June 13th

ARTISTS AND SPIES: a novel

Last Friday I managed to finally publish my debut novel. I went down the independent route and it has been quite a straightforward process. And I’ve learnt a lot along the way, about layout and covers, as well as about the discipline of self-editing. It’s certainly not like marking essays or exam papers, and I wouldn’t want to do it for a living.

I much prefer the creative writing part of the process, as I suppose you’d expect, but even so, it’s still satisfying to see this thing in print in front of you, and know that it is all your own. So continuing the theme of self help, I’m now self promoting. If you would like to see my Pinterest board called ‘Artists and Spies Visualised’, you will get a flavour of the people and places mentioned in the novel, as well as seeing some images of significant objects which appear in its pages. After that, I’d be very happy if you would like to download a copy of the novel for your kindle/ e-reader available on Amazon, free until Sunday afternoon. Enjoy.

7th June

My Rules for Writing.

I have read many words of advice about where to start, and that first rule, ‘Always write about what you know’ seemed to be a good place. So what did I know? At the start, not much, not enough. I was worried that I would never write something of a serious length before running out of ideas and inspiration. So I just kept reading.

In ‘About’ I’ve written about what started me off on my quest to be a writer. So if I’m going to blame anyone, it will have to be Hyacinthe Rigaud, painter to Louis XlV, and eponymous hero of the museum in Perpignan, France. And at the start, I knew very little about him. Three years ago, I had seen a flyer for the museum in a hotel lobby, and he stared out at me from the artwork. I hoped to visit one day, and then got the opportunity in January 2020.

After the visit, I knew what I wanted to write about, but I also knew I had to find out more. It wasn’t that easy, given that some of the sources were written in French, and others were lengthy. In any event, by the time I had read everything I could get my hands on, I had the inkling of an idea. I didn’t want to do a life story – that had been covered already. I wanted to write fiction, a novel which used Rigaud’s history as a start. After that, I would take up a group of characters and go with them.

Along the way, I discovered that there are all sorts of ways to put off writing. For a start I am a big fan of fountain pens and inks, so despite the fact that I knew I was going to write on a computer, I waited until a new notebook (hardback, squared paper, pen loop, pocket at the back) arrived. Then I could transfer notes on scrappy pieces of paper into this lovely thing, and be organised. The notebook – a glorious thing to write in with my Sailor Pro Gear Slim. The pen makes you work hard to write a beautiful script. But I eventually knuckled down and wrote, and wrote. Then I walked away from it for weeks, and did other things.

I read somewhere quite recently that what I did was actually the best thing I could have done. So phew.

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