Celebrating my book birthday today by er… making myself watch my book launch video 😬🤪🙈
If you like the sound of The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter, you can get it from any good bookshop or online e.g. https://amzn.to/2xQtuXY
Celebrating my book birthday today by er… making myself watch my book launch video 😬🤪🙈
If you like the sound of The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter, you can get it from any good bookshop or online e.g. https://amzn.to/2xQtuXY
The transitional stage of labour has nothing on the final stages of writing a novel. 😫 I’m having my fourth (novel), but it’s no easier – or should I say, I’m no easier. I constantly shush my family; you’d think I was writing straight to Audio book. News of visitors coming is met with screams of horror and finger counting of missed writing hours (including those needed to make the home and myself look non-deranged). At least I haven’t been as bad as during the final days of my first novel, when the family had me committed into the hotel down the road.
So, what’s my problem? It’s taken more than a year to get here; I should be thrilled. But:
So, how does one finish a novel considerately? I’ve no idea. But you should probably atone somehow, when it’s all over. Unfortunately, I can’t promise it won’t happen again; most unfeasibly, I’ve already been implanted with an idea for the next novel. 🙄
My previous tantrums produced The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter, published by Urbane Publications, and you can get it from good bookshops or online e.g. https://amzn.to/2xQtuXY 💡🌊📘
“A novel is like hacking at the rock face, working away to get the characters, the plot. It takes ages,” the wonderful Penelope Lively wrote. I love this – and the end results of her hacking – but recently I’ve felt there’s something missing from the comparison. Sculptors can see what they’ve done and what’s still to do at a glance; the novelist’s accumulating efforts are hidden among a weighty or scroll-marathon number of pages. If you’re not careful, you’ll have a lad on a 1965 pier in a shooting gallery that you converted into an amusement arcade back in 1959. A jolly boat trip on the day that was also that of the 1987 Great Storm. An uncle with a big nose he didn’t have ten years ago. Three women called Joan. How in hell do you keep track of it all? By having simultaneous hackings at supporting files, that’s how. Seat-of-your-pantsers will be horrifed, but I thought I’d share mine in case they help anybody.
(Note: I’m currently writing a multi-generational saga. People dealing with two characters over 24 hours – like I should be doing – may want to skip this).
THE CHAPTER SUMMARY
The Three-Act Plan divvied into chapters – constantly changing, but there. I like to believe I know where I’m going. But as I do each chapter, I summarise it so I know where I’ve been. There’s the family tree, then 3 columns: Chapter number and month/year, Cast list with ages, and What Happens (colour-coded by character viewpoint). It’s a monumental drag, but so is flicking through when you can’t remember exactly when A last saw B. 📆🤔
Those character questionnaires novel-writing books tell you to do before you start – but I keep adding to mine, and think of them like scrap books. I copy-and-paste important dialogue from the novel, adding links to articles about his/her beloved paddle steamer, moon landing, ladybirds etc.🚢🔭🐞
ALL THE NAMES
A spreadsheet of names I’ve used – including those of boats, bands etc. Bit nerdy about an even spreading over the alphabet 🔡🤓
Highlighted calendars of current events, films and pop music to check for each year. Doubles as writing block black hole 🚀 🎥 🎸…🕳
A spreadsheet with a running total, but to keep words down. I measure progress in terms of chapters. Speaking of which, I better get back to hacking one out! 🗻⛏📃
My last period of hacking at the rock face resulted in The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter (Urbane Publications), available from Waterstones and other good bookshops, as well as online e.g. at https://amzn.to/2xQtuXY
Pier painting by the wonderful Juan del Pozo
The leap of faith needed to write a novel has to be as downright daft as the final shot in Finding Your Feet – but without the option of a musically enhanced freeze-frame to stop you falling between canal edge and barge.
Even writing my fourth, I’ve been purposefully not glancing down at the yawning gap between my dawdling MS and a physical book, because lurking in the swirling waters below are the following two familiar questions:
A few months ago, this second question became impossible to ignore. It turns out there’s a reason why family sagas are chunky or in a series: unless you’re going to reduce some events in your 75-year story to mere bullet points, you just can’t cover it in my usual little 75K words.
‘Be not afraid of going slowly,’ says a Chinese proverb, ‘be only afraid of standing still.’ Believe me, when something’s going at a rate of 1mm per month, and you then discover there’s going to be several kilometres added to your journey, you’d best be VERY afraid.
So, here comes my top tip for getting a novel written. To have a chance of finishing it in my current lifetime, I started making myself WRITE A CHAPTER A WEEK. This game makes me grab writing time whenever I can – no more precious waiting for a whole free morning to get into the zone. Inessentials (laundry, tidying anything) don’t happen until I’ve done the chapter. Tuesday’s Bake Off marks the cake-fuelled half-way point, and I expect to be all done and smug for Saturday’s Strictly. I now feel that, unless I fall into a sinkhole or something, I WILL finish it. I even have a tentative date for that. NaNoWriMo freaks or bestselling cash-cow novelists would be appalled, but other writers might want to give this plan a go. You still don’t know if anyone will want to read it of course, but at least it shortens the gap between you and the barge or canal water.
My previous leap of faith landed me on a lighthouse. The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter (Urbane Publications) is available from Waterstones and other good bookshops, as well as online e.g. at https://amzn.to/2xQtuXY
Unfaithful friends, unresponsive companies, unbelievable bureaucracy, undelivered fridges… Sometimes the only way to not completely unravel it is to put the right music on.
I’m not going to add to the numerous lists of music to get furious to; songs like ‘I hate everything about you’ do nothing for me on any level. I like to be positively pissed off, come out the better for it – but not without enjoying a bit of musical f**k-you in the process.
The Spotify playlist is here: spoti.fi/2B3cjXZ and first up is…
1. YOU GET WHAT YOU GIVE (New Radicals)
You’ve got the music in you,
Don’t let go…
Absolutely my go-to stompickmeup. Basically: I’ve got the music in me, so I’m immune to your crap – and anyway, karma is going to get you! Shopaphobes will enjoy the video.
2. ALL RISE (Blue)
And if you thought you had me fooled
I’m telling you now, objection overruled!
Oh yes: put that bastard in the witness box and see him go down! With the lovely Blue boys singing their hearts out in support.
3. THAT’S ALRIGHT (Laura Mvula)
I will never be what you want and that’s alright
A musically delicious war dance against those people who want to control you. Go Laura.
4. GET IN LINE (Ron Sexsmith)
If you intend on making me feel bad
You best get in line
Oh, it’s a long line
It’s a long line
It’s going out the door…
A bit obscure this one, a country ditty really, but perfect for those days of soul-sapping, life-eating, multi-source nagging, whinges, wind-ups and pointless tasks.
5. I LOVE YOU (Woodkid)
Is there anything I could do
Just to get some attention from you?
So, what’s positive about that, you ask; despite the thwacking rhythm, the lyrics are pure self-pity. But sometimes you’ve got to let yourself sink into that a bit before you move on – and talking about sinking, you have to watch the award-nominated video (Icelandic scenery, whales, sweetly suffering Russian chap… This one might just be about welcome distraction).
6. FEEL GOOD Inc (Gorillaz)
Favourite (and only comprehensible) lyric:
Bit surreal and manic, but nearly does what it says on the label. For me, comes with bonus memory of a small son wearing out the living room carpet dancing to it.
7. GOODBYE MR A (The Hoosiers)
You had all the answers but no human touch
If life is subtraction, your number is up
Your love is a fraction, it’s not adding up
Musically emphatic sod-off for teacher, boss or the company not delivering your replacement fridge. Sing along with all the oh-oh, oh-ohs for extra relief.
8. COMO LA CORRIENTE (Estrella Morente)
Favourite (and only makeoutable) lyric:
Great bit of self-affirming, clacking flamenco from this wonderful diva and her band of Ole-ing hombres hanging on her every word.
What’s your favourite song to get positively pissed off to?
My novel The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter – which comes with its own Spotify playlist and, according to one reviewer, ‘very good swearing’ – is available from bookshops or online from various sources, including this exasperating bunch:
‘What made you set your story in a lighthouse?’ I’m often asked. The truth is, it wasn’t intentional. The story was inspired by my unexpected, Twitter-initiated friendship with a well-known flamenco guitarist – and I just found myself exaggerating our true-life locations: his comfortable house in outer Madrid became a penthouse apartment in the vibrant city centre, and my (then) near-coastal bungalow became my local lighthouse… at Beachy Head.
The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter follows Imogen, borrowing her Aunt’s renovated lighthouse while recovering from the break-up of her marriage, and, thirty years earlier, her lighthouse keeper father on the nearby Beachy Head lighthouse – until he mysteriously drowned there in 1982. She discovers that he was intensely corresponding with a young female penfriend – just as she is, with (you’ve guessed it) an actor-musician Twitter friend in Madrid. They learn that these unexpected, irresistible connections can have wonderful – but also possibly tragic – consequences.
I think it’s common to want to run away to the coast; there’s something energising about it, as if reaching the edge of the land makes you face up to things. But Beachy Head is no ordinary edge: towering 530 feet above the sea, it’s the highest of the series of chalk cliffs undulating between Seaford and Eastbourne in the South Downs National Park. It takes Imogen a while to get used to the ‘the earth dropping and swaying beneath her’. Many years ago, as a heart-broken twenty-something, I escaped to Beachy Head myself – not to go anywhere near the edge, but just to stand there like some French Lieutenant’s Woman and feel sorry for myself. I didn’t know then that the area has always been a renowned suicide spot. Although numbers have been much reduced by the Beachy Head Chaplaincy team patrolling the cliffs to help despondent people, about twenty to twenty-five poor souls each year still lose their lives here – some unintentionally (the chalk cliff edges are notoriously unstable). Although there’s an awareness of this sadness, and danger at the cliff inevitably finds its way into the story, The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter mostly celebrates the invigorating beauty of the area, just as local people and a million or so visitors do each year.
One of the reasons I chose the Beachy Head area for Imogen’s coastal escape was because it has not one but two lighthouses. The squat little Belle Tout was built in 1832, but the cliff top was often so foggy that its light flashes couldn’t be seen from the sea. It was decommissioned in 1902, a few days before the new lighthouse in the sea below Beachy Head was ready to take over. The Belle Tout has passed through the hands of a number of private owners, including two physicians, so it didn’t seem unreasonable for Imogen’s aunt and physician uncle to have bought it. It’s now a beautiful little B&B, and it was wonderful to be able to stay in the original keeper’s bunk room that became Imogen’s in the story.
I never got to see inside the Beachy Head lighthouse, but I was lucky to be able to spend a magical afternoon with lighthouse expert Rob Wassell (author of The Story of… books about the two lighthouses and Birling Gap) on a boulder-strewn low-tide walk to it. As Imogen says, ‘from the cliff top, it was an endearing, little red and white striped ornament; on the beach it is shockingly tall, its colours majestic, a sad and mysterious presence.’ Like many lighthouses at the time it became automated in 1982, making the keepers – and their profession – redundant; this impending change, which must have been very distressing for many of them, is an important element in her father’s story.
Given the novel’s theme of communication, I wanted to include the viewpoint of Imogen’s Twitter friend Santi in Madrid. His setting is as contrasting as possible from hers; the land-locked capital city and the seaside cliff top initially make them feel like they might just as well be on different planets. My research in Madrid included the delightful but Spanish-taxing company of flamenco musicians, many weeks walking around the city, observation (and being asked to take over) a community English class, and a nerve-wracking audition for a television drama!
For someone with a fear of heights and a frequent dislike of capital cities, researching my two main settings for The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter could have been a challenge, but I surprised myself by quickly falling in love with both places. I still visit my friends in Madrid whenever I can, and particularly enjoy all the flamenco venues, the Sorolla Museum, the Retiro, Jardines de Sabatini and numerous other glorious parks. As for Beachy Head – well, I now live five minutes from the lighthouse.
You can get a copy of The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter from any good book shop, or online from various sites e.g. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lighthouse-Keepers-Daughter-Cherry-Radford/dp/1911583646/ref=mp_s_a_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1532207378&sr=8-1&pi=AC_SX236_SY340_QL65&keywords=cherry+radford&dpPl=1&dpID=51yBWY3XBwL&ref=plSrch
How do you pick 5 songs for the soundtrack to your life? This was one of five questions in my most taxing but favourite online interview so far.
(Many thanks to @JillBookCafe. Check out FIVE ON FRIDAY in jillsbookcafe.wordpress.com to see others put through it).
Blimey, are all the questions going to be this hard? Having put myself through these agonising decisions, I thought I’d make a Spotify playlist of them: http://sptfy.com/Eyj ENJOY!
Life on Mars? (David Bowie)
My big brother bought this LP, and I remember sitting on the carpet, legs all anyhow, poring over the album sleeve. Who was this strange, wonderful man? Until then, music had meant my parents’ Light Classics, used by my friend and me for hilarious made-up ballets in the living room. This was something else; Bowie took me somewhere I’d never been.
Étude Opus 10, No. 3 for Piano (Chopin)
Fast forward to Music College, where my Polish piano teacher had me playing plenty of Chopin. So beautiful, so emotional… so bloody difficult! Chopin will also remind me of my love of the piano, even if that love is not fully requited (I have pathetically small hands). This is just one of my favourites – and probably one of Jerome Kerns’ too, because Smoke Gets in Your Eyessounds just like it. [Listens as adds it to Spotify Playlist]. Hm. Bit teary.
Shining (Steel Pulse)
Let’s cheer up a bit with this irresistible bit of reggae. There’s so much going on in this track – busy bass line, percussion bitty-bobs and delicious vocal harmony asides everywhere – one play is never enough. And oh, the lyrics – including a classic line for a late developer like me: You took your time trying to find out what life, what life, what life has in store for you… You’ve guessed it: my wedding video music.
Como Me Duele Perderte / How it Hurts to Lose You (Gloria Estefan)
I came across this when I started Salsa dancing as part of research for my first novel, Men Dancing. Its bitter-sweet sadness matches both the novel and what was happening in my life at the time, but the song also reminds me of those early exciting but scary days of being a writer.
Dos Puñales / Two Daggers (Josemi Carmona, Paco de Lucía)
I’ve done well to limit the flamenco here to 20%, when it’s probably taking up 80% of my iPod. This is a wondrous example of flamenco fusion; it’s earthy but accessible, and beautifully produced. I love the way the music seems to have a narrative – whatever you want. A tweet asking where I could get hold of the album (Las Pequeñas Cosas), followed by a later one asking about this track, eventually led to a friendship with the artist. This chance connection was one of the inspirations for The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter.
I don’t play as much as I like or should, but when I need it (because I’m bored / fed up / nervous / happy / miserable, waiting for something), I have to have it, now. One of the reasons I enjoy teaching piano is that I want my darlings (adults and children) to have this wonderful support and delight in their lives.
I’m generally uncomfortable in locations that aren’t near the sea; there’s a sort of a background feeling of if I’m not near the edge, where the hell am I. Exceptions like Madrid and… (can’t actually think of any others right now) have to have a lot going for them. My current distances from the sea (by foot, door to wet toe) are 10 (Eastbourne) and 3.5 (Almería) minutes.
Why do I love it? The salty smell, its ever-changing colours and moods, and (most) of the beautiful creatures in it. I’m susceptible to flour-soft sand, but I also love beaches where I can collect stones and shells. I’m a keen (if three-limbed – see later!) swimmer, and during Summer and Autumn I’ll check the flag, put on my beach shoes and be in whenever I can (in both countries). It’s also the best place (along with the bath) for getting writing and plot ideas.
Home in Spain
I’ve only had this little town house in San José (near Almería) for a couple of years, but now don’t know how I coped without it. My half-Spanish mother brought me up to be a hispanophile, so for as long as I can remember I’ve been drawn to the country and its people. I also get very miserable and lethargic when starved of bright natural light and warmth, so escaping there lets me recharge my batteries. Although my Spanish is at a high level, I can still zone out of conversations around me – perfect for writing under a beach umbrella.
I’m not a foodie, but I’m insanely excited about these fragrant and spicy flavours and the flowery presentation. Spain needs to discover it; its absence there is one of the few reasons I ever want to come back to Blighty.
It would probably do me good to live without my mobile for a while, I’m on it far too much, but the pain of being separated from my WhatsApping friends (including Spanish ones I can’t see as much as I’d like), Twittermates and Instagram would be considerable.
Put more face, hand and sun cream on
I thought I’d be young forever. But if I’m still not listening now, I certainly wouldn’t have listened then. Sticky, messy stuff.
Label and date your photos
Uh, those boxes of loose photos with vaguely recalled faces and scenery…
Don’t lose contact with people you care about
Petty arguments or laziness caused me to lose contact with some friends.
I was such an intense young person, playing melancholy piano and sitting around reading Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus. Can’t think how anyone put up with me. A year abroad (with light and warmth!) would have done me good.
Yes, you can write a book!
I should have taken the course, bought one of those elasticated leather notebooks, stopped making excuses, and started writing much earlier.
I used to be a keyboard player in a band
For some years, I was a piano teacher doing the day and played in a band a few nights a week. The second band I joined even had a single out; I’ll be in trouble for not including it in my five soundtracks, but you’d be glad I didn’t!
I used to be a post-doctoral scientist
I re-trained, and worked for Moorfields Eye Hospital for many years as an optometrist and post-doctoral researcher.
I used to be a ballerina
…at the Royal Ballet. No, just kidding! But I did teach piano at the Royal Ballet Junior School for some years – and got free tickets. Maybe in my next life.
I have limited use of my right arm
I have a congenital problem with my shoulder that makes it painful for me to open a door or lift anything as heavy as a hardback book with it. An operation didn’t help. But I can somehow do reasonable flamenco arms, and swim without going around in circles!
I almost died of pneumonia over the millennium
The last eighteen years – including the publication of my three novels – have been a bonus.
Having my book out in Spanish
The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter has equal male and female, English and Spanish viewpoints – Bicultural People Fiction! I’d love to see it in Spanish, and give it to some of my Spanish friends whose English isn’t good enough to read it in its present form.
Tour South America
I’d like to visit the places where my half-Spanish mother grew up, and more. My cousin and I have talked about it, but… This is what I should have been doing in my maudlin early twenties!
Learn how to high dive
Researching high diving for my next novel, this has become my new ballet. Ah, and I’d like Greg Louganis to teach me (check out the documentary film Back on Board and you’ll see why – what a lovely man).
Learn how to cook Thai food
Family over shoulder: ‘What? Learn how to cook anyfood!’
Have a grandchild
But not too soon, boys!
The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughteris available – currently only in English 😦 – from good bookshops, or online at Foyles, Books etc, Waterstones or this place: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lighthouse-Keepers-Daughter-Cherry-Radford/dp/1911583646/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1529011473&sr=8-1&keywords=cherry+radford
After the break-up of her marriage, Imogen escapes to the coast to be alone – and to find out more about her lighthouse keeper father who mysteriously drowned there in 1982.
She starts to see similarities in their lives, especially in the way they both intensely correspond with someone; he had a young female penfriend, she has an actor-musician Twitter friend in Madrid.
Two stories of communication: the hilarious mistakes, the painful misunderstandings, and the miracle – or tragedy – of finding someone out there with whom you have an unforeseen, irresistible connection.
If you have enjoyed The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter, please let others know by leaving an online review on Amazon, Foyles, Waterstones or Goodreads (or all of them!).
I chat about writing and other passions on my blog (https://blablaland.org/), Twitter (@CherryRad), Instagram (cherry_radford), Facebook (Cherry Radford – Author) and website (http://cherryradford.co.uk/). I would love to hear from you!
You can buy The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter through bookshops or online e.g. here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lighthouse-Keepers-Daughter-Cherry-Radford/dp/1911583646/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1523970030&sr=8-1&keywords=cherry+radford
Despite the unreliability of my writing hormones post(book)partum, you’re going to get my first impressions of being newly delivered of a shiny book baby.
After years of gestation; antebooknatal tests (i.e. proofs – sorry, enough); online interviews about my inspirations and stuff like The Five Things I (shouldn’t) Want My Readers to Know About Me; a couple of bladder-pressing stints on radio… The Day arrived.
Inviting people to my book launch had felt like such a huge conceit, but it’s quite staggering how many seem to want to come to these things. With the bizarre This-is-Your-Life type gathering, it feels a bit like a wedding – until the horrific realisation that, apart from the publisher doing a brief intro, you’ll be doing ALL the speeches. In my case at Waterstones Piccadilly, surrounded by photos of illustrious previous launchers…
The next morning – feeling a bit sick after attempting to finish off the lighthouse cupcakes on the train home – my phone hand goes into cramp as I attempt to keep on top of tidal waves of social media. This must be what it’s like to be famous, I’m thinking… until one human offspring informs me that Amazon has decided products related to my new novel include Tart Cherry Extract Capsules, and Deep, an erotic military romance. The other boy has unbelievably managed to enter the barbed tangle of Goodreads.com, and found a quick-off-the-mark 1-star detractor complaining about my female protagonist’s lack of (selfie-worthy) interest in her appearance.
I was going to go swimming, get on with the day, but this new book baby wants constant care: even after just a quick bath, I come back to 23 Twitter notifications screaming for attention. Oh, and of course I feel the need to check the book’s development, compared with other new-borns… in the Amazon Sales Ranks. I soon had post(book)natal depression – meaning a squashed tip to my Amazon-tapping index finger.
In the end I reasoned that, since much of the book was written in bed, it was fitting to have a postbookpartum pyjama day to celebrate. After years of abortive efforts (see My Potholed Path to Publication post), I finally have what I want, as long as I keep my expectations realistic. Much as I’d like my book to grow up to be a bestseller, it will be nurtured by an energetic independent publisher rather than one of the moneyed big five. We’ll give it all the best chances we can of course – but I also need to get on with giving it a sibling!
New and shiny The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter is available from https://amzn.to/2xQtuXY
Compared to a play or concert, a novel can give us three times as many hours of entertainment, at a third or less of the cost. At the end of a show, we spend 5 minutes either clapping politely or stamping and cheering; shouldn’t we do at least as much for a novel we’ve just enjoyed? We can. It’s called writing an Amazon review.
We can, but only a tiny percentage of us ever do – and even these wonderful people (ahem) let good books go by un-applauded. Why?
So write less! It’s better than nothing. Guilt: how could I not leave a review for Tony Parker’s Lighthouse? Invaluable research, and I adored it. [Spends 5 minutes giving it a short but heartfelt 5-star review]
But it might be someone else’s; they need to know about it. Give 3 stars and get on with it. The writer won’t mind; Amazon works in weird ways, giving a book with fifty 3-star reviews more visibility than one with ten 5-star reviews.
I usually save 1 or 2 star reviews for electric blankets, but once in a while I feel the need to share that a hyped-up novel was a massive disappointment.
It doesn’t matter, you just need to have spent at least £40 through your Amazon account. Nice try.
Meaning, “I don’t want to look thick among the blogger/author/pro reviewers.”
Do a refreshingly minimalist one then, or see REVIEW PLAN below.
Good grief. OK, here goes:
Click: the book -> Customer Reviews -> Write a Review.
Click on the stars. Careful – it’s amazing how many people dither here and end up writing a glowing but ONE star review.
In Write Your Review, say what you liked / didn’t like in anything between 1 sentence or a mini essay (see below). The Headline for Your Review can be a phrase you’ve just used. Press SUBMIT. DONE!
PLAN for the perfect Amazon/Waterstones/Goodreads review (IMHO):
OK, this kind of review takes a little longer. But sometimes you want to do a standing ovation.
The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter is available (AND REVIEWABLE) from: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lighthouse-Keepers-Daughter-Cherry-Radford/dp/1911583646/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1521632737&sr=1-1&keywords=cherry+radford