Why Writers Live in Suffolk

Not all writers live in Suffolk, but plenty do, or did. Eric Arthur Blair was so impressed with the county that he named himself after the River Orwell.  And it’s not just writers. Suffolk is a big draw for all kinds of creatives.

I can’t blame a single one of them, I concluded after a recent couple of days in Aldeburgh.

Aldeburgh beach

By any standards, Suffolk is attractive.

No wonder crime writer PD James bought herself a home across the market square in Southwold. The other Queen of Crime, Ruth Rendell, was also based in Suffolk.

Even villages that aren’t chocolate-box pretty are picturesque. 

FreeImages.com/Peter Day

An estimated 375 of them have ornate village signs. That’s more than any other county (except Norfolk).

Freckenham, Suffolk

It’s not a through-route to anywhere, unless you’re heading out to sea. Maybe that’s why it’s resistant to motorways and vapid trends. Walk through any Suffolk town and you’ll find a retro vibe.  Policemen know everyone, tractors roam the streets, and small shops still do a busy trade.

Wine shop, Suffolk

But it’s not Hicksville. It’s a hive of culture. Check out Snape Maltings and the Aldeburgh Festival, founded by Benjamin Britten. 

The light is amazing, as artists soon discover. Even if you don’t paint or sketch, it’s uplifting to be outside. I can’t do the sky justice, so here’s a photo taken by a river estuary.

River Alde

It’s easy to clear your head because the air is so bracing. For most of the winter, the wind blows in straight from the Urals. 

Stroll along the beach, and you might find it comforting to watch fishermen sitting patiently on the shingle in the rain. Especially if you have somewhere warm to go back to.

Writing fiction? There’s plenty of inspiration for intrigue, from the Martello towers dotted along the coast to the nuclear reactor at Sizewell.

Martello tower, Aldeburgh

See the guy at the top? This isn’t someone about to go over the edge. It’s an Antony Gormley statue. 

But what if, despite the odds, you have writer’s block in the middle of your magnum opus? 

Just compose a limerick about Suffolk instead.

Tables on the beach at Aldeburgh

Why Do Authors Love Setting Novels in London?

There are a zillion places to set a novel, even more if you include locations that don’t exist yet, but this side of the pond London is at the top of the list.

It’s no surprise that London’s attractions shape my writing: I was born in the capital, and after a junket of a decade or two came back here to live and work. But even if you’re not a Londoner there are plenty of good reasons to set your action there.

Abbey Road crossing

1 Things happen all the time in London: knife crime, break-ins, births in hospital carparks. So you can slip in a fictional car-crash or multiple murder and it won’t seem nearly as odd as it might in a dozy village.

2 London is incredibly romantic, even in the rain. That means lots of places for your characters to wander arm in arm in Highgate cemetery, should you wish them to. 

Highgate cemetery

Or, if you prefer, to argue on the top of Primrose Hill.

Primrose Hill

3 Everyone knows something about London. Its iconic features can be used as a kind of shorthand, such as the Tower, the London Eye, and the Tube. However, if you want to include real detail, there’s no substitute for the author joining the melée and checking it out.

Tower of London, field of poppies

4 Medieval buildings can be found all over the place, including smack dab by Big Ben.

© Elvis Santana (tome213)

Then again, there’s no shortage of great new architecture, and more to come, judging from the number of cranes.

The Shard, London

5 It’s very green. Should your characters wish to stretch their legs, or their children’s, offer them Regent’s Park, Clapham Common, or perhaps just a walk by the Thames. Time it right, and they can watch Tower Bridge open.

Tower Bridge

6 London is very diverse, with some parts that are distinctly upmarket, like trendy Marylebone, where my novel One Night at the Jacaranda kicks off.

Waitrose, Marylebone High Street

I’ve also included Edgware Road, where you’d be hard put to find any newspapers that aren’t in Arabic.

There, groceries spill out onto the pavement, with watermelons as big as Beirut, and shiny aubergines, pearly white onions and wrinkly green things that I’ve forgotten the name for, all lying with fat bunches of sweet-smelling herbs.

On the street there are always clusters of young men in T-shirts and jeans, standing on corners as they shout into mobiles or talk urgently with their hands, and, during the annual Saudi summer invasion, streams of women with pushchairs, most of them in a black abaya, some veiled so you could only see their eyes. They glide by, with their Fendi handbags and large retinues of children, while older men sit outside cafés and juice bars, smoking shisha. The men stared hard at passers-by, at any passing Mercedes. They have nothing else to do.

No surprise my next novel is also set in London.

Royal Albert Hall

7 It’s full of characters, like the woman walking down Finchley Road with a black bin liner under her hat. And when I say walking down Finchley Road, I mean in the middle of the bus lane. Or the man in Goodge Street dressed from head to foot as an African grey parrot. This being London, nobody gives either of them a second glance.

8 Finally, consider the US market: to Americans, London IS Britain.

 

Are You Ready to Venture Outside the Box?

Meet a cast of characters you’ll never forget:

A woman accused of killing her tyrannical father.

A young woman fleeing from the shadow of her infamous mother.

A bereaved biographer who goes to war-ravaged Croatia to research the life of a celebrity artist.

A gifted musician forced by injury to stop playing the piano.

A prima ballerina who turns to prostitution to support her daughter.

A journalist who must choose between an easy life and a bumpy road that could lead to happiness.

The wife of a drug lord who tries to relinquish her lust for blood to raise a respectable son.

And here’s the best bit: you can get to know them all without leaving your warm and cosy home.

Apologies for the advert. I don’t normally have a whole post about a book, but I can’t resist because I’m so proud to be part of this project. In fact, grinning from ear to ear.  Women-Writing-Women-Box-Set-Cover_finalJPEG (1)Besides, it’s much more than one book. Outside the Box: Women Writing Women brings all these unlikely heroines together in a limited edition box-set of seven novels. It’ll be published in e-book format on February 20 and available for just 90 days.

Why mention it today? Because you can pre-order it from Amazon now (other outlets to follow).

Some have seen the anthology already. Dan Holloway, columnist for the Guardian books pages and publisher, says

The authors of these books are at the forefront of a strong cohort of ground-breaking, boundary-pushing women writing and self-publishing literary fiction. I cannot recommend this collection highly enough.”

The project is the brain-child of Jessica Bell, Australian novelist, singer/songwriter and Publishing Editor of Vine Leaves Literary Journal. There’s no one genre in this set. Each full-length book is a page-turner. 

Blue Mercy by Orna Ross

OrnaWill you identify with mother or with daughter? When Mercy Mulcahy was 40 years old, she was accused of killing her tyrannical father. Now, at the end of her life, she has written a book about what really happened that fateful night of Christmas Eve 1989 – and she desperately needs her daughter to read it.

Orna Ross is founder-director of The Alliance of Independent Authors. The Bookseller calls her one of the 100 most influential people in publishing.

Crazy for Trying by Joni Rodgers

joniIn 1970s Montana, a female voice on the radio is unheard of, but seeking to escape the shadow of her infamous mother – a radical lesbian poet who is larger than life, even in death – bookish Tulsa Bitters heads west, determined to reinvent herself as a late-night DJ.

Joni Rodgers lives in Houston, Texas and is the New York Times bestselling author/co-author of over a dozen books, including book club favourite Bald in the Land of Big Hair.

My Memories of a Future Life by Roz Morris

RozIf you were somebody’s past life, what echoes would you leave in their soul? Could they be the answers you need now? When concert pianist Carol is forced by injury to stop playing, she fears her life may be over. Enter her soul-mate Andreq. Is he her future incarnation or a psychological figment? And can he help her discover how to live now?

As a ghost-writer, Roz Morris sold over four million books writing the novels of other people. She is a writers’ mentor and a radio show host, and teaches writing masterclasses for The Guardian newspaper.

The Centauress by Kathleen Jones

KathleenBereaved biographer Alex Forbes goes to war-ravaged Croatia to research the life of celebrity artist Zenobia de Braganza and finds herself at the centre of a family conflict over a disputed inheritance. She discovers a mutilated photograph, stolen letters and a story of indeterminate gender, passion and betrayal. But can she believe what she is being told?

Kathleen Jones is a Royal Literary Fund Fellow. She is best known for her award-winning biographies, and has also written extensively for the BBC.

An Unchoreographed Life by Jane Davis

JaneBallerina Alison Brabbage turns to prostitution when pregnancy and motherhood forced her into retirement. Struggling from day-to-day, the ultimatums she sets herself slip by. But there is one time-bomb she can’t ignore. Her daughter Belinda is growing up. Soon she will be able to work out who Alison is – and what she does for a living.

Jane Davis won the Daily Mail Award for her first novel, which secured her a publishing contract. She has now gone on to self-publish four other novels and isn’t afraid to tackle the trickiest subjects.

White Lady by Jessica Bell

JessicaSonia Shâd, the wife of Melbourne’s leading drug lord, yearns for sharp objects and blood. But now that she’s separated from her husband and rehabilitating herself as a “normal” mother and mathematics teacher, it’s time to stop dreaming about slicing people’s throats and raise a respectable son. Easier said than done. Especially when she discovers her husband is back in town.

Jessica Bell is an Australian novelist, poet, singer/ songwriter /guitarist who lives in Athens, Greece. She is Publishing Editor of Vine Leaves Literary Journal and author of the bestselling Writing in a Nutshell series. 

One Night at the Jacaranda by Carol Cooper

Carol CooperOn a hope-fuelled night in London, lives intersect as a motley group of singletons meet in their quest for someone special. Undercover journalist Harriet is after a by-line, not a boyfriend, but soon she has to choose between the comfortable life she knows and a bumpy road that might lead to happiness.  

Me, you already know. I’ve only produced this one novel so far, so I’m honoured to have it included in such stellar company.

There’s more about the books, the authors, and the swag on Outside the Box: Women Writing Women.

Happy reading!

WWW head shot banner

Related post :

Self-Published Authors, eh? What Are They LIKE?

Easy tweet:

“7 genre-busting ‪#‎novels in a limited edition box-set OUTSIDE THE BOX. Avail just 90 days! http://goo.gl/D1fyqW #WomenWritingWomen”

 

A Stroll though Highgate Cemetery

My mate Gus was out one day;

Someone asked ‘Do you know the quickest way 

To Highgate Cemetery?’

‘You bet I do’ said Gus

As he pushed the poor fellow under a bus.”

There are lots of reasons for visiting Highgate Cemetery in North London. Here are just a few of them.

It’s a final resting place for many literary folk, among them Douglas Adams, Alan Sillitoe, George Eliot, Pat Kavanagh and William Foyle (who founded Foyle’s with his brother Gilbert).

Douglas Adams

Douglas Adams, with pencil tribute

 

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner’s writer

 

Literary agent Pat Kavanagh

Literary agent Pat Kavanagh

 

One half  of W & G Foyle Ltd

One half of W & G Foyle Ltd

Then there’s this avid reader.  

Jim Horn 1976-2010

Jim Horn 1976-2010

Poor Harry Thornton didn’t survive the flu pandemic.  

Pianist Harry Thornton 1883-1918

Pianist Harry Thornton 1883-1918

I expect you know who Malcolm McLaren was, unlike the couple nearby who thought he had something to do with double buggies.   

Malcolm McLaren

Malcolm McLaren 1946-2010

Pop artist Patrick Caulfield plays a visual joke on the headstone.   

Patrick Caulfield

DEAD or alive? Probably dead if you look closely.

But Jeremy Beadle goes all serious with books.

Jeremy Beadle 1948-2008

There are war graves, mainly from World War One, and a 1930s monument to the London Fire Brigade. There’s also one very bad boy.

Mastermind of the Great Train Robbery 1963

Bruce Reynolds, the brains behind the Great Train Robbery

 You were expecting the big man? Oh, all right. Here you go.

Karl Marx 2

Funny how the communist gets the most lavish tomb, dwarfing those around him. Souls of lefties gather round, among them historian Eric Hobsbawm and Iraqi Communist leader Saad Saadi Ali, while a little further away lies Philip Gould, architect of New Labour.   

Eric Hobsbawm 1917-2012

Eric Hobsbawm 1917-2012

 

Saad Saadi Ali

Saad Saadi Ali

See? Ali is left-leaning even in death.

We were not alone, as we soon discovered.

we are not alone

These days you can still be buried in Highgate, though space is at a premium. The impressive statuary is packed close.  

angels

crosses

ivy on crosses

selection of statuary

statuary

Victorian tombstones

We’d only visited the East Cemetery, but, as the sun began to set, it seemed time to leave…  

open tomb 1

 

 

 

Marital Battle in the Bathroom

As writers know, the bathroom is a great place for ideas.  Inspiration is more likely to strike when you’re reclining in a warm bath than when sitting facing a blank screen.

While soaking today, I vaguely contemplate the Poppy Appeal, and how achingly suitable the poppy is as a symbol of conflicts from Flanders to Afghanistan, but the brain cells aren’t exactly working overtime.

What’s this I see?  A little green ceramic dish on the edge of the basin. ramekin dishI mentioned it to my other half two weeks ago, and it’s still there, where anyone could easily elbow it off when reaching for a toothbrush, sending it crashing down onto the floor tiles.  Or, God forbid, the hurtling ramekin dish (for that is what it is) could concuss the cat as she crouches in her litter tray.

But does he listen?  Does he heck!  Still, only to be expected when we’ve been married this long (nearly three months, since you ask).  I don’t listen to him either, allegedly.  That is why I keep putting the toilet roll the wrong way round, and always leave my undies near the laundry basket.  Not in it, obviously.  Just next to it (allegedly).  Plus I drape my bra from the taps, which looks like a skinned rabbit and is beyond annoying to someone wanting a bath.   braI fire right back.  He always has the radio on, full blast.  Does he not realise that some of us like peace and quiet?  I neither need nor want aural wallpaper.  And another thing.  Why do we have to have all six bathroom lights on?  OK, a guy might need decent lighting to avoid amputating his Adam’s apple while shaving, but it seems a bit over the top to require 360 watts just to brush teeth.

Then it dawns.  Here we are approaching the annual Poppy Appeal, and, instead of battles like Passchendaele, El Alamein and Goose Green coming to mind, we’re having a ding-dong in the bathroom.  poppiesThe postscript is that peace has broken out in the flat.  We’re not arguing about the toothpaste tube, or the toilet paper that’s the wrong way round (by which he means the right way round, obviously).  The skirmish over the laundry is over, and even the ramekin dish has been moved before the cat had a head injury.

If you’ve read this far, please visit www.britishlegion.org.uk

While you’re there, you might also be interested in the RBL Centre for Blast Injury Studies (CBIS) at Imperial College, London, where academics and military experts work together to better understand and reduce the effects of injury on the human body.   Here’s AnUBIS, one of their research tools.  anubis cropped and big credithttp://www.britishlegion.org.uk/news-events/new-initiatives/centre-for-blast-injury-studies#

Thank you.