I'll be at Birmingham University's 'Book to the Future' event on 15th October, 2015. Come and join me to 'Take Chances with Your Writing' and maybe hear me read a bit from The Black Country. I'll be there 11am-12 noon. See you there. Click HERE for more details. (Go to page 11 for details about my workshop.)
I like to think I’m not one to hold a grudge, but listen to this: When I was at school, we had one meeting with a Careers Officer in year 10 (or, the fourth year, as we used to call it). As I remember it, she was a woman with big spectacles, a clipboard and no facial expression to speak of. She asked me one question, and that was what was I intending to do for a living. You know what I’m going to say. I’m going to say I told her I wanted to write, which I did. I wanted to write. After a long silence, she asked me the same question again. I told her I wanted to write. She checked my name on her clipboard, asked me to confirm it. I did. Then, still with absolutely no expression on her face, she told me I’d done “all the wrong subjects to be a writer.” Read the rest of this in BOOKANISTA
Mike Clarke (http://www.macnovel.org.uk/) has passed the Blog Baton to me, and I’m very happy to take it! Mike has had two stories accepted and performed by the Liars’ League, and seems to have found his niche in the short story genre. Lisa Goll invited him to take part in this Blog Hop. She is organiser of the very successful London Writers Café Meetup Group and her entry on this Blog Hop was published a couple of weeks ago.
So…there are three Blog Hop questions for me to answer, and I’ll talk about the novel I wrote as part of my MA in Creative Writing at MMU. Here goes:
1. When and where is the story set?
Well, the clue is in the title: ‘Black Country’. The novel is set in my home town. Aside from the fact that I like novels set in real places, I just feel that the Black Country is such an evocative and unusual place (I’m allowed to say that, being a Black Country girl!). I am a big fan of the late Joel Lane, who set his short stories in the Birmingham and Black Country area, and I, like he did, love the grime and hellishness of the place, and the derelict factories amongst the patches of urban and rural areas – and there’s something about the canals that I find majorly evocative. So, maybe it was inevitable that this would be the setting for this novel. And it’s happening now – it’s set now. Much of the action takes place in a very confined area: in an ordinary house, at ordinary places of work, in a narrow-boat on a canal. The setting might appear ordinary, but the goings-on are far from it.
2. What can you say about the main characters?
Maddie and Harry’s relationship is stale. It’s deteriorating. There are secrets – on both sides. Harry is a teacher, and there’s a girl, Faith, with whom he has been ‘inappropriately involved’. The narrator is, I admit, an unreliable character (don’t trust that voice, at all!) and features as significant in the plot. Maddie, an estate agent, has a complicated and unhappy past, and there is a fairly shocking event briefly involving another character, the successful, if odd Jonathan Cotard, that links them all together. To tell more would be, well, telling as the characters are inextricably bound up with the plot…but I will say that there are aspects of each of these characters’ personalities that are unpleasant in the extreme. I specifically wrote them as flawed, having a believable dislikeability. I make no apologies for that. I set out to make readers feel uncomfortable. Does that sound odd? Probably…
3. What is the main conflict?
There are several conflicts: moral, psychological and physical. Readers, I suspect, will recognise the slow erosion of the relationship between Maddie and Harry, and the psychological tension created by that, but in terms of plot, when a car accident occurs, Maddie and Harry have to make some decisions, and this is the beginning of the metaphorical chasm that forms between them. The fragility of their apparently ordinary lives is something that is explored and I think I’ve tried to write sensitively about some issues that some readers might find unacceptable…like murder, lies, and, yes, paedophilia…(don’t say I didn’t warn you). The overall atmosphere is of a heaven-and-hell narrative about responsibility, love and hate, oh….it’s nasty, but, I hope, in a compulsive way!
Phew! So, who’s next on the Blog Hop? OK, well, I’m happy to introduce Emma Yates-Badley who takes the blogging baton next Monday (2nd June). She’s describes herself as a ‘Young Adult Writer. Creative Writing Graduate. Freelance Writer. Pug Lover. Hopeless Romantic. Biscuit Enthusiast. Book Collector. Eternal Wanderer. Music Fan.’ What more could you want?? I’m especially pleased to be introducing Emma, as we will be spending the next week together (along with twelve other writers) at the Arvon Centre in Inverness, writing lots, drinking lots and probably, if Emma has anything to do with it, eating lots of biscuits!
Emma’s blog is here: http://emmawritinganovel.wordpress.com/
A late nomination for the blog tour! I'm happy to introduce my Matt Cresswell is a Manchester based writer and editor. He edits the LGBT lit mag Glitterwolf and writes and co-illustrates the web series End of the Rainbow, the omnibus of which is forthcoming from Lethe Press in June 2014. He has published short stories in various places and occasionally remembers he's meant to be writing a novel.
It has indeed been too long. But now, I'm back, and have been asked by Jo Nicel
(jonicel.blogspot.co.uk/) to participate in a sort of relay race of blogging. Each blog goes up on a Monday, and Jo had been passed the baton by fellow writers to fellow writers, so that we could answer a few writerly questions. Well,
Jo didn’t drop the baton! I have it in my hand right now. And I’m really pleased to be part of this Blog Tour Monday, following in the footsteps of Jo Nicel (in fact, racing into her blog – thanks, Jo), Dr. Steve Hollyman, Louise Swinger, Sarah Jasmon, Graeme Shimmin and Emma Yates-Badley. Phew! Follow that. No pressure. OK…
What am I working on?
I am a big, big fan of short fiction, both reading it and writing it. I love the intensity of it and the way it makes readers react, the way it lingers with you, or creeps you out. I think you either love it or hate it, and I think that’s interesting. Unsurprisingly, then, I’ve been writing quite a lot of short stuff. A year or so back, I wrote Fifty-One Ways to Leave your Lover, which is an anthology of fifty-one short fictions, mainly about women’s lives. The proceeds for this anthology go to Platform 51 (a brilliant charity that helps girls and women in difficult circumstances), then last year I completed an MA in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University and wrote a novel (which may, or may not, end up being entitled Black Country) and, hopefully, if all goes according to plan, this will be published by spring next year.
For now, I’m working on another novel (which I’m currently calling Being Jesus) which will end up being a short(ish) novel set in my homeland, the Black Country in the West Midlands. I’m keen to set this novel in a ‘real’ place and I love the urban grime and peculiarity of my home area - I like the cultural climate of it - so it seems the perfect setting for the plot I have in mind. I like the weird characters who live here (I, for example, live opposite a wizard called Merlin whose day job is listed as ‘inventor’. True fact.)
Being Jesus, however, is not the kind of novel I’d encourage my mother to read. The main character has a pretty shady background and the plot contains some fairly nasty twists. Maybe all writers have an element of control-freakery about them, I certainly have a hang up about reader involvement, and I like to spring unexpected events on unsuspecting readers every now and then. I don’t think I’ll be spoiling anything if I admit that are no happy endings in this next novel. Sorry!
How does my work differ from others in its genre?
Genre….hmmmm…like Jo, I’m a bit hesitant to love it enough to place my novel in it. Genre’s a club that probably wouldn’t admit Black Country or Being Jesus anyway. Both of these novels are too badly behaved, I think, for any one genre to want them. It’s a good question, though. There’s certainly some crime, some dark psychological thrillerness going on, a bit of horror, maybe, but I think what I’m trying to do is to push the limits of fiction into places where readers might start to feel more than just a little bit uncomfortable. I think I try to make readers feel a bit responsible for the allegiances they form with characters, and I find I’m greatly influenced to do this by watching film and thinking about the effect of narrative perspective.
When I was studying for my MA, I was conscious that when I received feedback from my fellow students, they sometimes commented on the fact that they ‘didn’t like’ some of the characters in some of my writing. Great, I thought, at least you’ll remember them. And they did, I think.
Why do I write what I do?
My dad still has a notebook of mine, and on the front it says ‘Kerry Hadley. Age 7. Stories.’ Inside it is the first short story I ever wrote, and it’s called The Darkest Night. It was prompted by a car journey I took with my dad. It was almost winter and I got to sit in the front seat of his Vauxhall Viva and, for some reason I can’t remember, we were driving out into the Worcestershire countryside, just the two of us. My dad put the radio on and Knights in White Satin was playing. We never said a word the whole journey, and it felt to me that I watched darkness fall over the landscape. I have no idea why that journey, or that feeling had such an impact on me, but somehow something was triggered, and I had to write about it. And I had to continue writing. I don’t know…it’s that sense of mournful intensity that permeates through whatever I write. That feeling operates like the sound track on a loop underneath it all.
How does my writing process work?
Process? I don’t know if I have a particular process.
What has happened in the past is that I have an idea. It might be a beginning, or a middle, or an end. It might just be an event – something prompted by something I’ve seen or heard about, or a conversation I’ve overheard. I write it down. I’m a notebook freak. And pencils. I like pencils. I like to write freehand, in pencil, usually, but if I can’t find a pencil, or if I’m at my day job in a meeting, say, then I tap it into my phone. I write a lot and delete a lot. Sometimes it’s a bit haphazard, but I like that. I don’t tend to plan, I like things to work themselves out, I like the chaos of it. I’ve tried planning but it makes me mad. I prefer to write in longhand but I don’t have romantic ideas about having to follow a particular ritual and can just as easily whip out my laptop and tap in a pile of nonsense, and I’m just as happy to delete the lot of it. I don’t get precious about it – maybe, I think that’s important, maybe I think it’s important to be able to discard things. I edit as go and as I type it up. I like to read it aloud (with all the voices – all dramatically – I have absolutely no shame about that) and I edit it again. And again. And again. I fiddle around with structure a lot, just to see what that does. I give myself the creeps, and when I do, I feel like I’m onto a winner. I write like a lunatic once I’ve got the bit between my teeth: early in the morning, on trains, late into the night (I prefer this), at work, in coffee shops, when I’m talking on the phone, anywhere, really. I try not to keep ideas in my head, but to get them out onto paper or a screen. I love finding something I wrote and thinking I don’t even remember writing that (this happens a lot.). Maybe, thinking about it, the only real process I have is to keep writing. Maybe I think if I stop, that’ll be it…maybe.
So, my nomination for next week's blog post is my good friend, Anne Jensen. Anne was born in Denmark but moved to England in 1995. She recently completed an MA in Creative Writing and is currently working on her second novel, House of Scars. She lives and writes in Salisbury, and you can read her blog at http://annekirstinejensen.wordpress.com/
Signing off, but I'll be back!
I read other people's blogs and after a long period of neglect, they say something like 'I've been neglecting my blog, but now I'm back', so...anyway, I've been neglecting my blog...blah, blah. A couple of projects on the go. One being a novel - 40,000 words in. It's a nasty, dark piece set in the Black Country, which is a fantastic place to set a nasty, dark piece of writing. This novel has to be completely finished by October, so I'll doubtless forget to write about writing that. In addition, there are a couple of others I'm working on. Two 'fun' pieces, one involving tattooing and grisly murder, and the other involving Brendan Brady and Richard Burton...Yep, you read it right. It's possible that these will be finished before the novel. They'll most likely be novellas, or very long short stories, maybe. I haven't decided yet.
In other news, I'm back doing yoga every day. Yes, I know, it's weird, and the fact that I imagine you think it's weird reminds me of the time I told my careers teacher at school that one of my hobbies was Hatha Yoga, you know, when they ask if you have any hobbies, and the next thing I knew my vile form teacher was pointing at me in registration and saying 'Yoga? Wahahahahahahahahahahah! You?? Heeeheheheheheheheh.' I hated that man. Still, I rest easy in the knowledge that my capability to perform the advanced Cobra has doubtless been of more use to me than his 2:2 degree in RE was to him. Not that I harbour any resentment or anything. I'm still a firm believer in Richard Hittleman's 28 Day Plan.
OK, so now I'm off to meditate and I leave you with a picture of the sun setting over Dudley.
...and it wasn't a good one. I think I might officially be quite old. I remember thinking of people my age as officially old when I was at school. Dead old. Nearly dead. Maybe should already be dead. Mind you, anyone over the age of 25 seemed ancient when I was at school. And I am most certainly over 25. So, I'm old. And then I read that Philip Roth has retired from writing (or reading, apparently) novels at the grand old age of 79. I can't tell you how disappointed I am.
I love Philip Roth.
I know I've written some critical reviews about his work (particularly the later stuff), but basically, he's a genius. He said he wasn't going to write any more and couldn't stand the thought of writing a mediocre novel. As if. So, two things happened: first, I imagined I'd somehow upset him by my critical review of his last novel (silly, I know) and secondly, I realised I still have quite a few years of writing in me yet, since I am nowhere near 79. See how easy it is to turn such information into oneself? I, like Mr. Roth, have spent a lot of time reading, writing and teaching novels, but unlike Mr. Roth, I haven't quite finished yet. Oh no. In fact, I am 30,000 words into the next offering - working title 'Close to Me' - and there's plenty more in this old dog yet, like a series of novels (also in progress) about a female tattoo artist called Marsh who finds herself in all sorts of trouble. However, Roth's comments did make me think. Does a career in novels eventually result in a total rejection of novels? I can't imagine turning my back on books, not at the moment, but will I reach a point where the printed word is something to retire from in every way? Maybe. Work, after all, is work, but could I retire from it? And, will there be a point where I have no other ideas, or no compulsion to write (or read). Don't know. Don't know, and frankly don't care, at the moment. At the moment, I have loads of ideas, but I can see what Roth means.
So, I had a birthday. So what. Philip Roth's stopped writing - that's news, but I'm still at it. Watch out for 'Close to Me', it should be done by October next year, and let's not forget Marsh - she's got lo
This is very exciting. It really, really is. 'Fifty-One Ways' is available in paperback now, from Amazon http://www.amazon.co.uk/Fifty-One-Ways-Leave-your-Lover/dp/1480147249/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1351093011&sr=1-2
I'm really very excited about this, as the last few days have been trying, to say the least, with oldest son working in Milwaukee and messaging me about the mad gunman before the news hit the internet. Then, youngest son being involved in an eight car pile up on the M6, and last, but not least, daughter's major outbreak of nits...that really did put the tin lid on things. Today however, all is good with the world - oldest son is making his way to San Francisco, all safe and not shot, and youngest son (though suffering from pulled muscles and whiplash) is alive, if put out about the writing off of his new car - and he has a replacement car already. Oh, and let's not forget daughter, who is now nit free (...I hope). I put it down to the coming together of the excitement of publishing 'Fifty-One Ways'. It's sent good vibes through my life. And though I have embraced the digital age fully (I really do love my Kindle, don't get me wrong), there isn't anything much better than an actual book - actual paper - in your hands.
If you ask, some might say that the Kindle revolution has allowed us to read the sorts of books we might otherwise have read in private, in public (no prizes for guessing which particular reading matter I refer to here..!). They're right, of course, no one can see what you're reading. You can sit in the coffee shop, or the office, or the staff room, and others just see the fixed posture and regular breathing, the flicking eyes and miniscule flick of the thumb. Whereas if you have actual paper, people are interested in what you're reading. There you are in the coffee shop reading Jane Austen or Charles Dickens, and you're defined by this as intelligent or something. Read Harry Potter, and you're trendy (or you were, maybe). Read about Mr. Grey and, well, that's expected now, especially if you're a woman of a certain age. You're easily defined by onlookers by the reading matter you choose to be seen reading - more so now than ever. So it's even more important, from both the readers' and the writers' point of view, that both digital and print media remain, working together: Reading defines the reader, and reading print in public is good marketing and advertising for the writer. For the reader, they may think it's about the smell and feel of the paper in their hands, but on a metapsychological level, there's clearly much more to it. For the writer, print needs to stay alive.
So, I figure I'm doing my bit to palpate the heart of print publishing. Yes, that's what I'm doing. And donations still go to Platform 51. Here's the link again: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Fifty-One-Ways-Leave-your-Lover/dp/1480147249/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1351093011&sr=1-2
Buy it and define yourself as generously contributing to a lovely, worthy charity!
Phew! So, here it is. 'Fifty-One Ways to Leave your Lover'. A collection of fifty one short fiction pieces, which includes flash fiction, micro fiction and just your common or garden short story. All of them with the common theme of women's issues, women's lives, and, to put it in my son's words: women's troubles. I think, as a reader, it would be easy to be put off by the thought of fifty one stories to read, but when you consider there are just over 29,000 words in this little book. That's less than 600 words in every piece. And I can tell you, every words counts!
What have I learned from writing this collection? Well, lots. First, the importance of not wasting time on insignificant description or flowery language. Second, the importance of codes, that I hope readers will pick up on (like, for example, the tissue with 'cream paint' left on the windowsill in 'Reading the Signs', or the hijab on the floor in 'Those Three Little Words'). As well as this is the realisation of great weight of responsibility I've passed on to readers through such brevity. But, women are well known for their insight and capability to infer what's going on, to read between the lines, so I figure I'm onto a winner. The best thing about 'Fifty-One Ways...' is that all proceeds will go to a fantastic charity called Platform 51 (see the important and wonderful work they do at Platform51.org - you'll be impressed) and they've written all about it on their news page here: http://www.platform51.org/news/Supporter_Writes_E-Book_With_All_Profits_to_Platform_51!
To purchase 'Fifty-One Ways to Leave Your Lover', go to Amazon http://www.amazon.co.uk/Fifty-One-Ways-Leave-Lover-ebook/dp/B009D5SZ96/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1348050454&sr=8-2
Let me know what you think.
Kerry Hadley-Pryce has written fiction for as long as she can remember. She has had a thousand jobs ranging from dinner lady to company director, but writing is the best job she's had. She lives with her family in the sunny West Midlands, UK.