Thursday, November 15, 2018

Would I?

It's publication day for me today, so I'm exercising my right to hijack the question (What would you never write?) and do the BSP-dance. It's a can-can with jazz hands, by the way.

Would I write a book about a bored upper-class lady in 1922, who goes to a house-party where some diamonds are stolen and decides to find them? Yep.

But would I write a novel set in the village where I was born and starring my Godmother as a six-week-old winning the bonny baby competition? Uh-huh.

So would I write a novel set where my husband was born and populate it with wall-to-wall witches? You betcha.

But there are limits.  Would I write a book set in a circus at Christmas-time, or is that a step too far? Guess.

How about sending a gently-born detective undercover as a lady's maid in a grand house during a general strike? [curtsy]

And if playing at houses was too much like fun and not enough like work, would that stop me playing at shops in the ladies' wear departments of rival family emporia? Why of course not, madam.

But surely you can't get away with channeling your inner Enid Blyton to write a book about a girls' boarding school on a breezy cliff-top? Oh, really.

Did you play at doctors and nurses when you'd played at houses, shops and schools enough? Me too.

And what's the worst thing you could find in a barrel of salted herrings? I agree.

But where better to look for a bit of glamour to take the smell of herrings (etc) away than in a ballroom? Nowhere, that's where.

And where better to go after all that dancing, for rest and reflection, than a convent on a lonely moor-top? Pretty much anywhere, as it turned out. But who knew.

Then there's the book that had to be written. Simon Brett did it. Ngaio Marsh did it. Jo Nesbo did it. Was I going to miss out on all that schlocky fun? Nope.

But after a doomed production of Macbeth in a crumbling castle with relations at war and bitter secrets leaking poison, where is there left to go?

Are you kidding? Relations, secrets, poison and doom:- it's a family wedding. Dandy Gilver Book 13, is out today.

Here endeth the blatant self promotion.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Why...or why not? by Cathy Ace

Craft - We all write the kind of novels we want to write. What kind of novel would you never write?

This is going to be a looooong list! I honestly don’t think I could write literary, fantasy, sci-fi, romance, or erotic…so I’m pretty much left with “crime”. 

Even within my chosen sub-genre I don’t think that legal, forensic, procedural, military, global, scientific, historical or action thrillers are within my wheelhouse either. So I suppose I’m left with traditional, cozy, psychological and suspense...and twisty! All of which I have written. I'll admit to two procedural novellas too, but that's all!

Now I have to ask, and therefore answer, the critical question – why, or why not?

I think it all comes back to the fact that I try write the kinds of novels I like to read and, whilst I have read all of the above list of “not for author me” types of books, and have enjoyed many of them, all I could do while reading them was spot what I didn’t want to to do be able to write a good book of that type.

I don’t want this blog to become a moaning critique of all the reasons why I don’t “find the idea appealing” to write certain types of books, because I’m as happy to sit down with a historical global action thriller based upon a medico-scientific premise that’s led to a dystopian vision of the world as the next person. But…I don’t want to do the research and world-building that would be needed to be able to write one. 

I feel I want to be able to specifically draw on my experiences of life when I write. Luckily for me (and maybe my readers?) I’ve lived what some might call “a fairly colorful life”, and – upon reflection – there are certainly elements of my list of “no thanks” that appear across my books.

Cait Morgan has visited places where I have lived or worked, and which I know intimately. I wanted to be able to write books set in many countries around the world, and to examine different cultures, but to try to not appropriate any of those cultures. I hope that having Cait always be a “visitor” allows me to do this. And I gave her a late-in-life relationship to deal with, as I myself experienced. 

The women of the WISE Enquiries Agency Mysteries also inhabit a world of which I have real experience (yes, even Henry Devereaux Twyst, the eighteenth duke of Chellingworth, is based upon an ex-boyfriend…but I can’t tell you who, because I could end up in The Tower!) but the books also allowed me to portray the way people from the four Home Nations of the United Kingdom live and work together, without the apparition of Brexit hanging over them – hence “cozy”, because it’s so far from the reality of life in Wales and the “UK” at the moment. Another thing – the main characters are all female, and I wanted to explore how a group of disparate women can and do work well together as a supportive team.

The Wrong Boy (publication date January 9th 2019) reflects life in Wales (still without the Brexit issues) in part in the way I know it – though it’s not a national history, so you’ll only get a few drops of the entire flavor of the Wales of today, and yesterday. The book’s allowed me to examine some of the themes of my life, by giving those themes to others to deal with. I can’t say more than that, sorry, because of spoilers…I suppose you’ll have to read the book for yourself and try to work out what on earth my life’s been like. (Wink, wink!)

All that being said, there’s a great deal more I could (and might) write, that differs somewhat to the places (physical and psychological) I’ve taken readers to to date. Maybe I’ll get to it, one day.

I'd be honoured if you'd consider reading my work:


Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Books I May Not Write

We all write the kind of novels we want to write. What kind of novel would you never write?
Terry Shames

Never say never! I’ve had three short stories published in the past couple of years after saying I would never write short stories, so take the following with a grain of salt:


I don’t think I’d enjoy writing straight romance, but I do like to throw in a bit of romance for spice. When I was deciding what I wanted to write, I sampled a few romance novels and I read some truly dreadful books (it just wasn’t my taste) but I also read some that grabbed me right away and kept me interested to the end. The difference? Character.


I love to read and would love to write science fiction, but I simply don’t have the imagination for it. Again, I’ve read some truly awful sci-fi, even famous books that I thought fell flat. But I’ve read some great ones as well. You might think the “science” part of sci-fi was the important part—and sometimes it carries me along. But again, what can make humdrum idea come alive is interesting characters.

I didn’t think I’d ever be interested in writing “women’s fiction,” until I read Lianne Moriarity. She owns that genre, but she dips into mystery at the edges of her books. And I totally get involved in her characters. Kate Atkinson’s first books were “mainstream” fiction with a mystery at the heart of them until she went full-bore mystery with the great character to Brodiie.

Are you getting the theme here? It’s all about character, whatever we write.

There has recently been an uptick in huffiness about the dismissal of genre fiction as being “lesser” somehow. For that reason, I prefer the term “mainstream” rather than “literary” for non-genre work. I wrote some “literary” short stories in my early days—brooding, atmospheric fiction that I thought might be what I ended up writing. But it seemed that every time I sat down to write a novel, it became a “mystery.” So I suppose that although I might think about writing a mainstream novel, I’m not sure how successful I would be.


But in the mystery corner, I think I could write almost anything—historical, super-cozy, traditional, noir, thriller, you name it. I could do it as long as I had a feeling for the characters. Sometimes people ask if I could set my novels anymore other than Texas. Although I know my small-town Texas setting well, and that makes it easier to find my footing when I start a novel, I think I could set them most anywhere. It’s the characters I really need, though.

There are subjects I shy away from. I’m not much interested in crazy villains. I want someone with an understandable purpose, someone who took a wrong turn out of volition, not out of an inability to make another choice. I am not fond of books about war, although I’m reading The Winter Soldier right now. It doesn’t appeal to me to do the research I’d have to do to write about men or women in combat.


I’d probably never tackle a children’s book. Writing for children seems very daunting. Children know so much viscerally and yet are so innocent of customs. I admire anyone who can tackle that successfully. That said, I have a half-written young adult novel that I’d love to complete at some point. Young people can be so fierce, and I love the idea of running with that—with its pitfalls and its tenderness.


Finally, I would be very wary of writing a novel in which I appropriated the experience of those whose cultural background I don’t share, even though I think imagination can lead writers to inhabit such characters. The first novel I was aware of that made people of color bristle about appropriation was William Styron’s The Confessions of Nat Turner, which won the Pultizer Prize. I thought it was a brilliant novel until I read some of the criticism from black readers. Ralph Ellison and James Baldwin defended the novel, but others criticized it, especially for his portrayal of some slaveowners as being “saintly.” When I thought about the novel, I had to really weigh those factors. I have always admired Styron’s work, and it was tough to realize that the critics had a point about appropriation of the black experience. How far down the road do we have to go, though, to say no to a writer who wrote with such imagination about not only people of color but of women? Is Sophie’s Choice an appropriation of a Jewish female? In Lie Down in Darkness, he writes a tour de force depiction of a young woman’s descent into madness. Is that an appropriation? If Styron had not tackled these subjects, readers would be the poorer. Because of the fear of appropriation, I would think long and hard before I went that route in a novel. Still, it doesn’t’ keep me from writing black characters in my books—to ignore them in my small Texas town would be a different kind of insult.  

To sum up, I’m not ruling anything out, but some books would be a greater stretch than others.

Monday, November 12, 2018

What I Won't or Can't Write

Q: We all write the kind of novels we want to write. What kind of novel  would you never write? 

- from Susan

1.    A historical with battlefield scenes.

2.     A bodice-ripper.

3.     A Western.

4.     A story with torture scenes.

5.     Science fiction.

6.     The Great American Novel.

7.     A Jane Austin novel.

Some because I’m never going to be good enough, some because I’m never going to be brave enough, some because I don’t read that kind of fiction. 

The shelves of bookstores are full of books I couldn’t or wouldn’t write. But I am glad other authors have because I know we don’t all have the same tastes and there’s room for every writer and every reader in this glorious world of books.

 What I have written are two series different from each other. A savvy San Francisco divorcee with a wicked sense of humor and a passion for art. 

A flighty American artist with a talent for getting in way over her head in a small French town. 

Fingers crossed there’s another in the making. There’s always something I DO want to write!