All roads lead to Edinburgh

The six girls in our debut novel Eight of Cups came from far and wide. Their birthplaces shaped them, their University days in Edinburgh matured them, and their eventual homes both nurtured and challenged them.

But how to describe a place? And how to reflect how it might have been at the time of the action in the novel?

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Destination – Room 101

Room 101 first appeared in George Orwell’s dystopian novel ‘Nineteen Eighty Four’. It was a torture chamber in the Ministry of Love in which the Party attempted to subject a prisoner to his or her own worst nightmare, fear or phobia. The emphasis shifted in the BBC comedy television series Room 101 from facing fears to identifying and then consigning pet hates to a fate worse than death in Room 101.

Mirren is angry with herself this Saturday morning and has decided to work on that anger by identifying all the things that currently annoy her and then metaphorically locking them in Room 101, possibly never to be seen or experienced again.

Firstly goes that full bag of Cadbury’s Chocolate Eclairs greedily consumed yesterday evening after a hard day at work. No more combating tiredness with empty calories. They can stay there for at least the six weeks it apparently takes to change a habit (Do you really believe that?).

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Quality time

This year, and from now on, instead of moaning about being too busy, I am resolved to use my time more wisely and for better quality outcomes.  For example, I am no longer wearing anything that I don’t like or doesn’t do me any favours – and I don’t care if I have spent good money on an item or if the result is that I am left with very few sartorial options – I am more interested in dressing quickly and not dithering in front of the mirror debating with myself what to wear, trying on and taking off the many impulse buys current residing in my wardrobe.  Likewise, I am not wasting time reading anything unedifying, or poorly written.  With all those wonderful books out there?  It would be madness.

It was reading and revelling in And the Mountains Echoed, Khaled Hosseini’s latest book, which prompted this latest lifestyle decision.  I had refrained from buying it, and particularly from downloading it on to my Kindle, in the hope and belief that someone (with a big hint from me) would present me with the book for Christmas.  My daughter – and the book – did not disappoint.  I have spent a typically reclusive festive season delighting in the quality of his story-telling.

In contrast, I picked up while shopping in a certain supermarket, Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld.  It’s not a bad story.  Two sisters with certain psychic powers, one who is open about the fact, and the other who denies it – but it fails to charm, inspire or engage.

The challenge is to determine just what is the difference in the way these two writers put words on paper.  Does Hosseini write a basic story and then work on improving his use of language and enriching the quality of his exposition?  Or does his mind work such that he produces quality straight off? Sittenfeld can construct a decent story.  So can Mirren Jones. But can either of us create a literary experience I wonder?

We’re currently trying to complete the basic storyline of Never Do Harm.  And then the task will be to transform it into an experience.  That will be a true quality outcome.