Monthly Archives: November 2012
It’s week six, and writing the sequel to The Not So Secret Emails Of Coco Pinchard is not getting any easier. However, that’s life I guess, nothing should be easy. Hard work = great work.
I don’t want to write another post about having writers block (thankfully now unblocked) so I thought I would write about genre. Working on a sequel, I know which genre I am writing in, something I was unsure of when I wrote my last two books. This got me thinking, how do authors choose the genre in which they write? Does the genre choose them? I ask this question because I never dreamed, as a guy I would end up writing Women’s Fiction. In fact I never thought much about genre, I just wanted to write.
Now of course, I realize that one of the most important factors in marketing your book and communicating to your readers, is genre. Say the name Stephen King and you know he writes horror, Stephenie Meyer; Vampires, JK Rowling; Children’s/Harry Potter. Although, her recent move to Literary Fiction with The Casual Vacancy left many fans in shock. Such was the power of the genre she inhabits that many readers were completely horrified that it wasn’t another book about boy Wizards.
JK Rowling has told how she had the idea for Harry Potter on a train in 1990, that he arrived fully formed in her head, the genre it seems chose her. Did her frame of mind or surroundings influence her that day? What if she had being doing tequila shots in a sleazy bar – could Harry Potter have been some flawed detective or Serial Killer?
The phenomenal growth of e-books sales means that genre matters less, well less to readers than authors, we still need to make sure we market our work effectively and genre is a fundamental part of this, but more writers have the freedom to switch and experiment. Readers are willing to take more risks with their purchases; e-books are cheaper, shopping for an e-book easier. These factors give both readers and authors more freedom to experiment.
So how did I choose the genre I write in? I think it chose me. I love to make people laugh, it’s one of the most potent and powerful things. The Not So Secret Emails Of Coco Pinchard grew from this, and initially it had a male voice, the character that became Coco Pinchard’s husband Daniel. He remains a great character, but as I wrote I found that Coco seemed to be the one that all the fun stuff was happening to, she was more wonderfully flawed and prone to disaster. After several of my earlier readers agreed, I switched to Coco’s voice, The Not So Secret Emails Of Coco Pinchard was born and I was writing Women’s Fiction.
Do I worry about writing in this genre dominated by so many brilliant female writers? Well, not now. In an early discussion with a Literary Agent, he told me that I should be prepared to change my name, and consider using a female pen name. “People might not think a guy can write as a woman,” he said. I quickly realised that this is ridiculous. No one stopped Patricia Cornwell and told her she can’t write Crime Thrillers because she’s never committed murder, or Stephanie Meyer a about Vampires, because she’s never drunk blood. Silly examples I know but so is the argument. Nick Hornby is a British writer I greatly admire and two of his novels, Juliet Naked and How To Be Good are written brilliantly from the female point of view.
My second book Bitch Hollywood (co-written with Ján Bryndza) is told from the male point of view and is a much blacker comedy about life in the Hollywood Hills. Its genre is Humour/Black Comedy. My next book will be the sequel to The Not So Secret Emails, then I want to write a Thriller – a radical departure from what I’ve written before, and you know what, I can do it.
I am intrigued to see what other writers will produce in the years to come, both well-known conventionally published authors, and best selling Indies. Exciting times are ahead!
The old town is a collection of winding cobbled streets. At its entrance is a gate attached to the former Franciscan Monastery. Moving uphill, you pass the Baroque 17th century church of St.Peter and St. Paul and the Diocesan Library housing many rare and ancient texts. There are two seminaries, smart private residences, and administrative buildings for the Catholic Church – all normally off-limits to the public. The buildings are handsome and kept in tiptop condition, painted in bright pastel colours, like a row of sumptuous cakes decorated in smooth royal icing. In the centre is the square with a towering bronze statue of proud looking Prince Pribina the first ruler of ancient Nitra.
All of this is watched over by Nitra Castle sat on a hill high above the old town. Nitra Castle is the Cardinal’s official residence, and a formidable seat of power for the Catholic Church. John Paul II visited Nitra in 1995 describing it as “The Bethlehem Of Slovakia.” (and I don’t think it was because his hotel was full)
I hadn’t listened properly to Ján when he told me about touring the wine cellars. I’d got the impression we’d be going on some historical tramp through damp underground passages, perhaps narrated by the dry tones of an elderly priest or local historian.
What we went to was the Nitriansky Vínny Festival (Nitra Wine Festival). A loud, bright drunken two-day event, where wine cellars all over the Nitra Wine Region are thrown open to wine tasting. Slovakia is a formidable producer of wine. There are currently six officially-recognised wine regions in Slovakia, all of them situated close to the country’s southern border: the Small Carpathian, Southern Slovak, Nitra, Central Slovak, Eastern Slovak and Tokaj regions. Slovakia is known for its fine wines, but the message hasn’t made it far past the borders. Hopes are that the festival will open up Slovakia to wine tourism.
It was a cold night and as we entered the old town. The Priests and Nuns were safely tucked up in bed, and the normally hushed square was noisy and crowded. A Romany band was fiddling and yipping madly and food stands were steaming into the cold night. We joined a ticket line snaking out of one of the normally closed off buildings. For €20 (around £18 / $25) we received a blue wrist band, a tiny canvas bag with a beautiful little wine glass and 50 tokens, to be exchanged for the wines offered in seven cellars dotted around the old town. Each cellar had as many as 50 wines to choose from, and a glass cost from 3 -8 tokens. Additional tokens could be purchased for 20¢ each…
As you can imagine, we passed many people having to be helped up the steps from the various cellars.
It became the most thrilling evening. The wines were some of the best I have ever tasted. We drank ice crisp oaky Rieslings, smooth red Cabernet Sauvignon; there was Medovina (a sweet honey wine) Frizzante. It was also fascinating and spooky to be down in the cellars, some of which had never been opened to the public before. A few had the look of a swanky bar with sandblasted wood floors, and stands for the local wine merchants, their bottles piled high on white tablecloths and medals displayed proudly. They’d even picked out cheeses to go with the wine.
My favourite though were the cellars off the beaten track, one in particular was at the very top of the old town amongst a warren of derelict buildings. The cellar was deep below some administrative offices. One lone wine merchant was pouring out generous measures of a stunning red ( I forget the name – by now reading was becoming more difficult). With a candle you could explore the long winding cellar, clay underfoot, spiderwebs hanging down from the low crumbling brick ceiling. Lubricated by wine there was lots of screaming and laughter.
By the fifth cellar we felt a little like Eddie & Patsy from Absolutely Fabulous, even at one point sorting through the wine bottles on one table and uttering the words, “This is the one we wanted, this one we didn’t want… the empty one.”
By 10pm the cellars were closing down, and despite our best efforts, we still had half of our tokens. Many of the wine merchants had been caught up in the happy atmosphere and doled out generous glass fulls.
As we were reluctantly left to stumble home we heard some great news – its a two-day festival. Providing you kept your glass and canvas bag you could return for the second day, so we had a second night of fun on the Saturday.
The wine festival takes in the whole Nitra Region; 27 towns and villages. With 136 wine merchants showcasing 1022 wines in total.
For additional info about Nitransky Vínny Festival visit http://www.nvf.sk (Slovak language only, but more images and some video of the festival are available.)
Blimey – how is it week three already? Writing the sequel to The Not So Secret Emails Of Coco Pinchard has had its ups and downs, but on the whole, I’m proud to say I’m on track. One question I have is why do we writers have to always act so tortured? Why can’t the creative process be easier?
I have lurched between elation and despair on a daily basis, Ján bearing the brunt of it all, firmly reminding me to keep on track.
I try to work from nine in the morning so I have my word count completed by five or six, leaving time to have a life. However, distractions come easy. Wikipedia is one of my downfalls, I start innocently researching, say police procedure in the UK and before I know it, I’m reading all about the Police Academy films. Did you know how much they took at the box office? Nearly half a billion dollars, oh crap I’ve just spent an hour and a half immersed in complete randomness. Then late afternoon I’m furiously playing catch-up, and around four pm I am either thinking I should find another profession, or if the odds are in my favour, a delicious rush of inspiration arrives. If it’s the latter I can really be on a roll, I never want to stop writing. Then the dog appears with a stuffed duck wanting to be played with, fed, walked. Dinner needs to be cooked, we have tickets for the theatre, we’re meeting friends. I reluctantly pull myself away from my computer screen.
My big stress has been the plotting. I have a great plot but making it all fit is a challenge. After spending most of this year working firstly on The Not So Secret Emails, Bitch Hollywood and now this, my brain is a little fried.
“What about my deadline?” I chimed ungratefully.
“Don’t worry it’s off season, no snow, you can work and look at the views,” he said.
We left Nitra in warmish weather, then without warning, snow began to fall, and we arrived two hours later in a winter wonderland. The unexpected treat of snow induced so much excitement that the writing fell by the wayside. We hiked up a mountain through huge drifts, threw snowballs on an empty ski slope we had all to ourselves, we ate wonderful food at a Koliba. Then wet and cold we retired to our warm apartment to watch movies with hot mugs of Tatransky Caj. (A fearsomely strong Slovak alcoholic drink for cold weather!)
I fell behind by five thousand words, and at the end of our trip, I began to panic. Then in the car on the way home I had a brainwave, a large piece of the plot that had been troubling me fell into place and I could see the remainder of the book stretching away in my mind. My subconscious must have carried on working whilst we had some badly needed fun.
Word count so far: 23,000
As yet still no title for the sequel springs to mind – if anyone has any ideas/suggestions let me know!
It’s only been a few swift months since we released The Not So Secret Emails Of Coco Pinchard and Bitch Hollywood as e-books. Thank you to everyone so far who has bought copies, left us messages and comments, and taken time to write the wonderful reviews on Amazon, Goodreads and Shelfari.
For those readers who love the smell and feel of a real book, whose fingers itch to caress bound paper… The Not So Secret Emails Of Coco Pinchard and Bitch Hollywood are now available in paperback!
The Not So Secret Emails Of Coco Pinchard is available at the following;
You can also enter our competition to WIN a paperback copy of The Not So Secret Emails Of Coco Pinchard through Goodreads by clicking HERE. Competition closes on Monday 27th November.
Bitch Hollywood is available at the following;
Shortly both titles will be available in some UK and Slovak bookshops – we’ll keep you posted.
Today is the Day Of The Dead. A Bank Holiday in Slovakia and something I’d never experienced before I came here. Nitra has been a hive of activity over the past few days, in preparation. The town market has been carpeted in Chrysanthemums to decorate graves, and votive candles in all shapes and sizes have been prominent in shops and supermarkets.
At home in the UK graveyards are rather forgotten places; cracked tombstones, overgrown grass, but in Slovakia they are visited frequently and kept beautifully. Myself and Ján will often stop by his grandfathers grave and light a candle. In the summer months we’ll do it on the way to the Lido. Stopping in the sweltering heat to mop our brows and sweep the stone clean, in the winter months we’ll wash off dead leaves or clear away snow. It’s comforting and I wish that I’d had somewhere to visit for my loved ones in the UK.
On The Day Of The Dead last year we went to the cemetery around eight in the evening. It was dark and cold but I was shocked to see a glow emanating from the gate and a queue of people patiently waiting by a shrine of candles to enter the high cemetery walls.
The atmosphere inside was beautiful, hundreds of people standing silently around head stones, crowded with scores of candles softly twinkling in the cold night, the combined glow bouncing off the autumn leaves creating a red-gold ceiling above us. We lit our candles and paid our respects to Ján’s grandad, and I took a moment to think of my grandads and others I have lost.
We moved off and took a walk around the cemetery, through the silent crowds admiring the sea of flowers and the coloured glass candle holders. Then abruptly we came across a lone headstone in darkness. It made us sad to think its occupant had no one to come and visit, so we lit one of our spare tea lights, and placed it by the headstone. After a few moments of silence we began to notice people staring and a few stifled laughs. Then we saw the inscription on the headstone. It had a birth date but no date of death. The grave was empty!
We started laughing and a couple of old ladies laughed too. And then I noticed that we weren’t the only ones. Sure enough there was plenty of sadness, but there were lots of happy faces shining through the tears. People being remembered for the fun times too.
As we reached the top of the cemetery we stopped and looked out over the thousands of candles burning, each a powerful symbol of remembrance, and showing that loved ones were gone, but not forgotten.