Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Tudors

A long, long time ago - possibly in a previous life - I somehow had enough time to watch the entire TV series called The Tudors. While purists were no doubt enraged by the liberties the writers took with history (merging Henry VIII’s two sisters into one, for example), I thoroughly enjoyed every episode. True, it was not as gripping as 24 or as well paced as Rome, but neither did it have irritating ditsy characters (Desperate Housewives springs to mind) nor explicit gory bits (the only thing I had against Rome).

You might not believe it, but Henry meets Anne Boleyn at the beginning of the 10-episode series (episode 3), and by the final episode they are not married yet. This means that there is potential for many future seasons if they want to take it all the way to Queen Elizabeth’s speech against the Spanish Armada.
Of course, having spent 10 hours of my life watching The Tudors during my writing time, means that I now have 24 hours left to fix the pacing in my own work (crime short story for an international competition). Chances are, I will have to leave you mid-wo

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Brown Owl’s Guide To Life



"Brown Owl's Guide To Life" by Kate Harrison is not a book I would have chosen to read. Starting with its confusing title and ending with the stitch-work washed-out cover, it’s just not me through and through.

And yet, when I read its write-up in a writer’s magazine as an example of a reunion story well done, I was intrigued enough to get it out of the library. Once I started reading, it was hard to put down. I was pleased to note that it was written in the present tense (my favourite), with flashbacks (which are currently seen as a no-no) and many points of view. Exactly the structure I favour at this stage of my writing career.

The stories of the four ex girl brownies (a virgin vicar to be, a loser addicted to her computer, a bullied housewife and a sex empire owner) weave in and out of the tale with equal strength, and while you may wish for a little bit of originality in the resolution of their problems, it’s still a great read.

Oh, except, on a purely personal level, I hated the ending for the main protagonist. She chose strength, but the alternative ending would have made her stronger.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Scandalously late...

Scandalously late... my apologies: I had a writers’ conference to attend. It’s always great to be in a room with a hundred other writers who are serious about the craft, but this year I was extra lucky to meet one of my favourite authors, Jennifer Crusie. I’m officially star-struck! Jen is a wonderful person and an excellent teacher, and if you haven’t read her books, I can sincerely recommend her “Faking it”, “Crazy for you” and “Welcome to Temptation”. Even if romantic comedy is not your genre, read Jen’s books to see how to do dialogue.

And in other news, my “Interview with the Dragon” is finally on Fictionwise, getting “Great” and “Good” reviews. Click here for more information.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

One night at the call centre

A few blogs ago, I bemoaned the current trend of writers writing about writers and auto-biography thinly veiled as fiction. "One night at the call centre" by Chetan Bhagat goes a step further, in that the author himself features in the prologue and the epilogue. While I could forgive that - well, almost - I cringed when he addressed me as the reader and interacted with some of his characters. Talk about not suspending your disbelief!

The book’s blurb promises a call from God, which in itself is a clever idea, alas, not very cleverly executed.

Apart from that, the actual story was all right. Not terribly good, what with its amateurish writing style and thin moralistic plot, but it was interesting enough to keep me going. What the book has going for it is the setting: a call centre in Delhi, which, while not exotic to those in working in call centres or living in India, was nevertheless riveting to me.

The book also made me feel extremely grateful that I was born in the low-IQ decadent West and that I don’t have to dream about catching a husband who’s an ex-pat working for Microsoft.

Now for some cardamom chai and samoosas!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

The post birthday world



I love books, truly I do. Yet in my current oh-so-busy phase of life, I don’t often have time to read. And so, nowadays it is the measure of the author that - when the librarian hands me a hefty volume weighing almost more than a newborn - I go “oh goodie” instead of “oh dear”.

The post birthday world” by Lionel Shriver (that’s the woman who wrote “We need to talk about Kevin”, hitherto my favourite English-language book) is a long long long book, and yet, the closer you get to the end - and you do get there very quickly by ignoring all your daily responsibilities - the more you wish it even longer.

The premise is simple and clever, though by no means original: in chapter 1, the de-facto-married protagonist is faced with a choice: does she or does she not kiss another man? In chapter 2, she does. Then, in chapter 2 (again), she doesn’t. The parallel universes are explored in alternating chapters, describing every event (like visiting her mother for Christmas) in those two contexts of kiss versus no kiss and of guilt versus boredom.

Yes, exactly like the movie “Sliding Doors”. But the fact that it’s been done before doesn’t diminish the book’s power, and neither does my cynical belief that the author was simply lazy and used this mechanism in order to be able to utilise the same plot and events twice.

OK, the first 10 pages or so, in which the characters are introduced in a passive descriptive way, are deadly boring. But once you get past that and into the very realistic dialogues and inner monologues, the emotions and the sexual fantasies - that’s when the text rings true.
To quote out of context from the book: “f---ing brilliant!”