Thursday, September 18, 2008

Seeing stars

There's a new interview with me up on the Faber site.

I was also interviewed this week by an Israeli journalist. It seems the Hebrew edition of A Gentle Axe has either just come out or is about to. The interview was for the Maariv newspaper and hasn't appeared yet.

The Israeli journalist asked me about the cover for the Hebrew edition, which I had not seen, and had nothing at all to do with selecting. It's an interesting image, which I suspect may be highly controversial in Israel. After all, it does depict a severed head. But, I repeat, I had nothing to do with selecting it.

I can only trust that Keter, my Israeli publisher, know what they are doing, though this article, which I don't understand, seems to suggest that it has provoked some discussion. Why otherwise do they show a close-up of the severed head.

A friend located the book's page on Keter's website and I was able to judge it for myself. I have to say, striking as it is, the image seems to have very little to do with the book I wrote. I found myself wishing I had written the book for which that would be an appropriate image.

And now a cautionary tale for all internet-obsessed, meddling authors. Whilst I was looking at the Israeli publisher's page for my book (without being able to understand it, of course) I saw this line of numbers, one to five, and wondered what they did. Thinking that maybe they led to other pages about my book, I clicked on the number two. The next thing I knew, my book had a two star rating. Surely the first ever instance of an author giving his own book a crappy rating.

My own question to myself is, Why? I mean, it's not as if I would have understood the "other pages" I thought I was navigating to anyhow. I was just meddling and that was the price I paid.

Of course, I tried to redress the balance by clicking on five, but it seems the software has something written into it disallowing the same computer to rate twice. The following morning, I looked at the page on my other computer. As that is networked to the laptop I had been using, and the laptop accesses the internet through it, I expected it to be the same story. But even so, meddler that I am, I couldn't resist clicking those numbers again, just to see what happened. Well, they worked this time, though I hadn't expected them to. Yes, I confess, it was a five I clicked on.

Feeling enormously guilty, I contacted the Israeli publisher saying, "Look, there are two ratings on your site for my book, one two star and one five star, but they are both my me, and I didn't really intend to do either of them. Could you please delete them and clear the rating."

The sound of laughter reached all the way from Tel-Aviv.

That'll learn me.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

An honourable mention

Sarah Weinman, she of the idiosyncratic mind, has written an article for the Barnes and Noble Review, in which she includes me in a round-up of historical crime writers. It's the briefest of brief mentions (and she did get the title of Gentle Axe wrong, but what the hell), but I'm honoured to find myself in such distinguished company.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

London weighting?

I had to travel to Brighton yesterday for a meeting about the opera. Being a man of a certain age I found I needed to use the loo when I arrived at Brighton Station. If only I'd gone on the train (oh, wait - I did) because it cost 20p to take a leak.

Daylight robbery, I thought. Until later in the afternoon when I arrived back at Victoria Station and found myself once again needing to take a leak. The cost of urination in London turned out to be 30p.

They must think Londoners are made of money.

The meeting took all morning and I went to the toilet twice. It was free.

We did drink a lot of coffee is my excuse.

The general view is that the libretto draft that I have provided will generate between two and half and three hours of stage time. As we were aiming for around 80-90 minutes, there will obviously have to be some cuts. I'm fine with that. The only problem is that Ed Hughes, the composer, is reluctant to lose a single word!

Sunday, September 07, 2008

My first podcast!

To hear an extract of the interview I did with Muthamma on Phoenix fm, press the green arrow on the virtual player below.

A special big thank you to my writewords buddy, Shellgrip, aka Jon Gritton, who supplied all the technical advice and assistance - even tidying up the file and converting it to the right format. Suffice it to say, that without Jon's help I wouldn't have had a clue how to do this!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Getting back into it

The kids went back to school today, which means I was able to pick up the pieces on my wip. I'm about 30,000 words into it but I had the feeling over the summer that it was falling apart in my hands. Not that I was working on it, just fretting over it.

I now realise that I need to re-order some of the early scenes and that that will call for revision to the rest of what I've written so far. I'm one of those who edits as I go, so I can't progress in the story till I have fixed what I think needs fixing.

Thing is I am resisting the temptation to read through what I've written. This feeling that the scenes need reordering is just that - a feeling. If anything, it's based on the fact that I had reached a wall. I was finding it very difficult to get past a point in the narrative, which made me think that something had to be wrong with what I'd written already.

I have an instinct that the story will be more dynamic and interesting if I move a chapter that was coming later to an earlier point in the story. However, this will also call for a major shift in my timeline. This is not a problem as one of the things that was worrying me was that the timeline wasn't quite right.

This is going to be the autumn book of my proposed 'four seasons' quartet (though I am writing them out of seasonal sequence and they take place in different years). I had had it starting in early September, 1870. I wanted lots of swirling mist and fog, but I was unhappy because September, from what I can gather, is not a particularly misty month in St Petersburg. (Any St Petersburgers reading this, feel free to correct me!) The fog doesn't get hold until October, when the weather starts to get more wintry in general. I really wanted to shift things later, and now I can.

I didn't manage to get much written today, but I think the work I have done, which included buying Jonathan Dimbleby's Russia - the book of the series - will help me get down to it tomorrow. There is always tomorrow.