It’s West Dean College in Chichester, and I got to stay there for a writing retreat over the weekend before doing a talk for the MA Creative Writing students, although I suspect they probably know much more than I do about the craft of writing. Anyway, pushing this thought aside I was welcomed by the course leader Greg Mosse, husband to acclaimed author, Kate Mosse… so no pressure then.
The talk was delivered in a ‘chat show’ style, expertly facilitated by Greg, where I answered a variety of questions. I read an extract from my second novel and we chatted about characterisation and discussed the main character. The importance of creating believable characters and making their actions plausible for them. One student summed it up perfectly by saying, ‘I might not do it, but I love reading about someone else doing it. It’s about escapism.’ Quite… told you they knew more than me.
We talked about writing in the ‘first person present’ and how the reader can live the story with the main character, experience a very immediate section of her life. How the main character’s neutral narrator voice can co-exist with her emotional one and the rhythm that passes from one to the other is what drives the narrative.
They asked me about writers block, and I explained what works for me… my secret ‘third person bonkbuster’ (the book I’m writing alongside my real work in progress) which they all thought was hilarious. I explained that it keeps my writing on track, how whenever I feel the urge to waste twenty minutes sniffing hyacinths in the window box by my desk, I bang out (pun intended) a few paragraphs so I can then go back to the WIP and carry on with renewed enthusiasm. Works for me every time.
In summary, it was my first ever author talk, and although I was nervous beforehand, Greg and his students made me feel so welcome, they treated me like a proper published novelist, even though I explained that I’m still working on that dream, and that masquerading as a newspaper columnist* isn’t quite the same thing. But it didn’t matter to them, they were enthusiastic, engaging and interested in my writing… and that’s a truly flattering feeling. Thank you so much for having me.
Luck and love
* You can read about that escapade on the ‘How I Became A Writer’ page