DIVA Literary Festival

DIVA Literary FestivalI’m thrilled to be taking part in the inaugural DIVA Literary Festival and Awards which are taking place at the Hilton Metropole, NEC Birmingham on 3rd/4th/5th November 2017.

The weekend will begin on the Friday evening with the DIVA Literary Awards and continue with two days full of book readings, writing workshops, panel discussions, poetry readings and much more.

Come and perhaps discover your new favourite writers!

Radio DIVA Interview

To tempt your appetite for the weekend listen here to me chatting with Rosie Wilby and Heather Peace on Radio DIVA.

I chat about my debut novel Highland Fling, my publisher Bold Strokes Books and my excitement about the upcoming DIVA Literary Festival. (from 42mins)

I look forward to seeing you there …

 

Saturday Nov 4th 10:30 – 11:15 
LEADING LADIES
Iconic literary characters live on in readers’ memories for all time. Bold Strokes Books authors explore the challenges involved in creating memorable characters and discuss strategies for making characters unique, non-traditional, and unforgettable.

Sunday Nov 5th 12:45 – 13:30
GENRE BENDING
From Fantasy to Adventure to Romance, Bold Strokes Books authors discuss what drew them to write in their particular genre(s). What are the similarities between genres? Where is there overlap? Do genre conventions matter?

 

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Finding The Way Out

way outFinding 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.

 

© 2016 All rights reserved. No reproduction without written permission.

Finding The Way In

way in sign

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.

  1. p254, A Conversation with Nancy Garden, interview with Kathleen Horning, Annie on My Mind, 2007 Edition, FSG

 

© 2016 All rights reserved. No reproduction without written permission.

Thoughts From The Bold Strokes Books Festival June 2017

Talk To Me - Writing Good Dialogue
Writing Good Dialogue Panel

 

“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:-

  1. Does the style of the dialogue I’m writing match the personality of my character? Is the ‘voice’ authentic to them?
  2. 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?
  3. Is the content of the dialogue engaging and informative, and will it help my reader better understand either the character and/or the plot?
  4. Is the dialogue easy to read – does it flow?
  5. Will the reader know at all times who is speaking and what is going on?
  6. Have I been careful not to overuse dialogue tags – those speech tags attributing dialogue, actions, and emotions to a particular character?
  7. 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.

Top tip:-

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”

 

Moderating the Conflict Panel
Danger, Conflict, Uh-Oh Panel

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…

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conflict_(narrative)

 

© 2016 All rights reserved. No reproduction without written permission.

Bold Strokes Books author Jenny Frame interviews Anna Larner about her debut lesbian romance, Highland Fling.

Congratulations on your new book, Anna!

Cheers, Jenny!

What made you decide to become a writer?

It wasn’t so much a decision, more “Oh, so that’s who I am.”

The clues were there:

Clue 1- A daydreamer with an overactive imagination.

Clue 2- A degree in English Literature.

Clue 3- A heartfelt passion for all things LGBT.

Let’s just say I eventually joined the dots.

Where do you get your ideas?

Inspiration comes from the world around me—people, places, events—captured by my senses, tucked away in my memory.

I then form ideas by reimagining these memories through the lens of Me—who I am, my sensibilities, my sexuality, the stuff I find hard, the stuff I find fun, that kind of thing.

What is your writing process like? Do you plan everything or just let the story unfold naturally?

I know this is common to many writers, but I get the sense that I’m writing a story that is waiting to be written. That doesn’t mean I automatically know the story, or that it is easy to bring it out.

Highland Fling was written in a free-flowing way, without a plan. In retrospect not the most efficient way of working, as it took three substantive edits to finalize the work but it was a necessary and invaluable experience, and I learned an awful lot about writing along the way.

My second novel Love’s Portrait has a detailed plot summary in place which is helping me write more efficiently. But I wouldn’t be able to write in this way without the experience I gained writing Highland Fling.  

A large part of your book Highland Fling takes place in Scotland—one of the most beautiful places in the world, but I might be a bit biased. What inspired you to set it there?

The Highlands of Scotland is one of my favorite places to visit. It is such an awe-inspiring place. The fauna, the flora, the mountains that go on forever, it is a feast for the senses, and the stuff of dreams and imagination.

On one particular visit, during a hike, I met a local forestry woman and I began to imagine her life and that planted the seeds for the story. Before I knew it I had given her a holiday romance and a complicated past!

How much of yourself and the people you know are in your characters?

I wrote Highland Fling from my heart; therefore there is a lot of me in it, and without intending a few traits from my family and friends.

In particular, the main character Eve feels everything I felt at twenty-six. How awkward I was when I fancied someone, how difficult I found it to read someone’s sexuality, how impulsive I could be when smitten. Eve’s best friend Roxanne definitely has traits from my best mate who used to listen with amusement to my tales of hapless crushes.

The inspiration for Moira came, not so much from anyone in particular, but from an understanding that your life experience, your choices shape you. Moira embodies the many pressures, both internal and external, of being a lesbian growing up within a small community and in a less accepting era.

It was important to me that Highland Fling reflected real people, overcoming real struggles and finding real hope.

What’s your favorite and worst part of the writing process?

My favorite part is when I find my groove and the writing flows. The worst part is the natural process of doubting yourself, whether that’s during writing or waiting to find out what people think!

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Commit and open your heart, and you’ll hear your characters, you will see the setting, and then write with unashamed gusto. Edit later and never stop wanting to improve.

Who are your literary heroes? Who inspires you the most?

Nancy Garden is definitely one of my top literary heroes. She wrote the first lesbian romance I read called Annie On My Mind. I was in my teens and it was such a consoling read.

Funnily enough, I’ve blogged about my literary crushes as I have so many! They include E. M. Forster, Ali Smith, Carol Ann Duffy, W. H. Auden, and Virginia Woolf.  Take a look if you fancy: www.annalarner.com  

What are you writing next?

The novel I’m working on is a contemporary lesbian romance called Love’s Portrait.

The essence of the story is that a museum curator and museum benefactor fall in love as they discover a painting’s tragic past.

My aim is to deliver a heartfelt romance with depth and poignancy, with beautiful descriptions, packed with tension and scenes of breathless attraction.

To finish, a very serious two-part question. Tea or Coffee? What’s your favorite biscuit?

Wow. This is a revealing question. Still, this is no time for biscuit coyness, so I might as well confess—I’m a dunker. So chocolate is problematic and any crumbly biscuit is far too stressful. For me it’s a malted milk or a ginger nut.

Now, on to the second part—I drink tea first thing in the morning, usually two cups straight after each other. Then about eleven thirty I have a cup of coffee. Not just any coffee—it has to be Lavazza and made in a stovetop coffeemaker. I’m a creature of habit.

Thanks Anna! 

Gingernuts

Highland Fling by Anna Larner

Les Rêveur

Fantastic Debut Novel by Anna Larner

Synopsis

Eve Eddison describes her ideal woman to her best friend, Roxanne, over pints in their local pub a few days before she travels to the Scottish Highlands. There she falls head over heels for an enigmatic local, Moira Burns, and the usually reticent Eve wants more than a holiday romance. Forestry officer Moira Burns has no intention of letting go—either of past pain or for present pleasure. If that means she misses out on her chance at happiness, so be it. Convinced Eve is headed for heartbreak, Roxanne advises her to let Moira go…but has Eve found her ideal woman at last?

From the breathtaking Highlands of Scotland to the buzz of a Leicester gay bar, family and friendship are tested to breaking point, as letting go proves painfully hard.

My Review

Firstly I’m Scottish so a Lesbian Romance set in the highlands…

View original post 528 more words

States of Independence – 11th March 2017 at Clephan Building, De Montfort University, Leicester.

states-of-independence

Come say hello and maybe buy a book. Hot of the press copies of Highland Fling will be available (£10) before general release!

Bold Strokes Books authors Robyn Nyx and Brey Willows will also be attending with their books too!

The eighth States of Independence will take place on Saturday 11 March 2017 at Clephan Building, De Montfort University, Leicester. 10.30am – 4.30pm.

If you can’t make it but would like to purchase a copy of Highland Fling let me know (postage and packing will apply).


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