New year, new blog…

Well, due to a nasty technical problem, my blog has had to be reconstructed, and my previous posts have been lost…still, they were small fry in comparison to what else was lost.  As I am restarting my blog, I thought I would reflect (briefly) on last year’s writing, and look ahead to this one.

Of course, 2017 saw the arrival of my novel, Hilbre Island, published by Scrolla.  I had the great experience of two wonderful launches, most especially the official one at the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham.  At least on that occasion I kept my two readings to ten minutes each!  The other highlight of the writing year was when the Kenilworth High Street book club made it their book of the month for September.  I had the privilege of responding to questions from well-informed and passionate readers, who had obviously read the book carefully and really engaged with it in ways that writers hope for.  The whole experience was an enormous compliment.  Reactions from other readers have been (largely) favourable, too.  Perhaps the response that is the most flattering is when women say how accurately I have caught Lisa’s voice; that writing as a man, I have still managed to capture Lisa’s experience so acutely.

The negative responses?  Surprisingly few (that I know about, anyway!), but they are still very important to me.  The common comment was ‘I just couldn’t get into it.’  When I asked why, the readers felt rather ‘pitched in’ to Lisa’s mental state; and couldn’t get a foothold in the story.  That is something to ponder when trying to write openings that try and ‘grab’ the audience.

Sales have been OK, too.  I did worry that I should be trying to market the book more…but having seen the experience of other, more established small publishers, then I stopped fretting.  It is still a great thrill to sell one or two copies…it also means I can talk to the people who are interested.

 

So…(to capitulate to that irritating way of starting a sentence)…what about 2018?

Well (is that better than ‘so’?) I am well into my next novel which has the working title of ‘The Black Wood’ (hence the image of the winter trees, which I took, incidentally).  That may change but it will do for now.  It is about Louise O’Reilly, whose husband, Patrick, fails to return home after going up to Liverpool to clear the house of his deceased mother.  Whilst the story is concerned with ‘why did he go’, and ‘will he come back’, (and if he comes back, who actually comes back), it is also written from Louise (or Lou’s) point of view as she questions the whole basis of their marriage, and her life as a whole.  At the moment, too, there are some eerie elements, especially in relation to Lou’s sister, Andie…at this point, I’m not 100% sure where these aspects are taking me…but I am allowing them to pull me on, whilst I keeping an eye on my plot timeline.  Look for more updates throughout this year.

And this is another first person narrative, written with Lou’s voice…she is a fascinating character and she is slowly taking over the writing…

 

And not forgetting my (attempts at) poems…

Last year, I followed a poetry course (not content, of course, with completing my PhD corrections, launching the novel and trying to start a new one).  I had a modicum of success in my late teens when I won a poetry competition organised by Merseyside Arts…though I do remember the anthologist saying that my winning poem showed my unrequited love of language…which is one of the best dismissive comments my work has received so far!  Anyway, I took the course because a) when I try and write poems, I don’t really know hat I am doing, and b) I labour under the probably mistaken and unrequited (that word again) belief that what I want to say in a poem may be of some interest to others.  The feedback from the tutors was actually quite complimentary (apart from when I had a bash at more traditional and rigorous forms – my bashes came rapidly to sorry ends).  I’ll try publishing a few through the blog (as well as trying some of the poetry publishing outlets) and so if you have any comments then let me know (dismissive or otherwise).

BTW, the image above is of Crosby beach…and the scene appeared in one of the poems I wrote in response to the day itself, in June 2017…a sad day, in retrospect.

Thanks for reading,

John