Sunday, 13 February 2011

Take A Step Back

Sometimes you can be too close to a problem; so much so, that you can't make sense of what's before you. Stand too close to the television and all you see is a myriad of non-sensical dots. Take a few step back and you have a clearer focus on the image.

I felt like this recently whilst trying to get to grips with a plot in my second novel, Sugar And Spite. My protagonist was grieving over the sudden death of her husband, and I needed something to trigger the beginning of a slow recovery. (After all, in future chapters she had to find a way to make a living, cope with mysterious anonymous messages which were being sent to her, un-earth secrets, travel to France, discover that her husband wasn't the man she thought he was and of course, a new man would enter her life). I needed my heroine to be strong again and ready to take on an adventure or two.

The trigger to her recovery had to be believable and preferably have a link to her late-husband, so I continued to write, leaving a gap to fill in when I'd eventually had a light-bulb moment; and hoping that my brain hadn't had a permanent power cut. But of course, with my nose pressed up against the problem, I was too close to see straight.

Some weeks later, having a cup of tea in my writing room (and maybe a cheeky biscuit or two), I wondered what would emotionally give me strength and comfort at a time when I might need it. Of course family and friends' support goes without saying, but I needed something which would add a new dimension to my novel.

The light-bulb moment happened - in the form of a squeak!

No, not a mouse, a dog! Turning round, my two faithful spaniels were curled up on the settee. They always keep me company whilst I'm writing and I'm sure they'd much rather sleep on my writing room sofa than in the kitchen overnight!

First I must explain the squeak. Harlyn (the red dog in the photograph) was dreaming - probably of rabbits or squirrels. Her paws were twitching as she ran through treacle in her dream, never quite catching the elusive creature in question. She tends to emit little squeaks as she twitches in her sleep! No doubt in her dreams it's a decisive, no-nonsense bark.

Harlyn and Brook are always full of loyal devotion despite how I'm feeling. If I'm feeling a bit low, a cold wet nose will nuzzle closely or I'll be brought a well-chewed dog toy as a gift. There's nothing better than hugging a soft warm body with fur which smells like sawdust, fresh air and a faint musty smell like opening your grandmother's jewellery box! If I'm frustrated, they'll lift my mood with a dying-fly impersonation, and if I'm laughing, they'll hunker down with bottoms in the air ready to play.

Quite simply - I love them!

A dog is just what my heroine Erin, needed. A little creature to look after and get her out the house. I linked her late-husband into the story by writing that he'd chosen Jet - a totally black Springer puppy - before he'd died. Jet was to have been a surprise for Erin. Of course it had taken weeks before the puppy had been weaned and delivered to the doorstep, which explained the timing.

I'd found my link in the form of a little black ball of fluff!


  1. What a great post and i can understand the getting of inspiration from your dogs. I have a black cocker spaniel myself (photo on my blog) who is a fantastic companion and best friend.
    Good luck with your writing,


  2. What a lovely post. I was shouting "a dog!" at the laptop screen, because my wonderful GSD helped me through some of the most turbulent times in my life. Wonderful idea - and a fabulous plot!

    Good luck

  3. It's amazing how our own life experiences can add to the content of our books. I have four collies (sheep dogs) and included three sheep dogs in my current novel. We are indeed blessed to have such wonderful companionship.

    Good to meet you through Twitter today, CJ xx

  4. Yes! Perfect. Funnily enoght my heroine gets a Springer, too, as part of her rebellion. She's always wanted one and when she moves to the island it's the first thing she does!

  5. Thank you all so much for your support. I really don't know what I did before 'meeting' my twitter friends. xxx

  6. perfect - a pooch adds so much to our lives, I like where this storyline is heading, can't wait to read more! :)

  7. Thank you Roxie - my lovely new tweet friend!

  8. Fab Ange. Amazing dogs, brilliant inspiration (and wonderful smells! (-:)
    m xxx

  9. Thank you Megan - they can occasionally smell a lot worse if they've been rolling! x