When a writer gets all grumpy and complains about sales, the weather, the coming apocalypse, the rising price of red wine and the fact that no one else ever helps with the laundry, you can be pretty sure he/she ain’t writing. I’ve been whistling a little lately, and paying bills without too much smouldering resentment, which means I’m back to work and it’s not going quite as badly as anticipated. That sigh of relief you hear comes not just from me, but from my family as well. And probably from my agent and my editor, though they’d be far too polite to say so.
As I was slowly ploughing through Nomansland the other day, painstakingly sorting out the chaotic, patchy story, I found myself thinking that if I were J.K. Rowling I’d hire a plot consultant to come in and sort my novels out for me. Once the basic story worked, I’d swan in from the health club to round out the characters and add a bit of pithy dialogue, then phone my agent and tell her I’d finished another masterpiece. Of course if I were J.K., I’d be far too rich to bother about plot, not to mention fairly good at it in any case. See? Even the plots of my fantasies have holes in them.
I’ve been listening to How I Live Now dramatised on BBC Radio 4’s estimable Woman’s Hour this week, and have mixed feelings. Pro: It is very thrilling indeed to have my novel dramatised on Woman’s Hour. Against: Where on earth did they get the voice for Piper? She sounds like an escaped munchkin extra from the Wizard of Oz. I like the music though. Which reminds me — the film of How I Live Now is going great guns, with an absolutely amazing young Hollywood actress as Daisy (can’t say who, yet, but suffice it to say that when I saw her face, I suddenly knew what Daisy was supposed to look like), and a superb set of final call backs from young UK actors for the rest of the cast. One of the producers told me that there has been no shortage of amazing “magic children” turning up for auditions, which is kind of nice. Makes me realize I didn’t invent the genre, just noticed it. The two magic children I know personally both live in New York City (Eggy and Theo, you know who you are).
By the way, have a look at the fantastic new Spinebreaker’s website. It’s designed and run by an amazing bunch of kids with more creativity in their little fingers, etc. etc. Maybe they could sort out my plot for me….
A rousing debate took place at the Guardian Newsroom the other night, with panellists Jacky Wilson, Michael Rosen, Michael Morpurgo and me. Not sure exactly what we were discussing, but I think it had to do with the fact that reading books is a good thing. No consensus was reached, naturally.
This has been a bad month for breast cancer. The indomitable Dina Rabinovitch lost her battle with cancer, but has left the legacy of her amazing fundraising campaign for cancer research. And anyone who loved Siobhan Dowd’s writing or even better, loved Siobhan Dowd, might be interested in a very fitting memorial to such a wonderful writer. The Siobhan Dowd Trust will provide books and support for public libraries, state school libraries in economically challenged areas, children in care, asylum seekers, young offenders, and children with special needs. It was set up by Siobhan when she knew she didn’t have long to live. Both women left their book royalties to charity, along with donations. I miss them both terribly.
And finally, recommendation of the month, run out and buy Sally Gardner’s The Red Necklace. If there’s a better way to make kids realize how thrilling history can be (in this case, the French Revolution), it’s not one I know about.