Living with the Fear

February 27, 2011 at 2:21 pm (Uncategorized)

I’ve got a wonderful whole day to myself – a rare treat – and just for a change I’m not procrastinating. Well… not really.

Spent this morning holed up in Caffe Nero, my favourite Sunday Morning Emergency Writing Venue (you know I’ve procrastinated too much when I’m in there at 0830 on a Sunday), considering name changes for one of my main characters in The Revenge of the Tide.  Managed to unravel some plot issues there, too. Wrote lots of notes, along the lines of “Why?” (underscored three times) and “Where did he get the money FROM?” (underscored twice), and “What was he DOING there?” (crossed out altogether). Don’t worry folks, I’ll get there.

After that I wandered up the road to Sussex Stationers British Bookshops (which in my youth was called Bredon’s Bookshops, I’m sure I haven’t imagined that – one of my favouritest and bestest shops, and now it’s on the way out. Grrr to the economy) and bought lots of greetings cards and a couple of books.

Then I came home to a lovely quiet empty house, and I find myself contemplating things to talk about on Wednesday with Lesley Thomson. Lesley and I are speaking at the Wisewords Bookgroup at the Luxe, Spitalfields, as part of Women’s History Month on Wednesday 2 March – as well as giving readings, answering questions and generally chatting, we are going to try to keep to the subject of ‘Women in Crime’: the changing role of women in crime fiction.

I found a very interesting article from the Guardian concerning Ian Rankin’s suggestion that women writers (and, oddly, lesbians in particular) write the goriest crime fiction – I’d forgotten all about this, but it was interesting to read all about it again. In particular, I was drawn to this paragraph:

Women are simply more used to living with fear than men. Whether we allow it substantially to limit our lives or not – and the majority of us do not – being born female means that, no matter how empowered we are, we will usually be less physically powerful than the men around us. We know we are more likely to be harassed at work, on the street, or even in our own homes, than a male of similar profile to us. That remains how it is, despite all the advances that feminism has brought. And because of this, I believe that women have a different relationship to fear, especially fear of physical assault.

It struck a note with me in particular because of a long talk I had with a friend at work last week. He’s been reading Into the Darkest Corner and said that although he’d been enjoying it, he’d found it hard to relate to the main character because it’s written in the first person and she’s female. I’m summarising what was an interesting discussion with some big generalisations here, but what he was saying that, as a man, he’s never really concerned about walking (or staggering) home from the pub late at night on his own; he’s never really looked over his shoulder or worried about who might be walking behind him. He’s never really felt vulnerable.

Maybe that’s why women relate to crime fiction. We are at various stages in our lives just that – vulnerable. Facing up to the fear of what might be, what might happen to us if we make unwise choices or disregard our own personal safety just to experience what it’s like to be free of fear, is empowering in many ways. I’m starting to see a theme in my own writing, even though my two main characters so far have been very different – that of fighting back. Catherine in Into the Darkest Corner and Genevieve in The Revenge of the Tide are both vulnerable but they both have the choice of giving in to it, or fighting back…

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Grammar Pedantry

February 7, 2011 at 4:53 pm (Uncategorized)

I had quite a rubbish day at work today for a number of reasons, but it all came into sharp focus when I was reading a report this afternoon. Not only had the author liberally sprinkled the text with apostrophes in inappropriate places, there were several would ofs and theirs mixed up with theres. I must admit certain grammar and spelling errors wind me up, but I don’t normally find myself spiralling into fury over it. Having read through so much of it, though, the final straw came when I read a sentence containing the word ‘consummate’ when in fact the author clearly needed to use the word ‘commensurate’. I got so cross about it I actually found my heart rate was speeding up.

Then I realised that it’s probably a bit irrational to get so wound up by someone’s (genuine, probably) mistake and that the world won’t come to a crashing end just because someone can’t put an apostrophe in the right place. So it must be PMT. This happens most months – I get wound up out of all proportion by something ridiculous, then I finally work out that it must be my chuffing hormones again.

Ate my way through half a box – a BOX – of Cadbury’s Flakes. You know, the ones that are supposed to go on top of ice creams. I didn’t realise it was possible to eat Flakes aggressively, but now I know. Anyway, that should do the trick…

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It’s been a mad week…

February 5, 2011 at 3:34 pm (Uncategorized)

Here I am, up on cloud twenty three, wondering if I’ll go up any higher, or whether I will just float gently back down to earth at some point…

On Monday the new Amazon Rising Stars for the first part of 2011 were announced – and Into the Darkest Corner is one of them!  It’s taken a while to sink in, but this is a tremendous honour and a huge vote of confidence in my debut novel. The progress of the Rising Stars depends on the number of positive reviews, so if enough people write reviews on the Amazon website the book could potentially win ‘Rising Star’ of the year! So if you’ve read it – and this is probably not the only time I’m going to ask you – please go to the Amazon website and write me a nice review! The books I’m up against all look like real corkers, so I sense it’s going to be a real challenge to beat them…

On Tuesday I was in London for Into the Darkest Corner’s launch party. Oh my, what a fantastic evening. Admittedly I’d managed to pack the room with just about every friend I could find, so I did have quite a supportive crowd, but I was a shaking bundle of nerves as I got up to read the passage we’d selected. It was hard to find something suitable that didn’t give away too much of the plot, and yet was still exciting and dramatic… and of course the exciting and dramatic bits in my book have all either got rude words in or rude bits. So I was very worried I would struggle to read it, or – worse – be overcome by a fit of giggles. Fortunately I got through it all right. And everyone clapped. Once I’d got down from standing on the sofa (shoes off) the nausea I’d been suffering from all day magically went away, so I really enjoyed the rest of the evening! It went very quickly indeed and it seemed like only moments later that people were saying goodbye…

We had a very nice final glass of champagne toasting the success of the book and then D and I headed back to Charing Cross with the lovely Jess and the lovely Mr Woodrow Phoenix… caught the train home, in bed by midnight, couldn’t sleep for ages, too excited.

Worn out at work the next day, but fortunately was mad busy which made the day go quickly.

Friday’s good news, as if all that wasn’t exciting enough: a really good book review by Sue Magee at theBookbag.co.uk. It didn’t start off too promisingly, since she doesn’t think much of the cover and she’d never heard of me (who has?) but it was just lulling me into a  false sense of insecurity because after that she said “within ten minutes, I couldn’t put it down”. The summary of the review says that Into the Darkest Corner is:

A powerful novel which deals with obsession and keeps you on the edge of your seat. Absolutely superb.

She gave it four and a half stars. This is very good. I am beside myself really, more than anything because her review showed that she really ‘got’ what the book is all about – not that it’s difficult to get into, or obtuse – but I was never sure whether readers would just get the general sense of fear and being trapped, without the rationale of the OCD which lies behind it. So thank you, thank you, thank you Sue Magee, you made me very happy!

And now here we are at the weekend, and I am back with a couple of hours to spare which I’m going to spend researching pole dancing and boat renovation again…

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