My First Love
I've always loved reading and writing stories, ever since I was a kid, when I stayed up all night reading Roald Dahl and Enid Blyton long after lights out with a torch under the covers.
High school YA writing contest and space adventures :D
Then at high school my favorite subject was English. Our school held annual short story contests, they would give us the first sentence , and from that we had to write a story aimed at kids or teenagers.
I wrote about a couple of teenagers who had an accidental space adventure after a day trip to NASA went wrong .
I Won the story competition that year, and I was, literally ‘over the moon ‘ :D
I can't remember what the prize was, I think I got a prize certificate and a voucher for WHsmith, there were definately jellytots involved :D
College journalism and olde world literature
At college, I loved English. The tutors were eccentric and barmy, but their passion for the subject made classes lively and interesting, and I learnt a lot from them.
My favorite coursework project was a journalism one, we were instructed to write an article on any topic we wanted. At the time I was heavily into the clubbing scene and dance / house music, and was an avid reader of music magazines such as Mixmag. I was also learning Djing and music production at another college at the same time, but that's another story.
So I decided to write an article on music and the club scene. At the time niche music and non mainstream clubs were taking off, while the big name clubs went from being packed out every weekend to being dead, with dwindling numbers and club membership and empty dancefloors. It seemed that clubbers wanted to feel like they had stumbled upon something special, instead of just being pawns in a commercial media game.
So I called my article ‘ Is the superclub dead? ‘ and got an A star :D
My tutor told me he was very impressed, and that he had never seen such a good standard from A level student. He told me he had shown my article to a journalist friend of his , and apparently they had said it was of proffessional standard. :D I did think of sending it off to Mixmag and the like, but college life was a busy time so I didn't, and eventually forgot about it.
During this time I was also introduced to Shakespeare and 18th and 19th century literature. My friends hated it, to my suprise, despite finding it a bit difficult to get my head round at first, I enjoyed studying olde world‘e literature and poetry, and actually still read the huge anthologies I have from my uni course in English lit… sometimes :D
The beginning of my book :D
Its 2006, to cheer myself up one day I went shopping, and decided to treat myself to some beautiful new stationery, a georgous bound notebook and accompanying journal. I also bought a load of fancy new pens and a scrap book, which I never did get round to using. I didn't need this stuff really, uni was finished and I had no reason to purchase stationery, other than it was cute and I wanted to.
It was then that I had an idea for a novel, it struck me out of nowhere, I knew the title instantly and instinctively, the characters came to life in my head, the plot was formed, and I could envision the cover art vividly and as clear as day. It was a bit like an ephipany, a bolt out of the blue, and the idea for my book was born! :D
It wasn't even inspired by any books I'd read, at that time I didn't read at all, I had so much going on in my life that I hadn't the time, I was too busy enjoying myself. Anyway, this idea just wouldn't leave me alone, so eventually I pulled out my new girly notepad and started to put it down. It was effortless, the words flowed thick and fast, and within no time I had written three chapters, developed my main characters and finalised my plot with all its twists and turns in my mind. I read what I had wrote back, and I recall thinking ‘ this is brilliant! If I do say so myself.‘ then, life started to get complicated, so my notebook was put away in a drawer and forgotten about, although I always intended to get back to it one day, I just never did.
An unlikely reminder and more reading
Until 2011 that is. I was watching inane american comedy cartoon ‘ Family Guy‘ absent mindedly one day, and Stu‘ie ( weird talking evil baby) said to Brian ( weird talking dog ) something along the lines of ' oh so your gonna be an author are you ? You got a good protagonist mm mm? It's only taken you 5 years to write. ..‘ blah blah , basically Stu'ie was being sarcastic, and mocking Brians attempts to be a writer. Well, it reminded me of my own abandoned novel attempt, and I promised myself I'd take another look at it.
So the next day I hunted through my stuff, and found the old and now tatty notebook, I opened it and started to read, and was instantly transported into the world of my heroine. After three finished chapters and random snippets of other scenes, I thought, as I had all those years ago, 'wow, that's pretty good, if I do say so myself' in fact, I thought it was better than good, it was awesome :D ( in my humble opinion, but then, I guess all writers feel that way about their work?)
So I typed up all I had already written , and over 2011 bashed out the next three chapters. Sadly, this year I haven't written at all, apart from a few poems that were just more of a spontaneous emotional outlet than any sort of serious creative endeavor. I did however, rediscover my love of reading, aftet receiving a free copy of Lyndsey Kelks ‘I heart New York‘ with a copy of Company magazine, and over the year I managed to find the time to read the books pictured below, and every one of them, in their own way, not only inspired me to continue to write, but convinced me for the first time that I actually had a realistic chance of being published! :D
The ‘ I heart‘ series by Lyndsey Kelk ( Harpercollins )
I fell in love instantly with Kelks characters, writing style and storylines. Her main character Angela reminded me very much of my own female protagonist, and the plot of I heart New York mirrored the themes of heartbreak, escape, adventure, friendship and romance in my own story, and probably most ‘ chick lit‘. Her light hearted and sometimes funny prose drew me in from the beginning, and I really enjoyed reading it , leading me to seek out the follow up books in the series ‘ I heart Paris‘, ‘I heart Hollywood ‘, and most recently ‘I heart London‘. All equally as engaging, funny and heart warming.:D
The main reason I love Kelk, and the reason I found her books inspirational is her narrative style and characters, both bearing similarities to my own. Her narrative voice and the way in which the characters spoke interested me, as in my story the characters speak the same as my friends and I do in real life. I had worried slightly that perhaps it was too informal, and that the language in my dialouge was too idiosyncratic to be fully appreciated by a wider audience. However Kelks characters speak in a very similiar fashion, and the ‘I heart series‘ has done very well, putting to rest my fears and giving me more confidence in my own narrative voice and that of my characters :D
Lipstick Jungle by Candace Bushnall ( Abacus )
Probably the best known author from my reading list, Candaces books were the inspiration for the TV series 'Sex and the city', which I admit, I never cared for. However the book is fabulous, like Kelk, the themes of fashion, romance and friendship feature strongly, except there's more betrayal and baddies‘ in ‘Lipstick Jungle ‘. I like this as later in my own story these themes are present. Bushnalls story features journalists, fashion and the careers of the main characters are an integral part of the plot, as they are in mine. However the comedy aspect I found to be more sarcastic and cutting in this book, sometimes bordering on nastiness. That I didn't like, but I was inspired nontheless by this book mainly through theme, content and setting, reassuring me that fashion and journalism are still (hopefully) hot topics in contemporary womens fiction.
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert ( Bloomsbury )
I love this book. Unashamedly spiritual and emotional, 'Liz' as she's known in the story, charts her adventures through Italy and India on a mission to find inner peace, contentment and enlightenment after a bitter divorce leaves her depressed and disillusioned. First she regains her health and confidence in Italy, before delving into an array of spiritual practice in India. She learns that enlightenment comes through the unlikely practice of scrubbing temple floors, and she makes a new friend in the form of a toothless medicine man she meets in a rural village, who teaches Her the benefits of
‘sitting still and smiling‘, aka meditation. Being something of a hippy myself, the spiritual theme of this book really appeals to me. Although the end conclusion of the story is somewhat abrupt and unsatisfactory, this book really impressed me and I didn't want it to end.
Although my own story shares zero similarity with Gilberts, her honesty and at times very emotional writing inspired me because it showed me that emotion can be very engaging, and lively writing style can carry a book even if the plot isn't as solid as it could be. I have ideas for future stories that could possibly involve strong emotions and maybe even spirituality. The success of this book ( it was a bestseller and was later adapted for a film of the same title) reminds me that honest emotion and spirituality are no bad thing, and narrative voice is just as , if not, more important than plot. :D
Street Kid by Judy Westwater (Harpercollins)
This book I only read because my mum only has heart wrenching memoirs on her bookshelf, and I was staying with her during a particularly difficult time in my life. Of all the titles this one grabbed me the most, due to having experienced homelessness myself at a young age ( although not as young as Julie) I don't particularly like speaking of, or even remembering that time, so you're unlikely to ever hear me speak of it again, unless of course …I ever write a book about it lol. Anyway Street Kid tells Judys story of her young life alone on the mean streets of South Africa. She manages to survive, despite her tender age, and as they say lived to tell the tale. I found this book hard to read in places, but overall I found it inspiring because it teaches that through determination, willpower and faith , we can overcome anything life throws at us. Its a heartwarmer with a happy ending, and I was so impressed with it that I bought the follow up ‘Street Kid Fights On‘ for my mum, although I haven't had chance to read it myself yet, I'll get round to it…one day.
Pillow Talk by Freya North
This book, out of all the books I read this year, inspired me the most, despite being ( I feel terrible to say) incredibly… yawn. I didn't even manage to finish it. The protagonist Petra Flint is a jewellery designer and maker, who bumps into her childhood sweetheart teacher and musician Arlo, in a bookstore one rainy day, after not seeing each other since kindergarten. They speak briefly, but don't swap numbers or plan to meet again. The story then switches interchangeably between Petra telling her friends and work colleagues in her studio how much she misses Arlo and wants to see him again. At the same time, lonely Arlo is yearning for Petra, and recalls a song he wrote about her, called ‘In the flowers‘.
Petra then decides to find her long lost love, and sets off to find him, first asking the book store owner where to find him. Then she begins to stalk him by hanging outside the school he teaches at, hoping to bump into him again. Inevitably she does, on another rainy day, and Arlo invites her to his place. This is as far as I got, the plot was too slow moving and over the top sickly sweet romantic for my liking, and there's no subplots or many other characters that play a significant part in the story. It was too one dimensional for my taste, I prefer variety, excitement and a bit of drama. If you're a hopeless romantic you may disagree with me, but as I said I found this book the most inspiring of all. The reason? Freya North is a very successful womens lit writer, with no less than nine other published titles. It may sound harsh, but I thought to myself, If this story is good enough for publication, then surely mine will be too! :D
Perhaps her other titles are much better, and this was published due to her famous name. If anyone has read any Freya North and disagrees with me, pls feel free to tell me. Until then, this book is justifying my publication dream! :D
Ugly by Constance Briscoe (Hodder and Stoughton )
Again, this was one I found on my mums bookshelf. It's a true story, Constances memoir of her childhood, in which she is verbally abused by her stepfather, and neglected by her mother. It was sad to read how she was branded 'ugly' by her own parents, treat like a domestic slave, and denied basic things such as food, clothes and freedom, while her siblings were treat differently.
Despite the sad subject matter, Constance tells her story in a very engaging, lively and humorous style, recounting various scrapes and misadventures in her young life, including her experiences in the pentacoastal churches, school discos, and working hard in cafes and clothes shops illegally for a pittance as she saves up for cosmetic surgery to fix her perceived flaws. She also sets her sights on a law career, and despite everything she manages to leave home, escape her parents and succeed .
Its a touching tale and inspires me, as Constances grit and determination see her through. Again, this book showed me that emotion, humour, and a strong narrative voice can make any story hugely entertaining, even if the subject matter is heartbreaking. This book was a best seller and I'm not surprised, I fully intend to read the follow up ‘Beyond Ugly‘ when I get the chance, if anyones read it already let me know what you think!
A Girl Like You by Gemma Burgess ( Harpercollins)
Now, back to chick lit! A Girl Like You was right up my street. I picked it up because the cover and blurb appealed to me.
I loved this book almost as much as I loved kelk, due to it being highly readable, humorous and very true to life. Single Abigail Wood is a girl about town, with a kick ass attitude and a penchant for bad boys, which inevitably ends up in a few scrapes and dating disasters. As she navigates the dating scene, she encounters a few potential suitors that make her heart sing, but concious of being hurt or worse, used, she decides to toughen up and play men at their own game, with hilarious results.
Burgess' writing style is very honest, down to earth and funny, her characters totally believable and likable, and her sarcasm and way of putting things are guaranteed to remind you of real life, that is, if you've ever being a single serial dater of bad boys:D
There's a fair bit of swearing and bad language in this book, more than in any other I've read. This is no bad thing though, as it's all relative to the context and characters. This book was brilliant, refreshing and funny. It was nice to read about a strong female character who isn't subject to the whims of her love interests, like in most chick lit novels. This book inspired me to take more risks in my own writing, encouraging me to toughen up one of own female characters, although not the lead.
It also showed me that bad language and a bit of danger and sarcasm are fine, in moderation. A girl like You is realistic and laugh out loud funny, I recommend reading if you get the chance, if you're all for feminism and girl power, that is ! :D
Is Harry On The Boat by Colin Butts (Orion)
This book follows a group of male holiday reps working in the clubbing capital of the world…Ibiza! My colleague Lee and I were sharing stories of our own adventures there, when Lee offered to lend me this book, assuring me that I'd love it. After the first chapter or so, I wasn't sure. It was well written, the characters were believable, and there was plenty by the way of drama, variety and subplots, but It didn't seem to focus on any particular character as being the hero, all characters seemed to feature with equal frequency and importance, which to me was unusual, but written in third person- it works! I'd say this was more lad lit, but it was highly entertaining and written so realistically it felt to me as if I was back there, that the characters were 100% real, and you knew them. If that's not a hallmark of fantastic fiction I don't know what is! There's a lot of sex and even drugs in the story, but I guess, it wouldn't be Ibiza without them. This story inspired me because part of my own story is set on the white isle, and the popularity of ‘Is Harry On The Boat? ‘ ( it was a bestseller and was turned into a TV series) just goes to show that partying, pulling, music and fashion are always going to be appealing to the 18-30‘s age group, which, incidentally is my demographic. I enjoyed this book very much in the end, and it's convinced me that ibizan adventures are fully deserving of their place in my story! :D
Phew, what a post, If you made it this far, congratulations, and thankyou for reading!
As for the future, Im gonna try and finish my story this year, I'll tell you more about it later, I hope that by bloggin‘ and following you lovely guys and gals im gonna learn something, and pick up some tricks and tips! I've also just started my creative writing course, so when Im taught something useful I'll be sure to share it with you. So, happy reading and writing in the new year folks! :D