27.10.09

Why do I write?

I suppose because I must. The story is in my head and I have to express it. I used to tell myself stories as a child, tell them to anyone who would listen. I'd write plays, enlist my friends to act in them and then charge other kids a penny to come and watch them.

But writing books is a solitary task. People tell me how pale I am, even though I live in Spain. You don’t get much of a tan sitting for hours on end in solitary confinement talking to your computer. Sometimes you’d rather be doing anything, anywhere, rather than sitting there staring at that blank screen. I’ve even been known to willingly get the ironing out, and a difficult bit will always find me in my stationery cupboard having a big sort out. Yet when it's going well I wouldn't want to be anywhere else.

When the story is out of your head at last, worked on, improved, polished till it shines, finished, backed up and printed out, the sensation is euphoric. Of course, that doesn’t last long, but it’s wonderful while it does. Before I was published I always imagined that seeing your book on the bookshop shelves was the most exciting part of writing. That’s not the case at all. If you see several copies sitting on the shelf in a shop, you think, oh goodness, it’s not selling. If you see none at all, you think they aren’t stocking it. It’s a no-win situation. The greatest satisfaction comes from actually writing the thing, dispatching the manuscript to the publisher, and starting on the next, always with that special nub of excitement that you experience at the start of every new story. I can’t think of any better way of spending my time.

25.10.09

Is the book dead?
Throughout September and October I’ve been engrossed writing the first part of my work in progress, which is a sequel to House of Angels.
You can read a review for this latest title on Bookbag: Sadly as a result of all this dedication, or perhaps obsession is a better word, things like blogs, newsletters, websites and dinner for my lovely David all get forgotten.

We did enjoy a few days break in London which was all very bookish. I attended a couple of meetings: one with the RNA where Freya North gave a fascinating and inspirational talk, and one with the Society of Authors where it was debated whether the book was dead. Fortunately it was decided that there was still life in the analogue, battery-free book. And why not? People still listen to radio, don’t they, so why shouldn’t they go on reading real paper books, and not just e-books? It’s seriously scary though that a college in Boston is selling off and giving away their collection of books from its library, apparently to save space, and turning entirely to digital. And in California print text books are to be replaced with e-versions. Do students no longer browse along the shelves, dipping into the delights a book might offer simply out of curiosity? Do they always know what they are looking for, and can they be certain of finding it online? And do they not realise that computers and e-readers are far more environmentally unfriendly than a book made from recycled paper? Read a printed book and save the planet. How’s that for a campaign? I love the feel, the smell of books, the sight of them stacked on my bookshelves, the promise of a pile of new ones by my bed waiting to reveal their secrets. I may be tempted to buy an e-reader one day, but long may the book live. Is it just me, or do other people love the physical book best?

Best wishes, Freda

17.10.09

Whatever happened to paperbacks?

I don’t think publishers ever fly Ryanair, or Easyjet for that matter. If they did they would never produce such huge paperbacks. Have you seen them lately? They’re the size of bricks, and growing bigger by the day. How many trees have to die to produce just one? Half a rain forest I should think. What can be the reason behind this fad? Is it a competition to produce the largest tome with the fewest words? Or is it a desire to make them appear more important than those books which went before? What happened to those neat little mass market paperbacks that used to slip into my pocket or bag? I could stuff half a dozen or more into my hand luggage without any problem. Not any more. The last time I attempted to do so it cost me a small fortune in excess baggage charges. I no longer buy paperbacks by author, or even by title, but by size. Yes, I like the font to be of comfortable proportions, since I am a woman of a certain age, but surely that can be achieved in something less than the size of an aircraft hangar? I am a woman of small dimensions and these huge paperbacks also make my hands and arms ache after a very short time. And if I stretch out on my lounger in the sun, or am foolish enough to attempt to read one in bed, I can suffer mild concussion when it falls on my face as I drift off to sleep, which I do have a tendency to do. Another problem arises when it reaches my bookshelf. There will be a whole row of the author’s previous novels, all neat and perfectly formed, but sit the brick alongside and it’s like a cuckoo in a nest of swallows. It just doesn’t look right. It’s not comfortable there and I toss it out or give it to a local charity shop. Maybe I’m alone in my dislike of these things, but if there are others like me out there then surely it’s affecting the economy of bookshops. Where I used to buy half a dozen, I now can’t carry more than one, so that’s all I buy. And I’m a bookaholic for goodness sake. Am I alone in being put off by the encyclopedic size of these things?

Best wishes,
Freda