Thursday, 31 July 2014

Different chapter, same book: the power of memory

We are constructed from memories.  We are making new ones every second.  How, what and why do we remember some things and not others?  Memories are a treasure trove of data, sensory experiences, adventures and emotions that we can process, translate and re-invent to create new stories.  

When the present becomes the past, our perception of the experience changes, undergoing a mysterious transformation.  Often it is only in hindsight that we appreciate the value of what has gone before. Regeneration is about change and transformation, and we are all – like Dr Who! - regenerating constantly.

These issues are explored in the amazing Life after Life by Kate Atkinson, which I would recommend to everyone - especially if you are a writer.  In this story, the heroine is born, dies and is reborn many times, each life different, although sharing common threads.  (It reminded me of some of the ideas in the film Sliding Doors - the consequences of one action compared to another.  How the same story can have different endings, or different stories, the same conclusion). Is there such a thing as fate or is life simply a sequence of random events? 

You can check out my review of Life after Life and many others here.  It always fascinates how stories can be so differently perceived by different readers. It's one of the challenges - and magic - of being an author.

Sci-fi visionary Philip. K Dick is another writer who shares my obsession with the nature and construct of memory, a topic he explores in so many of his stories. It was a theme that haunted and obsessed him.

Does memory re-visit the past or simply re-construct it?  Is memory life itself? Is life, memory?

These are questions I keep asking.  Can we ever know the answer? 

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Sunday, 27 July 2014

Saturday Schools for Writers in Canterbury during Autumn 2014

There are some terrific Saturday Schools for Writers as part of the community and adult education programme at Canterbury Christ Church University throughout the Autumn, which offer amazing value and a range of fascinating topics.

On 11 October, writer April Doyle will be offering another of her very popular day schools on Starting a Novel. If you have a great idea for a novel or you’ve started to write one but you find yourself stuck in a rut, this day school will explore developing characters, plot, structure, theme, atmosphere and imagery, using examples from published authors. The focus is on generating ideas so that, by the end of the day, you’ll have lots of material to take away with you for your work in progress.  Book early for this!

25 October offers the first in an innovative series called Music for Writers 1: Love, War and Trains - poetry, verse drama and music. This Day School will be of interest to creative writers and music enthusiasts, and anyone intrigued by the way that words and music can be combined to create drama and emotion. The vivid and imaginative use of language is explored and discussed using a variety of dramatic works that include Samuel Beckett’s Words and Music, and atmospheric verse dramas for radio that include Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas and the extraordinary Love, War and Trains by celebrated author Ian McMillan. Ways that writers, poets and composers work together will be studied and celebrated.

Music for Writers 2: Emotion, Music and Moving Image follows on November 22.  How is music used to express and convey emotion and atmosphere when combined with the medium of film? What is the relationship between sound and image? Using case studies that include films such as The Go-Between (Joseph Losey), Last Year in Marienbad (Alain Resnais) and Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca and Psycho, these issues will be explored and examined.

And my next Canterbury Saturday School is The Business of Writing 1: Getting Published on November 1st, which offers tips and advice on both being traditionally published and going down the independent route of publishing e-books via Amazon. Marketing, selling, agents, publishers, blogging and social media are all discussed, as well as the future for writers and publishers in a digital age.

I love teaching and sharing what I've learned, and my last 2 day schools had great feedback so if you fancy joining us (or know someone who might) do share. Thanks  
See link for more info.  

All Day Schools cost £29.50.  
To book please contact April Doyle via email to or by phoning 01227 863451

Thursday, 24 July 2014

The mystery of all things

I'm currently reading a wonderful book by Elizabeth Gilbert called The Signature of All Things.  It's brilliant on so many levels, and I am totally absorbed by the heroine, Alma Whitaker. Set in the nineteenth century, it is a 500 page exploration of science, faith, discovery, desire and fulfilment - and so much more.

I found it at the right time in my life, having recently studied the history of science during the period covered by the story, so it has an added resonance. I have reached the point in the story where the heroine goes in search of an answer to a deeply personal question that is currently a mystery, and this got me thinking about the compelling fascination of mystery fiction. (I've also been watching a lot of the TV series Murder, She Wrote!)

I think we love to solve puzzles and mysteries, and unlock the secrets that fiction writers present us with, because we are unable to do this in our own lives, the ending of which is always a mystery, that cannot be neatly discovered and resolved. Being able to solve a fictional mystery provides a satisfying reassurance that the fragility and unpredictability of our every day existence cannot.

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Saturday, 12 July 2014

Publishing, Planning and Procrastination

I started to write this blog post months ago so I thought it was about time I put it out there.  It's all about reflection - specifically reflecting on what I intended to do, and what I actually did. I looked at my aims for 2013, which did not only focus on writing, because I am something of a butterfly and easily distracted by projects that interest me. 

These were my aims a year ago:

Developing my writing business, including republishing my extensive backlist of novels for children and teenagers.
Getting there, but slowly.  I am well behind my schedule for this.

Being braver and accepting more speaking engagements.
Yes, I am actively promoting this aspect of my work. 

Performing as a classical singer again, especially contemporary repertoire.
Nope.  This may have to wait until 2015. 

Continuing to raise funds for and awareness of the importance of research into early detection and treatment for pancreatic cancer.
Yes, I am organising a (now sold out) ticketed event to raise funds for Pancreatic Cancer UK, and attended a meeting at the Houses of Parliament for the APPG Inquiry. 

In a September 2013 blog post I wrote, "I have 2 more horse titles I want to bring out before the end of September (more likely October now), plus a further title at the end of November (horse sci-fi!) and, hopefully, a completely new story end Dec/mid Jan."  

Ha! Well, I did eventually manage to publish both Joyrider and The Horse in my Heart in November 2013, and my 4 book Gemma series in December. I have not yet managed to put the equestrian sci-fi title onto Amazon - this is now imminent - and the completely new story has not yet been written.  

In my defence, I managed to put out a novella in February this year called Valentine Horse, which is aimed at slightly older readers.   

But I'm disappointed at my productivity, which is not what it should be.  I want to work on two new titles, which are both planned and mapped out, but I need to do the hard graft of actually writing the books.  

Procrastination and vacillation - right now, these two words describe my working practice perfectly!  This has to did you achieve your writing plans for 2013?  

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