41. A Trick of the Mind – Penny Hancock
42. The Journals of Sylvia Plath: 1950-1962
43. Heloise and Abelard – James Burge
44. Heloise – Elizabeth Hamilton
45. Peter Abelard – Helen Waddell
46. Unseen – Karin Slaughter
47. Heloise and Abelard – Etienne Gilson
48. The Letters of Abelard and Heloise
49. The Night Season – Chelsea Cain
50. You – Caroline Kepnes
I feel like I’m in writing limbo at the moment. My third book, Tell Me Lies, is done and dusted (almost, just pesky things like proofreading to be done) and that marks the end of my contracted writing. My publisher, wisely, won’t look at any new work until they’ve seen how well Gone does, so it’s going to be a few months before I know what the future holds. I’ve already written a fourth book and once that was dispatched to my agent I started wondering what to do next, and whether there was any point considering no one was considering my work for a while.
And then it occurred to me that waiting for an audience before writing was insane. I’ve written plenty in the past without one and will no doubt do so in the future. In fact, apart from the lack of security and wondering where the next meal will come from, writing without being under contract gives you a certain freedom to do things differently and even time to work out what it is you really want to do.
The fourth book was the one I’d planned to write after Stolen but kept being put aside as I couldn’t work out what I really wanted it to be. I’m glad, finally, to have written it, and maybe without that time and freedom I wouldn’t have gotten there. It’s also turned out to be my favourite book of mine, perhaps because the subject matter is important to me. I even found myself crying when reading it back, something that I’ve never done before. Which brings me to my point – does what we write affect our mood?
I suppose to a degree it must. If you spend months thinking and writing about murder and the like it’s probably going to get to you eventually. But on the whole, crime writers seem to be a jolly lot despite submerging themselves in misery on a daily basis. I’ve never subscribed to the idea that writers need to suffer for their art. My own experience has proved that depression prevents me from writing rather than making it better. Sure, we can use bad experiences later on, but if I’m going to write for a living, suffering isn’t going to help. Being unable to get out of bed isn’t going to get the daily word count done.
But the experience of reading my book didn’t actually depress me, it just made me sad for the characters involved and their real-life equivalents (the book is primarily about domestic abuse). Maybe the fact it got to me is a sign that it’s working, something that cheers me rather than depresses. But still, I’ve recently broken out the Sylvia Plath, a sure sign that all is not well. So what is it?
Before I started writing novels I wrote screenplays and there was one idea that I planned on right from the start which still (until a few weeks ago) had come to nothing. But I was reminded of this project recently and immediately started feeling down. Partly because I’d wanted to do it for getting on twenty years (!) and had yet to begin, partly because I was scared of the subject matter, that it included so many things I knew nothing about, and that I could never do it justice. And partly that after so long, someone would beat me to it.
But I’ve finally got off my arse and started, knowing I have this time and freedom to do what I really want to do. And I’m so glad I’ve started. But…
I think about it day and night, staring off into the distance and unable to concentrate on the real world and find myself on the verge of tears at regular intervals.
I keep asking myself if it’s the subject that’s making me unhappy or am I just now attracted to the story again because misery loves company? And is it dangerous to wallow in such a sad story, to think about it almost exclusively, if it brings me to tears (this from the woman who decided the best thing to do when clinically depressed was buy a Joy Division box set), or is this how you know a piece of work is worth pursuing? Is being so immersed in another world that it takes over your life what every writer aims for in order to write something honest or is it just stupidity?
I don’t know. But as long as I’m still writing, then surely there’s nothing to be sad about.
34. Blind Alley – Danielle Ramsay
35. Black Lies, Red Blood – Kjell Eriksson
36. Under the Ivy: The Life and Music of Kate Bush – Graeme Thomson
37. The Art and Making of Hannibal: The TV Series – Jesse McLean
38. He Who Fears the Wolf – Karin Fossum
39. A God in Ruins – Kate Atkinson
40. The Last Refuge – Craig Robertson
22. Hannibal – Thomas Harris
23.The TV Showrunner’s Roadmap – Neil Landau
24. Lynch on Lynch – edited by Chris Rodley
25. The Year of Living Danishly – Helen Russell
26. The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins
27. Mercy – Jussi Adler-Olsen
28. So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed – Jon Ronson
29. The Stranger – Harlan Coben
30. The Almost Nearly Perfect People: Behind the Myth of the Scandinavian Utopia – Michael Booth
31. A Lovely Way to Burn – Louise Welsh
32. You’re Mine Now – Hans Koppel
33. Stealing Heaven: The Love Story of Heloise and Abelard – Marion Meade
I started the year with a plan to write something on my blog once a week come rain or shine and to begin with it went pretty well. But I’ve noticed it’s been abandoned for a while now so I thought it was time to get on with it. Not that I’ve been lazy the last few weeks. This is what I’ve been up to:
- Finished draft 5 of Tell Me Lies (so glad I have a title now!) and sent it off to my editor who was happy enough that it’s now ready to go to the copy editor. Woo hoo!
- Finished the first draft of book number 4 (possibly to be called The Girl Next Door) – even if it is a very, very rough draft.
- Spoken at a careers event at Stockton library to lots of young people interested in careers with words. This made me feel very old.
- A book signing at Guisborough bookshop. Thanks to all who came along.
- Bought tickets for the crime festival in Harrogate. Not strictly work but important nonetheless.
- Wrote several short stories for the Mslexia competition. Abandoned most of them as they were complete gibberish but managed to finish one that I was (mostly) happy with.
- Written up more ideas for books 5 and 6. Still not quite there yet but at least they’re now more than a couple of lines. May or may not also be gibberish.
- Continued to write up my diaries from my travels around America. One day this might be finished. Perhaps for the 20th anniversary.
- Had lots of ideas for screenplays and other books. Trying to focus on one thing at a time is tricky.
- Developed an obsession with Hannibal Lecter after binge watching the TV show. I’ve now gone back and read the novels and watched the films again. Slightly concerned any future writing will be a total rip off of Thomas Harris’s writing.
So that was March. Hopefully April will be as productive. Maybe if I stop binge watching TV shows.
10. The Devil’s Snare – Michael Donovan
11. Girl Walks into a Bar – Rachel Dratch
12. Hello America – JG Ballard
13. Olive Kitteridge – Elizabeth Strout
14. The Leftovers – Tom Perrotta
I will be signing copies of my books at Guisborough bookshop on Saturday 14th March between 11am and 1pm. Come along and say hello!