Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Guest Author Day with Jennifer Young

Killing Your Darlings
It’s a piece of advice given to all authors. Kill your darlings. Sometimes you might hear a variation on it, such as murder your children, but no matter; it’s the same thing.
It’s sound advice and it really means that a writer should turn ruthless and get rid of those bits of the story that you absolutely adore yet which don’t move the story on. (Sometimes it feels like hacking off an arm.) But in my most novel it took on a new meaning for me. I killed off a character I loved.
I’m not a natural born killer, by any means. Maybe I feel it’s tempting Fate, that if I visit some awful accident on a fictional character the same thing, or at least something similar, might happen to me.
In my first book no-one got hurt, except (of course) emotionally. In ongoing drafts people have fallen ill but survived. My most villainous act to date as a writer has been to do away with a beloved old tabby cat, victim of my heroine’s vengeful rival. But in No Time Like Now I crossed the rubicon and consigned one of my characters to a sudden and violent death.
Because the genre is romantic suspense, it’s near-impossible to write without violence, or at the very least the over-riding threat of it, so that the minute I embraced on a plot adorned with increasingly-desperate villains and sent my hero and heroine closer and closer to secrets they really didn’t want to know, I knew that at some point I would end up with blood on my pen. Someone was always going to die.
But there was one character I never intended to kill. I won’t tell you who it was (that would spoil the story) but I will tell you that it was someone I liked and who truly deserved a happy ever after. But unfortunately for them, as I was writing the novel they stepped out of line. They did things I didn’t want to do. They threatened my carefully-constructed plot — and so they had to go.
I’m not altogether sure how I felt when I’d done it. A vicious sense of satisfaction - that’ll teach you to challenge my plot? Or a sense of deep sadness, because out of all the characters in the book this one, I felt, deserved a happy ever after.
Either way, I’ve embraced violence. And now I know that as a writer, no character, however hard they plead, is safe from the vicious excesses of my imagination.
Want to know who died? Read the book…
After about a quarter of a mile the path dropped steeply to a small cove, and from there — if you were nimble enough, which I was — you could scramble along the rocks and sit on the point, which commanded views along a whole swathe of the island’s inhospitable north coast. I scrambled my way out and sat for a while watching the boats drifting along the coast against the capricious breeze, until their slow progress lost my attention. I took out the old family photo I used as a bookmark (more and more dog-eared, it was a faded snapshot of the three of us on my sixteenth birthday; before it all went wrong) opened the book and started to read It is a truth universally acknowledged…
It was, of course, the wrong book. I gave a wry smile. I really wasn’t in the mood for social dramas — or any other kind of drama, for that matter.
Megan McLeod, my mum’s voice tapped in my head, fraught with impatience and her own ill-health. You need t sort yourself out.
Up to a point, sorting myself out is what I’m good at. I always have been, except for those few fragmented weeks in my life when rational thought had escaped me altogether and fused into a nightmare I didn’t dare remember. Even then, I’d conquered my problems and emerged from their wreckage all the stronger, equipped with enough common sense and enough strength of purpose to deal with any situation. I marshalled that common sense once more.
The facts were plain and inescapable. It wasn’t Tim himself who was the problem, even though he had been so at one point in my life. But I was over that. The problem was that he belonged in a part of my life where I had been unhappy, where I didn’t get on with my parents, a time when my mother had died too soon, so that I had left harsh words unresolved between us.
There was no doubt that it was his unexpected arrival which had stirred me to try to write once again to my dad. And it was equally obvious that once I’d got that letter written — the right letter, not like the ones I’d sent before but one which deserved and received an accepting and forgiving reply — then I wouldn’t give a toss whether Tim was there at all. He wasn’t the thing which was wrong with my life, but only a stark and painful reminder of it. So — I ticked these points off on my fingers one by one, as if they could be quantified — it wasn’t a question of evolving a strategy to deal with what I felt for him (which was nothing), but of tackling the things he reminded me of (which were hell)…
I must have sat there for half an hour, flicking the pages of  Pride and Prejudice without reading them and looking at the photo with tears in my eyes. At last, when the roughness of the limestone became even more uncomfortable than my thoughts, I put the book down, stood up, and stretched. The sea warped the sunlight into colors from indigo to turquoise as I looked down the coast towards the centre, then turned and looked the other way towards blissful remoteness. I was used to remoteness. I even thought I liked it.
The wind stirred the pages of the book. From between them, the photo crept out, turned over, and bowled slowly along the beach. I took off after it, teased and tormented by it, until I trapped it under my foot and picked it up.
‘Got you!’ I said in triumph to the false image of my perfect family. Then I took a look along the beach.
I’d thought I was alone. I’d deliberately chosen a spot where I could be. So it was with a touch of irritation that I realised I might have company.
At first, I wasn’t sure. The thing that caught my eye, about a hundred yards away at the far edge of the beach, looked like a piece of wreckage washed up by the waves. And it was a moment before I realised that it was a person. I looked past and then back again; my interest caught. Because something about the sunbather looked wrong.
Naturally curious, that’s my problem. And anyway, I had nothing else to do with the morning since Miss Austen had failed to engage my attention and I wasn’t keen on risking my peace of mind back at the centre. Clutching the photo between my fingers, I crunched my way along the narrow strip of beach. Just a few yards along, it dawned on me that what I was looking at wasn’t a sunbather, that it wasn’t even actually on the beach but washed by the shallow sea.
The pebbles spitting under my feet, I broke into a run and, even before I got there, I knew that I’d found a body.
About No Time Like Now
Hiding away from a disastrous past, Megan McLeod is getting along nicely in her job as housekeeper at a university field centre in Majorca. But the arrival of geological researcher, Tim Stone, throws everything into disarray — because Tim was the father of the baby she lost some years before and the two of them had parted very messily indeed.
As if having Tim on the scene wasnt bad enough, he's there with his new partner, Holly. But when in the course of his research he comes upon something extremely nasty along the cliffs of north Majorca, hes forced to turn to Megan for help.
Buy it from
Tirgearr Publishing
Amazon US

Amazon UK

About Jennifer Young
Jennifer Young is an Edinburgh-based writer, editor and copywriter. She is interested in a wide range of subjects and writing media, perhaps reflecting the fact that she has both arts and science degrees. Jennifer has been writing fiction, including romantic fiction, for a number of years with several short stories already published. No Time Like Now is her second published novel; her first novel, Thank You For The Music, is also set on the Balearic island of Majorca.
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