The Launch of CLARA – A Good Psychopath?

Hello, how are you? My weekend was dominated by the launch of CLARA. It has all been very exciting, and began a few week’s ago, so I’ll tell you about it (because one day, you might be having a book launch of your own).

CLARA is the second book which I have been brave enough to have a launch party for. You have to be brave, because writing a book involves hours living inside your own head, and a book launch involves talking about the book to other people – which does not come very naturally to most authors. However, as I discovered with my previous books, if you opt to not have a launch, then some of the friends who would buy your books, find that local shops have sold out, or they never actually get round to ordering a copy, so you lose sales. After 18 months writing and rewriting and editing a book, you want people to read it. (Plus it’s nice to start paying off some of your debt!)

The first decision is time. I waited until the books were safely in my house, and I had checked they were good, before advertising my book launch. I know some authors are braver, especially those who use a printing company that isn’t in the UK, and I have heard scary stories about everything being in place for a book launch…except for the books.

Once I had set the date – last Saturday – I needed to decide venue. At the launch of JOANNA, I had invited absolutely everyone who I thought might be interested. To be honest, of all the family, neighbours, friends, people who heard me on the radio, people who saw the event in the newspaper or on fliers, only my friends or friends-of-friends actually came. (Plus my family, but none of them bought the book as I’d given them copies.) I therefore decided that although the local community hall was a nice venue, and although we’d had sufficient people to fill it (about 50 people) it would be much more relaxing to have it at home. I have a big kitchen area, which is often used for church functions, we would use it for the launch. So I didn’t have to worry about transporting glasses and cupcakes, or cleaning up afterwards, or exchanging keys. And it wouldn’t be embarrassing if only my mum came.

I decided to serve cupcakes, with either wine or cups of tea, depending on what people wanted. (At my last launch, I served wine, but most people wanted soft drinks.) I began making cupcakes. I have an excellent cupcakes recipe book, and the cakes freeze very well, so I could make them ahead of time. The kitchen began to smell lovely, and Husband began moaning that no cakes were available for eating. It coincided with a cold spell, which was unhelpful as the chickens all stopped laying in protest, and I actually had to go out and buy some eggs.

I made invitations and bookmarks. We have a printer at home, so that was easy (well, it was easy once I’d persuaded Husband to make them). I wanted a poster of the book, which I could also use when I’m doing book-signings or selling at fairs, so I contacted Chloe (who took a photo for the book cover) and she sent me a photograph I could use. (I couldn’t use the final cover version, as the quality has been reduced to make it suitable for printing.)

Then I invited lots of people, contacted the local press, asked people to write reviews, and waited. I wrote a couple of blog pieces too, as most of you won’t be able to attend the launch, but I want you all to know what CLARA is about, so that you want to order a copy too.

The day of the launch was very scary, wondering if anyone would actually come. I had borrowed an urn to boil the hot water, so was ready if loads of people came – or just one (my mum had been told it was compulsory attendance).

It was fine. There were about 40 people, some were good friends who had travelled for miles, others were people who I didn’t actually know. The local journalist came, and took some photos, and I gave a short talk about how I wrote the book. It was exhausting – because I find public events difficult – but everyone was very kind, and the event was a success. Most importantly, I sold lots of books. In fact, some people who have read my previous books bought two copies – one for a friend. Have you bought a copy yet?

Thank you for reading. Have a good week.
Love,
Anne x

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CLARA – A Good Psychopath?
ISBN 978-0-9954632-5-7
The Cobweb Press

Would you like to buy a copy? It costs £11.95 from Amazon and in bookshops (they can order it if it’s not in stock). But until the 31st March, I can sell copies at a 33% discount, for £7.95 including free UK postage. Just send me a message via the contact form below, with your postal address (this is sent directly to me, it isn’t public). I will then send a book, and enclose payment instructions – you can pay by cheque or direct bank transfer. Why not buy a copy today?

 

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If you prefer to buy from Amazon – it is available as a Kindle book in most countries, the UK link is:

Writing About a Different Culture

It was with some trepidation that I began to write CLARA. I had recently returned from a visit to see the work of ActionAid in the slums of India. I had visited women who have incredibly tough lives, sat in their homes, listened to their stories, and it affected me. I wanted to tell the world what I had seen and heard, and weaving it into a story seemed the best way for me to do this.

Over the next 18 months, I visited India several times. I contacted Tearfund, and they showed me the work they are doing amongst women in the Red Light District. I met women who had been trafficked, I chatted to sex workers, I wandered through slums. My eyes were hungry, as I absorbed what I was seeing.

However, how does one write about a culture that is vastly different to ones own? Does an author even have the right to try and describe things that they have never experienced? Well, yes, obviously – otherwise all crime writers would be convicted criminals, and all historical fiction writers would be time-travellers. But to do the subject justice takes a lot of time, hours of research, and some good advisers. I made some good friends in India, and as I wrote the book, when I came to a point where I needed information I could ask for help. Issues such as: Do people in the slums have shopping bags? Do they possess more than one set of clothes? Do they drink tea out of mugs?

However, every time that I visited India, every book that I read about India, I learnt something new. I sat in homes, I visited schools, I laughed with women moaning about their families (because whilst it’s tough, there’s a lot of laughter in slums too). There was always more I could add to my book. I began to wonder, was it even possible to write about a place when I had never actually lived there? But, here’s the thing, as I discovered more about the culture, I also started to ‘not notice’ things. Sights and sounds and smells which had bombarded me when I first arrived, began to be normal, part of what I expected, and I stopped being conscious of them. I was writing a novel which would mostly be read by people who do not live in India. Many of them will never have visited India. I therefore needed to include all those details which were obvious, different, unusual. Those details which over time, people stop noticing.

 

CLARA is also set partly in New jersey. I have lived there, but actually, in many ways, writing about life there was more difficult, because I had forgotten all the things that struck me when we first arrived. I had to refer to old diaries, so that I could see the culture afresh, and describe it to my readers. Which made me realise that, although a story written by a foreigner would have less depth than one written by a resident, it would also perhaps be easier to understand for those readers who are experiencing the country solely through the eyes of the characters.

 

I had, initially, planned that Clara herself would be an Indian. However, I soon realised that this would be impossible, I could not accurately represent her thoughts and feelings. Clara needed to be English, because I could show an English person’s reactions and thoughts to India. I needed Clara to be the one describing India, because then the book would be authentic.

When the first manuscript was completed, I sent it to a friend, who checked for anything which might have been offensive to someone living in India, or anything which jarred from a cultural perspective. She suggested some changes – mainly names – it transpires that a Google search for “Indian names” results in names that Indian people do not recognise!

In conclusion, yes, it is possible to write about a culture which is different to your own. But you need to be immersed in that culture for a while, and you need a lot of help from people who have lived it. Writing CLARA was a challenge, but hugely rewarding. I hope you will enjoy reading it.

 

CLARA – A Good Psychopath?
ISBN 978-0-9954632-5-7
Published by The Cobweb Press

 Would you like to buy a copy? It costs £11.95 from Amazon and in bookshops (they can order it if it’s not in stock). But until the 31st March, I can sell copies at a 33% discount, for £7.95 including free UK postage. Just send me a message via the contact form below, with your postal address (this is sent directly to me, it isn’t public). I will then send a book, and enclose payment instructions – you can pay by cheque or direct bank transfer. Why not buy a copy today?

Thank you for reading.

Anne x

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Feeling Excited…

(Cover photo by Chloe Hughes)
I am very excited. CLARA has arrived from the printer, and all looks fine (books are never exactly how I envision them beforehand, due to the restrictions with ink colours, plus when I’m writing, I have no awareness of the thickness of the book). Now comes the scary bit, which is persuading people to actually read it! I do have a sense of urgency with Clara, it is a book which almost demanded to be written.

I began, over a year ago, by writing the Introduction, which was actually a point midway through the story. As I wrote it (originally so I could include it in the back of JOANNA) I had no idea who the characters would be, or how the story would unfold, or if it would even make sense in the wider context of the completed book. I figured it didn’t matter; if the story took off in a different direction, no one would care, and I have read ‘tasters’ in the back of books by famous authors which bear no resemblance to the story when it finally is written.

However, this was not the case with Clara. As I began to write, as I spent time researching the situations I wanted to include, as the story unfolded in my mind, everything came together like an intricate jigsaw puzzle. By the time I came to write the part in the story where the Introduction would have slotted, it made complete sense. Other than changing the name of one character, it was perfect. As the writer, I had an “Oh wow!” moment, and had that butterfly feeling in my stomach that you get when something weird and wonderful has happened.

Clara was not an easy book to write, because the themes are sometimes uncomfortable, but it was a compelling story, and I think you will find it gripping. Let me tell you about some of the issues which I was trying to address.

Firstly, it was a natural extension of my story about Joanna. Before I wrote JOANNA, I thoroughly researched what it meant to be a psychopath. I learnt that most psychopaths are NOT killers, and are never convicted of any crime. They will though, be pretty awful people to live with. Which made me wonder, could a psychopath change? Could they, instead of being destructive, manage to use their psychopathy as a strength? Could a psychopath perhaps achieve something great, which a non-psychopath would find difficult or impossible? I wanted to explore this with Clara.

Secondly, my initial planning of the book coincided with a visit to the slums of Delhi. I was visiting some ActionAid projects, and I met women, in their homes, who have incredibly tough lives. I sat with them, walked with them, listened to their stories. And it affected me. I wanted to tell the world about them, and one way to achieve this was to ‘send’ Clara to India. Could I intertwine these two ideas, and write an exciting story? That was my goal.

I visited India several times during the writing of CLARA – sometimes visiting ActionAid, sometimes visiting Tearfund projects, and sometimes simply walking through areas and absorbing the life I was seeing. I made friends with people who live in India, and this was an invaluable help when questions arose while I was writing. When the first manuscript was completed, a kind friend in India read it through, to check I hadn’t written anything offensive, or that clashed with the culture. Originally, I had wanted to make Clara an Indian herself, but I soon realised this was too difficult. The culture is too different to my own, and I wanted to write the book in the first person, so the reader fully understands what it means to be a psychopath, what her thoughts and motivations are. Like me, Clara needed to be English, and to view her immersion into India through English eyes.

Weaving these themes together was a wonderful challenge, and although it took many rewrites before I was happy with it, I feel I have written a powerful book, perhaps a book that will shock. My editor, Peter Salmon, suggested I changed several parts – and my favourite comment (he writes comments as he does his initial read-through) was: “What the **** just happened!”

I hope it is also a book you will enjoy. It is exciting, but there are funny moments, and the story is an uplifting one. It shows how someone who is very bad, can achieve something that is very good. Would you like to buy a copy? It costs £11.95 from Amazon and in bookshops (they can order it if it’s not in stock). But until the 31st March, I can sell copies at a 33% discount, for £7.95 including free UK postage. Just send me a message via the contact form below, with your postal address (this is sent directly to me, it isn’t public). I will then send a book, and enclose payment instructions – you can pay by cheque or direct bank transfer. Why not buy a copy today?

Thank you for reading. If you felt able to share this post, that would be very kind. I want the world to know about this book.
Take care.
Love,
Anne x

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Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! I hope you have enjoyed the whole Christmas period and 2017 is a good one for you. I always think the new year is like an unopened gift, none of us know what it will bring, but it makes us look ahead, to think about things we might like to change or try harder with.

One thing I would like to change is a Christmas gift husband bought for our sons. We had a ‘Men in Black’ party, so he thought it would be a good idea to give them alien guns. It wasn’t. The gun lit up when fired and made a noise. A very loud, irritating noise. Like those toys which people who have never had children buy for your toddlers (and you remove the batteries as soon as they leave.) Except, my sons are not toddlers. They are 20 and 22.

Did you like my story? It was bit of an experiment. Modern European literature has everything in a story build towards the end, where the climax is. However, I have been reading about ancient Greek literature, where the climax, the most important part, is in the middle. It acts like a sort of hinge, with the elements on either side balancing each other. I found this a very interesting idea, so would like to try and write my next book, Clara Oakes, in this style. Not in a way that the reader especially notices, it will read like a normal novel, but just for my own amusement, to see if I can. So “One of those days…” was a practise for me. It was more difficult than I thought, though quite fun to write, bit of a challenge.
If you missed it, the link is:https://anneethompson.com/2016/12/27/one-of-those-days/

We saw a lot of the extended family over the holiday, which was nice. I’m very fortunate, as our family all gets on very well, the cousins enjoy being with each other and we share the same sense of humour. One tradition is a games evening at my sister-in-law’s. Each family takes a game, and we eat bacon sandwiches, and sit around on chairs and the floor, chatting and playing games.

One game was a memory game, which involved lots of changing seats and remembering names that changed every turn. I was completely confused the entire time.

Another game was a word game. We worked in pairs, and were given a word or picture. We then, independently, wrote a prescribed number of other words, which related to what we were given. This list was compared with our partner, and we got points for all those which were the same. So for example, one word was ‘Airport’. I wrote: Heathrow, Gatwick, Newark, JFK, Manchester, Luton, Stansted. My husband wrote all the same, except he wrote ‘City’ instead of Manchester, so we got 6 points.

My brother was with my mother. Trying to guess what my mother thinks is quite a challenge, so he had a very difficult job. For ‘Airport’, Mum wrote: planes, Ruth leaves, Ruth arrives, noise. He didn’t manage to match any of those (can’t think why!) My personal favourite was the word ‘Compass’. Mum wrote: come, pass, useful, Ben Tucker. Again, none of my brother’s words matched, though Mum was able to explain exactly how her choices were completely logical. It was very funny.

Of course, the couple who scored the highest were my sons. I sometimes think they’re the same person shared between two different bodies. Ever since son 2 was born, they have basically been a unit. Even now, when the second son returns home, his brother greets him in the hall and they start talking and they talk, or play computer games, or watch telly, until one of them leaves. They are in ‘boy world’ and the rest of us are outside. Which is nice. Unless they have alien guns. Then they’re just annoying.

Have a lovely 2017.
Take care,
Anne x