Interpretation

Laptop Keyboard

I’m back to work full time next week which is great (I think). Until recently I had a lot of time to kill where I was either:

A) Exhausted or
B) Busy trying to help my poor long suffering wife around the house (and probably getting in the way)

As a result of all this free time I’ve been listening to the radio a lot – including a great interview with Harry Potter author J.K Rowling on the BBC programme Desert Island Disks recorded in November 2000. If you’re a UK resident you can find it here : http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/radio4/dida/dida_20001105-1115a.mp3 (I’m guessing BBC license rules will stop the rest of the world but you can give it a try).

In this interview Rowling discusses the character of Rita Skeeter, who those of you who have worked your way through the Potter series will know, is a fairly vile journalist. Apparently Rita’s first planned appearance was in book one but by the time Rowling had reached the final draft she decided that the characters entrance was best saved for book 4 ‘The Goblet of Fire’ when the pressure of the fame would be most trying for Harry. Of course in the interim Potter became a phenomena and Rowling was being hounded by the press for the simple mistake of being a successful author (how very dare she). Now the character of Rita Skeeter is pretty vile, not as bad as some in the real media I’m sure, but a fairly nasty piece of work in anyone’s world (be it real or imagined) and now Rowling faced a quandary. If she wrote Rita as intended all those years ago would people, including the press, see this character as her response to the way the media had treated her?
In the end Rowling’s response was ‘just bung her in and enjoy it’ and then she ended up enjoying writing one of arguably the most memorable characters of the series.

Ok so what can we struggling mortal writers learn from Rowling’s decision? Well it’s simple – don’t worry about interpretation.

There’s an urban legend and I really hope there’s a grain of truth in it, about an author who visits a school to talk about their book which the students have all diligently studied, dissected and essayed. The author talks for a while about their work and then invites questions from the students. They of course have prepared their questions in advance under the guidance of their teacher and the teacher in turn will be teaching in line with the current curriculum supported by the available reference notes for the material. So when the students ask the author about the interpretation of the text they are somewhat surprised to find that the author didn’t intend any of it. The author was simply writing a story. Some of what the students have assumed or deducted might have found its way into the text subconsciously but the themes and meanings they have identified were never placed there directly.

Now let me prove a point. Let’s take that well know children’s classic ‘The Tiger Who Came To Tea.’
Ok it’s a tale about a tiger who comes into a small girls house. The tiger sits down to tea with the child and her mother then proceeds to eat all the food, drink all the tea from the tea pot and drink all the water in the tap etc etc. At the end of the story when the tiger has departed and the father comes home there is nothing left in the house for dinner so they go out for a meal. Later they buy some special food in case the tiger ever visits again.

So as an adult (perhaps as a child) you kind of know its not a tiger it’s a cat. That’s the little joke we’re all in on as readers… But….

What if it’s not a cat. Maybe the child has mental trauma and is simply blocking out the reality with this story of a tiger. It could be a mob boss come to collect on daddy’s debts, a dodgy landlord after his rent “No rent? I’m shutting your water off”, or maybe it’s mummies lover who pops round when daddy is at work and calls the young girl “Tiger”?

That’s all nonsense of course I’m sure Judith Kerr didn’t mean any of that. BUT… Judith does have something in her past that might be leaking onto the page, consciously or not. She spent the first few years of her life in Berlin. Her father was allegedly on a Nazi death list because of his opposition to the party. Did they ever have an unwelcome visitor? All forced joviality masking an underlying threat? Fellow writer Michael Rosen has wondered as much:

“So I don’t know whether Judith did it consciously or not – I wouldn’t want to go there – but the point is he’s a jokey tiger, but he is a tiger.”

Or perhaps it could just be a story about a cat.

My point is that you can twist new meanings into everything. It’s doesn’t mean that those interpretations can’t teach us valuable lessons or shine a light on our subconscious. But as a writer why worry about it? Very few of us will ever reach the levels of fame that ends with academics and media critics scouring over our work. Concentrate on the story and the themes you want to explore. Let others read into it what they will.

You can read more about Judith Kerr’s fascinating story here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-25027090

Keep creating folks, remember it’s supposed to be fun 😉

Pinterest

Out of curiosity I joined Pinterest some time ago and discovered that it’s a great source of inspiration and a handy place to save all those interesting images you stumble across when you should be doing some actual writing…

Anyway I have a few boards set up now, some things that interest me, some that inspire or amuse me and a couple of project boards. One of these is called Dynasty and a cursory glance will prove that it’s nothing to do with an eighties TV show featuring Texan billionaires, massive shoulder pads and bad hair.

Dynasty is the working title for a trilogy of books I’m working on the first of was written and I thought (at the time) complete.

I was wrong.

Whilst floating high on morphine (hospital administered, I swear I don’t have a problem) a whole host of ideas flew into my head and now it’s getting another re-write. The first thing I did once I regained use of my faculties was scour Pinterest for images that I can refer back to when I’m refining my work. All of which is there for you to see here: http://www.pinterest.com/mattadey/dynasty/

It’s probably best not to think of it as a window into my mind, because that’s a really scary place and believe me when I say you wouldn’t like the view.

What do you do when life gets in the way of writing?

Medical EquipmentOk so this is my first blog post in a long long while, in fact I really left just as I was getting started. In fairness though I do have a pretty good excuse for slacking off having being diagnosed with cancer. Leukaemia it turns out, is not conducive to either blogging or to be frank reading or writing.

So have these been desert months?
Has all that time been lost to illness?
Well yes and then again…

I have had a lot of time to dwell on my own fate, a massive amount to be honest and to be frank I’m counting every moment that I still live, breath and think as a blessing. Don’t worry dear reader, my outlook is good and I can and see a better future ahead for both me and my family. I’m exhausted, even getting up and going for a shower knocks me out some days, but that will pass with time and it doesn’t stop my mind from being active. The storyteller within me is still waiting with the sparkling eyes of childhood and he is beginning to dance again, albeit with trembling feet. Given time he will find his strength and whilst he does I’ll read a little, write a little and listen to a lot of radio drama. Mentally I think radio has been my saviour, it is the bridge between page and screen, the place where imagination and realisation collide. It’s dawned on me that all writers should listen to the radio and not just to the spoken word. Radio is a gateway to new music, a place to keep up with current affairs and opposing world views and it can hold up a mirror to our own past; nothing brings back memories more than the music of our youth, but things can sound very different second time around!

During these months of reflection I’ve been reminded that music can be magical and would encourage you all to go back to old songs and really listen to the lyrics because they are the key to the writers soul. Remember that line in a song can be the spark that ignites a story, a joke in a sketch can can be the catalyst for a tale of darkness or maybe, just maybe you’ll find something in another writers tale that changes you in ways you’ll never expect.

Happy 2014 to you all!

Second drafts are painful.

Laptop Keyboard

You know that scene you wrote?  Your favourite bit, maybe the bit that started it all?  Well that scene might just have to go.

It’s painful I know.

All too often you can find yourself tweaking and crafting an element of your work until you reach near perfection.  Sadly it’s such sections that often make your story drag.

I’ve followed the advice of wiser people and I shelved my novel for two months before revisiting it.  Approaching it as a reader, rather than a writer, gave me a whole new perspective on things.  That’s why I’ve just cut over two thousand words from the beginning of my work.

It’s not that those words were wasted, rather that they were excessive and did little to advance the plot, so for the sake of pacing they had to go.

I’m not worried.  There’s a subplot to be expanded on that should more than make up for the deletions; but those words were the first seeds I planted for this story and now it’s grown far bigger.

So I guess that’s the harsh reality, when the oak has grown who cares about the acorn?

A fictional conversation with the void

Last Lock In V5XL

OK it’s been over a month since I posted.

Ok, I know I said it would be out by Christmas but I’ve been busy.

Look I know it’s no excuse…

I’m sorry…

Well be like that then!  See if I care.

Sorry.  Please come back.

Look it’s here.  You can have it free for the next 5 days apparently.

Here’s the link: The Last Lock In

Would you mind leaving a review and telling others if you enjoy it?

Ok I’ll go and finish that novel.

😉

Trust People.

So a little over week has gone by and things are still moving albeit slightly slower than I’d hoped.

I started this entry on my trusty old Samsung Apollo but after today I’ll be updating to a shiny new phone. I haven’t told my Apollo yet I’m just going to try and let it down gently…

In more relevant news my short story collection has a title and I’m already thinking about cover art. Now this is tricky; both title and cover need to be attractive to the reader. We all know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover but let’s face it most of us do at some point in our literary lives. So I’m getting click happy with the camera and waiting for that bolt of inspiration to strike.

I know I’ve been lucky because I have a whole host of talented people around me so even in those moments when I’m thinking “stuff it that’ll do” I’ll know there’s someone around to guide me if they think I’m making the wrong call. In addition to my wife who has been my reader in residence, sounding board and moral support throughout the process I’ve had the guidance of an extremely talented and attractive young lady (married to my best man) who is a successful and established blogger and who has recently released her own superb short story collection on Amazon (Snapshots of a different normality a snip at 99p).  My brother in law runs his own graphic design consultancy and is also an exceptional illustrator(we’ve been talking about working together for a long time but now more than ever). All have offered help and advice throughout the publication process and their encouragement has kept me motivated when perhaps my spirits have flagged a little. I’d urge you to have a look at their work and I’ve provided the links below for you.

I guess my message this time is simple: there are people close to you who will support you and guide you.  Trust them and listen to them.

As for me I’m almost there, only life keeps getting in the way, so this week I’m unplugging Facebook and switching off twitter. Wish me luck!

www.hilllangdell.com

www.teawithafriend.co.uk

The secret to achieving your dreams revealed

Following your dreams is, to be frank, bloody difficult. Most of us opt for the safe option of the nine to five; a beast which once it has its claws in you, is very hard to shake off. That’s the rut I was in until about two years ago I shared the first bit of writing I’d done in years with my wife who told me that she was pleasantly surprised at how good it was. To me that was a massive confidence boost and perhaps the kick up the bum that I needed to start writing more frequently. The second revolution was a technological one. Not long after I made the decision to write more I purchased my first smart phone; my faithful Samsung Apollo, an ‘entry level’ bit of kit which is still going strong. In fact I’m typing this blog on it right now…

I can’t lie to you this old phone’s very clunky and slow and running out of internal memory faster than a ZX spectrum with dementia but I write first drafts faster with one thumb than I ever did on a keyboard or with pen and paper. Doubtless some will insist this isn’t ‘proper writing’ but who cares? I’m writing for myself not them!

I have no idea if anyone will ever read what I write but (let’s be honest) of course I want to be read; that’s the whole point, I have a head full of stories and I want them to be heard. If people don’t like them it will hurt, but it’s better to have them out there for the world to see than stuck in my head vanishing with the slow creep of time.

A little while ago I was re-reading ‘The Salmon of Doubt’ a posthumous collection of works by Douglas Adams.  By 2001 Adams had created two successful series of books (The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and Dirk Gently), written a number of Dr Who episodes, plotted and scripted a couple of computer games and left a vast array of journalistic gems for the world. Then very suddenly he died. He was 49.

I remember at the time Adams death felt like a kick in the chest.  Like many of his readers I really felt that Douglas Adams was writing for me. We were great mates, we just hadn’t met yet. It’s clear from the snippets of the unfinished work in ‘The Salmon of Doubt’ that Adams had many fantastic stories left to tell and now they are lost. We can only hope he’s up there somewhere tapping away on his macbook creating stories that will last for eternity; but for us earth-bound souls those works are lost forever.

So my advice to you is go for it. Life is short and should not be wasted. Write, draw, dance, paint yourself pink and start a conga, whatever it is that you dream of doing, do it.  You might be a lone voice yelling into the wind but maybe, just maybe, there’s someone listening.