Why do they do this?

DSC04113“Ballet Shoes” by Noel Streatfeild is one of my favourite books. As I kid, I read and re-read it until, as you can see from the photo, it fell to pieces.

The story was set in the 1930s and I loved the concept of the three feisty Fossil girls, Pauline, Petrova and Posy who, when the money ran out, had to earn their living. What made this even more enticing was that they worked in the world of theatre.

The three girls had been adopted, as babies, by fossil-hunting Great Uncle Mathew, GUM, who promptly disappeared leaving them in the care of his niece Sylvia and her old nanny.

When I discovered there was film of the book, starring Emma Watson, Lucy Boynton, Yasmin Paige, Emilia Fox and Victoria Wood, among other well-known stars of stage and screen, I couldn’t wait to see it. download (2)

However… Great though the acting was and the period detail was immaculate what really, really annoyed me was the gratuitous romantic sub-plot. It was, it had to be admitted very subtly done, but a blossoming love affair between Sylvia and the lodger Mr Simpson, who incidentally is neither a father nor a widower in the book, is totally unnecessary.

A rose tinted happy ending is not what this book is about. Noel Streatfeild is too good a writer to leave us with any romantic illusions.

Life as an actor or dancer is hard. The competition is fierce and you may be judged, as the talented but plan Winifred finds, on how you look, rather than how good you are. There is little security and a constant jockeying for jobs.

To succeed you have to be single minded, as Posy is, or be prepared to sacrifice your dream, as Pauline ultimately does for the good of the family.

Given the need for good role models for girls in the twenty-first century, the women in the book are outstanding. They make their own way in the world, never relying on the men around them but making their own decisions. They don’t need romance, or a rose petal wedding. So why did the makers of the film end on this saccharine note? Was it that they ultimately didn’t trust their audience? That they did not believe that without a romantic element the film would not work? If they did, then they were wrong. Sticking to the original would have made a much stronger story.

 

 

 

 

 

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Fare La Scarpetta

Being Britalian

While having lunch with friends this week, Steve said, one of the things he likes about Italy is that it’s socially acceptable to dip your bread into your sauce.This reminded me of an article I wrote for Italy Magazine when I wrote for them. So I’ll share it with you all, and some images of bell’abruzzo.

Fare la scarpetta is a phrase in the Italian language that’s close to the heart of everyone who has enjoyed a delicious plate of pasta with sauce. Meaning “make the little shoe,” it refers to the small piece of bread used to mop up the last of the sauce on your plate.

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This end to a meal ritual is vastly popular all over Italy; however, where it originates is still open to debate. There’s one theory that the practice began in Venice, though bread wasn’t usually served with pasta in northern Italy, whereas it…

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Cars and who drives them.

Ping in snow.

Ping in the snow

As far as I’m concerned all I want from my car is reliability, energy-efficiency and heated seats. I don’t really care what it looks like, or how fast it goes and all the other things that matter to dedicated drivers.

There have been one or two cars that I’ve owned in the past that I’ve been particularly fond of: Ping, my yellow Renault Five, because it used to belong to my sister and Little Blue, the Yaris had a charm of its own, but general, so long as they go when and where I want them to, that’s all I want.

Cars in my novels, however, are a different thing all together and last week saw me trawling through page after page of cars to find the right one for my character. In my current WIP Thea is a successful young lawyer. Living in Bristol, she has to drive a city car, but one with just enough, but not too much, glamour that suits her personality.

Initially I gave her a Mercedes SLX, only to have it pointed out to me by the annoyingly wonderful Jem Shaw that Jo, in “House of Shadows” drives the same car. The two women are very different and what is right for Jo is not for Thea, hence the research.

Luckily, Renegade writers came to the rescue and the choice narrowed down to two, a Range Rover Evoque or a Fiat Abarth. Armed with more information about both than I could possibly want I made my decision.

Why does all this matter? Because like clothes, hairstyle, choice of house, or food, you choice of car reflects who you are, your age, your status, how much you earn, what interests you and so much else.

In the case of “Bevedere Crescent” Thea was finally give the Fiat: the convertible in metallic blue is perfect and I can go back to a state of blissful ignorance…until the next time.

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Karen King :Blog Tour

  • Welcome to Karen King, whose YA novel, “Rise of the Soul Catchers”   is out today.
  • KK Head and Shoulders
  • Tell us a little about yourself and your writing.

I write mainly romance and young adult novels now but I’ve written many children’s books too (120) and several short stories for women’s magazines. I’m also a writing tutor.

  • How long have you been writing and when did you get started?

I’ve been writing most of my life! I wrote lots of stories and poems when I was a child and have been writing for a living for over thirty years. I started out by writing photo stories and articles for Jackie magazine, then writing for children’s comics such as Postman Pat, Barbie and Winnie the Pooh. Then I started writing books too.

  • What is at the root of your current book?

That love is eternal and can overcome anything.

  • What was the best piece of writing advice you have ever been given?

When stuck for a story plot, give your character a problem and solve it – I added on ‘in an unexpected way’ and this is my ‘go to advice’ whenever I need a story idea quickly.

  • Where do you work? Chaos or calm?

Wherever I have to. I worked with four children playing around me for years, and then in a house in the middle of a building site. Once my children grew up I was lucky enough to have a room of my own to work in, but I can work in chaos if I have to.

  • Which of your books is your favourite?

Rise of the Soul Catchers because it’s a theme close to my heart. I believe that love can last forever and that we carry on after our death.

  • What is your typical working day like?

I moved to Spain at the end of last year and now have no typical working day! I write when I can and where I can. This morning I was sitting up in bed writing on my laptop at 6.30 am, earlier this week I was writing at the table in the garden all afternoon with a cardboard box shielding my laptop from the glare of the sun.

  • Are you a planner or a panster?

A bit of both. I always work out my main characters and story plot before I start so I have a base to work from then I just write the first draft as it comes. The characters often do things I hadn’t planned, and the plot might go off at an unexpected tangent, but I go with it. Once I’ve finished the first draft I start rereading and revising, deleting anything I don’t think works.

  • Do you enjoy researching your novels?

Yes but I didn’t need to research Rise of the Soul Catchers as it takes place in the afterlife so I could create whatever world I wanted! Most of my romance books are set in places I’ve lived in or been to so know pretty well, but I still do some research though.

  • What book most inspired you?

The books that I loved reading as a child, Just William (Richmal Crompton), The Secret Seven and Famous Five (Enid Blyton) all inspired in me a love of reading and writing.

  • If you could ask six writers living or dead to dinner who would you choose and why?

That’s a tough one, and my answers would probably change at times but let me see. J.R.Tolkien because I would like to know what inspired him to write Lord of the Rings and how he created Middle Earth, Shakespeare to ask him if he really did write all the works  attributed to him, J.K. Rowling because she is an inspiration and has such a vivid imagination, Sharon Shinn because I love her Samaria series and would like to know what inspired her to write them, Jilly Cooper because her romances are fun and I think she’d be a laugh and Catherine Cookson because I think she led a hard but interesting life and would love to hear all about it.

  • Is there anything else you would like to tell us about yourself and your work?

Well I’m currently working on another YA and am hoping to write a follow up to Rise of the Soul Catchers. I also have another romcom, The Bridesmaid’s Dilemma, coming out on 7 June, and my first book for Bookouture, Snowy Nights at the Lonely Hearts Hotel, comes out in November so I think I’m going to be busy for a while. 😊

Rise of The Soul Catchers – Media Kit

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Blurb

Can love survive anything – even death?

Sapphire and Will vow to love each other forever. But when a car crash ends that dream all too soon, they find themselves separated in an afterlife with zones named after the colours of the rainbow. Determined to find each other, they start an adventurous journey alongside a cast of characters they don’t know whether to trust. They finally meet again in the terror-fuelled Red Zone where the dreaded Soul Catchers are planning on taking over the entire afterworld and are plunged into a dangerous battle. Is their love strong enough to survive against the odds?

 (Previously published as Sapphire Blue)

Buy Links

Rise of the Soul Catchers is available for pre-order from Amazon and will be published on 25th April.

Amazon: http://ow.ly/Fz1L30j0hqh

 

Author bio

Karen King writes edgy YA with a heart and sassy, heart-warming romance. Her first YA, Perfect Summer, was runner up in the Red Telephone Books 2011 YA Novel Competition and her second YA, Sapphire Blue, now republished as Rise of the Soul Catchers by Littwitz Press, was called ‘the best YA book out there right now’ by a reviewer for Ind’Tale magazine.

Karen has four romcoms published by Accent Press, and a fifth one is due out in June this year, Her latest romcom, The Cornish Hotel by the Sea, was #3 in the Amazon bestseller holiday reads.  She has recently signed a two book-contract with Bookouture for more romance novels.

Karen has also written several short stories for women’s magazine and had 120 children’s books published.

When she isn’t writing, Karen likes travelling, watching the ‘soaps’ and reading. Give her a good book and a box of chocolates and she thinks she’s in Heaven.

 

Author links

Website: http://www.karenking.net/

Twitter: @karen_king

Karen King Young Adult Books Facebook Page

Karen King Romance Author Facebook Page

Pinterest: https://uk.pinterest.com/karenkingauthor/

A Family Affair

Birthday cake

Multi-Coloured Cake. Delicious!

Yesterday was my daughter Lucy’s birthday lunch. It was held at her brother’s house, because David and Tasha have lots of room and it’s easy for us all to meet there. Being with kids and grand-kids, ex-husband and his wife, plus Mike it was a real family affair.

Which led to me think about writer and their families.

Do writers expect their nearest and dearest to read their books? From dedications by best-selling authors you get the impression that their partners do just that, which when those books provide you with a great life style is what you should do. But what about the rest of us?

It’s always great to be told that someone has enjoyed your novel, but there was something very special about my sister telling me that “Picking up the Pieces” was so absorbing that it got her through a bad bout of illness, or my mum saying that that she stayed up until the early hours of the morning to finish it.

Being as I write primarily for women, I wouldn’t expect to get the same reaction from my son, or even from my husband. So, for me I suppose it depends on genre. What I do get from the men in my life is support for my writing, David on twitter, Mike on his blog and when he talks to other people.

And my wider family buys my books. So all in all, I’m lucky.

As for anything I write that I wouldn’t want them to read…that is where writing under another name comes in.

 

Happy Bunnymass

Easter bunny
When my brother was little, the family joke was that he would only allow his hair to be washed on high days and holidays, and the feasts of the Church.

Christmas and Easter would produce a sparklingly clean toddler ready to be taken to church with me and my sister to sit through the seemingly endless services. Good Friday went on for hours, three to be exact, Maundy Thursday Mass was long too. The Easter Vigil on Saturday night, however, was quite a different thing.

In those days the Church did things properly and the Vigil began at 11am. In the darkness, the priest led the congregation into the church by the light of the Easter Candle. A symbol of the risen Christ coming into the world, but also one resonant of pagan rituals and atavistic beliefs of the power of light over dark, and the fear of night.

Small children, unless going to be baptised, were left at home so it was only Mum, Anuk and I who walked through the deserted streets of the estate in the early hours of the morning, gorging on the chocolate, which we had all given up for Lent.Easter Eggs

Those memories of Easter still permeate my view of the weekend and I find it sad that increasingly the religious side of the feast is being forgotten.

Not so in Europe where the processions take to the streets and sins are repented and resurrection celebrated in what has to be primal two fingers up to darkness and death. Here in the UK, however, we are swamped by a plethora of bunnies and eggs. The symbolism of which is a mystery to most people.

In fact very few people seem to know anything about Easter, which, whether you are a believer or not, is a great shame, for it is all part of our culture.

How can you access the art of the Renaissance if you do not know the Christian stories which so many paintings depict? How can you make sense of John Donne’s “Good Friday Riding Westward” or any of the other Metaphysical Poets? Or T.S. Elliot, or Stanley Spenser’s painting etc., etc.?The Resurrection, Cookham 1924-7 by Sir Stanley Spencer 1891-1959

Without this knowledge everyone misses out, so remember Easter is not all about eggs and bunnies and there is a meaning to the hot cross bun you had with your coffee.

 

 

The Missing Quote

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Finding a title is, for me, one of the most difficult things about writing a book. Most of my novels have a name that I know will not make it to publication. All my books, to date, started out as something completely different that, as the novel progressed, or my editor/beta-readers gave their feedback I realised simply didn’t work. Then it was back to searching for an appropriate phrase that hooked potential readers.

Mostly this involved hours of brainstorming and searching through the text for that magical combination of words that no one would be able to resist.

As you know, from pervious blogs, “Shadows on the Grass” started as a full scale historical novel which I called “Daughters of the Eagle,” which I thought worked well as four of the main characters, Maria, Mimi, Hannah and Marianna had all lived through the tumultuous history of Poland in the late 19th to mid-20th century and the eagle referred to the Polish coat of arms.

With a shorter novel, much of which is set in sixties Bristol this did not work as well, so once again I had to re-think my original concept.

The phrase “Shadows on the Grass” was used in the early version by Marianna but deleted in the new version so I felt that if I wanted to use it, I would have to find another source.

A quick Google and I found,

“What is life? …It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.” Crowfoot, Blackfoot Warrior and Orator.

Since “Shadows on the Grass” does indeed deal with the impermanence of life, this was perfect.

Why then did it not find its way into the final version?

Well, this is where I have to admit to a total slip-up. When Peter Coleborn, who proof-read and formatted the book, asked for the prelims, I forgot to send the quote. When he asked me to check that everything was in order, I missed it.

So no one to blame but myself.

Lesson to self: be more careful next time. Though hopefully the lack of the quote has not taken away anyone’s enjoyment of the novel.