Monday, April 29, 2013


Lovelies, here are my thoughts:

I start with an idea or a visual image (some girls playing in a school yard - Pride & Princesses - my own school memories), then add some words... (in the beginning, I wrote the story, just a few pages - which became Pride & Princesses and drew some fun sketches).

The language was not 'nice' or 'pretty' the way I ended up publishing some of it in Pride & Princesses. The language was real. It is a bit more fairy story now but P&P became it's own world and has its own language. The original title was also different as were the names of the main characters. I remembered words girls used at school and had to be reminded to leave them out (after all, this is YA and bad language does tend to 'date' a story in its own way!) I hope I found a way to give a sense of some of the meanness and also kindnesses that teenage girls display.

After all that, those characters and words have their own voice, my voice. No one else has my voice but in the end the characters should live on the page and have their own voices... does that make sense? I hope so!

I think 'voice' in writing is the most important thing and I don't know if you are the best writer or reader in the world (you may be) but I know no one else does it like you do. And no one else should. No one else sounds like you and no one has had the exact same experiences you have had.

That said, sometimes it pays to write about things others can relate to. In Pride & Princesses there is this spark of first love that I think all teenagers feel. Mark and Phoebe feel it, even though they don't put it into words very successfully until the end...

After that, ideas, story and characters take over but I usually start with a plan, at least in my mind and sometimes on paper - and I think that is very important. The rough draft starts in your mind then becomes words on paper that lead to a first draft.

What follows is the first plan (more like ideas) I wrote on my laptop for the novel that became Wuthering Nights (although I couldn't think of the title I wanted to use back then...) Often I also scribble notes on paper, but it's harder to reproduce them!

As you can see, this 'plan' is a total mess, terrible spelling and no punctuation - but don't worry about that stuff initially.

I wasn't even sure I would add vampires, but I know I'd thought about it well before I wrote this. I had the images that I wanted to share in my mind on paper as well as the first line:

NOTES: (early draft of Wuthering Nights)

MODERN (High concept!) WUTHERING HEIGHTS NOVEL  - 20 pages a day, just keep writing – plan it on Friday (?)
Possible titles:
Wuthering Bytes
Wuthering Lights
Hareton Hall

When I saw the house in the misty light across the heath, I could barely make out the man’s face in the morning mist.

In sections – first part, walking across the Heath, a stranger. Who is this person? Ha from the department of Social Services (!)
The house, crumbling but perfect in the misty morning.  There are cobwebs on the windows. Across the open common there is another home, also owned by the same person – the Heathcliffe character. What is a good name for this man?  

There are two young teenagers living in the house (18 years old – they are both miserable and home schooled – taken out of boarding school or on their way to be returned there?) when she turns 18 Katrina is gonna run out of there and she convinces Hareton to go with her – she’s teaching him to read…these two characters are messed up – Heath is a real baddie, but he has his reasons…he was in Los Angeles, gonna be a rock star or something when some woman turned him (?) who knows – maybe he was like that as a little child…agrees to gamble with the older brother and fleeces him. Is devastated when he returns to the Heath – to find Kate in the social pages – she has married a really ineffectual bore a money man…
Idea – Heath: – he is a vampire, when he arrives as a frightened little boy, he’s a foster child – the home is abusive, but he is brought there to repay a debt (?) Maybe he’s not yet a vamp (?) maybe he is… little teeth are very pointy in the dark cellar (!) Kate goes to him, puts her arms around him. They have horses in the country house.

Little girl, Kate:

The two children of the neighbours – Edmund and Bella (named after their ancestors – home from boarding school).
Or do we set this off the Kings Road in Chelsea – make the girls go visiting there some days – go to the pictures in the movie house on Fulham road.

Set first part in 2012

Then go back to 1993 –  What films were around then because these two go to the movies, maybe? Google IMDB – then set most of it in London back then – Hampstead Heath -  what films that were about then (?) google that year: My Own Private Idaho(?) maybe – Withnail and I? – on repeat? – The Rocky Horror Show (also on repeat at the Charles cinema just off Leisester square – around the corner from the ice cream bar. Apparently it would have been cheap nights, where you could go to the pictures for a pound. They eat popcorn etc.

 Heath (guitarist) and Kate (ballet dancer or artist or singer – something artistic – or fashion designer…Heath has been kept from being educated by Kate’s cruel older brother.

Then there are Edmund (Heath’s child with Isabella) /(Hareton- The older brother’s child) and Katrina (Kate’s child?)

In the scene where Kate gives birth to Katrina – Heath goes in desperation…and turns her? Or does she scrape her wrist along the window pane – remember this scene from Wuthering Heights?

So, there you have it - a total mess and the first scribblings of Wuthering Nights which became: 

From the journal of Greta Gardner, February 1978
The boy arrived at night, wrapped in a blanket. He was carried by his adopted father who placed him on the kitchen floor next to me. His big blue eyes stared out from under his wild black hair. He shrank from the fire, he shrank from my touch, yet his skin was cold as ice…
He arrived with a list of instructions tucked into the pocket of his jacket.
Eats - mostly chicken and oranges (likes: roast chicken, blood oranges and plums).
Drinks - mostly water and citrus juice.
 First warning - do not let him go in the sun often as he burns easily.
Second warning - make sure he wears his necklace amulet (a parting gift from his biological mother). He screams if you take it.
Final Warning - do not let him go out at night alone.
As a small boy (just walking) he had a tendency to wander off, and many times staff at the orphanage were unable to find the little fellow for hours. Once, he was found hanging upside down from the roof of the school gymnasium, like a bat. The only giveaway was the drip drip drip of juice as he stuffed his baby face with blood oranges.
His file was then stamped: Special Needs. 

So, while I was waiting it out with various agents and publishers trying to find a publisher for what became Pride & Princesses, (during a prolonged, gruelling and stressful process), I started toying with the idea of writing modern versions of Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre.

Just for myself. Just for fun.

I would say, I knew and had read each of these classic stories, in particular, Wuthering Heights, before I started.

Some readers asked me why I didn't make Pride & Princesses more like Pride and Prejudice (thankyou for that - great question!) Pride and Princesses was always meant to be a  unique story... just the scene at the dance is classic Pride and Prejudice. The Hotness is going to be more of the classic storyline...  On some level writers should aim to please our readers, of course, but first, we must please ourselves. Trust me, if you don't want to read it (over & over again) chances are others may not either!

So, I experimented with Wuthering Nights - adding vampires - but I had been obsessed with the story as a young teenager so, again, I could play around with the story arc quite easily in my mind as I knew it so well.

Anne Eyre (which is based on Jane Eyre - obviously) was a different story entirely. It is very clearly the closest thing I would ever write to fan fiction. It too is an experiment. Anne Eyre follows the original story of Jane Eyre (in a far more #YA manner) because I wanted to see if readers liked that. I don't think I would ever write a modern version so close to the original again and of course the original is much better! That said,  I enjoyed writing Anne Eyre. I like the idea of a two-hander scene stealer - the whole of my story is mainly a back and forth conversation between "Nathanial" and "Anne".

Here is what I know. You have to spend an enormous amount of your days (and nights) working on your work and I don't imagine in a billion years I have perfected mine.

You have to be consistent and you have to keep going! HUGS:)