who was so keen on my novel. I almost didn’t have the nerve to read it, but of course I had to. And it’s a No.

While I had sort of been expecting this – or preparing myself for this – the reality is hard to deal with. It’s like dealing with an abusive lover who kicks you in the stomach, gives you a black eye, then turns round and says, “Sorry, darling.” So you try harder next time. And still they beat you up. You weep, rocking and clutching the pain and wondering what it is about you (or the novel in this case) that isn’t right. And still you keep going back. (I would add that this has never happened to me, in case you’re worrying, but it has to one of my best friends.)

I’ve had some lovely messages of support: Nik said that every time I get closer and closer and there must be the right agent out there. It’s just a matter of finding them, which I will. Deb said, “I couldn’t do it, Sue. I don’t have your perseverance, your tenacity,” as I wept down the phone displaying neither of these characteristics. And Christy said, “this happened to me, Sue. But I’ve read your writing. It isn’t you. Hang on in there,” which made me burst into tears again.

I’ve read several books recently, but none of them are ones that I’ve really thought, “wow!”. So I think this must be what it’s like to be an agent. You can read a book and think, well, there’s nothing wrong with it. I just haven’t fallen in love with it. So I need to find the right agent who will.

Life tends to kick you in the teeth when you least expect it, or are able to deal with it. But listening to a programme about victims and survivors this morning on Radio 4 made me think, I refuse to be a victim. I’ll weep and wail, have a few drinks and start over again. I won’t give in.

So I leave 2012 on a downer. But it means I can start 2013 afresh. I shall be boating again shortly (hooray), I’ve got some lovely things to look forward to - a sailing trip on a Tall Ship being one – and will send my novel out again to another agent. Someone, somewhere, must fall in love with us.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Book signing and Next Big Thing

I have to pass this theme on – but first of all many thanks to my lovely mates who turned up for my book signing and came for lunch afterwards. For those that say the age of the book is over – it’s not! The tills in Waterstones rang continuously for the 2 hours that I was there – though admittedly this must be their busiest time of year.

Here’s hoping that my next book signing (she says, being optimistic) is the novel.
As it's the winter solstice on Friday, here's one taken at Lanyon Quoit over a year ago - sun going down.

Now, having been kindly nominated by Debbie White for The Next Big Thing. I have to answer these questions:-

What is the working title of your book?
FOUR LEFT FEET – and you have to read the book to discover why!

Where did the idea come from for the book?
It came from several things:- going to a friend’s funeral and noticing a well dressed man sitting beside me, at the back, weeping all the way through. He obviously loved the deceased very much, but why wasn’t he at the front, with the family, and why did he rush off straight afterwards, without talking to anyone? Later on, Pip said, looking at the children, “I wonder who Matt’s father is?” and that got me thinking….

I also wrote it because my husband had just been diagnosed with cancer and I was wondering how the hell I would cope if anything happened to him.

What genre does your book fall under? Commercial women’s fiction.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Alan Rickman would play Leo, Cate Blanchett would be Gaby and Maggie (can’t remember surname) would play Tiff.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Leo returns to Cornwall to try to come to terms with losing Gaby, the love of his life; in doing so he finally comes to terms with the past and has a second chance at love.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
About 3 or 4 months. But the edits took a lot longer, and I’m sure that if anyone does take it on, there will be many more edits needed.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Me Before You (Jo Jo Moyes); Never Change (E Berg); Thursday Afternoons in the Park

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
A stranger at a funeral (see above), and the strong belief that we all have more than one chance at love.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Since I wrote this, many of the events in the book have come true. Even down to the dialogue, on occasions!

When and how will it be published?
That is in the lap of the gods – or rather, the agent who is reading it at the moment.

Now I am supposed to pass this on to 5 other writers who could well be the Next Big Thing.

Debs Car Debs has just got an amazing agent for her novel so she is well on her way...
Chris Stovell Chris's second novel Move Over Darling has just been published by Choc Lit - she's already Got There and I loved this novel as much as her first, Turning the Tide.
Emma Timpany (but she has no blog)- a fabulous New Zealand writer who has won several awards for her short stories and aiming for an agent for her novels
Nancy Kinnison - no blog but another very talented writer
Susie Nott Bower - for her fabulous first novel, The Making Of Her which I couldn't put down.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Website, book signing and travel

Waves at Treyarnon Bay, taken a few weekends ago.

First of all, courtesy of dear Neil, my website is now live– Any comments, or if you’d like me to add your link to mine, please let me know.
Also, I’m doing a book signing at Waterstone’s in Truro this Sunday, 16th November from 11-12.30. So if you’re doing some Christmas shopping, please call in and say hello and/or buy a copy or two. I was going to take along a biro but, “A biro?” cried Mr B. “You have to have a proper nib pen to write your signature.” So that told me. Not that even I can read my signature…

Secondly, I've been asked if I’d like to go to Cuba. Cuba? I’ve been longing to go there for years. Though a) neither of us was entirely sober; b) while we’ve been friends for years, I don’t know Nick that well and c) I need to get Moll sorted before I commit myself. Even so – CUBA!!!!! Nick said, “you’d love it,” (as if I need persuading) – so watch this space.

But back to earth. I’ve been mulling over ideas for my next novel. Before you ask, no I haven’t heard anything from the agent who’s currently reading it so am trying not to think about it. Bubbles of excitement, mixed with an icy terror swirl uneasily in my stomach. I’m guessing it’s a No, so preparing myself for that, and working out who I’ll send it to next.

But I digress. I was talking to a friend about one of my characters who leaves his partner to go off sailing. “Surely he wouldn’t do that,” she said. “I’d love to go to Thailand but I won’t because my partner doesn’t want to go.”

“I didn’t go to lots of places because Pip didn’t want to go. Why not go on your own, or with someone else?” I said.

“No, I couldn’t,” she said, looking wistful.

I know we’re all different, but there was a time when Pip was keen to go on another long sailing trip, whereas I wasn’t. “Go,” I said to him, though the thought of him disappearing for 3 or 4 months filled me with a sick dread, and I knew I would lie awake at night imagining the worst. “I’d hate to think I stopped you from doing something you really want to do.”

In the end he couldn’t afford to go and I was highly relieved. But I would never have stopped him. He always said to me, “we’re only here once, Pop. We’ve got to make the most of it.” Looking back, I really wish he had gone, for it would have made such a difference to what turned out to be his last years.

Pip certainly made the most of his life, so I try and do the same now. But I will also make sure the character in my novel does. I would hate to get to my dotage and think, Oh I wish I’d been brave enough to do this, or get together with so and so, or travel to wherever.

We never know how much time we have here – so if there’s something you really want to do, someone you want to be with, or somewhere you want to go - try and do it. Before it’s too late.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Winter boating

Sun going down, from the water.

When I mentioned I’d been boating a few weeks ago, a few friends looked at me as if I was mad. (No, don’t answer that one.)

Well wrapped up (and for someone who feels the cold, I have to), it’s a very different experience from boating in summer. The sense of peace and space, of tranquillity and nature is more pronounced. Coming back at dusk, I had the strangest feeling: the engine chugged along but only by looking at the riverbank could I see that we were moving at all. It felt as if we were suspended in time and motion.

When the light leaks from the sky, dusk has a supernatural feel to it, as if anything could happen. Hobgoblins could whisk us away, space ships could land on deck – or we could sail off into the deep blackness of a long night.

One day, we passed an old tree that had been struck by lightning: its bare branches stuck up in the gathering gloom like arthritic fingers. It’s become a heronry, and occasionally you see the big birds huddled in the tree like vultures. Otherwise, I’ve only ever seen herons alone, standing in silent contemplation, or watched them flap lead-heavy wings, limping into the sky. I’d always thought of herons as being serious birds, but that afternoon, looking up, we saw four herons wheeling and cavorting in the sky; stark silhouettes against the stealthy dusk. A joyous image that will stay with me forever.

Being on a boat at dusk – or dimpsy as the Cornish call it – teaches you to look at the sky differently. One night we saw orange in the sky that burnt to a boiling, fiery red. In between Everest clouds, the sky shone through, pale blue, then a delicate pink, a pearly purple. As we looked back, the reflection in the water behind us was orange, underlaid with mother of pearl. And just before the sun disappeared, the sky was shot with a scorched rainbow of colours, as if the horizon was on fire.

There’s a tranquillity about boating in winter; of being the only ones on the water as the afternoon light fades. Foolish, say some, but to me it’s very special, like a treasured secret. Few people wish to share this sensation, preferring the comfort and safety of a walk in the park, or crumpets by the fire. I love both of those, but the delight of boating in winter is an added extra that I hug to myself on the days when the sea is a beckoning glass flat and whispers in my ear. “Come out,” she says. “I’m ready.”

I used to wonder at Pip, Pete Goss, Ellen Macarthur, and the countless other people who have fallen in love with boats. Now I know. They sing in your head, nestle in your heart and seep into your blood. Like the tug of an absent lover, they won’t leave you alone.