Can you remember the first book that ever moved you?
Mine was called Bobs.
‘Six o’clock!’ it began. ‘Time to get up,’ said Bobs. Bobs leapt out of bed.’
I loved that book for about four weeks when I was three, reading and rereading it. Maybe there wasn’t any other book around just then to read – our family moved often back then. But Bobs was enough.
The House at Pooh Corner came next. I still quote bits to my ever patient husband when it’s chilly.
I spent this afternoon a few decades in the future, with Margaret Atwood, at the death of humankind (Or is it? Must read the last book in the series.)
Five minutes later I was back in 1932, doing the corrections for The Road the Gundagai, the third in the Matilda series (out December 1st). Then a quick dash back to Gallipoli in May, 1915 (checking dates for a picture book being created with the wonderful Bruce Whatley).
Then 500 words on Let the Land Speak: how the land created our nation, for a book catalogue. As that covers 60,00 years there were a lot of eras to think through.
Ideas come from everywhere. I’ve had four in the last three seconds.
- Do I really want to write this blog? (Probably.)
- Should I have a piece of peach cake?
- Is that a wombat scratching under the house, or an axe murderer with a chain saw? (Will let you know. Or not.)
I am bad with endings. Starting a story is no problem but concluding it is hard. I like to leave the cinema before the credits finish. I have a whole lot of almost empty jars in my fridge (although that could possibly just be laziness). And I really, really hate saying goodbye. I am the type that slinks away from a gathering, sometimes having pointed out something in the other direction first so that everyone turns away from me as I go.
The title of this post appears to pose a question but really, as far as I’m concerned there’s nothing to discuss. Maybe in polite company it’s not nice to listen in on other people’s conversations but if you are an author I feel it’s not only allowed but practically mandatory. It should be a compulsory class in any writing course. If anyone in charge of a writing course happens to be reading this please take note. I am even happy to teach the subject.
A large portion of my working day is spent staring out the window. In fact I probably spend equal amounts of time writing and staring. Perhaps I even do a little more staring. I’ve always been a big middle-distance gazer. My family used to call it glazing, because I’d get a glassy expression on my face indicating that while I was there in body, my mind was off in a galaxy far, far away.
Image via fanpop, copyright Disney Pixar.
My family and I recently moved house. If you’ve ever had to move then you’ll know what a complete pain it is and how it seems to take over your entire life for a little while. The worst bit for me is having to make painful decisions about what stuff to keep and what stuff to chuck out. In theory this should be easy. The things that are in good condition and which are still useful should stay. The broken, useless things should go.
But the trouble with stuff is that it tends to have all these pesky emotional associations.
Let me preface this post by saying I don’t actually believe that the characters in my books are real people – it’s just that sometimes it feels a bit like I’m not so much creating them as getting to know someone who already exists. That I have to learn who they really are rather than trying to force them to be a certain way just for the sake of my plot.
Being a writer is a lonely job. You spend most of your time (alone) staring at your computer screen, willing the words to appear. Then you wonder how to make those words better. And all the time you are plagued with worries. Is the story interesting enough? Are the characters appealing? Will your readers understand what you’re trying to say? Will anyone even read your book or did you spend all that time (alone) for no reason?
I am probably the only person in the world who has neither read nor watched The Hunger Games. Not because I don’t want to but because I’m stubborn. You see, about eighteen months ago I was talking to someone at a party and when he heard I was a Young Adult author he started interrogating me about which YA books I’d read. He couldn’t believe it when I admitted I hadn’t yet read The Hunger Games. ‘Why not?’ he wanted to know. ‘I thought everyone who wrote YA would’ve read it?’