I Am Pilgrim -Terry Hayes

I am Pilgrim

My life has shifted on its axis. I finally delved into Terry Hayes tome, I am Pilgrim and now everything must change. I have to clear out my bookshelf and put this fantastic novel on a shelf all by its self while I ponder everything I just read. So move over Ludlum, shove over Lehane, there’s a new boy on the block and he’s bad (I mean “bad” in the colloquial sense, as in “Damn Good”).

It’s a hefty novel, but that’s no deterrent, as I wish it were even longer. The novel centres on the protagonist Scott Murdoch? (The question mark becomes relevant once you’ve read the novel) who is an American spy, agent, deep, deep undercover operative etc. He is on a race to save the world from a biological attack and time is ticking, and in his spare time he solves a New York murder case –Ha, I love it!

Terry Hayes is a man who knows his craft. This may be his debut novel,but Google his biography and you’ll see he has serious cred. His plotting is very tight and complex; the writing is intelligent and suspenseful. I sat in the waiting room at Toyota while I had new tyres fitted, and my hands were tightly gripping the book as I read the final chapters.

Here’s a puzzle:

How long does it take Toyota to fit two new tyres?

Two hours.

At the end of the two hours I was at a pivotal point in the story, the Toyota man called my name. I put my hand up to silence the annoying man and resumed biting my nails and my eyes continued to rapidly scan the pages. I came to a suitable place to stop, raced home and finished the book.

Like any great book it is still lingering in my thoughts. Hayes has created a hero that we haven’t seen since Jason Bourne, and I hope to see a lot more of him.

This is a suspense novel that deals with sensitive and serious subjects and it is handle with respect, skilled observation and the critique of a good journalist. Hayes doesn’t dictate to the reader he is a masterful storyteller and the reader is taken on a thrilling journey.

NB: This is an adult novel, if considering for a teen reader note that it does contain some torture scenes, although it is not an overly graphic novel.

Catch a Q&A with Terry Hayes here: http://www.randomhouse.com.au/blog/top-writing-tips-from-debut-thriller-writer-terry-hayes-2167.aspx

The What, Where, Why, and How of Writers

shakes house

Is there a magic formula to writing a best selling novel – of course not, but this does not stop me wanting to know all the what, where, how and why’s of my favourite authors. I might uncover some secret that best selling novelists have kept hidden for centuries; they may belong to a secret society. I may stumble upon one quirky habit, that I could adopt, and my writing would be transformed.

My first quest was the Where.

I knew that Mark Twain and Roald Dahl both wrote in their back sheds, but I was looking for more inspirational writers haunts. So, why not start with the master of all writers, the picture above is of William Shakespeare’s house in Stratford- Upon-Avon, England. I didn’t get much from my visit here except that Shakespeare slept in the sitting position, and I wasn’t going to adopt that habit. Next was Charles Dickens house in London, England – a desk and a chair, no secrets there. So while still in England I headed to the more picturesque setting of The Lakes District, this was more to my liking. Beatrix Potter ‘s desk sat under a window overlooking her garden, complete with rabbits, of course. Williams Wordsworth lived in Grasmere by the lake; this environment inspired many of his early poems. One of the last houses I looked at was John Keats. His apartment in Rome overlooked the Spanish Steps; this is now an amazing museum dedicated to English romantic writers. The only thing that these writer’s abodes had in common was pen and paper.

Now to the How.

  •  Roald Dahl always wrote only on yellow paper with a lead pencil.
  •  Jack Kerouac – Would write by candle -light and blow it out when finished for the night. He had many little rituals that probably bordered on OCD, particularly in reference to the number nine. He would also always pray before he started to write.
  • Earnest Hemingway, Vladimir Nabokov and Philip Roth were all known for writing while standing.
  • Haruki Murakami “When I’m in writing mode for a novel, I get up at 4:00 am and work for five to six hours. In the afternoon, I run for 10km or swim for 1500m (or do both), and then I read a bit and listen to some music. I go to bed at 9:00 pm. I keep to this routine every day without variation. The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind.”
  • Vladimir Nabokov –wrote on index cards (this is something I do as well)

What, is a very individualistic area unless you are writing a knockoff, copycat book, which I know none of my readers would do that. So under What I’ve put word count, some writers appear obsessed by this.

  •  Stephen King – would write no less than 10 pages a day. (1800 -2000words)
  • Earnest Hemingway – 500 words a day
  • James Joyce was happy if he wrote three sentences.
  • Lee Child averages 1,800 words a day
  • Arthur Conan Doyle 3,000 words a day
  • Michael Crichton 10, 000

Why?

This is my favourite, who in their right mind would choose to be a writer.

  • George Orwell said writers write for “sheer egoism, aesthetic enthusiasm, historical impulse, and political purpose.”
  • Gustave Flaubert said “Writing is a dog’s life, but the only life worth living,”
  • Joan Didion said, “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear. “
  • Neil Gaiman said “The best thing about writing fiction is that moment where the story catches fire and comes to life on the page, and suddenly it all makes sense and you know what it’s about and why you’re doing it and what these people are saying and doing, and you get to feel like both the creator and the audience. Everything is suddenly both obvious and surprising… and it’s magic and wonderful and strange.”

What did I get from this exercise? I learnt that it doesn’t matter where you write; if you’re waiting for the view then you will be waiting forever, as a writer writes anywhere. I learnt that commitment is important and that may take the form of a word count. I also decided that adding a quirky, ritualistic habit could be a good idea (and fun). Lastly I found  Mr. Gaiman summed it up, for being reminded of why I write is sometimes all the inspiration I need.

 

We Were Liars – E. Lockhart

We Were Liars

Another brilliant novel has sailed across my desk – We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. This is a YA novel which stays with you long after the final page has been devoured. The story is told through the central character, Cadence. We follow her summers spent on a family island along with her friends /cousins –The Liars. As the liars hold a mirror to their family, they don’t always like what they see, and this has a disastrous effect.

The narrative of this novel is like a boat on the ocean, the reader is rocked by its undulations, of an idyll childhood spent on a private island near Martha’s Vineyard, to the fractures of this Kennedyesq family, which break, heal and break again. The reader is taken on an emotional journey, riding the ups and downs of the waves, which eventually crash to the shore with its stunning conclusion.

Lockhart’s writing is clear and concise but not devoid of description or poetry. It is her writing that first grabbed my attention. Here is an example of the main character describing her cousins and friend.

 

Johnny

He is bounce, effort, and snark.

 Mirren

She is sugar, curiosity and rain.

 Gat

He was contemplation and enthusiasm. Ambition and strong coffee.

 

The writing was taut and effortless, but it was the plot in the end that won me over. I had to know the secret, the mystery.

Do not go in search of other reviews if you are interested in reading this one, as spoilers will surely ruin the whole experience. I’ll leave the last word to the dust jacket.

“We Were Liars is a modern suspense that will leave you reeling. Read it. And if anyone asks you how it ends, just lie.”

Title: We Were Liars

Author: E. Lockhart

Published: 2014

Genre: YA/ Crossover

Poetry in Song

U2 2 Robbie williams 2 Cat stevens 2

Like many writers I have a playlist of songs that I write to, but sometimes it’s not just the music that inspires me, sometimes it’s the lyrics. I’m not going to debate the literary merits of song lyrics over literary poetry; to me they are the same. They convey and express emotions, they tell a story and they inspire. I remember the first time I heard John Lennon’s Imagine I was so moved and by his words and still am today. So I thought I’d share some of my favourites.

Robbie Williams “Angels “

I sit and wait
Does an angel contemplate my fate
And do they know
The places where we go
When we’re grey and old
‘cos I have been told
That salvation lets their wings unfold
So when I’m lying in my bed
Thoughts running through my head
And I feel that love is dead
I’m loving angels instead

 

Live “The Beauty Of Gray”

If I told you he was your brother
We could reminisce
Then you would go about your day
If I said you ought to give him some of your water
You’d shake your canteen and walk away

The perception that divides you from him
Is a lie
For some reason you never asked why
This is not a black and white world
You can’t afford to believe in your side

This is not a black and white world
To be alive
I say that the colours must swirl
And I believe
That maybe today
We will all get to appreciate
The Beauty of Grey

 

U2 “one”

Did I disappoint you
Or leave a bad taste in your mouth
You act like you never had love
And you want me to go without
Well it’s…

Too late
Tonight
To drag the past out into the light
We’re one, but we’re not the same
We get to
Carry each other
Carry each other
One…

 

James Taylor “Fire and Rain”

I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain
I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end
I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend
But I always thought that I’d see you again

 

Bob Dylan “One Too Many Mornings”

Down the street the dogs are barking
And the day is getting dark.
As the night comes in a-falling,
The dogs´ll lose their bark
And the silent night will shatter
From the sounds inside my mind,
For I´m one to many mornings
And a thousand miles behind.
From the crossroads of my doorstep,
My eyes they start to fade,
As I turn my head back to the room
Where my love and I have laid….
Harry Chapin “Cats In The Cradle”

My child arrived just the other day
He came to the world in the usual way
But there were planes to catch and bills to pay
He learned to walk while I was away
And he was talkin’ ‘fore I knew it, and as he grew
He’d say “I’m gonna be like you, Dad
You know I’m gonna be like you”

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on the moon
When you comin’ home, Dad
I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then
You know we’ll have a good time then

My son turned ten just the other day
He said, “Thanks for the ball, Dad, come on let’s play
can you teach me to throw”, I said “Not today
I got a lot to do”, he said, “That’s ok
And he walked away but his smile never dimmed
And said, “I’m gonna be like him, yeah
You know I’m gonna be like him”

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on the moon
When you comin’ home, Dad
I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then
You know we’ll have a good time then

Well, he came from college just the other day
So much like a man I just had to say
“Son, I’m proud of you, can you sit for a while”
He shook his head and said with a smile
“What I’d really like, Dad, is to borrow the car keys
See you later, can I have them please”

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on the moon
When you comin’ home son
I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then, Dad
You know we’ll have a good time then

I’ve long since retired, my son’s moved away
I called him up just the other day
I said, “I’d like to see you if you don’t mind”
He said, “I’d love to, Dad, if I can find the time
You see my new job’s a hassle and kids have the flu
But it’s sure nice talking to you, Dad
It’s been sure nice talking to you”

And as I hung up the phone it occurred to me
He’d grown up just like me
My boy was just like me

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man in the moon
When you comin’ home son
I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then, Dad
We’re gonna have a good time then

 

 

All Our Yesterdays – By Cristin Terrill

All Our Yesterdays

I love this book. This is one of those novels that book reviewers pull out all the clichés; a real page-turner, I couldn’t put it down, had me up all night. Because it’s true, I’m ‘exhibit A’ – The kid’s dinner went by the wayside, I was up all hours, zombie eyed; I was obsessed. Every moment I had, the book made its way back to my eagerly awaiting hands. I needed to know what was happening to the characters that had so quickly taken up residence in my life.

A quick plot outline – the two main characters travel back in time to try and save themselves and the world. To do this they must kill someone, but they find this more difficult than they thought.

That’s the gist of the plot I don’t want to spoil anything by giving too much detail. This book is the perfect example of “How to Start a Novel” Terrill puts you straight into the action –tick, questions are forming in your mind, has you curious – tick, tight plot – tick, early attachment to the characters – tick. The story has the essence of The Terminator films, which is fine with me, as I’m a huge Terminator fan; the fiction world has been waiting for a good time travel book for sometime. All I want to say is if you enjoy reading YA fiction then put this one on your shopping list.

 

TITLE: All Our Yesterdays

AUTHOR: Cristin Terrill

GENRE: YA

NB: was awarded the 2014 Thriller Award for Best Young Adult Novel by the International Thriller Writers

Author Interview -Sarah Rayner

Go to the Drinks With …Page and click on the Sarah Rayner tab to read the interview. Enjoy!  🙂

“Shelter” A Book for the Reluctant Teen Reader.

shelter

Recently I mentioned that crime writing was trending in the YA genre. So I have been sleuthing, researching and investigating a few of these novels. The first one I picked up was Peter Cocks Long Reach, I found it totally unsuitable for the 14-18 age group. It was graphic and read more like an adult crime novel.

The next novel I chose was by the well- respected crime writer Harlan Coben he has turned his hand to YA with a new crime series. The first is called Shelter.

The first thing I must mention is cliché, cliché, and cliché.

Next thing I will say is it works.

Despite the cliché use of the new kid in school, dorky best friends, and parent departed. The novel is page-turning fun. I recently wrote a post about dyslexia and a reluctant reader and how this affected my family. This is the type of book that really appeals to the reluctant, male, teen reader. (no sexism intended)

Harlan has taken a character, Myron Bolitar, from his adult series and introduced his nephew Mickey Bolitar. (Lazy or just getting future fans for his adult series)

Mickey’s father has recently passed away, his mother is in rehab, and now his new girlfriend has disappeared. The only responsible adult in his life is his uncle Myron, and he wants nothing to do with him. Mickey is determined to find out what happened to his girlfriend and this leads him into a seedy world of crime. Along his journey he forms friendships, which you can see are going to carry throughout the series. These friendships make the story interesting. The characters are fun, likeable and a little clichéd.

Harlan has successfully adapted the language to a teen reader; there is no condescension in this statement. There is a need for an easy, fast paced read with relatable characters. This is an excellent novel for either those who want a light holiday read or the teen that finds reading a chore.

 

Warning: The main character goes to a strip club; there is suggestion of torture and sex slavery.

Title: Shelter

Author: Harlan Coben

Published: Orion 2011

Genre: YA Crime

Series: Seconds Away (Book 2)