Personal Review: Always With Love

I read Giovanna Fletcher’s fantastic book Always With Love in just two days. If the book charts are anything to go by, you should read it too. Because it’s sweet, fun and flat out adorable.

This is a personal blog, so I’m going to write a personal review. There’s really no denying Giovanna is a brilliant writer, with her books storming the charts always landing at No. 1 and huge queues for book signings that lead straight out the doors. She’s a lovely lady and it shows in her blog posts, Youtube videos and social media. I kind of love her and everything she does.

But, for me, this book was too much. Far too much.

Reading it from my point of view, about a young couple buckling under the weight of a long distance relationship, was hard. Really hard. Because I’ve experienced it and we failed.

As much as I was taken in by the characters and the dreamy chiclit settings, I found myself comparing – and, I admit, painfully recognising – the scenarios that happened to the characters in each chapter and I didn’t see it going well.

From the sweet long distance phone calls between Billy and Sophie right down to the disappointment they felt when they finally saw each other again, only to find it’s not the same as it used to be. Things changed. I recognised it all.

Reading over those same situations, the same scenarios and even the same damn conversations between Sophie and Billy, was heartbreaking. Because they all mimicked my own.

So, okay, my first love wasn’t a huge movie star but he might as well have been. He shone whenever he walked into a room and he never failed to catch people’s attention. Like Sophie, I always felt plain, shy and boring in comparison standing next to him. He shined so bright. I found comfort in my hometown, my family and the places where I grew up, which I never wanted to leave. He had far more ambition and gradually taught me to have some too.

I want to be honest, because I feel like I haven’t been in a really long time and I miss it.

While Giovanna’s book ended as you’d expect in a romance – all happy and giddy with the promise of a future together, and in love – I was left disappointed. Because I recognised all those signs of impending doom throughout the book and neither of the characters acknowledged them.

I felt like, even if they realised deep down that they weren’t meant to be together, they wouldn’t admit it straight away because they were holding onto each other until the next hurdle came along. And it will.

Because they were different people, world’s apart and wanting different things. I guess pretty much everyone can relate to that.

I guess I was expecting them to split up, but this is fiction and, at that, it’s romantic fiction. I imagine Gi would’ve left many fans disappointed if the story ended there, unhappy and broken apart.

Me, on the other hand, I’m still here, trying to recover after a dazzling and heartbreaking read.

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Telling Myself: A Break is Okay

I promised myself I would do Camp NaNoWriMo this month and, although I’ve almost reached my personal word count goal, it hasn’t really felt like enough. I haven’t been writing every day. I haven’t been pouring coffee down my throat in order to JUST WRITE. I haven’t been locking myself in my room and writing for hours on end.

In short, it feels like I haven’t been focused enough.

But I have been thinking about my characters all the time. And this, I’m telling myself, is okay.

Even though I may not have been writing, it’s all still been there, just bubbling under the surface, working itself into something more tangible and detailed so when I come back to it I’m ready.

So I’ve been doing other things.

In my spare time, I’ve been going to literary festivals, doing fun writing workshops with other people I’ve never met before, meeting amazing authors like Liz Kessler, Anna McKerrow, Lu Hersey and Lisa Glass and even picking their brains about their own writing process when they write their novels.

Meeting Lu Hersey, Anna McKerrow and Lisa Glass

I’ve been taking long walks and sitting in the sunshine reading books and laughing with friends. I’ve also driven up and down the countryside in a couple of days so I could have an interview for a masters degree in writing.

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So I haven’t been writing my own novel per se, but I’ve been doing other things that count towards it. I know this might sound lazy, like I’m even making excuses, but in my eyes it’s not.

Because I’m realising it’s okay to take breaks. It’s okay to step away from your project for a little while, if only so you can see it a little clearer when you do get back to it again. It’s okay not to achieve ridiculous word count goals you might set yourself for the month, as long as you’ve written something.

Breaks are important. Just make sure you get back to your project.

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Because you might find something truly amazing by procrastinating.

Book Review: Red Witch

I wrote a book review for Cornish Story recently. You can view the website here (psst.. we are always looking for new submissions!) so I thought I would share here.

Mostly because I am so looking forward to meeting Anna McKerrow again (the author) at the Porthleven Lit Fest next month, but also because I forgot to post this when I actually wrote it.

Red Witch by Anna McKerrow

Last year, Anna McKerrow released her debut novel Crow Moon which tells the story of the wayward sixteen year old Danny Prentice, a witch, who cares more about chasing girls than being loyal to his magical covenstead. The exciting debut saw Danny thwarting his own demons and gradually learning to accept responsibility to protect his homeland known throughout the series as Greenworld.

Now, with the release of McKerrow’s second book, Red Witch, readers get to hear the story of Demelza Hawthorne, who flees Cornwall at the end of the last book in search of refuge and tranquility after discovering that the boy she loves has died on the fields of battle.

The Young Adult author came to Cornwall last year on the release of Crow Moon and chatted to visitors in Waterstones, where she held a book signing with other writers. Though she lives in London, the author has a deep love for Cornwall and its unrelenting mysticism. These factors alone give the author an abundance of stories focusing on paganism, magic and witch stories which she focuses on throughout her books.

Although the first book is initially set in Cornwall, the narrative of the second book takes place in Glastonbury, somewhere which has close links to pagan rituals and magic,  an echo of the Cornish landscape. For protagonist Demelza, a life on the run constitutes leaving Cornwall, escaping Greenworld and crossing over into the Redworld, a landscape similar to ours which McKerrow describes as ‘a crime and corruption-riddled Britain’.

Set in 2046, the Redworld is a land where fossil fuels are running out and political unrest is at large with the working class and the poor. For Demelza, her journey is a cathartic one and one that leads her towards Bran, a handsome and intriguing individual whose attraction is undeniable.

The pair embark upon a dangerous romance, meandering through the different avenues and pathways that the Redworld has to offer to a young witch escaping heartbreak. However, as the story unfolds, she begins to question whether she can really trust this handsome Bran, and has to face the possibility that she might not belong there after all.

At the end of the novel, the inclusion of the traditional Cornish folk song,The White Rose, shows a certain sensitivity and gratifying nod towards Cornish culture while simultaneously keeping it well within the theme of the Celtic, witches, spirituality and the dazzling realm of Greenworld.

The book is an exhilarating sequel to the first, a book which is full of passion, adventure and, above all, forces of magic! Read this book and you will fall in love with the story, the characters and the dire struggle for a Greener way of living as opposed to the harsh, chemical Redworld. It is a book not only for teenagers but, as stated on the back of the book by Irish author Louise O’Neill, ‘a terrifying cautionary tale for our times’.

Alongside working on arts projects for the famous reading charity Book Trust, Anna McKerrow is currently writing the final book of the Crow Moon trilogy, which will be published in March 2017.

Red Witch was released on the 10th March 2016.

You can find Anna McKerrow on Twitter and view her website here.

Originally published on Cornish Story Magazine.

Emily Barr: Final Writing Workshop

Today marked the last day of the incredible writing workshops I’ve been a part of with many talented writers at Falmouth University. The writing workshops were taught by the fabulous Emily Barr, who is a bestselling (and very skilled) thriller novelist.

Even more exciting, she has a new YA book coming out early next year which is published by none other than Penguin, so watch this space!

These workshops have been amazing and a real gift to be a part of. I’ve learnt so much, from writing about sense of place through to writing about characters with amnesia and how to deal with that. Emily was also kind enough to bring her husband – also a writer! – to these workshops and having him there too was a huge insight into the children’s publishing world, as he’s also a children’s writer.

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The workshops were held over a period of five or six weeks and, inbetween this, I was lucky enough to have two focused individual sessions with Emily, where we talked about novel writing, what it’s like to be signed by a top publisher like Penguin and copy edits. What was even cooler was how she persuaded me to bite the bullet and follow my own writing dream, which is to travel out to Texas and do some research on the novel I’m writing – a YA novel set against the backdrops of the rural South.

I’m planning to go during Easter break but if that doesn’t happen then there’s always the summer. I’ve already saved up some money for the trip (I have been saving since the first year of my undergraduate degree: that’s three years). I just need to take someone with me, if only to make sure I come home and don’t run off with a cowboy, which is an actual true danger.

These writing workshops have made my writing stronger, they’ve made me listen to other people’s writing with more precision and clarity, and to be more confident about reading my work aloud. I always struggled with this before, so it’s great to have a balance between reading your work on the page and reading it out loud to other people.

To be a part of such a great writing community every single week has been really special and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I’m sad that it’s over but feel so lucky to have been a part of it all. But it’s not over yet! We have one more last personal session with her on Wednesday and I’m excited about this. Afterwards, we’re all meeting for drinks, so now I guess I can say I’ve shared a few drinks with Emily Barr! Yay!

But, seriously, it’s been so wonderful. Even better, I feel like I’ve made some new friends as a result of this great workshop and gotten some awesome new skills!

Until next time.

Writing Monday!

Today I got to do something amazing. I got to sit in writing workshops with bestselling (and famous) novelist Emily Barr.

Quickly upon meeting her, I found out she was lovely. Like a ‘I’m really interested in who you are and what you do’ kind of lovely and this made her workshop so engaging and effortless the entire way through. (It was three hours long).

First we did some writing exercises, like trying to write a short story with every consecutive word of the alphabet – in order. I won’t lie, it was tough. And mine was a load of nonsense compared to everybody else’s.

Currently, there are twelve of us who are participating in the writing workshops which are running for a few weeks! Do I even need to tell you I’m excited?? Being in a room with so many sophisticated and talented writers is really humbling and kind of like magic once you’re in the room with them. They make you want to be better. They want to make you try harder. I’m really lucky to not only be with Emily Barr – an actual novelist – but also everyone else too, because they’re all talented.

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I’m so incredibly looking forward to seeing how these few weeks pan out. It’s the last year of my degree, the last chance for me to do something like this. I’m going to count every second because I don’t want it to be over. Next week we’re looking at setting and how it matters in fiction/writing!

Excited!!

In other news, my friend got me a new vintage night gown today (she knows I love them and already have like three already). It has ruffles and IT’S PINK! I’ll even leave you a picture of it.

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Anyway, until next time! I have to pop out to get some washing up liquid …

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Book Signings!

Last night I met Sarah Winman, author of bestselling novel When God Was a Rabbit and the recently published A Year of Marvellous Ways. The first time I read When God Was a Rabbit I was mesmerised and immeasurably hooked. I loved it so much I even cracked the spine a little bit (something I rarely ever do with books).

So I’m certain that A Year of Marvellous Ways will hold just as much magic for me as Rabbitdid, if not more.

To meet an author – published, famous, and successful – always washes a tidal wave of excitement over me. And, of course, last night was no different on the crowded shop floor of Waterstones, Truro, the tiny capital city of sunnyside Cornwall. There was an informal interview between Sarah and a lovely employee of the iconic bookstore which weaved the stories of Sarah’s childhood memories, the people she’s known in her life and, ultimately, how the book and its characters came about.

I was captivated.

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The evening went on and, as she was talking, I became hugely gratified to discover that, when she writes a novel, she usually writes roughly 1000 words a day. This, for me, was monumental, in that while I am currently writing my own novel I also tend to write 1000 words a day.

(In no way am I comparing myself to this bonafide successful writer, but hearing those words gave me hope: it said, ‘I can do this!’)

It was truly a comfort in itself; knowing that an author like this also simply writes 1000 words a day and still gets the novel finished on time.

Because, you know, when you aspire to be a full time writer yourself, you always imagine bestselling authors to be hammering out 5000 words a day or more, scribbling page after page after page.

She read clearly and calmly, with just the right emphasis on the right characters when speaking their own dialogue. Her words written on the page and then spoken from her own mouth were entrancing and not even for one second did I actually find myself bored.

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To my joy, she signed my copy of her book which is now sitting on my shelf. And, not only this, but I asked her if she would sign my own journal; a notepad I use to scribble all my thoughts and story ideas in whenever I’m on the move. She complied and asked if I was a writer too. I told her yes, I was, and she listened as I spoke about my own fiction writing and the novel I’m continuing to write over the summer.

She listened.

Of course, I was in a queue so had to hurry along, but she gave me the utmost hope for my writing (not to mention a truck load of inspiration) and told me good luck with my writing adventures and said that, if I stuck to it, I could publish a book too one day (with a lot of hard work and torturous rewrites. I know.)

Everything takes a little bit of time and a whole load of patience, and most importantly, a great deal of work. As a current participant of CampNaNoWriMo, I’m mostly keeping to my word count goal of 500 words a day, if not 1000. Watching my stats go up is like watching a plant grow; it can be really, painstakingly slow, but the progress is still there and visible!

By way of word count, my goal is to have 36,000 words of my novel by the end of the month in total. But, the way I’m going, I’m hoping I can totally beat that!!

So, ultimately, here’s to Sarah Winman – on a brilliant and captivating debut novel and what I already know to be a truly wonderful second novel in A Year of Marvellous Ways, even though I haven’t read it yet.

Here’s to inspiration.