every single film ever made has been digitally compressed into a huge library, where they can be accessed, taken apart, used, reused - infinitesimally Mrs Chubbs, Home Movies, 1993Take Peter Cushing's appearance in the latest Star Wars film, and the controversy over whether we have the right to have actors play parts that they never could have had any knowledge of. It's all there in Home Movies... Something else which is there is the character of Amanda Jones from the 1985 film Some Kind of Wonderful. Who would've thought then that she would the seed of the story for the Mr Tumnal follow-up, The Imaginary Wife as just one of the literary and pop-culture references to find and enjoy?
I’ve never been homeless and I do not pretend to know what that must feel and be like. Each morning though, on the way to work, as I walk across the city from one bus to the next, I see them sleeping in shop doorways. At 7.30 in the morning it is like the city is switching over between two worlds that don’t co-exist. Come back at any other of the day and these homeless people will not be found.
I often wonder what their stories are, how they come to be living rough; I wonder what they do during the day, and where they go. If I was any other writer (or just anyone else) I might ask them, find out their stories but that would being someone who wasn’t as shy as I am. It doesn’t stop me wonder though, and wonder at the stories…
Mr Tumnal is the story of a man and his imaginary friend, and The Imaginary Wife, is the story of the the man’s imaginary friend. Sequel to them both will be Forgotten Friends – the story of all the imaginary friends out there who have been left behind by the people who dreampt them up and then cast aside by society. What if the homeless were these imaginary friends – people with their own lives and their own cultures, linked to all of us but unseen and forgotten, seen only at the edges of the day and night, and only if you really look for them.
A week and a half on and its weird to think that all around the world there are people reading Mr Tumnal. A year ago the story was resting before I embarked on the editing, but that didn’t stop the characters talking to me. On a weekend away on the Wiltshire/Hampshire border I started writing a companion piece involving some old and some new characters from my second novel.
This particular story will never be a full-length novel, but I like it that my characters have continued to talk to me, and that their lives have continued. I guess its a bit like fan fiction isn’t it. Is it fan fiction if the author themselves writes new stories with old characters?
Mr Tumnal is available as both a paperback and an eBook for Kindle.
Shepherd, T E (Cover illustration by Silviu Sadoschi)
Publication date: May 2012
Ebook ISBN 978 0 9571756 6 2 (£2.99) Amazon UK | Amazon.com
Paperback ISBN 978 0 9571756 7 9 (£8.99) Amazon UK | Amazon.com
It is clear that this story was inspired by the fortified medieval Cité of Carcassonne, and its a creative inspiration that I am all too familiar with. I was first told about this book shortly after its publication whilst I was writing my own foreign-travel-inspired-novel. I too had, independently, a character called Alice and a story that blended the real with the fantastical. It’s a BIG book though, and for whatever reason, even though I enjoyed the story I only got about halfway through before the draw of another book took me away from it.
I think it was the historical sections involving the medieval Alaïs that I had difficulty with and put me off from finishing the book. Eight year’s on, and I’m pleased that I returned to the book to read it again, from beginning (again), through to the end. It’s the kind of book that makes the Kindle worth it – I can read a BIG book without it taking up alot of space.
Second time on, and I was as gripped by the 21st century opener involving Alice and the archeological dig as I was the first time, and I did struggle a bit still with the Alaïs story too (or at least the cast of medieval characters when Alaïs wasn’t involved) but it hung together for me, and kept me moving on. I would preferred a bit more of handovers from Alice to Alaïs’ story to keep the link, and I was a little confused by the sudden appearance and importance of Will to the story? Why does Alice so completely and immediately trust him after all that has happened to her?
Having read the second book in the series, Sepulchre, first, I would say Labyrinth is the better, more complete, tale, and I’m glad I finally got round to finishing it. It’s also inspired me to continue to be creatively inspired by history and foreign places, and finding those stories to weave into a modern narrative. I really do like time-shift adventures.
Two years ago it seemed like just about the entire country was in the thrall of the London 2012 Olympics; we were all still talking about that Opening Ceremony; and the music that featured in it was still ringing in our ears. The mantra surrounding the days was Inspire a generation and of ‘legacy’. It’s not for me to judge whether those aims were fulfilled. I was inspired but I can’t say that I’ve actually done anything to live up to that inspiration. Not, at least, in a sporting sense.
A year on, and this time last year, that playlist was back in my head, being replayed on almost constant repeat on my iPod. Once again, it was the soundtrack to my life, and it was inspiring me. I remember one weekend afternoon/evening when Emma got called out work, I was working on Mr Tumnal in the garden under the shade of the umbrella and listening to my 2012 playlist on headphones and I was in the zone… and I didn’t realise that all around me there was the most torrential rain and a thunderstorm raging!
That was exactly a year ago today; the day that I put my last pen mark to Mr Tumnal’s story. Another year on, and I have a yearning to listen to that music again. In the intervening year, I have read, re-read, had-read, redrafted, edited, and had-edited my novel, and submitted it to publisher’s. No wonder then, that I am now getting itchy fingers to start writing again.
I’m not entirely sure that writing was quite the thing that Locog had in mind when they coined the Inspire a generation slogan, but hey, if it works! I wonder if every July will demand this music to be played?
However much we either liked or hated school, we all have favourite teachers from our school days. And a lot of people – and probably all creative people – had inspirational teachers. I’ve had a few in my school days… Mr Butcher, Mrs Turley, Mr Goodwin, but the one who stands out for me as being someone to encourage my writing was Mrs Batterbee aka. Olivia Batterbee aka. OJB.
My first completed book, Ruins Of The Old, which I entered into both my A-Level Art and English as coursework (the words for English, and the illustrations/binding for my Art), was dedicated to those three initials: O.J.B.
I always vowed to dedicate my first properly published book to her too. After all, she encouraged my stories, even after I left middle school, and even kept me supplied in yellow exercise books in which to write them for a time. As it turned out when I came to publish The End Of All Worlds two years ago I dedicated my book to my wife Emma (after all she is the one who has for seven years put up with living with a writer so it seemed only fair to reward her in some way), but those initials O.J.B. did last on to close out the the acknowledgments section.
I’ve been meaning for years, and I mean years, to try and get back in contact with Mrs B, and having published my first novel, and had it read by people who don’t know me from Adam, it seemed kind of appropriate. But you know how it is, one thing drives out another, and I never did, until…
We were back in Suffolk at the end of November last year, and my Mum had managed to get hold of her address from some other teacher ex-colleagues and so I participated in a bit of drive-by letterboxing of my novel into her house in Lowestoft. I simply inscribed a copy of my book, included a short note with it, and tucked it into a jiffy bag. I sat back and waited for a response.
And waited, and waited… I figured in the end that I must have got the wrong house or she had moved. It never once crossed my mind that she might have thought I was some freaking weirdo. So anyway, last week I wrote a letter to her and posted it off. And this morning I got a response. Not the response I wanted, but encouraging that someone took the time to send my letter back.
It turns out Olivia (now Wood) sold the house in July 2013 and moved to be closer to her son. They also said that they had taken my book to her solicitors (and gave me their names) to forward on, as they didn’t have a forwarding address. If only I had been a bit quicker off the mark with my drive-by letterboxing!
The Wave in the Mind: Talks & Essays on the Writer, the Reader & the Imagination by Ursula K. Le Guin
I don’t usually comment on the star rating that I give to books, but with this one I feel it is necessary. Parts of his book are truly outstanding. The ‘Personal Matters’ section that begins this collection of essays and the ‘On Writing’ section that concludes it are brilliant and insightful and every one worthy of five stars.
I’ve had this book for a couple of years and only dipped into it, but this year I decided to do more than to dip… Inspired by Diana Wynne Jones’ Reflections book at the other end of this year, or by the brilliant Magical Tales (which I keep on coming back to and referring to) I was hoping that this book too, would be similar. Sadly, I found much of the middle section of the book much too complicated to grasp which meant that I was wading through them trying to keep my head above water, enjoying the odd snatch of genius as I went but feeling hopelessly out of my depth for much of it.
It is always good to read something that reminds you, or questions what it is is, to be a writer.
The original plan (ie. the plan that only came into being two days ago) for today would have seen us spending this morning with my mum and dad. But plans changed, and circumstances dictated that we suddenly had an entire Sunday morning in which we had no jobs to do… this an entire morning in which we could get up and breakfast leisurely… and I feared lots.
For lunchtime we ventured out into an increasingly blustery day for Sunday lunch at the in-laws, and I even found a bit of time in the afternoon to read my book. I’be been reading Magical Tales, the companion book to the brilliant exhibition at The Bodleian. It’s a fantastic inspirational and interesting book for me although it does have the “downside” in that I can’t seem to get past a chapter without asking at least for books to my To Read list.
Mr Tumnal has an eclectic taste in music. His music collection is entirely vinyl and (mostly) cassette, with some recent additions on CD, thus, Kathryn buys him an iPod which she has engraved for him:
For your music collection and mine, love Kathryn xxx
For whatever reason, the iPod is never given, but the engraving is perfect to go alongside the playlist of the book. The actual playlist that I used to write the novel comprised some 86 tracks and that’s not counting the 251 song wedding playlist, or the general ‘Writing and Inspiration’ playlist. I’ve whittled it down to the ones that fit best with Mr Tumnal’s story. Some more detailed explanation of the song choices will follow shortly. Until then, it remains at its most eclectic (which is much the same as Louis Tumnal’s mind). 🙂
Yesterday, this was the scene, come rain or shine (yes, it did rain, epically, at 18:25 when the heavens opened with torrential thunderstorm) I was at my writing station under the umbrella (in sun, for shade, and in rain, for dry) writing. It was intense. It was truly the beginning of The End…
My primary tools of the trade are a leather-wrap journal and fountain pen. In practice any pen and paper will do, but these work best for me. I have my Moleskine notebook too which is where I keep all my story notes – very important. There’s a nod to the twenty-first century too with the Kindle Fire on hand to check research, or crowdsource ideas from social networks. There’s an iPod too for musical inspiration – this weekend this largely consists of music from last year’s London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremonies. Oh, and yes, you probably also spotted the bag of Galaxy Minstrells at the back – chocolate in all or any of its forms is always good for getting the creativity going.
Today, with the first draft of Mr Tumnal is complete, my writing workplace looked a little bit different…
This is actually my Mum’s old computer. My computer was busy upstairs on backing up duty but this one served well a vehicle for typing up the last bit of my story. How much story? That’s probably illustrated by a picture…
I guess that’s the curse of the writer who finds that they still have to write the first draft longhand, but if I do a little as I go along, dovetailing it in with new writing when the muse isn’t with me, it kind of works.
Back in the day when I was still single and writing The End Of All Worlds the weather as exhibited this Easter Monday was the weather to inspire me. A bank holiday meant a bonus day to devote to writing, and a the wild and the wet, and the oppressively grey with maybe a touch of the cold, and the bleak, was just the kind of weather to inspire my writing. At the time I thought that this kind of weather inspiration was something to do with the themes in my then current novel, but no, I’ve since discovered that the bleak and the oppressing inspires me to write in general. Not that today’s weather has been lashing rain and rumbling thunder, but its still had that power over me.
Have spent the day, reading, and writing about my reading, and working through my illustrations to decide which chapter they should head…
~ I opened the first door on our advent calendar this morning; an illustration of a Mary on a donkey. It’s a pop-out calendar from Oxfam depicting the traditional crib scene. For two people who are not religiously-inclined it might seem like an odd choice of calendar – for a while I did have the chocolate advent calendars but opening a door-a-day for the twenty-four days ’til Christmas for chocolate reward does seem none the less wrong. Whatever one’s views about the existence or otherwise of God, there was once a person called Jesus who was, I am sure, born in a manger in a cow byre and who grew up to give (what we now call) Christian teachings to the world. How much of the festival of Christmas is really the story of Christ and how much is a much older pagan festival has become confused but its still important to remember – all of it.
~ I’ve been listening to a new artist recently; Rosie Caldecott. We heard her sing at Lucy’s charity event for the floods in Pakistan last month, and have since been in contact with her via myspace, facebook and email. She’s not got anything released yet but she’s been feeding me tracks to listen to. They good. Folksy and mellow. As a place to stash them I’ve added them to my Mr Tumnal playlist and they seem to strike at the place within me to inspire creativity. Her mood and her style of singing seems to fit so well with Louis’ gentle tale, and his growing and complicated relationship with Kathryn, and indeed, with Amanda.
~ Have finally seen the new Harry Potter film, and it was better – much better – than I was expecting. The adaptations of Order of the Phoenix and Half Blood Prince had fallen down for me because they didn’t stand alone as films in their own right but required substantial amounts of prior knowledge of the books. This one, whilst obviously only been attractive to people who had been on the Harry Potter journey was much more self-contained and stand-alone – an advantage I guess of being given the time of two films. It was always going to be an awkward film with this splitting, and the resulting abrupt ending but they did well to work in a narrative structure of beginning, middle, and end with Voldemort’s quest for the elder wand providing a natural end point.
On Saturday Emma and I went to Snowshill Manor, the former home of Charles Wade, an eccentric collector of the highest order. He bought the manor house on the side of a Cotswold hill and filled it with his collection of artefacts but never lived there, choosing instead to live in what was probably the old farmhouse instead.
It was a glorious day out. Cotswold Villages are so very pretty, and they look all the prettier in the autumnal light against the stone walls with the colours in the leaves. Its all beautiful. A mixture of this, and a small but agreeably livable in manor house filled with interesting and intriguing objects, was all very inspiring. Snowshill Manor is full of stories, and Charles Wade is a man whom you want to find out more about. From the moment that we started looking round the garden with its ponds and the remnants of Charles’ model village that he was an eccentric and probably somewhere on the autism spectrum. He made me think of Louis Tumnal.
The idea has been brooding in my mind over the last few days and now I think I’ve worked it out. I need to go back and rework the descriptions of Mr Tumnal’s house to add more stuff, more collections, and objects, and items of interest and with stories attached. But this crowded house is only the tip of the iceberg. In the final, fourth, part of the story, after Louis has freed himself from Miss Leroy and he is able to rebuild his relationship with Kathryn, he gets to go back to his father’s old house, untouched in years, a large house in the rolling countryside to the north and west of Wren Hoe – an old manor on the side of a valley with a terraced garden and stories attached. Its a glimpse, for Kathryn, into the future, but a sign that things will be, can be alright.
Its good to discover these things.
So it’s grey, and cold, and dark and miserable? So why is that I find myself inspired with creativity? I’m fired with so many images and ideas for my novel it’s untrue. Am I so very weird for loving this weather? I just want to delve into my story and write about Eleanor, Ben and Hanna Katla meeting with the alfar and the þurs, and of crouching by pools amongst the long grass and watching the reflection of another world in the surface of water, and diving through into them, and running through the hills with the rain on your face, and soaking through to your skin…
Yught! I woke the sound of rain – heavy rain, and decided, considering the forecast to ditch my normal, trust two wheels and bus it from the park & ride. I think Iâve made the right decision. Weâre sinking into ever-decreasing gloom – itâs as dark as night.
Strangely though, Iâm finding it all rather inspirational and invigorating. This true dark is rising weather and itâs great! Okay, now there are flashes of lightning, and no end in sight for this rain. Iâm finding it quite hard to resist the temptation to write my novel its so damn inspiring, but oh for my blasted conscience.
Still, in other news. At least my water butt should be full by now. 🙂
Standing and watching the TV pictures they see the shaky, hand-held footage of the storm battering Reykjavik. Heather gasps, and raises her hand to her mouth.
“My poor children.” She turns to face the window as a fork of lighting bisects the view and two. The house shakes with the crash of thunder that follows.
“Where are they?” She looks up at her husband.
Current wordcount: 51,599
Current pagecount: 189
I’m hoping, as this chapter builds to it’s climax, that my readers will be thinking, oh no, not again…
“We didn’t come on this exact path, but,” answers Helen, “An hour? An hour and a half, tops.” She looks along the line at her brother, and adds, simply, “Why?”
Ben points, over at the mountains beyond, “That.”
The rest turn to look. Hannah vocalises all their thoughts. “What is it with these storms?!” Stopping for a moment they just stare at the looming clouds, building and blackening as they speak. A cold rush of valley sweeps across the valley, as the wind picks up. Birds rise from their roosts and squawk noisily.
“What is it with you and these storms?” Ben turns to face his sister. Suddenly it’s said. The slowly germinating thoughts and preoccupations manifest themselves in words.
Current wordcount: 51,039
No. of pages: 187
And I know exactly what happens next. And how that builds, and is juxtaposed, and of how the chapter ends…
A couple of nights ago, I had this dream involving a school outing to a remote castle where we would be staying. The journey involved two buses, one driven by an evil, crazed bus driver, and the other – one haunted by evil, dark magic.
Last night, the same cast of characters turned up for episode two. The castle ended up being a remote community built on a steep, craggy island. I was one of the older kids of varying ages, and my peer group seemed to be those in charge. Our leader was a girl, a powerful witch. During a game, some of the younger kids ran off – a herd of horses were charging towards us, and we had to watch, unable to help as unicorn reared up on the younger children, just as the heavens opened and the storm broke. I’m not sure what happened to the kids, but events caused panic and we ran for cover. As the storm swept in across the island from the sea, the sky was lit in shards of striking colours, and and we took cover in the stone buildings, taking to narrow staircases that went down into underground chambers…
I’m sure there’s a story in here somewhere.
I think I know how you are feeling. What has happened to the burning fire of creativity and imagination, and why can it not be released in these days since Christmas? I know where chapter two is going, I can see some great scenes in my minds eye, but the simple act of getting pen down to paper seems to beyond me at the moment. Ggrrr, it’s frustrating…
Still, the dark clouds of a dirth in inspiration seem to be lifting. I think I may be able to get started again soon. Hope the muse takes you soon as well… 🙂