Sunday, May 30, 2010

How Our Writing Affects Our Reading

I've been thinking about a comment my hubby made the other day. It was: "Do you realise that since you've been writing, your reading material has changed?" After feeling quite chuffed that he'd noticed, I sat down and thought about it.

He was in fact correct. Apart from the occasional foray into American literature, (Diana Gabaldon and Sara Donati) I had read mainly British historical novels. Books by Sharon Penman, Margaret George, Alison Weir and many others.

Now, my reading diet consists of books set in North America - usually the USA. From classics such as The Virginian by Owen Wister, to more modern authors such as Mark Spragg, Leif Enger and Nancy E Turner, I just can't get enough. I want to read about the time and place I am writing.

I'm enjoying these tales of adventure; the exploration and taming of a vast land, and I've discovered some talented authors along the way. However, I know that when I've completed writing my American trilogy there's a long list of non-American books waiting for me.

Meanwhile, in the dark deep recesses of my mind there are several New Zealand historical stories quietly marinating, waiting for their turn to be unleashed onto the page.

Does anybody out there have suggestions for a good NZ historical read? Because I know I'll want to immerse myself, when the time comes.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

What is it about Mr Darcy?

Over at Nathan Bransford's blog he has posed the question, "Which literary character do you have a crush on?" I did a quick scan of all his comments, 176 when I visited, and Mr Darcy is well in the lead. Heathcliff, Aragorn, Hamlet and many other's followed. Quite a few also mentioned Jamie Fraser from Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series. (Myself included.) But Mr Darcy is the clear favourite.

So what is it about Mr Darcy? Is it the TV series with Colin Firth? I think he helped - a little. Why do we like a man who is, let's face it, totally rude to Elizabeth when they first meet. Then when he declares his love, demeaning.

I think if we were to imagine really really hard that we were Elizabeth, we might not be so quick to fall for him. Or is it the large estate and all that money that really swayed her?

Don't get me wrong, I'm up there with women who like him. He may be a brooding, aloof character, but in the end he saves the Bennets from the scandal of Lydia's atrocious behavior and who can resist the real man at home with his sister Georgiana? But is that enough?

I have a book on my shelf entitled: A Truth Universally Acknowledged - 33 Reasons Why We Can't Stop Reading Jane Austen. Edited by Susannah Carson. In it, 33 writers, past and present, discuss just what it is about Jane Austen that inspires such devotion. There are comments from Somerset Maugham, E.M.Forster, C.S.Lewis, Fay Weldon, A.S.Byatt and others.

Today I am taking the book from my shelf and I'm going to read it. Also, I have been meaning to read all of her novels. I have read Pride and Prejudice several times and recently I read Northanger Abbey. It's time to dust of another volume and get reading.

I will keep you posted with my progress.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Into The Wilderness

                                                                                                                                                                   For the last week I have been reading Sara Donati's huge book, Into The Wilderness. I first read it about 10 years ago and I'm enjoying revisiting the characters. The story begins in 1792 when Elizabeth Middleton, an English lady who is proud to call herself a spinster, travels to her fathers home in America. He lives in Paradise, a small mountain village, set in the wilderness of New York territory.

Before she even reaches her father's house she meets Nathaniel Bonner. A mountain man, who is more comfortable amongst the Mohawk than the white settlers. Elizabeth's father wishes her to marry the doctor, but she elopes with Nathaniel, and the adventure begins.

From land tussles over Wolf Mountain, the home of Nathaniel and his extended Mohawk  family, to dangerous escapades through the wilderness, this is a real page turner.

There is a large cast of intriguing characters, including a brief appearance by Jamie and Claire Fraser, from Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series. The Mohawk people are especially well written; their culture and language expertly woven into the story.

I'm hoping to finish it this weekend. Then it's on to the next book in my large pile of 'to be read'.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Joys Of Editing

A lot of blogs I have been visiting lately, have been talking about editing. There seems to be quite a few of us shining our manuscripts. For me, this is my first novel, therefore my first edit.

My friend Ruth, (Pen, from The Dragon's Pen) likened editing - or the whole process of completing a novel - to giving birth. A good description indeed!

For me it's been like putting together an intricate quilt. Each scene is like a block that I have to join to the next, until I arrive at a completed quilt that is pleasing to the eye, or in this case, a novel that is a pleasure to read.

I've spent the last few weeks polishing my opening chapters and - phew! - they are now beautifully shiny. It's wonderful to see the end result, but it's such hard work.

Now I have to tackle the end and to be honest I've been putting it off. I know how it ends - of course - but there was something missing. I needed excitement, conflict, emotion etc etc. Alas I had nothing. But this morning as I drank my cup of tea whilst staring out at the window at green and misty hills, two wonderful scenes came to me. Scenes that allowed my heroine to be feisty, and heightened the excitement and conflict. Everything I needed before the finale.

So now I am dying to get stuck into the closing chapters.

The end of editing draws near.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Where Does The Journey Really Start

Coming home from an appointment this morning I was diverted by a visit to my favourite second hand book shop, where I discovered an absolute treasure. A large hardback volume entitled: Who's Who in Children's Books, A Treasury of the Familiar Characters of Childhood, by Margery Fisher. (1975)

Leafing through it I discovered long forgotten friends. Swallowing the lump of nostalgia in my throat, I purchased the book and brought it home to devour.

Who remembers Captain Pugwash? Paddington Bear? or the Magic Pudding? What about Christopher Robin or Little Lord Fauntleroy?

The love of books and reading, which led to a love of writing, began here, amongst these classics.

My fondest memories are of Mum reading to me at night. When I was little it was Willie Winkie, and The Faraway Tree. As an older child, from about 8, she would read the first book in a series, or the first chapter, just to get me started, and then leave me to it.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett was the first chapter book I read on my own and I still adore it with a passion. (I own at least 4 different copies.) I then proceeded to read it every summer holidays until I was 13 or 14. I read all of Laura Ingalls Wilder's, Little House books until they fell apart. Ballet Shoes by Noel Stratfield was another favourite.

As an adult I continue to love books. Birthday's and Christmas's are book giving occasions in our family and I'm happy to say my 3 children have inherited my love of books. Their shelves are full of Harry Potter, Lemony Snicket, Deltora Quest, Judy Moody, Clarice Bean and of course the classics.

 And that's one of the greatest things about being a writer, we have to read and read and read!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Welcome to JT Webster Books

Three years into the great adventure of writing, the time has finally come to start my own blog.

As a teenager I scribbled stories that invariably had no ending, and some even lacked beginnings! One story held my attention for several months, but it petered out at about chapter five. So I put my pens away and a decided I'd never be a writer. I got on with life. 

Then in October 2007 a story arrived in my head.  I just had to write it down. And thus my journey began.

I fished out my old scribblings and showed them to my friend Ruth, who, after reading them, encouraged me to write this new story. Poor Ruth, she read my first attempts and always managed to encourage (and correct) me. Most of what I wrote in that first year has been trashed. And rightly so!
The story became a novel and the novel became a trilogy.

The first novel, Blackbird, an historical tale of love and adventure set in 1880's Wyoming, is complete at approximately 120,000 words. The sequel is two-thirds finished, and the final in the trilogy is in the planning stage.

At present I am ploughing through the editing of Blackbird. Some days the words sing on the page and all is good. And other days are ...... well, let's just say I often have the urge to fling my laptop out the first floor window!!!  But, being an adult, I restrain myself.

So this blog is another step in my journey towards being a published author. I will share my trials and triumphs, my love of books and reading and anything else that amuses me.