Hello September!! Since its now officially spring, I thought I’d share an update on my latest projects, as well as recommendations of some books and TV series that I’ve enjoyed recently. The manuscript that I’m currently working on is another historical fiction (and although I’m doing research as I go along on this one rather…
Divas, Secrets and Spies…
Hello September!! Since its now officially spring, I thought I’d share an update on my latest projects, as well as recommendations of some books and TV series that I’ve enjoyed recently. The manuscript that I’m currently working on is another historical fiction (and although I’m doing research as I go along on this one rather than lots up front) I did make a trip to England recently. I visited a few different locations featured in the book and also the New Forest in Hampshire, home to one of the country houses that was the site of an Special Operations Executive ‘finishing school’. It was fascinating to see the real instruments and weapons that SOE agents used in the field, and get a sense of who they were and the work that was carried out. Here are a few teasers for you… including the gun agents carried, the wireless for transmitting behind enemy lines, and a glance at the parachute training that they needed to complete to get them there.
In London I also went to the DIVA exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Its a divine collection of costumes celebrating some of the most amazing and inspiring women of the past two centuries, with an emphasis on the entertainers who have managed to use their celebrity to further causes they believe in. From Vesta Tilly a male impersonator who pushed the boundaries for women in the 1890s, and Edith Craig (1910), costume and theatre designer who was a founder member of the feminist theatre company and lived with her lesbian partner, Christopher St John, to Josephine Baker, Bette Davis, Katherine Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe. From opera singers, actresses of the silent era, and Hollywood starlets. Then a second floor is devoted to Divas of the twenty first century, including Tina Turner (costume below), Rhianna, Pink, Sade, Adele, Whitney, and many more. And although there is a lot of glamour amongst the sparkle and glitter, it doesn’t detract from the very serious and very real achievements of the incredible icons on display; its quite an overwhelming and emotional experience.
What I’m reading…
Demon Copperhead, Barbara Kingsolver – I’ve just finished this remarkable novel and can’t recommend it highly enough. It might seem redundant recommending a book that has just won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction but it’s looking like my favourite read of 2023 so I had to! It’s such a brilliant and beautifully written story, genius in its reinterpretation of David Copperfield, its unforgettable characters and its weaving together of their stories with topical events of poverty and drug addiction. There are too many beautiful passages and whip-smart lines of dialogue to choose any single one but the real triumph is how the novel reveals the complexity of human relationships through the troubled, beleaguered, toxic, generous, selfless or selfish, characters that inhabit its pages. It’s a coincidence that I’ve also just watched Painkiller, the Netflix series about the opioid crisis in America, that made it even more affecting to read Kingsolver’s novel as it gives another, albeit fictitious, insight into the victims as well as the perpetrators of corporate greed.
Warlight, Michael Ondatjee – set in post-WW2 London, this story centres around 14-year-old Nathaniel and his sister, Rachel, who are abandoned by their parents and left in the care of ‘The Moth’, an enigmatic figure. It’s unclear whether their new guardian is a criminal, or if any of his host of eccentric friends are, but they are depicted with such realism that you are committed to staying with the children and finding out the mystery and what happens to them.
The Fraud, Zadie Smith – I’ve just started this new novel, finding the premise intriguing. It’s based on real historical events and is described as a novel about truth and fiction, Jamaica and Britain, fraud and authenticity. It’s inspired by a legal trial that divided Victorian England and raises moral questions, including who deserves to tell their story and who deserves to be believed. I visited the London Museum in Docklands earlier this year and saw the witness accounts of people who were impacted by the British slave trade and the human cost of empire building, so I’m looking forward to reading this one and intrigued by the techniques Zadie Smith uses in this unique storytelling. Zadie also narrates the audiobook which may be a plus for some fans.
What I’m watching…
Ten Pound Poms – I’ve not finished they yet so the jury is still out!
Your Honour, series 2 – I was a fan of the first series of this crime drama and this one didn’t disappoint; it’s full of thrilling and chilling surprises, and heart-stopping moments. The acting is excellent all round, from the ruthless Baxters to Bryan Cranston’s depiction of Michael Desiato, a former judge, whose life spirals away from him after his son accidentally kills a member of the Baxter family. Disappointing that a third series isn’t planned.
Dream Horse – feature film
I don’t often cry when I watch TV or films but this movie had me in tears. I’m not sure why as the plot is fairly predictable and formulaic, and while the cast included Toni Collette and Damien Lewis, there was a fair amount of overacting, but the film just got me! Maybe it was the beautiful horse, “Dream”, or the classic rags-to-riches storyline, or the will for the villagers to succeed amidst their daily struggles, but its a really affecting film. My guess is that its also because Dream Horse is based on the true story of a small group of villagers from remote Wales that come together to form a syndicate to buy a race horse, and their journey to the Welsh Grand National. While the actors do overplay the “feel-good” sentiment, there’s still a lot to enjoy in the underdog trumps and the community fighting spirit.
What I’m excited about…
Last month I was ‘Author of the Day’ on the Global Girls Online Book Club; if you’re not familiar with the GGOC then do head over the the website and check it out. Creator and host Jackie Russell has created a wonderful community of booklovers, readers and writers, and features regular live chats as well as a monthly book club read. My posts included background on my books, writing and inspiration, and it was a great way to connect with authors and readers around the world. It’s a private group but you can follow the link to apply to join and admin will get in touch with you. https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100063606669772
In a couple of weeks I’ll be diving deeper into the craft of drama writing when I take part in an online drama writing course with Curtis Brown Creative in London. The tutor has a background in screenwriting historical drama so I’m really excited about getting this perspective and developing my series further. And next week I’ll be going to some sessions at the Rose Scott Women Writers’ Festival in Sydney. There are some great speakers and events so have a look https://www.thewomensclub.com.au/rswwf-1/rswwf-2023
Maybe see you there!