About Me

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I write well researched but readable historical and contemporary novels and some non-fiction. I live in a Scottish country cottage with my artist husband. I love gardening and I also collect the fascinating antique textiles that often find their way into my fiction. This blog is about all these things and more!

Friday, March 06, 2009

Success! Well, kind of...

I have managed to place three different short stories in three different publications over the past month or so - one in a literary magazine, one in a literary anthology, and one for a project involving readings and recordings about which I'll no doubt be writing in due course. I am chuffed to bits, but more than that, I'm heartened by the fact that all of the above were experimental pieces, nothing to do with writing for any particular 'market' but just writing for the love of it and because I wanted to explore certain themes and ideas.
Which ought to tell me something ...
Today, in the middle of a slightly disturbing conversation about pensions (or lack of them), somebody said to me 'when you decide to retire...'
'But I can't imagine ever retiring from writing. Why would I want to? It's what I do! I would never willingly want to give it up.' My own alarm at the very thought alarmed me.
'But you might decide that you want to stop, do different things. Nicer things.'
I have thought about that conversation on and off, all day. And it strikes me that it isn't just what I do, it's what I am. There is - literally - nothing I would rather be doing. And when I'm doing other things, I'm usually thinking about writing. Sometimes even when I'm sleeping.
Which is a bit disturbing really, isn't it?
A friend remarked recently that people are always telling her (with a certain amount of disapproval) that she 'lives in her head too much' -
'But it's what I do' she said. 'I'm happiest there.'
We're friends because we recognise some similarity in each other. In fact most of my closest friends are the same - and when we talk, we start from that basic assumption. We all start from some shared perception about what we do and why we do it. Artists and writers and probably musicians too.
It doesn't seem at all strange to me. We don't even make decisions about it because really, we can't. We may decide to give up, but it, whatever it is, won't give up on us. We are what we do and we do what we are, and when the world intervenes too much, and we can't get back to that still small centre of ourselves, for however short a time, we get angry with everything and everyone.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Red Road and Pirates

Watched two completely contrasting - and equally enthralling - films over the weekend, both of them because I was lazily channel flicking late at night and discovered them quite by chance. The first was Red Road which I knew about but had never seen. It was late, I had had a hard day and I was tired but it drew me in, relentlessly and I simply couldn't stop watching it. It finished at one o'clock in the morning and I staggered up to bed, marvelling how what could have been a trite story had been turned into this epic and brilliant tale of redemption by the sheer quality of the writing and the direction - both by Andrea Arnold. I suppose as I playwright, I couldn't stop myself from thinking about how easy it would have been to ruin it, to tell too much, to say too much, to explain too much. Instead, the pace of it allowed a tragic mystery to unfold before our eyes, much as the CCTV pictures - and the main character's response to them - unfolded. She seems to have a gift for showing that peculiar, claustrophobic, bleary eyed atmosphere of night in the city - a sense of alienation that is palpable.

The following night, I was doing a little late channel flicking again when I came upon an Australian version of The Pirates of Penzance, being broadcast on Sky Arts, an increasingly interesting channel. It was enchanting - this sexy combination of singing, dancing, burlesque, and raw energy and that was just the Pirate King. Seriously, best night's entertainment I've had in some time. The purists probably hated it, but I suspect it comes pretty close to the intentions of the original. Sadly, I've been googling for the DVD but it only seems to be available in the American version. Hope Sky repeats it soon!