Silver spoon or real life?

Graylings image small I loved writing Dangerous Decisions, and almost equally loved researching the Edwardian era. I don’t suppose I’m alone in daydreaming when a small girl that I was in reality a princess, adopted at birth! One of my favourite books and one I would borrow several times from the library was ‘A Coronet for Cathy’ by Gwendoline Courtney, the story of a young school girl who was in reality a duchess. Fiction afficionado – me? Absolutely, and the more romantic the better. DD is set the Golden Age of the Edwardian era, and I was astonished to discover that even among clever men there was the widespread belief that education should be witheld from the female sex as ‘too much thinking causes their wombs to wither’. Or maybe that was yet another ploy to maintain their own superior status. Certainly arrogance – as portrayed by Oliver, and so often in novels written during that time, seemed to be regarded as essential in a hero. I prefer the sensitive and idealistic Nicholas.

Which brings me to my competition question. If you were born during that time and had the choice, would you opt for a silver spoon, or an ordinary family. Pampered and sheltered as Helena was? Or would you prefer, however harsh your background, to at least live in the real world? (Leave a comment and you could win an advance paperback copy of Dangerous Decisions.) As for the 21st century, many say that the rigid class divide portrayed in the Upstairs and Downstairs mentality of Dangerous Decisions, no longer applies. We are, the politicians claim, a ‘classless society’. Mmn, that takes some thinking about. While it is true that massive changes have taken place, subtle social divisions still remain, perhaps they always will.

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Reading about Heroes

I’ve been thinking about heroes – well, not all the time obviously – but trying to fathom what it is in romantic fiction that draws a reader to a male character. One only has to think of Mr D’Arcy in Pride and Prejudice, with his haughtiness, condescension and controlled sexuality for most of us to give a sigh. And how we feel about Colin Firth in the role and coming out of the lake in his wet shirt I’ll leave to your imagination. And it’s true that so many romantic novels have as their hero a character who at first seems cold and sarcastic. If D’Arcy had been open minded, friendly and less conscious of his own superiority, would he have been such an interesting character? I doubt it.

So why do women feel a frisson and want to turn the pages to discover more about these fascinating men. And why do we find them so fascinating? An element of danger perhaps and we all know that women are attracted by power and wealth. I regard reading as a form of escapism, and many of us put down a novel feeling refreshed having lived other lives between the cover. There would be little of that in a novel where the ‘love interest’, resembled the boring guy next door.

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Which brings me to reading habits. Since I’ve begun writing, I find it difficult to fit in daytime reading, usually leaving it until I go to bed. And yet from childhood I’ve been a bookworm. Holidays are now an oasis of dedication to books, reassured that as I’m out in the open air and relaxing that’s okay then – no guilt that I should be furthering the current novel. But one skill I have never mastered is to read more than one book at the same time. A single-minded person, that’s me. It would be interesting to hear whether others’ reading habits have changed since they became writers.

What am I working on at the moment? Margaret Kaine

I’ve never been able to begin writing a new novel as soon as those miraculous words ‘The End’ have been typed. Nor am I fortunate enough to be an author who always has several plots circling in her head. But I’ve learned not to worry about it. Because during a short sabbatical between novels when I do such things as tidy my study, sort out drawers and do extra baking for the freezer, somehow in the midst of my ‘wondering’ the seed of an idea is borne. And on visiting my son in Spain, his balcony has given birth to several books.

So, to come to my current novel. My earlier ones were set between 1950/1970and against the industrial background of the Potteries where I was born. ‘Dangerous Decisions’ being published by Choc Lit was a new challenge. I had decided that I wanted to write on a broader canvas introducing glamour and intrigue and because it fascinates me I chose to set the novel in the Edwardian era. I loved the research and it made sense to set my current one in the same period. But even though I have my seed, But I’m not a planner. Writing a novel is as much a journey of discovery for me as it is for the reader!

This is the beginning of my new novel –

Ella withdrew into the shadows, the workhouse uniform thin through years of laundering offering little protection against the March wind. But although during the last six years her slender body had become accustomed to cold and even hunger, no amount of deprivation could take away her dreams. Hazy and only on the fringes of her mind it still lingered, that other world, one of colour and beauty, and these rare visits of the lady with her glossy black hair, jewels and furs had become beacons in a life that contained only greyness. Ella glanced over to the waiting carriage with its patient chestnut horses, waiting to step forward, knowing that her reward would be a smile. It might be cool and swift, but with it would come those three words, “Goodbye, my dear.” The endearment was like a balm bringing alive the image, the remembrance of another voice loving and gentle. Ella had been five-years-old when brought to the workhouse, and she had clung to that precious memory at first with despair and later with ferocity. It was her proof, her security. Because of it, she knew the truth, that despite the taunts and the name-calling, she was not a bastard nor was she a foundling.

When I first sat at the computer and typed this opening, I literally had no idea what was going to happen next. Nor did I have a title, to be honest I don’t even try to think of one until I’m approaching the end of a book. It is a mystery to even to me how my stories unfold as I write them. But I do find it difficult to talk about my ‘baby’ until it is grown up! I can’t remember which famous author said that ‘to give away the magic is to lose it,’ but I feel the same. Is that crazy?

However, I do like being asked to give a tip on writing to budding authors, which is to read their work aloud – and not just quietly to themselves. I wait until the house is empty and then read every chapter – with an editing pen in my hand – as if I have an audience. It reveals whether or not the writing flows, if the pace is right, and where any pruning needs to be done. And I confess that there must be a bit of an actress within me, because I rather enjoy it!

A Writer is also a Reader

This is my first post since joining Choc Lit, and I’m feeling my way a little. As a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association I already have friends among you, and am looking forward to meeting and making more. And as I love reading almost as much as I love writing, I’m also looking forward to enjoying everyone’s novels. So far I’ve read Jane Lovering’s, ‘Please Don’t Stop the Music’ – how could I not when it was the RNA Romantic Novel of the year? Evonne Wareham’s, ‘Never Coming Home’, Margaret James’, ‘The Silver Locket’, and Linda Mitchelmore’s, ‘To Turn Full Circle’ – when it was a pleasure to give a quote for the cover. And I have been absorbed in, loved and finished them all.

Sue Moorcroft’s latest, ‘Dream a Little Dream’ is waiting at the side of my bed, and I know from experience that will be one novel I’ll definitely finish. I seem to give up on so many books nowadays. Once I would persevere to the end of a novel, but no longer. If I’m not into a book by page 100, then I don’t continue reading it. So frustrating when one has taken the time to choose and buy a book or has downloaded it, then settled down with keen anticipation. I just feel that my leisure time is too precious to waste.

To be honest I think I read differently now that I’m a writer myself. I’d love to know if anyone else has found that they can’t always lose that editorial eye? It would also be interesting to learn the criteria of others. Do you have your own limit before abandoning a book? Could it be 50 pages, eight chapters, 150 pages etc? Or maybe you refuse to be defeated, as I once did.