The German cover for Three Little Words…

I’m so excited to be sharing the German cover for my second book Three Little Words.

My wonderful publisher, Bastei Lubbe, did a great job with the cover for my first book This is a Love Story. They also created an awesome little promotional video for it too.

I was thrilled to bits when I saw this latest cover for the German edition of book two, and cannot wait to hold a copy in my hands!

I love the sketches of London landmarks, and the detail is beautiful. I hope you like it as much as I do!

The German cover for Three Little Words

The German cover for Three Little Words

Once… A treasured film brought to the West End

It’s always interesting to see a story you already love presented in a different way. I was thrilled when I was given tickets to see Once at The Phoenix Theatre in London’s West End for my birthday because I was already a huge fan of the film.

Declan Bennett and Zrinka Cvitešić as Guy and Girl respectively in Once the musical

Declan Bennett and Zrinka Cvitešić as Guy and Girl respectively in Once the musical

You see I watched the 2007, low-budget Irish movie on DVD until I feared the TV might explode. I cried at the on-screen music shop rendition of Falling Slowly while clutching a glass of wine when I was sad. I marvelled at how wonderful love can be as I watched Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova play out this subtle tale of devotion to the backdrop of some really incredible music. So, you can probably imagine that I was interested (if not a little worried) when I saw it was coming to the stage…

Well… I’m glad to say… it was wonderful.

Once the musical

Once the musical

Within about 15-minutes I was in tears, which has to be a record, even for me (I mean seriously, fifteen bloody minutes?!!). ***PACK TISSUES GUYS***.

To hear Falling Slowly live was something else. The singing and musicianship was in my opinion as stunning as it is in the movie itself.

The set was simple but hugely effective, in fact one of the most unusual things about this show was that we walked in to find the cast casually playing music on stage and ‘hanging out’ before that seamlessly turned into the start of the show itself. It made a nice change to eating all the Maltesers too early out of boredom.

The plot had been given just the right amount of that West End treatment without in any way harming the gentle nature of this delicate love story between Guy and Girl in Dublin.

Declan Bennett’s voice was perfect. Phoebe Fildes’ vocals were gorgeous. The chemistry between them was a joy to watch, just as it was with Glen and Marketa. The smaller characters too shone brightly, and were all memorable and entertaining. It’s a very good sign when a couple of weeks after seeing a show you can still picture all the characters and remember their voices.

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Once the musical was everything I hoped it would be and more. For those who love the film’s music, just being there and hearing those precious songs come to life with guitars, violins, cellos, drums, a piano and goodness knows how many other instruments really is worth it, and that’s before you even get to the great performance of this stunning love story.

Go and see it, you won’t regret it (but watch the film too if you haven’t already)!

Lost in a manuscript…

I’ve been a little quieter than usual the past few days. This is partially because I’ve helped my parents move house, and also because I am in that strange timeless zone I like to call ‘finishing a book’…

It is during this time that the following things happen:

1) I stop communicating with the outside world almost entirely because I am so lost in my latest manuscript. I lose all social skills and the ability to compose a decent text message or hold any kind of coherent/interesting conversation (bar the odd tweet or inane Facebook comment.)

2) I forget to eat some days. Normally breakfast and lunch are the first meals to go, followed by the realisation at 6.30pm that I am absolutely ravenous (and the subsequent pig-out session that goes with it.)

3) I cannot stop thinking about the characters. I am dreaming about them, I am pondering their next move while brushing my teeth, I’m wondering how they would like their toast, or how many sugars they would have in their tea. It’s giving me a headache.

4) I forget to brush my hair, and do other stuff that civilised people do like washing up. My writing space looks… well… bloody awful. I should be ashamed of myself.

5) When I do eventually crawl out into the daylight, it is all VERY bright. Think The Gremlins at a fireworks display and you’ve just about got it.

6) I have been writing so furiously that letters are actually jumbling before my very eyes and I can no longer spell quite basic words. This both shocks and worries me.

7) I am in a world where time no longer means anything, the only significant break is to step outside to get a few breaths of fresh air or have a coffee and I very much resent having to leave the laptop, for anything.

Ok, this is all a little exaggerated for comedy value…. but I’m sure lots of other writers will be able to relate to this. It this part of writing a book where I really do find myself in a ‘zone’.

During the first three quarters of the novel writing process I’m certainly glued to it, but there’s a real marked difference for me when I am getting to those last, few vital chapters.

Naturally that’s because the last few chapters close the story. The plot that you have carefully thought up, discussed with your editor, turned inside out and upside down is happening right here, right now, in Microsoft Word. (Yipeee!)

The last few chapters always hold, in my opinion, the most exciting bits. There’s the big reveal (or reveals), the crunch moments, the ‘I love you’s’, the closed doors, the new beginnings… It’s one of the most fantastic parts of the process, in my opinion, and yet the most antisocial too.

I have two chapters left to write of my third book. I plan to finish the first draft tomorrow, before it then goes through a rigorous editing process. I have no idea if I have hit on something really special, or if I have written 112,000 words of absolute dross. Clarity will only come during the re-reads and luckily there is plenty of time to perfect it. It’s daunting, but very exciting.

Friends and family, I will be back out in the wide world very soon… my hair brushed and everything…

I’ve missed you!

Beautiful books… Gone Girl

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Well, I have finally finished Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.

It took me ages, not because it wasn’t a gripping, brilliant read, but because life has been particularly busy recently. I had to take a break from it for a short while before returning, only to be totally hooked on it again as if I’d never stepped away from it.

Gone Girl is a fantastic read. The writing is consistently sharp and brilliant. Flynn’s ability to describe people, surroundings and feelings is quite remarkable, and yet again I have been totally inspired by the work of another author.

The descriptions are so good that at times they are hard to read, and I mean that in the best possible way. Sometimes the social observations of both narrators, Nick and Amy, are so grotesque and honest that it really gets to you… Some of it you will agree with, some of it you will feel strongly against, but that’s one of the reasons I loved it so much – it really made me think.

There are so many clever themes running through this novel. Now obviously everyone reads things differently and will draw varying elements from any one text. I picked out running commentaries ranging from Amy’s fear of ageing (and then on to a wider discussion about ageing and society), to how easily swayed people are by the media (and then on the question ‘can there ever be a fair trial?’) to the challenges and strains of human relationships (are people really meant to be monogamous? Is it really in our nature?). 

This book holds so many twists and turns it makes you positively dizzy, but those same twists and turns don’t alienate you as a reader. It’s digestible and it continues to make sense despite the incredibly complex plot. I am astounded by the amount of research and careful planning that must have gone into this novel.

Essentially I have been left thinking about this book long after reading the final page because it prompted me to question the way people are portrayed in the media, and how there is often so much more to a situation than meets the eye. I was a journalist for several years, and having covered a fair number of trials and stories during this time, this subject has always really interested me.

If you need to love characters throughout a story, I should warn you about Amy and Nick. They are not characters I could easily relate to our understand, but it was so well written that I was kind of hooked into needing to find out more about them. I wouldn’t say I loved either Amy or Nick, but I saw them from many different sides and angles, which is a sign of immensely good writing.

I would recommend Gone Girl to everyone. I’m usually a total wuss when it comes to thriller type stuff, but this wasn’t overpowering or gratuitously violent. I felt that it had just the right amount of everything. It touched me, disturbed me, and shocked me too. A thrilling tale of love-turned-ugly, and a real talking point for any book group looking for a new read.

Brilliant book.

Exciting news this week…

Sheila Crowley and I at the launch of my debut novel

Sheila Crowley and I at the launch of my debut novel

This week’s blog post is dedicated to someone who is being recognised for her brilliant work.

I was thrilled to learn that my agent Sheila Crowley, of Curtis Brown, has been shortlisted for Agent of The Year in the 2013 Bookseller Industry Awards. (For the full listing, click here.)

I was so glad to see her name in the shortlisting because she is an absolute superstar and with that, really modest too.

Sheila has been my agent for nearly three years now, and her support is hugely important to me. There’s no better boost for a worried/tired/nervous writer than popping to her office, discussing ideas and hearing those words she always says – “I know you can do it.” I always leave with a spring in my step, raring to go again!

It means the world, so I want to say a massive congratulations to Sheila for being nominated, and a thank you to her for everything she does.

It is an honour to be represented by her and I wish her all the very best of luck in the awards.

World Book Day 2013. Win a signed copy of Three Little Words…

It’s World Book Day and I’m holding a competition over on my Facebook page to win a signed copy of Three Little Words.

Head over there and tell me why you love books beneath the status. The comment with the most likes wins, so share among your friends and family!

Entries close at midnight.

Good luck!

Hearing from readers…

Books books books...

Books books books…

One of the questions I am often asked is “how do you feel about reviews?”

It’s a difficult question, and one that I’m sure makes many writers feel ever-so-slightly torn.

I’m sure there isn’t a writer alive who doesn’t bask in the warm glow coming from their laptop when they find a lovely comment from a reader. It’s impossible to not grin like an idiot when someone is enthusiastic about your writing, and it’s a huge boost. Of course, I love those reviews. Who doesn’t?

In the same way that music, paintings and TV programmes divide people, not everyone will like what you do. I would say to anyone who has just signed their first publishing deal, that is one of the first things you have to understand and really accept. I mean really accept. Why would everyone like your work? That would be weird.

‘Negative’ reviews are tough, but as you mature as a person and a writer, they don’t faze you so much. In fact, there’s a huge amount to learn from them. When my debut novel This is a Love Story was published, there was some fantastic buzz surrounding it and some lovely reviews. The not-so-favourable comments did often have one common thread. ‘It was a little bit too long’, people said. Consequentially, my second novel was a little shorter.

It’s actually a really good thing when you can turn the sting of a negative review into something that you not only take on board, but learn from and act upon. You can turn that negative into something good.

People who aren’t mad about your book have every right to communicate that, and I’ve no issue at all with constructively worded comments that don’t necessarily sing your praises from the rooftops.

The only kind of reviews I have a problem with (whether directed at me, or the kinds I see all over the comments pages of Amazon and other review websites) are the ranty, OTT aggressive sort.  The kind of reviews that prompt amazing writers to simply shrug and say ‘I don’t read my reviews’. The ones that start off commenting on someone’s novel and then transcend into a scathing critique on the book industry as a whole. Wide, throw away comments of someone’s dissatisfaction of a whole genre beneath a single novel is a little unfair right?

Reviewers, it’s not right to get personal in negative reviews, or to go too crazy… After all, if you hated the book so much why did you finish it? Then, even more oddly, why did you waste a further 30 minutes of your time writing a review? Sometimes you read things, whether they are written about your book or a fellow author’s, and they are hysterical enough that you feel a sense of detachment from it. You remind yourself of the internet and all the nastiness that exists within it. Writers, one day you will stumble across something like this about your work and it will hurt like hell. You are better than that.

Moving on though… hearing from readers is a wonderful experience 90 per cent of the time. I love your tweets, emails and Facebook posts. I can’t tell you how much joy it brings me to receive a message from someone who can relate to my work, or someone who was touched by it, especially when that message has been sent from the other side of the world.

It reminds you why you do what you do. It is the buzz that keeps you tapping away, coming up with new ideas and working hard. So thank you to all the readers who put the time and effort into getting in touch with me, whether it’s via social media or review pages. It means an awful lot!

Five love songs that inspire my writing…

Writing about love can be difficult… There, I said it.

I spend a lot of time as a writer creating love stories, using language to dream up two people who will somehow find a way to each other’s hearts. But of course there are always a few bumps in the road… I try to ensure my plots look at real-life issues from homelessness to serious illness and crime, but at the centre of it all is usually at least one love story.

Now don’t get me wrong, I adore writing love stories. If I wasn’t keen on it then you could probably accuse me of being in the wrong job. However, I think the most important thing to think about when writing romantic fiction is the creation of multi-dimensional love stories… Love isn’t simple in real life, so why should it be in your novel?

One of the most important things I have learned is that there are so many different kinds of love, different phases of it and different stages. Love is not a fixed, simple thing. Sometimes it’s amazing, sometimes it’s frustrating, and sometimes it’s really painful.

I am a huge fan of Lena Dunham’s script writing in the HBO series ‘Girls’. This is mainly because of Hannah’s dysfunctional ‘relationship’ with Adam and how well Dunham has encapsulated this angsty, complicated pairing and its consistent power struggles. It’s interesting how Hannah has to work so hard to understand Adam, and how much she puts up with along the way, and yet somehow the power balance switches round.

I find that as I write, there are some go-to songs that have reminded me of all the different kinds of love that can and should be portrayed in fiction. It’s not always simple, it’s not always easy, and these songs conjure up the imagery and the feelings that help me to write. I thought it would be nice to share them with you. Some of them are older songs, others are much more recent and are helping me with book three…

1) Two Way Street – Kimbra

This song in my opinion is the soundtrack to the typical frustrating relationship. It’s pensive and negative, but yet it’s so hopeful too. The feel of the song swings from one side to the other. It reminds me of the confusion that comes with mixed messages, the hope that is always there, and the ultimate realisation that “I can’t make you fall for me, love is a two way street”. The lyrics are beautiful, there is so much imagery. This song is really inspiring book three.

2) Jealous – Faith Evans

I love how playful and full of life this track is, despite the subject matter. Jealousy… it’s a tricky subject. Some people never get jealous, for others it’s an emotion they really struggle with. Most people will have felt that flash of green envy at some point in a relationship. This song sums it up, with humour too.

3) Falling Slowly – Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova

For me, this is the perfect dramatic, tear-jerking love song. I first heard this when I watched the film ‘Once’ (which I recommend if you haven’t seen it yet). I sometimes listen to this song when I want to create a devastatingly romantic scene. It’s the kind of music that goes with the crunch moment, the first kiss, the break-up, the pain of a long distance relationship. It works with so many concepts you encounter when writing.

4) Starry Eyed – Ellie Goulding

This song reminds me of the process of falling in love. For me, it captures the excitement of it all. Those first few weeks or months where everything is utterly magical and you feel like you are wandering around on a unicorn, sprinkling a bag full of glitter all over the place and grinning like a fool. I’m not sure if this is what Ellie intended, but I listen to this song when I’m writing about new, dizzy exciting love.

5) Bad Religion – Frank Ocean

Now I am a little biased when it comes to Frank Ocean, because I am pretty obsessed with his lyrics as it is. I think his whole Channel Orange album is jam-packed with stunning visual imagery, but this song was the stand out track for me. Bad Religion for me portrays the most painful kind of love. Something you want so much, but something that for one reason or another doesn’t come back your way, and how painful that is. I couldn’t find a video for this, so there’s a live version of another song of his here. I call on his song Bad Religion when I want to describe how painful love can be…

Beautiful books… Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? By Jeanette Winterson

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? By Jeanette Winterson

While away in Paris I read a book that I felt compelled to blog about…

Amid the excitement of being on holiday, I picked it up whenever I had an opportunity (even while battling travel-induced nausea on the Eurostar) finding myself lost in this raw, stunning memoir.

It’s called Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson.

I recommend it to readers of this blog, as I know many of you are writers. It’s one of those books that made me yearn for my laptop, desperate to just write… stuff… anything… something.

Jeanette writes about her difficult adoptive childhood in a small, terraced home in Accrington. It tells of the horrors of her youth, somehow elegantly, and how they affected her adulthood. The reader is then taken on a journey as she tries to fit the pieces together. Her thoughts on the subject of adoption are particularly striking.

Winterson’s writing is exceptional. I found myself snorting with laughter on many an occasion, then welling up with tears, often grabbing my boyfriend’s arm to read him delicious sentences that I couldn’t help but scan over and over again…

The author of this memoir has an astonishing wisdom. In the middle of harrowing descriptions of her experiences, she weaves spot-on observations about our existence that wowed me. 

Thank you Jeanette for writing such a fantastic memoir, it’s now on the bookshelf on my desk with my favourites.

http://www.jeanettewinterson.com

 

 

Three Little Words launch party and Paris…

*Warning* This will be a long post, packed with pictures and words like ‘amazing’ and ‘lovely’ and ‘exciting’ because I’ve had the best seven days ever!

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This time last week I was feeling REALLY nervous, but super excited about the launch party for the UK eBook of my second novel, Three Little Words. It brought back so many memories of the This is a Love Story launch. I’m glad to say it was another successful evening where I found myself, yet again, blown away by the support and kindness of my family and friends.

The event was held at The Haberdashery in Crouch End, and it’s a great venue that I would recommend to anyone looking to hold a similar party. It’s beautifully decorated, full of fairy lights (huge bonus) and provided the perfect atmosphere to celebrate book two. Food was great as well… There were some copies of the UK export edition for guests to take home on the night.

Launching a book is such a strange mix of emotions……You are delighted but nervous all at the same time. I want to thank everyone who came along on the night and made it such a fantastic evening I will never forget.

The oddest part of it all is that you work so hard to write and perfect a book, and then when it comes out it still seems like a surprise that people are reading it!

I’ve had some lovely reviews and messages about Three Little Words. It’s wonderful to hear from readers, whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter or by email, and particularly lovely to hear from those who enjoyed This is a Love Story and purchased my second book. Thanks to everyone who has got in touch about it.

As I’ve mentioned previously, Three Little Words will be published in the UK as a paperback in August this year but is available now as an eBook.

After the launch I headed to Paris with my boyfriend Andy for five days. It was wonderful! I went to Paris a few years ago but I couldn’t remember it well, so it was great to come back and really spend some time in such a magical city.

We stayed in the gorgeous Hidden Hotel near the Champs-Élysées, and packed in loads of sightseeing including visiting The Latin Quarter, Opera, Montmartre, The Louvre, The Roue de Paris and even the very top of The Eiffel Tower (I felt like I was going to faint by the way…) When we were at the top of the tower it started to snow, which was an incredible thing to see… you can just about make it out in this photo.

View from the top of the Eiffel Tower in the snow

View from the top of the Eiffel Tower in the snow

While visiting some shops, I was delighted to spot some hand made prints by Zeena Shah, who designed the cover for This is a Love Story. I picked up one of her ‘penelope pin cushions’ (below), desperate to explain the whole story to the shop keeper but held back for fear I may confuse her with my appalling French…

One of Zeena Shah's pin cushions I fell madly in love with a black and white dress (pictured below), which I found in a vintage shop in the Opera area. The detailing on it was stunning, and I just stared at it through the window slipping into a daydream! If I’m not mistaken, I think it was more than fifty years old… That really got me thinking. I thought about the woman/women who have worn it, and the memories it holds. It’s a stunning dress, so I’m glad I managed to get a photo of it to remember what it looks like!

Beautiful vintage dress

Beautiful vintage dress

I forgot how beautiful Paris is, everything about it is elegant and gorgeously presented… We had some lovely meals, and visited a really cool champagne bar that I would recommend called The Flute E’toile. Paris was a much needed break away after a really busy time, and I feel refreshed and raring to go again!

Now work continues on book three…