A couple of weeks ago I wrote about some of the places in the world that I would like to see, that list included the Scottish Highlands (if you missed that post you can read it here). One of the reasons that the Scottish Highlands was included in my list is because one of my good friends introduced me to the TV series Outlander, knowing that the books that inspired the series have been on my to-be-read list for quite some time.
Over the last few days, I found myself with a little bit of time and decided to actually start reading Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander, the first book of the Outlander series and it is everything I had hoped it would be! Diana Gabaldon is an absolutely amazing writer and I can’t wait to work my way through the series, which has eight books so far with a ninth book being written right now, not to mention Diana’s other works which build on the stories of some of the secondary characters in the Outlander series.
As I make my way through the first book in the series, not only have I noticed and admired the quality of Diana’s writing, but also the way in which she describes the more… intimate scenes in the book. It’s no secret that the Outlander series (both the book series and the TV series) contains… well… sex, but there’s something I noticed about the way in which Diana describes these more intimate scenes which I’ll discuss in a moment.
Unless you have been living under a rock, most of you will be familiar (or at least heard of) E.L James’ Fifty Shades series and the subsequent hype and apparent disappointment of the film. Whilst I think that E.L James’ writing style leaves a lot to be desired, the story of Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey showed some small amount of promise. However, the relationship of the two main characters was built around their sex lives and the rest of the story built upon that. This is similar to many other contemporary romance novels, such as those by Sylvia Day, Meredith Wild and J. Kenner (although these writers are in a totally different class compared to E.L James). In these contemporary romances, the relationship between the characters revolves around their sex lives and the emotions that develop. Every element of “intimacy” is described in every sordid detail from the beginning to the “happy ending” and whilst sometimes that may be a good thing, other times it’s not really what the story needs in order to develop. I mean, that’s all well and good for the genre that these books are in and the stories the writers wish to tell, but it’s not right for every romance story and it’s especially not right for Thomas and Rose’s story.
You see, I’ve been battling with the idea of including some of the more intimate details of Thomas and Rose’s relationship as it develops not only throughout Lonely Hearts, but also throughout the rest of the series. I feel that by acknowledging these aspects, the readers will understand the develop of their relationship and it also adds another level of emotion for the characters. I’ve come to the conclusion that whilst it is essential to acknowledge the degree intimacy that develops between Rose and Thomas, as it shows the develop of their relationship, it is not something that needs to be described in explicit detail.
***Possible spoiler alert*****
This is similar to my experience so far of Jamie and Claire’s relationship in Outlander, even though their relationship takes a natural development leading to… intimate relations, it is not the defining aspect of their relationship. The particular scenes I’m referring to are (so far) dealt with quite tastefully without the need to describe every sordid and explicit detail. The scenes are there, there’s no mistaking that Jamie and Claire are intimate, but some of the finer details of the particular encounters are tastefully left out. I know I am only part-way through the first book and this may very well change and I’m fine with that, however it has given me something to consider in my own writing – that it is possible to write about intimate encounters between characters without it defining the characters’ relationship or the book itself. I don’t want Thomas and Rose’s story to be one of those books that people flick through to simply read the “naughty bits”. It happened with Fifty Shades and I’m sure Google would be able to find similar lists for other books as well, but this is not the type of story that is Thomas and Rose’s. Sure there might be romance, maybe even love, but it is not what their story is truly about. With the help of Jozsef, Rose gets through each day but she feels the darkness of her past constantly at her heels trying to pull her down, she sees things that others don’t, including the shadows surrounding Thomas. Thomas has his own darkness and in some ways it feels similar to Rose’s but also very different.
So, as I head off to add some more questions in my notebook about Thomas and Rose’s story, it seems that it is possible to write about “intimate relations” without it defining your characters or story.
This week as I browsed through the many reading, writing and general book related pages I follow on Facebook and twitter, I noticed many comical posts that began with, “You know you’re a writer when…” It got me thinking back to the time when I first knew I was a writer. In many ways I have always been a writer and creator, but it was only in the few months leading up to the creation of this blog that I really began to embrace the writer within (hence the name of the blog).
Since I made the conscious decision to pursue my love of writing, those “you know you’re a writer when…” moments are noticeably on the rise!
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post about the inner workings of my vivid imagination (you can read it here if you missed it). In this post I discussed that in the moment between sleep and awake, I can actively plan and edit my dreams, if that even makes sense. I know I probably sound a little crazy right about now, but I guess that kind of just goes with the territory. It’s a little difficult to explain, you see, it’s like when you are imagining or daydreaming about something, but you’re actually in a state between asleep and awake, you see the scene vividly in your mind and you see and experience it all as if you were actually there.
Now to refocus on the title of today’s post, here’s my own version (which may only be applicable to myself);
You know you’re a writer when your dreams are filled with scenes from your current WIP and you are actually able to edit these scenes as they play out in your mind.
You see, now more than ever, my dreams are filled with the world and the characters of my current WIP, Lonely Hearts. One particular scene has been playing out over and over again in my mind, as it is one that has been frustrating me and seemed like it just wasn’t working. The scene in question is one that I wrote quite a few months ago now, but never felt it was quite right. I am still quite early on in the first draft of Lonely Hearts, but I find it difficult to move on further with the story when something isn’t quite working like I feel it should be. I know I should probably just plough through and get the first draft finished and worry about editing later, but I simply cannot keep ploughing through the first draft if something isn’t right or feels incomplete.
Night after night, I experience the meeting between Thomas and Rose in the tailor’s shop that Rose works at. The scene felt incomplete, I felt like this meeting should be weighted with a range of emotions, but with the way it was written it felt like it was little more than a flutter of attraction. After a little over a week of playing out the same scene over and over, the good news is I’ve finally figured out what was missing and those missing scenes have been played out in my dreams the last couple of nights and they feel pretty good I must say. The bad news is you’ll all have to wait until I’m finished writing it to get a little sneak peek.
As I head off to fill in the missing pieces, feel free to let me know your favourite “you know you’re a writer when…” sayings, quotes, memes (whatever you want to call them) on fb, twitter (@WriterWithin_KK) or in the comments below.
In last week’s post, Sunshine on a Cloudy Day, I promised that there was sunshine to be found in every day, sometimes though we had to look a little harder to find it. Well over this last week, I have seen glimpses of the sun and it wasn’t as hard to find as I thought it would be.
After writing last week’s post my nephew was born that night and let me tell you he is definitely a ray of sunshine in this world! I was also able to get back into writing something besides literature reviews and essays. I didn’t get a huge amount of writing done but it still felt so good to be able to write again. It was like meeting up with a good friend, no matter how much time has passed since you last spoke, you still knew what they were thinking and feeling. It was wonderful to be able to begin making those changes I have been wanting to make to Lonely Hearts and begin to reinstate the element of surprise, something that has been weighing on my mind over the last month or so.
This past week I have also gotten a few more followers on Twitter, WordPress and a couple of likes on FB too!
While there have still been quite a few clouds hanging around, I’m determined to focus on the positive and on seeing the sunshine in each and every day.
Finally, as I had hoped, I have a small excerpt from Lonely Hearts to share with you all, remember it is still only the first draft so be kind.
Don’t forget to see the sun in each and every day, not matter how many clouds are hanging around. Let me know on Twitter @WriterWithin_KK, on Facebook or by commenting on this post, what has your sunshine been this week?
I recognised an attempt to change the topic when I saw one, but he was right, I did need to rest and I was too worn out to question him. Tomorrow, after some sleep, I would find out what he was hiding from me. For the moment though, I felt exhausted, József was here to watch over me and as I looked up at Thomas I saw the weariness in his eyes. No matter how much I longed for him to stay and keep my darkness at bay, I knew I needed to let him rest as well as myself,
“Will you be here with me when the police come for my statement?” I asked, knowing that I would need the support of the both of the strong men in my life to get through it.
Thomas finally looked into my eyes, his emerald coloured eyes looking deep into mine, “Of course I will be here, I will always be here when you need me. In case you haven’t noticed, I find it impossible to stay away from you, even if I know I should.”
I’ve been a little stuck with my writing this week, the writing has not been flowing at all like it was last month. Not only has life and other things gotten in the way of my writing, but also I had this feeling that something wasn’t quite right in the most recent parts of Thomas and Rose’s story. In the early hours of this morning I realised the mistake I had made: I didn’t hold back.
I let go of a major plot twist way too soon, completely removing the suspense I wanted to build. You see, I am pretty new at this novel writing thing, I usually write short stories or children’s books, but never with the intent to publish and I am simply learning as I go. I couldn’t figure out how Rose would react to such a revelation or how the audience would react as well, even though I have never really considered audience reaction to my writing until that point.
This is what I’ve figured out:
Even though we often hear the phrase, “Don’t hold back”, for the purpose of suspense and character and plot development, sometimes it helps to hold back a bit. If you give all the answers and insight too early on, it creates more of a recount rather than a well told story. Most writers have probably already figured this out, but like I said, I’m learning as I go.
When rereading the most recent parts I had written, in an attempt to get the writing flowing again, I began to think about some of my favourite authors and the feeling of not being able to wait to get to the next page and the page after that, almost speed reading in order to find out what happens next. I wondered exactly what it was that kept me turning page after page -it was suspense, knowing enough to know that something was going on but not enough to know exactly what it was. Even if a novel was not described in this way, all good stories have a certain level of suspense. Thankfully it didn’t take me long to figure it out.
When reading a well written story, it is almost like you are trying to solve a puzzle and piece by piece you are putting it together. The words on the pages are the pieces of the puzzle and the puzzle to be solved is in the development of the plot and the characters, eventually leading to solving that puzzle completely by the time you get to the end of the story (and not before).
Now when it comes to writing, you need to keep this in mind, you don’t want to give your audience all of the puzzle pieces, numbered and with a set of instructions of how to piece them together. To keep the interest of your audience you need to drop one piece of the puzzle at a time, always keeping a few in your pocket to drop along the way. You need to find a balance though, drop too many pieces and you will give too much away too quickly, leaving nothing for the ending, but drop too few and you risk the story becoming dull, boring or uneventful, losing your audience either way.
I’ve known the basic plot from the moment I began Thomas and Rose’s story, I’ve even known some of the plot twists (with others added as I write), however trying to figure out where each of these should be placed in the timeline of the novel is something I am figuring out as I go along.
I always have a basic plot outline, but I like to leave some things to be decided while I write.
J. K. Rowling
Now I am heading off to delete a significant chunk of writing (not completely though, I’ll save it for later on) and rewrite that section, holding back a little and saving a few pieces of the puzzle for later.
So, for the purpose of creating suspense HOLD BACK, at least a little.
In case you don’t follow me on Twitter or Facebook, let me just tell you all what an absolutely amazing week it has been! Firstly I have completely smashed this months word-count goal and it is only the beginning of the month. I’m sure my writing will need some serious editing later, but I am focusing on getting Thomas and Rose’s story written down, the editing and fine tuning can come later.
“The first draft of anything is shit.” -Ernest Hemingway
My social media reach has also increased dramatically this week, I am now sitting at over 800 followers on Twitter, 93 likes on Facebook and 87 followers on this here blog! I know it sounds like I’m bragging a little (and perhaps I am) but it truly is an amazing world we live in. I know I’ve said it before but it’s amazing to be able to connect with so many wonderful people including fellow writers, published authors and reading enthusiasts.
Julieann Dove is one particular person I have had the pleasure of connecting with very recently. After coming across each other on Twitter, we have also been busy checking out each other’s blogs (you can check out Julieann’s blog here). Julieann is a contemporary romance author and her comment on last week’s post has given me that little extra push I needed to keep charging ahead and to stop with the wondering and the what-ifs, so thank you so much for that Julieann! It’s time to stop looking back and keep looking towards the future, to reach for the stars and beyond!
Of course, I have also been procrastinating this week, but it’s not what you think I swear! I haven’t deviated from The Plan, instead I have been using my writing in order to procrastinate from uni work. Week four of semester is about to begin and I haven’t even started a single reading, so hopefully my lecturer in charge doesn’t come across my little blog! I promise though, it’s only because I need to get to the store and buy some ink for my printer so I can print of the course content, which I am planning to do today. After I write this blog post and do a few other things of course.
Seeing as though I have already obliterated this month’s word-count goal, I’ve rewarded myself by writing down a short story that has been swirling around in my head over and over for the last few weeks. The first time my mind dreamt up this short story, it was so vivid that I could feel every emotion, every moment of angst and even the intense pain the main character felt. Over the weeks the vividness of this story has not faded so I thought it was one that I definitely needed to write down. I would like to share it with you all now in its entirety as a thank you for your support.
Smooth Stupid Criminal
It was a hot summer’s afternoon and Annie was grateful for the air-conditioning in her car as she drove down The Northern Road, her three children asleep in the back, exhausted from the heat outdoors.
As she stopped at the traffic lights, she leaned forward to adjust the position of the air-conditioning vent in an attempt for rid herself of the horrible sweat patches in the armpits of her shirt. Now that she thought of it, it probably wasn’t the greatest idea to take the kids out for a play at the Regatta Centre on such a warm day, but at least they had fun and were now giving her a few moments of peace and quiet, even if was just on the ride home.
As the light turned green, she took her foot off of the brake and was about to press the accelerator when the passenger door opened and a thin man jumped into her car. Trying to hide her rising panic she said, “Ummm, can I help you?”
The man looked at her, his features jaunt and withdrawn, dark circles under his eyes. Obviously a junkie, she thought to herself, “Just drive bitch!” was his reply.
Trying to remain calm, Annie continued to drive down The Northern Road in the direction the man had pointed. The man fidgeted as she drove, his leg jigging up and down and he was constantly sniffing and rubbing his nose with the back of his index finger. He seemed to be on edge and Annie decided that she needed to keep this man as calm as possible, she would take him where he needed to go and then hopefully he would leave them alone. The last thing she wanted was for him to become angry or violent and wake her sleeping children. This was not a situation she wished them to witness and so keeping her voice low and trying to steady the thumping of her heart she asked, “Are you going somewhere in particular?”
The man lifted his shaking hands to his face and rubbed his forehead as if he was trying to remember where he was heading, “Yes, Smith, Smith Street, ummm, number twenty-seven.”
Annie let out the breath she hadn’t realised she was holding, “Ok, Smith Street, right, I know where that is.” She could do this, she told herself and Smith Street wasn’t far, just a few blocks further down The Northern Road on the left. She would take him there, he would get out of the car and that would be it and her young children would be none the wiser.
As she stopped at a red light the man become more anxious his leg jigging a little faster, “Can’t you go any bloody quicker?”
“Well I can’t really go through a red light, you don’t want to get in an accident or draw attention to yourself.” She saw his rising frustration and tried her best to settle him down, “Look we’ll be there really soon, Smith Street is just a couple of blocks further and then you can be on your way right?”
It didn’t work, he became more frustrated, more anxious, “You, you’re talking too much, you talk too much, shut up, SHUT UP!” he began to yell at her as he shook his head with his hands placed on either side, as if he wasn’t just telling Annie to shut up.
Annie quickly glanced into the rear view mirror, her oldest child beginning to stir, but thankfully falling back to sleep.
“Look, I will take you to where you need to go but please, keep your voice down; I don’t want you to frighten my children.” She pleaded with him hoping that despite his current condition, he would have some sort of conscience and would spare her children from this ordeal.
How wrong she was, seemingly from nowhere the man drew out what seemed to be a steak knife. Annie tried to remain calm and concentrate on driving, forcing down her rising panic, “Put that away, there’s no need for that we’re nearly there now.”
The man held the knife up and shook his head again as if talking to someone else, “No, no can’t, just shut up, stop talking, you talk too MUCH!” Suddenly he thrust the knife downwards, driving it into Annie’s left thigh. The searing pain almost overwhelmed her as she stifled her scream and tried to keep the car safely on the road.
Blinking her eyes rapidly, she tried her best to focus on the road ahead and make the left turn into Smith Street. The man began hitting himself on the head, “Sorry, so sorry, shouldn’t do that, just talk too much, you, you’re quiet now.” With tears running down her face she pulled the car over at the address he had given her and through gritted teeth she spoke through the blinding pain, “We’re here. You can get out, now.”
The man’s leg stopped jigging for a moment as he looked at the window and confirmed that they were indeed at the address he had given her, getting out of the car he mumbled, “Thanks for the lift.”
Laughing and obviously delirious with pain Annie replied sarcastically, “Yea, right, anytime.”
As she watched the man run into the house, she glanced in the rear view mirror, her children thankfully still asleep and oblivious to the situation. Taking a deep breath and trying to ignore the excruciating pain in her thigh, Annie began to think of what the hell she was going to do now. She needed an ambulance, that was for sure, but she didn’t want to wait out the front of the house the man had just gone into. As once the dispatch officer would hear that it was a stab wound they would surely send the police as well and who knows who or what was in that house. Whoever lived there, she didn’t think they would appreciate the arrival of police at their property, the people inside might be armed and she didn’t want her or her children to be nearby when that happened. She would definitely be giving the address to the police, but as soon as her and her children were well away.
Closing her eyes for just a minute, Annie gathered all the strength she had left and decided on a plan. Her brother James worked just a couple of streets away at a mechanic’s workshop in Batt Street, he would be able to help and also look after the children. She would drive there, getting away from that house and on the way ring for an ambulance asking them to meet her at her brother’s workshop.
Looking down at the knife still sticking out of her thigh, she resolved to leave it where it was until the ambulance arrived, not only would it be painful to remove, but it also seemed to be stopping her from bleeding excessively. Plus, isn’t that what they said on TV and in movies, to leave it in until help arrived?
Relieved to finally have a solid plan, Annie put the car into gear and pulled away from the kerb, heading in the direction of James’ workshop. Using her car’s Bluetooth, she dialled triple zero, turning down the volume so it was just loud enough for her to hear and not wake her still sleeping children, “Police, fire or Ambulance, what is you location?” The emergency dispatcher’s voice ringing through the speakers made Annie for a small sense of relief that her plan was working. She just needed to remain conscious and calm, despite the pain in her left thigh, that was actually beginning to dull, no doubt from the adrenaline.
“Ambulance, Penrith, New South Wales.” She wasn’t sure if that was the answer she was supposed the give when the dispatcher asked for her location, but she guessed it would do.
“Thank you, putting you through now, please hold the line.”
As Annie waited on the line, she felt an overwhelming sense of relief as she pulled onto Batt Street and could see James’ workshop just up ahead.
“Ambulance, what is your emergency?”
Taking a deep breath as she pulled into the small industrial unit complex, where her brother’s workshop was located, she told the dispatcher her name and explained exactly what her emergency was.
Honking the car horn to get her brother’s attention, he came strolling out of the workshop, with a puzzled expression on his face as the dispatcher asked, “Do you know your exact location Annie?” She wasn’t entirely sure of the exact address of the workshop so she took the phone off Bluetooth and handed it to James as he opened the car door and saw the knife sticking out of her thigh, a look of horror crossing his face.
“Ambulance, tell them the address.” She managed to bite out the words, the pain returning to her leg with a vengeance. Nodding he grabbed the phone, telling them the address of the workshop.
“What the hell happened?” James asked, returning his attention to Annie, who currently had a steak knife hanging out of her thigh.
With beads of sweat running down her forehead, Annie gave her brother the short version of what just happened, “Junkie jumped in the car, demanding a lift to Smith Street. He got a bit nutty on the way and decided to stick a steak knife in my leg.”
James looked at his sleeping niece and nephews in the back, thankful that they had not witnessed the scary situation and wanting to keep it that way if he could, “Right well, ambulance should be here any minute and I guess they’ll be sending the cops too and you can give them the address you took that dirt-bag to.” He took a deep breath, taking in the sight of the knife again and the blood seeping out around the wound. He never did like the sight of blood, it always made him feel a bit queasy, but he was trying to keep it together for the sake of his sister and the kids.
“Does it hurt much?”
What a stupid bloody question, Annie thought, but she didn’t say that to him, thankful that he was here and the children and her were safe, “I have a steak knife sticking out of my leg, what do you think?”
James smiled, “Yea, right I know stupid bloody question, sorry sis. Ok what do you need me to do?”
As the ambulance finally arrived, Annie left James with instructions to call their mum to come and look after the kids and also to have someone pick up her husband from work and let him know what had happened.
The police arrived just as the ambulance officers were helping Annie out of the car, after giving her a hefty dose of pain relief and stabilising the knife that was still embedded into her thigh. After deciding it was safer for doctors to remove it once they were at the hospital.
Annie spoke briefly to the police, explaining what had happened and giving them address she had taken the man to.
One of the police officers spoke to the ambulance officers, “Guys do us a favour, tell them to be careful when they pull that knife out, it’ll hopefully have this guy’s fingerprints all over it and it’ll make our job a lot easier if we’re able to match them up.”
The ambulance officers looked the police officer with raised eyebrows, of course they’d be careful, they weren’t complete idiots, but instead of pointing that out they just nodded, ‘Sure, no worries mate, I’ll let them know.”
Safely in the back of ambulance, Annie began to drift into a pain relief induced haze, feeling all warm and fuzzy and the pain in her thigh just a cloudy memory.
Annie woke with a start, taking in her surroundings. As she focused on the sights, sounds and smells around her. She realised she was in hospital and began to remember what had happened. As she tried to sit up, an excruciating pain shot through her leg and she looked down to see it was covered in a bandage from the top of her thigh to below her knee.
“It’s ok, I’m here. You’re ok.” The familiar voice of her husband was a sound she welcomed as she turned to look in the direction she heard his voice. He stood tall next to her as he came closer and held her hand. Feeling comforted by his presence, she lay her head back down on the pillow.
“How long have I been out?” She asked, looking out the small window behind him and noticing it was pitch black outside.
“About twelve hours or so, the doctors had to operate on your leg, apparently the knife chipped the bone or something and they had to operate to fix it.”
With the haze lifting she began to recall more details, “The kids, are they ok?”
Kissing her on the forehead, she noticed her husband looked exhausted, but then thought she probably didn’t look so hot herself right now. “The kids are fine, they’re at your mum and dad’s place. They think they’re having a sleepover, I thought we’ll let them think that for now and then we can figure out how to explain all this.”
Annie nodded, “Yea, good idea, thank goodness they slept through it all. Did they get the guy? The police I mean, did they catch him?”
Her husband smiled, “Well that’s a bit of a funny story actually. The police stopped by while you were in surgery and filled me in. It seems he wasn’t the smoothest of criminals actually. They went straight to the address you gave them after speaking to you. Turns out you dropped him off at his dealer’s house and the idiot was still there. The dealer had no idea the guy had gotten a lift and he wasn’t too impressed when the police swarmed his property, as you can imagine.” Annie nodded, listening to her husband retell the story the police had told him.
“Yea, well turns out the police have been watching this property for months, knowing that something was going on, but they didn’t have enough evidence to get a search warrant. What happened to you though, gave them more than enough of an excuse to enter the property.”
“Glad I could help.” Annie said, her sarcasm returning in full force.
“My Annie, always happy to help and always full of sarcasm.” He quipped, smiling at her.
“Well, anyway, long story short, the guy and his dealer have both been arrested and have been refused bail. The finger prints on the knife gave them enough hard evidence of what happened and turns out there was several outstanding warrants on both the guy and the dealer, so they’re pretty much screwed. The police will be by to get a statement off of you when you’re feeling up to it, but really it’s just a formality, they already have more than enough evidence to put them both in goal for a fair while.”
“Yea, sure of course, that’s good.” Annie spoke slowly, still exhausted by everything that had happened.
He looked at his wife, his heart filled with love and pride at her strength and ability to protect their children. He was thankful that they were all safe and the person responsible was caught and would pay for his actions.
“I guess he really wasn’t a smooth criminal was he?” Annie said sleepily, drifting off the sleep.
“When the Lord closes a door, somewhere He opens a window.” -Maria (The Sound of Music)
This week I’ve hit a few road blocks and so as the title of this post suggests, I’ve been searching for the metaphoric window in my writing and in my real life. The good news is that I’m getting closer to that window in my writing, unfortunately in real-life it isn’t so easy.
But enough about the negative, let’s focus on the positive. Last week I told you all that I hadn’t had much time to write as I was working on something else (if you missed it, you can read last week’s post here) and I promised to share with all of you what I was working on this week. Well, a week has passed and as promised I’ll let you all in on the secret, yesterday was my Grandmother’s 80th birthday and as her birthday present I made her a “This is your life” themed book, documenting the years from her birth up until the present. It included her ‘story’ (which I cut down to only 8 pages long!) and a collection of photos over the years including her the childhood, courtship with my Grandfather and her family, only about 110 photos, as I managed to cut it down from around 150! It was an amazing experience to exploring my grandmother’s story and I found out some pretty amazing things not only about my grandmother, but also the world which she grew up in. Here is a short excerpt from her story about the world she was born into,
“It was the year 1934, the world had lived through the horrors of World War I and it was still enduring the aftermath of a severe economic recession caused by The Great Crash on Wall St in 1929. It was an era that is now known as The Great Depression.
It was in this year that Meccano Ltd introduced the first Dinky Toys and Percy Shaw patented the ‘cat’s eye’ road safety device. It was also the year when the “surgeon’s photograph” of the Loch Ness Monster was published in the Daily Mail –although it was much later admitted to being a hoax.
King George V was the reigning monarch and Ramsay MacDonald was the Prime Minister of England…”
What made this even more interesting, is the similarities between the world that my grandmother was born into and the world of Thomas and Rose. I did not purposely make this connection and as you may have read in some of my previous posts, Lonely Hearts originated from a dream I had, however terribly cliché that may sound, so perhaps on a subconscious level the link between the two worlds was made, but it wasn’t until I started to create this book for my grandmother that I realised the depth of the connection. My grandmother lost her mother at a young age, as did Rose (and Thomas) and what makes this subconscious connection even more startling is that my great grandfather’s name was also Thomas.
“…but in a small cottage in a village in the London Borough of Barnet called Arkley, Thomas and Bessie were eagerly awaiting the birth of their first child.”
My grandmother was also an only child, both Thomas and Rose were only children. The more I think about this, the deeper the connection becomes, perhaps I knew these details of my grandmother prior to writing her story, but I know that I did not consciously make this connection between the two worlds when beginning Rose and Thomas’ story.
And…. there’s the segue into discussing where I am in Lonely Hearts. At this point I am exploring Rose’s relationship with her mother and how that has shaped her. I am also up to the point in the story where reader’s are given a small insight into the connection Rose has with her mother in the present tense of the story (just a reminder, Rose’s mother passed away several years before the story’s timeline). Reader’s also gain a little more information about the underlying cause of Rose’s nightmares and the darkness that gives the book its title and I can’t wait to explore these ideas in even greater depth.
Today I have a small excerpt to share with you all. Some of it may seem a little familiar from previous posts, as I usually do a small amount of editing as I attempt to bind one idea with the next. Although I can quite easily spot errors in other people’s writing, I am still horrified at my ability to miss the errors in my own writing, so be kind. Sometimes even in the way I speak, I cringe afterwards at my lack of correct grammar, I think some of my student’s are rubbing off on me!
“What am I thinking? Why am I even considering this? Thomas and I are from two different worlds, it would be best for both of us to go our separate ways. One evening, which will be lovely, I’m sure – perfect even, but it cannot go further than that. I cannot help but feel as though I am throwing something of immense value away and as I catch my reflection in the window, I see my mother’s face looking back at me and as she does in those moments when I need her help or advice she spoke to me, “Rosie, some things are just meant to be.” What does she mean? That Thomas and I are meant to be or are we are meant to go our separate ways? But before I could ask she was gone, the same as always. I missed my mother so much, she was the only family I had ever known. I am thankful for having József in my life, but it’s not the same, a girl needs her mother and she was taken from me when I needed her the most.
I thought about the days after she died, I had felt so alone and afraid. Sometimes I still feel like that, when the darkness closes in and another nightmare consumes me, pulling me down. It’s always the same, it’s dark and lonely, with nobody to love or care for me, then they appear and I’m no longer by myself, but the darkness grows deeper and fear and pain surge through me. Then I hear her voice, telling me to stay strong, pleading with me to hang on and to reach up out of the darkness, then he is there – József is the one pulling me out of the darkness, taking away the pain and the fear, offering me a father’s love and beginning to heal my lonely heart. Lately though, having József didn’t seem to be enough and the frequency of my nightmares have increased. Perhaps it is because I am now older and no longer the young girl he saved, but I feel the darkness pulling me down and the loneliness closing in again, I have to find a way to keep the darkness at bay, I cannot let myself slip into the darkness again, for I fear that if I do, it will be the end and the darkness will consume me.”
This week I’ve been thinking about the dynamics in Thomas and Rose’s relationship. The circumstances that brought them together and those that threaten to tear them about. If things were different, perhaps they would never have met. If the Wall St Crash never happened in 1929, if the recession now known as The Great Depression never happened, even if they never lost their parents at a young age or if they had never experienced darkness in their lives then perhaps I would be telling a very different story.
I’ve written before about choices that we make and how these choices change the direction our lives are taking, whether we realise it at the time or not. Yet what about those things in our lives that we cannot change, circumstances beyond our control? How do these things impact and change our lives? That is exactly what I am thinking about in relation to Thomas and Rose’s relationship; the kinds of things that have happened in their lives that has made them who they are, things that are beyond their control.
With Rose and Thomas, everything that has happened int heir lives and in the wider world has paved the way for them to meet. Rose can’t deny that she has feelings for Thomas, but thinks it better for both of them if she doesn’t act on those feelings. Thomas on the other hand, doesn’t always do what seems to be best for him and he is determined to be with Rose, with no one getting in his way, not even Rose herself.
So, what things in your own life, that have been beyond your control, have changed your path?
““Édesem, it looks like you have yourself a handsome young admirer.” József says with a smile as he leaves his office and comes back into the front of the shop. Even though I am quite sure he is right, I know that nothing serious could ever come of it. What would people say, a wealthy businessman with a poor tailor’s daughter? As if that wouldn’t be enough to gossip about, what if someone uncovered my secrets, my darkness? I don’t think I could stand the thought of my innermost secrets being splashed over the pages of some newspaper. “Rosie, don’t do this to yourself, don’t overthink things. You are a beautiful young lady and Mr Heath obviously has excellent taste, just see where things go without looking so closely.” József interrupts me from my thoughts and always knows when I am overthinking. Even though I would like to believe him, I know that nothing can really between Thomas and me.
“What would you like for lunch?” I say to József, hoping to distract him and at first it seems to be working.
“Some sandwiches will be fine Rosie and I know that you’re trying cause a distraction.” I knew he would be onto me, but I wave my hand dismissing his comment as if I have no idea what he is talking about and head outside and into our house which is directly next door to the shop.
As I busy myself by making some sandwiches for lunch, I begin wonder where Thomas will take me for dinner. It would probably be somewhere posh, so I really need to see if we have any material suitable for an evening dress. It’ll be a push for time, but I’m sure I could make something suitable in time. He’s awfully forward, just look at how he behaved earlier, perhaps he will kiss me, do I want him to? I think I do.
Am I seriously considering this? Although on the other-hand, I can’t just turn down an invitation from a man like Mr Heath. That would be rude and also could cause friction in József and Thomas’ business relationship.
Just one meal, just to be polite and I will thank him for a lovely evening and we will both go on with our lives –separately. But what if he wants to see me again? What if he wants more? Could I give him more? Should I?
What am I thinking? Why am I even considering this? Thomas and I are from two different worlds, it would be best for both of us to go our separate ways. One evening, which will be lovely, I’m sure – perfect even, but it cannot go further than that. I cannot help but feel as though I am throwing something of immense value away and as I catch my reflection in the window, I see my mother’s face looking back at me and as she does in those moments when I need her help or advice she spoke to me, “Rosie, some things are just meant to be.” What does she mean? That Thomas and I are meant to be or are we are meant to go our separate ways?”
One of the truly amazing things about writing (and reading) is the unique opportunity to explore different worlds. Books have the unique ability to transport us through time and space to different worlds and times. While constantly researching the setting for Lonely Hearts and the other books in the series, I have had to wonderful opportunity to not only explore different places, but also to explore a completely different time period.
Lonely Hearts is the story of Rose, beginning in The Rocks in Sydney Australia in February 1935. As part of my research I have not only been exploring The Rocks and Sydney as it was in 1935, but also what the world was like in the 1930s. Through my research I have been shown a whole new world, seeing places I never knew existed and in the words of Princess Jasmine I’ve found, “A dazzling place I never knew.”
CLip remains the property of Disney Animation Studios
What is even more amazing about this new world, is that it is the world that my grandparents grew up in and it has been amazing to gain a glimpse into the world of their early childhood. My grandparents were born in England in the early 1930s and my grandmother will be celebrating her 80th birthday next month!
The thirties was a truly interesting and glamourous era, despite the recession caused by the aftermath of WWI and The Great Crash of 1929 (now known as The Great Depression) it was a time of glamour that was influenced by Hollywood. The age of the cinema allowed for people to escape from the reality of their everyday lives for a moment and stars like Joan Crawford, Myrna Loy and Greta Garbo influenced the fashion of the day.
The 1930s may now be known as The Great Depression, but I think the women of the era missed the memo and the fashion changed from the straight line dresses of the twenties to a rediscovery of the female form, fashion was flirty without being too revealing, with fitted waist lines and often full skirts, occasionally puff sleeves and shoulder pads in contrast to the fitted waist. Crossover and v-necklines were very common with skirt length being mid-calf for day wear and ankle length for evening wear.
I really am completely enthralled by this new world I have discovered and I can only hope that I pass on the findings of my discovery to my readers.
“For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.”
― Anne Lamott
Now I leave you with a short excerpt from Chapter 2 of Lonely Hearts, enjoy.
As József escorts Mr Heath to the shop front, he pauses in front of the counter I’m sitting behind, I stand and smile politely, pushing aside my wayward thoughts, “It was a pleasure meeting you Mr Heath, I hope your meeting went well and that we’ll be seeing you around every now and then.” I fib, knowing exactly how well the meeting went. He smiles his swoon-worthy lop-sided smile, “Rose, please it’s Thomas and yes very well indeed, but I think you already knew that didn’t you?” I give a small embarrassed smile as he leans in closer, mere inches from my face, “And believe me Rose, the pleasure was entirely mine.” The instant he steps back I feel bereft, as if I would do anything to feel him that close to me again, his breath caressing my cheek. As I attempt to restore my composure, Thomas extends his hand towards me in offer of a handshake. I gingerly extend my hand towards his, still embarrassed as the thought of my extended handshake earlier this morning comes to mind. Taking me by surprise, he gently grasps my hand, caressing my knuckles with his thumb and kisses the back of my hand causing me to shiver involuntarily, “Until next time.”…
Sorry about last week, procrastination got the better of me and I started and finished an assessment the day before it was due. The good news is that I got it finished (hopefully it’s enough to pass) and I’m back again ready to share some new thoughts, plans and even an excerpt from Lonely Hearts, so keep reading if that sounds like it might tickle your fancy!
I’ve been thinking about some of the smaller details in the world and lives of my characters over the last week and have come up with a few new thoughts. After watching the Underbelly Razor series (at the suggestion of my uncle), I’ve been able to gain a little insight into the world of Sydney from 1927-1936 – the perfect time frame to provide an insight into the world of Thomas and Rose. When we first meet Rose in Lonely Hearts it is February 1935, the economy is slowly recovering from the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and many of the country’s wealthy businessman are taking advantage of lower property prices and the lower cost of living. Thomas is one of these people, but he isn’t the type of businessman to put people out of a job, in fact his aim was to do the complete opposite. I’ve spoken of this before, but in case you’ve missed it, Thomas’ role as a businessman and investor is the key factor for Thomas and Rose meeting. Ordinarily Thomas and Rose would never have met, they were from two different worlds – Rose was orphaned at the age of fourteen after her mother -her only known family died and was taken in by her employer, József, a Hungarian-Jewish immigrant and the owner of a tailor shop. Thomas is a wealthy businessman who inherited a significant fortune when his parents died of Spanish Influenza when he was only eight years old. Therefore, if it was not for Thomas’ interest in investing in József’s business, the two would never have met.
I started thinking deeply about the two different worlds my main characters are from and the details of their worlds. Thomas, being of considerable wealth, would have had a large house – possibly in the Northern suburbs of Sydney. He would have many people in his employment to look after his household – including a driver. When I considered that, I started to wonder what kind of car he would have and after some initial research, decided that Thomas would own several cars, including a town car for everyday travel (such as travelling to The Rocks to invest in a certain business), an expensive glamourous car for attending evening events and a sporty little roadster, which Thomas would drive himself -because boys and their toys and all that. I haven’t decided on all the details entirely but I think that this 1935 Lincoln 301 Model K 7-Passenger Limousine would be fairly nice car for attending evening events don’t you?
Rose’s world on the other hand is very different, neither her nor József own a car, with most of the money being put back into the business, trying to keep them going. They lived modestly in a small terrace house next to the tailor shop. The early 1930s may now be known as The Great Depression, but many people did not dress like that, especially Rosie. Her skills as a seamstress and her talent for replicating the latest fashions were evident in the gorgeous clothes she wore, however her wardrobe consisted of day dresses and skirts and blouses, she owned one hat for going out during the day, which she saved up her money for and she wore it at a jaunty angle- a flirtatious statement in line with the latest fashion.
Of course there is still much more I need to explore in the world of Thomas and Rose and the attention to detail is making this world become some sort virtual reality experience for me, I only hope I can pass this experience on to my readers.
So as I head off to nail down a few more details, I leave you with an excerpt from the first chapter of Lonely Hearts. Some of it may seem familiar as a section of it I have shared in a previous post, but I have done a little editing as I progressed through the chapter, so it has been added to and changed slightly. I’m sure it will be edited and changed several more times before I feel it is finished, but this is where it is at this point in time.
“As I prepared the tea for József and Thomas, I caught myself staring at him through the partially open door, “Damn”, I nearly overfill the cup and I glance back to the door hoping no one heard me curse, but I have no such luck. “Is everything ok Rosie?” József calls from his office, the door now wide open. “Yes, fine. Would you like me to bring in the tea?” I ask quickly as I try to draw the attention away from the fact that a lady just cursed. I glance back towards József’s office and see the same slight smile curving the one corner of his mouth and I’m sure he is laughing at me again. I carefully carry the tea into the cramped office setting the tray down on the small round table next to the wall between the two men. I risk another glance at Thomas to check if he still finds my fumbling nervousness amusing and notice a small scar above his right eye and that his nose is slightly crooked. Is this his darkness, was he a brawler, exerting his physical power over others for his own gratification? Surely a man of his social standing would not associate himself with such brutal activities. Yet how can I be sure, by my own admission I know nothing about this man, yet I am strangely drawn to him, I imagine reaching my hand up to the side of his face and touching that small scar as he leans his cheek into my palm, I shake my head banishing the image from my mind. Listen to yourself Rosie! You barely know this man and you’re having unsavoury fantasies about him! Fantasize all you want, but remember, you are from different worlds; you could never be together, besides he probably thinks you’re simple after this morning’s performance. I nod in silent agreement with my subconscious, even though I barely know this man, I know that we inhabit two very different worlds.
My hands are shaking, betraying my nervousness as I make József’s tea to his liking, one sugar and a small amount of milk. Rosie, get a hold of yourself! I take a breath, bracing myself before I look at him again. “How do you take your tea Mr Heath?” I ask with a polite smile. My eyes lock with his, my breath hitches and I suddenly feel hot –too hot. He runs his tongue over his bottom lip, sending a shiver down my spine. No man has ever affected me in this way and I desperately pray that he doesn’t realise the effect he is having on me, but the now familiar curve that is at the corner of his mouth tells me that he knows exactly what he is doing to me and he is enjoying watching quiver and squirm under his intent gaze. Thomas blinks, as if he has remembered that we are not alone, “Milk and two sugar thank you Rose and please, call me Thomas.” I nod and prepare his tea as per his instructions, as I lean over to pour the milk into the tea I am acutely aware that Thomas’ gaze is fixated upon me and I am sure I just caught his gaze attempting to glance down the front of my dress. I know I should be offended, but I enjoy that idea that he perhaps might find me as attractive as I find him. I turn to József before leaving the room, “Well if there is nothing else you gentleman need, I’ll let you get on with your meeting. I’ll be out the front.” Jószef nods and I turn to quickly take my leave. I can feel Thomas’ gaze on me as I walk out of the room, slightly swaying my hips, secretly hoping he is enjoying the show and I imagine his lips curving into that gorgeous lop-sided smile.”
Well I’m excited to say that Lonely Hearts is really starting to come together! Even though I haven’t gotten past the first chapter, I have been doing copious amounts of research in order to find all the pieces of the puzzle. I have had to opportunity to explore the character of Rose a little more and also one of the supporting characters that has shaped Rose.
I have also shifted the time-line for the series, making Rose a little older when she meets Thomas and also bringing the series overall, closer to the beginning of WWII so the main story of Lonely Hearts is now beginning in February, 1935. This is now requiring even more research, as it is now three years later than the original beginning of Hearts Desire -the intended second book of the series, therefore shifting the entire series forward in time. Whilst I am still able to utilise much of the research I completed previously when beginning Heart’s Desire, I also must double check this research to ensure it is still valid in the time period I am focusing on.
I am also in the middle of researching Hungarian-Jewish history, I was at first thinking the particular character would have a typical Jewish-sounding name and speak Yiddish. How wrong I was! After much research I discovered that the Yiddish words I was intending to use were a different dialect to the one that Hungarian-Jews would have spoken (insert frustrated sigh here). So after trying to find a reliable list of Yiddish words in a dialect that Hungarian-Jews would have spoken, with no success, I went back to the drawing board. This is what I’ve come up with; the time frame I am looking at for this character is the time when Hungary was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In the later half of the 1800s, the leaders of Hungary pretty much told the Jewish people that they needed to have surnames (as previously they did not) and become more “Magyarised” or more Hungarian. My husband (who is Hungarian, but not Jewish) also explained that although Jewish people were accepted in Hungary and they were allowed to freely practice their religion, animosity towards Jewish people was increasing due to their success in business (just one of many reasons), therefore Hungarian-Jewish people, although clearly Jewish and accepted as such, would often try not to draw attention to the fact that they were Jewish (if that makes sense). Thus they would often take Hungarian forms of Jewish names and speak mostly Hungarian and not a Hungarian-Yiddish dialect (insert sigh of relief). So thankfully, instead of struggling to find the correct Yiddish words, I am now free to use Hungarian words I already know and give the character a Hungarian name!
Image from Flickr Creative Commons user trakygraves
So after coming to this conclusion through rigorous research and some “husbandly” help, I would like to introduce you all to József Szabó, a Hungarian-Jewish immigrant and a sort of adopted father to Rose. The name József is the Hungarian spelling of the English name Joseph (a common Jewish name) but pronounced with a ‘y’ sound at the beginning and a more rounded ‘o’ sound, the surname Szabó, means tailor in Hungarian and my research has indicated that when Jewish people were forced to choose surnames they often chose names that reflected their profession.
József and Rose met when she was fourteen, shortly after the death of her mother. József is a kind man, who is of average height with dark hair, pale skin and dark brown eyes. He is a strong man, who looks much younger than his years, but his eyes show a glimpse of the devastation he has experienced. József is a peaceful man and left Hungary during the the first World War to avoid forced conscription. At first he was planning to flee to America and start a new life, but somehow he found himself, along with his pregnant wife on a ship to Sydney, Australia. József’s wife and their unborn child passed away during the voyage from complications of the pregnancy, something which József always blames himself for. To him, Rosie is the daughter he should have had and they consider each other to be their family. The fact that Jószef is Jewish and Rose was raised as Anglican does not impact upon their relationship. They have mutual respect for each other’s beliefs and customs, even going as far to learning about each of their religions and culture with József teaching Rose about Jewish customs and Hungarian language and traditions. József is the owner of a tailor shop, which Rose also works in. József hopes to develop a line of “off the rack” items for men and women to be sold in his shop, pulling his business out of the aftermath of the Great Depression and propelling it into the future – this is where Thomas comes in. József is a very perceptive and observant man, so much so that Rosie jokes that he must be a mind-reader.
Now I have a small excerpt in which József realises that Rose is in love with Thomas and that she is going to leave, despite her feelings of loyalty towards József.
“He loves you, I can see it in his eyes, the way he looks at you. The question is though, do you love him back?” I glanced up at József, hoping that my eyes would betray my thoughts and feelings. “Ah I see édesem, well I am not about to stand in the way of love. Go and be with him.” I desperately wanted to be with Thomas, my heart was telling me to go to him but my feelings of loyalty towards József, a man who had been like a father to me, were holding me back, “But József, what about the shop, who will help you?” He smiled his crooked smile and shook his head at me, “Édesem, you are not the only hard-worker in all of Sydney, although I will probably need to hire two people to do your job, but I will manage. Now go you silly girl, be with the man who loves you.” I hugged József tightly as tears filled my eyes, “Thank you, I love you like you were my own father.” As József held me tightly I knew he was holding back his own tears, “And you édesem, are the daughter I had hoped for. Now go, before I remember you are one-of-a-kind and I change my mind!”