Life imitating art… again

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I love it when real life decides to imitate the plots of my books. It happened a few years ago with The Emerald Comb (see this post) and is happening again now with my new book, The Drowned Village.

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My book was inspired by a visit to Haweswater Reservoir in the Lake District. A  village, Mardale Green, was evacuated and demolished to make way for this reservoir. What if, I thought, a secret was buried in the village, then lost when the village was flooded? What if, in a period of drought, the reservoir recedes and the village and its secrets exposed?

Well look what’s happened, in our current heatwave! More fabulous pictures in this article. Whether or not there’s a real life secret to be uncovered remains to be seen, though.

But there’s definitely a mystery to be resolved in my book – which you can pre-order here.

 

 

 

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It’s all go, here!

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I’ve just returned from a lovely relaxing two week holiday in the Loire valley in France, in our motorhome. The days were spent cycling beautiful lanes between fields of wheat and vines, swimming in lakes or rivers, sitting drinking wine in the campsites.

Oh, and I also managed to get a lot of writing done! Somehow, possibly due to the laptop not being connected to the internet, I managed to get an average 1000 words a day written, which is more than I do at home.

And a complete idea for a new novel, set in France and featuring a chateau, arrived. Hurray!

I’m back at the day job tomorrow. And back to the Irish independence novel from today – it needs editing and returning to my editor in about a month so I need to crack on.

In other news, The Girl from Ballymor is on an Amazon Kindle promotion in the UK, and selling at just 99p. Hurry while stocks last, as they say! I’ve just received a lovely message from a reader about this book. It does seem to strike a chord with many people of Irish descent throughout the world. Hope the independence novel does as well!

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Hard back, large print

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LP books Very excited to open this morning’s post to find these beauties in a jiffy bag! This is my first book in large print, and isn’t it lovely? I’m hoping many libraries will buy it so it can reach lots more people.

I love this cover. Seeing it on the finished book was the first time I’d seen this cover. That model is so definitely Kitty, though I suppose really she should be a little more gaunt around the face to be historically accurate. But let’s see her as she was before the famine, healthy and happy.

 

In other news, I’m now working on two books at once. Editing a second Irish novel, and starting to write another one, set in Dorset. The aim is to publish both next year, though neither has a definite title yet! You’ll hear it here first. Or ‘like’ my Facebook author page https://www.facebook.com/KathleenMcGurl  which I sometimes update earlier than my blog with news.

Who of you uses a library? I must admit I don’t, these days. I’m a compulsive book-buyer, and have so many in my To-Be-Read pile I don’t need to add to it with library books. Yet I think libraries are a brilliant service, and in the past I’ve used them a lot – especially when my kids were young.

 

How I write my novels

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I’m at that delicious between-novels stage. I’ve sent the first draft of my latest to a few beta-readers and to my editor, and am hoping they’ll take a good couple of weeks or more to get back to me with feedback. I have an idea for the next one, but I need to pull together various notes and try to make a complete story out of them, which will take a while. There’s also some research needed.

While first-drafting I tend to ignore everything else, including this blog. But now I’ve a bit of time to raise my head above the parapet and see what’s going on. Over a month since I posted here – shocking!

Anyway, I thought I’d do a brief post on how I go about writing my dual timeline novels.

Firstly, I start with the idea: a number of notes jotted over time on my phone, in notebooks, on backs of envelopes or whatever is to hand. Then I have to do some thinking to try to pull the notes into order, and see if I’ve got enough story. When I think I have, I’ll then have a go at writing a synopsis – about 300-500 words, outlining the novel.

After that I write character sheets for the main characters in both timelines, interviewing them. They tell me their deepest fears, what makes them happy, what they dreamed of last night, as well as boring stuff such as hair colour, date of birth, name etc.

Then I write a plan – a spreadsheet with a couple of sentences on what’s going to happen in each chapter. I aim for 90,000 words in each novel, and around 3,000 per chapter, but I need to begin and end with the contemporary story, which means there has to be an odd number of chapters. I go for 29 or 31. Sometimes there’s a prologue from the historical timeline, acting as a hook – depends if I feel the novel needs it or not.

Next it’s time to start writing. I’ve got two stories to write and interweave. I don’t write the chapters in the order they end up in the book, though. I will always write the first one or two from both timelines to get into it (and to send to my editor for approval if she asks for it), and then I usually steam ahead on the historical story right to the end, before going back to the contemporary story to slot around it.

One novel I wrote in sequence, alternating the chapters as they appear in the book, but this felt too choppy and I found it harder to get really immersed in each timeline and set of characters due to constantly changing.

This latest novel: stupidly I decided to write the whole contemporary story first. Mainly because I hadn’t yet done enough research on the historical period. Then when I got to the parts where my contemporary character needed to find out the truth about what happened in the past, I couldn’t write it, because I didn’t know myself what had happened, because I hadn’t written it! D’oh. Had to break off, do the research, write the historical and then finish off the contemporary.

So from now on, after the first few chapters, I am going to write the whole historical tale first. This definitely works best.

I write each chapter in a separate Word document. On my planning spreadsheet, I keep a word count per chapter and a rolling word count, so I can see whether the dramatic highs and lows are coming at the right point in the novel. Once all chapters are written I open a new document and copy all the chapters in, in the right order. That’s the ‘initial construction’ draft. I will then edit that, move scenes around if needed, fill in blanks, deal with my notes-to-self that I make in capital letters while first-drafting. Once that’s all done – that’s my proper first draft, and the first one I let anyone read.

There’s loads more work needed of course, as any novelist will tell you. My editor and beta readers will have opinions on what works and what doesn’t, and hopefully will provide ideas on how to improve it. I’d expect another couple of drafts before it goes to the copy-editor and then the proof-reader. But getting that first draft done and sent always feels like a great achievement. The novel may be far from finished but at least I’ve got something to work with now.

Happy St Patrick’s Day!

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shamrock To all those of Irish descent, and everyone else, have a wonderful St Patrick’s Day! If Ireland beat England in the Six Nations rugby this afternoon, thereby winning the Grand Slam, it’ll certainly be a joyous occasion in this house. My husband is a committed fan of Irish rugby. (If you read my books carefully you might spot references to Munster Rugby club in them – it’s the only way I can persuade him to read them.)

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My Irish book, The Girl from Ballymor, is currently just 99p for the ebook – what better way to celebrate St Patrick’s Day, especially given the awful weather forecast for the weekend, than curling up with a good read?

And if you’ve already read it, thank you! I’d appreciate a brief Amazon review, as those really do help sell books.

Whatever you’re doing today, have a good one, and Slainté!

Are you ready for a bit of summer?

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Here in the UK we have had a long, cold winter. Just as March began and we all thought spring was here, we were hit by snow and storms across the country. We even had snow here in Bournemouth, where it NEVER snows! Those up north are still suffering.

So it feels like a good time to officially reveal the cover of my next book, The Drowned Village, which has a gorgeous summery feel to it. The contemporary strand of the story takes place during a long, hot summer. We can but dream that that is what we’ll get this year!

You can preorder the book in either ebook or paperback. It’s due for release in September 2018.

Amazon UK link.    Amazon US link.

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A new cover!

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It’s hard to believe but it is almost four years since I published my first novel -Mr Cavell’s Diamond. This one was self-published, and my lovely son made me a cover for it.

Time’s moved on, and I felt the cover didn’t really fit the contents of the novel and also didn’t look right alongside my other novels, published by HQ. So, I commissioned a cover designer (Berni Stevens) to make me a new cover, and I’m delighted to be able to share that with you today! Here is is. The Regency house, the girl, the sea in the background – all just spot on for the story, and I love the vibrant colours.

The novel may have been out a while, but it’s still one I’m very proud of. Unlike my other novels it’s not dual timeline but it is historical, and there’s a genealogical twist (revealed when you get to the author’s note at the end).

You can buy the ebook from Amazon UK, Amazon US, or any other Amazon.

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Research and more research!

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Some novels require an awful lot of research, and the one I am currently writing certainly falls into that category. The picture shows some of the books I’ve been referring to – might give a few indications of what the book’s about!

My work-in-progress is set around the time of the Irish war of independence, 1920-21. Back when I  was at school, we learned nothing about Irish history, despite the huge impact on everyday life the ‘Troubles’ had on us at that time.

I’ve been married to an Irishman for 25 years, so of course I’ve learned a lot about Ireland, its people and its history, over time. Even so, when I started writing this book I was a bit hazy on many of the details. These books, except the Constance Markievicz one, were all on our bookshelves at home and have been very useful. The Short History of Ireland gave a brief overview of the 1916 uprising, the war of independence and then the civil war that followed almost immediately after. The Story of the Irish Race was published in 1921 when the war was still raging, but was good for learning about the events of the previous centuries that led up to Ireland’s fight to break free of the UK. Great Irish Speeches contains a few from those years – which has helped me understand the Irish nationalist feelings of the time.

While researching I kept coming across the name Constance Markievicz, and at some point read the Wikipedia article on her. She’s a fascinating character, so I bought this book to learn more about her. She was born into Anglo-Irish aristocracy, dabbled as an artist and a theatre producer and actress, married a Polish Count, was a suffragette, set up the Fianna Eireann (kind of military boy scouts) and then became heavily involved in the Irish nationalist movement. She was in the thick of the fighting in the 1916 uprising, and arrested for it, escaping execution only because she was a woman. Quite an unstoppable force. I’m hugely enjoying this book which I’m reading from cover to cover, and it’s certainly inspiring my novel!

Welcome to 2018!

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Happy New Year to all my blog readers and visitors! Hope you enjoyed whatever it was you did to welcome in the new year. We had a quiet night in with a bottle of wine and the Game of Thrones season 7 box set – just what we needed after a busy fortnight over Christmas.

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At this time of year I always like to look back at last year’s resolutions, see how well I did, and make some more for the coming year. Posting them publicly means I am committed to achieving them!

Here’s what I wrote last year:

So, my 2017 goals are:

  • To make the most of the six months travelling
  • To come home part way through the trip so we can make it to our son’s graduation!
  • To complete the book I am currently working on
  • To be about 2/3 through the next book by the end of the year

How did I do?

Well I think we definitely made the most of the six months travelling in our motorhome. We left the UK 3 days after I stopped work and returned 3 days before I was due back at the day job. And yes we made it to our son’s graduation in July!

I completed the book I was writing – it will be published in August 2018.

I’m not quite 2/3 through the next one – that would be 60,000 words in and I have only written 50,000. But near enough for a tick, I think.

 

Time to think about what I would like to achieve in 2018.

Writing – complete a draft of the current novel and complete a draft of another one after that. It’s possible they’ll be published the other way round… who knows! Either way by the end of the year I’d like a completed book ready for publication in 2019.

Fitness and weight – I’ve let both go a bit lately. So I need to lose a few kilos and work on increasing my fitness level. We have a ski trip booked at the end of January and a Lake District walking trip at Easter so I’d best get going quickly with these! Actually I already restarted running in December having not run since March, so I’m already on the way.

I also want to make a start on sorting out some of the accumulated junk in this house. So I’ll make another resolutions to begin chipping away at it, probably beginning with the loft. Although maybe starting with the worst bit is not so very wise…

Season’s Greetings!

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I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas! We had a lovely day with both sons home and my brother visiting. Lots to eat and drink and plenty of silly games.

I’ll let you into a tiny secret – I cooked Christmas dinner for the first time ever. 25 years ago I made the very wise decision to marry a good cook (not just for his cooking skills you understand!) and therefore have never had to do much in the kitchen other than clear up the not-inconsiderable mess he makes.

But this year we decided to do things differently, and so on Christmas morning our younger son and I cooked, while the other three went for a walk and to the pub. And dinner was amazing, though I say it myself.20171225_141816.jpg

Best present received? My dear husband bought me a Lego campervan, to remind me of our travels this year! I spent many happy hours on Boxing Day constructing it, with the help of two very jealous sons who have not quite grown out of Lego and probably never will.

A nice surprise this morning was to see that the ebook version of The Girl from Ballymor is on an Amazon UK promotion, selling at just 99p, and rising nicely up the charts as a result. Here’s the link if you want to grab yourself a post-Christmas bargain!