Tuesday, 20 December 2011

The perfect Rom-Com

Two and a half weeks off work! In my head that means two and a half weeks of blissful writing time but of course, on day 5 of my break writing time has yet to materialise. Christmas has got in the way. I have managed to clean the house, skirting boards and all, buy and decorate a tree, do the bulk of my Christmas shopping, watch the Muppets Christmas Carol whilst writing all my cards and actually send said cards and various parcels. Today I was going to make mince pies with home-made mincemeat and the pastry in which to put it but pulled myself back from the domestic goddess brink and agreed to make cakes with the 8yo instead. Write? Not so much.

Yesterday I took advantage of a massive ironing pile to introduce the daughter to one of my favourite Christmas films. I first saw While You Were Sleeping at a large multiplex in Hartford Connecticut the year I au-paired in the States. Rom-coms were different in the early/mid nineties. Sweeter, more heartfelt, more innocent and yet spine-tingingly romantic (Sleepless in Seattle, another Christmas favourite came out the year before and my friend and I saw it twice in two days, bawling the whole way through both times).
Why do I love it so much?
1. Sandra Bullock does lonely so well, it gets me every time (same thing in The Net)
2. The moment she is watching the loud, squabbling family & the camera zooms in on a stocking with her name on
3. The proposal (so good we rewound to watch it twice)
4. Real characters (in real clothes), not Hollywood caricatures (well maybe the family, and the ex, and Joe Jnr, okay a few caricatures but good ones!)
5. Peter Gallagher thinking he has amnesia 'a,b,c,d,e,f,g,h...'
6. All the photos of Peter in his wallet, around his flat
7. Joe Junior
8. Lucy's speech at the wedding (did I mention that she does lonely so well, I dare you not to well up)
9. The minute she decides to take action and start following her dream, a lesson for all romance heroines everywhere.
10. Bill Pullman, not an obvious choice as romantic lead but he is perfect.

And, unlike many rom-coms made in the last ten years it's mild enough to watch with an 8yo and yet still a perfect romance. Inspiration for all sweet romance writers everywhere.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

A good example

When my daughter was born I knew that all I wanted was for her to be happy, to be fulfilled, no matter where life took her. As she got older, learnt to speak, she began to have some very definite ideas about what she wanted to be and, like most children, has changed her mind a lot.
At 4 she wanted to be a vet - and then she realised that that involved blood, pus and death, so she ruled out that along with doctor, nurse, dentist.
When she started school she wanted to be a teacher.
Then she wanted to be in a band.
Then a fashion designer.
For the last year she has wanted to be in the police. For anyone who knows my daughter this is probably not surprising.
But yesterday she changed her mind. It would be too hard to be a police lady and have children, she told me, maybe she would be a lady who helps out in schools.
My heart broke.
At just 8 she thinks having a career and a family are incompatible, thinks she can't reach high.
Although I took three years off when she was born she doesn't remember that, she has always known me working and it has always been part time. And she is really proud of what I do, although she has a very tenuous grasp (apparently I work in the bird team! I'm actually a Fundraiser for a regional environmental charity). Of course I have made sacrifices to work part time, entering back into the world of work at a lower level than when I exited, swapping salary and management for school pick up and drop off, attending assemblies and chauffering to activities. And I don't regret that for a moment. But I hate the fact that an 8year old girl sees her life choices as limited.
There is a popular school of thought that sees romance writing, popular women's fiction as regressive but one of the things I love about writing romance is that my heroine can be whoever I want her to be; a lawyer,a journalist, a party girl searching for fulfilment. Open any Mills and Boon and you will see a huge variety of jobs; a medical heroine may be a nurse, she may be a doctor, she may be an occupational therapist or a radiographer. An office romance heroine can be a PA, or a PR specialist, a CEO or a temp. Heroines run their own businesses, own florists, bakeries, coffee shops, hotels, event management companies. They teach, lecture and train. They are many things and by the end of the novel they are strong, empowered and happy. Just like I hope my 8year old will be when she's grown up.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Stylish knitwear & storytelling

Not one but two examples of stylish knitwear
I've never been embarrassed to jump late onto a bandwagon (query, what on earth is a bandwagon? *note to self, google*) so for the last three weeks, whilst those smugly ahead of the curve have been debating the differences in knitwear, plot and subtitles (less swearing apparently) between the Killing 1 and 2 (Forbrydelsen for the real trendsetters just so we all know we are talking about the original Danish version and not the American remake), longsuffering-OH and I have been glued to the sofa watching Series 1.
We are addicted. Two episodes a night addicted. Only now we've caught up and last night had to make do with Grey's Anatomy instead, yes it rains in Seattle but otherwise it was the cappuccino froth to the bitterly refreshing expresso of Copenhagen's finest export.

Of course I usually write at night and can usually manage to write in front of the TV, raising my eyes from the screen occasionally to ask what's going on. Apparently this isn't at all annoying. I did try to write in front of a subtitled Italian crime drama once but, as it turns out, one term of basic conversational Italian ten years ago didn't equip me to follow the twists and turns of a Sicilian based drama. I still don't know who was killed or why. My Killing addiction has meant that my writing has pretty much ground to a halt over the last few weeks.

Troells Hartmann - look at the cheekbones!
Luckily I have managed to justify this brief hiatus to myself. I haven't been vegging out in front of the TV AT ALL, although it may look that way, nope, I have been researching. Although pretty much as far from romance writing as you can get - a teensy crush on Season One's Troells Hartmann added a certain extra entertainment value, why isn't he in Season 2, why??? - The Killing has been one of the best examples of plotting, character development, showing-not-telling I have ever seen, in book or TV form. No wonder nearly everyone who sees it has been rivetted and The Guardian has devoted acres of newsprint to everything from those famous jumpers to the quality of the subtitles. As a detective story, as a personal-growth story, as a study of a grieving family, as a political thriller, as a look at lives torn apart it works on every level. The end of each episode is particularly brilliant, each strand approaching some new danger, knowledge, crisis simultaneously leaving the viewer desperate for the next instalment.

My chosen genre may be very different but I still want my readers to have that same need to keep on reading, to find out what happens next. To supply that page turning quality. To make characters feel so real that a reader cares what happens to them. I have a long way to go, all I can do is watch and learn. Which is why tonight you'll find me, back on the sofa, watching S2. Tak!