Archive for January, 2012

Introducing Delilah Dark

As a child, my hero was Roald Dahl. When I grew up, I was going to write children’s novels.  At six I wrote my first, The Scruffs (about messy kids who get into scrapes).  By the time I was eight I was writing a series about Lisa Spector, daughter of an oil magnate, who has adventures in exotic locations: Transylvania, the Bermuda Triangle, Egypt, New York. In Hard Cheddar mice plotted the murder of all the world’s cats.  Sand Up My Nostrils tackled evil genies. I had the idea that for it to be a novel you had to reach 100 pages, and near the end my handwriting would get VERY BIG.

A few years ago, I had another go at a children’s novel: The Discoveries of Delilah Dark.  I finished it very quickly – in a month of euphoric, slightly manic writing. Having just enjoyed the Harry Potters, I tried to pitch it at a similar level – for 8-12s, but with details older readers might enjoy too.  I was proud of my heroine, who is a kind of 12-year old Dorothy Parker; a cynical psychic with a sharp black bob and crocodile-coloured eyes.  And I relished creating a fantasy where the enemy is not a monster or wizard, but a more contemporary threat – a shadowy corporation determined to destroy humanity and the planet.

Like many things I write (I am absurdly prolific), the novel ended up in The Drawer. I did send it to my agent of the time, but six months later she still hadn’t read it and we ended up parting. By then I was involved in other projects and Delilah was forgotten.

Then, recently, everyone started talking about Kindle self-publishers. Some say it’s an amazing democratic revolution, others that it’s the end of literature, but as a teacher of creative writing it is becoming hard not to have an opinion. Like most writers, I find the new model simultaneously worrying and exciting.  But I decided, why just pontificate when it’s free and easy to give it a go? After all, I have all those manuscripts in The Drawer.

Obviously, I wouldn’t self-publish my poetry – I love being with Bloodaxe, who are wonderful at getting my poems reviewed and onto bookshop shelves, and when I read poetry I like to have a physical book in my hands.  My experience with the Kindle is that it suits lighter reading: something disposable or entertaining to kill time on the bus.

The Discoveries of Delilah Dark seemed the perfect text to publish as an e-book. It is totally different from my other work, so I can publish under a pseudonym (I’ve chosen Evie Glass, as my middle name is Eve and I’ve always thought Glass is a cool surname). It’s genre fiction, so it fits under the categories children’s / adventure / paranormal and should be easy to find in the Kindle bookshop. And as I wrote it in a month, I can treat it as an amusing experiment, and won’t be heartbroken if I don’t sell any copies…

My husband Rich whipped me up a quick cover:

I spent a couple of days editing and formatting it, and a week later it’s up!  It’s been really fun. A bit like playing at publishing, but real.  E-books like this depend on word of mouth, so I’ll be very grateful to anyone who shares, reviews, ‘likes’ or tells their kids about it. You can purchase it for your Kindle on Amazon for £1.94.  I’ll let you know how Delilah does…

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Happy New Year!

I’ve just got back from a week in Bavaria, which was a great place to start 2012. Our very good friends Rufus and Anna had flown over there for Christmas as Anna’s family live in Burghausen, and Richard and I joined them on the 28th.

We started in Mittenwald, where we went sledging down silent Alpine slopes, past pines heavy with snow. Then there was the Gabriele-Munter-Haus in Murnau, centre of The Blue Rider movement, with furniture painted by Kandinsky. For New Year we stayed with Anna’s lovely friends Julia and Stefan in their country home near a lake.  It was a wonderful party: the stove blazing in the corner, lots of beers, schweinefleisch and sauerkraut, Anna playing the spoons and an introduction to this weird show called ‘Dinner for One’. For those of you who don’t know it, it’s this British music hall sketch that is massive in Germany and required viewing on New Year’s Eve – everyone was shocked the British visitors hadn’t heard of it, and thought it was hilarious to repeat the show’s catchphrase to us (‘Same procedure as usual’) wherever we went.

(Best viewed with a weissbier)

After this, we went to Munich to meet other friends, James and Nina, where we swam in Art Nouveau baths and went to a beer hall frequented by Brecht.  Then finally Anna’s home in Burghausen, where there is a stunning castle and Anna’s parents filled us up with an enormous cheeseboard, delicious cake and homemade jams .

It’s such a beautiful, welcoming country. Lots to take in…

Back to work now, which for me means teaching, with term starting next week.

If your new year’s resolution is to write more, there are still a couple of places available on my intermediate ‘Form and Content’ course at the Poetry School in London on Wednesday evenings. This term we’ll be looking at voice – the poetic ‘I’, confessionalism, dramatic monologues, and forms that use direct address such as elegies, ghazals and lullabies.

And for those of you (like me) who always need a holiday to look forward to, I’m also teaching a couple of residential courses this year.  A ‘Starting to Write’ Arvon at Totleigh Barton in Devon in July, and an intermediate course about finding your own voice in Loutro, Crete in September (am very excited about this, we stay on a remote beach you can only reach by boat)

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