the writer is a lonely hunter

writing by Gail Aldwin and other authors

Meet author Paula R C Readman

I’m delighted to introduce Paula R C Readman to readers of The Writers is a Lonely Hunter. Paula and I have been previously published in anthologies by Bridge House Publishing and have met at celebration events. As we’ve both had novels published this year, we thought it would be a good idea to share our experiences. Paula’s answers to a series of questions are posted below.

1) What type of books or genre do you write?

I would class myself as a horror writer, or at least, the darker shade of pale because of my love of Victorian ghost stories. It’s the simplicity of how the Victorians told their dark tales without relying on the use of blood, guts and gore which I love most.  I hope I’ve recreated their chilling tension in my stories too. Of course I do add a bit more bite to my tales as and when they need it, but I don’t overdo it or add it for an unnecessary shock element.    

Of course, die-hard horror fans might find my work more cosy horror/crime rather than what they are looking for, but I feel there’s a market for my kind of work. It’s just finding the right place to market my books, which has me stumped as it isn’t quite horror and not quite a crime novel. I categorise my writing as Gothic Crime.  

2) What was your inspiration behind Seeking the Dark book?

Seeking the Dark is a vampire story with a twist. When I first wrote the novel back in 2005 I had no idea how to write a book.  I had some success with writing nonfiction articles about researching my Readman family roots in Whitby, North Yorkshire

 After suffering a couple of rejections with the nonfiction, I decided to turn my hand to writing short stories. I wrote a story about a girl catching the last bus home. In the last paragraph the twist is revealed and the reader discovers that she’s a vampire. I took the short story into work and showed it to a friend I trusted. Lisa liked the story but wanted to know more about the girl. The short story then became a book. It went through many changes as I learnt the skills needed to refine my ability to write. I have sent it out to quite a few publishers over the years. Unsurprisingly, it suffered quite a few rejections, but on receiving plenty of good feedback it kept me motivated. In the end, I set it to one side and focused on writing short stories for publication as I wanted to build a writing CV of published work in hope to increase my chances of finding a publisher. It wasn’t until my third written novel was published that I decided to submit Seeking the Dark after I had finished editing it again.    

3) Give a short taster of your plotline, and introduce us to your main character. 

Investigative journalist, Jacob Eldritch, is obsessed with solving the mystery of the Dead Men Sleeping, a series of unexplained deaths, but he isn’t aware that the Dark force is gathering strength. 

One evening, he spots a man leading a white-haired beauty through the crowds at his local bar.  A few days later, he sees her again at a hotel, in the company of a different man.  A week later, both men are dead and the police add their names to the unexplained death list. 

While conducting some background research at the library, a young girl doing her homework gives Jacob an unexpected clue. This turns the mystery of the Dead Men Sleeping on its head when he discovers they’re linked to the death of a Whitby ship owner two hundred and twenty-four years ago. 

As the Dark closes in, Jacob must fight, but will he survive?  

4) How did you choose the names of your characters?

I have two books which I tend to reach for when deciding on my main characters’ names, plus I collect interesting names from the television while watching the news. 

The Dictionary of Surnames, by Mark Anthony Lower is part of a collection of nonfiction books I kept from my days spent researching my family history. The second book is a Dictionary of Fictional Characters by William Freeman. I pick and mix my character’s name though sometimes the characters tell me their names as they develop in my mind. I’m dyslectic so find it difficult to pronounce certain names. If I keep stumbling over them when reading my work aloud, I have to change it for something that flows off my tongue.     

5) Will your readers find your main character likeable or not?

Yes, I think most readers will find Jacob Eldritch likeable. He’s very much your boy next-door type of a guy, though he can be a bit self-contained as he has a failed marriage behind him because of his obsession. I hope the readers find Amanita Virosa an intriguing character, if a little scary.   

6) How did you choose the title for your book? Had you chosen the title before writing the book, or on completion?

Seeking the Dark has changed titles four times as I was concerned that the first few ideas were too religious and might put readers off. The final idea for the book title came from a comment I heard on a radio show when driving home from work. The radio guest said, “Well, it was like seeking in the dark.” I have no memory of what they were chatting about, as all I could do was just keep repeating the phrase Seeking the Dark until I got home so I could write it down.

7) How did you choose the cover picture? Did you have an idea of what you would like?

I always imagined the book cover would have a woman wearing a large brimmed hat that covered the top half of her face as I always saw Amanita as the lead character in the book. She would be holding a champagne glass, with a half-smile playing on her lips. For years, I had focused on her point of view, but while editing the book last year, I suddenly had a light bulb moment and realised that Jacob was in fact the main character.  This helped when my publisher at Darkstroke asked me to select a cover picture from a website. I first looked on Amazon at the same category as my book came under to see what the norm was. Most of the books under Vampires had bloody fangs and neck chewing. I wanted my book to stand out from the crowd as it isn’t a straightforward vampire novel.  On seeing the cover picture I chose, I felt it had both elements of my plotline and title. I hoped it would speak to the reader as the picture shows Jacob at the bottom and the ominous Dark hanging over him. 

8) If a film maker chose your book to adapt, would you be happy with a based on version film or series, or would you want them to stick as closely as possible to your original idea? What wouldn’t you be happy with .i.e. too much violence, complete change of character etc.? 

Hmm, this is a difficult question to answer because I know that a filmmaker has a limited amount of time in which to tell the story. A novel gives an author more freedom to explore different elements within their storyline. I hope I would at least recognise my characters, and they wouldn’t just focus on the sex and violent parts within my plotline.  

9) Have you started writing your next book? Is it something original or a follow on novel?

As the Crow Flies isn’t quite a follow on to The Funeral Birds as that was a novella. It will be more of a standalone which allows me to go into more background details of the main characters. Most of the readers that reviewed the book wanted to know more about the characters especially Granny Wenlock and who she was. As The Crow Flies will be a darker book with the same sense of humour between the husband and wife private detective agency team.    

10) While writing the book did you have a light bulb moment when everything came together, and what triggered it?  

As I’ve already said, for years I had focused on Amanita Virosa being the main character in the novel. Since 2005 while writing the book and re-editing over the years I had always seen it from her point of view until last year.  For eight straight months, I worked, with an online friend, Kim Martin on editing Stone Angels. In that time I learnt a great deal from her. 

Once my first published novel, Stone Angels was accepted by Darkstroke I then worked alongside the publisher on its final edits. All the skills I learnt from both Kim and Laurence, I then put into action when editing Seeking the Dark. As I was editing the novel, it became clear that Jacob had the stronger point of view. This revelation became the turning point in the novel’s life and made it far easier to edit. I feel it’s a more powerful book too.   

Thank you so much for being my guest, Paula. You’ve give some really good insights into your writing process.

Paula’s novels are well worth reading so do use the links below to buy your copy.

Purchase Links

Seeking The Dark, Stone AngelsThe Funeral Birds, Days Pass Like a Shadow

Social Media Links

Blog: https://paularcreadmanauthor.blog
Facebook: https://facebook.com/paula.readman.1
Twitter: Paula R C Readman@Darkfantasy13

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Kate Mosse and me

Did you know Macmillan Publishers was established 175 years ago by two brother? Originally crofters from the Isle of Arran, thirty-year-old Daniel and his twenty-five-year-old brother Alexander began a publishing business in London to share learning and capture imaginations. The company continues to publish writers that shape our literary lives. On 16 August at the Spiegeltent in Charlotte Square, Edinburgh, I was lucky to be in the audience as Kate Mosse introduced a range of writers including food poverty activist Jack Monroe and Sharlene Teo winner of the inaugural Deborah Rogers Writer’s Award for her debut novel, Ponti.

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After the event, I introduced myself to Kate Mosse. She was a judge of the 2015 Elle Magazine writing competition alongside Jessie Burton. I feel privileged that both these authors read my entry and awarded me a place as runner up. (You can read more about the competition here.) Kate enquired about my writing progress and was pleased to learn of my recent successes. In judging a competition, Kate hopes the awards provide motivation to continue to progress with writing. When my novel is accepted for publication, I am now committed to let Kate know.

 

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When Two Authors Meet

Meeting online can be a learning opportunity. In the case of two British authors, Gail Aldwin and Leslie Tate, it led to the following joint blog about writing fiction – how they both started and what has helped them grow and develop as authors…

Leslie Tate writes:

Leslie reading Heavens Rage The Studio

I can see myself at fifteen crouched over a tape recorder in the front room of my parents’ house reciting ‘Ode to the West Wind’ by Shelley in a singsong elevated voice, gesturing grandly with my arms. I’d closed the door and half drawn the curtains so I could abandon myself to my grand passion without thinking too much about my parents’ reaction. It was a cri de coeur, an adolescent protest against having to account for myself as ‘sensible’ while answering questions about timings and where I was going every time I went out. The house was a controlled space with a laid down routine where everything had to be justified, itemised and explained, and this was my big breakout, pushing myself to be wild and flighty and poetic. At a deeper level I wanted to transcend what I saw as a dull, literalist upbringing that only valued hard graft, material possessions and promotion at work.

I was grandstanding, of course. When I wrote my own poems in secret I worked myself up, pretending to be inspired. In fact they didn’t come easily and lacked coherence. They were static, over-elaborate and repetitious, straining for the words, announcing their feelings, overstaying their welcome.

When I went to university I gave up writing in favour of experience. I was collecting impressions, living adventurously and reading writers who weren’t on the syllabus as a preparation for the magic moment when it would all come together and I’d begin writing my inspired, straight-to-the-page on-the-road novel.

Afterwards, as a teacher, I was too exhausted to write except on Sundays when I’d jot down a few Hopkinsesque lines. I didn’t edit very much and I knew my efforts weren’t original so I only shared them with a few uncritical friends. I felt that if the words didn’t come naturally then that proved I was a doodler rather than a writer. In any case the classics were way beyond my reach. I loved and envied novels like ‘Mrs Dalloway’ and ‘Ulysses’ and because I’d never equal their brilliance I didn’t try at all.

It took me many years to understand the editing process. I went through alcoholism and came out as a cross-dressing man, but a feeling of blocked creativity remained. I completed an MA in Creative Writing with Goldsmiths College, went part-time in order to write, developed my third novel on a Guardian/University of East Anglia course, but it took close forensic work to dig up an individual voice from my pages and pages of schooled and competent writing. Although my difficulties in life were germane to my writing, putting them down on paper wasn’t at all therapeutic; what mattered more was the process itself where words were the guide rather than some pre-ordered plot or confessional intention. I learned to shape, and be shaped, by the language and character, not as an exercise but through hours of repeated line changes, switching phrases, consulting the Thesaurus and sometimes cancelling a whole day’s work to start again. What I discovered was that writing in the literary mode depended on listening, always listening, hearing the line, the feel, the flow.

But to make any claim to literary writing always feels chancy, so I developed a bilateral approach telling myself that I really could do it while remaining dissatisfied with what I’d achieved and always straining for improvements. It’s aspirational, always in doubt, and I’m just the messenger. So I’m left with the effort to fashion perfect phrases and bind them together, to go deep, avoid cliché and follow the dictates of character and language. The aim is to give pleasure, passion and insight to the reader and my job is to use that head-down work ethic my parents believed in to take the reader there.

 

Gail Aldwin writes:

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I’m a late starter when it comes to writing and, to some extent reading. Unlike writers who had childhoods immersed in books, I didn’t like reading. Technically, I could decode a text, but I never saw books as a source of interest and pleasure. As for writing, I was a terrible speller and this seemed to be the only important thing. A legacy from this poor start in literacy meant I carried a pocket dictionary in my handbag for years to prevent me from making ghastly errors.

With this history, it may come as a surprise that I am now a writer. My interest in novels started when I was seventeen and during the long commute to work, I tuned into reading. The first book I read from choice was Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Suzann which is now a Virago Modern Classic. It’s been a challenge to make up lost ground in reading but I am closing the gaps in my knowledge of literature. I recently came across the terms ‘deep readers’ and ‘shallow readers’. Deep readers find an author they like and read everything that writer has ever produced. Shallow readers dip into books by a range of authors. I am very definitely a shallow reader and I tend to read single works by a range of authors. My taste is eclectic although I especially enjoy books set in remote and wild locations.

My writing experience began with letters. I lived overseas in my twenties and have box files containing aerogrammes I wrote to my parents during a journey from London to Kathmandu on a double decker bus and later when I lived in Australia and Papua New Guinea. Anecdotes I shared through these letters were turned into short stories as part of undergraduate studies to become a teacher.

Following the birth of my children, all creative energy was invested in them. I abandoned writing projects and developed a career in education. Years later when I was working in a challenging environment, writing again became important. I was investing too much energy into my paid work and needed to find an outlet to channel my creative drive. This is when I began writing my first novel.

After the first novel came a second and a third. I see these unpublishable manuscripts as my writing apprenticeship. Beside these long projects, I began to enjoy writing short fiction. There’s something very satisfying about finishing a piece of writing and after a couple of competition wins I began to split my writing time evenly between short fiction and novel writing.

In 2013, I was made redundant and this provided the opportunity to fulfil a long held dream. I love learning and the as a teacher it’s great to watch pupils progress but it sometimes felt like I wasn’t moving forward at all. I decided to study for an MPhil in creative writing. When I had completed my creative product and the thesis was ready for submission, I realised I didn’t want to stop and transferred onto a PhD.

I passed my viva in November and have nearly completed the corrections. My desk is clearing and I’m already engaged with new projects: from writing a novel using the voice of a six-year-old narrator to co-writing a comedy script to be staged in Bridport, autumn 2018. Wherever will this writing journey take me next?

ABOUT LESLIE TATE’S BOOKS:

  1. Heaven’s Rageis a memoir that explores addiction, cross-dressing, bullying and the hidden sides of families, discovering at their core the transformative power of words to rewire the brain and reconnect with life. You can read more about/buy Heaven’s Rage here.
  2. Purpleis a coming-of-age novel, a portrait of modern love and a family saga. Set in the North of England, it follows the story of shy ingénue Matthew Lavender living through the wildness of the 60s and his grandmother Mary, born into a traditional working-class family. Signed copies of Purple can be bought here.
  3. Blue tells the story of Richard and Vanessa Lavender, who join a 90s feminist collective sharing childcare, political activism and open relationships. You can read more about/buy Blue here.
  4. Violet is about late-life love. It begins in 2003 with Beth Jarvis and James Lavender on a blind date in a London restaurant. Attracted by James’s openness, Beth feels an immediate, deep connection between his honesty and her own romantic faith. From then on they bond, exchanging love-texts, exploring sea walks and gardens and sharing their past lives with flashbacks to Beth’s rural childhood and her marriage to a dark, charismatic minister… Signed copies of Violet can be bought here.

Leslie’s website is https://www.leslietate.com/, where he publishes weekly interview with people about their creativity, and his Twitter handle is @LSTateAuthor

On Facebook Leslie has two author pages: https://www.facebook.com/leslietateauthor/and https://www.facebook.com/Violetnovel/

ABOUT GAIL ALDWIN

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GAIL ALDWIN is a prize-winning writer of short fiction and poetry. Her work can be found online at Ink, Sweat & Tears, Slamchop and Words for the Wild and in a range of print anthologies including Flash Fiction Festival One (Ad Hoc Fiction, 2017), Gli-ter-ary (Bridge House Publishing, 2017) and Dorset Voices(Roving Press, 2012). As Chair of the Dorset Writers’ Network, Gail works with the steering group to support the skills and confidence of writers across the county by connecting creative communities. She is also a visiting tutor to undergraduates of creative writing at Arts University Bournemouth. In 2017, Gail co-wrote Killer Ladybugs,a short play that was staged by Cast Iron Productions (Brighton). Paisley Shirt,Gail’s collection of short fiction is published by Chapeltown Books and was longlisted in the Best Short Story category of the Saboteur Awards 2018.

Paisley Shirt is available to purchase through the Book Depository (no postal charges and dispatch within three days).

The same piece, in a slightly different order, can be read on Leslie Tate’s blog here.

 

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Interview on UK Talk Radio

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I was invited by Jonathan Hines to join him for an interview on UK Talk Radio to share  my experiences as a writer. The office and recording studio are located in Poole and following a drive through the rain, I arrived. Jonathan is very personable and soon put me at ease. I chatted with him before the recording began and then he started on the questions. It was a lot of fun – and a great opportunity to talk about my writing.

The interview is scheduled to be aired again on Sunday 11 June 2017. If you’d like to listen, click here and tune in around noon.

Jonathan is looking to work with more authors so if you would like to take part in this series of interviews, please email jonathan.hines@uktalkradio.org to express your interest.

 

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Useful links

The email group for MPhil students at the University of South Wales has shared some helpful links recently. Here are a couple that might be of interest to you.

Locating London’s past is a new website that allows you to search a wide body of digital resources relating to early modern and eighteenth-century London. A great point of reference for historical fiction writers.

http://www.locatinglondon.org/

Submissions are sought for the Dundee International Book Prize 2014, with a £10,000 cash prize and a publishing contract with Cargo Publishing. Budding authors are invited to enter their debut novels by 3 March 2014.

http://www.dundeebookprize.com/index.htm

More locally, the Wimborne Writing Group are holding a book launch on Thursday 6 February at 6:30pm in Gullivers Bookshop, Wimborne to celebrate the publication of the anthology Grapes on the Vine. Everyone welcome.

The Bridport Prize is offering a new category of novel award entry to its traditional annual competition for poems, short stories and flash fiction. £20 entry fee.

Enjoy!

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