Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Validating the Muse - Linda Acaster

Back in the days of yore, when my initial novels were published - the historical romances - opportunities for reviews were so thin as to be practically non-existent. I was writing for Harlequin Mills & Boon, and my first won the UK’s Romantic Novelists’ Association award for New Writers. I should have been ecstatic, and maybe I was, or tried to be as everyone expected it, but my problem was that I thought my success might be a fluke. It had taken me a year to write and was on the buying shelf for eight weeks before being replaced. Baked beans had a longer shelf life. It didn’t help that my idea for a follow-up was sidelined with a dismissive gesture of the commissioning editor’s hand: Another mediaeval? You’ve given us one of those. Write a Regency.

As if a writer could, at the drop of an elegant wrist, fall in love with another time period, learn its history and manners and “knock out” a novel. Well, I’m sure some writers could, but I was not, and have never been, one of them. I was on the slippery slope and I knew it; my writing wasn’t going to be good enough. Another historical and we parted company. I changed genres to my true love, Fantasy, and even got myself an agent… just as the bottom dropped out of the Fantasy market. The agent became lukewarm. Write a saga. The slippery slope had just changed to the writing on the wall.

I hadn’t thought of any of this until late January when Lindsay’s Romantics asked for posts on reviews, and I linked to my Amazon reviews for Torc of Moonlight. It made me begin to realise how good they are, how readers love the novel, and my writing. Ten days ago I picked up a copy of HullFire.

HullFire is the magazine of the Students’ Union of the University of Hull, the setting for Torc of Moonlight. Back before Christmas it had agreed to do a review. Now the review was out for the student world to read.

To say that it is a cracker is an understatement. I could have cried. The student who reviewed it is doubtless young enough to be my granddaughter, though it seems she hasn’t realised. For her, the teenage characters speak and act with an authority she recognises from those around her, the same way the older characters do. My writing has been validated, and finally I believe it. Francesca Fulton, whoever you are, I could hug you.

The review is 600 words, too long to be copied complete here, but it can be viewed in full on my blog under the Review tab. Here’s an extract.

“… The book, on first glance, gives the impression that it is just another historical fiction, yet once you pass the opening preface, setting the reader up with the past events, and begin reading the main body of the novel, you realise that it is so much more than that. Fast-paced and thrilling, the novel captures the reader from start to finish. The language that Acaster uses is full of vivid imagery and rich descriptions that are sure to engage the reader; painting either a beautiful image of the various landscapes or of the chilling moments filled with tension. Either way, the descriptive writing she uses enhances the strong plotline. She also manages to balance it out with a well-written, natural dialogue between the different characters, each with their own distinct voice, maintained throughout. Part way through the novel, the perspectives begin to change, and soon they start to establish the thoughts and actions of the other characters. Dark truths are revealed and a disturbing sympathy emerges toward Leonard Harkin, an art lecturer whose age has brought with it an unnerving paranoia. But what is disturbing is the discovery of a horrific aspect of his character and his past…”

And the moral of this is? It should be plain enough: don’t wait for others to validate your muse. Believe in your own abilities. You could waste years fretting that your writing isn’t good enough when it most certainly is.


Torc of Moonlight is available in paperback and ebook: E-pub for the Sony e-Reader & Nook, and shortly for the Kindle. Visit http://www.lindaacaster.co.uk/ or http://www.lindaacaster.com/ for info and extracts, and to sign up for the monthly Newsletter.


Lindsay Townsend said...

Excellent blog, Linda! And so true.

What a superb review of TORC OF MOONLIGHT! I hope this has really inspired you to crack on with its companion novel!

I wonder if editors know how dismissive they can sound? It's not easy to switch historical periods, or genres, for that matter.

Would you ever be tempted to return to the medieval?

I find that medieval and ancient world seem to click together - I love both. I love to read Regencies, but I know that writing them wouldn't play to my strengths.

One day, maybe...

Very thought-provoking and interesting post!

Linda Acaster said...

Thanks Lindsay, it's appreciated. And you are so very right about it inspiring me to get on with its sequel. I'm off to York next week for perhaps my last bit of research, and then there will be no excuses.

Regarding changing genres on a whim, or at least someone else's whim, I was once advised that a writer should get at least four books out of an historical period so as to balance the inordinate amount of research they've gone through. I never managed that, and I'm not going to with the "Torc of Moonlight" trilogy.

Odd that you should ask about a return to the mediaeval period as I have on the backburner a YAdult series set post-1066 in the waning of the Viking era.

Regencies? That's a definite never; too much Jane Austen forced down my throat at school.

Lindsay Townsend said...

Re your YA Viking series - maybe have a look at Long and Short of It's Young Adult site Aurora for publisher info.


Good luck if you decide to take it further.

Jan Bowles said...

Hi Linda

'Believe in your own abilities' how true those words.

I gave up writing after receiving one very dismissive rejection letter from an editor. I only returned to writing last year after 15 years.

Great blog Linda, you've given me a lot to think about, and well done with the review.

Best wishes

Kaye Manro said...

Nice post, Linda! Great review of Torc too. Thanks for sharing.

Linda Acaster said...

Hi everyone, and thanks for commenting. Back after a very nice Italian Gavi from, wait for this... Fortnum & Mason. And it was in a wicker hamper! Not sure if I need to explain F&M to our overseas friends... Another time, perhaps.

Anyway, back to the post: basically, your experience, Jan, was mine, except mine had bells & whistles attached, so I do so feel for you. I went back to a "proper job" and returned to writing for my own pleasure and joined a local evening class, where (horrifically) I arrived straight from work and often nodded off because I was so shattered. But from that networking I was offered a creative writing gig elsewhere for 5 weeks while the tutor visited family in Australia. 3 years later... and I actually realised I could do this. But that is what I did, helped other people with their scripts, and hardly ever me with mine. Perhaps we need to work through these bands in our writing life, do you think?

Savanna Kougar said...

Linda, thank you for sharing your experiences. I went through something similar, though, I hadn't been published except in college magazines. And my crushing blow came from a teacher who believed I'd never be published because I wrote 'too old-fashioned' and not like Hemingway. It cut me to the core at the time because he was very fond of my writing and especially enjoyed listening to me read it in class.

I dunno the journey has been exceedingly tough, I think, for a whole lot of us... does it really make us better? I truly have to question that at times.

Personally, I think society's way of treating artists and the creative in our society is really darn skewed.

Savanna Kougar said...

Oh, I met to congratulate on your superb review and all your good reviews.

Linda Acaster said...

Hey, Savanna, thanks for sharing.

It's odd, isn't it, we always feel we are alone in our experience, that somehow we are at fault for... not doing enough studying, not having a thicker skin, you name it... and then once someone partially spills the beans, others stand up and agree with whole and heavy hearts.

I guess the old time term would be that writers are cannon fodder. The familiar adage that if our writing is good enough it will make it, and make us (reasonably) rich, is just a sop, throwing the live ammo back to us and keep us quiet while we juggle with it.

Thanks for making me feel less alone. Onward and upward. We will prevail!

Linda Banche said...

Like everyone else, I have more days than I would like thinking that my writing is junk and it's too much hard work to keep up forever. I agree with you and Savanna, writing great stuff doesn't necessarily make us better or rich--it may only make us very tired. Like the garbage they tell me in the corporate world that you only get laid off if you're not good enough. Layoffs are a management failure to staff correctly, and they blame us poor slobs who pay the price for management sins.

But anyway, that review is great. Good for you.

Danielle Thorne said...

Thank you SO much for sharing that. We all need to hear that every now and then. That's a great story and experience, and I agree you with you 100%. Congrats on your review! That is so special.

Linda Acaster said...

Thanks for all the comments. It's good to have a bit of soul-searching, clears the system.

I need to collect all my reviews and put them in a hardcopy file so that on down days when I am fiddling with commas - you know what I mean - I can sit away from the computer and read them, and consider the emotions "I" generated in those readers. That's what writing is all about, connecting on an emotional level.

StephB said...

Linda, thanks for the inspiration. That's a great review! Thanks so much for just saying "believe in your own abilities." It means a lot.


Linda Swift said...

Hi Linda. A friend let me know that a Linda someobdy talking about Hull on Lindsay's Pink Blog today and of course, I knew it had to be you. Until you, I've been the one blogging about Hull, as in "To Hull and Back." Congratulations on your great review in Hullfire. Ah, that lovely Virginia Creeper climbing the walls of Hull University. Your article is so true and speaks to all of us poor souls who wait for everyone else to validate us. And what truth in your commment about writing being our efforts to touch others. We are so inspired to connect and communicate with other people.
I am going to send a nice fat letter thhis week in reply to yours. It will expalin why I've been off the planet. Wishing you great success with this book and the ones to follow.

Savanna Kougar said...

"That's what writing is all about, connecting on an emotional level."

That is so true!

Linda Acaster said...

Thanks, everyone, for riding my wave on this. It's been great to share. I've been at a writers' meeting all day and just got in, where I, and a lot of other writers, were inspired some more. [You know who you are; own up!]

Regards - Linda