The Rise and Fall of Becky Sharp by Sarra Manning

The Rise and Fall of Becky Sharp by Sarra Manning

 

 

39844198Publisher: Harper Collins

Publishing Date: 6th September 2018

Source:  Received from the publisher via NetGalley, thank you!

Number of pages: 400

Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

A hilarious contemporary retelling of the classic society novel, VANITY FAIR, featuring the irrepressible Becky Sharp

Beautiful, brilliant, ruthless – nothing can stop Becky Sharp.

Determined to leave her poverty-stricken roots behind her, Becky Sharp is going to take every opportunity offered to her to climb to the top. Whether it’s using her new BFF Amelia Sedley to step up into the rarified world of London’s upper classes, or seducing society’s most eligible bachelors, Becky Sharp is destined for great things – at any cost…

From London to Paris and beyond, the world is there for Becky’s taking – even though some people are determined to stop her along the way…

Rating: four-stars

This story follows Becky Sharp – a runner up on Big Brother, nanny, Instagram influencer to eventually become a philanthropist. But Becky worked hard for all of this – or did she? Relying only on herself, that is until she senses a chance and someone with more money… or another someone, with even more money? Using other people or simply being ambitious? I haven’t read the original “Vanity Fair” so I am probably in the minority that won’t be comparing those two books, and also I didn’t recognise any of the scenes and couldn’t compare the characters, but I’m sure there are similarities, and also, even without reading the “first” book, I can assure you that I totally adored this modern take on “Vanity Fair”.

Even though I was not particularly found of the characters! However, I fell for Becky and I felt sorry for her and in the next second I simply hated her. Becky was incredibly intriguing character, and Sarra Manning has so brilliantly captured all of her attributes! She was a champion of disguising her true self and so you could never be sure which of the faces you’re going to see; she for sure knew how to behave in a particular company. It depended on the person she was with and how influential they were. I don’t think we have ever come across Becky’s true colours guys, she has provided regular doses of the level of sincerity and really, I think, no, I am sure that the only person she cared about was herself. She was a master of using people and sweet – talking them. Yet – she was likeable! I might have not loved her but I had feelings of warmth and somehow I wanted to protect her. Weird, no? She schemes and manipulates in a perfect way and yet you just want to cheer her on. She truly knows what she wants and doing anything just to get her way, actually almost always getting what she wanted. She’s unbreakable.

Sarra Manning’s writing style is brilliant. The pace of the novel in fast and there are twists and turns that you’ll never see coming. The plot was hooking, I couldn’t wait to turn the page to see what’s going to happen. There were moment that it was ridiculous and hilarious, as well as some of the very colourful characters that really made me feel all kinds of emotions.

This book could go on and go, it was a kind of never – ending story, and personally I would love to see what Becky has got herself into – I think it ended in one of the most exciting moments, and our Becky implied that she’s not to rest on her laurels, oh no. But also, this end was not satisfying for me – there was a huge build up but then I had a feeling that it turned into … nothing. So really, if Ms Manning were to write a sequel to “The Rise and Fall of Becky Sharp” I’d be probably the first one in the virtual queue to read it.

“The Rise and Fall of Becky Sharp” was a book full of scandals, rich people and celebrities, revenge, coincidences. It was partly really bonkers crazy but this is why I enjoyed it so much, as it sat with this book so well. It was sharp and brutally honest about modern life and current priorities. It was juicy and relying strongly on social satire, and Sarra Manning has brilliantly portrayed this what makes it this satire – demeanours, the mentality, the greed and self – obsession in this Instagram era, celebrity obsessions, being famous because of being famous. It’s full of sharp and so fitting and relevant observations – highly recommended!

 

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The Rules of Seeing by Joe Heap (Blog Tour)

The Rules of Seeing by Joe Heap

 

37551531Publisher: Harper Collins

Publishing Date: 9th August 2018

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 416

Genre: General Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Hardcover | Paperback (out on 04.04.2019)

 

 

 

Synopsis:

The Rules of Seeing follows the lives of two women whose paths cross at a time when they need each other most. Nova, an interpreter for the Metropolitan police, has been blind from birth. When she undergoes surgery to restore her sight her journey is just beginning – she now has to face a world in full colour for the first time. Kate, a successful architect and wife to Tony, is in hospital after a blow to the head. There, she meets Nova and what starts as a beautiful friendship soon turns into something more.

Rating: four-stars

Nova is 32 years old and she’s been blind her whole life. She’s coping very well – she speaks five languages and works as an interpreter for the Metropolitan Police. Now she’s going to undergo an operation that’ll allow her to see for the first time in her life. Contrary to what other people think, it’s not an easy decision – Nova has fears about what’s going to come, about not understanding, about not finding herself in her new life. And it’s true – she can see, but she can’t understand, she must learn everything anew. Will she be strong enough to preserve in being a sighted person?
Kate is an architect who lives in an abusive relationship. While in a hospital during an accident when she fell down and experienced some injuries, she meets Nova, and their friendship, full of bumps, turns and twists, begin. It turns out there is more than friendship – but will Kate’s husband Tony accept this new situation?

The way the author described Nova learning to see was… well, it was actually indescribable. I don’t know how it is with you but I thought, OK, she’ll get her operation, she’ll be able to see and that was it. But nothing could be further from the truth! I didn’t take into consideration the fact that she has never seen, so how is she going to perceive it now? To see? Will it be painful? Will she immediately get used to it? This, what is obvious for me, was not so much for Nova, and I just didn’t think about it this way, and it took me so much by surprise. You may think, she should be happy that she can see, right, but is it really so? Is it better to really see, all the things, everything that happens? Nova has had to learn everything – how to live a life as a sighted person, how to write, how to identify shapes and objects, and it wasn’t as simple as we can think it can be. The author really opened my eyes and pointed out things that I would never have imagined might be so surprising for a person like Nova. He has done a really great job in making me understand how hard it was to Nova to learn to see.
Nova was the strong one and Kate was the weaker one, and well, I sometimes felt desperate with Kate. As much as it was the story about Nova, I think that it was in fact about Kate and her learning to see, to take actions, to face her fears and I couldn’t wait to see when she’s eventually going to grow a backbone. It may sound harsh but I simply cared for her so much, I was worried that the next time will be this one too much and that something really bad is going to happen to her.

The rules of seeing from the title are notes made by Nova, her observations on things that she’s learnt, and they were always connected with the events that happened to the characters. Again, they were brilliant observations about things that we take for granted but if you stopped and wondered for a moment, you’d see that actually they’re not.

I’m not so sure about the ending, to be totally honest. I understand that the author had to solve one of Nova and Kate’s subplots and perhaps add this little drama but firstly, it felt too much at the margin, and then the shift in tone was too abrupt, too dramatic and too rushed. There were moments that the book slowed down, that it felt a little too slow and too philosophical for my liking but there were also moments that were full of drama and were really scary, there was a touch of thriller to this book as well.

This book was not what I was expecting but on the other hand, I’m not sure what I was expecting – probably a little teary tale about a woman who can miraculously see after years of not seeing, and not this thought – provoking, sometimes dramatic and so deeply captivating debut. It was really about learning to see – both in literal and metaphorical aspects. It was honest and refreshing, affecting, thought – provoking and it made you think, so really it had all the things to make it a great read. There was a great mix of romance and contemporary, lightness and darkness, hope and losing it. It gave the reader a very different perspective on almost everything that we take for granted. A real read with a difference and for sure Joe Heap is one to watch. Highly recommended!

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One in a Million by Lindsey Kelk (Blog Tour)

One in a Million by Lindsey Kelk

 

35562950Publisher: Harper

Publishing Date: 26th July 2018

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 416

Genre: General Fiction, Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

‘A corker…hilarious!’ Giovanna Fletcher
‘Full of heart and very, very funny’ Paige Toon

Everyone wants that special someone….

Annie Higgins has given up on love: she’s too busy trying to get her own business off the ground. Infuriated by the advertising agency across the hall making fun of her job, Annie accepts their crazy challenge – to make a random stranger Instagram-famous in just 30 days.

And even when they choose Dr Samuel Page PhD, historian and hater of social media, as her target, Annie’s determined to win the bet – whether Sam likes it or not.

But getting to know Sam means getting to know more about herself. And before the 30 days are out, Annie has to make a decision about what’s really important…

Funny, real and heart-meltingly romantic, Annie and Sam’s story is My Fair Lady for the social media age – and the perfect summer read.

Rating: five-stars

 

In “One in a Million” we meet Annie Higgins who has just betted to turn a very social media unfriendly person into an Instagram influencer. The man in question, Dr Samuel Page, doesn’t know his luck yet and Annie must turn this innocent nerd into an über – cool – nerd with twenty thousand followers in only thirty days. Samuel is absolutely not interested but when Annie learns that his girlfriend has recently dumped him for being only interested in his research work, being emotionally absent, for having a bad dress sense and for being not groomed enough, she senses her chance and “Boyfriend Bootcamp” is brought to life. She’s going to change him into the man his ex wants him to be and in exchange for her tips he agrees for her to make him exist in social media. Will she manage to turn this totally unknown unfriendly historian into Instagram star?

I’ve never been so much into social media, I mean, I do have my Facebook (sorry, Annie, yes, I’m old enough), and I know my Twitter but this followers fights on Instagram somehow passed me by, however I was totally intrigued what you can do to gain those followers – especially when you’re as reluctant as the person that Annie was supposed to turn into Instagram influencer. I am not the person that can’t take her eyes off her phone so Annie was a little exotic to me but I, of course, can also understand her way of keeping on with her emails, messages and likes, it was her job at last.

Annie was immediately likeable. She was funny and had some of the best one – liners, she was quirky and extremely good at her job. I loved Annie’s passion, the way she mad me feel about her – she made me laugh but I also wanted to bang her head sometimes, and this is the sign of a really great, realistic character.
Dr Samuel Page (not Sam!) was one of the most brilliant characters ever. Not only seeing him coming out of his shell was a real joy, seeing him as he is was refreshing and only imagining his face at some of the changes made me laugh out loud. This reluctance of his, it was so perfectly well captured and described and I felt so, so sorry for him. I only think that I would love to hear his point of view as well, not only Annie’s – I know, we know he’s reluctant and not so keen on this whole idea but it would be great to hear direct from him.
The banter between the characters was so enjoyable and it felt so genuine and natural. What I also liked was the fact that there could be one or two or more potential affair contenders, which made the reading not so obvious, however then it came to such a point when I couldn’t imagine Annie with any other character than THIS ONE. But of course life is not a picnic and the way to happy ending is always a bumpy road and there is never a guarantee that it’s going to be a happy end, right.

The pace of this story was only right, it was not too quick and not too slow and there were amusing events aplenty. It was fabulously enjoyable, with enough drama and romance, laughter and seriousness. The romance part was truly genuine and not too forced on the characters, and it was brilliantly balanced with their lives, careers and likes. Even if the story covers only one month, this love affair doesn’t feel too rushed or too artificial and I found myself totally absorbed in it. And it’s not only a laugh – out – loud book. I really liked how cleverly and seamlessly those subtle references to gender politics in business, in running your own company and also those random historical facts were built into this story.
Altogether, “One in a Million” was brilliantly light – hearted and spot on, it was full of hilarious situations and this trademark Lindsey Kelk’s humour and incredibly warm characters – this author is really a queen of creating unforgettable characters that you can’t help but root for. And of course there is also the hidden message about social media as well! Highly recommended!

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The House of Birds and Butterflies by Cressida McLaughlin

The House of Birds and Butterflies by Cressida McLaughlin

 

39990510Publisher: Harper Collins

Publishing Date: 26th July 2018

Source:  Received from the publisher via NetGalley, thank you!

Number of pages: 464

Genre: General Fiction, Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

Synopsis:

‘With a heroine that you root for this is a sweet read with real heart and soul’ Sarra Manning author of The House of Secrets

Abby Field loves every inch of Meadowsweet Nature Reserve on the idyllic Suffolk coast where she lives and works. Especially Swallowtail House, the rambling but empty country house that seems to look out at her each time she passes it’s shut-up windows.

When a TV wildlife programme choses a rival location for their new series, Meadowsweet is under threat – unless Abby can whip up a plan to keep the visitors flocking. But she finds herself distracted by the arrival of a brooding – and annoyingly handsome new neighbour… bad-boy novelist, Jack Westcoat.

With the pressure on, Abby and her cute rescue huskie, Raffle, must pull something special out of the bag. But with Jack in need of a good friend – and Abby feeling the pull of attraction, she can sense her resolve fluttering away…

Rating: five-stars

Abby Field lives and works at a nature reserve in Suffolk called Meadowsweet – she’s full of passion for her work, and holds it so dear to her heart. However, it’s under treat and Abby’s job is to bring even more visitors there to save it from closing.
Jack moves to Meadowsweet looking for peace to write his new book and – shortly – to hide from a scandal that happened in London. his and Abby’s first encounter is not too promising, moreover, Jack’s letters get her in troubles with her boss, Penelope Hardings.
And apropos Penelope – there is this mystery surrounding her beautiful Georgian house that’s now left empty for many years and is becoming lost to nature.

I loved Abby’s passion and devotion and sometimes I really couldn’t understand why her boss Penelope is so unfair towards her – she really devoted a lot of her time to bring life, customers and money to the reserve and in my eyes it was just not spoken for for Penelope to treat her like that. I think she should be happy that Abby didn’t pack and go – but she loved this place too much to do such a thing. Neither she, nor her co – workers wouldn’t go down without a fight and I loved this spirit in them all. Nothing was impossible for them and I loved the ideas of events and walks that they organized.
All the characters worked together brilliantly, they just felt great in each other company, and even Jack turned out to be not so bad, no? I won’t say more, as I don’t want to spoil the reading for you, but let me just tell you, Jack, mmmm *swooning* – it was great how well Cressida tackled the whole Jack business. The characters were all enthusiastic and full of life. They were not flawless, they made mistakes but they also could admit when they were wrong, which is always a great thing and make the characters so much more true to life. The banter between them was so natural and easy and of course, as always when we dealwith such a small close – knit community, they knew everything about each other and yes, it was guaranteed they’re going to see you in the morning in your last – night clothes.

The only thing that bothered me a little was the fact that sometimes I had a feeling this story is not going to end. I mean, I love Cressida’s writing and the way she so brilliantly brings her characters and stories to life but there were moments that slowed the reading down too much. The characters were going on and on about their feelings, examined all the pros and cons, repeating themselves. I know this book was previously published as a four – parts series and probably it was needed but as a full – length novel it was just way too long and sidetracked me from the main plot.

I loved the setting in this book, it was so unusual! I’ve never before read a book set at the nature reserve, full of unusual sorts of birds, bugs and butterflies. Cressida McLaughlin brings her setting and vivid descriptions to life so effortlessly and I loved all the descriptions, the views, the ideas that were supposed to help to save the reserve. And I loved Abby’s characterisations of birds at the beginning of each chapter! They made me curious and intrigued and I would love to see all those birds after reading Abby’s short notes

Altogether, “The House of Birds and Butterflies” was a sweet, cosy and heart – warming novel with enough dramatic to keep me on my tenterhooks. Yes, you could see where it is heading but there were enough twists and bumps on the way to make the outcome not so obvious and predictable. It was a lovely, charming story with unusual, gorgeous setting, also bringing the importance of nature and preserving it, showing how easy it is to appreciate and enjoy it. The end seemed a little too rushed for me, especially the subplot with Penelope but I could live with it, and there were enough twists and turns throughout the whole story. The mix between the wellies and walks through the woods and the glamorous life and lights of London showed and confirmed that I am the wellies – kind.
I’ve read all but one Cressida McLaughlin’s books and her stories and writing get only better and better. She can create the most wonderful, unforgettable and human characters, and not only those on two legs but she also has a heart for and understanding of animals, which she proved a few times already. Her settings are original and unusual and when I read her book I don’t have a feeling that “I’ve been there, I’ve seen it” – they’re like a breath of fresh air, and it was the same with this newest offering. Highly recommended!

The Wives by Lauren Weisberger

The Wives by Lauren Weisberger

 

40183012Publisher: Harper Collins

Publishing Date: 12th July 2018

Source:  Received from the publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review, thank you!

Number of pages: 416

Genre: General Fiction

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

Synopsis:

The hottest book of the summer

*Published in the USA as When Life Gives You Lululemons*

He set her up. They’ll bring him down.

Emily Charlton does not do the suburbs. A successful stylist and image consultant to Hollywood stars, she cut her teeth as assistant to legendary fashion editor Miranda Priestly in New York. But with Snapchatting millennials stealing her clients, Emily needs to get back in the game – and fast.

She holes up at the home of her oldest friend Miriam in the upscale suburb of Greenwich. And when Miriam’s friend, model Karolina Hartwell, is publicly dumped by her husband Graham, a senator with presidential ambitions, Emily scents the client of a lifetime.

It’s not just Karolina’s reputation that’s ruined. It’s her family. And Miriam and Emily are determined he won’t get away with it. First they’ll get Karolina’s son back. Then they’ll help her get her own back. Because the wives are mad as hell . . .

Rating: four-stars

In “The Wives” by Lauren Weisberger, the author brings back Emily, Miranda Priestley’s ex – assistant. She finds her career is slowing down, as she’s losing her clients to someone who’s younger, more “in” and popular. Suddenly, she finds herself in Greenwich, together with Miriam, a former lawyer from NYC, now a stay – at – home mum, and Karolina, the former face of L’Oreal, now in disguise and tangled in a political scandal.
Theoretically, it doesn’t sound so bad, right? Nice place, nice people… But there is much more to the story and actually, nothing seems as it really is in Greenwich.

It was brilliant to have Emily back. I don’t know how it is with you but in “The Devil Wears Prada” I tolerated Emily but couldn’t warm to her totally and completely because of her being such a pain to Andrea, and it was great to read only about Emily. She’s still sassy, quirky and bitchy and confident and I simply adored her. I just think that she really deserved this story, that we got the chance to get to know the real Emily. She has perfectly found herself in her new job, that fitted so well her tastes, money and status – although I must be totally honest, I am not sure what it was exactly that she was supposed to do because once it was said she’s the stylist to the stars but what she did for Karolina was more of a PR action. Nevertheless, Emily can handle anything, you just name it: sex scandal, dress disaster, betrayal. Image consultant? Is this what I’m looking for?
The other two main characters, Karolina and Miranda, complete Emily’s character in the best possible way. They simply work together. Karolina is an ex – model, Victoria Secret’s Angel, who married a US Senator, becoming a mother to his son. She’s now tangled in a political scandal and the whole world turned against her when she was arrested for a DUI with children in the car. But there is much more to this story actually and often I felt so angry on Karolina’s behalf – she was really a great woman who knew where her priorities are and this what had happened to her was absolutely, totally unfair. Miriam is a high – flying lawyer, a partner in one of NYC’s most prestigious firms but the family has currently moved to Greenwich and she’s stay – at – home mum now. She tries to convince herself that she’s happy with her present life, that it is what she wanted but is it really?
The relationship between the three women was brilliant. Honest and authentic, probably mostly thanks to Emily who always said what she thought, without holding back. What’s more important though is, I think, the fact, that they just took each other as they were, they accepted each other – sure, they would change this or that but still they accepted one another and their differences. They found each other again in the best possible time for them. All three points of view were great, totally different and they also gave a different perspective at the same situation. Their coming together was very well drawn and it was great to see how quickly they all bond together.

I must admit, I was scared to read this book as Lauren Weisberger was a one – book author for a very long time to me. Any other book than “The Devil Wears Prada” was simply not my read. But with “The Wives” she really delivers a brilliant, quick, complex story that might seem easy and not too complicated but is full of hidden depth. There is glitz and glamour and high ranked politicians but there is also vulnerability and insecurity. I liked the writing style. It was quick and modern and also I really love when you have to read between the lines – the author has such a brilliant eye for this whole Greenwich scenario!
Sadly, I’m not absolutely sure what to do with the way Karolina’s subplot ended, or more brightly, the way it was solved and by whom. I guess I felt a little disappointed because I hoped for Emily to deliver any incredible plan. Shame.

“The Wives” was a story about a women – power and maybe not world domination but certainly about being finally in control about their own lives. About friendship and supporting each other and learning that you can rely on. It was also a light – hearted but also honest look at motherhood, suburbs and life – with the bonus of Miranda Priestley appearing on the pages as well! There was sharp humour, it was really well observed and it was also full of more poignant moments and breathtaking situations. Touching upon many issues, such as infidelity, betrayal, career changes and families, it was a great read. There is humour, there are tears, there is scandal and fabulous location, so really, what more do you need?

That’s all.

PS. Highly recommended!

Why Mummy Swears by Gill Sims

Why Mummy Swears by Gill Sims

 

38746264Publisher: Harper Collins

Publishing Date: 12th July 2018

Source:  Received from the publisher in return for an honest review, thank you!

Number of pages: 368

Genre: Non – Fiction, Humour

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Hardcover

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

Why Mummy Swears is the much anticipated new novel from Gill Sims, author of the hilarious Why Mummy Drinks and online sensation Peter and Jane.

It’s every parents’ nightmare – the start of the school holidays – and instead of sitting in the sun, reading a book over a cold, crisp glass of Pinot Grigio, Mummy has two bored moppets to attend to. After frantically booking sports camps, child minder slots, not to mention time off work, Mummy is exhausted. But this is only the beginning…

After being dragged to join the school’s PTA in the new term by an annoyingly kind-spirited neighbour, Mummy is stuck with organising the Christmas Fayre and pleasing all the overly disapproving parents. In combination with getting to know her father’s surprise new glamorous (and much younger) wife, and being forced to spend more time with her narcissistic mother, life isn’t cutting her much of a break. What more could possibly happen?

Rating: five-stars

 

but I needmy girls!

“Why Mummy Swears” covers a year in Ellen and her family’s lives, starting in July and with school holidays and ending the following July. And ah feck it, guys. This is probably one of the hardest reviews to write because well, I simply loved everything in this book and about this book. Everything. So there. And now I’m going to immediately order Gill Sim’s first book “Why Mummy Drinks” because I know that I’m also fecking going to love it. If it’s only half as brilliantly funny as “Why Mummy Swears” than I’ve already won.

The best thing about this book was that it was so relatable. From the very first page I couldn’t stop but roar with laughter at all the similarities between the characters in the book and me and my husband, who also doesn’t understand that spices are only good when they’re out of date (I’m not even sure if there is the best before label on spices, as they live for ever) and that out of date doesn’t start one minute after midnight. And it is only the first thing that comes to mind, and there were tons of them. Ellen has only the balls the say what she thinks and to actually pack the kids and take them for holidays while I sit here and only fill the money – box that I’ve received with my review copy. It’s full. Almost.

The things that happen in Ellen’s life are mostly hilarious but they are also very realistic and this is brilliant – it could be easily overdone but it’s simply perfect and possible to happen. You can’t help but laugh out loud at the way the characters act and react, roll your eyes or simply nod your head in agreement. I only pray to God that my daughter won’t turn into Jane. Who was incredibly clever, by the way, probably too clever.

The writing is addictive and so easy to follow – I couldn’t, and didn’t want, to put the book away for a single moment. The way it was written – as a diary – was the best possible way in my opinion. This reminded me a little of Bridget Jones, of course, and there is absolutely room for more books to come.
This book tells how it really is in a perfect tone, not too patronizing, not too aggressive, and it gives hope, and really guys, I feel better after reading it. It turns out that I’m not the only one who can’t cope with everything, who swears under her nose, who leaves the dishes in the sink over night, whose husband goes only on holidays when there is breakfast buffet.

“Why Mummy Swears” was a hilarious, uplifting read that I easily could identify with. The fun and humour poured from every word and this is what I really needed. It was brutally honest in telling how it is to be a part of a family, to have a family. It was light, it was bright, it was refreshing and full of painful truth of being a parent. Simply, it must be one of the best books I have ever read – and it’s saying something as I’ve read many books. Many. Highly recommended!

The Scent of You by Maggie Alderson (Blog Tour)

Hi guys, hope you are all well. Today I am thrilled to have a wonderful guest post from Maggie Alderson for you. Maggie’s brand new novel “The Scent of You” is out tomorrow in paperback, published by Harper Collins, and this book has a) a brilliant, brilliant cover and b) a fantastic premise and I am dying to read it! In the meantime I have, as already above mentioned, a guest post from the author on “The Seven Mysteries of Writing a Novel” – out your feet high and enjoy!

 

The Seven Mysteries of Writing a Novel 510wwk9m1vl-_sx321_bo1204203200_

By Maggie Alderson

I can’t quite believe that The Scent of You is my tenth novel. And what I find particularly bewildering is that although I’ve done it so many times, I still make the same mistakes. Every time.

 I charge into a new book in a frenzy, never planning anything, never doing a time line, a map of where everyone lives, or a list of the relative ages in families, until I’m about 30,000 words in.

 That was interesting when the family in question was a modern jigsaw of numerous half and step siblings in Cents and Sensibility (my fourth one). I realised half way through writing the first draft, when I did finally do a timeline, that I was going to have to make my heroine ten years younger than I’d wanted her to be. Oops.

 So as I am about to start my eleventh book, I thought this was a good moment to ponder over what I’ve learned over all the years of writing in the hope it might help stop me making the same mistakes again – and hopefully give some insights to anyone else who might be thinking of embarking on their own fiction adventure.

 

  • Starting it

I remember very clearly when the first of my contemporaries wrote a novel – and got a publisher. I was in awe, dreaming of writing a book myself one day, but too scared to start in case I found I couldn’t do it.

‘How long did it take you to write it?’ I asked him.

‘Six months,’ he replied. ‘And thirty two years…’

That remark returns to me every time I’m writing a book and I’ve allowed myself to get hoity toity about how clever I am making all this stuff up….

Because one day I will have a blinding flash of revelation when I understand exactly what things in my own life have fed into what I’m writing. Even if it’s about rich beautiful people living lives I can only dream, the seed of it comes directly from things I have experienced.

So really, you’re starting a novel every moment of your life. I think of it as adding stuff to the stock pot in my brain, which will later come out as something that seems completely different, but is really that bit of onion I chucked in earlier.

To keep this stock pot topped up, between books I try and have lots of new experiences – visiting new cities, exhibitions, books and any kind of random experience I can have. Once I’m writing a book, I don’t do anything except write the book, so I have to cram it in while I can in between.

 

  • Making it up

This was one of the hardest things for me to do when I started my first novel, Pants on Fire. I’d been making my living as a journalist for about fifteen years by then and sticking to the facts and the quotes was part of my DNA.

In the end I signed up for a Fiction Writing evening course at Sydney University (it was while I was living in Australia) and although I only went to three of them it freed me up to let go and make it up… It was so exhilarating when I first allowed myself to trust it, like jumping onto a flume ride.

 

  • Finding the characters

They seem to find me. When I start a book I know who my heroine is, she’s my starting point. I have an idea what she looks like and I know what she does – that gives me the milieu for the book. Apart from that, I have no idea who else is in it until they stroll onto the page.

I always remember when I was writing my second book Mad About the Boy (not be confused with the more recent Helen Fielding of the same title). The doorbell rang (in the book, not my doorbell) and I had no idea who was going to be behind it until my heroine opened the door.

It turned out to be Uncle Percy, who remains one of my very favourites of all my characters.

Another way I find them is by pulling pictures of people out of magazines and seeing which ones ‘speak’ to me – a technique I discovered after I stuck a picture of a hot guy on the wall over my desk just to gaze at and he walked into the book.

 

  • Staying seated

Sometimes it takes every bit of willpower I can summon to keep my bum stuck to my chair. Music helps me, tea helps me, biscuits help me – then carrot sticks, after I’ve put on half a stone – looking at my phone does not help me. I don’t have wifi on the laptop I write on and put my phone on the other side of the room.

Conversely, sometimes going out for a walk, or a look at the shops helps me stay seated later. I get the urge to flee out of my system by fleeing and then when I come back staying seated doesn’t seem so hard.

 

  • Finishing it

See point 4. It’s the only way. Stay seated, or at least stay in the room – some people write standing up, Hemingway did – and keep going.

 

  • Getting over writer’s block

There are always sticking points when writing a book, when it feels like someone has turned the tap off. That’s when I run to my books about writing.

The first one I reach for is Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing. It’s a masterpiece. It was originally an article in Esquire (you can Google it), but I have a little hardback book of it which takes about 20 minutes to read. It always makes me roar with laughter and usually eager to get back to the fray.

Leonard’s first sentence is: ‘Never open a book with the weather.’

My all-time favourite is Stephen King’s On Writing (which David Walliams also cites as a great influence), which is a work of pure genius.

I have another one called Dear Writer, by Carmel Bird, which I find very useful for practical tips on the craft of writing – tense, point of view etc.

My other stalwart is David Lodge’s The Art of Fiction, which is so beautifully written and has a wonderfully varied collection of passages in it, one to illustrate each point.

The section from Catcher In the Rye to discuss skat dialogue entirely created the character of the outrageously dreadful – but actually very vulnerable – daughter Theo, in my book Shall We Dance?

 

  • Surviving editing

Or as I like to call it – re-eating your own vomit. That’s about how enjoyable I find that part of the process. It’s entirely my own fault. If I planned my books more carefully and didn’t write them at high speed as though I am trying to beat Jack Kerouac to the world record, editing wouldn’t be such a trial.

But while I always suffer great editing agonies, it’s always worth it for the feeling of utter elation that comes when I finish. And the book is always exponentially better for it.

I can’t wait to get started on the next one.