Sunday, June 29, 2014

Master of the House

Stories of gentry and kinky sex - who better to write them that Justine Elyot?

I started reading this under the slightly confused impression that it was another in the His House of Submission series. It isn't! So, don't look for Jasper, as instead we have Joss, her old flame, who's introduced to us through a series of flashbacks. There's a masterful sense of the sinister around Lucy's memories of their childhood and teenage relationships - it's hard to tell what happened, and the suspense is  very effective.

Lucy is a strong and sympathetic character and the details of her life and reactions are quite real. She's not perfect and has plenty of concerns and insecurities.

The story ends with a slightly fantastical twist, that is actually just fun, if a little unbelievable. The choices the characters end up making are conversely far more rooted in everyday reality. Again, there's a bit of a Jilly Cooper roundup in the ultimate chapter, but after a story of summer byways and Lords and their country piles and pints in the pub by the river, it fits remarkably well, and ends with a laugh. There's everything to enjoy in this story. 

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Cupcakes, Armour, Ink, Wings: Helena Hunting

Some years ago, in a daze of Twilight fanfiction, I read a story by a Canadian writer that captivated me completely. I've waited a long time for it to get published, and it's now out in a series of beautifullly illustrated books.

Here they are

Cupcakes and Ink

Clipped Wings

Inked Armour

Cracks in the Armour

Between the Cracks - free right now!

I had a little trouble because the original epic tale has been edited into something manageable, and there's bits I missed as I was reading, little scenes that were my favourite. And some of the characters subtly changed. Helena's answers to my probing questions explain why that is - ultimately it's a great edit, and a brave one more realistic, much tighter.

I can't separate the stories into individual books, really, as for me they're all one. They're full of utterly winsome characters, and the tension comes from grief, friendship, trauma and romance mixed together. The inclusion of the world of body modification makes an interesting and appealing back drop.

I just love these books, they'll always be a favourite of mine.

Here's Helena, with some answers to my questions!

1. So this story is the end result of a MONSTER edit! How was that process for you, I can't imagine how you managed it all. How did you decide what major changes to make? I do think the story is far more credible with the new antagonists.

I macheted about half the original manuscript, which was something that definitely needed to happen. Some of the process was challenging and there were scenes that were difficult to cut, but necessary in the end. Initially, I started going through the manuscript one chapter at a time and editing from within. By the time I got to chapter nine it became glaringly obvious that my writing style had changed over time and the approach I was taking wouldn’t be effective.

My very good friend Alex worked through the outline with me for both books. It took about a month, but the outlines made it so much easier to weed out the scenes that were no longer essential to the story. After that, I stopped referring to the original draft for the most part and I just started writing from scratch. It was quite an intense process, but definitely one I’m glad I went through. 

2. I love that you're still writing more Chris and Sarah - will you ever be able to let these characters go?

Eventually, yes. As the first full length novel I’ve ever written, I think these characters are close to my heart. All of the characters, whether primary or secondary have a story to be told, Chris and Sarah included.

3. Did you intentionally make a plea for acceptance for the tattooed and pierced people of the world? Is that something that bothers you, or was it just part of the characters' natural struggle?

Social constructs, while often required, are also constraining. I feel like body modification is highly misunderstood form of art. I wanted people to view it through a different lens. In many cultures the art of body modification is a norm, not a deviation from it. If we can look at it as a vehicle for artistic expression rather than something “other”, I think it’s easier to understand what motivates people to commemorate their life milestones in the form of ink.

4. I'm assuming you've left fanfiction behind now, but tell us a little bit about how you see it being valuable. I see so many writers sneering at it - but I think it's an incredibly positive thing. 

Without it I never would have found an audience, or the motivation to move forward with my writing. I’ve met some very incredible women through fanfiction, and they’ve been supportive through this process. Fanfiction gave many indie authors the opportunity to share their words in a safe, accepting forum, and to develop and hone their writing skills. So much of the fandom are embracing, encouraging and positive. I’ve been very fortunate to have been a part of that.

5. So - what's next for Helena Hunting?

I’m still writing and I’m hoping to share more soon!

Monday, June 2, 2014

a kiss

Waking, and sifting through the long, slightly exhausting tumble of my bank holiday morning dreams, I unearth... a kiss. I was looking at your photos, a bent head, a bicep, all bathed in soft light, and then magically there was kissing instead, a memory, a dream-shift, I don't know, but I remembered the soft, slow touching of warm, wet tongues and  your fine blond hair grown long enough to whisper over my forehead as we kissed.