We Need to Talk About Kevin

kevinOver half way through February already and I have yet to post to this blog this year (though I’ve been busy over at Pauseliveaction). I’m going to rectify the situation with a review of a film that came out in 2011 – as usual I’m well behind with films.

I read Lionel Shriver’s novel We Need to Talk About Kevin soon after it came out, and loved it. More than loved it, in fact. It was the kind of book that makes me drone on about it endlessly to anyone who’ll listen and quite a few who’ve stopped listening ages ago, but I don’t notice because I’m too busy waffling about how incredible this book I’ve just read is. I do get a bit Ancient Mariner with things I love.

It’s an incredibly detailed book – the narrator, Eva, doesn’t spare any detail of her feelings and her analysis of her feelings. To me she was completely real and even though the events she’s describing are shocking and dreadful, it was the extent to which I could relate to her that really pulled me in.

In the film, Tilda Swinton is Eva and her beautiful, alien face is front and centre in almost every scene. Usually, her face is a picture of shock and pain – life throws one blow after another at her, all beginning with the birth of her first child, Kevin. The film isn’t linear and sometimes the only way I could tell which phase of her life Eva was in was her hairstyle – longish with a fringe when she’s young and carefree, a trendy cropped style when she’s a young mother, and just lank and uncared-for after Kevin has committed his crime.   Continue reading

Story: Cumbrian Christmas

Important note: Some of the characters in this story are the invention and property of the BBC/Holby City. This is a completely unofficial, unauthorised work of fan fiction.

Joseph Byrne was always my favourite Holby City character and ever since he left to become a GP in Cumbria I’ve often wondered how he was getting on. I also wondered what he would make of discovering Jac was pregnant. Having hoped in vain for a festive, Cumbria-based episode, I decided I’d better write it myself. 

joseph jac holby

The rain on the windscreen pixellated and blurred the distant fell tops. Joseph Byrne turned on the windscreen wiper and the view cleared for a second – dark, leafless hedgerows and the fells beyond looking stark and snow-capped. To his right a shaft of sunlight picked out a hillside and made it sparkle. To his left everything was dark and gloomy. Typical Lake District weather – four seasons in one day. He switched on his headlights.   Continue reading

Why has nobody invented this?

charlize

Ready for my close-up

I’ve been having a discussion with a friend about whether blogging is taking up too much of our creative time and energy that would be better spent working on our “proper” writing.

The thing is, I love my telly blogging. I only write about programmes I enjoy, so I’m not sentencing myself to hours of grimness stuck in an armchair watching things I hate, like Kirsty’s Homemade Home, or indeed anything with Kirsty Allsopp in it (sorry Kirsty). I’m actually having fun, so I wouldn’t like to stop doing that.

The things that are really stopping me from writing, the things I’d really like to dump, would be cleaning the house, cooking the meals, getting dressed – all that boring stuff. Especially getting dressed. Ever since I was a kid I wished I could have a magic wardrobe, where you walk in at one side in your PJs, with sleep-encrusted eyes and matty hair, and come out the other side moments later looking like Charlize Theron on a good day. It’s not too much to ask, surely – it’s got to be an easier thing to invent than the internet and nuclear fusion. Just imagine how many books I could write in the time I would save. And how lovely my author photo would look.

Top model

521f7e5f451892bd1d000d5b-0a14956d76a67cb30fb4c1b052ad1216A new play is opening in London soon, about the life of the Pre-Raphaelite artist and muse Lizzie Siddall. She was a fascinating woman, and I really recommend Lucinda Hawksley’s book Lizzie Siddall: The Tragedy of a Pre-Raphaelite Supermodel.

In the play, the part of Lizzie will be played by actress Emma West, who looks amazingly like her. She says that whenever she visits Tate Britain, where several Pre-Raphaelite paintings hang, including the famous one of Ophelia modelled by Lizzie, she always gets a reaction and people ask her to pose in front of it.

“The last time it was a couple of Japanese tourists who were quite freaked out [by the resemblance], it seemed to me,” she says.

This interested me, because that’s exactly the starting point of my book Better Than the Real Thing. The main character, Lia, is visiting Tate Britain to while away some time, and is struck by the face of a beautiful man in a painting called Lorenzo and Isabella, by Millais (who also painted Ophelia). When she turns round, a man who looks uncannily like Lorenzo is standing behind her, and he strikes up a conversation, telling her that she looks exactly like Isabella. It seems like fate – but who is he really?

Lizzie Siddal is at the Arcola Theatre, London E8, from 20 November – 21 December 2013.

Too perfect for words

Adam LambertI used to be a big fan of shows like American Idol and The X Factor, until they got really rubbish. Back in 2009, Adam Lambert came second in American Idol and kicked off a successful solo career based on actual talent, style and great presence. I liked his music and the way he presented himself (I do love a goth-looking boy), and the way he was so completely out and proud about his sexuality.

He often posts photographs of himself on Twitter. I don’t blame him – if I was that beautiful I’d post photos of myself, too. Something struck me about the latest batch, though. He looks just too perfect. His hair and makeup are absolutely immaculate, he’s dressed fabulously, he’s beautifully lit. And, to me, this makes him look far less attractive than he used to before he had an army of stylists to primp him up.

I know this is all image and he obviously looks completely different when he’s just woken up or has a cold or whatever, and the way he presents himself is completely his choice and it’s one of the things that’s always been interesting about him. But it illustrated a point that someone was making to me about one of my books.   Continue reading

Madness in my method

AirI’m not the most organised of writers. I’m disciplined, in the sense that I turn up at my desk at the appointed time and get some words written, but what I do while I’m writing isn’t the most sensible and productive method.

I’m what they call a “pantser” – because I “write by the seat of my pants” (though I’m British so maybe I should say “trousers”). Basically, I don’t start off with much of a plan, and I make it up as I go along.

When I started writing books I didn’t know there was any other way to do it. I had an idea for an opening scene, so I wrote that down and then thought, “What happens next?” I’m usually lucky in being able to think up the what-happens-next bit fairly quickly, but it does lead to a few lulls. I stranded one poor character smoking on a particular bench in Berlin for weeks, before I worked out he wasn’t the villain, he was the hero, and he had no reason to be on that bench in the first place. And he didn’t smoke, either.   Continue reading

Notorious!

NotoriousThat’s it – I’m going to officially class myself as notorious now, as my books have been pulled from (some of) the (virtual) shelves as part of a crackdown on pornography.

I must hasten to add that my books are sooo not pornography. As I’ve previously mentioned, I struggle to get any smut whatsoever on the page and am a keen fan of the “fade to black” approach.

What’s happened, apparently, is that following press stories about some of the nastier self-published material turning up for sale online, the Kobo store has panicked and withdrawn all the books from publishers and distributors who may have been involved in these extreme books being available through them.  I publish my books via Draft2Digital (who are excellent) and it seems that all books published via them have been pulled while Kobo work out what to do.

You’d think it wouldn’t be too difficult to screen titles for certain trigger words and then either reject them or send them to a human for a proper read-through and a decision, wouldn’t you? The iTunes store seems to have no problem in hunting down and rejecting the word “Amazon” if it appears anywhere in an ebook (as I know from experience).

Anyway, the upshot is that I can add “My books were once removed from sale as part of a porn crackdown” to my (short) list of notable achievements. And in the meantime if anyone is desperate for a Kobo-friendly copy of one of my books, just send me a DM via Twitter (@pauseliveaction) and I’ll send you one for free.