Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Terrific Talent

I love writing. I have only recently come to realise quite how much I love it, and quite how grateful I am that writing is my talent.

I used to envy those people who could sing beautifully, or who were musically gifted. If I could sing and play the piano, my party piece would be singing "My Melancholy Blues" by Queen, a beautiful and haunting tune. But I can't sing. Well, not well. My friend, who never says a bad word about anyone and is musically gifted, charitably says I have a good choir voice. In other words, it might sound OK if 100 others were singing along with me to drown me out.

I can't dance either. I did ballet as a child but gave up because I didn't like all the French words and was sure I'd never learn them. Languages, you see, are something else I'm not good at. It took mew 17 years of living in Wales to get any kind of fluency in Welsh.

I have some artistic ability, but I think artistic ability is something that can be learned to a certain extent, and I had learned all I could and gone as far as I could go. I applied to study art at university but wasn't successful.

I'm pretty average at everything else. I have taken 15 exams in total - 10 O'levels (as GCSEs used to be called), 4 A levels and a degree. Never got an A in any of them, just a whole lot of Bs and Cs. The only test I have ever got an A in was my blood test, for which I got A+.

But I can write. You know when you read something in a book and it is just so perfectly and evocatively phrased that you have a real emotional response - fear, or love, or laughter, and then envy wishing you'd written it? I know pride is a bad thing, but reading over chapters of the fantasy novel I'm working on at the moment I am finding parts that I am really happy about. I love that. I love being able to use words to evoke a response, set a scene, create a mood and flesh out a character. I love being able to create worlds, people and adventures with nothing more than a keyboard. I've written more in the last three weeks than I wrote during the whole of 2009, and I'm remembering just what a thrill it is when the ideas, the lines and the scenes come faster than I can type them.

I may not be as talented as many - most - other writers, but I'm still learning my craft, and I know that I will improve with practice. However, I can write better than the average person on the street, and I wouldn't change that talent for any other - not even being able to sing, dance, play the piano and paint wonderful pictures all at the same time.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010


My last post on the V-Formation blog ( created quite a bit of controversy, but having now read almost all the Twilight saga, I stand by what I said. They inspire me. Stephenie Meyer, in turn, was inspired (appropriately) by Muse and various other rock bands. I haven't got into Muse yet; I suspect they may be a bit grungy and emo for my tastes.

This got me thinking about what inspires us. My books have come from various sources, but strangely, rarely my own head.
  • Haven was suggested to me by my editor at Covenant, Valerie Holladay, who asked for a book set in Wales with a variety of different characters. A B&B was the obvious solution.
  • A World Away was the sequel to Haven. I had never intended writing a sequel, but publishers like sequels to successful books by new authors; apparently they establish the name and the market.
  • Christmas at Haven (as yet unpublished) is the third in the trilogy. More of the same, but with a difference in that Haven burns down in the opening pages.
  • Easterfield came to me because I love Jane Austen (who doesn't?) and realised that she lived shortly before the gospel was restored in 1830. I wondered what would happen if a Mormon element were to crop up in the society she writes about. So I wrote about it.
  • Landscape in Oils, my current effort, was inspired by a conversation I had with a drugs squad officer from Bangor police station many years ago. I have been writing this pesky book for fifteen years. But it is actually nearing the end, at last, after having been abandoned several times, sent in, sent back, lost, found, queried, subjected to public inquiry, lost again, and finally buried in soft peat for three months and recycled as firelighters.
  • Horses Born With Eagle Wings is a fantasy novel I have been writing for even longer than I've been writing Landscape, and is inspired entirely by the first two Queen albums. The characters and even the title come from songs on those albums.
  • Finders Keepers/Four Friends was the brainchild of a friend based on her own adventures of being middle aged and single. I've started it, and will write more when I finish one of the other books I'm working on.
  • Emon, the fantasy novel I'm excited about at the moment, was the idea of Ryan Tench, who will be credited with me. Had a great meeting with him on Sunday, he just comes up with so many ideas, plot twists, character quirks and wonderful stuff that I can't write it fast enough. So perhaps Ryan is my muse.

What inspires you?