Opposite of Amber

So my first failure of the A to Z Challenge – I missed N completely. Totally stumped on that one. I could think of topics – names for example – I just didn’t have anything remotely interesting to say!

Moving swiftly on, O comes very nicely to coincide with a book I was planning to review on here anyway. Continue reading “Opposite of Amber”

Memory Days

Some days, you just know, will stick in your memory. Or maybe not the whole day, just snapshots from it. You can take as many pictures as you like but you know that if you close your eyes you will be right back in the moment, every sensation as vivid as it is now.

Today was like that. Having pre-arranged to meet Twitter friends Jo Cannon and Jane Smith in Whitby, I suddenly found myself without car and the trains running at such intervals that I’d have to either be in Middlesbrough at 7am or miss it altogether. As a last resort I tried the bus timetables and lo and behold, not only was the bus fare cheaper than the train or the petrol, it was also a quicker journey than the train. I still can’t quite figure out how…

So, anyway, I reckoned this would be an adventure. Due to us being gas-guzzling, spoiled-rotten car users, my kids can probably count on one hand how often they’ve been on a bus.

I was SO right. Daniel loved it, Emily chafed a little by the end of the hour’s journey at being strapped into her pushchair but she was as good as gold really. So what could have been a total nightmare (2 small children on a bus for an hour… my blood runs cold at the thought of what could have been) was delightful.

Meeting Jane and Jo was as wonderful as I’d hoped. Chatting with them on Twitter helped me get over my stupid shyness and I tried very hard (I really did!) to not talk about the kids the whole time – difficult when they kept complimenting them on their manners and general gorgeousness (yes that was a gloating mum moment. Get over it). By the way, if anyone is in Whitby I cannot recommend Bothams enough. A special atmosphere, gorgeous tea and cakes and such friendly, lovely staff. And especially try the peach cheesecake. Anyway…

We wandered down to the sea afterwards, seeing parts of Whitby I hadn’t seen before but will again. We got a snack from a chip shop and sat and ate it by the water and watched the swing bridge let a couple of racing boats through. Eventually we got the bus home and again the children were near angelic. One of the happiest days I have had in a very long while.

And on the bus on the way home I looked at my beautiful children and just knew. This was a memory day.


After much humming and haa-ing I’m coming more and more round to the idea that I am at heart a Young Adult writer. I know I should probably have decided this by now. I’ve been calling myself a writer now for two years and been a Dabbler for rather more than that, but there you go. Some of us are a bit slower on the uptake than others.

The thing is, I have an overactive imagination and the attention span of a flea. I love so many different types of books – romance, adventure, fantasy; teenage or adult or historical or women’s contemporary fiction – that I flit from wanting to write one type to another. But I keep coming back to two things. Firstly, romance. You’d think this would be my first love because it’s probably my favourite genre for light reading; specifically, historical romance – even more specifically, Regency romance. I’ve said a million times on here that my biggest influences were Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer. My husband certainly thinks I should write this kind of story because I love reading them so much and I know the world like the back of my hand. And I do love the times when I’m writing this style. I’ve got a novella on the go that I’m pretty happy with. And to be perfectly honest, it’s probably the easier (note I said ‘easi-ER’, I’m far from kidding myself that any book is ‘easy’ to write) book for me to write, simply because for so long I’ve lived and breathed Regency romance. I even have a half-made Regency ball-gown tucked away in the linen chest (seriously. It was for a charity ball but I ran out of time and can’t bring myself to throw it away. It’s another project I will finish ‘one day’).

But for a long time I’ve been awed by the scope of the Young Adult novels around. The authors I’m being introduced to (Gillian Philip, Nicola Morgan, Cat Clarke, Malorie Blackman, Michael Morpurgo and the list goes on and on and on) and the stories they’ve written are amazing. There’s a to-be-read list as long as my arm and there seems no limit to what you can write about. The idea of putting myself alongside those authors feels a bit pretentious and getting too big for my boots but the truth is they are just so inspiring.

I remember being a teenage reader (pre-empting any cheeky comments, it wasn’t THAT long ago) and the excitement of losing myself in a book. Some of my childhood books are still my favourite books – Narnia, pretty much anything by Edith Nesbit or Enid Blyton (St Clare’s, anyone?) The Chalet School series, A Little Princess or The Secret Garden – before I moved onto Georgette Heyer then Jane Austen. I don’t know how those books would do today if they were coming new to the market and the books I’m seeing in the Young Adult sections are completely different, but the point is that the books I was introduced to as a young reader stayed with me. I want to write one of those books. Again, not another Railway Children, but a book that some teenager might read and keep on their shelves as an old favourite when they’re thirty or fifty or seventy. Maybe the book that encourages a teenager to keep reading when they’re on the point of being distracted by something shinier and noisier.

There are three story ideas dancing around in my head, and have been for a while. The first is my Regency – not a romance, but an adventure – which I’ve had on the go for a while and am making slow but sure progress with. The others are completely contrasting and more… involved. Not particularly complicated, but they are going to take a LOT of imagination and constructing an entirely different world to the ones I’ve been used to. The thing is, they’ve all come into my head as books for teenagers. It puts a lot of pressure on – I know how critical a teenager can be and the demand is basically that I write the best book I can and then make it better. Gulp. But it also opens up immense possibilities as to where the story can go, and that’s one of the things I find so exciting about kidlit. Of course, nothing is set in stone. I will write the best books I can and I guess that will determine what type of author I am!


On a side note, I’m considering calling it a day with the A to Z Blogging Challenge. It’s been interesting and motivating coming up with a daily post, and I’m tempted to carry on because I’ve committed to it and it would be fun to see what happens (especially at W, X, Y and Z…) but I’m not sure it’s doing me any favours. Writing a post because it’s something I do daily probably isn’t producing my best posts, and I could be using the time I’m thinking of and writing blog posts on the fiction. And due to IMMENSE tiredness and the madness that is two small children, that time is precious.

On the other hand, it is getting me in the discipline of doing some writing every day. I dunno. I’d appreciate any thoughts from anyone? If you’ve been reading the blog, I’d be really grateful for any comments on how it’s going and whether it’s worth keeping up the challenge to the end of April. And thanks for reading so far!


As a writer, I think your journey starts right back at the very beginning when you first string letters together and realise they make words. In other words, when you begin to read. Throughout my life I’ve loved reading and rereading and I’ve been influenced to different degrees by the various authors that I’ve read. It’s not that I try to emulate their work (although I sometimes do) or that I want to write in that genre (although I sometimes do!) but that I learn something from each of them. That could be how they write dialogue, the kind of characters they create, the settings and atmospheres they evoke or just a lightness of touch that says so much in so few words and makes me think “Wow, that was good. How do I do that?”

Here’s my personal top eight influences, in no particular order. What are yours?

  • Jane Austen – Whatever you think about romantic novels, and hers are among the very best, there’s no denying that Jane Austen was a master at writing about concerns both peculiar to her time and universal. She’s also the queen of quick, witty prose and sharp observations; and her characters are memorable and human, with weaknesses and frailties that we can relate to. I bow in awe.
  • Georgette Heyer – Fabulous, evocative and detailed portrayals of Regency life, and by gum she can write a funny scene that has me laughing my socks off every time I read it. This is the kind of historical I want to write – a good story, a happy ending and funny, sympathetic characters that are both hindered and helped by the Society in which they live.
  • Eva Ibbotson – I love every one of her books that I’ve read. They appeal to adults and young adults and the language is really beautiful.
  • Edith Nesbit – One of my completely favourite childhood authors. I loved her storylines, the mix of magic and everyday life. I think the Psammead is one of the best magical creatures ever, I would love to come up with something like that. She taught me that magic and fantasy interweave with our world to produce the most wonderful stories. And who doesn’t cry at the end of The Railway Children?
  • Dr Seuss – the wacky and wonderful words he comes up with and the brilliant, often convoluted rhyming. A staple of my childhood, who I’m introducing to my kids. He teaches you to play with language and though I’m not as brave as he is in just making words up, I’d love to be. There are no rules with Dr Seuss but through him you learn about rhyme and rhythm and poetry. It’s wonderful.
  • Lord Tennyson – If only for The Lady of Shalott. My mum read this to me when I was tiny and apparently I loved it and would listen to it over and over. Up until a couple of years ago this disappeared completely from my life then I started re-reading it. I’m fairly convinced it’s responsible in some subliminal way for my love of historical romantic heroines, or as I used to call them, “Ladies in long dresses’.
  • C S Lewis – The Chronicles of Narnia are among my favourite books of all time, never mind childhood. Again, it’s the mix of fantasy and real life – throwing ordinary children into magical situations that I would love to try and do really well. Until then, I can totally lose myself in his land. Apparently Tolkien disliked the Narnia stories because Lewis had a real hodge-podge of fantasy elements, throwing in creatures and stories from a huge variety of mythic traditions instead of painstakingly creating a world with its own rules and creatures. I, on the other hand, really like this about Lewis’ work. If ever there was a clear example of how allowing yourself to be influence by your reading can produce amazing results, Lewis is it. He’s also a brilliant Christian writer – Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, The Four Loves, The Problem of Pain and The Great Divorce are wonderful books.
  • Terry Pratchett – So prolific! I love a book that makes me laugh out loud and his do, time and again. I also have to say, although I prefer his earlier work, I am hugely inspired by how he has dealt with his illness and found a way to work around it to keep writing.

There are so many more. I take a little away from every book I read – for better or worse! And one day, maybe someone will have me on a similar list of their own.