Friday, March 21, 2014

All The Pretty Faces

28th March 2014

It has been snowing in Colorado these past few days, which makes me very happy to report that I am currently floating off the coast of California. This might actually be a good time to share a question I was asked by an interviewer lately, which was that if the book were to be made into a film, who would play the main characters. I had already given this some thought, so here you go. (Some of these people might be sitting on shore right across from this very ship sipping martinis pool-side. But more likely, because they are Scots, they are turning their collars up against the cold and rain of beautiful Scotland.)

Maggie: Kelly MacDonald

We saw her as Diane in fellow Scot Irvine Walsh's Trainspotting. She played the Irish love interest for gangster Nucky Thompson in HBO's Boardwalk Empire (which my actress daughter was also in, I might add!) She comes from Glasgow, where Maggie of my book grew up. She's a versatile actress and would be able to modify her acting easily from the settings of modern day to ancient Scotland.

Fergus: Richard Madden

 He looks the part, doesn't he? Looks are important for this part, more so than for Maggie. He needs to have a brooding quality, as well as incorporating some lighter cheekiness.  He is known for playing Robb Stark in Game of Thrones and comes from Elderslie, home turf of Scottish hero William Wallace, and not that far from the location of my book, Dunadd. In fact, when I fly into Glasgow Airport, I drive past signs for Elderslie on my way home to Argyll.

This is David Robb from Edinburgh who plays the Scottish doctor in Downton Abbey. At this point he would be my choice for the character of Jim, the older man who lives in the cottage near Maggie's, the one who wouldn't mind at all if Maggie turned a kind eye in his direction. This is an actor who brings dignity to the roles he plays, and I think Jim is his own man in that way (if a little starved of female companionship!) He can't come across as nsipid, or he won't seem like any kind of competition for Fergus. 

It's fun to think about actors for the characters I created, especially in the vicinity of Hollywood. In fact, before I write the screenplays for my stories, I usually think of an actor for the role, so that I can more easily envisage the action. 
I enjoy movies a great deal, and I hope Veil Of Time will one day hit the big screen. The screenplay is ready and waiting! It took me a while to understand that screenplays weren't novels written on Final Draft, but a different literary form altogether. But I got there, and by now have quite a collection of them, including some adaptations of novels I like (something I did whilst waiting for one of my books to be published!) 
For now I am enjoying being away from the heat of the book publishing process for a while. Away from star ratings and sales figures and reviews. Bottoms up! I get to stay afloat, sipping Zinfandel until I drift back into the ice and snow, until the palm trees turn back into fir trees and I am in Narnia once again.  

That Struts and Frets

21st March 2014

I am being honest with you and glossing over nothing - as a Scot this comes quite naturally to me: this time in a writer's life is terrifying. Waiting, waiting, waiting. She who ferrets herself away in closets and rooms without a view, who buries her identity in mythical characters, is suddenly thrust into a fairly pale limelight and asked to justify her hours. The die has been cast. The die lies on the floor in a darkened room waiting for the lights to go on.  Ironically for a book entitled Veil of Time, only time will tell. The dawn will come up on this particular day and all will be revealed. The rabbit who once sat on my snow-obliterated wall during bitter winter mornings, is no longer there. March has brought some relief to her and moved my good omen elsewhere to patches of burgeoning green.
I have a new omen. I have that black cat that wandered into my book launch and sat in the lap of the druidess. In desperate times, we look to our rabbits and cats. The solid wall of reason provides no comfort in these best of times/worst of times. The paradigm has to shift, and it goes to where are ancestors looked - to the whimsy of animals driven better than us along the flow of our universe.
Here's an admission: every month around this time, I sit for twenty minutes listening on-line to an astrologer named Diana Garland, a fellow Brit, sum up the stars for me, not just for me but for any of these scorpio types. We are heavy beasts, we scorpios. Legend has it that the scorpion iconography used to have to do with snakes. We are the original serpents in the first wet garden of Eden.

 We are slithery, sneaky animals with a ferocious bite, well suited to the arts. But anyway, I listen to Diana Garland because I believe the stars and the moon have as much to do with our path as anything else, probably more so. There isn't anything in this mysterious universe that doesn't work in sync with the rest of it. If we realised that earlier we wouldn't put ourselves through so much anguish. I wouldn't put myself through so much anguish.


So in this terrifying ride of a literary life, I listen to the stars - I go outside at night and am quieted by them. My astrologer wasn't giving me a five star month for April, I might add. Pretty much I am in a time of character-building struggle until fabulous July. It all has to do with planet Mars, but don't ask me for the details. I am looking at all of this through a wide-angled lense.
There is a strain of paranoia in me, I am realising, which gets fed heartily by being thrown onto the stage of life under the hot glare of the spotlight....that struts and frets its hour upon the stage...but let's hope not "and then is heard no more." And that's the rub, isn't it? Even in your writer withdrawal, the quest is undeniably there to be heard. So I have no one to blame but myself.

My publicist sends me the good reviews. My paranoid self warns me that she is withholding the bad ones. A Brazilian publisher has bought the translation rights into Portugese, but the jaded part of me asks why it cost so little and where are the other foreigners? The UK, for instance. My Scottish friends who have read the book declare unilaterally that it will do well in Scotland. But it won't be in bookshops there until a British publishers buys it from Simon and Schuster. Personally I think my book will do better over there, because the way the characters are, the way they interact, might be something of a mystery to my American audience. The older man Jim, wry as older Scottish men so often are, might not make as much sense to someone on this side of the The Pond.
So let me leave you with a line or two from one of the good reviews. It is on a site called Two Classy Chics:
Veil of Time is a thoroughly interesting, wonderfully crafted story that takes you through a journey of a thousand years. Very creative and fun!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Omens and Black Cats

March 14th 2014

As you can see, the day of the book launch arrived and was not goIng to be held back. The publisher sent these beautiful posters of the book cover, and we were able to put them up around the room.

Book readings, I find, are often rather dull affairs, so I decided to spice it up a bit by inviting friends to dress up as some of my characters. We have in this picture Maggie's neighbour Jim on the left hand side, then one of the monks who come from Iona to convert the queen. Next is me in my mini kilt (it's the only one I have!) and behind me another kilted person; to my left is a midwife dressed as the druidess Sula, appropriately enough; behind the druidess is the horned god (actually my Cherokee friend dressed as an elk, but, as I say, indigenous religions are all at base the same.)

After several sunny warmish days, it decided to snow on the evening of my reading, keeping people away. Still, there were a fair number of attendees, and the room was packed and overflowing into the next room. So, too many more would not have been managed.
A compadre from the Aspen Writer's Foundation gave me a very glowing introduction and then my Cherokee friend got up and made a toast to a free Scotland (something the English members of the audience probably didn't appreciate.) But I taught them all the Gaelic toast, Slainte Mhath (pronounced Slanje Va) and we all raised out glasses to the country my book is set in. My goal was to read the first chapter (7 pages) and then talk a bit about the story and why I came to write it. The reading part went fine, and my voice didn't even give out. But I had to ad-lib the talking part, and nerves made my brain scattered, so I can only hope people gathered enough about Maggie and her flights into the 8th Century to make sense of the other parts of the reading. When you are thinking about your talk ahead of time, you see the information you have to convey as a straight line from A to B and it seems like it will be no problem to make that journey. But when you stand up in front of people, that line breaks up and turns into butterflies and it is a job to catch them and keep them in any order.
I went on to read two smaller passages, one introducing the love relationship between Maggie and Fergus and the other with Maggie having to say her final goodbyes to him. Phew, I got through all that, and then came the Q&A, which I enjoyed so much I was asking people to ask questions by the end, even though the time was up and plenty of questions had already been asked. I was like a child asking to stay longer at the party.

And then we had a party, with a Celtic band and Scottish-type finger foods and wine. It turned out to be a very enjoyable evening - my only regret is that the butterflies got the better of me. If you find any of them fluttering about your face, catch them very softly, put them in a jar and give them back to me.
The crowning moment of the evening, though, I have to say, is when, quite unprompted, the black cat who lives in and out of this community centre, wandered into the room and parked himself right next to the druidess. I had forgotten all about him.

Now, how is that for a good omen! As they say, you can't make this stuff up. Well, I made it up in the book, but you never know if it is art imitating reality or the other way around. On this night it went both ways.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Time in Slo-Mo

March 7th, 2014

Maths was never a subject I excelled at in school, or even liked, but I am pretty sure if you take 7 from 11, you get 4, which is how many more days until my book launch. Time passes. That's about the only thing anyone knows with any certainty about time. There isn't a philosopher or a physicist out there who can tell you more. One thing I have learned about the workings of the universe is that it pays no heed whatever to time, and why should it since time is a human construct and everything else on earth and beyond does very well without it? Better, in fact. Right now, time for me is in that kind of elongated, slow zone, the kind of slo-mo you experience right before your life flashes in front of your eyes.

When I was five years old, I had a flash of certainty one day in a park in Manchester, England, that one day I was going to take centre stage. How could I know that more years than I care to calculate (let's blame my bad maths) would ensue before this particular premonition came true? Who knows how long my spot in the lime light will last? If the book does a nose dive, then not long. My father died in middle age, and here I am in middle age embarking on a whole new world. So not only does the universe have no time for time, it makes little sense into the bargain.
Somewhere in me a tiny urge is making itself felt to get back to writing. But I can't because I am filling out interviews and writing guest blogs and trying to prepare for the talk at the book launch and the talk at Dan Brown's local bookstore in New Hampshire, and the talk on creativity and Jung I am giving in Boston in May. My editor just found out that Veil Of Time is to be included in an Amazon “time travel” multi-book promotion in May. This will involve a carousel ad on the literature/fiction page, among other spots on the site. Yikes!

You might think this picture is just a metaphor for how my life feels right now, but I actually mistakenly went on this ride a few years ago when I was trying to keep my son company on what he claimed was "easy ride." What the picture doesn't show, and what I didn't see,  is that beneath that cliff is a 1450 foot drop. I think it is the closest thing I have ever come to utter panic. I didn't realise the contraption was going to swing out into empty space. My son was doubled over with laughter, and I was doubled over, too, but nothing at the moment seemed very funny. When you are suspended over a 1450 foot drop, everything gets very slow. Time disappears.
So you live through all kinds of things.  One of the interviews I filled out this week asked me when I feel most like a writer. I don't know. I haven't felt like a writer in a while. There's a good reason writers often choose to write in small windowless spaces, like my closet under the stairs. That's where we feel most like writers, and not in a small capsule suspended over a death defying drop.