29 August 2013


After finishing a novel recently I was delighted to find additional material at the end of the book in which the author wrote about his initial idea for the novel, and what had inspired him with the characters and plot.

As a reader I'm fascinated by these insights. I'm not sure whether it's because I'm a writer, or just nosy.

As a writer I'm also fascinated by the things that people see in my writing - some intentional and some that truly amaze me, as I'd never thought of them.

Sometimes I finish a book, put it down and don’t think much more about it, but other times the characters remain with me for longer and I think about character choices and actions.

Writers are often urged to consider the underlying theme in their work. To me this suggests we look for the theme once we’ve finished writing. I think this is the appropriate time, as writing with a theme in mind can lead to preachy writing or overdoing the emphasis. Themes need a light touch, rather like sprinkling fairy dust! Better that some readers miss it than being trampled underfoot by the lecture.

When I first started writing Lives Interrupted, I began with the idea of how people would deal with the aftermath and consequences of being involved in a major catastrophe that changed their lives. It was only while reading and editing a draft version of the novel that I saw the theme - the strength of friendship. This was shown in the stories of Rosa and Ellie, and Kate and Francine. It was also echoed in a plot line I removed in an early version. 

If you’ve read Lives Interrupted you may well have seen other themes and not noticed this one. It doesn’t really matter. Reading is a very individual activity. When I’ve discussed books or films with friends I often find that we have very different ideas of the theme, or alternatively the plot was so gripping we couldn’t turn the pages fast enough to even think about theme. We read to be entertained, and sometimes we don’t need to analyse what the author really meant. What do you think?

22 August 2013

Guest Post on Bookish Whimsy

Today I'm over at Bookish Whimsy with a guest post on Charlene's excellent blog. If you'd like to know a little more about me, my writing space and how many houses I've lived in then pop on over and say hello.

15 August 2013

Book Reviews

Book reviews were in the news for many of the wrong reasons last year and earlier this year, and possibly because of this I guess many people discount some reviews thinking they've been written by the author’s friends and/or family.

When my husband sent me a link to this blog post, I realised that perhaps the struggle to get reviews might have become my latest fixation!

I laughed out loud when I read the post, but found myself nodding in agreement at much of it.

Good reviews are wonderful – they give the author a huge boost of encouragement and lots of warm fluffy feelings. By a good review I don’t necessarily mean 5-stars (though that is brilliant). A sentence or two outlining what you've enjoyed about the plot/characters/prose is great as well as useful, and finding out what someone hasn't liked is also helpful. It's harder to read, but constructive feedback is good, though sometimes the phrase might sound more like a mantra through gritted teeth!

Yesterday my morning started brilliantly when I discovered this review on the Rabid Readers Review site.

08 August 2013

Great Expectations

Someone asked me what I'm working on at the moment. I’ve just published Lies of the Dead so I’m in the phase of deciding which bubbling idea to go with next. I have two quite different book ideas I’ve been considering, but one is definitely making all the running at the moment.

I love this part of the process, although it’s so nebulous it can hardly be called a process. I recall vividly sitting in a café on the coast somewhere between Sydney and Brisbane – okay I recall the moment and the café just not exactly where it was - reading a magazine article, when THE IDEA struck. 

As with the previous ideas that became books, at that point THE IDEA was just a premise with the main character appearing as little more than a silhouette.

She (the main character) is still nameless. I always take a long time with names before the correct one comes, but I know a lot more about her now than I did in that café. I know how she feels about some of the things that concern her and how she will react to situations. I know her family situation, her husband’s job (which is important to the plot), and with each piece of the puzzle she comes a little further out of the shadows.

The thing I love most about this part of the process is that there is all this possibility ahead of me before the internal critic gets to work and tells me I haven't quite captured the brilliance of my original idea!

On this subject my favourite philosopher (Winnie the Pooh) says, 'When you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.'

Neil Gaiman said, ‘Perfection is like chasing the horizon. Keep moving.

So I’ll keep moving and in the meantime I’m enjoying the nebulous part of the process.