Saturday, 8 August 2009

My blog

Hi there
 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!
Penny V.


  1. Hi there! Well done for creating a blog :)
    I came across your novels this morning (about time, I know) in Exclusive Books, while browsing the first few pages of random novels, seeing what grabs me/other readers. I am excited to find someone (that would be you..) who writes similairly to me, it gives me a bit of hope, far too many books are so...intimidating..I'm 20% of the way through my first shot at a novel (which I am madly in love with at the mo). I spent the better part of the rest of the day Googling more about you, but couldn't find much at all besides the common posts & articles about your first job etc etc. I am dying to know how you started your first novel, how it went, how it felt, how long it took, how you did it with kids!! (my 6 month old keeps me SOO SOO busy I only find time to write for around 30mins a day *yawn*)
    I would LOVE it if you blogged more on how you do it, and if you have any peptalks for first timers & great-novel-writers-wannabe's :)
    Saying hi all the way from sunny South Africa

  2. I am glad you started a blog. They (blogs)are a lot of fun and a good way to network with people all over the world. Your blog also gave me a chance to personally thank you. I enjoy your writing so much. Until I bumped into the book "Angel," I always held "Gone with the Wind" up as my all-time favorite book. I fell in love with the book Angel and followed up with the rest of the series. I enjoyed them to the last page--then wished I had not read them so quickly so it wouldn't be over. (smile). I work for a publishing house myself, so felt like I was part of this wonderful adventure.

    Keep up the good work. You are a wonderful writer!


  3. I am just re-reading your catalogue..(which I love by the way) what has always struck me about your books is that you always seem to be thinking the same ideas for women in business as I have them..I am pretty entrepreneurial, and turn my hand to anything..always thinking about new businesses, making things happen etc. You write about them and I seem to be doing them, or attempting to...was amazed when you wrote about a womans club..been trying to get one off the ground for a while!! Its almost like you give my ideas away to the world!!
    Perhaps we should liase in future!
    All best
    Sophie North
    P.S. Sure you named the accountant in Dilemma after my father Desmond North

  4. Hi Penny,
    Fantastic! Also technologically impaired, but trying. Looking forward to reading all your news.
    Mariette (SA)

  5. Hi Penny,
    I have read every one of your books and love them!! I won't part with them either as it took months of searching 2nd hand bookstores to find all the copies of your earlier books.
    Now, I'm just hanging out for the next book you will have completed and out there for us.
    I loved the trilogies and would love to have the talent and time to do something on a similar basis! I'm currently trying to write a book but I think I must lack the same devotion and motivation you have, and of course there are always so many other things I have to do for the family etc as well. My time is not my own really!!!
    Love the blog too...they are such good ideas really aren't they? Keep up the marvellous work Penny, and I look forward to seeing the next book on the shelves of my favourite book store soon.
    Luv and hugs, Jo. xxx