Sunday, 30 September 2007

Extract from Chapter One of 'A Novel Affair'

Chapter One

If you met her, you would never suspect Katie Sharp of being a heroine.
No, really.
For one, she did not exhibit any sort of psychological neurosis. She wasn’t obsessed with her weight (fine for her build), her appearance (rather pretty in a short-ish, blonde-ish sort of a way) or cigarettes (only at parties, after maximum alcohol intake). She didn’t have a chocolate addiction, a shopping addiction or even a sex addiction. She wasn’t a woman who loved too much, too little or not at all. She didn’t keep up a diary, or even a dazzlingly witty internal monologue. Neither was she secretly in love with her male best friend or have an alcoholic, wife-beating father.
Actually, her parents had been particularly lax in that respect. Completely ignoring their daughter’s future as a heroine, they had selfishly refused to provide her with anything other than a stable, happy upbringing. Of course, when she was a teenager that hadn’t stopped her from dyeing her hair, wearing only black and dragging herself round the house in a reassuringly depressing manner yelling: "I hate you! You’re not my real parents!" at her Mum and Dad. But she grew out of that and went to college, got drunk, got laid and, finally, got a job.
And you want to know the worst bit of all?
She wasn’t even smug about it.
In fact, if you met her, you’d probably really like her . You’d have a few drinks and she’d make you laugh. If you had more than a few drinks, she might try to blag a cigarette off you – but that’s not the sort of thing that starts wars and brings down empires.
Anyway, at twenty six years old with a job, her own flat, a car, and even a reasonably sexy boyfriend to her name, Katie Sharp believed her life was jogging along quite comfortably and, ergo, away from any possibility of becoming a heroine.
It was true that the job was a bit of an undemanding dead-ender, the flat rented, the car a beaten up old Mini and the boyfriend only reasonably sexy, but these registered as little more than minor niggles in Katie’s brain. And, rather than exercise herself over whether or not Sam was Mr Right or if she should be getting her Russell and Bromleys (and heroines, as we all know, wear Jimmy Choos) on the property ladder she instead chose to escape the real world whenever she could by plunging into a big, fat novel – preferably one involving the scandalous goings-on in a large country house.
Again, this is not the sort of reading matter we would expect from a heroine but she couldn’t stand self-help books and the classics left her cold. She didn’t even fancy Mr Darcy.
No, really.
Or rather she didn’t fancy a soggy Colin Firth, which is more or less the same thing.
However, a heroine she was and into each heroine’s life a little rain must fall, otherwise there would be very little to read about. And for Katie it all began one Friday evening...

I had enormous fun writing this book. One of the reasons for its coming into being in the first place was to cheer me up, so I invented a believable but gutsy heroine, the sort of hero I might go for myself (was I not happily married, of course!) and a dastardly villain; gave them a gothic stately home as a backdrop and packed the book with fun things like priceless missing manuscripts, a wedding that almost goes horribly wrong and a man-eating anti-heroine who is hell-bent on getting her claws into my poor hero.

On a more serious, writerly note, I'd had an idea that I wanted to use some of the themes from Northanger Abbey to see how they would play out in a modern-day romantic comedy, but the characters soon staged a coup and I ended up with a completely different book to the one I had been intending to write; although the themes of fantasy v. reality and the effect that books and literature can have on our understanding of the world is still very much there.

Love, Allie

The Story So Far...

Hi, I'm Allie. I'm a thirty-something mother of two, I live on a pretty standard housing estate in the South of England and my burning, consuming, all-I've-ever-wanted-to-do ambition, is to be a writer.
Ah, the soothing sound of nib on paper...the hours spent idly gazing out of the window thinking up fiendishly ingenious plot twists...the rapturous applause as you step up to receive the Booker Prize for your first novel...
Not a bit of it!
Rather, it's the furious sound of fingers on key-board as I try to get 1000 words written while Jamie (2) has his lunchtime nap; working out a way in which to keep my hero and heroine at loggerheads but still madly in love with each other as I whizz round Waitrose because we've run out of milk (again); and waiting with baited breath and sweaty palms to see what an agent/publisher/competition judge makes of my books.

This is a blog about life at the typeface. It's a tale that I hope will end happily ever after (but no guarantees - this is real life after all!) and that I hope might give some ideas or inspiration to anyone else out there in the same boat (and visa versa - all top tips very gratefully received).

Where I'm At And How I Got Here
I gave up my job as a lawyer specializing in family and divorce work in 2002 when my eldest son (Matt) was born and got a few gigs writing scripts for historical audio tours. I'd had this idea for a novel batting roud my head for ages but I never seemed to have the time to put anything down on paper. Then, in very quick succession, I lost three of my four grandparents and ran smack! into the realization that life was too short and I needed to stop putting the book off and write it NOW.
So I did.
And then I wrote another one.
And I sent them out to agents, went to writers' conferences (highly recommended), joined the Romantic Novelists Association (even more highly recommended) and entered competitions until, in August this year, I was signed up by an agent. I can still hardly believe it. It took me three years, two books and a lot of slog to get this far but it was worth it. The next step is for my agent to place the book (my first, A Novel Affair) with a publisher and I can quite honestly say that this is the most nerve-racking thing I have ever done after:
1. Taking my driving test (3 times)
2. My first day in court as a pupil barrister
Only this time it's taking weeks rather than days. Arggh.
I'll let you know how it goes...
Lots of love