Monday, 21 January 2008

Women's Magazines

I mentioned back in June that I had been interviewed for a writing magazine. The resulting article is in the current issue of Writers' Forum magazine, complete with hideous photograph.

As you can probably tell from the photo, the piece focuses on the stories I write for the women's magazine market. Here in the UK there are precious few outlets for the short story writer, and I am more than happy to have found a market for my work. A lot of people have misconceptions about women's magazine fiction (not least the blokes in my writers' group, who always pull a 'just humour him' face whenever I mention it). But by and large these are people who haven't read the magazines lately. Most of the stories I write are crime stories - the one in the current Woman's Weekly Fiction Special is about a male sociopath told through first person narrative by the murderer himself. It's certainly no soppy romance!

But here's the rub: the story in question, The Piano Teacher's Husband, caught the eye of a literary agent. She contacted me just after my last blog entry and offered to represent me. Of course, I accepted - and ever since then I've been busily hammering away at my laptop, writing even more stories. So please forgive me if my blogging is more intermittent than ever!

Friday, 4 January 2008

Rejected author has last laugh

My thanks to my friend and fellow writer John Trelawny for drawing my attention to this story from yesterday's Times Online. It concerns Catherine O’Flynn, whose mystery story What Was Lost won the First Novel prize at this week's Costa Book Awards despite having been rejected by 20 agents and publishers:

According to the article, of 85,933 new books published last year, as many as 58,325 sold an average of just 18 copies.

As John says, it's both an encouraging story (for optimists) and a discouraging one (for the others). John optimistically points out that his book Islanders sold way, way more than the average!

Thursday, 3 January 2008

The Piano Teacher's Husband

My short story The Piano Teacher's Husband will be published in the 4th January-22nd February issue of Woman's Weekly Fiction Special magazine, out tomorrow.

"Every week, when I call at Hannah’s house for my piano lesson, it seems her hallway is painted a different colour . . .
‘Zack!’ Hannah answers the door and smiles as though she’s surprised to see me, holding on to the latch as she steps back to let me in. Today the hallway is a deep red, far too dark, almost a burgundy. It makes me think of dried blood. There are flecks of burgundy emulsion in her hair still, counterpointing the flecks of grey. I want to kiss her right there, right on the doorstep. I fight it. I’m worried that I’m beginning to develop an erotic Pavlovian response to the smell of newly applied emulsion. That’s not normal, is it?

Read more in tomorrow's Woman's Weekly Fiction Special!

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Happy New Year!

It seems forever ago since I packed everything away for Christmas! It was great to spend the time chilling out and doing absolutely NO WORK but it’s also rather nice to be back, kick-starting the old routine. It’s especially nice to get back to discover I have won an award for this blog! Thank you, Mary. You’re quite wrong (as you can see) about not mentioning my award. I’m chuffed to bits.

I received some great books for Christmas, and also caught up with a couple of old ones on my ‘to read’ pile. One such book was Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. It has been gathering dust for about a year and when I finally got round to reading it I was furious with myself for not reading it sooner. I thought it was breathtaking. Unputdownable. I loved it so much I rushed out and bought a hardback copy of McCarthy’s earlier novel No Country for Old Men. A different kind of novel to The Road but the same themes come shining through. Isn’t it great when you discover a ‘new’ author? How come I’d never read any Cormac McCarthy before?

I also enjoyed Robert Harris’s The Ghost. It was great fun working out the real-life alter-egos of his characters (even though Harris insists – tongue firmly in cheek – that his novel is a complete fiction and any similarity between his recently-retired British Prime Minister and recently-retired Tony Blair is a complete coincidence). And while we’re on the subject of ghosts (as in ghostwriters) I think Christopher Simon Sykes has done a great job ghosting Eric Clapton’s autobiography. Another good read.

I’m currently working my way through the latest Granta collection of American short stories, edited by Richard Ford, as well as a much slimmer volume of short stories by the wonderful Jane Gardam (who lives not far from me, so I have a signed first edition!). The letters of Graham Greene (A Life in Letters) edited by Richard Greene are also enlightening as well as immensely readable. ‘Altogether I am feeling depressed,’ he writes in 1931. ‘Books are a labour to write and a hell to publish; why does one do it?’