Monthly Archives: June 2006

29th June, 2006

It sounded so far away when I was first asked, but then, here it was: prize giving for the Glasgow Academy prep school. There can be few things more alarming than facing an entire junior school, who are just waiting for your speech to finish to take possession of their prizes and start their holidays. If you can leave without most of them shuffling and their parents snoring, that’s a good job done. But how lovely to be asked, even if it did make me feel rather old. I mean, at my school prizegiving, you looked up at the worthy droning on on the stage, and you thought ‘I’ll NEVER be like them’. And now look at me. (By the way, speaking of looking and going back to the previous blog, I went extra blonde with the hair, but am still toying with the green.)

Tomorrow, I am at it again, this time for the senior school at Mary Erskine’s, in Edinburgh. Addressing the leavers is always a big moment. Trouble must be taken with the speech. Trouble must also be taken with the fake tan, since I must wear a dress, it’s too hot for tights and I don’t want my legs to look like pillars of salt. Time for the fake bake. Just pray it works properly and I don’t end up with legs glowing like tangerines.

I both dread and love the summer holidays. Hate the cooking and the endless laundry. As a nation, we are FAR TOO CLEAN. But by the end, I’ve quite got into the rhythm and the idea of the children being back in school is appalling. They have organised themselves quite brilliantly this summer, having long since given up on any idea that I might turn into a super-mother who gets them to camps etc. and arranges fantastical days out. My days out usually involve outdated maps, nettles and old castles. Surprisingly often, they have also involved being chased by bulls. This year, my 16 year old and 14 year old have chosen navy and airforce camps respectively. Probably safer there.

Two chapters left to go of the adult novel I am writing, which nobody has yet seen. I’m both longing and dreading finishing it because then I’ll have to do something with it. Perhaps my agent will hate it. Perhaps, when I reread it, I’ll hate it. I always go through stages when I’m writing. ‘This is great’ is followed by ‘this is hopeless’ followed by ‘yes yes yes’ followed by ‘help help help’, then a long ‘hmmmmm’. I’m at the ‘hmmmmm’ stage with this one. But having got so far I must finish it before I can concentrate on my new trilogy, which is cooking away nicely in my head, prologue written and the characters gradually forming. It hasn’t yet got a name, which makes me feel insecure – not a good thing for a control freak like me. I scour the Bible and poetry books, and scribble words down in odd places. I have turned into an unashamed eavesdropper, just in case somebody should utter the perfect phrase for a title. Why can’t I come up with something as resonant as Fair Stood The Wind For France? H. E. Bates was a titular genius. Or his publisher was. So, I listen away. If you find yourself next door to me, you have been warned.

Onwards and upwards,

Posted in Blog, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

8th June 2006

Well, Blaze of Silver, the final part of the de Granville Trilogy, is well on its way. One of the peculiar things about being an author is how your time-scales have to alter. Writing a book is a little like having a baby, in that it’s a long gestation period and some of it is rather painful, but then, once the baby’s born, it disappears to be made respectable before being launched out into the world. Waiting to see the dust-jacket always plays on the nerves. Will you like it? And if you don’t, will you dare say so? I’ve been really lucky so far in that I’ve loved my jackets – the one on the left is the Puffin jacket for the story of my unfortunate Uncle Frank – but other authors have real horror stories with covers that seem to them to bear no relation what they thought they had written. Perhaps some designers have agendas all of their own …

But I also have other big news. I am to write a quartet of books, still ‘epic adventures set in the past which may or may not be true’, (the modern way of describing historical novels) for Quercus. Once I had finished shouting ‘hurrah!’ and downed a quick glass or two of champagne, I settled down to think. Except of course, once the bubbly effect of the champagne wears off, I tend to fall asleep. Being asleep at the keyboard is a very wierd experience since if your head nods forward, when you wake up you have typed screeds of stuff. You scan it anxiously. Could it be brilliant? Well, it might be, except that it all seems to be in code. Mine was a mishmash of sdfga or ‘;lkjk. My forehead is not trained in touch-typing.

When beginning a new project, I spend a lot of time reading, which is very nice since you can do it outside and, believe it or not, it’s been quite hot even in Glasgow. I sit in my jungaloid (is there such a word? If there isn’t, there should be) garden and concentrate. Except I don’t because it’s impossible to sit in a garden without seeing millions of things that need to be done, so I’m up and down like a yoyo, pruning this, tidying that, sweeping the other. The dogs get absolutely fed up because as soon as I move, they feel honour bound to do the same, just in case I was thinking of taking them for a walk.

Anyhow, in the few moments of peace, I find myself reading T. H. White’s The Once and Future King. Blast Mr. White to Fiery Hell, as my son, who is in particularly swashbuckling mode at the moment, might say. Mr. White is a genius. He tells the story of King Arthur as nobody else. He begins with Arthur as a boy, generally known as The Wart, and the reader, like the Wart, is changed into different animals and birds by the magician Merlin. What Mr. White didn’t know about everything on earth and a few things above and below isn’t worth knowing. And he was writing long before Google was invented. I’m glad I’m not writing about Arthur or I would lie on the floor of my study weeping. How to better T. H. White? Impossible.

Today I’m going to have my hair cut and, whisper it, coloured (of course). It’s always a moment for me, when the hairdresser says ‘what colour’? I have a wild desire to go red, or even orange, and frighten my family into fits. Or perhaps I could go green to complement the budgies?

Onwards and upwards,

Posted in Blog, Uncategorized | 1 Comment