Monday, 28 February 2011

Summer Loving

I noticed today that the fabulous Chicklit Club have given my new book, Summer Loving, a head's up - thank you guys! So I thought it was about time that I shared the cover and a few little tasters on my blog. Even though I have had some lovely covers in the past, I think this time the cover fairy has been especially good to me: I love it! The story is about four friends from uni who get together eight years after graduation for a holiday on a Greek island. Needless to say, the sun, sea and relaxation they had in mind doesn't quite materialise and my heroine, Beth, finds herself trying to hold things together - with comic as well as (almost)tragic consequences.

Watch this space as I'll be dropping a few little previews and exclusives as we get nearer to publication time!

Summer Loving is published by Arrow and will be out on 26th May. It is currently available to pre-order from all the usual outlets.

Hollywood Daze

The new book is now officially 'in' and I am waiting for the copy edits to come through. However, there is no rest for the wicked and I am already pondering the various plotlines and characters for my next novel. As a writing exercise - and to give my brain a bit of a break in between books - I spent ten days or so watching roms coms/chick flicks to see if I could pick up any writing tips. Yes I know, I know, I write novels, not screenplays, but I reckon it is always useful for any writer to try and see how the guys in other genres do things - and I think I learned a few valuable lessons.

Lesson One: Make sure your screenplay has a really strong central hook.
Basically, this means your story has an original, inventive and easily graspable idea at its centre. For example, The Wedding Date starring Deborah Messing works on the basic premise that a girl hires a male escort to accompany her to a wedding where her ex is the best man - and then falls in love with him. Simple, concise, compelling and with loads of comic potential. Or how about PS I Love You, where the heroine's husband dies, but she receives a series of letters from him helping her rebuild her life. Having a brilliant central concept makes sense from both an artistic and a marketing point of view: a strong starting point should automatically set up tonnes of conflict and suggest storylines which will help carry your plot through to the end PLUS (and don't under estimate this one!) it will make the story easy to pitch and sell. In Hollywood, you would be expected to come up with a 'log line' which sums up the story in one sentence. Also useful for novelists wanting to pitch to agents and publishers - give it a try!

Lesson Two: Give yourself a smart, funny, vulnerable but ultimately feisty heroine with whom your audience will identify and root for all the way through.
This is vital for both screenplays and novels. You wouldn't want to read a book where you couldn't stand the central character or thought she was a bit of a wimp. We read/go to movies to be entertained, but we also go to see a bit of ourselves reflected in the central character and you need to have one you and your audience can look up to. Sure, give your heroine flaws; of course she needs to have a vulnerable, human side to her - but ultimately give her the personality and intelligence she needs to triumph against all the odds and you'll have a winner on your hands.

Lesson Three: Make sure that your plot and character arcs are as strong as your initial idea.
There is nothing more disappointing than a book or movie which has a superb initial concept and then fails to deliver. The disappointment stays with you for ages (I still feel let down by Men in Black even now. Sigh) Sadly, Letters to Juliet affected me in a similar way. The idea of the wall in Verona where people still write letters to Shakespeare's most famous heroine - and receive an answer - was stunning. And I also liked the idea that the love story chosen for the plot involved an older woman (I'm all for mixing it up age-wise!) but the actual plot was so predictable and pedestrian that I felt cheated. Eleven out of ten for the initial idea and the first half an hour of the movie, three out of ten thereafter. Don't do this!!

Movies are a very useful tool for the novelist looking to hone their craft: a film must achieve everything a good novel needs to on the plot/character/structural front - but it has to do it in an hour and a half (which is why that strong central idea is essential). So go on - get out the DVDs and have an afternoon on the sofa. After all, it's all in the name of work!

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

There and Back Again

Hello again. You probably won't remember me, but I was the short one with the blonde hair who used to do a blog about writing...

Actually, the past few months have been a bit of an emotional (and work) roller-coaster. The good news (in fact the veryveryveryveryveryvery good news) is that in May I was given a contract by the lovely people at Arrow - only I couldn't tell anybody about it for a while (hell on earth for a blabbermouth like me). They wanted the finished book in by the end of January which meant an awful lot of graft - I think I took Christmas Day off, but that was about it. Then, in June, about four weeks after the contract was agreed, we had a shattering diagnosis for a close family member which resulted, five months later in the loss of that person. It was a pretty horrible time and, I'm afraid, one during which I split my time simply between the family and writing the book. Blogs and FaceBook fell rather by the wayside.

So I hope you forgive me.

However, on a happier note, the book is now in - watch this space for some exclusive previews - and work on the next one has already begun. The publication date for Summer Loving is scheduled for the 26th May this year and I am also planning my workshop at this year's Winchester Writers Conference on 'How to Write Like Jane Austen: surely every writer's New Year's Resolution!

In the meantime, stay well

Lots of love,

Allie x