Tuesday 20 July 2010

Cath Staincliffe on the writer's life

I've mentioned Cath Staincliffe - a fellow member of the Murder Squad collective of Northern crime writers - several times on this blog, and to coincide with the paperback publication of her latest novel, The Kindest Thing, she's also done a kind thing by contributing this guest blog post about the life of a writer:

'Do you ever get bored? The question was asked during an author visit to my son’s primary school where I was talking about being a writer. My first response was surprise – it wasn’t a question I’d had before – then laughter. No, I replied, never. Thinking about it afresh I am struck by the variety that my work brings. Last week I was at the BBC at a recording of my play The Bridge for Radio 4. It’s an episode for a police series created by writer Danny Brocklehurst. In radio the writer is quite hands on, working alongside the producer in the studio with the actors. It’s fascinating and very enjoyable. My script was four minutes too long so part of my role was to try and find cuts that would not spoil the overall flow of the story.

On Monday I travelled down to Chichester Festivities to talk about my new novel The Kindest Thing and on Tuesday I was a guest at Portsmouth Library. During my visit there I got to meet with one of the booksellers from the country’s smallest library (on Hayling Island). Part of my talk covered the research I’d undertaken for The Kindest Thing, a novel about a woman who helps her sick husband die and stands trial for his murder. That took me into the courts in Manchester, saw me grilling two criminal lawyers about procedure and led to me spending a morning with women in Styal prison writers’ group to find out about life there. The week before last I was copy-editing the pages of the book I have just finished writing. A month earlier I was finalising ideas to send into the BBC for television drama series. And now I’m beginning work on my new book. Alongside all that I have emails and admin to keep up to speed with.

But the core of my work, the real fundamental stuff, is the time spent alone, inside, with pen and paper writing – and I think this was what the young questioner was wondering about. Did that ever get boring? Again it’s a no. The process of writing is like letting go and giving your imagination free rein, it’s playful and brings the rewards that playing does. My days feel busy and vivid and full of excitement.

If I’m writing a funny scene it makes me laugh, if it’s heartbreaking then I’ll be crying. Yes, there are times when the words might be slow to come or a scene peters out but it’s never long before a thought about a character or an element of a description or even a single word has me away with the fairies again. Life as a writer can be precarious, lonely or frustrating but it is never ever boring.'


Anonymous said...

Martin - Thanks for hosting Cath.

Cath - I must agree; writing is a lot of things, but it is never boring!

Fiona said...

Cath's article is very interesting: Martin, could you do something similar for us, please, explaining how you fit in writing a novel with a full time job...never mind all the extra activities like giving talks and attending conferences. Oh, and seeing your family occasionally ;)

lyn said...

Martin & Cath, thank you for this insight into the writing life. I've just picked up The Kindest Thing from the library & I'm looking forward to reading it. I'm a fan of the Sal Kilkenny books & still have a couple of those to track down & I also enjoy the Blue Murder TV series. I'm looking forward to whatever you write next, Cath.