Tag Archives: Poldark

Getting Mad, Baby! What angers you about writing?

Since returning to creative writing six years ago, I’ve scrambled up several steep learning curves to do with the business of writing. These include formatting, book cover design, marketing the ebooks I self-published on Smashwords and Amazon and the all-important lessons of how to write a synopsis and query agents.

I made another round of supplications to the ‘gatekeepers’, in February, after spending the previous two months editing my fifth novel. As any writer knows, that feels like wading through porridge, but there’s still a discernible feeling of achievement in having polished a manuscript.

I’m at a stage where I feel like I’ve created a potentially commercial product—which is how I’m increasingly coming to view my novels—rather than taking joy in them as a readable story. Despite this confidence, I know I’m a nobody, an unpublished author looking for his first publishing contract. Any marketability I have comes from where I live in Cornwall, which is popular as a holiday destination and from being the location of the successful television adaptation of Winston Graham’s Poldark stories.

I know that some bestselling authors are poor writers, but what makes me mad is that if my manuscript was submitted to the gatekeepers by a media celebrity (who’s already got fame and wealth), then it would be snaffled up immediately. Commercially, it’s the way of the world in publishing that someone with an existing high profile, a ‘platform’, will be more attractive a risk than someone anonymous who will take more effort to promote—but it still makes me mad!

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It’s proof that no one cares what you’ve written. Would-be readers are more enticed by already knowing who the author is, than anything to do with the quality of the story. As an example supermodel/supertwit Naomi Campbell has ‘written’ several novels and biographies—I don’t know if she’s read them! 

That’s what makes me angry—realising publishing is a business and has little to do with art.

How about you?

I’m hearing the voices again….

This article in the Independent newspaper struck home with me:

Do you hear a voice when you read this? That might be more normal than you think

Research suggests that 80% of readers hear a ‘voice’ when reading a story, with only 11% denying that they heard an inner voice at all. 

This made me wonder about how much to tailor the conversations in my novels, giving them a sprinkling of dialect, while avoiding spelling words phonetically. My crime novels are set in Cornwall, which has its own language, rich Celtic culture and a distinctive accent. Here’s a good example of it:

As mentioned in the video, there are emmets a-plenty in Cornwall. These are incomers from out of county, mainly holidaymakers who swarm around like ants, giving the locals much of their income from tourism. Many stay and settle. Some of my fictional characters are Cornish born and bred, while others have moved here. This has caused me a certain amount of head-scratching in how to differentiate their accents and attitudes.

Over the years, there’s been some fuss made about how the Cornish accent is spoken in television dramas. An adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s Jamaica Inn was panned because the cast mumbled their words making them hard to understand. The hugely successful new adaptation of Winston Graham’s Poldark stories has gone the other way, with most of the actors avoiding anything that sounds like a West Country burr. Only the farm labourers, the ignorant unwashed oiks attempt an ‘ooh arr, yes sur country bumpkin way of speaking.

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Poldark stars decide to ditch Cornish accents

Do any of you hear voices when reading a book or while writing characters?

Who Stars in the Film of your Novel?

I’d argue that it’s impossible to write a novel in the 21st-century without thinking in terms of how the action and dialogue would look and sound when adapted into a television series or Hollywood film. Having said that, you might prefer that your sensitive writing be turned into a radio or stage play, or filmed by a European director as they’d show the subtleties of characterisation and not swamp things in computer-generated special effects.

When I’ve written my short stories, novellas and novels, I’ve more often visualised real people I’ve known rather than famous actors. For instance, a recurring character in my Cornish Detective series is a forensic pathologist called CC, and she’s an amalgam of various earthy country doctors and veterinarians I’ve met, along with a female psychologist I once knew, a survivor of Auschwitz, who’d seen the worst of human nature.

Unusually, I’ve imagined my detective protagonist, (who is the son of a sheep farmer), to look like one of the presenters of a long-running British television series called Countryfile. Adam Henson is a farmer, and his laid-back mannerisms appear in my fictional detective Inspector Neil Kettle. My protagonist has a way of lulling whoever he’s questioning into a false sense of security, before jumping in with a killer punch.

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I also remembered the appearance and behaviour of a Swedish actor, called Rolf Lassgårdwhen writing a novella about a man who escorts his wife to the Dignitas clinic for an assisted suicide, and how he rebuilds his life at the age of 60. Lassgård is probably best known for playing Kurt Wallander in one of the television adaptations of Henning Mankell’s detective novels.

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The casting of movies is critical to their commercial success but doesn’t always follow how the main characters were described in the novel. The worst recent example of this is diminutive Tom Cruise playing man-mountain Jack Reacher in two film versions of Lee Child’s novels.

Some adaptations get the casting just right. The BBC’s second attempt at interpreting Winston Graham’s Poldark novels, first filmed in the 1970s, is a joy to watch as much for the appearance of the actors, as the scenery and the historical accuracy of the action, even if some of the actors’ attempts at a Cornish accent are a bit shit!

Who would you have to play your characters?

Did you envisage a particular actor as you wrote? Was it their physical appearance or their mannerisms that influenced your writing?