Have recently returned from a walking holiday on Madeira, during which we got the chance to see round Reid’s Hotel, where Winston Churchill famously stayed. The distinctive pink walled building still stands out on the hill at the west end of Funchal’s esplanade, but as you might expect, is quite dwarfed by some of the modern hotel developments.
Writing-wise, after that refreshing break, I’ve returned to the last round of edits for my latest book, which is a biography. With historical fiction I often draw inspiration from real historical figures and events to create my fictional leads, but the story comes from my imagination, so I can take it where I want. To portray the life of a real person, the challenge has been to give a rounded picture when the source material has gaps (eg there’s often less about the person’s childhood), or major differences of opinion as to what the true facts of a situation was. Should the author give a warts and all picture? If the author sympathises with the subject will this inevitably come across (as bias, possibly?) I’m still working on it. More details next month when I’m clearer about publication date.
This week, to coincide with the royal wedding, there’s an exhibition celebrating weddings past and present in St John’s Church, Langcliffe, near Settle in the Yorkshire Dales. Many photographs are on display as well as an amazing selection of gowns. Here’s a sample. Take a look if you’re passing and pop over the road to the village hall for a nice cream tea (Sunday afternoons).
If you happen to be in the Yorkshire Dales 6-8 April, drop into Settle and enjoy some of the seventy or so artistic events that make up this year’s Settle Stories Festival. Among many other things, a new Listening Gallery is being launched (in a phone box), you can make lanterns, learn to be a clown, take part in various workshops on storytelling, enjoy (?) a candlelit ghost walk and encounter a whale in Settle Market Place
Fellow members of the UK Romantic Novelists’ Association will know this is the exciting time of the year when the finalists for Romantic Novel of the Year are announced. See HOME page for link to view the shortlisted books in the various categories for 2018. If you like romance it’s an ideal opportunity to check out some good reads and perhaps try out a new author or two. Section winners and the overall winning book get announced at a gala evening on 5 March. Delighted to say this year’s short list includes one of my own regency romances “A Master of Litigation”.
My Christmas/New Year reads were an interesting mix. We stayed with relatives in Brighton and I finished Robert Harris’s “Conclave” (about selection of a new Pope) on Christmas Eve, a few hours before some of our party braved the chilly evening air to walk to the huge St Bartholomew’s Church for midnight mass. Lots of scarlet and gold robes, excellent choir and orchestra with Mozart’s Mass in F and a very large congregation (I mean a considerable number of us, not that we’d already stuffed ourselves with too much food). Then, one could argue on a similar theme, I read Malyn Bromfield’s “Mayflowers for November” a fresh take on Anne Boleyn’s rise and fall told through the eyes of a servant. After that it was Tracy Chevalier’s “New Boy”, a modern take on Othello set in a US elementary school. Finally I’ve just finished Helen Dunmore’s last book, “Birdcage Walk”, set in Bristol at the time of the French Revolution, when it did not do to be a radical, and when many building projects ground to a halt, including Royal York Crescent, where I lived as a student 50 years ago in a pre-gentrified basement flat. All different but all worth a read. Wishing you all HAPPY READING 2018!
Know how your books wander? I’d lent out a couple of guides on writing and forgotten them, until the borrower came across them in a clear out and returned them. If, like I did, you’re starting from scratch on fiction writing, both provide helpful advice and are very accessible. One’s more on structuring a novel, the other on the skill of editing your own work. They first came out a few decades ago but well worth a look.
Recently visited the wonderful National Library of Wales, a stately Grade II listed building high on the hillside overlooking the vista of Cardigan Bay at Aberystwyth. I was there to consult the diaries of Tom Jones (not the singer, but the other one), who was Deputy Cabinet Secretary from 1916 to 1930. The building celebrated its centenary a couple of years ago. What I hadn’t appreciated was the role it served during the second world war, acting as a repository for many rare manuscripts (such as the Magna Carta), books, paintings and other artefacts brought from various institutions for safe-keeping. For this purpose, the architect designed a tunnel in an outcrop of rock close to the building. It was specially heated and ventilated and a British Museum expert actually stayed in the library at night to ensure the air conditioning didn’t let them down.
The recent hurricanes put me in mind of 1987…remember…not only the big storm but a heap of man-made disasters and some momentous decisions?
A local book group, of which I’m a member, recently read E George’s latest Inspector Lynley thriller ‘A Banquet of Consequences’ and an interesting discussion followed. The group mostly agreed that some scenes (to do with abuse and violent attack) were very graphically described, perhaps unnecessarily so, but then the same approach is followed in film these days. There must be much employment for skilled make-up artists, now that all the blood and gore is shown in such detail, rather than left to the viewer’s imagination. I recall a half-hour drama shown on British TV decades ago. It was called “Rats”, about a killer pack of the same on the rampage through a housing estate. Spine-chilling scary stuff, but we never saw a single rat! Here’s to the subtle skill of creating atmosphere, fear and suspicion, whether on the screen or in the written word, without necessarily spelling it out. Less is more.
Susan Leona Fisher : an author's progress.