The Jury is Out

So here she is, The Grand Duchess of Nowhere, published tomorrow. I love her jacket (book and clothing), but what I think when I look at the copy sitting on my desk is this: it represents a year of my life. Was it a year well spent? The reviewers will soon let me know. Grand_Duchess_of_Nowhere

I never planned on becoming a long-distance runner. Actually I never planned on becoming anything much, except a mother. But the long haul has turned out to be my career groove. Two months of fevered research, eight months of writing, and then the slow ping-pong of edits, rewrites, long silences and urgent final tweaks. Do I feel a thrill when I hold a finished copy in my hands? Not really. More like relief.

Does Size Matter, II ?

blog     Someone asked me recently why I have a blog. My reply went something along the lines of: these days, if you’re a writer you have to. To not have a blog would be like omitting to put your trousers on before you walk down the street. Of course a surprising number of writers don’t even have a website which, to continue the analogy, is like never leaving the house, with or without trousers.

Does Size Matter?


A bit late in the day but I feel I should sidle into the discussion initiated by Ian McEwan on lengthy novels. It is a topic close to my heart. I remember… cue nostalgic Hovis advert music… when a book was published on its merits, not on the distance between its covers. When I started out (more Hovis music) a 60,000 word novel was considered perfectly acceptable. Provided the writing wasn’t crap. Then things changed. No more Hovis music, I promise.

Out to Lunch

ladylunch1    I heard a week or so ago that The Lady Literary Lunch on September 9th was already fully subscribed. It was an encouraging piece of news  - even if I must clearly share any credit with my two co-speakers, Lesley Pearse and Kate Williams  -  because this will be my only public appearance this year. Literary event organisers, where the heck are you? Was it something I said?

A Dress With Three Sleeves


Not So Super Thursday

bookpiles     Mid-August, when publishers begin to wipe the Ambre Solaire off their iPads and think about their autumn list.  The Grand Duchess of Nowhere is scheduled for publication on October 2nd. Is that good or bad? I have no idea. There’s probably some algorithm for working out your best chance of a major review in The Times but as I’m not consulted about pub dates I’ve never worried about them. Until today.

A Touch of the Gadzooks

yeoldethorn1       Any writer of historical fiction has to decide where to position themselves language-wise. I have never dared venture further back than the 18th century and even then I only permitted one ‘La!’ to escape (or should that be ‘scape??) from a maiden’s lips.  I still wonder if it was a mistake.  I’m already slightly regretting the use of ‘maiden’ in the preceding sentence.

But anyway, let’s talk about ‘ye’.  Ever wondered where it came from? Wonder no more.  In olden times, that is to say before them Normans invaded us and inflicted words like hors d’oeuvre upon us, the ‘th’ sound was represented in writing with a runic sign called ‘thorn’. thorn1thorn1    Here it is.

Free To (Any) Good Home


When I was younger and wasn’t so aware of time’s winged chariot forcing me onto the hard shoulder I would persevere with books I didn’t really like. I’d bought it so I was determined to finish it, as though some omniscient Library Monitor was waiting to stamp my card. Not any more. Let’s face it, there are some books that don’t deserve more than an hour of anyone’s time. Perhaps I’ve written some of them. If so I have every sympathy with any reader who consigns it to the bag of stuff intended for the church fete.

The M Word

piggybank I don’t really like talking about money. I don’t even like thinking about it, which is perhaps one of the reasons I ended up in this profession. You might say I was saved from total penury by my inability to write poetry. But anyway, I was very happy to see two other writers going public on the M word recently: Val McDermid and Joanne Harris, both excellent and successful authors have spoken up on behalf of those of us lower down the food chain.

Definitely Not Ready For My Close-Up


There’s a thing women’s magazines have started doing. Where they would formerly have commissioned an article from a writer whose work they like they now go trawling. Let’s say they’ve decided they want to run a feature on Living With a Competitive Sister. They send out a request to every publicist in the land. Do you have anyone who’d be interested in writing this?