Quote of the week

Okay, so I’ve never had a quote of the week before. But I like the following so much, it might be worth starting the tradition.

Stephen Romei, in the Weekend Australian Review, included this quote from Australian author Debra Adelaide (writing in Newswrite, the NSW Writers Centre journal) in the Feb 18-19 edition:

‘Writing is hard work: frustration, dead ends and above all failure, failure and more failure, until you arrive at the final form and none of this changes with genre.’

Romei then points out Ms Adelaide goes on to say that when writing is good it ‘makes the result seem fluid and effortless, as if the story is warm honey the author has poured out in a single act, but which also makes us feel the work is written for us alone’.

I like this for a couple of reasons: first, it acknowledges how much effort goes into making writing look effortless; and second, it acknowledges that the same frustrations exist for the genre writer as the literary one.

I love my Kindle…mostly

I’ve had my Kindle for a while now. Mostly, it’s been sunshine and roses, but there’s been the odd occasion when the clouds came over and I questioned our relationship.
Like the time I charged the Kindle on my laptop, not realising it wasn’t plugged in. The battery drained and I couldn’t get it to start again. (After much googling and searching Amazon Help, I finally worked out what to do and all was soon right with the world again).

Then there was the time last week when my Whispernet wi-fi connection inexplicably stopped working. My panic only subsided when I worked out I could still buy online and upload from laptop to the Kindle. (The wi-fi kicked back in two days late, also inexplicable. But I’m not looking a gift horse in the mouth).

Of the books I read, around 40 per cent are on the Kindle. I still love the feel of a hard cover or paperpack book and will always buy a “real” version of books I love.

So, anyway, here are my pros and cons of owning an e-reader (in no particular order).

Pros
–       I always have at least three unread books in my handbag at any one time (not to mention dozens I may want to read again), with the capacity to have 3,000.
–       My Kindle is so slim it takes up virtually no room – in any bag.
–       Ebooks are an inexpensive way to discover new authors.
–       I can read novels with daggy covers and not be self conscious in public (I love paranormal stories, but even the best can have dodgy covers).
–       I can take as many books away with me as I want without having to negotiate suitcase space with my husband.
–       I can hear about a book and have it at my fingertips in less than two minutes.
–       I read in the sun without glare on the screen (not sure if all e-readers have this, but Kindle definitely does).
–       I can buy books not available yet in Australia.
Cons
–       You can’t use an e-reader on a plane during take off/landing.
–       Mild panic sets in when the wireless connection doesn’t work…or the battery has gone flat.
–       I can’t flick to the end and skim pages to check if a certain character is still around/alive
–       I can’t appreciate beautiful covers, or keep referencing the cover for mood or the back for clues about the story.
–       I can’t lend ebooks to my friends.
–       I don’t get the buzz of going into a book store.
–       I can hear about a book and have it at my fingertips in less than two minutes (Much like using social media, ebook buying should be avoided after more than two glasses of wine.)

Anyone else have thoughts on the subject of e-readers?

Some thoughts on favourite storytellers

Most writers are also avid readers. A love for telling stories tends to grow from reading them – just check out any author bio and you’ll see a familiar recurring theme of a childhood spent lost in books.

I read for a lot reasons: to experience the beauty of words and powerful storytelling, to discover new places and ways of thinking, to be entertained, and – of course – to escape reality for a while.

Friends have asked me if reading other authors influences my writing. I guess on some level it must, but I like to think of it more as inspiring my writing. There are books and writers who have changed the way I think about the craft of writing, based on the way they’ve told a story.

There are a handful of books that continue to inspire me to not just want to be a good storyteller, but also a better writer. Of course, that’s a journey I’ll be on until the day I write my last word…

Anyway, I thought I would list some of the key books that have inspired me, and (briefly) why. I should point out, that my work resembles none of them… (Markus Zusak once talked about how he loved Ernest Hemingway, but Hemingway would probably hate his books; I fear Markus – one of my favourite writers – may feel the same about mine…)

Truth by Peter Temple
Temple always blows my mind with his ability to fuse literary and genre writing. And not just for his brilliant plotting and characterisation: he writes dialogue that sounds so real, it redefines ‘realism’. His prose is sparse, with a unique pace and rhythm. And Temple forces the reader to work, which makes the journey that much more rewarding when all the pieces fall into place.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Speaking of sparse prose… This is a tense, moving and heartbreaking story, and it’s made all the more powerful by the fact there are almost no adjectives in the entire story. It underscores the fact that simple prose is often the most effective (especially in a story so remarkably profound).

Life of Pi by Yann Martel
This book continues to challenge and frustrate people because of its ambiguous ending. I loved that ending. And the fact that so much more is going on with this book than what we read on the page. I had the chance to hear Martel speak at the Brisbane Writer’s Festival a few years ago, and he gave some fascinating insights into this book. I wrote about his session on Great Reads. It’s worth reading if you’re still scratching your head about the flesh-eating island…

The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien
Like millions of readers, this was the story that opened up the world of fantasy to me as a teenager. The world building was so complete and unique, I was utterly lost in the adventure. And then I picked up The Lord of the Rings…

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Beautifully written, and narrated by Death. Need I say more?

 

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
A master class in creating a sense of place, tension and mood. And just beautiful writing.

(All of the above feature on my Favourite reads page and you can find my reviews for most of them there.)

A last note: these are some of my all-time favourite books, but it’s by no means an exhaustive list. There are many others I love as a reader. These are just a few that also deeply impress me as a writer.

Adventures in writing and editing

If you’ve read my last few posts, you  may get the impression that all I do is read a lot… So I thought I should give a quick update of where I’m at with my own writing/editing.

Shadows: I’m in the midst of an intensive line editing process with my wonderful and patient editor at Text. This process is all about tightening and polishing the prose and making this book as good as it can possibly be. It’s exciting – and challenging. (One day, I may post about my existential crisis over a poinciana tree…).

Book 2: I’m going back over the 70,000 words I’ve already got down, doing a bit of pre-emptive tightening (as per above) and will then keep pounding out the first draft. I’m hoping to have something to my small (but enthusiastic) reading group in a few months.

It’s probably not ideal to be jumping between the two books, but it’s actually helpful for characterisation (and plot tracking).

Slightly off-topic, I had a great moment yesterday on Book 2…  I was reading back over a chapter I hadn’t looked at for a few months. In it, one of my main characters disappears for a few hours (necessary for a plot development). But the whole time I’m reading it, I’m thinking ‘Crap, I don’t remember what he was supposed to be doing in that time he was gone…’ And I didn’t have any notes on it. But then I get to the next chapter, and discover the answer… and it works beautifully! Nice to know I knew what I was doing when I originally wrote that a few months ago…

Anyway, we’re still on track for Shadows to launch in June, and I’ll post regular updates as things progress.