Wednesday, 19 September 2012

The Next Big Thing

Today something quite new has arrived!

Miriam’s Ramblings can take you to faraway places or cover edgy issues. It’s such an unpredictable mish-mash of snippets, who knows what will come up next? Sometimes I don’t even know myself!

I am a member of a couple of groups of lovely authors – ‘Love a Happy Ending’ and ‘Famous Five Plus’. Chris Longmuir, who lives in Scotland is an amazing writer of crime fiction and, like me, actually belongs to both groups. I met Chris at the fantastic ‘Summer Audience’ in June at my old school in Goucestershire.

Well, Chris has set me off on something called ‘The Next Big Thing’, where writers are posed questions, enticing them to throw out a few intriguing nuggets about their current work in progress. This gives readers and fans a privileged insight, not quite a sneak preview, as to what to expect next from an author.
On  Chris Longmuir's blog   she handed over the baton to me, so to speak, and four others. So here I am now ready to tease you with a few guarded hints of the Next Big Thing. Will it be Gypsies? Or something else? Will it be in Appley Green?

What is the working title of your next book?

The title for my next book is undecided  - no, not ‘Undecided’!  It needs to tie in with Shades of Appley Green, as it will be the second of a new series of modern village novels.
Where did the idea come from for the new series?
The idea came from readers of the first two books and from an agent at the Winchester Writers’ Conference a few years ago. Gypsies Stop tHere and No Gypsies Served are both set in the fictional village of Appley Green that ‘straddles the boundaries’ of Surrey and Hampshire. Aside from the theme of these two books, to do with the relations between Gypsies/Travellers and mainstream society, encouraging comments told me that readers enjoyed the style, the storytelling. There were spontaneous outbreaks of enthusiasm such as a local county councillor who emailed me, "They are amazingly readable, and I tore through each within about 48 hours of purchasing them. Couldn't put them down wanting to find out what happened."  Many others said things like, ‘A right riveting read!’ ‘… a compelling yarn …’ ‘a real page-turner’ and so on. Perhaps people found this a surprise, not what they expected from a ‘village novel’ (yet from those titles, anyone could tell that these stories were not going to ‘shy away from thorny issues’ to quote another reader).
Anyway, as a typical author always delighted by positive feedback, did I listen? Yes, I did!! This was my style and I should build on it.
Now, publishers were always very wary of my edgy themes. Ooh – a bit controversial! Agents were probably worried about them being non-pc and the agent at Winchester told me I would never get a publisher to look at a book with the word Gypsy in the title. If you search titles on Amazon with ‘Gypsy’ you will see there are thousands!! Many of them have been published since I self-published Gypsies Stop tHere – I am delighted that so many Gypsies have found a new confidence to pick up their pens or computers and write their own memoirs. (Since then Gypsies and Travellers have gained a high media profile – not all good, by any means. Both Channel 4’s Big Fat Gypsy Weddings and real-life news story of Dale Farm were detrimental and not typical, but I have written often and at length on my blog, and spoken on the radio about these issues …)
I digress. So this agent, she advised me to write a series of village novels – she liked the idea of the village notice-board that features in Gypsies Stop tHere. It would have wider appeal, she told me.
So there we are, Shades of Appley Green was the first in a brand new series. It links to the first two but has an entirely fresh theme – nothing to do with Gypsies! This third book is everything to do with community and family relationships we can all recognise in some way, but with a few surprises and twists.

So - all I can say is that the ‘next big thing’ will follow suit - more surprises and twists!
What genre do your books fall under?
Genre has always been tricky for me. I completely understand the commercial need for labels but I confess my books do not slot neatly into a given type. The first two have a ‘message’, more typical of ‘literary fiction’, but they are easy-to-read books. They explore social issues, but also have elements of humour and romance. Shades of Appley Green is a ‘modern village novel’ – perhaps ‘women’s contemporary fiction’ - that also offers thought-provoking issues.
The ‘next big thing’ will look at some of the characters already in all three novels, but in a way that no-one will expect. I can say no more at the moment.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Kay Brackenbridge would be Helen Mirren - of course! Dunstan? I wish I could think of a (living) mature male actor that would do him justice … He would need to have dark Romany looks, although he is half-Gypsy, and be oozing pheromones.  Laurence Olivier? Perhaps Brendan Coyle on a good day with more oomph – more as he is in Lark Rise to Candleford, not as Bates in Downton Abbey. Solid, reliable, a man’s man, slightly brooding, sometimes restless, repressing anger, wry smile and dark, twinkling eyes … mm.
I would love to work Bill Nighy in – maybe as Ted Devonish, the wealthy landowner or even Jackson Jeffrys, the once-famous, 90 year-old architect. (Make-up artist would be needed to ‘age’ lovely Bill.)

This is difficult – think I would be useless as a casting director!
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
This is impossible to answer – I am so sorry, but I have not started writing it yet; so whilst I could make one up, it is bound to evolve or change completely.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I am not going to spend precious time submitting manuscripts to agents and publishers, that is for sure. Most probably I will produce it as an ebook to start with. If people like it, maybe it will then go to paperback. That’s how I did Shades of Appley Green; it was the other way around with the two Gypsy books, as they were pre-ebook era!
How long does it take you to write the first draft of a manuscript?
For my first two novels, the research took a few years – I practically immersed myself in the subject to soak it up! I was also working part-time. It took about a year to write the first draft. For Shades of Appley Green, there was less research; it was written more from stuff I already knew and real-life experience of working in the community. The writing was less than a year.
What other books would you compare your books to within your genre?
I flatter myself that they may lie somewhere between the very modern Amanda Craig’s Hearts and Minds, and the beloved, very traditional Miss Read’s village novels. Anyone who knows these books will know they are chalk and cheese, opposite ends of a spectrum. Perhaps someone else can help me out here. They are village novels, but not too rose-tinted. ‘Appley Green is a charming English village. Everyone says so. But people are still people.’  Shades of Appley Green has been variously described, from ‘lovely, heart-warming’ to ‘tantalising, the kind of gripping you only normally experience with crime novels’ … so ? I am probably too close to them to make comparisons but would really love to have readers’ thoughts!
Who or What inspired you to write this book?
Well, it was a process – one followed on from the other, for a reason. The ‘next big thing’ will succeed what has gone before. Or will it?

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Perhaps the fact that I cannot do a big reveal until it is published! This will be some time from now as I am still in the research stage; as yet, no plot, shadowy themes, some characters but quite how they will interact to form a story is as yet a secret even I do not know! I do have the setting, however!  People seem to love Appley Green.
I am very, very excited by what lies ahead, if that means anything!

The next writer is to take up the baton is fairly new Love a Happy Ending member, Ali Bacon. Look out for her Next Big Thing early in October.


  1. Great answers to the questions, Miriam. And thanks for referring to me as an amazing writer of crime fiction, it's done me ego a power of good.

  2. Oooh, fabulous feature, Miriam, good luck and I can't wait. Bill Nighy, indeed--I'd watch the film for sure, he's a great actor. As is Hellen Mirren, of course. Lovely choices, thanks for sharing!

  3. Great feature! Love it Miriam!

  4. Really enjoyed your answers Miriam. Left you a short message on FB
    PS You can't have Bill Nighy until he has finished filming on my latest novel :)

  5. Great answers, Miriam. Several people have mentioned Bill Nighy. I wish I had a character who'd fit the 'Bill'. (See what I did there! Tee hee) Maybe the next book. I wish you luck with the creation of your own, new sub-genre.

  6. How exciting and adventurous! It's fun thinking up actors to play our characters, isn't it? Great post, Miriam.

    Janice xx

  7. Great answers, Miriam. Enjoyed. Sounds like Bill Nighy's going to be rather busy.

  8. Lord, Bill Nighy certainly is in demand. Poor guy will be worn out! I loved this 'spontaneous outbreaks of enthusiasm' Made me smile, Miriam. I like the idea of village novels that are not too rose-tinted (though I have read the Miss Read books. Loved her characterisation. FAB post, Miriam. Good luck! :) xx

  9. Yes, now this is interesting - what IS it about Bill Nighy? I thought it was just me ...

  10. Thanks Miriam - interested in your actor choice - can never quite decide if I like BC. I think I would pick Ian mcShane in his much younger days - very Romany!Thanks for the tag.