Saturday, 20 April 2013

It’s all in the name…


My characters’ names are very important to me. Some of them turn up with their own names right away, some are more difficult.
It always seems that if the name’s there, it works – if I try to force it, it doesn’t feel right and it’s best to wait for it to appear in its own time. I like using place names for people and people’s names for places. I like nicknames, especially if only certain characters are privileged to know and use them. I collect names and a lot of my characters are named after real people for no reason other than it being a name that caught my attention and was stashed away for the right moment. Some of my characters, however, have names that are really significant to me…
LC, as I’ve said, is based on – and named after – someone who was very special to us. The origins of the surname we adopted for him date the beginning of the writing of this story and can be tracked back to the Tottenham team of the early 90s. That was an awesome line up at the front.
Hil turned up out of nowhere. I always thought that Zachary was a cool name and love the fact that Hil hates it so much. I also love the way everyone calls him Hil – that nickname also reminds me of someone very special.
Hal Duncan is named after someone special that I never met. He was my husband’s best friend at school. They both joined the army at 16, went into different units and Duncan (Tiny as he was known – he was 6’4”) died at the age of 17. I knew both of them by reputation before I met my husband. I wish I’d had the chance to meet Tiny. My husband still misses him.
NG has only recently revealed his name and even then, it had to be dragged out of him. That was always part of his appeal. He was the character, the new guy, who turned up out of nowhere, without so much as a name, as a breath of fresh air to nudge everyone else into action when they were playing up. I had no idea back then how complex he’d turn out to be, how much there is to him that he hides from everyone behind that veneer of easy confidence. I think that’s why it took so long to learn his name.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

When characters don’t behave…


Writing Residual Belligerence (Hil) took me a year, Blatant Disregard (LC) took about a year and a half – I’ve just found my notebook with the first scribblings of Harsh Realities (NG) and it’s dated exactly three years ago!
I used to think I could write a book a year, pretty much, but here I am three years later and still working my way through the complexities of NG’s story.
I know that partly the increasing time scales are due to the fact that I started writing LC while I was editing and finishing up Hil, and then writing NG whilst editing and finishing up LC. I find it hard to switch between writing and editing, and when I’m polishing and editing one story, it’s tough to click back into that place where I can get into a different character’s head to move their story on.
Editing feels like work. Writing is fun. Writing is what I do to go somewhere else, to be someplace where I have total control, mostly, over what happens. Where I can play. Where sometimes I don’t know what might happen next and I get surprised by my characters when they do or say something unexpected. Editing is what I do to make a story right, to tie up all the loose ends, weave through all the threads and intricacies of plot and character development and check consistencies, not to mention the whole proofreading process at the end. Work. No wonder each book has taken longer.
My characters have also become increasingly complex. Hil is very straight forward. I worked through a lot of anger issues when I was writing the first book (long story). I listened to Linkin Park, very loud, and drove too fast with conversations and arguments between characters always buzzing in my head. But the Thieves’ Guild books are really about LC. He’s always been my main character, and I’ve been writing about these characters for almost twenty years, but I was always in awe of him. He was supposed to make an appearance in Residual Belligerence but when it came to it, I couldn’t write it. It ended up as a flashback. Hil was telling LC’s story and it was that that got me to a point where I finally felt I could handle reckless, unpredictable, incorrigible LC.
The second book didn’t just take longer because I was finishing up the first. LC is hard work. He’s based on someone who was an incredible character and I always feel that I have to live up to his legacy. I hope I’ve done him proud.
But if I thought LC was difficult, being with NG is proving to be exasperating. When NG first appeared in my short stories a long time ago, he was always cocky, bright, mischievous… Now? Now, I’ve thrown so much at him, it feels like he’s reeling from it. All that anger from a few years ago hasn’t gone but it’s changed. I feel changed and NG’s story is very much about change. I’m sure he’ll come through it in the end. That has to be the point, doesn’t it?

Monday, 8 April 2013

welcome to my new blog!

As if writing and working, and juggling family, isn't enough, I've decided to blog! I'm not much into writing personal stuff, so it'll be about books, writing, what I'm working on and what's coming soon.
More to follow...!