Showing posts with label Veronica Henry. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Veronica Henry. Show all posts

Friday, 8 March 2013

Friday book review - A Sea Change by Veronica Henry

I’m a huge fan of Quick Reads, the “bite-size” books that aim to get more people reading. Around one in six adults of working age in the UK find reading difficult and many never pick up a book. That’s where Quick Reads come in. Launched in 2006, Quick Reads  commissioned a host of big name authors to write short books that are specifically designed to be easy to read. The initiative has proved so successful that over the last seven years 4.5 million books have been distributed and three million library loans clocked up.

New authors are added every year, with the latest starry batch of names including Andy McNab, Kathy Lette, Minette Walters and Veronica Henry. The novels cost a bargain £1 each and have turned loads of previously reluctant readers into “book addicts.”
I’ve read several Quick Reads over the years and when I spotted A Sea Change by Veronica Henry in Foyle’s at St Pancras the other day I snapped it up to read on the Eurostar.
The story was perfect for my train journey. It’s only 90 pages long but has all the charm and insight of Henry’s longer novels. Set in the fictional seaside village of Everdene, it’s the tale of ice-cream seller Jenna, who turns up for work one hot summer’s day to find that she’s been sacked. With a flaky family, no money to pay her rent and no work on the horizon, she takes drastic action – action that catches the attention of a young copper sitting on the beach.
Henry’s story is thought provoking, easy to read and as light as the summer breeze. The perfect Quick Read in fact.
A Sea Change by Veronica Henry (Orion, £1)

Saturday, 28 April 2012

A round-up of writing tips from top authors

Over the past week, I’ve collected some brilliant tips on how to write from novelists at the top of their game.

Jill Mansell says she doesn’t write in chapters. She writes her novels first, then goes back and looks for natural breaks afterwards. Veronica Henry declares all writers get writer’s block at some point and if it happens to her, she goes for a walk along the beach or takes a nap. And Rachel Joyce says that if a brilliant idea strikes her when she’s driving she asks one of her children to write it down for her – she never simply assumes she’ll remember it.

If you’d like to read more of their tips, here are my three writing posts from this week – and good luck!

PS. My absolute favourite comes from a Robert McCrum piece in The Observer I stumbled across this morning. “Put a body on page 1,” is his advice.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Veronica Henry on Discipline, Displacement and Dipsomania at the Chipping Norton Literary Festival

It’s all very well having a stack of ideas, but how on earth do you carve out the time and space to get cracking with your book?

After hearing the brilliant Contemporary Women’s Fiction discussion at the Chipping Norton Literary Festival I blogged about yesterday, I hared down the street to hear novelist Veronica Henry’s talk on Discipline, Displacement and Dipsomania.

Veronica – known to everyone as Ronnie – is well-placed to talk about the day-to-day reality of writing for a living. She lives in north Devon with her husband and three sons and for the last 20 years has combined her hectic family life with a hugely successful career as a scriptwriter and novelist. Her latest book, Marriage and Other Games, is out in paperback and her new one, The Long Weekend, will be published in July.

First of all, she told us, “writing is a business and you have to treat it as a business. It’s not just about floating around with a pen and a notebook.”

But how do you go about combining “creativity and real life?” Well, for a start, said Ronnie, you need “head space” - the time and space to get on with your writing. That means no distractions – no mobile phone, no TV, no internet. She sometimes negotiates three days away in a rented cottage or hotel by herself so that she can write without any interruptions. “Your productivity shoots up,” she said. “I can write 10,000 to 15,000 words in three days.”

Personal space is vital too. Ronnie writes on the dining table in her open-plan house and uses a Mac PowerBook. She backs everything up on Dropbox and has an inspiration board where she pins pictures of what her characters look like, where they live, even their wallpaper, and “a smallish library” (dictionary, thesaurus, book of names, brochures, index cards).

She also reckons writers have to be ultra-disciplined about how they manage their days. She works office hours and has a target of when she is going to finish a book – “a mental meter about where I am aiming to be.”

Ronnie mentioned a few apps she finds useful. Pomodoro (Italian for tomato!) is a timer that sits in the corner of your computer screen. Apparently 25 minutes is the perfect time to complete a task so Pomodoro sets the timer for 25 minutes and at the end of it you can allow yourself a five-minute break.

And what about Twitter? Ronnie agreed that on the one hand it’s “an amazing tool for writers” and “just like having all your mates in the room with you,” but there’s no doubt it’s a massive distraction too. It was news to me but there are apps available (Freedom is one) to stop you sneaking on to Facebook and Twitter.

When it comes to writer’s block, Ronnie told us that “everyone gets it, and if they say they don’t, they are lying.” Her strategies to combat it include going for a walk on the beach or taking a power nap. “Don’t let it paralyse you,” she declared.

Finally she had a word of warning about writers’ clothes. She confessed to wearing “skanky leggings, my brother’s old rugby shirt and a pair of tights to tie up my fringe” while she works. But, she said, “try and dress up sometimes. Treat yourself as a real person and dress for success.” Dress for success - my new mantra. 

Monday, 23 April 2012

Katie Fforde, Jill Mansell, Veronica Henry and Fiona Walker at the Chipping Norton Literary Festival

Hail, sunshine, a myriad of the nation’s top authors and some delicious cakes – the inaugural Chipping Norton Literary Festival had all these things, and much, much more.

Held in one of Oxfordshire’s prettiest towns, this was one of the best literary festivals I’ve been to. Fun, inspiring, friendly, and superbly organised by Emily Carlisle (who only had the idea for the event last August) and her team. 

I booked for two events, one on Contemporary Women’s Fiction and the other on Discipline, Displacement and Dipsomania (great title), so I’m going to write about them both this week.

The Contemporary Women’s Fiction panel kicked off bright and early on Saturday morning and featured four of our bestselling novelists – Katie Fforde, Jill Mansell, Veronica Henry and Fiona Walker. They know each other well and for a riveting hour the conversation, chaired by writer Jane Wenham-Jones, flowed. The quartet, who have written more than 70 books between them, covered everything from how many words a day they turn out to where and when they write.

Jane began the discussion by asking the secret of their “phenomenal success.” “I have no idea,” said Jill candidly. “I love spending time with my characters because I love them and I think the readers love them as well. After all, if you’re reading a book and you don’t care about the characters why would you carry on reading the book?” Katie said she wouldn’t want to write about unpleasant characters – “life is quite tough and our books are like time off from real life.” Veronica revealed she writes “from the heart” and about the life “I want to lead,” while Fiona declared that “if I don’t have that desperate urge to get back to my imaginery characters, then why would anyone else?”

Next it was on to the thorny question of how they all write. Katie likes to start writing before anyone else is up and about and before the phone starts ringing. She also pointed out the importance of “thinking time” and said 2,000 words a day is her “absolute maximum.” But conversely, Jill Mansell said she “couldn’t begin to write first thing.” Unlike the others, she writes all her books by hand in fountain pen and her daughter types up her manuscripts for her. She writes in bed or sitting on the sofa with the TV on and does 1,000 words a day.

The whole audience sat up in astonishment when Fiona said she sometimes manages 5,000 words a day. One day she even wrote 10,000 (wow!) The reason is that she works “in binges.” She writes very long books and sets herself three or four months a year to write her first draft. She avoids the radio and TV and doesn’t like any distractions, apart from her two small children, who peer through the glass door of her office and come dashing in to talk to her. 

Meanwhile Veronica works in her north Devon dining room, looking out across the sea. She writes 1,000 to 2,000 words a day – “1,000 is satisfactory, 2,000 is fantastic,” she said. “But writers can be working all the time. You can be thinking about your characters as you walk round Sainsbury’s.”
It was fascinating to hear how they all began their writing careers – a question that elicited four very different answers. After working in a hospital for 18 years, Jill Mansell picked up a magazine and read an interview with a woman whose life had been transformed by writing a string of bestselling novels. She tried her hand at writing a Mills & Boon novel – “but they kept saying there wasn’t enough romance and too much humour.” She astutely decided to carry on in that vein and has now written 23 novels.

Katie took eight years to get published (now look at her - she's written 19 bestsellers and Summer of Love recently won this year’s Contemporary Romantic Novel award). Veronica began her career at The Archers before becoming a scriptwriter for TV series like Heartbeat and Holby City. And Fiona wrote her first novel straight out of university. She moved back home to her parents’ house in Berkshire, worked part-time in a saddlery and, when she’d finished her book, sent it to five agents. The agent who snapped her up sold her novel in three days.

Last of all, Jane Wenham-Jones asked them for their top tips for wannabe novelists.

Veronica Henry – “Get on with it – it’s no good just keeping it in your head.”
Fiona Walker – “Finish it. There are so many half-finished novels languishing in drawers.”
Jill Mansell – “Use a timeline – it works brilliantly for me. And I don’t write in chapters. It’s far easier to write your story and then look for the natural breaks afterwards.”
Katie Fforde – “Read a lot – and persevere. If you want something enough you’ll achieve it.”

Saturday, 17 December 2011

House With No Name Weekly Digest: From the fabulous Military Wives to a birthday lunch in Shoreditch

With Christmas exactly eight days away there are still presents to buy, food to organise and a snowboarding course to do (no, thankfully not me, my son). He, by the way, has set off this morning in jeans and a shirt – still no coat! I may have to try novelist Veronica Henry’s approach. “I can be quite scary,” she tweeted. “... and there was money involved.”

On the plus side, the Christmas tree is up, at a slightly wonky angle, and this very second I’ve had an email from Amazon saying my CD of the Military Wives’ Wherever You Are “has dispatched.”

Anyway, as promised, here are some of the week’s highlights at House With No Name.

House With No Name’s shout-out for the fabulous Military Wives
House With No Name on the problem of where to put the Christmas cards
House With No Name on a special lunch in Shoreditch
House With No Name Book Review: Robert Harris’s The Fear Index
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