Writing a novel is hard. Writing anything is hard. You want to convey a very specific idea or scenario and so you pray that the words you use elicit the same vision you’re imagining within your readers. I’ve enjoyed writing for most of my life and I’ve tried several times, both seriously and not-so-seriously, to write a novel. I recently uncovered a handmade ‘novel’ that I created in school aged ten and, given that it was only five A5 pages long, I think we can safely put a strong emphasis on those inverted commas.
My first real attempt at a novel came when I was sixteen; the plot was centred on a village with an evil mayor who wouldn’t let its citizens leave and everything they did, from their careers to where they lived, was decided by the government. Hardly original and the plot was a mess. I had a very rough idea of the direction of the plot and I just planned as I wrote. Unsurprisingly, I eventually ran out of steam, and it all came to nothing.
I tried again during my first year of university as I’d had an idea centred around people who could see the future through their dreams. Again, I appreciate this wasn’t a completely original concept but sometimes you get an idea and you just have to write it! I made the mistake, once again, of not planning and so gave up after a few months. I eventually picked it back up as the idea wouldn’t leave me and set out a plan for the whole plot, including character profiles and backstories. My plan was for this to be the first in a trilogy and I think that was my first mistake, which then dictated the whole process; I was writing to a formula. I wanted to create a series that would fit in amongst The Hunger Games and The Mortal Instruments but in doing so my writing was filled with tropes and plotlines that had been created many times before. Even though I decided not to pursue this series, it still holds a place in my heart as it taught me a lot about the novel writing process, and I still love the characters.
When it came to writing The Arben Bridge I had a completely new outlook on the process thanks to these failed attempts. I decided from the start that even though I would create a full plot plan, which I did, I would also write instinctively. If an idea popped up mid-paragraph or I thought a character should go in a different direction, I just did it. Despite it taking me a lot longer to write, re-write and eventually publish the book, I’m so glad that I decided on this approach because it feels exactly like the book I set out to write.
The Arben Bridge is available now in paperback and e-book right here.
I know a lot of us bookworms wish that our favourite characters were real so that we could interrogate/hug/laugh/cry with them. Can you imagine what a treat that would be?
If you’ve ever been to one of those ‘fun’ or ‘informal’ interview settings where they ask who your dream dinner guests would be, I bet you already have a line up of book characters planted in your head. For me, I sometimes wonder who I’d love to just sit down and have a few drinks with. There are plenty of characters that I feel could fit the bill but I’ve limited it to five for the sake of time!
Evelyn Hugo, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
The book that Evelyn hails from follows her life from glamorous 1950s Hollywood to the present day and I’d happily have a drink with Evelyn from any of these eras. She’s such a forthright character with plenty of stories to tell, and certainly knows her way around a cocktail menu, so I know I’d have a brilliant night in her company.
Haymitch Abernathy, The Hunger Games trilogy
If you’ve read The Hunger Games, I think you’ll agree that it’s best Haymitch and I go for a coffee rather than a beer. Nevertheless, I’m sure he’d be as snarky and miserable as he is in the books, and I’d still love him for it. He’s always been one of my favourite characters in fiction for his witty one liners and I’d happily put up with him hating me if it meant an afternoon to talk to him.
Aziraphale and Crowley, Good Omens
I know this is two characters but can you really expect me to go for a drink with one and not the other?! I wouldn’t even have to talk; I think I would just enjoy being in their presence while they lovingly bicker with each other. It would be HEAVEN (get it? If you don’t, please go read the book and then watch the tv series asap.)
Johanna Morrigan, How to Build a Girl
I love Johanna so much. She’s wild, hilarious and completely her own person, which are all traits I admire in a person. She also loves to chat and drink, which are two traits that have been used to describe me so, all in all, I think we’d have an awesome night that we might not be able to remember the next morning.
Tarley Hillis, The Arben Bridge
Yes, this is my own character from my own book but hear me out. I’ve spent a very long time creating Tarley and wondering if she’s ready to be released into the wild; being able to talk to her would be mind blowing on so many levels. I’d also like the chance to apologise for everything I’ve put her through and maybe have a mumsy word with her about how much she likes white wine.
I love writing (even if you’ve seen a recent social media post of mine which suggests otherwise, I promise, I do love it) and although my main focus at the moment is to promote my book The Arben Bridge, I also enjoy screenwriting.
Television programmes have increasingly become ‘events’ over the past ten years and the quality of writing continues to astound me, so much so that there are a few shows that I admire so much I just wish they had been my idea and I’d been able to write them.
What We Do in the Shadows
Based on the film of the same name, this show follows a group of vampires residing in Long Island as they try to live undetected while also feeding their vampiric appetites. The show follows the film in a mockumentary style format, which I think is a genius idea for a fantasy based show. The characters are not only hilarious but completely believable, with my favourite episodes being those where their old-world clashes with the modern one. The main reason I love this show is because it feels completely original and that’s a trait I’m always striving for in my own writing.
I could talk for hours about how great the writing is on this show but I’ll try to be concise-ish. The story follows MI6 agent, Eve, as tries to track down international assassin, Villanelle, resulting in more oh-my-god moments that I can count. The first series just blew me away with how it effortlessly blended its twists and gore with its comedic elements, which are genuinely funny and not simple moments that give you a smirk. On the surface it feels like these various elements shouldn’t work, or be more akin to a horror comedy like Shaun of the Dead, but in Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s hands, it becomes a slick and addictive show that I wish had come from my brain.
I am a huge fan of the MCU and so when it was announced that Disney+ had commissioned original television programmes, I was very excited for what WandaVision would bring. The show follows the characters of Wanda Maximoff and The Vision as they re-enact classic sitcoms throughout the years but, of course, all is not as it seems. I was hooked from the start on this one and the way the zany world of WandaVision is not only revealed but, almost painfully, slowly unravelled is the closest thing to perfection I’ve watched all year. There are so many genres at play in WandaVision and they are all executed perfectly, with an outstanding performance from Elizabeth Olsen in particular. Again, the originality and attention to detail of the show leaves me in such awe that, once again, on the off chance anyone from Marvel is reading this: I AM AVAILABLE.
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
The concept of this programme immediately piqued my interest. The story follows Mrs. Miriam Maisel as she navigates her place as a newly single mum in wealthy 1950s New York society while also aspiring to be a comedian. Sounds suitable quirky, right? The quick and witty dialogue is note perfect throughout while the audience also gets to follow Miriam as she discovers that there is a vastly different life outside of the privileged one she has grown up in. The characters are both frustrating and funny with enough touch of pathos that it grounds the story without treading too far away from the genre. I’m also a huge fan of this era of fashion, which may or may not also be why I want to write for this show…
I don’t feel like this is a genre I’d be adept at writing for but I have such admiration and love for this show, I had to include it. The programme is a sitcom set in a police precinct in Brooklyn and is a masterpiece in character writing; each one is defined and their development throughout the series is relevant, and surprisingly poignant, to their characters. There are very few American sitcoms that I physically laugh at but ever since I discovered this show I have always found something to make me howl. The mix of outrageous situations and heart-warming storylines makes it seem almost plausible that this world exists. This is one of my comfort shows and I think any T.V series that touches people like that would be amazing to work on.
It was just over a year ago that I began tentatively posting about my book on social media, which was (and still is) quite scary. Promoting your own work can feel ostentatious, desperate and fake at times and, of course, if you add in the old imposter syndrome it can feel very daunting. As I dipped my toe into the water, I thought it would be a good idea to search for book reviewers. There’s an account for everything on Instagram so there must be book review pages, right? I had never heard of ‘Bookstagram’; an Instagram community made up of people who adore books and not only post reviews but engage in giveaways, discussions and plenty of book related challenges. When I stumbled across it, I was amazed that I had never seen these types of posts before. I love books! Why had I never thought to follow people who love them too?! I will admit that my initial reason for delving into this world was quite self-serving but having hung around it for a year now, I’ve realised that it’s taught me a lot and also changed my reading habits.
I’ve owned a Kindle for a few years and the main reason I bought it was because I can be impatient and I like the idea that if I find a book I want to read, I can download it within seconds. I’m also not gifted with plenty of space and so being able to store hundreds of books on a small device is a big plus for me. This isn’t to say I don’t adore printed copies. If I had the means and space, I would devote an entire room to filling it up with books, but I don’t, so in recent years I haven’t bought a lot of printed books. When I began following Bookstagram one of the standout features of the community is the beautiful pictures that people take of books. Whether it’s their current read or multiple covers as part of a photo challenge, the effort that goes into some of these photos is huge, and so rewarding to look at. As a result, I have fallen back in love with printed books and I appreciate their covers like never before. I now allow myself to buy certain books in print, particularly ones I’m pretty sure I’m going to love or has a cover that I adore, and then the rest on Kindle.
Of course, one of the biggest reasons that Bookstagram exists is for recommendations. I do find looking for new books quite daunting, once I discover a new author that I like, I try to read as much of their work as I can but the way I find a new author is usually via friends or, when we’re not in a pandemic, strolling through Waterstones and reading hundreds of blurbs. Bookstagram has kept me up to date with the latest releases and popular books like no website or amount of researching ever has. It’s also great to read what other likeminded readers think of certain books before I part with my money!
Overall, Bookstagram has reminded me why I love reading and what a joy it is to share it with people. I get such a buzz when I speak to someone who has read the same book as me and we can discuss it until we’ve exhausted every theme, quote and character. During a time when conversations are pretty much all virtual, it’s amazing to feel connected to so many people and continue a hobby that’s keeping me going through lockdown. So, thank you Bookstagram, you have made me a more devout reader than ever!
Happy Galentine’s Day! Thanks to the wondrous character that is Leslie Knope, every February 13th is now a day to celebrate the wonderful ladies in our lives and I am completely on board with that.
To celebrate, I have asked five fabulous females whom I have the pleasure of knowing, to recommend a book for anyone looking for a new read. A big thank you to them for allowing me to continually plough their brains for blog and social media content. I love how varied this list is and why each of them has chosen their specific book; I won’t be too on the nose and make a comment about women being complex and…actually I will. Women are multi-faceted bad asses with complexities and nuances that are not reflected as much as they should be in mainstream media.
Anyway, over to you, ladies…
1.The Girl You Left Behind, Jojo Moyes
“This book is about a famous French painting that ties together two women who live decades apart. In 1916, Sophie (the subject of the painting), is helping her sister and brother at the family hotel but her husband has been taken to a prisoner of war camp and she’s determined to get back to him. Fast forward to 2006 and Liv Halson is given the painting as a gift before she begins a relationship with a new man. However, it turns out that he has been hired to retrieve the painting as it is believed to have been stolen during WWI. I found the story quite powerful and it has two really strong female characters, which I loved. Jojo Moyes’ style just pulls on your heart strings.”
2.Sad Girls, Lang Leav
“Lang Leav is one of my favourite poets (seriously, any hopeless romantics reading this need to check out her Instagram) and this is her debut novel. It’s secrets and drama and tragedy all bubbling up around a bit of a twisted love story and I loved it!”
3.East Lynne, Ellen Wood
“Originally a serial in a Victorian magazine, the book centres around aristocratic Lady Isabel who abandons her husband and children for her wicked seducer. It’s the epitome of a Victorian Sensationalist novel, there is murder, betrayal, divorce, disguises and death and all this is set among a backdrop of stately homes and horse-and-carriages. It’s a long book but you feel like you are living in a Victorian soap and, quite honestly, who doesn’t want to be transported back in time and immerse themselves into the gossiping world of Victorian society?”
4.Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China, Jung Chang
“It’s about three generations of women in China. Heart breaking, hopeful and just fucking beautiful. You should read it, it’s amazing!”
5.Women Don’t Owe You Pretty, Florence Given
“The book is beautiful, filled with amazing artwork, strong female energy and empowering quotes that stay with you. This sassy self-help book teaches how to set boundaries and to stop people pleasing whilst challenging patriarchal outdated narratives. I love this book because I wish I could read I to my teenage self and would recommend it to everyone, even purely for the artwork!”
Today is ‘Blue Monday,’ which is said to be the most depressing day of the year. Christmas is over, January feels like it’s never ending and so some boffins have declared this a very glib day indeed. Of course, I think given what the entire world is going through right now, we can laugh in the face of Blue Monday. You think you’re big and clever, do you? Pfft, we’ve had many a Blue Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday AND Sunday this past year.
If you’re reading this, the chances are you enjoy a good book, so I thought I would recommend a few that have brought a smile to my face in times gone by. They won’t cure the futility a lot of us feeling, but hopefully you can find something that lets your mind refocus for a few hours (and maybe even enjoy a laugh, too?)
Good Omens, Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman
I have to kick things off with one of my favourite fantasy books! This follows an angel named Aziraphale and a demon named Crowley as they wait for the Antichrist to bring on Armageddon. The Antichrist in question is also an eleven-year-old boy living in an idyllic English village.
It may not sound like the chirpiest of plots but in the hands of Pratchett and Gaiman it is a joyous ride from start to finish due to their brilliantly bonkers characters and equally mad plot. It’s an easy read that’s pure escapism (I also recommend the Amazon Prime show after you’ve read the book; it’s genuinely one of the best adaptations I’ve ever seen.)
How to Build a Girl, Caitlin Moran
This book tells the story of teenager Johanna Morrigan as she navigates growing up and deciding what type of person she wants to be during the early 1990s. She lands herself a job as a writer at a music magazine in London and in her quest to be a grown up starts losing the parts of her that make her so wonderful. I think this a story we can all relate to and I’ve never read a book that handles this topic so accurately or hilariously, particularly for women.
The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared, Jonas Jonasson
Let’s be honest, with a title like that you know this book is going to be barmy. Once the aforementioned elderly male, Allan Karlsson, escapes from his care home in his slippers he goes on an adventure that sees him travel across Sweden, gathering a band of delinquents along the way. The characters in this book are wonderful caricatures and it also turns out that Allan was part of many of the great moments of the twentieth century, which makes for a really fun read.
Daisy Jones and the Six, Taylor Jenkins Reid
This isn’t a light-hearted read as it deals with the very serious issue of addiction, however, I’m including it because if that isn’t triggering for you then I think the hedonistic, rock star storylines that litter this book are just the kind of escapism we need right now.
The book is written as an exposé on the reasons why the eponymous band split up in the late seventies. Jenkins Reid creates such a vivid world filled with the kind of rock star tantrums, rifts and craziness that have littered tabloid headlines for decades that it’s easy to get lost in it and believe that this is a real band. As someone who truly believes she was born in the wrong decade, it genuinely upsets me that I wasn’t in Daisy Jones and the Six.
The Rosie Project, Graeme Simsion
I read this years ago and the feeling of general loveliness that it gave me has still stuck with me. Don Tillman is a genetics professor and has never gone on a second date; he sees the world differently to most and that’s one of the best things about him. He decides to embark on ‘The Wife Project’ and approaches dating as if it was a science experiment so, as I’m sure you can imagine, there are many funny episodes in this book. He meets Rosie, who is pretty much his opposite in every way (I know, it’s a trope, but go with it) and teaches him that not everything in life needs to be predicated, measured and specific. If you need something uplifting from start to finish, I definitely recommend this.
As much as I love reading, in non-pandemic years, I don’t do nearly enough of it as I’d like. However, one of the few positives to come out of 2020 is that I’ve been able to devour more books than I usually would. Here, in no particular order, are five of my favourite fiction boos that I’ve read this year.
N.B These books didn’t come out this year, I just read them this year!
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, Taylor Jenkins Reid
If you have frequented my social media pages this year you will know how much I adore this book. My friend lent it to me with a ‘This book is so you, you HAVE to read it’ and I replied with a ‘Sure, thank you’ and got to reading. Within a few chapters I was hooked and finished it within two days.
The book follows the story of famous actress Evelyn Hugo as she recounts her life story and her many husbands, starting in the heyday of glamourous 1950s Hollywood. The characters are well developed, the storyline is filled with dramatic twists and the central love story had me smiling and weeping on every page. I wasn’t expecting to love this book as much as I do but I now consider myself a superfan and will happily talk about it for days on end!
Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier
I had been reticent to read this book for years as I don’t tend to get on very well with older texts. I understand the value they have in the literary canon, but I usually find myself frustrated by the plot, the characters or both, and after years of feeling guilty about it I finally decided that I don’t have to be and they’re simply not to my taste. However, I finally gave in after it was forced into my hand by a friend (the same friend who recommended Evelyn Hugo; she keeps me on the straight and narrow when it comes to books.)
This was a slow burn for me but I found myself turning the pages and trying to work out where things were going so before I knew it I was completely invested and eager to read as much as possible.
Rebecca focuses on the central character who is only ever referred to as Mrs de Winter and the second wife of the older Maximilian de Winter. When she moves into his familial home, once run by Max’s now deceased first wife, Rebecca, she finds it impossible to feel at home and make her mark on the place. As the plot progresses, we learn more about how this aristocratic world behaves and the relationships that the new Mrs. de Winter has found herself tied up in.
I’m so glad that I finally got over myself and read this because not only is the story fantastic, but the writing is also top level and genuinely inspiring. I read the whole book thinking ‘I wish I could write like this!’
The Flatshare, Beth O’Leary
This is a romcom with bite. I am partial to a romcom, especially those by Mhairi McFarlane (more on her later), and this one has been doing the rounds a lot on Instagram this year so I thought it would be a good lockdown read.
The Flatshare follows the lives of Tiffy and Leon as they become flatmates except, not really. Rather than sharing a flat in the traditional sense, Tiffy rents the flat for the evening and morning and Leon rents it for the day time, including the only double bed in the flat. As a result, the characters don’t meet for a while and their relationship grows primarily through sticky notes.
The book also touches on some hard-hitting issues including emotional abuse and the false imprisonment of Leon’s brother; both of which I feel were handled really well considering it’s a genre that is usually more fluffy. However, I appreciate that I’m lucky enough to not have experienced those things so understand that I could be wrong.
O’Leary writes with a warmth and humour that really does bring these characters to life in such a way that I found myself routing from them from the start. I’d also quite like to grab a few drinks with Tiffy because she sounds like the kind of bonkers woman I’d get along with.
The Song of Achilles, Madeline Miller
You may already know that I’m a Greek mythology nut and this year in particular I have been striving to learn more about these ancient stories. I had wanted to read The Song of Achilles for years but, similar to Rebecca, I was always a bit intimated. I think I worried that the language would be too intelligent for me and there’s always a concern that a book with so much hype then turns out not to be enjoyable. Of course, none of this was true and I fell in love with the story within about five pages.
Miller retells the story of Achilles from his childhood to his time in the Trojan war from the perspective of his beloved Patroclus. I thought this was genius as you’d expect a story this epic to be told by the protagonist but Patroclus understandably gives a new perspective on this legendary hero. This perspective also gives the story an air of mystery to Achilles which I liked. After all, there are so many versions of Achilles’ life that it seems fitting for there to still be a few questions about what he was up to when Patroclus couldn’t see or be with him.
If I Never Met You, Mhairi McFarlane
As mentioned, I am a big fan of Mhairi McFarlane’s books. She writes romcoms with characters that perfectly encapsulate modern living and all the trials and tribulations that come with it. Her dialogue is also hilarious.
If I Never Met You plays into the trope of a fake relationship and although it’s a predictable storyline, as I appreciate most romcoms are, it’s McFarlane’s characters that always win me over. The central character, Laurie, is dumped by her boyfriend of eighteen years and embarks on a fake relationship with her co-worker to make said boyfriend jealous and win him back. However, there’s more to it than that and Laurie is one of the most realistic female characters I’ve ever read. She has her struggles at home and at work, yet her humour doesn’t really fade and her grit always shines through.
Last month the wonderful Becky Sandy agreed to let me interview her for this blog (via Skype in case you’re thinking of dobbing us in) so not only can I show you all how fabulous she is but I will also have some nice content to post on here. So, yes, it’s all pretty self-serving but I’ve got books to sell.
Joking aside, Becky is possibly the loveliest person you will ever meet, is crazy talented and one of my closest friends. We lived together for about eighteen months and it was during this time that I asked her if she wouldn’t mind creating my book cover for me. Thankfully, she agreed and designed such a beautiful cover that sometimes I just find myself staring at it longer than is deemed appropriate.
Becky launched Becky Sandy Art and Illustration five years ago and specialises in bespoke pet portraits, so creating a book cover was a little different to her usual work! Below we talk about the design process, fancy sword hilts and loveable rogues.
Hello! Thank you for agreeing to this, you are most wonderful. So, I’ve tried to come up with questions but I’m worried they’re a bit lame. We’ll have to see what happens.
Well, I can’t promise that I won’t have lame answers, to be honest.
Great. Are you ready for your big interview?
Go on, then.
Excellent! First question, as someone who isn’t remotely artistic; what does the beginning of the design process look like? Especially for this project as I know it’s different to your usual stuff.
Yeah, it was definitely different, because for most of the stuff I do it’s pet portraits so I don’t really have a process so much because I get a picture and just make that a painting! I think with this the first thing I obviously wanted to do was read the book so I could know the story and what was needed in the cover. I guess that was kind of an ideation thing in itself because as I was reading through it I was working out what was important and there’s a bit where Tarley is describing her favourite gate and the image was so clear in my head, especially with the coloured crystals. I thought that could be quite a striking cover so once I got that idea I started doing some Googling to see what fancy gates look like in real life!
A common Google search, I’m sure.
To be fair, the stuff I’ve Googled for the book is pretty weird. How to make a sword, why do people want to kill each other etc. Anyway, carry on.
Ha, so I read through the story to see what stuck out to me, what would work well as a cover and then searched the internet for some inspiration on top of the idea that I had in my head. And then I had to make sure that that matched what you were thinking as well.
I remember with the sword you were sending me ideas of what you had pictured and I said ‘Oh I actually have a picture of that!’ because I’d seen the exact one I’d imagined when I went to Copenhagen.
That was super handy by the way when you were like ‘this is actually the sword!’
It was mad because Ryan [also a close friend] and I went to a castle in Copenhagen and we were just looking around and I saw that sword and went ‘What?! That’s it! That’s the one I’ve written!’ So obviously I had to take a picture of it.
That’s so cool.
It stuck out because of the way the handle curves. I did a lot of Pinteresting while I was writing because I don’t know anything about swords, but I always liked the style of the ones in Pirates of the Caribbean and the fancy hilts. I thought I had better get some reference images so I can describe it properly!
It was really helpful because in my head I think I overshot what you wrote in the book because I imagined a King Arthur style sword with a big hilt so when you sent me that picture I was like ‘Ohh…’
Isn’t it mad that two people can read the same thing and have a completely different interpretation of it? Anyway, digressing! This is an arty question because I don’t know much about art; what materials did you use?
This was done in ink and watercolour and, to be honest, I can’t give you too much detail because I’m quite new to it but I used watercolour because that’s what I paint in most. I like that it’s light and freer than other paints.
That’s interesting. In my head when I asked you to do this, I know nothing about art and obviously I knew that you did the pet portraits, but I expected something quite graphics led and then you came back with this beautiful painted image. It was just so much better than what I had imagined.
That is something I thought about because I used to do a lot of digital painting but when I thought about the book I thought it would suit a traditionally painted cover, which I think always look really nice and some of my favourite books have those types of covers.
Well, I’ve got a really nice copy of Watership Down with an illustrated cover…
I’ll take that! I’ve been lucky enough to have a few people review the book on social media. How do you feel about reviewers calling the cover ‘Instagrammable’? Is that a word you ever though you’d hear to describe your work?
That’s a fun question! Umm, no? Whenever any of them say that I’m so happy because I think when you do a painting or piece of art you get to a point where you’re like ‘Ok, this is finished now,’ because I know that if I stare at it for too long I’ll find little bits to do. But there’s always that bit where you’re not sure if you should add to it or will it be overkill, so I’m never completely satisfied.
But obviously I wouldn’t send you anything unless I thought you would like it and I was really happy with it, so it’s so nice to hear it described like that. I would never have thought that anyone would ever call something that I had painted Instagrammable; that’s really nice.
Well, in case you didn’t already know, I love it. But it does beg the question…why on Earth did you agree to do this?
Umm, because you asked me to? But then also because I really liked you story.
Phew! I’m glad it didn’t feel like too hard work.
I really want to do more art for it but I just haven’t got round to it yet!
Well I’m not going to stop you, I love your art. This may be a really obvious question but what are the key differences between doing the pet portraits and this? Did it feel like a big challenge?
I think the challenging aspect of it was trying to get something that I felt represented what you had in your head or what was a good representation of what was in the book. I wanted something that would look nice on the cover but also sell the story so I think the context was the most challenging thing but doing it was really fun. With pet portraits, because you’re trying to accurately reflect a pet, you don’t have a lot of freedom. I do try to keep them quite loose but you can’t go too wild on them, so this was a nice chance to have more freedom and get creative.
Ok, I’m now going to ask you some questions to inflate my ego even further. Who is your favourite character in the book?
My favourite character is West but I’m not really sure why! I just felt from the moment he was introduced that I warmed to him and then as the book went on I really liked his story.
With West, he’s a bit of a loveable rogue and those are some of my favourite characters in literature.
That’s exactly my type of book character to be fair.
Yeah, for example I love Haymitch from The Hunger Games; he’s one of my all-time favourite characters. I think that’s why I liked writing Lenna too because she is a loveable rogue and that’s traditionally more of a male trope. Anyway, do you have a favourite moment? No spoilers!
Ooh but my favourite moment is the biggest spoiler! I’ll just say that I really liked the big twist because I didn’t see it coming at all.
Oh, that’s such a relief! Also, thank you. I’ll never forget when I did a creative writing course in uni I was told that when you write a twist it has to be shocking but also believable so I wanted something that had that kind of impact.
It definitely did, the red herrings really worked on me.
This is where I do an evil laugh. OK, last character question; which character do you think you’re most like?
Oh god, I don’t know!
May I make a suggestion? I’m going to say Carida because you’re very warm and lovely just like her. And she’s a seamstress so she’s creative like you, too!
Aww, I’ll take it!
What’s coming up next for Becky Sandy Art and Illustration?
At the moment, it’s mainly Christmas commissions, which is really cool but also a bit annoying because I can’t post anything as they’re all secret! I’m also releasing gift vouchers, too, as I’m a bit swamped with commissions at the moment but people can still gift them. My future plan is to also start working on things like cards and maybe pieces that aren’t custom pet portraits but just prints. I’m also thinking of working on an Etsy shop!
Well I know that I will be first in line for everything you have on sale! Becky Sandy, thank you very much.
Netflix recently released the film ‘Enola Holmes,’ based on the first book in a popular series by Nancy Springer. The eponymous heroine is the younger sister of famous detective Sherlock Holmes and doesn’t appear in the original Arthur Conan Doyle works (which is the subject of much controversy which I’m not going to delve into here!) so she has been written specifically to add another dimension to the Holmes saga many of us love.
I haven’t read the books but I did watch the film and, although parts of it were flawed, I thought it was a great story for young women and men to enjoy. Plus, it has Helena Bonham Carter in it as the bad ass mum so, you know, I’m sold. When I was watching the film I quite liked the idea that the iconic character of Sherlock Holmes could have this hidden side to his life but that the character of Enola was completely her own person with her own story to tell. So, of course, I had a think about who else might have some interesting siblings with a story to tell and, if there weren’t any legal issues, this is the list I would like to submit…
Yes, I know I’m discussing a Roald Dahl character again but I won’t feel bad about it. The possibilities with this one are endless! There could be a brother who despises chocolate and sweet things and has built a factory dedicated to chopping vegetables or a sister who is even more committed to chocolate than Wonka and has made an entire planet out of the stuff. I also quite like the idea that there could be a few Wonka siblings traversing the universe searching for the best sweet treat it has to offer. Basically, if this ever happens one of them has to be called Wilma Wonka.
The most famous spy of all time hasn’t been without controversy and it’s completely justified, so much so that some believe the next iteration of the character on screen should be female. I think a sister to this character could be really interesting as she could challenge the sexist history that Bond is famous for. All I ask is that she ties her hair back when she’s fighting and isn’t given some weird backstory that a man hurt her once and that’s the only way she could be become a hardened killer.
Any Disney fan will know of this wicked sea witch and if you don’t think she has one of the best songs in the Disney back catalogue, you’re wrong. There’s been a trend in recent years to reinterpret famous Disney villains and I think Ursula would be perfect for this. I’m imagining her and her glamourous older sister painting Atlantis red with their debauchery before something happens that turns her into the witch we all love to hate.
Mary Poppins was a key feature in my childhood (my mother is convinced this film is why I’m a feminist after she caught me marching around the living, aged two ,shouting ‘Votes for Women!’) so I have a lot of love for Mary. She’s a bit of an elusive character and so I think giving her a sibling would open a new world of fun. I can see her with a brother who is also practically perfect in every way or a younger sister that’s still trying to learn the ropes. Either way, I want a film adaptation and I want some catchy songs.
As it’s spooky season I thought I should include this guy! This would require some reworking of the story but why shouldn’t Dracula have a sibling to share that big old house with? I quite like the idea of a ‘What We Do in the Shadows’ type film with him and a vast number of siblings who don’t really get on but who else is going to put up with them for eternity?