It's the summer holiday and I have been using that time to try and catch up on my reading among other things. I haven't read as much as I would have liked to this year, shame on me! A writer if first and foremost a reader.
I am pleased to say that I have been doing well so far: four Agatha Christie stories (I have a set of Christie's books which until two days ago I thought was complete, but it looks like I am missing a story or two... damn!) - very handy to find inspiration for my fourth novel Hell Lane; I have also read two Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes novels (still trying to catch up, still two to go to be up to date!). If you do not know this fantastic series by Laurie R. King, I urge you to read them. You start and you just cannot stop reading. If you are a TV producer, turn them into a TV series, please!
At the moment, I am immensely enjoying a book I've been meaning to read for a long time: Love, Nina, by Nina Stibbe. I just cannot put it down.
This is the kind of book I shouldn't like, really: I am not interested in books about family/domestic life and I don't care for epistolary novels. But the short dialogues and Nina's observations are sharp and delicious, and whilst reading this book, I am reminded of several things: how snobbish I was as a kid and later on, as a teenager - extremely serious, bookish and arty. I was mostly on my own or with adults as I found people my own age incredibly boring and immature. Nobody had the same interests as me (books, English and American classic cinema, literature, art, theatre...).
I never read books for children/Young Adults after the age of 8 or 9 - I read "proper" books, you know, the ones for grown ups. And I dreamt of having a family like the one in this book: I wished my parents had been London-dwelling intellectuals with a mad old house full of eccentric creatives. I fancied having bonkers arty grand-parents who might have lived in a dilapidated mansion full of dusty books and cracked paintings somewhere deep in the English countryside.
Needless to say, this was far from being the case!
So reading about the goings-on in this North London house is simply immensely pleasurable!
In addition, in the book, Nina is studying English and American literature (which I did for five years). Here again, I am reminded of my own unfinished business: a few years ago, I started thinking about going back to university to do an MA then PhD in English literature to become a university lecturer/researcher - something I'd do in a flash if only I had the financial means! I miss the intellectual demands of this kind of environment...
Two years ago, Love, Nina was made into a wonderful TV drama (with a terrific performance by the always watchable Helena Bonham-Carter as MK) - do try and watch it if you can, it is a very faithful version of the book!
Reading so much this summer has slowly started to have an effect on what can only be called my writer's block.
I haven't worked on my third novel, The Right Place, for about two years, bar the occasional glance at the contents of a folder. I think about it everyday, though, as I drive past St Catherine's chapel and around the Dorset countryside, both important elements of the novel.
Ironically, in the meantime, I have moved to the area where the novel is set - but one has to pay the bills and I have been obliged to push the writing to one side. I keep re-doing my publishing schedule for this book, which is no mean feat as I never know when I am going to be able to work on the book - and this situation is not about to change any time soon... So at the moment, the pub date for The Right Place has been pushed back yet again to... November 2020 (unless I find gold somewhere in the Dorset countryside).
This is incredibly frustrating, especially as I keep getting ideas for my fourth novel, Hell Lane, and can't wait to get started properly on it!
I think therefore I write.
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