Falling In Love (All Over) Again - Reblogged from Authors Electric

I'm reblogging my recent post on Authors Electric here today. Incidentally, if you haven't been to Authors Electric before, do have a look. You'll find a miscellany of interesting posts - a new one every day - by 29 independent and independently published writers including myself. Some of us have been traditionally published as well - some of us still are which I suppose makes us 'hybrid' writers, to use the current buzz word - while some have elected to go wholly indie. We're none of us too keen on labels, but our group includes genre, literary and mid-list writers (sometimes all within the same versatile person!)  award winning writers of all kinds, poets and playwrights, novelists and storytellers and non fiction writers. Many of us have held Royal Literary Fund fellowships or have been involved with teaching creative writing. Most but not all of us are UK based. What we have in common is experience and professionalism, coupled with an enthusiasm for writing and for our lovely readers. 

The post below will be the first in a whole season of Canary Isle themed posts here on my own Wordarts blog, because I'm working on a major new project, a trilogy of novels set largely in the Canaries and loosely based on an old back-list title, but substantially different from that early novel. There's also an interesting back story to all this, the inspiration behind it, and it struck me that it might be nice to tell it here, on my blog as I prepare the new novels for publication. 

When I first started this project, I thought it would involve typing up the manuscript, revising as I went along, but it soon became obvious that it needed much more than that. Major changes were in order. The book was originally bought by a medium sized publisher a long time ago. I think the central story is fine, but I’ve matured as a writer. Just as well, really. When I reread it before starting work on it, my chief emotion was a sort of horrified embarrassment and NOT, I might add, embarrassment at the significantly erotic content. It was more a question of writing technique and not the other sort. What, I kept wondering, was I thinking about? More to the point, what was my editor thinking about?
Happy days on board  'Big Cat' Simba
When I look at the novel now, I can see so many elements of it which need work, not least a confused and confusing perception of point of view. It began as a tale told from a limited third person point of view.It’s a story about Margaret Sinclair, in her thirties, newly divorced, shy, rather innocent and a little depressed. Desperate to get away from Scotland, she secures a job in property sales on the Canarian island of Tenerife. My editor at the time suggested that we also needed to see things from the perspective of the other main character, a Canarian called Luis. She may have been right about that (I'm still thinking about it) because (a) this is a story about a cross cultural relationship and we need to know what is going on in the head of the other half and (b) musician Luis comes from the small island of La Gomera which is central to the story, so his background is both interesting and important to the plot. 

Back then, and although feedback after publication was good, I don’t think I did it very well. To be fair, it isn’t easy. It’s the kind of thing I wrestled with in The Amber Heart where sometimes we needed to be with Maryanna and sometimes with Piotro, but not both at the same time. I think, eventually, I got it right in that novel, moving between the two without too many clunky changes, but learning how to handle it was a steep and very long learning curve. Now I need to go back to my Canary Isles novel with all the benefit of experience.

I reckon I also didn’t do it very well because we were in something of a hurry. If the novel had been published by the (old, distinguished) publisher who bought it, there might well have been a modicum of nurturing. But because the publisher was immediately bought over by a major corporation, it was published differently and with a garish cover. The novel was and will remain a sexy read. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, but it was a bit OTT, a bit too ‘80s’ – like the cover - in no good way. And why did I spend so much of it telling the reader what people said instead of having them actually say it? Beats me!

A close friend, a whole generation older than I am, has said to me that the central story is still good and vividly filmic. I hope she’s right. But I knew immediately I started working on it that it needed to be retold. There’s another thing about it: I can remember a phone call from the girl who was involved with publicity when it was first published. ‘I fell in love with Luis,’ she confided. ‘I mean really fell in love with Luis. I’ve never ever felt like that about a fictional hero before.’ Clearly I’d got something right then.

So what am I doing now?

Apart from listening to/watching this, on a loop, (OK, OK, I'll admit it, my hero was that young Banderas) I’m wrestling with point of view, and making it work, making it better.
I'm writing a lot more dialogue.
I’m working on the sexy bits, making them better. (This is a lot of fun, have to admit.)



Above all, I’m turning the basic story into three new and quite different novels, which involves a lot of extra writing, as well as drastic changes: The Golden Apple, (which was my old title because the one thing I really like about it is the title), Orange Blossom Love and a third novel called Hera’s Orchard. I’m planning to publish the first one in June, the second in the autumn some time and the third at Christmas, if I apply myself.

I’m also falling in love with my hero all over again. It’s a strange thing this writing love stories. You have to be a little bit in love with your characters, warts and all, to be able write about them. It doesn’t just apply to love stories either. When I was writing The Physic Garden, I had to crawl inside William Lang’s head and stay there for a very long time. I was passionate about William, emotional about him, even though The Physic Garden is a story about friendship and betrayal and by no means a romance. I felt for him in my heart as well as my head. But Luis was a dimly remembered affair and I had to rediscover him, find out what it was I liked about him all those years ago, find out what it was about him that made that young publicist fall in love with him so comprehensively.

It has been a surprisingly slow process. There's a part of me still hankering after Joe and Helen from Ice Dancing, to the extent that I know there’s a sequel to that novel kicking around somewhere in my imagination. And some part of my head is still back there with William Lang in 1800s Glasgow, in the physic garden of the old college of Glasgow University.

But I’m getting there. Luis is undeniably attractive. That's why Margaret falls for him against all her cautious instincts. He plays the guitar and sings. He’s impulsive, sensuous, fiercely proud and when all’s said and done, a wee bit too tempestuous for poor Margaret’s comfort. You know what? When I went back to this story, I felt the same way. Like when you meet an old boyfriend and wonder what you ever saw in him.



Sitting on board in the sun, writing. 
When I first drafted the story – like Kathleen Turner in The Jewel of the Nile - I was sitting on board a boat in the sun, writing, and I was madly in love with the Canary Isles myself. I'll tell you a bit more about that time in the coming weeks and months. The new Golden Apple is a story full of life and sunshine and music and that’s kind of what I need right now. I always liked Margaret, quiet, sweet, sensible, put-upon Margaret, with her hidden depths. Now I’m getting to know Luis all over again. Falling a little bit in love again. I think. I hope. Finding out a lot more about him. 

Or as one of the traditional Canary Island poems which run through the novel would have it: 
I love you because I love you.
Nobody tells me what to do with my love.
I love you because I feel it
deep in my heart.'

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