I don’t usually write about writing on my blog. But having been asked by a friend to take part in this blog tour, and knowing I have a fair number of followers who write both prose and poetry, I decided to go for it. As I love the visual aspect of blogging, the ability to include photographs, I’ve managed to look out a few for this post too
Step one: Acknowledge the person & site that involved you in the blog tour.
My involvement in this is due to a fellow member of Borders Writers’ Forum, Bridget Khursheed. Bridget, a highly regarded poet, is editor of the online Poet and Geek magazine, and has recently been awarded a New Writing Award by the Scottish Book Trust. Her input to the Blog Tour can be found at http://poetandgeek.blogspot.co.uk
Step two: Answer the 4 questions below about your writing process.
1) What am I working on?
My first novel, In the Wake of the Coup, was published last autumn (available as a paperback and ebook from Amazon and also now available on iBooks). My second novel was under revision when, late last year, I updated my Mac operating system and discovered iBooks Author. So the revision was put on hold while I made an edition of Coup using this software, complete with oodles of photographs. With that now completed and available on iBooks, I have returned to the revision of The Seaweed Cage whilst also working on another novel based on a short story I wrote some time ago, with the working title of The Candidate’s Wife.
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
To me genre is an evil monster. I called In the Wake of the Coup a political satire as I hadn’t a clue where else it might fit. I fully appreciate the book is likely to appeal only to those with a political bent or sense of the ridiculous (Borgen fans), though it’s really about people — people who rarely fit into neat pigeonholes, people who are passionate and apathetic, people who can surprise in many different ways. The genre issue has been raised with me in discussions, so it was heartening to read another writer’s take on this.
Award winning author Linda Gillard, in a fascinating article in the Guardian, explained her genre headache (Linda Gillard on self-publishing: ‘I market myself, not a genre’) – http://tinyurl.com/lqdut7a
Dropped by her publisher, she is now a highly successful self-published author. Linda’s books were considered difficult to market as they belonged to no clear genre, so now she promotes her own name and brand, a strategy that has reaped success.
But back to the question. To be honest I haven’t actually come across another book similar to Coup — though I’m sure there will be many. I don’t know whether this makes me silly for writing a book the way I wanted to write it, stupidly ignoring all advice on genre, or brave for ploughing my own furrow.
3) Why do I write what I do?
I write what I write because that’s what wells up in me like uncorked champagne, fizzing on to my writing medium.
Also, I’m a product of my place of birth and of my upbringing, and a grandfather who took me long walks and regaled me with stories of his work for 60 years in an engineering firm that made pumps and other necessary apparatus for ships built on the Clyde.
An interest in politics was part of my family life (and politics in Scotland during my lifetime has rarely been dull, often strident, a rollercoaster of celebration and drowned sorrows that pulled people into enthusiastic for or against camps) so, not surprisingly, I’ve occasionally been drawn into active involvement.
When writing, it therefore seems natural to set books within that tempestuous, manipulative, world of politics, for politics, whether we acknowledge it or not, shapes every aspect of our lives. It’s not so much parties and policies I write about, what fascinates me is the effect those have on people and how people can find themselves overtaken by events and forced into actions or making decisions they never expected to make.
4) How does your writing process work?
An idea comes, often when climbing from the bath; occasionally when falling off to sleep, so I recite it like a mantra in the hope of remembering it in the morning; or perhaps a discussion, a photograph, a reference jogs a memory that hatches a possibility, and I’m happy to follow to see where it leads. Planning is minimal and often I cut and paste and change the order of chapters. But unless I actually write, and keep writing, ideas dry up. I can be amazed at what I find on my computer screen, wondering where it came from. My writing takes me on a journey. To plan too much would make the route boring. The element of surprise is what renders months of work worthwhile.
I have an office/study shared with my husband and sometimes son. My days, if no outings or chores are planned, are spent here, not always pushing on with my novel, sometimes involved with other work, or blogging, writing emails, keeping up with personal stuff, research, online shopping. I sit beside a window so I can see the weather, watch passers-by, and some of our coloured glass collection snatches blinks of sunshine on the wide window ledge.
I don’t need computer or desk to write. In summer I like to sit outside, and bask like a lizard in the sun, scribbling furiously on sheets of paper. On holiday I’ve been known to sit on a November evening on an Algarve balcony, savouring the atmosphere, relishing a glass of wine bought cheaply in the local supermarket, whilst I tap away on my laptop. And not infrequently I write in the car (when husband is at the wheel, obviously) — sometimes in a small notebook usually kept in my handbag; sometimes on the back of and around a shopping list, or on curls of till roll from a recent shop. As long as ideas flow, I ride my train of thought. The mechanical part of the process can be done anywhere. It’s editing that requires eyes-riveted-on-screen or page static concentration.
Please pop on to the websites and read the posts of those blogging on their writing process next week –
TOM MURRAY – Tom is a full time playwright, fiction writer and poet living in the Scottish Borders. He is currently Scottish Book Trust Reader In Residence to Scottish Borders Libraries. Also Creative Writing Fellow to Tyne and Esk Writers. He is a former co- editor of the literary magazine The Eildon Tree. His plays have been performed at various venues including the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, and at the Arches Theatre in Glasgow as part of the ‘I Confess’ production. His play Sins of the Father was a winner of the 2009 Rowan Tree Playwriting Competition and toured 2011. He has had a collection of stories published, Out of My Head. Also a poetry collection The Future is behind You and his play The Clash. His poems and stories been widely published in magazines and anthologies in the USA and Canada, as well as the UK.
Tom’s blog title – PostcardsfromBorderlandAddress – http://tommurrayborders.blogspot.co.uk
OLIVER EADE – Oliver Eade was a hospital Physician who worked for 35 years in the NHS in London, Southampton and, as a consultant, in the Scottish Borders. He has a Chinese wife, a son and a daughter and four beautiful granddaughters. He has published four children’s novels and a debut adult novel, A Single Petal set in Tang Dynasty China, which won the Local Legend Spiritual Writing Competition for 2012. Oliver’s impending trip to China is at the moment what’s foremost in his mind, so he has posted on Changing Faces in China on his blog:.
Oliver’s blog – http://runawaywheeliebin.blogspot.co.uk
MARGARET SKEA – Margaret Skea is an award winning short story writer whose recent credits include the Neil Gunn Competition, the Chrysalis Prize, and the Winchester Short Story Prize. Her debut novel, Turn of the Tide, the Historical Fiction Winner in a Harper Collins 1st novel competition, published in November 2012 by Capercaillie Books, is currently a finalist in the People’s Book Prize (results to be declared in May.) Turn of the Tide deals with the pressures and dangers of living within conflict, and grew from both her interest in the turbulent history of 16th century Scotland and her personal experience of growing up in Ulster at the height of the ‘Troubles’.
Margaret’s blog – http://margaretskea.com
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Thanks for sharing photos of your ‘writing space.’ The rainbow of coloured glass, orchids and natural objects seem all to familiar – they grace my own windowsills in very ordinary Derby ….
Lovely to know that someone else likes to be surrounded by similar things. Coloured glass cheers me even on the dullest of days. Most of it is cheap 1960s stuff but we have some Victorian pieces and some interesting modern ones. I’ve never been to Derby, but am certain that, like most places, beneath the surface it is far from ordinary.
Pleased you find it so. Cheers.
I’ve only just found this post, Dorothy. Thanks for linking to my article in the Guardian. I’m so envious of your study and your beautiful coloured glass. (I seriously covet the yellow vase.) And I must bring some lichen in from my own Highland garden and put it on display. That colour is so special.
I’ll be sharing your post on my Facebook author page.
Thank you, Linda. I found your Guardian article most helpful at a time when I was struggling with the whole genre thing, having difficulty pigeonholing what I had written.
Recently I was asked to write a piece on self-publishing for our Creative Arts Business Network in the Borders and also linked to your piece in that, as I did in a piece on Borders Writers’ Forum for the Scottish Book Trust. Neither have appeared yet on websites, but your article will be read and appreciated by those who perhaps missed it when first published in the Guardian.
My yellow vase was bought at Borders Glass in Hawick as I couldn’t resist it. It provides a ray of sunshine on even the dullest days.Lichen has long fascinated me, as now does seaweed.
Borders Glass in Hawick is now on my “Places to Visit” list!
You can watch pieces of glass being made. Fascinating. Borders Writers’ Forum held a writing competition last year and we commissioned two pieces of glass for the winners. Their website is well worth a look. Great for unique presents for anniversaries and weddings when you haven’t a clue what to give.