Tag Archives: writing

Guilty! I broke the author’s first commandment.

Yes, I certainly did. The author’s first commandment being, “Always carry a notebook and a pen.”

So I found myself on a bus to Lincoln last week Wednesday. It was early, just after school drop-off, and the sun was shining brightly on the green and lush Lincolnshire countryside as the bus trundled its way towards the city centre. Already the spires of the Cathedral were in full view, and the scenery was growing more suburban by the minute.

I was sitting on the top deck, idly minding my own business. Actually, I wasn’t minding my own business at all. I don’t recall thinking about anything in particular. I had no worries on my mind, no urgent tasks, no remnants of a frazzled morning to analyse. I was simply… sitting there. When, quite suddenly and completely out of the blue, an idea struck. What if a famous rock star, for a whole host of complicated reasons, had to up-end his life and start over, deep, deep under cover? Dah-dah-daaaang!

My nose twitched. (My nose always twitches when I’m onto something, idea-wise). Oh-uh. While the bus rambled on, its passengers oblivious of the creative avalanche in my brain, ideas for the story clicked into place like fragments of a jigsaw. Places, motivations, crisis points, laugh-out-loud potential… everything swirled round and settled into place faster than I could say (not out loud, of course), “hang on, I haven’t got a pen.”

Because yes, my friends, I had committed the unthinkable crime. I had left the house with a rucksack devoid of writerly implements. No notebook, no notepad, not even a pen with which to write on my bus ticket (tiny though it was, it would have been a scrap of hope!). I had nothing. Nada. Nixiplonks, as my other half would say. There was a reason for this of course. The previous Monday, I had got utterly drenched in a phenomenal rain storm, and I had to empty out my rucksack completely, disposing of notepads, pens, and various other things I habitually carry.

The normal contents of my rucksack... including a notepad and several pens!

The normal contents of my rucksack… including a notepad and several pens!

My fingers itched, and I was feeling frantic.

The problem wasn’t so much that I was fearful of losing the idea. The idea was firmly embedded in my head in broad strokes. No, the problem was that whole scenes were coming to me thick and fast, as though I’d already written the book and was germinating edits. This is what usually happens when I conceive a novel, except it usually happens in the middle of the night when I’m at home with access to all manner of writing accoutrements, most notably my laptop.

Worse! Next thing I knew, the bus pulled into my stop, and I had to hurl myself down the stairs so that I wouldn’t be carried further than I wanted.

Breathless and discombobulated, I paused under the big plane tree on Broadgate (if indeed it is a plane tree. Who am I to know these things? Details, details!) and dug out my mobile phone. Needs must!

See? Ancient.

See? Ancient.

That probably sounds like an inspired course of action to you, but you have to understand that my mobile phone is old. As in, seriously old. It’s the exact opposite of a smartphone. It makes calls and sends and receives texts, and that’s it. It does not access the Internet, Facebook, Twitter, email or my blog. It does not have voice-recognition or a pseudo-work-environment. But it does have a ‘to do’ list function.

For the next twenty minutes, I stumbled all over Lincoln, crossing various roads and only barely just dodging cars, bikers, and delivery trucks, while clumsily tapping the bare bones of my next novel into this ancient old phone one painstaking letter at a time. I would bet you that I was the epitome of the irresponsible phone user, and that many an irate driver shook their fist at me. But hey, I didn’t have a choice. I was a woman possessed.

I broke the author’s first commandment, and I had a sore thumb for days, but I rescued the plot, the plan, the grand idea. And that, people, means that you can look forward to yet another book in my catalogue. After Fallen for Rock (out 30 June) and my Christmas novella (Fairy Tale in New York, out in October or November) and my current work-in-progress (bringing you a glamorous rock star couple and their rather disastrous honeymoon with epic consequences, due for release in the spring of 2015), I have the next story in the hopper. And so the fun goes on!

But I counsel thee this. Never, ever, ever leave your house without a notepad and a pen. I shall learn my lesson, too!

Your turn! Have you ever been assailed by an idea, a concept, a thought, that you had to eternalise without any means of doing so? What did you do?

Sometimes I Think Germish

You probably know that I’m a prolific writer and a vicious proofer. Of course, occasionally I do make mistakes. I have been known to commit the occasional grammatical faux-pas; sometimes the odd typo or three creeps in, and every now and then, I make genuine spelling mistakes. I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t! Further, I have to confess to having a very bad relationship with serial commas, but I do like my apostrophes used correctly.

All these mistakes get fixed and corrected, naturally. Either by myself, during my many rounds of proofing, or by an external proofer.

Yet I have a little secret that may not be immediately obvious to my readers. In fact, many people are terribly surprised when they find out, and I’ve even had a few people disbelieving me entirely (“you’re pulling my leg, right?”).

Here goes. I think, and therefore write, in a language that isn’t my native language. My native language is German, but I find myself utterly unable to string together a narrative in that language. Instead, I prefer English. I have lived and breathed and dreamed English ever since I moved to the UK twenty years ago. In fact, I have lived and breathed and dreamed in English from the moment I started learning the language.


Why, you want to know? I have no idea. I am as baffled as you are. There’s some strange wiring going on in my brain that is beyond bilingualism, because my preference for the use of English has come to the detriment of what is meant to be my infallible, incorruptible mother tongue. Somehow, for me, this is not so.

Moreover, this phenomenon goes deeper than just thinking, speaking or writing. I have been told by the few people who know me ‘fluently’ in both languages that my voice is deeper in English (or goes up three octaves in German, depending on your viewpoint), that my wit is sharper, my confidence stronger and my exuberance more buoyant. (Not my words, I assure you!) That is an awful lot to take in when you’re not even aware that that’s going on.

Suffice it to say that I do feel more comfortable in English, in every respect. I struggle to express emotion in German, which is proving a bit of a problem as I am making a valiant effort at raising my children bilingually. Yet in English, with its infinite nuances and wonderful registers, the metaphors flow and expression is easy. Weird, huh?

That said, when I was working on Sophie’s Turn, and more recently the sequel, Sophie’s Run, I had some very strange things happening to me. After all this time living and working in England, after all this time spent thinking and writing in English, suddenly the Germanisms started popping up in my brain.

This was particularly the case for Sophie’s Run as some parts of the book are set in several places in Germany. “Germish” is one of the official terms for this type of linguistic interference, only it usually refers to English words used (incorrectly or out of context) in German, rather than German expressions creeping into English. But still, you get the idea.

I found myself thinking up turns of phrases or expressions that are unknown to the English-speaking world. For example, I’d say something like, this is quite a plastic description. HUH? In German, a description that is ‘plastisch’ would denote a description so good that it’s 3D, life-like, authentic. In English, this mistranslation is meaningless. Evidently, these instances of Germish gibberish never make it onto the page; instead, I spend some significant time trying to find an appropriate English translation. Very occasionally, I have to give up and take a different English idiomatic approach.


A case in point is the actual title for Sophie’s Run, which drove me to distraction for months. There’s a German word, Aussetzer, that captures perfectly what I wanted to express, but there is no adequate English equivalent. Aussetzer means to undergo a temporary moment of madness where all reason deserts you and you do some weird and wonderful things. That’s a bit of a mouthful ~ you see the predicament? Hiatus doesn’t capture it, neither does folly, break, interlude, intermission, interruption. Mad five minutes isn’t exactly a catchy book title. The closest expression I could come up with was to flip out, which isn’t yet recognised by the Oxford English Dictionary. Therefore I couldn’t be sure that people would interpret this ‘street expression’ accurately and that’s way too risky for a book title. Plus, Sophie Flips Out doesn’t exactly conjure expectations of romantic comedy, rock star glamour and happy endings, now, does it? Therefore, Sophie simply runs. It lacks the German elegance, but it has its own cunning double or even triple meaning.

So there is something about the German language that lodges deeply in my brain and that pops up most unexpectedly. Very occasionally (say, once or twice), I have exercised artistic license and allowed myself to add the Germanisms to the manuscript when I felt that they worked, or that they added a touch of humour, or that the expression should quite simply exist in the English language. After all, that’s how language grows! So if you come across anything a little unusual, a little exotic, do get in touch… I invite you most heartily!

Do you have any experiences of weird interference with your brain? I’d love to hear I’m not alone…

#RadioAddict strikes again: Live on Air with Nicola Gilroy at BBC Radio Lincolnshire

This radio thing is becoming a habit and an addiction. I can’t help it!


Yesterday, the fabulous Nicola Gilroy invited me onto the afternoon show at BBC Radio Lincolnshire. Take no notice of my deer-caught-in-the-headline look, I have a most amazing time. Nicola asked me about Sophie’s Turn (and Sophie’s Run), my inspiration for writing, the writing (and planning) process as well as my journey to publication. Oh, and we talked about rock music. Obviously. She even played Whitesnake for me, right there, on the show. Needless to say, I played the air guitar. Luckily for Nicola, I didn’t sing along. (Though I was tempted!)

Here’s a link to the iPlayer of this show. It will be functional until end of day, Monday, 28 January. You can find ‘my’ segment from 10 minutes in up to 29 minutes!


Rock on, and thanks for listening. 🙂

PS. While I was sitting in the waiting area at BBC Radio Lincoln, I couldn’t help but reflect on the increasing number of times I’ve been getting to enjoy myself on the radio of late, and how that delicious cocktail of pre-interview nerves always gives me a buzz that lasts through the rest of the day. I might just blog about this in more detail in the coming week or so. What do you reckon?

Sex on fire

It’s Music Monday!

It’s a very special Monday, as far as I am concerned. While you are reading and listening to this post, I will almost certainly have disconnected the internet and muted the phone. For today I return to work ‘proper.’ It is my first day of writing the last part of the Rock Star Romance Trilogy.

Yes, I am officially writing in earnest, and at full speed, my third book, Sophie’s Encore, so that it will be in your hands on 7 September 2013. 

As befits the final part of a trilogy, things will seriously hot up here. So what better song to get me (and you) in the mood? “Consumed with what’s to transpire…” Well, that totally captures it for me today!

Kick back and enjoy… and I’ll see you later, much later…


Rock on!

Do you have a special song for kicking off a new project, whether a book or any other undertaking? Something to get you in the right frame of mind? I’d love to hear it!

But please remember to stay the right side of copyright law and keep it legal by posting official videos only. Thank you!

CentreStage with Harriet Grace: How to Make Your Novel Fly

Welcome again to CentreStageCentreStage showcases fantastic authors from around the world, often introducing fellow featured authors at loveahappyending.com as well as my fellow authors in the Sapphire Star Publishing family.  On CentreStage, these authors might write for you about their lives, or their writing journey, or anything else that matters to them.  Every feature will be different in format and flavour, so watch out for a variety of stories and tales.

Today, it is my great pleasure to welcome loveahappyending.com featured author Harriet Grace! Harriet brings us a very unique post with hand-crafted, powerful images, and I absolutely adore the drawings!  So over to you, Harriet

How Make Your Novel Fly?

I’ve often wondered how successful novels started.  How did the author choose what to write about?  Was it the characters, the plot, or just the brilliant writing that made it successful?  Set out on the long journey of the novel and people will ask you ‘what are you writing about?’  Do you have a plan?  A synopsis?   But I don’t know these things until I’ve written book!

Over the years I have written 2 novels which found an agent but not a publisher;  completed an MA in Creative Writing and written another novel; found another agent, and nearly a publisher.  I was always at the writing end of the process, trying to create characters, a story, honing the craft of writing novels and wondering whether I was ever going to get to the end.  But I never let myself think about the end, let alone beyond it.  The idea that I might one day have to sell a book of mine, and therefore need to know at least one unique selling point about the book, if not several, was somewhere I wouldn’t go.  It felt like tempting fate.  Such hubris would invoke the wrath of the Gods and I would never see a book of mine in print.

My novel ‘Cells’ started off with an image I had of a woman of about forty sitting at her desk and looking across a busy open-plan office and seeing a young man she has never seen before and making a connection with him.  He looks a bit like Jesus and she feels weirdly attracted to him…  Fairly quickly, the woman at the desk becomes Martha,  Features Editor of a national newspaper, married to Grant.  They both have successful careers and live in a beautiful house in Putney on the river.  The young man becomes Jon, a bit of a loser.

And then – eureka! – I realised that Martha and Grant haven’t been able to have children.  They have tried IVF several times and it has failed, and they are trying to move on.  Suddenly, I had a MODERN DILEMMA (MD for short), although I didn’t realize it at the time, or how important that would be!

At my launch I said:

We live in an age of amazing medical advances where everything seems possible.  But what happens when the technology fails?  What does it do to people who have tried and tried to have a baby through IVF and failed?  How do they move on?  How does it affect their lives, their relationships?

Looking back, it felt like luck that I’d hit on this MD because it has made the novel so much easier to sell.  I had a hook, attractive enough to win me a reading at the Kingston-upon-Thames Readers Festival. The Head of the MA Publishing degree at Kingston University attended that reading and invited me to talk to her students about self-publishing, and then included me as a case study in her on book on self-publishing ‘The Naked Author’.  The MD helped me get reviews, was useful in press releases, on Twitter and Facebook, and as introductions to readings.  It appears that many women, like Martha, have gone through this experience.

So, here is me pretending to be Martha walking across the footbridge near her home at Putney.  We used this image for the cover of the first edition.

Here are the patterns in the river, which Martha gazes at and which to Martha look like cells.  Cells which refuse to fuse together to make a baby.

How do other writers choose what to write about in their novels?  Are they influenced by fashionable genres or subjects, or world events?  Do they write a plan?  A synopsis?  A strapline for the key idea the book is about?  Or do they just create characters they are interested in, get into their world, their story, and hope that the story picks up the Zeitgeist of the moment and makes the novel fly?

I would love to hear your comments…


Well–what can I say? Thank you for this amazing post. The ‘MD’ of your novel is something that I have seen a few of my friends go through–and it is tough. I love the swirling river imagery, that’s very powerful. I am eager to hear how readers find their inspiration for writing!

Let’s find out more about Cells, first of all!

CELLS – One woman, two men, a last chance for happiness

Peak time on the Features floor of a national newspaper and the computers crash.  Martha Morgan, Features Editor, has a migraine and is losing control of her job.  Head pounding she sits down, looks up and there is Jon, one of the messengers; and for a few seconds he seems like a saviour.

Martha is married to Grant, a successful analyst.  They have a beautiful home but no baby, in spite of IVF.  Jon, brought up by dysfunctional parents, can’t stick at a job or find a girlfriend.  When Martha decides to take him under her wing and invites him into their home, the lives of all three of them break open, bringing the past and present into an explosive future.

Format: Paperback and Kindle ISBN: 9781906236618 Language: English Publisher: SilverWood Books (2nd edition July 2011)

Cells is available on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle; through bookshops; and directly from the publisher, SilverWood Books.

And now let’s find out more about Harriet Grace, Author:

Harriet Grace grew up in a small village called Inkpen (Inkpen features in the novel).   She has grown-up children and stepchildren and now lives in London.  She has an MA (Distinction) in Creative Writing and has had poems published.  Cells is her first novel.

Visit Harriet on her website , follow her on Twitter or find her on Facebook or at loveahappyending.com.

Now, dear reader, remember to let us know how you go about finding inspiration for your novels… Just how do you make your novels fly? We’d love to hear from you!