Thanks, thrilled you enjoyed Hooper Street!
Finding the way out can be hard, can’t it?
Be it finding your way out of a confusing car park or poorly signposted building. Or indeed finding your way out of an embarrassing situation or, perhaps heartbreakingly out of a love lost or broken.
Finding the way out of feelings that hurt us is at the heart of life. But then mercifully there are those words that form stories, images, and ideas to be found spilling out of books, to console us and to show us a way through.
We find such solace in the shared experience depicted by the writer, who in turn is writing to find their own way out for those feelings and characters that crowd their head and heart.
It is therefore no wonder that those spaces that bring the reader and writer together are so incredibly precious. I couldn’t have felt this more when in the last few weeks I have been so fortunate to read at both Gay’s The Word and at LFest.
For me Gay’s The Word is not just a bookshop, and LFest is not just a festival, they are without question the champions of our words, our stories, and the providers of sanctuary for our hearts.
For nestled amongst the many shelves of books at Gay’s The Word and canopied underneath the dome of the big top at LFest, the audience looked back at me, waiting for the writers with their lips pressed to the microphone to speak the words with the potential to connect, inspire, and delight.
In those moments, paved by books, perhaps we found a way out together towards our queer future, illuminated in hope and wonder by the stories we love and share.
Finding the way in is at the heart of everything isn’t it?
Be it finding the way in to a confusing car park or a poorly signposted building. Or indeed finding your way in to establishing the common ground of a friendship or perhaps most importantly to the heart of the one you love.
Finding the way in is not only at the heart of life, it is at the heart of writing. It is that moment when a writer’s creativity sparks, igniting an imagined scene or character or dialogue. It is where the story begins.
I remember reading an interview with author Nancy Garden explaining how she found her way in to writing Annie on My Mind with a single line of dialogue.
“One rainy day…the words ‘It’s raining, Annie’ popped into my head. I know it sounds weird, but something told me that at last this might be the beginning of the book, although I didn’t know who was saying ‘It’s raining’ or who Annie was. But nonetheless that was how Annie on My Mind was born.” 1
Nancy’s explanation resonated with me as my debut novel Highland Fling began as much with a line of dialogue as with the setting of the Scottish Highlands. I could hear my main character Eve saying tenderly to her lover Moira, “You can touch me if you want”. These few words began a paragraph of writing, which then became a page, which eventually developed into a novel.
In a similar way my short story “Hooper Street“ in the anthology Girls Next Door: Lesbian Romance became the destined home for a phrase that had loitered in my head, potent yet aimless: “It was a Tuesday when…” The line now continues “I first met Abbie.” “Hooper Street“ had already been loosely drafted before those homeless words gave the story the purpose and orientation it needed. It peculiarly felt like those five words were fated to belong in the story, but that at some point they had been separated from it, like a dream half forgotten and then suddenly fully remembered.
For sometimes ideas, words, and images conjured by the imagination are so fleeting, that the writer is left chasing the memory of something, constantly editing and refining, working to get as close as possible to the perfect creative form just out of reach.
Despite the writer’s efforts to capture their imagination onto a page and to craft the perfect story, the ultimate meaning of a work lies with the reader. After all, the words and images that connected the story to the writer will not be the same words and images that connect the story to the reader.
All a writer can do is guide the reader in the direction we hope they will travel. But in the end, as it should be, the joy is the discoveries you make for yourself, the satisfaction of finding your own way in.
You will find me, should you wish, reading from Highland Fling and “Hooper Street“ and chatting more about writing at Gay’s The Word Bookshop, London, on 13th July, and at L Fest, Loughborough on 22nd July.
I look forward to seeing you then.
- p254, A Conversation with Nancy Garden, interview with Kathleen Horning, Annie on My Mind, 2007 Edition, FSG
Girl Next Door – Anthology
What a great collection of stories. Here’s 8 of my favourites with a short review. Enjoy…
Sometimes the most intriguing girls are right next door—BFFs, ex-girlfriends, new girls in town, party girls, study mates, teammates, and sexy strangers. All it takes is a night out, the right moment, or an accidental kiss to discover what’s been there all along—the perfect girl for a love that lasts a lifetime. Best-selling romance authors tell it from the heart—sexy, romantic stories of falling for the girls next door.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Cupcake by Georgia Beers
- Guilty Pleasure by M. Ullrich
- Hooper Street by Anna Larner
- Snow Day by Missouri Vaun
- Knocking on Haven’s Door by Brey Willows
- Gold by Giselle Renarde
- Love Unleashed by Karis Walsh
- Bat Girl by Laney Webber
- The Aisle of Lesbos by Allison Wonderland
- Kiss Cam by Lisa Moreau
- The Girl Next Door…
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“Writing good dialogue”
Here are some of the ways I think good dialogue contributes to a story:-
- It can entertain – enlivening the prose and engaging the reader.
- It can move an aspect of the plot or narrative forward in a way which, because it is absorbed within the ‘chat’, feels light and digestible – meeting the wise adage of show not tell.
- It can impart information about a character, allowing the reader to: ‘hear’ the character’s unique voice; ‘see’ their mannerisms; and ‘understand’ their emotions/reactions.
- It can reveal how a character can change depending on who they’re talking to, illuminating the distinct relationship between characters. For example, a character chatting with their best mate might have ‘banter’, but the same character with their lover may have much more intense dialogue.
- It can heighten the potency and the impact of a character’s internal thoughts, at times playing with the unspoken monologues. For example, when a character thinks one thing but says the opposite.
- Particularly if the piece is written in third person, where you have a silent narrator if you like, it can cleverly allow the writer to say things the narrator can’t. Dialogue lends a character a dangerous independence.
So here’s a checklist of some of the things I think about when I’m writing dialogue:-
- Does the style of the dialogue I’m writing match the personality of my character? Is the ‘voice’ authentic to them?
- Does the tone and content of the dialogue fit the moment in the narrative? Are the characters saying the right thing, in the right manner, at the right time?
- Is the content of the dialogue engaging and informative, and will it help my reader better understand either the character and/or the plot?
- Is the dialogue easy to read – does it flow?
- Will the reader know at all times who is speaking and what is going on?
- Have I been careful not to overuse dialogue tags – those speech tags attributing dialogue, actions, and emotions to a particular character?
- Have I remembered that the pauses or pregnant silences can be as important as what is actually being said – the natural rhythm of speech if you like.
Try sitting in public spaces and listen to people chatting. Hear how they interrupt each other, how they might begin on one subject and end on another, how passionate or flat their tone is.
Can you (without looking of course) imagine what they look like, what their life might be like? What is distinctive about them – is it their accent, the pace of their speech, is their language – informal or formal?
And finally – listen to your characters chatting in your head (and they do!), let your writing be their voice.
“Thoughts about ‘Conflict’ in fiction writing”
In works of narrative, ‘Conflict’ is the opposition main characters must face to achieve their goals.1
A writer might employ two forms of conflict to create the tension which drives the narrative. Conflict may be ‘internal’ or ‘external’ – it may occur within a character’s mind, most commonly revealed in their internal debates or monologues or between a character and exterior forces, for example in conflict with another person or the world around them.
Writers will often employ both forms at once, as a combined tool, for the development of plot and character.
To avoid the conflict feeling forced or unbelievable a writer will embed the conflict at the heart of the novel, so that it is an integral element and arises organically and effortlessly.
Conflict creates drama and interest in a novel by setting seeds of doubt, it keeps the reader guessing, it invests the reader in the outcome, and keeps them turning the pages again and again…
For the past four years, Tig and I have had a blast creating this blog and this community of readers and UK authors. It’s been a pleasure and a privilege, and we owe a lot to the authors who’ve contributed, offered freebies, written blogs, and kept us up to date with their news and releases. To finish things off with a bang rather than a whimper, we corralled a few folks to answer one simple question:
What are your hopes for the future of lesbian fiction?
This is what they had to say…
My hope for the future of lesbian fiction is that it remains vibrant, inspiring and above all, literate – that we continue to write stories that are not confined to the ghetto, but that spread to the wider world. At this time of global chaos, with the collapse of eco-systems and the 6th extinction happening…
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At this time of such political uncertainty I am so thankful for those organisations who tirelessly work to protect our LGBT lives. Last week we celebrated IDAHOBIT day (17th May, International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, & Transphobia). IDAHOBIT day was created in 2004 to draw the attention of policymakers, opinion leaders, social movements, the public and the media to the violence and discrimination experienced by LGBTI people internationally.1 Here in the UK, ahead of the election, Stonewall2 has been working to challenge parliamentary candidates to commit to protecting LGBT rights in the UK and abroad.
I think of this vital work, however, as the visible tip of the iceberg. Because, as with many things in life, the force behind change can often be found in the relatively small things we do on a regular basis.
For example, when as writers and readers we gather together each year at the Bold Strokes Books Festival to celebrate LGBT fiction, whilst our purpose may not be to debate politics or mastermind campaigns, it nonetheless cannot be underestimated what we are achieving.
We are creating for ourselves a precious, safe space where we can openly and joyfully connect with each other as we share in our love of LGBT literature. As we passionately talk about why these stories mean so much to us, and what we want our stories of the future to look like, we are actively writing the narrative of our lives. We are claiming our voice and asserting our individual identities.
I am so grateful to be participating in the 8th Annual Bold Stokes Books Festival, and empowered by the fact that in a small but significant way, as writers and readers, we are contributing to the wider work to challenge ignorance, discrimination, and injustice.