Wednesday, 25 September 2013

My cousin, the legend of Atlantis!

Very excited 'cos I just had a call from my cousin, Merv Read, telling me he has a bit part in the new BBC1 series, Atlantis, which starts on Saturday. I had no idea he was even interested in acting, let alone doing it. Apparently, three years ago he signed on with two film extra agencies and it all went from there.

His debut was in a Minnie Driver film, Hunky Dory, which was shot in Wales, which is where Merv lives. Filming for Atlantis lasted for twelve weeks and apparently he is 'very prominent' in the crowd scenes in episode one, in particular.

He is about to start filming something new. I bet he soon bags a speaking part because he has years of experience declaiming his poems at Poetry Slams, going by the name of Read the Rock Poet, and he is also a songwriter.

It must be in the blood, because I have been writing songs since I was six years old and also write poetry - and am reading some in public at Uxbridge Bigfest's Literature Lounge on Sunday afternoon. Big marquee in front of the Civic Centre, if anyone happens to be passing!

Cousin Merv

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Book on the way...

I've chosen a cover for Perfect Lives - not too different from the one the original publisher was going to use. The designer is going to come up with half a dozen layouts for me to choose. Suddenly, it's starting to feel real, though it's been a very long haul considering Book 1 was originally scheduled to come out last December and Book 2 in April.

At least I'll hit the Christmas market this year, though I won't have the weight of a big publisher's marketing department behind it, worse luck. A friend of mine, James North, who has a thriller, Deep Deception, coming out soon, reckons he's spending over an hour a day bigging up his book on Twitter. He blinded me with science, telling me about apps he's got that tell him whether his followers, who he in turn is following, have done it just to bulk up their own Twitter audience and, having claimed him as one of their followers, have promptly 'unfollowed' him. Something like that, anyway.

Honestly, life seems too short for all this diddling around with tweets when I'd rather be writing. Or do you think he is doing the right thing? He tells me that if I don't follow his example, my book will just languish in cyberspace and sell about three copies. He could be right. I have just read this article:

It feels like a full-time job! Perhaps I'm just living in the wrong century. Would Tolstoy have been able to write War and Peace, or Proust scribble all those volumes of A La Recherche du Temps Perdu if they'd had to spend hours tweeting, posting and blogging?

Think of Dickens, though. When it comes to self-promotion, he was your man, always on the road giving readings from his latest works and wowing and wooing the ladies. Yes, I think Dickens would have tweeted. Oh dear. Better get started. Though I have taken a leaf out of Dickens' book (Great Expectations!) and volunteered to read an extract at the Uxbridge Bigfest Literature Lounge event on September 29th. Wonder if I can find a section that's clean enough for public consumption? Or shall I set the marquee simmering with a love scene? The one under the Brazilian waterfall perhaps. Clothing optional. Look out, Uxbridge!

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Wolf Winter

During my work as an editor and literary consultant, I have handled hundreds of manuscripts, but only one or two have made me tingle with excitement and the knowledge that here is a very, very good writer. Of these, just one grabbed me so much that I decided that if she had no joy placing it with an agent, I would jolly well try and sell it for her myself. This book is Wolf Winter, by Swedish writer Cecilia Ekback.

Imagine how thrilled I was when Cecilia emailed me a few days ago to tell me that she had sold it. In her modest way, she didn't boast about the size of the advance, but having read the news item below, I gather it must be pretty massive. I am absolutely delighted for her. This success couldn't have happened to a nicer person and I am so thankful that I could play a small part in getting her the recognition she deserves as an author.

Wolf Winter will be out sometime next year and with its unusual setting - 18th century Lapland - vivid characters and haunting subject matter, I fully expect the movie moguls to be bidding for it, too!

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Blackburne House class reunion

Yesterday, it was the turn of the southern contingent of my school classmates to meet up. To our delight, some of the northerners (I went to school in Liverpool) came down for it, too. We met in the ground floor cafe of the National Gallery. The table was booked from 11am  to 1pm when there were plans to go for a picnic, but as it was raining, we stayed put till 4.30!

It was wonderful catching up with what everyone had been doing over the last few decades! Some of us hadn't seen each other for a staggering 50 years! Yet we soon acclimatised to each other's grey hairs and wrinkles and it was just as if we were still in Miss Arthur's English class together, trying to work out the hidden meanings in Browning's My Last Duchess, or ducking the blackboard rubbers chucked by Miss Hodgkinson, our fiery French teacher.

Blackburne House (aka Liverpool Institute for Girls) closed 25 years ago and is now an education and conference centre and even has an award-winning cafe

The days that saw us sprinting round a frosty schoolyard, chasing a netball in our yellow Airtex tops and regulation navy-blue knickers, to the sniggers of the art students over the road, are long gone. We reminisced about the 'phantom flashers' who hung around in the street below our first floor classroom; about who who went out with whom; and I learned the sad story of how our headmistress ended her days, lying alone and undiscovered in her flat over a Bank Holiday weekend, having suffered a stroke. Poor thing. She was a rather remote, cold individual who never looked you in the eye, but she was fiendishly intelligent and spoke fluent Russian. It was she who encouraged us to learn it up to O-level standard - though we only signed up for the classes as they were held in the boys' school down the road. What nobody told us was that the boys in the Russian class were two years younger than us, and horrible lot of little yobbos.

It was fascinating to learn about what we'd all done with our lives. A surprising number had become teachers. L became an air stewardess, then a purser, travelled the world and married a pilot. J  married a jazz musician. E. married a Spaniard and lived in Spain for many years. Many of them are on their second marriages now. I feel I've lived quite a dull life by comparison!

Robbie Burns said, 'Oh wad some Pow'r the gifite gie us/To see oursels as others see us.' I wanted to know what I was like in my teenage years, so I asked them all what their abiding impressions of me were and I wasn't prepared for the replies. They all said I was 'horse-mad'! I'd quite forgotten that phase of my life. I went off horses once I discovered boys, but my sister and daughter are still horse-mad so maybe it's in the genes. I was also known for my singing and poetry-writing. I can't say I've done a lot of singing over the past couple of decades. Maybe I should start again. It really was a brilliant day.