Writing

Get Pieter Vos 4 early at Deal Noir this Saturday

sleep baby baby vI’ll be speaking at Deal Noir on Saturday afternoon, alongside Quentin Bates, Barbara Nadel & Daniel Pembrey, with Andy Lawrence in the chair, talking about crime in foreign locations.

The next Pieter Vos book, Sleep Baby Sleep, won’t be out in public until June 1. But I’m told we have an advance print run that will have hardback copies available in Deal on Saturday. Looking forward to it — have yet to see them for myself.

Writing

Sir Gerald Kaufman, a small memory

Sir Gerald Kaufman, the Labour MP who died a few days ago aged 86, the oldest MP in Parliament, I met twice. Once was when I was the arts correspondent of The Times and he interrogated me in the rudest way possible about the arcane details of the government arts budget of the time, knowing I’d never be able to answer the questions.

The second was years later when he’d obviously forgotten the first and instead had been enjoying a gig writing reviews of crime fiction for one of the Scottish papers. My then editor and then publicist decided they wanted him to review my latest Nic Costa novel and so a lunch was organised at an incredibly expensive Italian restaurant not far from Westminster.

He was a voluble chap very fond of offering advice unasked for, and began by congratulating me on always sticking to what he believed to be the cardinal rule of crime writing: always introduce the eventual villain in the first thirty (I think) pages of the book. This was a rule I was unaware of and if I have stuck to it that’s entirely accidental.

After this the wine flowed and the priciest dishes on the menu were dispatched to the Kaufman plate. He regaled us with entertaining stories of his political life and how, as a Manchester MP, he managed to walk the fine line between supporters of United and City over the decades. Then, when the fanciest dessert I’ve ever seen in an Italian restaurant appeared before him and the team from my publishers was beginning to think in fearful terms of the bill, the crux of the issue was broached. Was there any possibility Kaufman might think of including me in his latest crime write-up for the Scots?

His eyes opened wide with surprise.

‘Oh, no. I can’t possibly do that.’

Why?

‘They fired me a while back. I don’t do crime reviews any more.’

And with that he returned to his meal.

Romeo and Juliet, Writing

A chat with Richard Armitage about Romeo & Juliet

Last October, when we were finalising the release of Romeo & Juliet: A NovelI was lucky enough to spend the best part of a day at the Audible HQ in Newark, New Jersey, alongside my formidable narrator/performer Richard Armitage. We recorded a long interview about the project, writing and performing.

You can now see it all and read a transcript here on Audible Range. I hope you find it enlightening about some of the many enjoyable challenges authors and actors face in projects like this. Unfortunately this happened the day after I flew out to New York and a sleepless night spent in the noisiest hotel in Murray Hill (last time you see me in the Shelburne that’s for sure). So I’m sure I am pretty inarticulate.

Richard, clean shaven for his role in Love, Love, Love, in which he managed to age from nineteen to his sixties, was as on the ball as ever. This is the last piece of supporting material we have to offer you from this unique project. Thanks for all the interest you’ve shown over the last few months — and particular thanks to Richard for lending his extraordinary talents to the finished version.

Writing

In search of Kopfkino: A few tips on how to write for audio

Romeo and Juliet: A Novel is the third project I’ve been involved with for Audible that was written specifically to be narrated or performed, not as a book.

Lots of people ask about the differences between writing for the page and writing for the ear. There are quite a few and I think they’re important. I also believe that writing for audio provides lots of lessons for the novelist too.

Audible kindly let me loose on their Range magazine today to talk about some of these issues. I hope this answers some of your questions… and thanks for all the kind feedback and great reviews for R&J since its launch three weeks ago.

Web/Tech, Writing

Ulysses 2.7 is out with some useful new features

An update to my favourite (as in I wrote every word of Romeo and Juliet: A Novel in it) writing app Ulysses just landed. There are some nice new touches, including the ability to have your sheets open as tabs on Sierra, above. And if you’ve got one of the fancy new MacBooks with a touchbar that’s supported below, too.

The full list of changes is below. Just a reminder… I have a cheap little ebook for anyone starting with Ulysses who wants to write a novel.

TOUCH BAR SUPPORT

The Touch Bar is the new touch display situated above the keyboard of Apple’s latest MacBook Pro. Replacing the function keys, Touch Bar can adapt to what a user is currently doing, and display app-specific, contextual functions. Ulysses 2.7 allows owners of the latest MacBook Pro to assign markup tags directly via Touch Bar while they write.

SIERRA TABS

Users know tabs from their web browser; with macOS Sierra they are now available as a system feature, and they also made it into Ulysses 2.7. Tabs are a natural fit for Ulysses, as the ability to quickly switch between multiple open texts within the same window makes for an even more powerful writing tool.

IMAGES IN EXTERNAL FOLDERS, EVERNOTE IMPORT, READING TIME GOALS

Ulysses’ new version now offers full support for the TextBundle format (http://textbundle.org) outside its iCloud library. TextBundle combines Markdown text files and referenced images in a single file, and users have long wanted Ulysses to properly support the new format. This addition allows them to use images when working from Dropbox or other storage providers.

Also, it is now easier than ever to switch from Evernote to Ulysses. Ulysses 2.7 allows to import ENEX files, Evernote’s proprietary export format. Users can even import ENEX files containing multiple notes — Ulysses will then create a separate sheet for each imported note.

Writing goals allow Ulysses users to determine the length to achieve when writing a text: a number of characters, words, or pages. With Ulysses 2.7 the feature was extended: users can now even set a reading time goal.

Audio, Romeo and Juliet, Writing

Sometimes life has gifts for fiction: a posy ring from Romeo and Juliet

Gold posy ring with inscription and maker’s mark. © The Trustees of the British Museum

I hesitate to use real life in fiction. Every author’s familiar with that moaning email in which a reader cites an instance in the story and says, ‘That could never happen in real life.’ We also know that the event concerned is often one taken straight from real life itself.

To support the theory that nothing is stranger than non-fiction I enter one piece of evidence only: the year 2016.

But sometimes it’s hard to resist. In this adaptation we have many scenes you will not find in Shakespeare. In one Paris, a fuller character here, makes a rather creepy and pathetic effort to win Juliet over in the Capulet garden. He’s not a man who’s good with words, at least not around women. But he has brought her a ring, one with a history I will leave to the story to explain.

The ring has an inscription inside, ‘I have obtained whom God ordained’. Not a sentiment likely to win the heart of an independent-minded young woman like Juliet.

As you can see from the exhibit from the British Museum above… I didn’t make this up. Posy rings like this, with little messages inside them, were once common. And that inscription was too.

A gift I could not refuse.