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This blogging lark is harder than it looks…

Keep an author blog, they said. It’ll be good for your profile, they said. Well, so sorry I have left you all hanging for so long.

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Cable car in mountains – hanging, geddit?

I have no excuse other than (at risk of whining) they didn’t say keeping a blog would be so hard. I am constantly in awe of people who manage to produce regular (in some cases, daily) posts full of book reviews, writing tips and insightful observations. I’d love to say that I have lots of observations and don’t share them but the truth is, the majority of the time, my head is so full of the normal transactions of being an adult that there are no room for grand thoughts.What I do feel is a simple delight though about how She’s Fallen has been received and particularly the comments in reviews asking for more. Again, for those who leave reviews, thank you, you make this author’s life feel more meaningful by knowing that I’ve brought someone pleasure. And that makes everything worthwhile…

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Where did the last month go?

And they say bank holidays are bad for productivity – ha! With the rain falling steadily (and likely to continue to do so for the rest of Easter) I am now getting done all the tasks I have not got around to doing in March. One of them is updating this blog. My excuse is that it has been a busy month, filled with good things.

First was the the joy of having two books in the wild when She’s Fallen hit the streets on the first of March. Then, on a snowy weekend, it was meeting other authors at the Essex Authors Day. The really exciting things was that, for the first time, I was on the other side of the table. In my journey to publication, I have been to so many talks by authors, publishers, agents and all: it was incredible to be the one giving the talk. And it was a great day – my favourite bit was the questions and answers, so much enthusiasm. I really hoped I helped and, at least in a small way, began the payback for all the help I’ve received on the way to publication.

Then there was a signing. Not knowing what to expect, I just resolved to enjoy it all. And really, what was there not to like? I got to spend time in a bookshop and chat to lots of people, including a couple of passing policemen. It’s hard to think of a better way to spend time.

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The reviews are also coming in and I’ve been delighted with them. Some have even been asking when Robyn will be back…

 

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It lives…

*sound of champagne cork popping* My second book, She’s Fallen, launches today!

 

Given it is only 10 am in the morning, I should probably put the cork back in the bottle – oh, it won’t go, shame…

 

It is also World Book Day, which seems to grow every year. I hope kids can get to school tomorrow to show off their fancy dress, given the snow in some places but the irony is that, if you are stuck at home in bad weather, a book is one of the best things you could have.

 

And, given it is now out, dare I suggest you try mine? It’s called She’s Fallen and can be bought at all good bookshops – though is there really such a thing as a bad bookshop?

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The difficult second book…

We are obsessed with firsts – we can all name the first person on the moon or the first four-minute mile but anyone want to hazard a guess at the second? (For the record, it was Buzz Aldrin and John Landy, respectively). Because being first is so much more impressive, we also like to subdivide achievements – looking at records of people climbing Everest shows a huge range of ‘firsts’ from the first winter climb, the first up particular routes, to people who have reached the summit with various handicaps or medical conditions. My favourite was one was the first people to get married at the top of Everest – rather unfairly, it records their names but not that of the celebrant who conducted the ceremony: I now have a wonderful vision of a priest climbing an ice wall in his cassock.

And so it is with debut authors. The difficulty of getting published adds a certain frisson to a new author – here is someone who has struggled through and therefore must be good. By the second, there is a danger of not yet having made a name for yourself but losing the novelty of being a debut.

At this point, my inner critic kicks in to say ‘stop whining’. I have the luxury of writing a series, so, for me, the challenge was about how much backstory to give, not needing to come up with a completely new idea. For me, meeting my characters again felt like seeing old friends – familiar and comfortable (even though I put them through all sorts of troubles). So, I’m delighted my second book will be launching on 1 March and, who knows, it might also get to be alongside the Queen of Crime herself…

HG Waterstones

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It’s not me…

Every time a friend succeeds, I die a little.

The phrase  may lay claim to be the best-known words by Gore Vidal (shameful confession – I can’t quote anything else).

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He was also reported to have said It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail.

The point is a simple one that so many successes are binary. If you get the job, others don’t. If your horse wins the race, it must be in front of all the others. And, as Vidal was a writer, if people are reading your book, they are not reading other people’s.

Well, with the full degree of literary respect due to the great man, I think he’s talking rot. From when I started writing, the single thing that has kept me going has been the support of others, whether providing critique, making suggestions or encouraging me when things get tough. And, whisper it softly, by succeeding. Because, each time someone who you know has been through the same grief you have, succeeds, there’s a chink of light and hope that you can do the same.

And that is one of the joys of writing – it’s not a binary game. Just because someone reads your book, it doesn’t stop them reading mine next. When a friend gets fabulous book news, there is nothing but happiness: partly for their joy and partly because it might be me next…

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Hurrah!

And breathe…

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That is the sound of an author who has finished the final proof of her second book. It has gawn (and niver called me muvver). I will not see it again until it comes back to my hot little hands as a Book. It’s a good moment but a slightly empty feeling, when something that has been on your mind for nearly 2 years (since 1 Feb 2016, accuracy fans) suddenly no longer needs attention.

So what am I going to do? Well, it’s NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month, where the idea is you put down 50k words in a month, which is 1,666 per day. Now on a good writing day, I manage about 1,000 (weekdays only). Plus I started late, so this is not so much a target as a vertical rock face. But, that’s not really the point. I’m treating this as a bit of fun and, after a period of very controlled editing, just being able to cut loose and see what comes out onto the page is going to be fun…

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Oops…

Gosh, has it really been that long? I have come to the conclusion that I am not very good at blogging. Writing effort goes into novels or tweets (if you want to scare yourself, try calculating how many words you have written in tweets – you will have produced several encyclopedias worth).

But, I have not been entirely idle, just mostly. I have been reading. And when I say reading, I mean building a cave of books and charging in wearing my hat with a light on. I think it’s no coincidence that the period when I didn’t read, around 10 years, when I was either studying or building my career by working stupid hours, I barely wrote anything. When I started reading, the writing started flowing too.

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Reading is like practice writing: you are watching someone else doing it and learning from them. When I read someone like Margaret Atwood, my reaction is generally wow – how can I make words perform like this? When I read other things – no names mentioned – I wonder how on earth it got published/ shortlisted for an award.

I have been asked whether this type of critical reading spoils the enjoyment of the book and the answer is no. I love a book where I can get lost and then the thought comes afterwards. With many books, working out why I don’t like it is often the only way to get to the end. Either way, the simple act of opening a book at the bookmark (NB there is no hell to low for people who turn down the corners of book pages) is still one of the most exciting moments of the day…

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