I’ll be at The Book Corner, Saltburn, North Yorkshire on Saturday, 4th of May reading from my novel about Robin Hood’s Bay’s brave, resourceful and loyal JIDDY VARDY!!!
One word. One syllable. Bri. I liked the complexity of Bri. I’ve just finished On The Come Up and I know where I am going to ask Angie Thomas to sign the book when I go to speak at Waterstones Deansgate on Wednesday. Page 414. At the bottom. What is written on this page is why I love YA books. Not all YA books, definitely not all, but why I love the best of them. This is what the best YA books do. They speak to us and make us cry like when we were 16, 17, even though we may be in our 50’s. The best YA speak to everyone, no matter who you are and what age. ON THE COME UP does that. It is what is best about YA. I like this more than THUG, even though in the first pages, I wasn’t sure. I admit, I didn’t yearn to pick up OTCU for the first few chapters. I decided it was my fault. I know nothing of this world and it didn’t hook me in. But then, Bri did. And how it spoke beyond that world. It was more about following our dreams and mainly, finding out who you are and then being true to that self. That speaks to everyone. Which is why, it’s high up in my list of favourite YA books.
THUG was easier to get into and turn the opening pages, but in the end, I found OTCU more satisfying.
What I also like about On The Come UP is that it is about a specific world and this rings true in characters, setting, speech and action. It made me realise why I am so fed up with many YA books. They feel too packed with a mish-mash of characters a bit like a Spice Girls line up. Characters in books shouldn’t be a put together boy or girl band. They should be friends because they have worlds and interests and just the fact that they were thrown together as babies. This is the kind of YA that works best for me. The author writes about a world they know and it is authentic. I’m leaving fantasy out here. That’s authentic too, in a different way. (Authentic in the author’s imagination.)
The same goes for my previous read, The Gallows Pole. Some people didn’t like that there weren’t many women in the book and the ones that were, served the food and ale or were used. This is a book about a group of men. That’s it. Let’s not put our views on books that are written about specific worlds. Please.
5 Stars. *****
The Gallows Pole
The repeated lists linked with ‘ands’ reminds me of Hemingway.
The cruelty and hardness of the male characters (they are mainly male) reminds me of Heathcliff and Hindley Earnshaw. The lack of full stops and strange spelling in King David’s accounts recreate the feel of an ancient way of life but are clear to read and heartfelt. I smiled at some too.
It all builds and the few speeches there are show us that against David Harley’s brutality, he cares for the people he lives amongst. He is their Robin Hood. But he is also other people’s undoing. Yes, coining sticks two fingers up at the Government and King, but it also takes money from local shopkeepers by undermining the currency. But it is the poor who echo in the end. David Hartley made sure that no-one in the valley starved. He took care of his own. And no-one else did that. This is about working together and not for one person’s advancement. It’s anti-capitalism. And it’s vicious against those who don’t agree. No-one is romanticised. We see how things really are.
We don’t hear a great deal about Grace, his wife, or many women, but this is a man’s story. It’s their story and it’s true to the time it is set. That’s it. What I like though is that Grace makes the future for her family. Without a big ta-do about it. And I like the poetic heart within the brutality of King David of Yorkshire. The end is so well done, I wondered how Benjamin Myers or anyone could write about it so well without having gone through it themselves…but then…(I won’t spoil the end)
There are phrases like ‘moss that tasselled the moor’s edge’ that perfectly capture the image of the moor.
Soot and ash. Snot and spume.
Quag and sump and clotted moss.
This is dark Yorkshire. It is not the stone walled, green field, wide valleyed Yorkshire Dales. This is crag and rock and muddy field.
I know both Yorkshires. This rings true.
Would I read it again? Yes. Myers is ancient in his story telling and relevant. And the protagonists and their story and the landscape feel as if they’ve seeped into my bones.
There are two camps in the flashbacks debate in film and novels.
- If you can’t tell it in real time, don’t tell it!
- Flashbacks are great!
To be honest, there is a third camp – use flashbacks if you must, but sparingly.
I think it depends what you are writing about and the style of your drama. Take flashbacks in real life. They happen. Often out of the blue, or so you think. In films and novels, we can’t have things happening out of the blue. There must be a reason why they happen.
So in real life. Do flashbacks actually happen at specific points, from triggers, from our emotional state? For a reason?
I thought I had an out of the blue flash back this morning. But then, it came the day after the anniversary of mum’s funeral. I’d not been thinking about it. Not really.
So this morning…lying here, I was thinking, ‘I mustn’t let grief spoil my day.’
Isn’t that a terrible thought? That I’d push Mum out of my head so she doesn’t spoil my day?
And by spoil, I mean, stop me from doing things. Stop me from ploughing through my list of jobs for The Portico Sadie Massey Awards. Stop me writing the short Bio to go in my old Uni magazine, the Cestrian, as they’re running a piece on me. Stop me working on The Monster Belt? Stop me functioning?
Because flashbacks can stop you moving forward. So how do we remember without going back?
Is this trauma? Are flashbacks trauma? I haven’t been thinking about Mum and yet in that half-dream, half-awake state, I’ve had flashbacks. She’s in that place near death where she’s slipping away, growing distant, only she isn’t in bed, she’s lying in Dean Lane by our old garage, watching the children play.
And I want to shout, ‘Don’t go!’
And I’m scribbling this down in bed because I don’t want to forget it and I’ve put the bedroom light on because although it’s morning, it’s still dark.
I saw a post on facebook yesterday that made me think about the need to categorise ourselves. What is this human need that makes people do quizzes to see whether they are introvert or extrovert, a summer or winter person, a city of country girl, a leader or a follower?
This facebook post image was about Ego and Soul. One side had a list of what the Ego does/wants…the other side, the Soul.
I suppose this discussion is two-fold. What is it about the human need that makes people take these quizzes, want to name who we are, to put a label on what we think we represent? Are you an astronaut or a singer? Can’t I be both?
Are you Ego or Soul?
Back to the facebook post about Ego and Soul. Quite a few of the points about Ego, I held my hand up to. And that made me feel I was wrong – that I wasn’t a good person. ‘Oh no!’ I cried. I’m evil! Then… after flagellating myself, I looked at it again.
Aren’t we made up of more than one part? Don’t we need our ying and yang to survive? If I was all Ego, I’d probably self combust but if I was all soul, would I emotionally survive? Don’t we need both to be sane and whole? Now, I’m talking about people living their lives with all you have to do to get by. I’m not in a retreat and I’m not surrounded by like minded people all the time.
I’m a writer, a project assistant in a library and I make costumes now and then. For those different roles, I need different sides to me.
I could be all soul as a writer, but I don’t see the point of writing in isolation, with my arm around my paper or computer so no-one else can see. I write because I love it, but also I want others to read my words, I want to affect them in some way. Ego. And I need my Ego to drive me. I need my Ego to be a writer.
My Soul goes into my writing though. It pours into my characters. And I make my characters a mix of Ego and Soul because if they were only one, they’d be pretty boring.
I’ve just finished reading A Place Called Winter by Patrick Gale. A native Indian character talks about two souls. She can see two sides in a person. And that is what the book explores. It is dangerous to separate ourselves saying someone is better than another. Societies become dangerous when they start doing that. We have our male and female sides and when one is denied, all hell can break lose.
I’m glad I saw this list asking which are you. It’s made me think again about how we segregate and departmentalise rather than looking at the whole person and the whole society. Isn’t it better to nurture every part of us rather than deny parts? Isn’t it better to nurture and celebrate our diversity than to strive to be one thing?
I’m introverted sometimes and sometimes I’m an extrovert, most of the time, I’m somewhere in the middle. I’m mostly optimistic, but sometimes, I lose hope. I have an Ego and I need it, but I also have Soul. And I’m not going to give myself a hard time about it. I’m actually going to celebrate that I have many sides to me.
By the way, I’d recommend A Place Called Winter.
Now to try and use this in my fiction…
I’m hesitating to write this post. Maybe I’ll write it and not post it. Maybe the writing will be enough.
You see I’ve been wondering about the silence. Being silenced, or feeling silenced in the relatively small worries and emotions in life. When the scale of trauma is so huge for some, how can we voice ‘feeling upset’ or ‘feeling down for no apparent reason?’
Keep busy. Help others. Do something.
And what when you’re just getting on with your life? You are helping those around you, doing the stuff that we all have to do, the cooking, cleaning, work. Those things. And there are birthdays, and family gatherings, people come and stay, you see friends.
Or is it fatigue? Life fatigue?
I’ll be open about this. I’ve been crying a lot. I know it’s not the menopause, it’s something else. It could be the crash from the top of the mountain after the launch of Jiddy Vardy. It could be that but it feels deeper. It feels like grief.
Is it that in writing about Yorkshire, which I do in my books, brings back how I miss living there? But I love so much about living in Manchester and Yorkshire isn’t far away. It feels more like grief for a time gone. For childhood. For all the people I’ve known and who are dead. A way of living that is gone.
As children, we played in the local farms, jumping in the hay barn, making houses of hay bales until the tractor with its trailer came and we had to help load up. Playing all day in the woods, blackberry stained and worn out. Sitting on the Odda, dreaming and just looking.
Of course, this is the rosy side. It could be cold and bleak. Dark with rain. Upstairs in my bedroom, the house was freezing in winter.
All the old ladies mum took us to visit. All gone. And the streets and houses in Bradford where they lived. All gone. And the ladies in the village who advised and talked and listened. All gone.
And reading on facebook of someone I know vaguely who has spent the last month with her sister, nursing her mum before she died. The rush that brought of how Jane and I were with mum, staying in her hospital room until she came home to us in Manchester and the time of care, autumn leaves and blue skies turning to winter afternoon sunsets making orange squares on the hospital room wall. I cried. And that is over five years ago now.
And I am sobbing writing this. Why is that?
Is it the silence? That I don’t talk about this anymore because I feel I should be done? That it’s just moaning? That I should be grateful and happy for all that has happened this year.
That we have to ‘live in the moment?’ Is that possible for a writer?
Do we talk or not talk? Do we feel silenced because we feel it is not enough? The grief, the sadness we feel that pools within us and feels so overwhelming when in the big huge scheme of things to others, to what is happening, is nothing at all.
That’s when I think nature helps. Standing in woodland, on a hill top, by the sea. We realise how small we are, how short a time we are here. Does that help? We’re human. I’m human! No, it’s hard to get that perspective! It’s hard to grasp when we’re in the middle of the darkness. But being amongst trees or water, or fields or moors, does give space and breathes away the moment’s anxiety.
And writing. I think writing brings all these memories and feelings and emotions, up and back and around. If I wasn’t writing, would I feel calmer and less emotional? Probably. But I wouldn’t be me if I stopped writing. So, I need to embrace this and use it and in doing that, find release. X
Wishing everyone a Happy Yorkshire Day!
The idea of Yorkshire Day came about during a meeting of the Yorkshire Ridings Society in 1974. They chose a date for the event, 1 August, and in 1975 the first ever Yorkshire Day took place.
Yorkshire Day celebrates everything Yorkshire, but especially the integrity of the historic county and every year, on that day, members of the society read a declaration of the integrity of Yorkshire at each of the four Bars of York; the gates into the old walled city. The declaration is read facing into each of the three ridings and into the city.
The 1 August is also the anniversary of the Battle of Minden.
In 1759, during the Seven Years War, two French armies worked their way across Western Germany, capturing important towns on their way. Both French armies commanded by Marquis de Contades and The Duc de Broglie lay at the town of Minden, threatened to invade.
On 1 August 1759, on their way to battle, British forces passed through gardens in Minden which were blooming with roses. The soldiers picked white roses and placed them in their headdresses and coats. An allied force made up of Prussian, Hanoverian and British forces, of which the Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry was one, under the command of Prince Ferdinand lay to the North West of the town.
The allied army defeated the French and Minden Day is celebrated on 1st August. In all battalions of the Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, now part of the Yorkshire Regiment, a white rose is worn in their caps to commemorate those who fell during battle.
The official Yorkshire flag was unfurled in Hull on 29 July 2008. The white rose on a blue background has been used across the county since 1965 (although it could be earlier), but was not recognised by the Flag Institute as the official flag for Yorkshire.
The flag’s new status has now been agreed by the Flag Institute after a request was entered by the Yorkshire Ridings Society.
Everyone who knows me, knows how important my home county of Yorkshire is to me. It features heavily in my writing. Jiddy Vardy is set in Robin Hood’s Bay and Whitby, Erosion, on the crumbling Yorkshire coast, and my latest book, which I am writing now, The Monster Belt is set in a fictional Yorkshire village.
This photos is from my latest photo shoot at GK London, taken on Saturday, 28th of July. I am wearing my silver rose necklace in honour of Yorkshire. The 28th is mum’s birthday and being Yorkshire born and bred, I had to wear the rose to say ‘Happy Birthday, Mum X.’