It's rare that a British person can start a blog with these words, but wow, is it hot. I think we must have swapped weather with Australia. The sun is blazing, there's no wind, and I'm getting absolutely no work done.
I spent most of this week on the college quad, pretending to write an essay, reading King Lear and working on The Bone Season. I've decided to make a few structural changes to the ending. I've knocked out a few superfluous bits (mostly involving my character being in the bath/pondering the meaning of life/generally not doing anything useful) and started to replace them with scenes that actually move the plot along.
I'd planned for the editing process to happen via a page-by-page agenda, but it's been quite piecemeal recently. My brain and the heat really don't get along too well.
I've been asked a couple of questions by readers, which I shall answer now:
Was it hard for you to start writing your novel?
I started The Bone Season a little while after finishing Aurora, my unpublished first novel. Because I'd had the experience of writing a large novel previously, it wasn't too hard to start again. It was actually very refreshing and exciting to have a clean page in front of me. I had some doubts as to whether I could really produce another 120 000+ words, but once I got started I forgot about the page count. I just wrote and wrote until I reached the end.
The main difficulty in getting started was that I chose to write The Bone Season in first person. Initially this was quite a difficult endeavour, as I hadn't written in first person before and it was hard to find a good 'voice' for my narrator. There's a very fine line between a narrator who is too strong, to an unbelievable extent, and one who is too weak to bear the weight of the story. I tried a few different beginnings until I found one I liked, and developed my narrator's voice as I went on. I found the writing flowed easily once I'd found the right voice.
What sort of fiction books do you read?
My absolute favourite book is The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. I was given a copy by one of my English teachers before I left for university. It's a beautiful, chilling novel in which women have been stripped of all their rights and liberties, leaving them with only one function: to breed. I remember finishing it for the first time and being left with a sense of real emptiness, and true appreciation for my life. It is a novel that changed my whole perspective on the world, and encouraged me to read (and eventually write) dystopian fiction. You can hear more about why I love The Handmaid's Tale here, in my recent interview with the Cherwell.
When I was younger I read a huge range of books. Reading was all I really did. I grew up on The Faraway Tree, The Chronicles of Narnia and Harry Potter. I also used to read the 'My Story' historical novels. My favourite of the series was Anne Boleyn and Me: The Diary of Elinor Valjean, London, 1525-1536. I think it was these books that sparked my interest in history, particularly that of the Tudors. I owned most of the series. They're wonderful, accessible books for children to read.
I enjoy most genres of fiction, mainly those with some degree of magic or the supernatural. If they don't have the fantasy element, they're usually [a] mysteries or [b] dystopian. I'm a great fan of Isaac Asimov; I bought The Complete Robot when I was about fourteen, loved every page of it. I've also read all the Sherlock Holmes stories. I remember when I first started to read A Study in Scarlet and literally couldn't put it down, I was so gripped by it. I've always loved the character of Holmes, especially his recent incarnation in Sherlock (played by the very lovely Benedict Cumberbatch). I have a love-hate relationship with crime novels, but Conan Doyle will always be one of my most beloved authors.
I haven't had much time to read for pleasure since going to uni, but I recently started The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller, which has been shortlisted for the Orange Prize. I'm only six chapters in, but I'm in awe of Ms Miller's delicate, sensory descriptions. It's a shame that Orange are discontinuing their sponsorship of the prize, as it brings some truly talented female writers to public attention.
Finally, I should mention my favourite genre: dystopian or speculative fiction. If you're not sure what a dystopia is, you can take a look at an article I wrote on dystopian cinema. There's something about this genre that's very special to me. Having been asked many times why I enjoy a good dystopia so much, I still can't quite pin it down. I think it's primarily because a repressive environment forces a character to his or her limits, whether physical or emotional. I find that characters are more fun to write in extreme situations. The Handmaid's Tale is my top favourite of the genre, but I also thoroughly enjoyed reading Orwell's classic dystopia Nineteen Eighty-Four and the more modern Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. I also recently finished A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, which encouraged me to play around with language a little in The Bone Season. If anyone can recommend any dystopian literature, please do – I'd love to take a look.
Anyway, back to editing for the evening. Possibly with a nice cup of tea. Do ask more questions if your interest is tickled.