Archive for December, 2015

Well silly things inspire me. Sometimes it can be a music video, sometimes it can be a movie, or a tiny bit of dialogue. The mood of things is often inspirational to me. Trying to recreate a mood or a feeling for other people.

I’ll be the first to admit that I can be a little dark, for this reason I tend to gravitate towards slightly darker themes, both in music and films. I am also quite inspired by romance, not big gestures but small intimate romantic moments. I am a hopeless romantic trapped inside the mind of a slightly disturbed and over-active imagination.

I was asked to write a blog on music that inspired me while I was writing my book.I do listen to music when I write, a lot of other writers I have spoken to were horrified by this notion. How can you listen to lyrics? I also explained I sometimes watch TV while i am writing. Sometimes I do need to switch everything off but usually have something going on in the background.

So each one of my characters usually has a song that fits them, for me – usually based on mood – lyrics – feelings etc.

Between the Bars – Madeleine Peyroux

This song has always been a favourite of mine, moreover this particular cover of it. The original recording was by Elliott smith. I always thought of it as purely a love song until I met one of my main characters then it took on a whole new meaning. suddenly the lyrics were sung from the point of view of that destructive voice in your head that constantly reminds you who you are, deep down; coaxing you to stay the same as you have always been, never to improve yourself because you cant escape who you really are. That the only thing you can really trust is that you will fail at some point, its inescapable.

 

Pretty when you cry – VAST

Well this is a tricky song, but its beautiful in its own way. For me it explores the idea that somehow someone elses actions towards you can be your fault, as though you are forcing them to behave a certain way just because of who you are. Of course we all know this is nonsense, but that’s the delusion some predatory people have. It also makes me think of the overwhelming urge in some people to possess, violate and control something pure and innocent, because of their inability to be a human being. Of course by doing that you lose interest in them, you take away the thing you wanted and suddenly you don’t want them anymore. The hypnotic beat and monotone matter-of-factness of the vocalist adds to the mood of the predator – “This is all your fault you know, if you weren’t so vulnerable then I wouldn’t be forced to take advantage of that…”

 

Change (in the house of flies) – Deftones 

Possibly my favourite song ever anyway. But the theme of this is what gets me – again – the compulsion to make something ugly, to take away that which makes it beautiful. The need to witness that destruction. To essentially make something as ugly as you. Both physically and metaphorically.  Also a part of yourself hating that you have this inside you. Then replaying the guilt of your actions and waiting for the repercussions; wanting them. For me this fits several of my “victims” who have created the “ugly fly”.

 

Say it Right – Nelly Furtado 

I don’t know what the official meaning of this song is but for me it speaks to one of the most important relationships in this book. Which is two broken people who need each other, but are afraid to admit it. Its more of a feeling than the lyrics. The hesitant building of a relationship and that knowledge that this could be IT, the big one, the forever relationship. Also the understanding that if you both accept this is really happening that everything will change. That you can save each other. Also I think its about laying it all out there and saying “Look – I’m fucked up – are you SURE you want some of this? Because once you do there is no going back…”

 

Made of Scars – Stonesour

scar tissue is stronger than regular skin. This makes me think of a  survivor, someone who has been scarred in lots of different ways but still refuses to be a victim. Remember your past, use it to become a stronger person. Also the idea that everything that happens in our life shapes who we become.

 

46&2 – Tool 

OK, without going into the Jungian 46&2 theory  (look it up, its interesting) For me this song perfectly sums up the need to move on and the willingness to do whatever it takes to get there. Its sinister and sexy in the way it sounds (to me anyway) and that adds to the drama of it. The idea of picking your scabs (obviously these are mental scabs) but it has to be done in order to “shed the skin”. Rebirth through cleansing, confronting the things about yourself that need to be addressed before you can have a new life. Its about making the decision to move forward with your life but knowing there is no easy way to do that, that in order to do that you have to clean out the darkness and sometimes that means becoming the darkness. Being aware of every part of you so that you can get rid of the parts you don’t want anymore.

 

Exile – Show of Hands 

A beautiful song written by Steve Knightley. I spent a lot of time at folk festivals when I was a teenager, I saw this band a few times although this is not my video. This song was one of my favourites. It took on a new meaning for me after writing this book. Metaphorically it represents the loss of an important relationship  within the book. How one event that takes place immediately estranges one of the female protagonists and that suddenly she’s all alone. For me its about the father/daughter relationship that is suddenly impossible.

 

 

Bring me to Life – Evanescence

To be really seen by someone, to realise that as lost and alone you are that there is someone else who can reach you and accepting that you can come back from the brink of darkness. That your whole life is a prelude to meeting this person and that when you connect you will both be alive again. Even though that’s almost a literal interpretation of the lyrics   its a passionate song – begging to be saved – from yourself and the choices you have made, from staying hidden, from making yourself invisible. There are a couple of invisibles in the book and in a way the book is largely about when they ‘wake up’

 

How to disappear completely – Radiohead 

Firstly, the amount of Radiohead songs I could have included in this list isnt even funny. I personally find their music very evocative and moody, not just lyrically but melodically too. I picked this one because its just lovely. I think the lyrics speak for themselves and require no explanation. To me it sounds like a mantra you would say when you close your eyes, when something so terrible is happening that you need to take yourself out of that situation at least mentally.

 

Animal I have become –  Three Days Grace 

Again this idea that who you are is inevitable, that you have become something so vile that you are beyond saving, but so desperate for someone to save you and make you better even if you don’t believe its possible. Compulsion to do bad things because you are filled with rage and hate ; knowing what you are doing is wrong but being unable to do anything differently.  “Help me believe its not the real me” is probably one of the most important lyrics in the song for me – because thats the last link to humanity, the wanting to be better, just needing that validation is the reason  you aren’t totally bad, the moment you stop needing it is the moment you are lost.

 

Prosthetics – Slipknot (Explicit Lyrics)

Ok this is a dark one. Its heavy too. The first time I heard this it made me feel a bit sick (so naturally I love it!). From the perspective of a predator/stalker. I think its the collaborative nature of the lyrics that get me in this song. As though this stalking behaviour is somehow an agreement between two people. I feel as though this ‘relationship’ is something I have tried to recreate within the novel. As though Predator and Prey are both in it together, they know their roles. Also that sense of blame, as though the victim has created this scenario “You brought it outta me” – Aside from the lyrics I find the music itself quite desperate and harrowing.

 

Uninvited – Alanis Morissette

Falling in love is hard, especially when you are happy in your little bubble of loneliness, when you have written yourself off as someone who is unlovable. This song probably has more relevance to my second novel, although after reading the second novel certain things in the first novel will take on more significance (confused?!)  As someone who has read both I can tell you that this is happening in the first one although we don’t know that yet… Falling in love with someone unsuitable is also hard – it reinforces for me the idea that you just cant control that stuff!

 

 

 

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That’ll do for now I think but there are plenty more – maybe I’ll add more description after the book is released – struggling not to give you spoilers!

Until next time…

 

 

 

 

 

Well, its weird. That’s the short version.

Over the last few days I have been watching a lot of interviewers with writers and I realise that my story isn’t so different from many other authors. One of my favourite authors Karin Slaughter said in an interview that i watched that things turned around for her when she treated her submitting her novel as a business proposition, and nothing more.

Its hard to be emotionally detached from your own work. Occasionally I think about what I have written and I cringe a little, that is something that will never change. Its not because I think its crap, I don’t; but its more because its a part of me. I’m such a private person, the possibility that I may have to be less private is quite daunting and something I had to talk myself into. I would be happy never to meet anyone new, or to have to talk about myself or anything else that’s personal. All of my most personal thoughts and feelings are hidden inside my characters anyway.

I think there is an arrogance among new writers (myself included) when you start writing and you realise, actually I’m quite good at this. There’s a frustration that other people cant see the talent inside you that needs nurturing. There’s almost a feeling of entitlement that – I’ve written this – so you must publish it. Without any real understanding of what’s really happening out there. A lot of people think they can write a book, a lot of people start books that shouldn’t, a lot of people don’t that should. The fact is, its a business, and no one has to recognise anything about you, no one owes you anything. That attitude is going to get you nowhere fast. I have a friend who sent off to an agent, when the agent refused – they decided to self publish. I understand that gut feeling, how DARE you tell me my works no good – I worked hard for that. The truth is there are hundreds of agents out there, and there thousands of people like you, who think they deserve to be published. Your book might be amazing, it really might – we have all heard stories of mega successful books that were rejected a heap of times before they reached any kind of attention. Luck is most definitely involved, but only if you have put the work in first.

I have written a lot of stuff over the years, some short stories, screenplays, novella’s and then finally a novel. The first stage of the process was writing a coherent story (harder than you think!) that was also long enough to be classed as a novel. Then, and this is the part that cannot be taken lightly at all, you need to rewrite. This is not to say change everything you have written, of course not. I like to think of it this way – if you are anything like me – I get annoyed at the TV when things are implausible or just out of character. I try to look at my book as a reader and question myself, why did he do this? why did that happen? Youre not going to get everything in one go, but you will find some things to change – that doesnt mean you failed, it means you know how torewrite. So then you go through and answer your questions within the work or you delete the need for the questions. By the end of that you should have something that makes a little more sense. You can get some help by asking someone you trust to read it and give you HONEST feedback, that can be helpful. Its important not to see any suggestions for change as a personal attack but more a want to make your book the best it can be.

Then check for grammar etc – basically make it as professional looking a document as you can. I struggled with this as my punctuation is kind of terrible. But I bought a book on grammar and punctuation and tried to learn some of the rules to help make my book better. I knew that if I wanted someone else to take my work seriously I had to take it seriously myself. I know some people get offers on partially completed work – that could never happen for me – my finished product is always so different, I think that’s because I’m a bit slow and I cant always make all the best connections until the end of the story. with my first novel, I can honestly say I have read through over 100 times, and made changes – even minor ones, every single time.

After you have done that then you format it, paragraphs, spacing, chapter headings. basically you want it to look right. (again another struggle for me)

The I looked through several listings for agents that deal with Crime fiction and I picked several to send to. I followed the submission guidelines to the letter and sent off my work. What I was basically doing was removing obstacles in my way. If its not formatted properly then why would they read it? If they don’t accept submissions then why would they read it? If I have lots of obvious spelling errors then why would they read it?  If they don’t deal with my genre of fiction then why would they read it? Its important not to put obstacles in your own way and set yourself up for rejection, for the wrong reasons. Not because your work wasn’t any good, but because you sent it to the wrong people, or you lost interest at the editing phase. Don’t cheat yourself out of a chance for a silly reason. The hardest part is writing a novel, making it better and sending it off should be fun. I had completely geared myself up for rejection, after 15 years of writing I knew that the chances of me getting an agent were slim to none, every blog I ever read told me so. Of course now i understand why, because its important you understand how rare it is. Rare but not impossible.

I was lucky enough that one of the first agents I sent my novel to “got” my work, because the others that I sent it to just said no. That was where my luck came in, sending it to the right people helped, and I was lucky that my wonderful agent Diane actually saw and read my book. I had lots of complimentary emails and then was pitched to several publishers – again – none of them really “got” it, although I received a lot of praise – but all it takes is one. And so I’m getting published. I have had to rewrite again, with the help of an amazing editor and its quite different now to how it was when I finished it the first time. Having an editor was great, someone else to second  guess you so you don’t have to do it yourself.. (you know what I mean!) – while writing I think everything I write is pants – so its nice just to have specific things picked out – it means the rest must be ok.

The thing to remember about it is this – its a business. You don’t get published because you’re a nice person or because you tried really hard , you don’t get published because you really want to. You get published because your book is commercially viable as a product. Its because they think other people will like what you have to say and will pay to read it. The reason its commercially viable is completely noble and artistic, its not selling out. Its important to remember that its not personal when you get rejected.

 

Until next time…

As someone who obsessively watches everything thats on TV I thought i would let you know my thoughts on some of the new stuff thats out – namely on Amazon or Netflix –
 
Firstly the BEST of the bunch has to be THE PATRIOT, its part of the amazon pilot season and its 45 minutes of brilliantly written and wonderfully executed quirky humorous drama – I’ve watched it 4 times, I cant remember the last pilot I watched 4 times – its so good.
 
FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS – well i hate american football, and I hate tv shows about sports generally but I have to say I loved this series, I only watched it because it had 5 stars and I can see why, it was great, I cried loads, thats usually a good indicator. Really well written, well acted. i was lost when i finally finished all 5 seasons. I still miss the characters.
 
THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE – although its really different to the book its really well done, I’m still mourning a bit because I finished it really quickly but its lovely to watch – visually its very striking.
 
JESSICA JONES – I thought it was a tad inconsistent and I have 2 episodes left – its just picking up now really – its been a bit of a slog to be honest but some people LOVE it – so maybe its just me.
 
EDGE THE LONER – on amazon part of the pilot season again – I have a massive crush on the main actor in it and to be honest thats the only reason i kept watching to the end, it was really contrived (deliberately i thought) but just a little bit too misogynistic and sexist for my liking, and crass, way too crass, and possibly even a little racist – I dont know, I didn’t like it at all – shame really. –
 
BADLANDS – another pilot on amazon, it was good, but im getting bored of dystopian futures on TV, mostly they seem to lack originality these days, this felt like a mixture of mad max meets a bunch of obscure chinese movies no one has ever watched (except me, I collect them) – so it was a little bit cliche – great fight choreography though so at least that was good.
 
OFF THE MAP – medical drama in the jungle, its quite good fun, if a little predictable in places, nice to be able to watch something with the kids around, most TV isnt suitable for kids at all. Its ok for easy watching, but like i say – very predictable.
 
Ive also watched THE STRAIN recently – which started out with so much potential but is just dragging on now, every episode sees a showdown between a 95 year old man who can barely lift his arms (with a team of strong young people who all let him deal with it) fighting against the lord of darkness, who always gets away- too many convenient things going on in there, and the rules change constantly – quite irritating to watch in the end.
What should I be watching?