Oh dear! Is it really that long since my last letter? Time just seems to disappear these days.
So, what news is there? At the end of September I was in Whitley Bay again, at the studios of Soundings, to record the audio version of TWICE ROYAL LADY. It’s a pretty intensive exercise, two six hour days plus another couple of hours on the last morning. We work in sessions of one and a half to two hours, and reading aloud for that length of time, trying not to fluff and to bring out the characters and the changes of pace and mood in the story, is quite hard work. But the producers, who sit at the recording desk in the next studio and keep a check on everything, are very helpful and understanding. In spite of the effort of concentration, I really enjoy doing it because it seems to bring the characters to life in a way that reading the text doesn’t – even when it is something that has lived in your imagination for months. I hope that it does the same for people who listen to the books. If any of you have listened to one of my recordings, I’d love to hear from you.
If you remember, I told you that sales of the printed text of ‘Lady’ were disappointing, particularly to the libraries. So I spent a long time checking the on-line catalogues of as many libraries as I could contact to see if they had a copy. To my surprise, I found that several of them had the audio version and not the book. I emailed all those who did not have it, and found that quite a few did not even know it had been published and said they would order a copy at once. It seems that in many cases some unknown person at some central point decides which books get sent to the libraries, instead of the librarians being able to choose. So it would be very helpful if you could check your own library’s catalogue to see if they have it.
In October I went down to London again to teach the Brick Lane group, as mentioned in my last letter. It was an very interesting weekend. There was a wide variation among the members of the group, in age and background. Many of them were of Asian origin, some born in the UK, others recent immigrants, but there were also ethnic Brits, so we had a variety of cultural perspectives. They were all lively, intelligent people, well educated and well read, so they were a pleasure to work with. I hope that as a result of the classes they will be able to come up with some really interesting stories.
As it happened, I already had tickets for the Cumberbatch Hamlet on the Friday night, so that worked out very well. I thought the production was excellent and I admired Cumberbatch’s interpretation very much. It was the first time I’ve seen a Hamlet with a sense of humour! He really enjoyed pretending to be mad and the audience laughed more often than at any other production I’ve seen; but that did not distract from the inherent pathos of the play.
We also managed to get tickets for ‘Farinelli and the King’, with Mark Rylance, another actor I admire very much. It’s an ingenious story about a king of Spain who suffers from some kind of mental instability and can only be calmed by the voice of the castrato, Farinelli. It was staged as if we were back in the C18, with candlelight as the only illumination, and the part of Farinelli was doubled, shared between an actor for the speaking part and a counter tenor for the singing. Rylance is brilliant, as always.
As far as the writing goes, I am at a bit of a standstill. It’s hard to motivate myself when there is no assurance that the work will get published. I’m hoping that I might find an agent who will take IRONHAND on and find a publisher; meanwhile I’m working on the sequel, GOD’S WARRIOR. If the worst comes to the worst I can always self-publish, as I did with THE LAST HERO.
Speaking of which, I was excited a week or so back to hear on the radio that a group of archaeologists from the University of Cincinnatti had made a fabulous discovery while excavating near Pylos. They have found the tomb of a Bronze Age warrior, complete with a wonderful collection of treasure in bronze and silver. Pylos, is, as those of you who have read the book will know, the setting for THE LAST HERO, and much of my research was based on the earlier work of Professor Carl Blegen of that university, in excavating the palace of King Nestor. The warrior whose grave they have discovered lived earlier than that, but he must have been an ancestor of my hero, Alkmaion, and the discovery is further evidence of what a brilliant and sophisticated society existed there. I managed to find the name of one of the leaders of the current excavations and sent her an email, telling her about the book. I’m delighted to say that she is a fan of historical fiction and asked for a copy. I’ve sent it and shall wait with bated breath for her reaction.
So, it’s been a busy month, as usual. On December 4th I am talking about my books at Darwen library, near Blackburn, so if any of you live near there and would like to come along I’ll be delighted to meet you.