Thursday, 30 April 2009

Happiness is ...

People sometimes ask me what I enjoy about being a writer. It's a good question, if only because it makes me stop and think about how much I do enjoy it, and reminds me how lucky I am to be doing what I'm doing. I'd like to say I enjoy everything about it - but that wouldn't be entirely honest, because there are moments - like when a half-written novel gets rejected! - when I feel like giving it all up and going back to a sensible job with a proper salary and proper hours. But that feeling doesn't last long, because:

* There's nothing quite like the feeling you get when a piece of writing is going well - when the characters seem to 'take over' and almost write the story themselves. It's a real adrenalin rush and I firmly believe there's some kind of magic involved - I often look back at something that's turned out well and wonder if I really did write it!

* The excitement of seeing your name in print in a magazine, or on the cover of a book, never fades. I think writers must all be slightly egotistical, or maybe just a little weird: who else Googles their own name continuously to see who's mentioned them? We stroke our own book covers lovingly, prowl bookshops looking for our own books, almost faint with joy when someone says they've read one and enjoyed it! To sum up on this point: it doesn't take much to please us!

* I've worked in jobs where I dreaded getting up in the morning; where I felt unappreciated; where I didn't even like what I was doing. Now, I'm doing what I love best - and being paid for it. OK, not a lot! - but I'm looking at the positives here, not the negatives!

* Writing is something you can do no matter what race or religion you are, whether you're male or female, fit and healthy or frail and feeble, and most importantly, no matter how old you are. There's no need to retire, at any age, and no need to stop because you have a baby (or several).

* You don't need to commute, or drive, or even get dressed, to work at your writing. All you need is a computer. Or even just a pen and paper if that's the way you like to work (as long as you're not intending to submit your handwritten scribbles to any editors!).

* Writers never need to be bored. There's never any time when I wonder what to do with myself - even if the computer crashes or there's a power cut, I can resort to that pen and paper temporarily!

* Basically, I write because I love writing - and that overcomes everything else, even the rejections. It's difficult not to be happy when you're doing what you enjoy.

Any other reasons to add to the list? I'm sure you can come up with some ....

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Independent bookshops - how can they survive?

I've just had some very sad news: my nearest independent bookshop is about to close. The struggle to survive in the High Street, against the competition of the big bookselling chains, supermarkets and of course internet sites like Amazon, together with the rising cost of rates on shop premises, has finally proved too much - and like so many others nationwide, they've had no alternative but to give up.

This is sad for local book buyers who'd like to buy from a shop where personal attention and individual recommendations still count for something - and even sadder for local authors! The manager of this little shop supported me all the way - gave me a beautiful window display when my books were published, together with signs pointing out that I was a local author, and then stocked signed copies of the books and recommended them to customers. It's difficult to get that kind of support from the big chains: they're tied into deals agreed by their head offices and if you're not a bestseller or a celebrity it's hard to get their interest.

I'm going to miss the shop terribly, and will cherish the photos I have, like this one, of their shop window displaying my first two books. I'll miss popping in to sign books, chat about how they're selling, and to buy books myself so that the relationship worked both ways. I know the loss of the shop is going to make a difference to my sales as well as to the community.
So if there's an independent bookshop in your area, don't wait till it's forced to close and then realise what you're missing! Support them, buy all your books there - browse around the shelves and enjoy the atmosphere of a real bookshop before it's too late.
Of course, we all get tempted by a bargain, but the massive discounting that's been going on since book prices stopped being fixed only puts more money in the pockets of the big supermarkets and chains. If you're a writer yourself, or if you're just a book lover who doesn't like the whole publishing industry being controlled by two giant retailers - there's only one way we can do our bit to try to change things. I only wish I'd done more, while I had the chance.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

First Blog Nerves

OK, so here goes. The blog was easy enough to set up (as everyone told me it would be), and compared with the terrible technical uncertainties of creating a website (well, all right - having one created for me by a clever friend!), it looks like being a piece of cake. So today is my baptism as a novice blogger. If I can write novels and get them published - still a source of wonder to me - surely I can write a few paragraphs on a blog that might interest somebody, somewhere?

That's the thing with blogs, I suppose. How do you know? Unless you attract 'followers' of your own - like a little mini fan-club I suppose - do you always wonder whether anyone is ever going to read it? Do you always feel, as I do at the moment, that you're shouting feebly into outer space, or (first sign of madness) talking to yourself?
Well - for anyone, anywhere, who might stumble upon this blog and wonder about my strange ramblings, I guess the polite thing to do on this first occasion is to introduce myself. So - hi! I'm Olivia, and I'm a novelist. And you can't imagine how much I love saying that!! After spending most of my life as a closet writer, I've now 'come out', given up my day job and devote my days to my writing and my family. Perhaps that should read - my family and my writing. And a few time-wasting pursuits like reading e-mail and other people's blogs!
I've had two novels published so far: 'Tales from a Hen Weekend' and 'Tales from a Wedding Day' - both published by Piatkus. And the third book - 'Tales from a Honeymoon Hotel' comes out in July. You can read more about the books (and more of my ramblings!) on my website - but basically, they're all separate stories (despite the titles) about relationships between families and friends. I've really enjoyed writing about the events surrounding a wedding, because of all the emotional stuff involved - not just happiness and fun but sometimes arguments, doubts and regrets that come into play.
Well - I think I've said enough for a first-timer so here goes - sending this out into cyberspace ...
anyone out there???