Two Classics Set on the French Riviera


I recently went to an old fortress off the coast of Marseille called Chateau d’If. I’ve been wanting to go for eons because it features heavily in the book, Count of Monte Cristo (it’s where Edmond Danté was falsely imprisoned). I wanted to put myself in Dantès’ shoes, although I confess that I still haven’t read it; it’s 15 million pages long and in French, it’s proving a little difficult to get through (and I can’t give up and read the damn thing in English!). But then it occurred to me that the French Riviera, where I live, is full of literary settings and references.Continue Reading

Writing; it’s not what we do, it’s who we are


At the risk of sounding like a self-help guru, I wanted to talk about quitting. I’ve come across a few articles lately that talk about why writers stop writing. The answer always seems to be that it’s because they haven’t “made it”, i.e. achieved riches beyond their wildest dreams with that big blockbuster franchise. But that’s not why writers write. Not the ones that have it in their blood. They write because they simply can’t not write. As Kameron Hurley puts it on this blog post, many don’t ever make it, but they simply have to keep going. Learning. Writing. Revising. Writing. It’s not what we do, it’s who we are. More to the point, it’s what we love.

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What self-pubbed authors need? A new editorial & review model


I’ve been thinking a while about what the self-pubbing industry really needs and how someone might execute it. A whole army of services has sprung up “supporting” (read, taking cash from) self-pubbed authors but very few do this effectively or because there are so many people offering the same service it becomes hard to tell the services apart or rate them effectively.

So what do we need? Firstly, we need trusted ways to find good editors (with real reviews – the equivalent of tripadvisor for our industry). Secondly, we need greater choices for people to review our books. Hugh Howey puts it well here when he says we need reviewers and readers (a way to access them, at least). Amazon has provided a platform but it’s a business model that works to sell books when you have an audience. We need places to build those audiences before they buy. There are tons of new tech apps out there for readers and writers and some of them are good. I just need one of them to bring it all together and gain traction, to revolutionise, a bit like Airbnb for self-pubbers; something that can turn tech to our advantage and overthrow the current system. Ideas?

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Why read and write YA?

I love adult literature but there’s a place in my heart for reading Young Adult (YA) too. They’re a quick and straightforward read but that doesn’t mean simple or under-developed (not the best ones anyway); the category YA simply refers to books about a particuliar period of life (The Catcher in the Rye and The Virgin Suicides would both be YA if released today).

There’s a view that YA books are becoming more simplistic and generic, mostly because of the perceived “goldrush” in writing YA, and the subsequent problem of clichéd battle scenes and poorly conceived love triangles (à la Twilight) that drive the story rather than any semblance of a plot. It’s almost as if the writers are following a checklist of things to include to get that Hollywood blockbuster.Continue Reading

What’s so bad about middlebrow reading?

Someone recently asked me what I was writing and we had an interesting discussion about YA fiction. He had just seen The Scorch Trials (part 2 in The Maze Runner YA series), clearly didn’t like it and then asked me if I was after a bestseller. His implication being that it wouldn’t be very good if it was a bestseller and that it was better to aim for “high art”. But is all “good” art a niche experience? Does something have to be badly written to sell a ton?Continue Reading

“Offensive writing” and its impact


I like reading what other people perceive as “harsh” authors, guys like Bret Easton Ellis and Chuck Palahniuk and one of my favourite books is We Need to Talk About Kevin, a book many people couldn’t stomach because of its gun violence in a school. Notwithstanding the very real pain that people must feel reading about something identical to an experience in real life, I’ve never bought into the idea that I am more or less affected by things in books because I am slightly closer to the situation than other people. For instance, I have a child but I don’t believe for one minute that I’m more sensitive to kids dying in books than someone who has never had them. I have never been a victim of murder but I don’t believe you need to be, to appreciate how gruesome it can be or to empathise with the survivors.Continue Reading

Is genius born (like Kerouac) or made?


I read an interesting article on Brain Pickings recently on whether genius is born or made. For the record, Jack Kerouac thought they were born. (Interesting subpoint in that Jack Kerouac’s writing rules include point 29, “You’re a genius all the time”. I wonder if he was being ironic?) What’s more, the article tells us that he was of the same mind to Joni Mitchell, in that talent comes from “unescapable sorrow”. So, bad news for those of us writing our books in a semi-normal, only reasonably-messed up way because they both believed you had to be in a really, really bad place to do great art. As Joni said, “an artist needs a certain amount of turmoil and confusion“.

But maybe it’s all in the way you look at things as to how bad things are. After all, one person’s mountain is another person’s molehill. Or maybe as Kerouac demonstrates, you just need to believe that you’re a genius. Even if you’re not, you might just create something genius in the process.

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