This weekend, we went back to lovely Whitstable to attend an event at the first WhitLit, the Whitstable Literary Festival. It is a shame that we couldn't stay over for the whole weekend, as there were quite a few interesting events. Then on the day we decided to attend, we had to choose between two events that fatefully took place at the same time in two different places in town.
So I opted for the talk on British Gothic (one of my fave subjects) with one of my favourite contemporary writers, Christopher Fowler, over the one about two of my favourite classic authors (namely Charles Dickens and most of all Wilkie Collins, whose work has inspired my second novel, The Book of Thoth).
I have written about Whitstable before on this blog, HERE and HERE. My partner Matt ArtPix also posted a lovely blog about the place two years ago, you can read it HERE.
We adore the architecture around the town, and there definitely is an atmosphere...
So yes, we are big fans and we will most certainly go back. Yesterday, there seemed to be even more interesting shops than the last time we were there. This is what a high street should look like: all the shops (or very nearly) taken up, mostly by independent businesses which have kept the uniqueness of the interior of the buildings they now occupy.
We spent a while in the fabulous Oxford Street Books, a treasure trove that had me virtually drooling. Whilst in the basement, a young couple wandered in. I didn't pay attention to them at all until the girl said - with a very bored tone of voice "Why don't you just get your books off the Internet?" (i.e Amazon); I almost SCREAMED. She did look bored. They left. The poor guy didn't even have time to browse properly! Their loss. We on the other end took our time.
In the shop, there was a signed copy of the first and only edition of The Bois Saga written by local VIP resident Peter Cushing. It was £195.00, of course... and no, I didn't buy it! There is an ebay listing for it HERE with a lovely and rather poignant write-up.
We also paid a visit to Harbour Books, the local independent bookstore and associate of the WhitLit festival. I bought a Dorothy Parker poster in there... oops.
As part of the WhitLit festival, a second-hand books event had been organised at All Saint's Church Hall. You just have to say "second-hand books" for me to come running. And there was a tea room as well, which was perfect after so much walking around! I was amazed: people literally bought PILES of books! It was so wonderful to see!
I got my hands on a wonderful little book called Gobbolino, The Witch's Cat by Ursula Moray Williams (written in 1942, this edition 1966). It's cute, and I am going to read it, because, hey, it's got witches and cats in it!
I also rescued the lady above from a charity shop. Isn't she just handsome? I can feel a book coming with her as the heroine.
In the evening, we attended a talk about British Gothic at the Horsebridge centre as part of the WhitLit festival.
The two speakers were Christopher Fowler, a favourite of mine - I encourage you to read his very entertaining and above all informative blog, which he updates daily. I try and read all his posts as I always learn so much about cinema and books! Chris was also one of the speakers at the week-long "Culture Lab: on Writing Fiction" I attended in Southend in October 2012. I have been reading his books since the late 90s, but I really struggle to catch up as he is so incredibly prolific (I am genuinely in awe of this, as I am such a slow writer...)
The second speaker was the very knowledgeable Barry Forshaw, writer and journalist and Vice Chair of the Crime Writers' association, who has a brand new book out about British Gothic cinema.
The discussion - introduced by David Sutton, editor of Fortean Times - was simply fascinating, and one hour wasn't long enough. We could have sat there until midnight without getting bored. The two entertaining speakers swapped ideas, opinions and anecdotes about Gothic cinema, literature and characters. It really was a delight to listen to these two experts describing encounters with the greats of British Gothic cinema (Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee), taking us on a journey from the beginning of the genre to the special effects-saturated movies of current times and Hammer's resurrection. At random, a few things that got mentioned: Dracula, Frankenstein, MR James, Mary Shelley, Ingrid Pitt, lesbians, The Innocents, Hammer Films, Bela Lugosi, sets being reused again and again for different films, Carry On Screaming, Mr Fowler's Bryant and May series... and so many other things!
We then had a few things signed... Of course, I had to get the latest in the Bryant and May series, I can't wait to start reading it!
Afterwards, we decided to hang around in the cafeteria for a bit with some nice hot drinks, whilst the venue was getting readied for the next talk of the evening.
Sitting by the floor to ceiling glass doors leading onto the terrace and looking down at the town outside, we admitted that we didn't really want to go home and that yes, we could see ourselves live in Whitstable...
My second book, The Book of Thoth, is inspired by the classic genre of the Gothic novel. Before I started, I printed a few documents listing the characteristics needed for a story to classify for the "Gothic novel" tag.
I've regularly had a look at the list of conventions pinned onto my noticeboard as I planned and wrote TBOT. Let's count, shall we?
OK, so here they are:
--wild landscapes (Kind of, does the Somerset countryside count?)
--remote or exotic locales (Does Somerset qualify? Oh, hang on, I mention Egypt. Is that ok?)
--dimly lit, gloomy settings (There's plenty of those in TBOT!)
--ruins or isolated crumbling castles or mansions (later cities and houses) (Yes, yes, and yes)
--crypts, tombs (Oh, yes! An Egyptian-style mausoleum and a sarcophagus)
--dungeons, torture chambers (Well, there's a tower. No torture, though...)
--dark towers, hidden rooms (Tower? Check. Hidden rooms? Dozens...)
--secret corridors/passageways (Loads)
--dream states or nightmares (YES!)
--found manuscripts or artifacts (CHECK!)
--ancestral curses (Yes, a terrifying Ancient Egyptian one!)
--family secrets (Indeed)
--damsels in distress (Two. Hang on, one is a flapper, so not in distress at all!)
--marvellous or mysterious creatures, monsters, spirits, or strangers (Of course!)
--enigmatic figures with supernatural powers (YES! Several ones!)
--scientific tone (fantastic events observed empirically) (TICK. A rational character, and a scientist and scholar, although the latter is also an alchemist)
--specific reference to noon, midnight, twilight (the witching hours) (All the time!)
--use of traditionally "magical" numbers such as 3, 7, 13 (NO! oops!)
--unnatural acts of nature (blood-red moon, sudden fierce wind, etc.) (YES, quite a few!)
OK, so only one convention that doesn't appear in my novel. Not bad, eh?
But maybe I should double-check... The Guardian Books has just posted a fun little guide to the Gothic Novel.
So if you'll excuse me, I am off to check whether The Book of Thoth definitively fits the genre!
Tomorrow, I am off to the Whitstable Literary festival to attend their event "British Gothic: a macabre evening with Christopher Fowler and Barry Forshaw".
I'm very busy these days. Things are moving fast and a lot needs to be done. I am just glad freelance work has dried up this month so I can get on with stuff (Ok, no money in, but we won't panic just yet!).
I still need to promote Book 1, I Am a Muse, and my imprint and bookselling venture, Arcane Publishing. More on that later this week I hope, I am waiting for something to come in to share it with you on this blog.
I should also be able to tell you more about some forthcoming events and ideas! Watch this space...
By the way, talking about I Am a Muse: Steve Pottinger, the poet and publisher who created the independent imprint Ignite Books and who so generously shared publishing tips with me and typeset I Am a Muse last year, is on the BBC news website because of a letter he had written to Caffe Nero about their tax-evasion tactics (someone has done some research about it, see the results HERE). Steve is a very passionate and eloquent speaker who deserves your attention. He will be appearing at quite a few events over the next few months, so try to go and see him! All dates HERE.
The manuscript of book number 2, The Book of Thoth, is now finished. Draft 4 was completed yesterday and I am giving it a quick once-over this afternoon. I am quite pleased with it, it is definitively the book I wanted to write. I could probably fiddle with it for another six months or so but time is running out: publication date is December 2014 and I would like to have the freshly printed books piled up in my lounge by the end of September latest.
The manuscript is now going to Matt ArtPix who will be designing the cover and typesetting the whole book. No pressure, then!
I am now turning my attention once more to The Right Place, which will be book number 3. I wrote the opening chapter during my week-long Culture Lab "On Writing Fiction" at Metal in October 2012 and read an updated version of it at the Shorelines literary festival last November.
Now is time to start the next phase of my research: I need to build up the back story, plan the plot, etc. Unfortunately, my Arcane Publishing funds are severely depleted and will be even more so once The Book of Thoth has been printed (it is a big book!).
I hope to find a solution to this state of affairs in the forthcoming months and keep the ball rolling!
I love using boards. I pin anything I think will help me put the book together: pictures, notes, postcards, maps, ideas, etc. The one I have for The Right Place only has the two pictures above on it; I pinned them this morning. The images come from The Sunday Times Magazine's Spectrum section. They are part of Italian photographer Marina Rosso's project "The Beautiful Gene". Kat Moorhouse, one of the main characters, is a red-haired girl. I'd like to inject a bit of Pre-Raphaelite beauty into the book...
Another character in The Right Place will be the Dorset landscape and its relationship with the people who inhabit it. The book might not feature any straightforward supernatural phenomenon like The Book of Thoth, but the mythical and mystical qualities of the countryside there will definitively have a strong influence on the story.
I cannot wait to get started!
I know, I know...
I am still working on the editing of Book number two, I have written only one chapter of Book number three and I haven't really done any work at all on Book number four...
And then up pops the idea for Book number five!
After an animated conversation in the car with Matt ArtPix - those pesky creative couples, always bouncing ideas off each other all the time! - whilst on our way back from Devon, here's what I have come up with: a Hound of The Baskervilles-inspired vintage mystery set on moody Exmoor, with a rural detective named Barton Stacey - it is the name of a parish in Hampshire. When my partner saw it on the map, he decided here and there that it was the perfect name for a detective! I have no idea whatsoever whether I can pull it off or not. I want it to be a bit outrageous, a bit humorous (can I do humour?) and we'll have a cover inspired by vintage classic detective novels...
I have my work schedule sorted for the next ten years, I think!
I have just uploaded a new extract of The Book of Thoth to the BOOK'S PAGE. It is not the same one as the previous extract; I have chosen the section in which Adam and Dimitri discover Vangelis Chronos's secret laboratory... Enjoy!
I know that after having blogged quite a lot over the past few weeks, it's all gone quiet. This doesn't mean nothing is happening backstage!
I am working on one or two things to do with The Book of Thoth but won't put any detail on here - if I pull this off, then I'll blog about it, if not then I'll keep quiet...
In the meantime, as I have mentioned before, Arcane Publishing and Matt ArtPix are taking a break from fairs and markets. We need to think our promotional strategy through and decide what our next move is going to be!
My partner in crime (and everything else!) Matt ArtPix is working on a new series of images, Southend postcards... He regularly posts updates about the designs, so head to his blog to read more about it!
Whilst editing, I am listening to the NO DEAD SEAS: NO RED SEAS VOL II compilation which you can purchase HERE.
Compiled and conceived by musicians Lesley Malone and Caroline Jago, the compilation features artists from eleven countries.
This compilation has been put together in support of the fight against over-fishing and it raises awareness of the urgent need to protect our oceans and their wildlife. This is an incredibly atmospheric, beautiful and inspiring compilation, and its mood is absolutely perfect as a background for the editing of my novel!
I have almost finished Draft 2 of The Book of Thoth. Draft 2 should be finished by the end of this week.
Next step for me is the re-read everything from the first to the last page without making any corrections, to check whether the narrative flows, whether the story is easy to follow and makes sense...
The Book of Thoth is a Gothic novel inspired by Wilkie Collins's work, and therefore it is not meant to be scary, but rather atmospheric and mysterious.
I have been thinking about it for a while... Now, I have decided to actually act upon it!
I would like to start posting on this very website interviews with authors and publishers: about their inspiration, their writing processes, how they self-published (for self-published writers) or their journey towards traditional publication for those lucky enough - or not! - to have been snapped up by an agent/traditional publisher, how they set up their publishing company (for indie publishers), etc. It will be very much focused on their current and future work.
I will try and keep the articles short enough to be read online - I personally cannot read long texts on a screen and need them to be printed!
What I have in mind is to do email interviews with people who are not your "traditional" writers/publishers, but people whose road to publication has been a little bit different.
I am also interested in people I consider more interesting than your average writer; most certainly not the "Oxbridge/MA in creative writing/bestselling writer" journey to being published.
I will be honest, it will be based on my personal taste, as I want to interview people whose books I have actually read - and I do not read books I don't want to read.
There won't be any literary stars here - only potential future ones -although if I could get Michel Faber to answer a few questions, I would be over the moon!
I was going to post them as blogs, but I think those will require their own section on the website, so I might fiddle a bit with the structure of missgish.com when I am ready to post the first interview.
I am happy to say that so far, the three people I have contacted have expressed an interest, so thank you to them.
I hope to start the series in the spring, hopefully the first interview will be available by the end of March. I might post one every month or two months, depending on people's (and my own) availability.
I already have a few more people to contact and add to my list!
Matt ArtPix has been hard at work on the style sheet for The Book of Thoth.
We still have a few things to sort out, but it is looking good... I love it!
More to come soon...
I think therefore I write.
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