Sunday, 13 September 2009

Interim news

This is not the main point of this particular blog, but I thought (maybe self-centredly) that it would be an idea to include a picture on it. It certainly looks more interesting. 
This is me (furthest left) with most of my family taken last Spring  in Wales. Next to me is my husband, and then sundry daughters, husbands, partners and grandchildren.  It was a particularly happy day,  with the sun rather unusually shining. Oh, and it was my birthday. Missing are Daughter Number One and her husband and children, (all resident in Sydney)and Daughter Number Three's fiance, who was taking the photograph. He is now her husband; they were married later in the year ( already covered in Another Blog)
It may be the last picture you'll see here for some time, as I don't quite know how I managed to get it onto the page in the first place (see first blog re my complete lack of technical expertise. I went to the Apple Store in Regent Street the other day and it was like landing on the Moon; very beautiful and futuristic, and full of wonderful, magical things, but they speak a different language from me there.  Not only did I not understand their answers, they didn't understand my questions. They were charming and helpful, though and we managed in the end.)
Anyway, what this blog is really all about is something that occupies both my time and attention a great deal at this time of year and that is the Wimbledon Book Festival, known as the Bookfest. I am one of the  patrons, and in three years it has grown into something truly impressive. None of the credit to me, but to the proper organisers, who do all the work. It was the brainchild of an absolute whirlwind of a person called Fiona Razvi, who decided one day that what Wimbledon needed was a literary festival,  and set about bringing it to life in rather less than six months (she's that sort of lady) together with the  Chairman of the Festival, Tony Kane and other equally gifted and determined people. It runs for ten days or so, and is launched by the Mayor of Wimbledon on the morning of Saturday October 3rd,  at St.Mark's Place, next to Wimbledon Library, Wimbledon Hill Road. There   will be  storytelling in the actual library, and several authors will be signing their books,  including Michelle Paver from 10 to 11, June Whitfield from 10.45 to ll.15 and me from  10.30 to 11.30. The other events I'm personally involved in are my "regular" event, Girls Night Out, on Monday October 5th when two other authors and I basically just sit and chat about our work and take questions from the audience over a glass of wine or  two. That is to say the audience gets some wine too. It really is great fun; joining me this year  are JoJo Moyes, whose new book The Horse Dancer is the most brilliant and intriguing tale, and Jessica Ruston, who's just published her first blockbuster,  Luxury, and very good it is too. That's at Wimbledon's rather posh hotel, Cannizaro House at 8 pm (doors open at 7.30) I'm also interviewing  Sadie Jones, whose first book, The Outcast won endless acclaim and awards and whose second, Small Wars is so totally gripping I couldn't  put it down. That's at Waterstone's on Wimbledon Bridge, at 7.30 (doors open at 7) and you also get a glass of wine, or a soft drink if you're that way inclined. (I'll be the one with the wine. )
I can't list all the other events, but they are many and wonderful, ranging from an evening at the Polka (the famous children's theatre in Wimbledon and another passion of mine) with Gyles Brandreth, Julian Fellowes, script writer extraordinaire,  talking about his latest novel, Deborah Moggach discussing her work, Max Hastings on Churchill,  and a Literary Lunch with June Whitfield.  There's also a children's Literature Festival at the Polka on Saturday October 10th . 
It'd be lovely to see you there. I'm so proud of being part of it. 
Full details on the Bookfest website,

Sunday, 6 September 2009

End of the holidays

Like most people, I still feel September is the beginning of a new year. Like when we all went back to school and got  new books and new teachers and made loads of resolutions to work harder and (in my case) really try at games, instead of hiding in the cloakroom (which I did if it was gym) and indeed during netball lessons would sneak into the garden of the empty house next door to my school, with my best friend, and occasionally one or two others, and spend the time reading and gossiping. Amazingly, we never got caught; my best friend was one of those lucky people  who just never did, and if I was with her I knew I was safe, whatever we were doing. Had I been with anyone else, I'm sure the games mistress or a prefect would have noticed our disappearance and we'd have been in terrible trouble. 
I don't know if it would work in grown up life, and being with the right lucky person could mean you could get away with driving a bit too fast through roadworks (one of my two  only conscious bit of lawbreaking) or paying your income tax late, (my other, but actually my accountant doesn't let me get away with that any more). 
Anyway, back to this year's new term; back in London, I have made lots of resolutions, like keeping my desk tidy (very unlikely)  dealing with my in-tray promptly (even more unlikely) and brushing my dog Clemmie's ears  (she's a King Charles spaniel) every day, instead of leaving half Richmond Park in them for weeks. Oh and backing up what I write every day, instead of once a week or whatever; I once lost five thousand words because there was a power cut overnight. 
We had a very good August, lots of visitors to our cottage--mostly children, but the occasional brave grown ups-- and Enid Blyton-like activities, riding, cycling, picnics on the beach,  sandcastle and moat-building, and a new game which one of our guests--another writer-- christened Extreme Paddling. Extreme Paddling, should you wish to try it, is dashing from cove to cove on a windy day, beating--or rather not beating--the waves as they crash in. We have the perfect beach for this, nicknamed by our family the Enid Blyton Beach, a mass of coves and rocks and huge caves you can explore, some of them linking and forming tunnels from one to the next (more opportunities for Extreme Paddling). And then lovely long evenings in the cottage, putting the world to rights, drinking too much wine and mulling over possible plots and characters...
Anyway,  I ended the holidays at an annual Gower Charity event, the Macmarathon, when people do a sponsored cliff and beach walk, 22 miles long, some of it really tough: raising money for one of my very favourite charities,  Macmillan Cancer Support. It takes place every September,  and  every year,  more and more wonderful people do it--almost a thousand registered this time-- and every year it raises more money. I'm ashamed to say I've never actually walked it, but the Committee very flatteringly asked me to sign certificates for the triumphant arrivals, saying they'd done it; I was supposed to be one of the celebrities, but in truth, there was  far more excitement and interest in  Alun Wyn Jones, the Welsh International Rugby player, who was sitting next to me. And justifiably so: he's extremely charming and handsome as well as hugely talented, and a great local hero. 
 Still, quite a lot of people did ask me to sign their certificates as well, and I found myself engaged in all the usual discussions about my characters (you'd have thought people would  have been much too exhausted to care about such things, but astonishingly they weren't) and the very familiar requests to write a fourth book about the Lyttons. One day I shall have to give in, I think, even though Lady Celia has died; several people said they thought Jenna was a matriarch in the making and could take over from her in due course. I'm not so sure, but she was certainly (along with Fleur in An Outrageous Affair   and Jocasta in Sheer Abandon) one of my favourite characters ever, and I would like to know what happens to her. (As I've explained before, I never know what happens to any of my characters until I write the books.)
I am very much into the new book now, (managed to write a bit in between the Extreme Paddling!) and still enjoying it hugely; it is really starting to take on a life of its own, and fascinating new people keep wandering into it. No clues at all I'm afraid, except that it's not contemporary, and may well take me to New York, and possibly the Southern States  for a bit of research. Oh, it's a tough life: but somebody has to do it......