Friday, 21 June 2019

Pan’s Labyrinth – Novel – Review and Musings about Anticipation of Adaptations - Guillermo Del Toro - Cornelia Funke

Many people experience excitement and a certain amount of anxiety when they hear that one of their favourite books is coming to the silver screen. Concern whether the adaptation is sympathetic and close to the source text. Worry that they may get the characters wrong. Anxiety that the image on the screen won’t marry with the image you have carried in your mind since reading the book.

This phenomenon has been played out in Armageddon-esk proportions with the recent release of the TV adaption of Pratchett and Gaiman’s ‘Good Omens.’ After almost thirty years in print, with an army of devoted fan’s the anticipation and anxiety was at a max, with one question very much on everyone’s twitter feeds – would it work? In fact one of my friends tweeted comments ahead of its release on the small screen saying that one character ‘didn’t look right’.

I have to confess, I didn’t quite have the same reservations about Good Omens, as I only read the novel in January AFTER the character publicity photos had already hit the web, so I wasn’t quite as invested as other fans who’ve loved the book for decades.

However, I know exactly how they felt. As this is what I experienced when I heard that a novelised version of one of my all-time favourite films, Pan’s Labyrinth was in the works. The excitement was there, after all I love fairy tales, I love books and I adore the movie. However there were bucket loads of anxiety too. Some of the worries included…

Concerns that with the film such an exquisite visual feast, and with a picture worth a thousand words then surely the novel would become a monster rivalling War and Peace just to stand a chance of evoking the same imaginary in the readers mind that the movie does with its cinematography.

Worries about whether it would emulate the same excitement reading the story as it did watching it the first time? After all you can only experience the same story once for a first time. Will it retain the same poignant messages or will they be lost in translation?

All in all I was worried. The Pan’s Labyrinth film is the ultimate fairy tale movie, the benchmark that others are compared; it is not a far cry from perfection. So how could the novel ever live up to the movie?

My concerns, however, were totally unfounded, and with Guillermo Del Toro the visionary director behind the original movie and master wordsmith Cornelia Funke author of the Inkheart series at the helm the novel is quite simply; beautiful.

It delivers a true adaptation of the film and yet adds layers that make it an even more intricate tapestry if storytelling. In the novel you get to delve into the minds of the key characters, their innermost thoughts and physiques laid bare, making the line between good and evil blur. As for imaginary, I can honestly say I have never before read a book where I’ve stopped reading so many times just to admire and dwell on a sentence or description. Funke’s penmanship is awe inspiring and economic. With minimum words she evokes intricate images and complex emotions, that really does rival the film.

In addition this book is scattered with beautiful illustrations by Andy Williams, which both capture the story in the novel and replicate the imagery of the film. The spacing of the illustrations throughout the book and the monotone style emulates the style of traditional fairy tale anthologies further endorsing its fairy-tale credentials. 

All in all the Pan’s Labyrinth novel is a beautiful and poignant fairy tale which is exquisitely told and produced. So I urge any fan of film, fairy tale enthusiasts, of lover of fantasy to go read the book.

Friday, 7 June 2019

Accepting Achievements and Celebrating the Small Things.

Lately there have been a lot of discussions about looking after yourself as a writer. From Kate Mallinder's SCBWI-BI’s Words and Pictures series on resilience, to The Golden Egg Academy’s Mental Health Month, (accessible to non-egg’s via twitter) it seems like everyone is talking about how keep yourself well… sane.

I like most writers find aspects of the process difficult. The bundles of ‘No’s’ when on submission is hard. But the thing that really knocks me is the nagging notion that I’m not progressing. I am hard on myself and looking at it objectively I know I’m getting ‘progress’ confused with ‘published.’

With the rest of the Short Pitchers at the Golden Egg Big Honk

Progress can be small and therefore can go easily unnoticed.

In my last crit group meeting, one of my writer friends showed me a scrapbook she is compiling, where she prints off all the feedback she gets, sticks it in and highlights all the positive remarks so she can read it when she need a boost. This got me thinking. I have every submission I’ve ever made logged in a spreadsheet, (I can produce statistics or graphs if I desired) and I have virtual copies of feedback, BUT nothing in hard copy. Nothing easy to access. Nothing that is a log of achievements, successes and progress.

Finishing a new WIP in the first time ins forever!

I remembered that I did once celebrate the small successes and see them as progression. I’d celebrate that long listing. Raise a glass of wine to a request for a full manuscript, maybe even mention it on my blog. I’d even be over the moon at feedback, even rejections as it were an endorsement that I was living the dream – that I was pursuing publication. But somewhere along the way I stopped.

My Treasured prize for winning the SCBWI Conference 10 Word Pitch! 

Maybe I was embarrassed that after almost a decade I’m still not in print. Maybe it was because I was paranoid I’d be perceived as being a bit boasty. But mostly it was because I’d forgotten the importance of accepting the small achievements as progress and cause for celebration

Special Mention in the Slushpile Challenge - Thanks to Rachel Mann for liking Snowballs!

So here are a few little things I have to celebrate for this year… so far…

  • I won the 10 word pitch at the SCBWI conference in November.
  • I was one of the runner-up'ers in the Golden Egg Academy Big Honk Sentence Pitch competition in January.
  • I completed my first new manuscript (in a very long time) this year.
  • I started writing out of my comfort zone, breaking out into Middle Grade.
  • I was one of the twenty short listed authors for the David Higham Open Day.
  • I’m on active submission for the first time in a long long time.
  • I got a special mention for my new book, ‘Snowballs from Hell’ in the SCBWI Words and Pictures April Slushpile Challenge judged my Rachel Mann, Agent at Jo Unwin Literary Agency
  • I’ve entered eight writing competitions already this year
  • I’m writing a new Middle Grade novel.

All little things, but put together it instantly makes me feel more confident about my writing.

So please remember. As a writer don’t forget to accept small achievements as progress and don’t be embarrassed to celebrate the small things, because without the small successes they’ll never be big successes.

Starting a new WIP

Friday, 5 April 2019

Brain Food - Unclaimed Babies, Violent Rabbits and a Dead Monkey!

As a follow up to my last post on inspiration and where it comes from, (if you missed it press here) this week I’m musing on some of the strange facts and bizarre trivia that I’ve discovered recently whilst ‘feeding my brain.’

As I said last week I spend some time every day feeding my brain, digesting non-fiction, or watching documentaries, or asking myself hypothesis and seeing if I can answer them, which often leads to inspiration and with a bit of luck, a lot of work and few tears - a manuscript. So I thought I share a few of my more recent discoveries…

Unclaimed Babies…

When it comes to things that make you smile, you can’t get much better than the sweets/candy Jelly Babies. Cute, colourful, chewy sweetness designed to make you happy. But recently I read an article which explains their history, and says that these sweets began life as a failure, they were supposed to be jelly bears but the ears didn’t work, so they were rebranded as Unclaimed Babies. At the time (late ninetieth century) abandon babies were rife, but calling something you eat after foundling infants is a trifle macabre, fascinating but macabre.

Violent Rabbits…

In my WIP, I have a character BOB, who is a cute big eyed, floppy eared bunny – from Hell. Hell Bunnies in my books are one of very few living creatures that can go between the underworld and earth, and therefore are the equivalent of homing pigeons. But they have a dark side and crave raw meat. Whilst researching I found that Hell Bunnies are indeed a staple of medieval literature, and feature heavily in the illustrations of scripture known as drollery and often depicted hunting humans. It is strange because I found this after I had written BOB, but I am pretty sure, I’d read about these before and that it sowed a seed in my brain and gradually grew and therefore Bob was ready when I needed him.

Dead Monkey…

YES I said a dead monkey. I often have cause to drive through Henley on Thames, and I have often driven past an old oak tree which has an aging grave stone beneath it, although never had time to stop and read it, to find out why a grave would be by the side of a busy stretch of road. Then one day whilst ‘feed my Brain’ I decided to watch a random BBC Archive documentary about architecture for animals, which was quintessentially English and therefore quite bonkers, but truly fascinating. At one point the presenter was stood on a stretch of road I recognised, under an oak tree, and she was telling the tale behind the mysterious grave stone. It is to mark the burial place of Jimmy, a rather naughty marmoset monkey who belonged to one of the residents who wore him as a living fur scarf. Jimmy was well known in the town (or probably infamous, as he regularly bit people) and died in august 1937. This slightly strange piece of local history intrigued me, and Jimmy has therefore ended up as a character in my current WIP. Rest assured he is still naughty.

So, as far as random brain food, these are as good examples of rather eccentric, trivial and strange historical facts that make you look at things in a new light, and sometimes making you wonder; what if?