On Writing

hayden wand visits the blog

Today, I have Hayden Wand on my blog. I’m dead chuffed because I read her review blog for years and now I get to examine her brains about everything. I mean, to interview her. Asking questions. Politely. Nowadays, she’s over at Leatherbound, is an author herself, and has excellent taste*.

*And by that I mean – amongst many other wonderful things – she is a fan of Batman and doesn’t mind when I message her out of the blue about him. NO. I DON’T HAVE A PROBLEM? Why do you ask?

So, grab a beverage of your choice. Stand, sit, or lie down. Pop your headphones in or retreat to a quiet place. Or don’t do anything. Don’t let me tell you what to do – except for this: enjoy, because we are in for a treat! We’ve got books (of course!), writing (THANK YOU), a controversial opinion on Jane Eyre (* le gasp*) and Batman (!!!). Buckle up! Let’s go …

TRADITIONAL GIF IS NOW TRADITION!

Quick! Three random things about your day to day routine. GO!

1- The first thing I do when I wake up is make my bed. My day goes so much better when my bed is made.  

2-TODAY has a special wrinkle in my daily routine because my family and I are going to a ball tonight! Years ago, some friends of my family started a biannual heritage ball. We all dress up in our best finery (I have curlers in my hair right now) and then dance like it’s 1810 London. 

3- You know those fancy jade rollers you can use on your face for a massage or to apply serum? I have one of those and I love using it before bed. I feel very rich and glamourous when I do so. I immediately turn into a wealthy Hollywood Star circa 1938.

If you could read a book for the first time again – what would it be?

I think I’d have to say Pride and Prejudice, just because reading it for the first time was one of the best reading experiences I’ve ever had. When I first read it, I knew nothing about it, and what’s more, I didn’t really know anybody else who’d read it either! So it was basically this book I no preconceived notions about and ended up—to my shock—loving.

I’m a little sad that overexposure to the story has taken away a lot of its charm for me.

What’s a classic you think is underrated?

Hmmmm….would the world kill me if I said Jane Eyre is overrated, and I enjoy Charlotte Brontë’s Villette much more? Even that isn’t my favorite (The Brontës and I don’t get along very well) but I think it’s weird how EVERYONE has heard of Jane Eyre, but like…no one knows about her other books.

If you had to turn a book into a flea, put the flea in a box, put that box into another box, mail it to yourself and SMASH IT WITH A HAMMER!! … what book would it be?

OKAY- so this book shall remain nameless, BUT there was this one novel I read that basically used religion (and Biblical imagery/paraphrased quotes in particular) as an example of Men oppressing Women. I knew the novel would be more feministic than I’d probably agree with, but I’d hoped it would more nuanced. Nope. It got RIDICULOUS by the end to the point of not, “men and woman are equal” but “women are literal goddesses and men have usurped our place & used religion of their own to strip us from our power because they are jealous.” It was such a mess. 

you have no option – turn it into a flea

I followed your old review blog and you read a lot of Christian fiction – what are its strengths and what do you think it needs to do to improve?

Oh goodness. I was the BIGGEST Christian fiction reader back in high school, but now I’ve learned I can enjoy it much better in small doses.

One thing I think Christian Fiction does pretty well is just how they are usually just about Christian characters living their lives in the context of following Christ. I enjoy it when the characters are simply & unapologetically Christian. Even in “clean” books the characters often behave in ways that don’t match up to my own values, even if it’s implied they are “religious.” So finally getting a chance to spend time with heroes and heroines who believe the same things I do are a nice change from secular fiction.

But there are a lot of ways I think the genre needs to improve. Many of them follow the same plots they just reshuffle over and over, especially when it comes to spiritual issues; the writing itself can be a little bland and lack personality, and sometimes they can even be too worried about being “clean” at the risk of not being true or realistic to the story they set out to tell. I am excited that I’m seeing Christian fiction branching out, though—and it seems we’re finally getting more Christian sci-fi and fantasy writers out there, even if they don’t write strictly “Christian fiction.”

Now, you and I have discussed Batman in the past (YOU WERE A LIFE SAVER!!) – you’ve been given the opportunity to write a Batman comic (!!!); what’s the plot?

askjhdzfgdhszkf YES! (I LOVE our Batman discussions!!!) This is the BEST question. OKAY. It’s a detective noir-styled comic with high stakes BUT it’s also focused on the whole Batfam working together. Do they always get along? Of course not. BUT BRUCE ALSO LOVES HIS KIDS AND THEY WORK THINGS OUT AND SAVE GOTHAM.

But that doesn’t mean the story is touchy-feeling emotional stuff. Not. At. All. There’d be a lot of focus on organized crime & I think Penguin and Riddler would be the main villains, simply because they are my favorite. (Catwoman is actually my favorite, but at this point in MY comic run she is more of an anti-heroine and totally a part of the batfam as she was always meant to be). 

I also picture it being a bit “vintage”—not purely historical, but with that classic old-school comic book feel. Kind of like in the style of Batman: The Animated Series.

write this. WRITE THIS NOW. (please).

Fanfiction – what are your thoughts on the subject?

I used to be really uncomfortable with the idea because as a writer myself, people taking other writers’ characters and ideas to do their own thing seemed a little…weird to me. Especially because so much fanfic can be inappropriate and sexualized. Nothing annoys me more than when someone’s taken a relatively clean and wholesome form of media and rewrites it to be…dirty. BUT if it’s clean and it’s written well, I’ve come to really enjoy fanfiction—especially for comics and TV shows/movies. It’s also very therapeutic to peruse when characters you love end up with stupid or tragic endings.

I also do occasionally write fanfiction myself and find it to be incredibly fun! Except once I wrote the first three paragraphs to an Emma sequel, then forgot about it until YEARS later before finding the document and realizing that I had 1) no memory of writing it and 2) no idea where the story was going. Which I’m still annoyed about. It probably would have been a masterpiece. 

By the way, congratulations on the new book! What was your favourite thing about the writing process?

Thank you! January Snow has been a long time coming, so I’m glad to finally get her out there! (Even though the whole publishing process was an absolute mess this time—everything from accidentally uploading files with typos to issues with the cover coming out the wrong color—I. Was. Pulling. Out. My. Hair.)

BUT my favorite parts about writing?

I LOVE the planning! Making maps. Creating character names. Writing down detailed plot ideas and fitting them all together like puzzle pieces. There is nothing better than suddenly getting the answer to a plot issue that you’ve been stewing over for days. Or when you realize that you accidentally foreshadowed something? OH it’s the best.

Also, not going to lie—the point where you’re finished and publish the book and then people buy it and you get money? I’m also pretty fond of that part.

How did the story sprout – did you plan it or did it spring into being?

The setting is my family’s car, eight or nine years ago. Topic of discussion? Disney princesses.

My brother Harrison: “I really just can’t stand Snow White.”

Me: “OH? How can I FORCE my brother to LIKE this story and character??? Hmmmm…ah, yes….I shall add MOBSTERS!!”

Of course, that first idea went through MANY changes. In fact, my main character’s personality was completely different in the first draft. Unfortunately, that character was simply not right for the story, and it made the plot and tension really, really, weak. But once I figured out who January was—when she “clicked”—everything else finally started falling into place!

What does your writing space look like?

So my desk is *actually* a dresser in my room that has a space for a bench underneath. It works pretty well…except for the fact that sitting at a bench for long periods is not great for my back, so if I have a lot of writing to do and the house is quiet, I’ll sit downstairs at the dining room table.

But even so, I do love my dresser-desk. I have a row of classic books behind my computer, and they sit below a bulletin board full of random papers and artwork and fairy lights. I also have a daily “Shakespeare insults” calendar that I got from my parents for Christmas. 

Today’s insult is, “You are not worth the dust which the rude wind blows in your face,” from King Lear.

I take undue interest in staring at other people’s writing desks. This has drawers. And books. So – perfection?

Pandas or llamas?

Llamas! I even have a sweater with a llama on it. And an Emperor’s New Groove mug. And also llama lights around my bulletin board.

What’s a really good story you’ve imbibed recently?

I feel like I’ve just been banging around pots and pans lately yelling “watch Tangled: The Series!! It’s too good to languish in obscurity!!!” to the point where everyone is probably tired of it. It is good, though—and after being Greatly Frustrated by animated shows that started out well and then crashed and burned later on, it’s SO NICE to finally have a show that’s been consistently enjoyable. This one is true to the original characters, actually includes character arcs, has great plot twists, and is genuinely funny. I’m just mad it took me this long to get around to watching it!

Thank you so much for having me, Ness! I very much enjoyed it 😀

Thank you, Hayden!! When Disney + arrives in the U.K, Tangled: The Series is at the top of my list. THE TOP.


You can find Hayden on her blog here, follow her twitter here, and check out the stories she’s spun right here. (I recommend ‘For Elise‘. The writing style – very Gothic but in a modern setting – tickled my funny bone and I thought the storyline was terribly sweet. I also thought it was called ‘Fur Elise’ for ages. Apparently, I cannot read.)

Books, Life

famous books I haven’t read

Every self-respecting bookworm seems to have read these books. I am both self-respecting and a bookworm … and I haven’t. Ah, paradoxes.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

I’ve watched the black and white Laurence Olivier Pride and Prejudice, the 1995 BBC series, the 2005 film, ‘Lost in Austen’ and ‘Austenland’. I have never read the actual book.

Why? Because everyone seemed to swoon at the very thought of Mr Darcy. Being a contrary lass, I decided that I would never do the same.

I shall pick the book up one day, and share the magic with everyone else. Until then, Georgette Heyer and I are getting along swimmingly.

I think I was quite influenced by the 1995 series though. When my sister, her friend and I visited one of the homes used in the series, little me was quite puzzled and asked where Mr Darcy was. (He wasn’t there. It was a bit of a downer.)

The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J. ‘Lots of Rs’ Tolkien

I know what the books are about. Of course I do (*cough* fanfiction *cough). But I’ve never actually read them.

Though I find him to be a fascinating gentleman, I am not particularly enamoured with Tolkien right now. I’ve read his translation of Beowulf, however, his commentary of the thing that has boggled me somewhat. The book is at home. I am not at home at present. (And there lies my excuse.)

Oliver Twist [or basically: Anything by Dickens]

I’m trying to read one of Dicken’s works, but I am feeling rather daunted by his reputation; apparently, the fellow uses lots of characters. Tons of characters. Multitudes of characters.

A Tale of Two Cities is on my readolution list, but I’ve been avoiding it (and doing a splendid job of it, if I do say so myself). Oliver Twist isn’t on that list, but I’ve been quite happily ignoring that too.

But … I will attack a Dickens. Soon. This year, in fact. Not today. But soon.

well, probably

Books, Recountings

Beowulf and I are at loggerheads.

21413663Beowulf has kicked me to the reading curb. Or rather, Tolkien’s commentary on it has – which is one part fascinating and two parts here-lemme-gouge-my-eyes-out.

Some things are easy to read in the early mornings. Other things aren’t. It’s isn’t that I’m lacking in intelligence [well …] it’s just that some things are not meant for early mornings.

Tea? Yes.

A course in Old English?

No.

And it’s not just the early mornings either; I can read this at any other time of the day and my reactions are still the same.

I feel as though I ought to pretend I’m enjoying it; to write a review with a smug little ‘I understood every jot of Tolkien’s commentary and my doesn’t ‘dugan’ have such a lovely abstract noun.’

However, honesty forces me to admit that no, I’m not enjoying abstract nouns, I’ve no desire to know about abstract nouns and I simply do not care about these abstract nouns.

I’ve felt the urge to throw the book at a wall. I haven’t. You can’t throw books at walls in the car. Or in a coffee shop. ’tis bad form.

Why continue? you ask. Life is short, DNF, swallow your pride, ignore the commentary, and pass on to that other translation of Beowulf.

I can’t. I see glimmers of hope. I want to read Sellic Spell, and when Tolkien starts explaining the cultural context/hidden meanings/subtle jests which the prose conceals, I start getting excited.

I read the tale in a new way. I see new things. A light shines with glorious illumination upon the text. All is fluttering butterflies and slain giants.

BUT THEN …

… the grammar rolls in, Tolkien goes off on a tangent, and a barrage of ancient words that looks like someone’s slammed their head against a keyboard assults my suffering eyes.

Still, I persevere.

a) because it will give me a better understanding of the tale

b) because Sellic Spell will surely be good

and

c) I’m avoiding Dickens.

… but at what cost?!

Books, I think I just rambled, Life, On Writing

Books and Monstrosities [February’s Flutters]

I can’t spell February. It’s a really awkward word and is off my ‘what I’ll name children/pets/inanimate objects’ list. (Rejoice, Future Thingies! I’ve spared you a lifetime of misspellings!)

Also: I’m sorry, but this post is a little long. I planted the seeds and boom! the words just leapt upwards.

books read

thegoldenbraid

The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest was my least favourite read this month. I’m sorry. I just couldn’t get along with it. The writing didn’t click with me, nor did the main characters – we just didn’t get along well.

The Golden Braid was actually one of my favourite reads. Same author, different book, better reading experience. Rapunzel rocks. ’nuff said.

The Wrath and the Dawn was beautifully written. However, if you set out to kill an evil ruler – and have evidence of his evilness – then you really ought to finish the business. Even if he is handsome. And haunted.

Here’s a truth for you, my dear heroine:

Very Nice Faceiness ≠ Innocence*

*I’d like to add that haunted looks are not a sign of character depth. The Evil Bloke could just be suffering from indigestion.

The Three Musketeers the post is here. Unexpectedly funny. Made me want to don a sword, kidnap someone’s friends, and dash off for adventures.dissolution

Whose Body? The audiobook of which made me check the bath for bodies for years after hearing it. I’ve now read it. I haven’t checked the bath. Progress has been made.

The Shardlake Series are about a hunchback lawyer during Henry VIII’s time. I’ve read three, so far. Immersive writing, characters you grow to warmly like and gruesome murders. Sounds perfect (though I could do without the sprinkling of Certain Elements).

words written

It’s been bad, folks. Clearly going through a month which I can’t spell has badly affected my writing. I’ve managed a little on Our Intrepid Heroine The Third or It Could Be Two Point Five .

“Bluebells!” burst out Bob. “I’d understand it if he bunged his ears as you do sometimes. It’s perfectly understandable that some ears cannot cope with melodies-”

Your melodies,” muttered our Intrepid Heroine.

“-but this-” Bob gestured wildly about him “-is a bit of an overreaction.”

HOWEVER!

It turns out that by some strange twist of fate, my jaunt in the 1920s was placed in the top ten of the Rooglewood Press’ Five Magic Spindles contest. I give hearty thank you to the judges. Expect to hear more of this tale for I am going to a) butcher it excessively and b) read lots of Wodehouse and Thirkell (for research. Obviously.)

life lived

IT’S GETTING LIGHTER! So long, Winter! Your back never looked finer. Hello, Spring! It’s awfully nice to see you.

I’ve finished crocheting a blanket for my bed. It’s a relaxing hobby and the results tend to look far better than my attempt at knitting a scarf. ‘Wonky and holey monstrosities’ are the words that come to mind when recalling that fated attempt.

have a splendid week – nay! – a splendid month, my friends!

Books, Recountings

Recountings: Musketeers (and trifles)

My second readolution is finished. The Three Musketeers was a hybrid read – I read about a third of it in paperback and finished the rest in ebook format. I know, I know. How terrible of me. I feel no guilt.

I have loosely watched the BBC adaption of The Three Musketeers and so had a mental image of some of the characters. It turns out that when I was reading and picturing Athos, I was actually picturing Aramis.

(Apparently, I’m quite good at mixing people like this – fictional or otherwise. I once spent an entire tennis match cheering for the wrong person. It was very confusing.)

Anyway, back to the recounting …

D’Artagnan is a) a playah and b) a victim of insta-lurve! At the same time. Dude.

… shall we talk about Kitty? Hmm?

How he meets the Musketeers is hilarious – he manages to offend them all, one after the other. Accidentally. He’s also a little puppy like and you can’t help but like him.

“I am at the age of extravagant hopes, monseigneur,” said d’Artganan.

Oh. And he’s also a Gascon. (A fact repeatedly mentioned.) Did anyone picture the below when Gascon was mentioned? (Yes, I know – there is a difference between a Gascon and Gaston. But still …)

Porthos … ah, Porthos. He’s brash and vain, but he can maintain a silence. A majestic silence. No. Really. He can:

Porthos maintained a majestic silence.

… anyone who can do such a thing has my respect.

Aramis is torn between the church, his one true love and the possession of a handkerchief.

Athos is my favourite musketeer. He’s rather cool.

Athos listened to him without a frown; and when he had finished, said, “Trifles, only trifles!” That was his favourite word.

He has a favourite word! (Mine isn’t ‘trifles’ but I’ll overlook our differences.) He’s haunted by a troublesome past, can barricade himself in the cellar of an inn with style and is the musketeer closest to d’Artagnan.

Milady … my word, she was such a good villain. She saw opportunities and she grabbed those opportunities and cast such petty things as morals and conscience to the wind. Villains – female villains – of her ilk you don’t often see.

Though you wouldn’t want to *see* them. You’d want to run. In the opposite direction.

Favourite Chapters

Chapter 26 ‘Aramis and His Thesis’ is brilliant. D’Artagnan arrives to find Aramis about to enter the church, in the company of a curate and a Jesuit. Sheer. Gold. The curate pretends to know Latin and just echoes it after the Jesuit, whilst d’Artagnan is just like ‘Wha-?’

“See what an exordium!” cried the Jesuit.

“Exordium,” repeated the curate, for the sake of saying something. “QUEMADMODUM INTER COELORUM IMMNSITATEM.”

Aramis cast a glance upon d’Artagnan to see what effect all this produced, and found his friend gaping enough to split his jaws.

Chapter 47 ‘The Council of the Musketeers’ is awesome. Basically the heroes need to have a chat but the cardinal has eyes and ears everywhere. Their solution? Simples. Make a bet that they can have lunch in the middle of some sort of no man’s land. The cardinal won’t suspect a thing.

So they’re in the middle of Serious Discussions and all the while they are under fire and have to oh so casually fight for their lives whilst eating lunch and plotting.  And they say women are the best multitaskers …

Chapters 63, 64, 65 and 66 – AKA the Ending. The whole thing. As I was with How to Train Your Dragon 2, I was shocked – shocked! – when a character died. I honestly thought that they were still alive until they were either burned or buried. It was then that I realised that they were dead. Not comic book dead. But dead dead.

“… but I was so sure.”

In short: It took a while for me to get into this book, but after it got moving? It was such great fun.

Two readolutions down, an attempt on Dickens is next …