I am absolutely astonished to find myself even contemplating writing a blog. Not because I don't actually want to, I am very intrigued by the idea, but because I am the most un-technological person in the whole world and most machines and whatever I do on them just don't work. . I only have to look at a machine for it to go wrong; once I was taking part in a quiz on the radio at Broadcasting House, and I had to press a buzzer when I thought I had the right answer. I managed to fuse not only my buzzer, but everyone else's as well; the whole programme was brought to a halt (luckily it was being recorded, but it was in front of an audience who found it very amusing) while mechanics were summoned and so on. The one who finally fixed it said he had never known it happen before.... Another time I fused the entire electrical system in the hotel I was staying in, when I plugged in my hairstyler to the wrong plug; and I can no more make my fax machine work than fly to the moon. It just sits there refusing steadfastly to "send", just flashing lights and whirring crossly, in spite of being serviced countless times, and my husband directing faxes on the self-same machine with great success. I am only a fairly recent convert to e.mail (although I do love it dearly and spend much too much time on it, like most of the rest of us) and get in a fearful state when I get messages on my Facebook page as I get mixed up with "comment" and "share" and all that stuff, and worry about offending all the nice people who want to be my Facebook Friend.
However, I am assured this blogging business is really really easy; if you ever get to read it, however, you will know some kind of small (or possibly large) miracle has taken place.
I am writing this from the cottage in Wales where my husband and I spend as much time as we can; it is in the most beautiful place imaginable (well we think so) on the Gower Peninsula and as I sit here, in the room which contains not only my desk, but bunk beds for visiting children --nothing grand about it at all, you see-- I am looking across some fields, then some sand dunes and then the sea. The whole family (four daughters, assorted husbands and partners and grandchildren) love it too; my favourite occasions in the whole year are when we are all--or most of us-- here together, for things like birthdays. Or indeed as happened in June, when Daughter Number Three got married down here in Wales; it was absolutely wonderful, one of the loveliest days of the year, we had a marquee in the garden, and as the sun went down, the bride and groom and most of the guests went to the beach and the bride went for a paddle in her wedding dress. )
It all felt very flat afterwards, especially as Daughter Number One and her family went back to Australia where they all live; very fortunately I was booked on a promotional tour of South Africa, which kind of bounced me up again. It is the most beautiful, friendly, magical country; I did a whistle -stop tour beginning in Johannesburg, moving on to Durban and then down to Cape Town. Cape Town is a particularly lovely city and I stayed in a hotel called the Cape Grace, which was not only incredibly luxurious (I was extremely spoilt) but overlooked both the harbour and Table Mountain. I spoke at lunches and dinners, on the radio and TV and of course in bookshops and signed books till my arm ached, and loved every minute of it. I always do; I've toured in Australia, New Zealand and the States and always have a wonderful time, it's an immensely privileged thing to be able to do, and you get much more of a feel for what a country is like than just being a tourist.
It's when I go some where like that that I am struck how extraordinarily far-reaching writing is. I sit in my study for a year, all alone, creating characters and plots and so on, spinning them all out of my head; and then suddenly, I'm thousands and thousands of miles away, discussing why so and so did such and such in a book, arguing about it in great detail, with a great many people I've (obviously) never met before.
People feel very strongly about what happens in the books, and often take me to task for it; I was once giving a talk at a ladies' luncheon in London and it was all going rather well I thought, when someone suddenly stood up and said, sounding really angry, "why did you let Barty die?" (Barty is one of the main characters in my trilogy about the Lyttons, a publishing dynasty in the first fifty years of the last century). I do try to explain that for the most part I don't actually plan for people to die, or fall in love, or whatever, they just do, it's part of the writing process and it's all to do with characters developing lives of their own, but it doesn't always satisfy as an explanation!.
This time the book was The Best of Times, published over there a bit later than in England; it was, as I am on record as saying many times, just about the hardest book I've ever written, probably because the main event in the book took place on Page One. Hard to keep up the excitement after that. I came pretty near to hating that book at times; now I look at it of course and wonder how I could have found it so difficult (bit like writing emails perhaps!)
People are always wanting to know which is my favourite book and I always answer (truthfully) that I don't have one, I find it impossible to choose. I only know it's certainly never the one that I'm writing at the time. Unless it's page one, or even chapter one, which is incredibly exciting, and ~I know the whole book will just write itself. Problems kick in pretty quickly after that...
The rest of this summer we are planning to spend here, having people to stay and walking on the cliffs and beaches, maybe surfing a bit if it gets warm enough (it has to be very warm, even in a wetsuit) and--getting on with the new book.Which has already passed the easy stage.
This has been fun; I shall hope you get to read it; and I shall write another one soon!