Monthly Archives: June 2010

Report from America

Here I am in the US – in a games room basement in Connecticut, with England playing footie on the telly.

Yesterday, I was in New York city picnicking at Strawberry Fields, eating chocolate fudge ice cream at the Rockefeller Centre, avoiding touts who wanted to give me a ride in a tri-shaw/horse-and-carriage/open-decked bus or sell me tickets to a show, admiring the scenery at Times Square and taking a lot of geeky tourist shots of the skyscrapers. As I’ve forgotten to bring my data cable and this borrowed computer doesn’t have blue tooth, I can’t show you any of them!

I’ve also learned a lot about my new heroine, Honor, who (big coincidence!) comes from Connecticut and is in England searching for her English mother. Tomorrow, I’m going up-state to try and find her a home town.

I had the pleasure of seeing both All That Mullarkey and Starting Over in the charts at Heathrow, so, all in all, I’m a happy little writer. 🙂



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Where do you get your ideas?

'My' tree

The writing question that I’m asked most frequently is ‘where do you get your ideas from?’

The fairly honest reply of ‘Half the time, I don’t know’ doesn’t seem satisfactory to the questioner. But it’s true that my mind just wanders around on its own, sometimes (which probably accounts for my glazed look) and suddenly a character is coming to life or I realise that I’d like to write about a certain issue. And, for a novel, this works fine. I begin to think in terms of establishing what my heroine’s quest is or how her character traits will impact upon those of the hero’s and the book is beginning to take shape.

The other half of the time, when my mind hasn’t gone walkabout and supplied me with material, I have to actively look for ideas to grasp. And the ideas process for short stories is different. Because I write for magazines, I have to write stories with a point, not open ended slice of life stuff. So, if I can decide what my point is, I’m half way towards writing the story. As I’ve told many a workshop, problem pages are a great source of material because they provide both conflict (the problem) and resolution (the agony aunt’s reply). If you can’t write a story around that, you’re not trying.

Also – and to finally get the point of the photograph at the head of this post – I listen to other people and what they find remarkable. I was walking to a local shop when I came up behind a couple exclaiming over the tree. As I drew level, the lady turned to me and said, ‘Isn’t that beautiful? It lights up the whole street.’ It was a huge coincidence because that garden used to be my garden, about 20 years ago. ‘I planted it,’ I said.

Out of this came a story where a lady returned to her home town after a couple of decades, having lost her husband and her job and struggling to find any purpose in life. Passing her old house with a blossom-laden tree in the garden, somebody makes the same remark to her as was made to me, and she wanders on thinking that she had once had some purpose to her life, even if were just to make the world a more beautiful place.

The remark is the pivotal moment. She becomes open to the idea that something she does might affect the world at large.

So she goes home and plants another tree. (You guessed that bit, didn’t you?)

What is remarkable about a situation, the point I’m trying to make and where the pivotal moment comes from are crucial to the structure of my stories. When I can extract those things from my thoughts, I get that little twinge of excitement that tells me that I’ve ‘got’ an idea.


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Champagne and Choc Lit!

Publication day!

It’s publication day for All That Mullarkey!

It was wonderful to receive an Interflora box from the Choc Lit team with a card that said, ‘Happy Birthday, All That Mullarkey!’

Even more wonderful, was to open the box to discover champagne and chocolates. (And some plant food. I’m a bit baffled by that …)

As All That Mullarkey has been in the travel shops and on line for a couple of weeks, apart from announcing it on Facebook and Twitter, publication day didn’t have that much fizz (har har) until this lovely surprise arrived.

And my interview with BBC Radio Cambridgeshire is to be aired just after 3pm today (1 June) on 95.7 or 96.0 FM. Or you can listen live or listen again here until about the 8th June 2010.

Just off to eat a choccie …


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