Occasional thoughts on telling stories

Objets de vertu as a means of characterisation

Published 10th July 2019

Sometimes to make a character stand out from the page all it takes is an unlikely objet de vertu. The fictional Duke of Argyll, for example, in my up and coming novel,  Staining the Soul, is a bluff and hearty individual so I gave him an ivory-paged notebook for his daily computations of profit. These notebooks were a feminine accessory in the 18th Century. Not exclusively. Thomas Jefferson, no less, had one. But the notebooks had a practical function so both men and women made use of them. The notebooks were used for notes taken in pencil which could be transferred later to some more permanent place. Then the pencil notes could be wiped off, ready for the next day.The notebooks, however, had various levels of design. Some were simply a few ivory pages pinned together but I have also seen notebooks with gold covers or with brass ornamentation. And with elaborately decorative pencils.  The world of the Notebook!

A Fine Romance?

Published 10th January 2019

I have been thinking about Romance in novels. My characters, it seems, won’t let go of the idea that they are really not stereotypes and there are reasons why they do things and there is evidence that they must change and grow.

Even Adelaide de Fontenoy – a woman so beautiful she just ‘is’ and doesn’t ‘do’ (and therein lies her problems) – grows and changes over the Wolf of Dalriada trilogy. Submitting to change triggered by a serious assault, she has no choice.

And the hero, Malcolm Craig Lowrie. Though driven by duty and by tradition and wreathed in Celtic magic, he changes. He falls in love with Adelaide de Fontenoy and becomes accessible and human. The story is partly about how he reconciles these elements of his nature.

So, if not stereotypical romances, would the Wolf of Dalriada novels be enhanced by covers depicting a bare-chested man in a kilt embracing a minx with bedroom eyes? I didn’t think so – which is why for the first cover I chose Louise Bellin’s wonderfully atmospheric photograph of Castle Tioram. (Castle Craig Lowrie is a fictional blend of Tioram and Duntrune). For me the relationship between man and the landscape of Scotland says far more about the story than the fact that Malcolm Craig Lowrie touches Adelaide de Fontenoy’s hair. Although, of course, that does come into it.

Perhaps this is new-style 2019 Romance? What do you think?


Target Audiences and how to find them

Published 25th September (on Goodreads ….)

When my debut novel came out, I suspected my friends would represent the target audience – sensitive, cultured souls of a certain age. It’s true that many are. But I was also surprised to note that some teenagers have also taken ‘The Wolf’ to their hearts. A local schoolgirl worried her mother by staying up all night to finish reading it. A schoolboy from Kent wrote to ask my help in doing an A-level project. When I thought about this more seriously, I was less surprised. My great enjoyment in reading grew out of years spent reading Rosemary Sutcliffe, Enid Blyton and Rudyard Kipling’s Mowgli stories in tree dens in the garden. The moral dilemmas the child heroes felt then, it seems, remain the same: fairness, tolerance, conservation, love of animals. What is humorous has changed little and I could see where ‘The Wolf’ might fit in. And, both its heroines and one of its heroes are teenagers. So it could be that my target audience is attending sixth form classes rather than lectures on the fine and decorative Arts. The question now of course is how to reach them. Any ideas?