Sunday, 27 July 2014

Two Fabulous Summer Reads by Judy Astley: Just for the Summer and In the Summer Time

I love books that are set in the past and the present, showing how events then have impacted on people living today.
Judy Astley has gone one further, taking the characters and setting for her first novel, Just for the Summer, actually written twenty years ago, and writing a new novel, In the Summer Time, which brings their stories up to date.
In Just for the Summer, three families holiday in a Cornish seaside village each year. Clare's daughter, Miranda, has just got herself pregnant with local boy, Steve. Her husband, Jack, is trying to tell her that he wants to leave his lecturing job in Chiswick, and settle them all in Cornwall for good.
Meanwhile, Clare is daydreaming about Irish author, Eliot, who had made a pass at her (deliciously!) in the woods last year, and she's hoping that when he arrives with his wife, Liz, and daughter, Jessica, he may do it again.
The last couple are Archie and Celia with their son, Andrew, who, unlike the others, own their own cottage, and are members of the golf and sailing club which keeps them busy, whilst Andrew indulges in fantasies about Jessica.
Lastly, Jeannie, Steve's mother, represents the views of the local people as she cleans the cottages.
The story plays out about the relationships between the adults, and between the children as the summer progresses.
This is taken up in In the Summer Time. Miranda returns to Cornwall with Clare because Jack has died and wanted his ashes to be scattered at sea near their holiday home. Without giving too much away, eventually, many of the original characters arrive on the scene, and the summer proves to be just as memorable as that one twenty years before.
I thoroughly enjoyed these books which are perfect for holiday reading. I liked the way the stories carried through over the years and I was interested in how Judy's writing style had inevitably changed.
I did manage to speak to her briefly at the RNA Conference 2014, to tell her I was enjoying her books, but as she was due to take part in a panel discussion, I couldn't talk about them any further.
May be one day, I'll get another chance!

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Happy Times at Harper Adams: RNA Conference 2014

One of the best parts of attending an RNA conference is the chance to meet new people. So far, I have always travelled alone and I always feel a mixture of fear and excitement at the prospect!
I needn't have worried though, because here are some of my friendly flatmates: Natalie Klenman, Elaine Everest, Elaine Roberts and Francesca Capaldi who all made me very welcome. There was also Melanie Heard-White who I met on the first afternoon and who decided to come with me to the first  session. It's always better than walking alone into a room where everyone seems to know everyone else, and you don't! We all spent sometime together at the Friday Night Drinks Party.

Here are some other friendly ladies at the Gala Dinner: Sally Quilford, who I knew from her column in Writers' Forum, Charlotte McFall, and Amanda Ward and her mother-in-law.
I also talked to Liz Harris, Jude Roust and Jules Wake who I know from the famous Ox Lunch, and people that I'd met at previous conferences like Deborah Swift and Jan Preston and online  writing friends like Rosemary Gemmell.

I enjoyed all the sessions I went to, including those by Janet Gover on making location another character in your novel, and Jean Fullerton on plotting using Pride and Prejudice as an illustration. Such entertaining and memorable speakers! However, the most entertaining was the talk by Jane Lovering and Rhoda Baxter on 'Writing Funny'. They made perfect foils for each other, with Jane taking the comedy role in her black onesie with penguin feet. Something to do with 'juxtaposition of thingamy', but their message was to have fun and enjoy what you're writing.

Even on the way home, I met some new friends waiting for the train to Birmingham: Gail Mallin and Jen Gilroy, and we talked as we'd known each other for years!
All in all, I had a very happy time!
Thanks to Jan, Roger and Jenny for all their hard work!