The Loneliness of the Long Distance Writer

Nicola Monaghan's news, events and general thoughts about life and writing.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Dark blog

You may have noticed that I sent this blog dark some time ago. I never really announced it, but for various reasons, I decided to move elsewhere and do other stuff. I'm still blogging here, if you're interested.

Thanks for reading :)

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner the play, 2012

Not the play of the blog (what would that be like, I wonder?) but the short story that inspired its title.

I went to see the latest version of the Alan Sillitoe classic from his first collection, which has recently been adapted for the stage and was on at the Nottingham Playhouse. The playwright, Roy Williams, has brought the story bang up to date. It's set in London and the main character is still Colin but this time, Co-lin (like Powell) is black. The play encapsulates the riots, soundbites from David Cameron, the crackdown on petty crime and brings the story bang up to date. As with so much of what Sillitoe wrote, the issues he explpres feel just as relevant today as they ever were.

The production was very ambitious. This is the second performance I've been to recently at the Playhouse and I'm impressed with the way they are using new technology, particularly projection, to enhance the action on stage. It works really well. The set was fantastic, with huge screen as the back drop, and a working treadmill. Actors worked like memories behind the screen then joined the foreground at key moments. The script too was incredibly well written, managing to remain true to the original and yet become its own thing.

One minor gripe was that an electrical fault caused problems with the sound of the treadmill from time to time, but this seemed to be sorted out later in the evening. There was also no interval, which made it a long time to sit and watch, although I could see the sense of that because of the nature of the story.

The acting was great throughout, so good that I found myself getting lost in the characters and forgetting they were not real, a feat I usually find very difficult in the contrived situation of a theatre. I was particularly impressed with the lead actor, though, Elliot Barnes-Worrell. Not only was his acting flawless but he had the added difficulty of spending half the play on the treadmill, properly running, as well as projecting his voice over the audience as he ran. It was a part that he would have needed to train for, as well as learn his lines and rehearse. He did brilliantly.

Overall, I really loved it. Alan Sillitoe mentioned more than once, when I saw him speak at events, that the long distance running was a metaphor for the life of a writer. (Which is another thing that inspired this blog.) I think I felt that more than ever at the end of this play and it felt very inspiring. Lots of good words about not letting other people carve out the path they want for you, going your own way. Sillitoe's story and themes were there throughout but, at the end, as Colin stood and told us to be sure to go our own way, and that you are the one person you can rely on, in the end, it was almost as if the man himself was back in the room with us.

There are more reviews online here  and here. And you can find out about the production at the Playhouse here.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Emma Shortt: A Book in a Week

Since my blog tour, I've been pretty blogged out, and I'm just finding time to do anything at all after the return of my students from the holiday. Meanwhile, I'm actually hosting a guest today. Emma Shortt, who writes romance of all kinds. Including the currently very hot erotic romance, in more ways than one...

Here, Emma writes about writing quickly, something you may remember I talked about here. It's a very interesting topic area, especially with November just around the corner. 

Emma's new book is called Paying her Debt, and is available on amazon here.  Over to Emma....

A Book in a Week

I wrote Paying her Debt, my erotic, contemporary romance, in a week. Yep, a week.

It came to me in a flash of inspiration and I knew I had to get the story down as soon as possible. So I sat at my computer and I just did not stop writing. Well, okay there were food and toilet breaks but other than that the family were ignored, the house fell apart around my ears and even whilst I slept the plot invaded my dreams.  

Now I’m quite a prolific writer, less than 25,000 words a week and I feel like I’ve slacked off, but this was something else altogether. If I could bottle the energy I felt in that week I’d be well...writing a book a week!

Paying her Debt has been described as an old fashioned romance with some pretty modern erotic elements and I hoped that it would be my first bestseller for Evernight (one of my two publishers). Up until then I’d had a few paranormal romances published but whilst they’d done okay they weren’t setting anything on fire. Paying her Debt did.

It sold more books than anything I’d published before combined and as I watched the sales figures tally up I couldn’t help but think that yes! I would write a book a week.  Goodbye evil day job, hello full time writing.

Only it doesn’t work like that.

I’ve never again been able to create an entire, fully edited book in such a short time. I’ve come close. On one very memorable day I wrote 15,763 words. Those words were the ending for my post-apocalyptic romance, Waking up Dead (coming late 2013 from Entangled Publishing), and I was ill for days afterwards. But a book in a week – nope it has never happened. I’ve thought about this a lot and tried to work out why I can’t recreate the energy I had in that week and I’ve come to two conclusions. Firstly at that point in my career I was so desperate for something to sell well that I was spurred on to the point of madness, secondly I had a storyline come to me from nowhere - fully formed - and I sort of wanted to write it so I could read it...does that make sense? Of course these reasons don’t help me to do the whole thing over again, but it is fun to wonder! I’d love to hear from anyone else who has managed to write a book in such a short space of time. Where did you get your energy? Can you recreate the process?

And if you’d like to read the product of my week of madness it is on sale right now for just 99 cents at I’d be thrilled if you’d check it out. Just imagine if I made the Amazon best seller lists with it! It might even spur me on to try for a five day never know!

Happy reading,

Emma x 

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Possessed on tour....

What goes on tour, stays on tour, lads often say when on stag weekends. Well, I'm not sure that I approve of that. And I thought I'd pop back, say hello, and keep you updated as to where I've been so far.

I had the pleasure of visiting the lovely Megan Taylor on Saturday, where I talked about what drew me to the supernatural. Then it was off to the Beleaguered Squirrel, who came up with some fantastic interview questions over on her blog. Finally, today I'm talking to Tania Hershman about places, and how they influence what I write about. I'd like to take a moment to thanks all these wonderful bloggers, and also to mention what good writers they are, and recommend their books!

The next stop is Cally Taylor, where I'll be giving a few tips on writing suspense. More to come next week so watch this space, or twitter/facebook for more...

Saturday, 14 July 2012

And we're off....

The blog tour for my soon to be released ebook Possessed has begun, with a stop at the blog of the lovely Megan Taylor. We've enjoyed discussing our spooky coincidences over the last couple of years. Megan moved to Nottingham after studying with one of my very best friends in the world on the remote MA at Manchester Metropolitan University. Then, last year, we found we were writing very different books with very similar themes. The Scottish Highlands, ghosts, lochs, and unreliable narrators. In fact, both books had the title 'The Loch House' cited for them at some point.

I talk a little about synchronicity in the post I've written for her. It seems to follow me around. In fact, I'd never get away with writing about the things that have happened to me if I tried to put them in a book! 

Megan's website is here, and my guest post is here. You can find out more about The Lives of Ghosts here

Monday, 9 July 2012

The best thing I've done in ages...

Okay, folks, here's an exclusive for you. You heard it here first. The guaranteed, 100% recipe to bring me close to tears. Works every time...

Take one group of year 6 children from my local primary school, have them do a load of stuff that they're really proud of, then make them stand up and sing (very proficiently) So Strong. I am choking up again as I think about it now.

The cruel people who did this to me last week were the staff at Rosslyn Park Primary School. They invited me to come and work with Year 6 on their Aspirations project. I was to work with a group of writers to produce a script. There would be other groups working on filming and directing it later in the week, a team of reporters to talk to members of staff, local people about their memories and thoughts about jobs and ambition. Every child would produce a poster about his or her aspiration and have their picture taken by the photography team. Everyone in the year would have a role and, at the end of the week, there would be a showcase of the work.

I spent two days working with the writing team on a script. In fact, they were so efficient that we had time for editing, for other students to research locations and a couple to start storyboarding the screenplay. I was so impressed. With their imagination. With their ambition. And with their literacy skills and some of the nuances of language and visual storytelling they understood.

On Friday afternoon, I was back in the school for the showcase. Roll singing children and me with a great big lump in my throat.

There's a lot of negativity towards kids, especially estate kids, in tracksuits and hoodies. There are loads of reasons for this and it's outside the scope of this blog post to explore but I'd strongly suggest to anyone wondering that they read this book. What I will say is that energy can be focused in the right direction by very gentle (if insistent) force.

And that this feels like the most important bit of work I've done in a very long time...

Saturday, 23 June 2012

22.11.63, time travel and paradoxes

It's no secret that I'm a big fan of Stephen King. I think Carrie is a stunning debut novel and a fantastic concept, IT scared me so much I couldn't sleep and I believe The Shining is one of the best examples of storytelling in the English language. 22.11.63 is a total change of direction for the horror writer but then, so was the Shawshank Redemption and look how that turned out. A great storyteller should be able to turn his or her hand to any kind of story, I reckon. I devoured his time slip story and could hardly put it down.

I was thinking about 22.11.63 this morning and chatting to The Good Husband about time travel and paradoxes. King's clearly thought hard about this side of the story and come up with some clever counters. We've probably all heard of the Grandfather Paradox; ie the idea that, if you could travel back in time, you could kill your own Granddad, thereby erasing yourself from existence. Stephen Hawking took this a step further in his Into the Universe series, describing seeing yourself down a worm hole through time and shooting a gun... King's counter to this is pragmatic - Yes, you could kill your granddad but why would you? In a sense, this is the only place the logic of the book falls down for me because there would always be someone who would, just because they could, in order to set off the paradox and see what happened.

In fact, there's a wider problem with this solution to the paradox because the Grandfather Paradox and even Hawking's picture of the bullet down the wormhole, both are massive simplifications. Everything is causal. You go back and change anything at all, even stand on and kill an insect, you change the world completely. Here's an example. If I had a time machine and looked back at history, I might decide that the First World War was an abomination, which it no doubt was. Over 15 million deaths and 20 million casualties. A sickening example of the price of human conflict. So I might decide to go back and stop the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand or summat, and take out some of the aggressive European leaders, and stop the whole thing in its tracks.

In kicks The Grandfather paradox, see. The thing that I might not know (except that I do because of my sister's recent work on our family tree) is that, without the First World War, I would not exist. My Grandfather was the product of his mother's second marriage. My great grandma, Elizabeth Goodwin, was widowed when her husband, Frank Morton Boot (there's a good ode Nottinum name for yer), died in Flanders. So, whilst I wouldn't be killing my granddad by stopping the war, I would be effectively preventing his existence too, and hence my own. It's all a bit mindblowing if you think about it too hard. This flies in the face of King's solution in a number of ways. There are so many unlikely things that have to happen for any one of us to come into being that changing anything would change the population of the world completely. And hence, risk the chance of destroying our own conception. And, besides that, without the emotional punch of actually having to shoot our own Granddad, we might just decide that it's worth it to save all of those people. We might go ahead and risk the paradox anyway.

More compelling in King's world of time slip, is his invention of the 'obdurate past'. ie You can change history but history doesn't like it and will fight you. In King's story, in order to make any significant change, you pretty well almost die trying. I like this idea and it's one I could go for more. Like my husband suggested; if you did manage to kill your Granddad, you'd probably find out he wasn't there at your mum's or dad's conception after all... In fact, some of the issues with the consequences of changing the past do play out in King's novel but I won't say too much; no spoilers.

Whilst the logic of King's story didn't entirely hold for me, I was happy to suspend my disbelief. It got me to thinking about suspension of disbelief and where that comes from. Common wisdom is that it's to do with consistency of the world and it playing by its own rules but I'm not sure that entirely happens in this book. What I decided, in the end, was that it was because I was rooting for the characters and enjoying the story. I was prepared to leave the science behind me because I wanted to know what happened. So, I think it was about the power of the storytelling, in the end.

King says he'll never write another time slip novel because of the perils of trying to keep everything properly consistent between the timelines. I know this should put me off but it doesn't - it fires me up to have a crack at one myself! I'm not sure a writer has done anything that original with this concept for a while, although I'd be happy to be corrected on that, and to be pointed to books that have. I quite enjoy having my head twisted by these things.