Friday, 1 August 2014

Not convinced it's art? - 5 DIY Homages

Are you a doubter? Do you walk around conceptual art galleries and wonder if you're being conned? 

It's okay. My main character, Amber, felt like that too once. Amber was baffled at how seriously people could take absolutely anything if it was on display as art. 

For instance, take a three legged chair. Don't take it, I mean just imagine it. It's lying on the floor of course, because it can't stand up. 

Art reviewers might contemplate whether the chair is mocking our illusion of stability. Perhaps hinting at the fine line between life and death? Highlighting our faith in the temporary? Juxtaposing weakness and strength? 

You and I, and Amber of course, might just wonder what happened to the missing leg. 

But there is hope for Amber, who goes on to embrace her inner artist. And there is hope for the rest of us doubters too. Today I thought I'd follow her footsteps and embrace my own inner artist by paying homage to five of the 'greats'. I think it will completely change your perspective.

1. Damian Hirst (Methoxyverapamil)

2. Malevich (White on White)

3. Andy Warhol (Tomato Soup)

4. Duchamp (Fountain)

5. Tracey Emin (Bed)

My new novel The Temp will be out very soon! Sign up to my newsletter if you would like to be updated. 

Thanks for reading! 


Wednesday, 30 July 2014

An Alternative Author Interview

Apparently I once moaned that people always ask me the same questions in interviews. Ben Blackman, blogger and writer, decided to ask me alternative questions such as:

Q: Do you agree that the over development of crisp flavours in modern Britain has spoilt what used to be a traditional snack you knew you could rely on?

Read on if you dare....


Friday, 18 July 2014

Line Edits - the last mountain?

How I felt when I got the line edits...
The end is in sight for my new book The Temp (formerly known as Spray Painted Bananas). I've got to stop saying this novel took me three months to write because it's just occurred to me that I started it in October 2012 and I'm still editing!
I'm on the line edits now. This is where the editor has gone through the book in detail, commenting on areas which need rewording, cutting or filling out. I didn't have line edits for my first book, Shop Girl Diaries, so it came as a bit of a shock to see how, after two extensive edits already, there was still so much to do.
I battled with a feeling of panic, before finally settling down to review all the notes. To my relief some of the comments were just positive observations with no changes needed. To help me climb the mountain, I wrote down numbers 1 to 107 (the number of comments I needed to respond to) and colour coordinated them so I could get an overview of what I was dealing with.

Making it manageable
Yellow - reword
Green -  expand
Orange //- chapter ending needs work
Blue - not sure I agree
Pink - positive comment

Now I've calmed down and connected with the task at hand, I feel confident I can get this next edit done in a couple of weeks. I even feel glad that Harper Impulse are pushing me to write the best version possible of my novel. Well, I wouldn't want want to sell you any old rubbish, would I? 

Soon I'll be getting a peek at the book cover. I can't wait to share it with you!


Friday, 4 July 2014

Sky's Book Corner - an author Q&A

I was invited over to Sky's Book Corner for an interview about books, writing, seasons, hobbies, sugar vs salty... in fact I'm starting to wonder if I have any secrets left. Perhaps I should invent some. I am a fiction writer after all...   


Tuesday, 1 July 2014

5 Films which will make you cry (add wine for extra sobs)

Don't you love a good cry? Is there anything better than watching a film and balling your eyes out by the end of it? Preferably not because your character has just lost the love of their life or been sentenced to life imprisonment. A painful cry isn't quite as satisfying as a good cry, is it? A painful cry leaves you feeling raw inside, unlike a good cry which ruins your face but lights a spark of happiness and hope in your heart. Too soppy for you? I'm only just getting started. 

Here are 5 films which made me cry, from silent happy tears to heart wrenching sobs* (*which was quite embarrassing since I was in the cinema).  For absolute tear guarantee, watch these films with red wine. Or, if you don't want to cry, avoid them, especially the last two.

5. Eat, Pray, Love
About:  Woman at a crossroads goes searching across Italy, India and Indonesia
Chances of Tears: 4/10
Tear Type: Silent welling up.
Verdict: Watch it for the feel-good factor and escapism. Afterwards I felt like travelling the world. I still do and I watched it a whole week ago. 

4. About Time
About:  A young man with the special ability to time travel tries to change his past in order to improve his future.
Chances of Tears: 5/10
Tear Type: Silent streaming with possible outbreaks of hiccups.
Verdict: Watch it. I loved the characters, specially the Dad played by Bill Nighy.  This film made me reflect on what a gaping hole there would be in my life without my Dad *sob*

3. PS I Love You
About: A young widow discovers that her late husband has left her 10 messages intended to help ease her pain and start a new life.
Chances of Tears: 7/10
Tear Type: Silent streaming with outbursts of louder sobs.
Verdict: Watch it. Pause it half way through and run over to the shops to get a bottle of wine because you're enjoying it so much.

2. Slum Dog Millionaire
About: Kids from the slums of India, one of which later ends up on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, one question away from winning. 
Chances of Tears: 8/10 
Tear Type:  Expect steady stream of tears and snot. 
Verdict: Don't watch it. It was advertised as a 'feel-good' film but it's one of the most depressing films I've seen. Just start donating to Plan or another childrens charity instead.

1. Dancer in the Dark
About: An immigrant mother works day and night to save her son from the same disease she suffers from, a disease that inevitably will make her blind.
Chance of Tears: 10/10
Tear Type: Loud heart wrenching sobs with some choking 
Verdict: Do not watch it. It's so depressing.  

Additional films which might reduce you to a puddle:
Blood Diamond - painful cry 9/10
The Last King of Scotland - painful cry 8/10
La Vita e Bella - painful but happy but painful cry 7/10

Conclusion: I need more 'happy cry' films. Any suggestions?


Thursday, 19 June 2014

The World Cup: Is it just about the football?

Spain is losing to Chile by two goals. If they don't win the game, they're out of the World Cup. I'm lying on the floor watching the television screen at an uncomfortable angle. I don't want to watch but part of me thinks I might influence the result if I do.

"It's just football," my rational self tells me.

But it doesn't feel like it.

My parents are watching it with me. My Dad is tense. He was expecting a draw at the worst. It's his fault I'm a Spain fanatic. Every year since the beginning of time, before a World Cup or a European cup, he has always said, "This year they have the dream team," to which I've always replied, "you say that every year and every year they get knocked out." At least that was the reality until 2008.

Ten minutes left to go. Spain still needs to score 3 goals. I feel like I should be crying. I try to muster some tears.

Is this even about football?

Supporting Spain makes me feel connected to the country that my brother and I idealised when we were little. Being a halfling (Spanish father, Welsh mother), means I'll never really be Spanish. I'll never be completely British either. In philosophical moments, I tell myself that all that matters is that I'm a human being and that nationality only serves to separate people when really we are all the same at heart.

Nostalgia then, is that what I'm clinging onto in the dying moments of this game?

Every August we used to leave London and go to heaven. 'Heaven' being a small village in the Catalan Pyrenees. 'Spain' came to mean mountains, rivers, lizards, sunshine, sea... Spain symbolised escape, freedom. When I'm on the tube at rush hour I close my eyes and imagine I'm back in those mountains beside the lake, my toes dipped in the cool water. I want that time back but it has slipped through my fingers. Or has it? Spain hasn't gone anywhere. I really must stop trying to own it.  

The whistle has blown. Spain is out of the World Cup.

A lot of people will be happy. No one likes teams who win all the time. 

Spain is out!
Time to support my husband's team - Vamos Colombia!
At least they've won before. In fact they've been winning for six years. Shouldn't I be thankful for that?

I start to perk up.

How can I be sad? It was thanks to La Roja that I met my husband. We met in a bar moments after the final whistle of the Euro Cup Final 2008 (Spain vs Germany).

If Spain hadn't won, I would have gone straight home. But I didn't. I stayed to celebrate and that's how I met him.

No need for tears after all. Chile deserved the win. Good luck to them! 


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Thursday, 5 June 2014

The Dreaded Chic-Lit Label

I guess I'm going to have to get used to being called a chic lit author. It's a shame because if you say it quickly it sounds like shit-lit.

If you're a woman and there's comedy or romance in your books, and no one gets murdered, then you'll probably be labelled a chic lit writer. 'Even if you write about serious themes,' Rosie Fiore said, at the Finchley Literary Festival last weekend. Fiore has rules to avoid the chic lit stereotypes. She'll put her main characters in credible and difficult situations, she won't give them insecurities about her body 'because women get enough of that in the media' and a man won't be the solution to all her problems, she'll need to overcome them herself. But Fiore will still be called a chit lit author because her books are commercial, and she's a woman.

Lucy-Anne Holmes wrote an interesting article in the Guardian, Chic Lit: Hate the Term. Love the Genre. She suggested that chic lit should move with the times. 'What would embracing this new wave of feminism look like in fiction?'  she muses, and suggests 'we should lose the cupcakes covers.'

Only last week someone asked me, 'what do you write?'

Well, I write lots of different things. In my short stories I've written about political protests, loneliness, madness and murder. But I knew she was talking about my novels.

'Woman's commercial fiction,' I said.

'Oh...' she said, 'you mean chic lit.'

She sounded so condescending I felt an urge to justify myself. I wanted to tell her that I didn't write about shopping, or diets, or endless lunch breaks where the main character manages to get her hair cut, buy shoes and get back to work on time. Because that's the stereotype, that's what I think of when I hear the term chic lit. 

Rosie Fiore, Finchley Literary Festival
'I know a lot of chic lit authors,' Fiore said, at the festival. 'They are strong, independent and feminists.'  I glanced around the room, hoping someone else might join me in a standing ovation. It was what I needed to hear.

The chic lit term can sound so demeaning and yet there are plenty of excellent books in this genre written by talented authors who have stories worth telling. I'm certainly going to strive to be one of them.

My job is to write the best books I can whatever the label I'm given. Yes, there'll be romance in them and comedy, and it's unlikely anyone will be murdered, but I hope people don't overlook them because of the chic lit tag.