How do I write?
I was forced to ask myself this question when I was recently asked to take part in the #mywritingprocess meme. So what is this meme? It is a blog tour that passes from writer to writer, accumulating as it goes a collage of individual writing processes connected by the tag #mywritingprocess.
So, a huge thank you to author Rebecca Mascull for inviting me to take part. Rebecca’s debut novel, The Visitors, was published by Hodder & Stoughton this January to excellent reviews. It is a beautifully written novel about a deaf-blind girl growing up in the hop fields of Victorian England, her friendship with a girl who helps her communicate, and her first love…
Find out more about Rebecca –
I have invited the following brilliant authors to carry on the #mywritingprocess meme:
Elaine Walker is the author of the utterly haunting work The Horses (Cinnamon Press), 'an uplifting and open-hearted novel', alongside other fiction and non-fiction titles, including several which focus on the horse in cultural history.
S D Sykes is the author of historical crime novels with a much awaited debut, Plague Land to be published in September. She describes herself as ‘lost somewhere in the 1350s’ and is growing her online presence from:
So here goes….
Martine Bailey’s Writing Process
1. What am I working on?
I am currently finishing the follow-up to An Appetite for Violets. Provisionally, it’s called The Penny Heart and is set in the 1790s in the north of England, Australia and New Zealand. It is again about a cook, but this time a former Botany Bay convict who is unwittingly employed by a naïve young wife. Deceit and double-crossing follow, uncovering a tale of revenge that culminates in murder.
When I got my wonderful two-book deal with Hodder I was living in a tiny town called Whakatane on the east cape of New Zealand. My agent warned me I should have a synopsis ready so I asked myself what I was equipped to write in a beautiful solitude that lacked any museums or specialist libraries. I decided I had my memories and identity from Britain and also lots of powerful Antipodean history about castaways and convicts.
2. How does my work differ from others?
I like to use material objects like the Penny Hearts produced by convicts as the starting point for my fiction. An Appetite for Violets was also very much inspired by objects, in that case Household Books and the marks women made in them, recording their domestic hopes, lists and recipes. Without wanting to sound overly pretentious, I am influenced by Roland Barthes’ idea that photographs and other memorial objects, instead of making the reality of now more solid, gain their power by reminding us of the world’s ever changing nature.
I also obsessively seek out experiences and places to write about. I usually visit the locations I write about and make notes on the essence of a place, its sounds and flavours. So learning about Georgian Cookery with Ivan Day was a rich and inspiring source and also sampling fashion and food with Georgian Re-enactors.
3. Why do I write what I do
This is certainly the most difficult of the four questions. When I was a little girl living on a Manchester council estate the idea of being a writer seemed impossible. Fairy tales, being taken by my Dutch grandparents to King Ludwig’s Bavarian castles, a creative family, dressing up and play-acting stories – all of these fed into the mix somewhere.
Writers who have inspired me are Mary Renault and Daphne du Maurier, as well as the eightteenth century Gothic and contemporary crime writers such as the excellent Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine and Andrew Taylor.
Historical fiction appeals to me because of its sense of the ordinary containing the extraordinary, its tensions particularly around women’s lives, and the remarkable food and material objects. The language too, is a delightful collision of enlightenment civility and hyper-expressive criminal slang. But in the end, the Georgian era is probably just the historical period in which the Ladybird edition of Cinderella is so perfectly set.
4. How does my writing process work
I start with perhaps a couple of ideas – a place and a situation. I try quickly to move onto character, which is where the spark and energy of a novel lies. I do a lot of analysis and use mind maps to work out relationships and forces of antagonism and attraction. I use big divided notebooks and try to write my notes in those, though it tends to break up into higgledy-piggledy scraps. I also highlight chunks of stuff in books and collect interesting language, proverbs and names.
I write best in the mornings and write quite slowly, weaving themes, plot-lines and character exposition together. I then print out what I’ve written and revise it many times, seeding clues and misdirections into later drafts. It sounds laborious but when the words are flowing it truly can be painful to wake up in the twenty-first century.,,