About the author

Conrad Williams is the author of the novels Head Injuries, London Revenant, The Unblemished, One, Decay Inevitable and Blonde on a Stick; the novellas Nearly People, Game, The Scalding Rooms and Rain and a collection of short fiction, Use Once then Destroy. He lives in Manchester, UK.

All content on this site is © Conrad Williams.

Sunday 15 August 2010

A New Voice

1616 words.

Paul's been hogging the show since day one. He's in every single scene and every single scene is being written from his point of view. Well, not any more. There's a new character, with a new voice, and she's going to be making the odd appearance throughout the story. There's always a little wobble when such a decision is made. It might disrupt the feel of the novel (Blonde on a Stick was rejected by one major publisher who didn't like the sudden injection of a new voice half way through the novel). But I think such risks can pay off, if you get the voice right, and if the story isn't affected in any deleterious way. And this needs to happen, for plot reasons and pay-off reasons.

I remember the shock I had reading The Insult by the superb novelist Rupert Thomson. The first 250 pages are narrated by Martin Blom, who, after being shot in the head, is told he will be blind for life. It's an amazing narrative, very compelling. Towards the end of part one, his sight returns, but with a twist: he can only see at night. The second part starts with a different narrator. A different story, too, albeit one that overlaps with Martin's... a serious WTF moment. It works, but there's a slight tinge of disappointment that a character you've grown with, whose voice you've trusted and been entertained by, has suddenly departed, never to return.

With Blonde, I knew there was going to be a similar wrench. I warn against such moments when I run writers' classes. You get jolted out of the story, out of that zone; you become aware that you a reading a story constructed by a writer. It can be damaging. There's the danger of losing your audience. But sometimes you have to run with your instincts. There was no way I could write the stories of Joel Sorrell and the Four-Year-Old as parallel narratives: that would have been even more of a distraction because the Four-Year-Old's story is presented as a series of flashbacks and current events. So I had to separate the two halves of Joel's narrative with an interlude devoted entirely to the Four-Year-Old's rise. I liked it. My agent liked it. Maxim Jakubwoski (bless him) at John Blake liked it, but some editors didn't.

You have to write for yourself first, don't you?

Listened to: Symphony no. 3, by Henryk Górecki

Friday 13 August 2010

Friday the 13th

1565 words.

Today I bypassed the 60,000 word mark. Not an unlucky day for me. So far...

I first saw Friday the 13th in a mental institute when I was about 12 years old. I wasn't a patient...

My best friend, Naeem, lived in a house nearby; his father was a doctor who worked at Winwick Hospital, a Victorian mental asylum (the largest in Europe), in the days before Care in the Community. I used to visit him a lot during the summer. We would play cricket on the cricket pitches, or tennis on adjoining courts, or go fishing in one of the gravel pits on the hospital outskirts, or climb through the window of the lodge house to play snooker on a full-size table.

Once a week we would sit in the main hall and watch a film projected on to a white screen. With about fifty heavily-sedated patients. I watched a fair few horror movies and tense thrillers on that screen, and in that company. I remember watching Still of the Night there, and Jaws and Friday the 13th. And then the lights would come up and it would be like being on the set of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

Happy times, good memories... believe it or not.

Winwick Hospital Tower was a landmark that I would search for whenever I was coming home. It was a beautiful structure, but it, like the hospital, was doomed once community care was introduced. The entire complex was razed in the late 1990s. Housing replaced it.

My affection for Winwick Hospital meant that I was bound to write about it at some point, and I did, twice, in Decay Inevitable and Blonde on a Stick (its name changed to Slow Heath and Summerhead, respectively).

Listened to: The Ghost & Mrs Muir OST, by Bernard Herrmann... beautiful.

Wednesday 11 August 2010

Nitty gritty

1087 words.

Not a dedicated writing day, but I managed to hit 800 words in an hour this morning before taking over munchkin duties. I might have written more, but I was in a gnarly, knotty section that was research heavy. What colour are Qantas cabin crew uniforms at the moment? How much runway does a fully laden 747-400 need in order to take off? And while we're at it, what speed does the beast need to be pumping at in order to leave the ground? How big is the wing? Etc... Stuff that, probably, your average punter couldn't give a flying felch about, but it kind of matters to me.

Is there such a thing as the researchless novel?

Listened to: The Esbjörn Svensson Trio.

Monday 9 August 2010

Controlled Flight into Terrain

1109 words.

It came a little easier today... possibly because I was writing about my fear of flying, or rather, my fear of the pilots losing all control of an aircraft at 36,000 feet and going into an irretrievable spin...

Listening to: Possibly the worst free CD given away by a newspaper in the history of the world. Ever. Free and Single, volume 2, courtesy of The Independent. Starring Mel C, Nick Heyward and tons of other shite.

Saturday 7 August 2010

Third trimester

733 words.

Another slog. Which is odd, because I know where this chapter has to go. Maybe I've got end-of-novel nerves. Everything is set up for the climax, and now it's a matter of getting Paul to where he needs to be. Maybe I'm looking ahead too much and should try to get back to the present. It's difficult, though, when you know you've turned the final bend and it's all about closure from here on in.

This book deals partly with pregnancy, and I've just realised that I've written it (or rather, it will have been written) in three chunks, much like the twelve-week periods that govern the major changes in physiology concerning both mother and baby. I kind of like the poetry of that (although I'd much rather have got the thing done in one big, er, push). My notes tell me that I wrote the first 20,000 words at the beginning of the year before hitting a wall. I managed to get going again in March, eventually, thanks to Graham Joyce's idea of blogging about each day's work. And now my navel has popped and the foetal head is descending into my pelvic cavity, as it were.

At least delivery, although probably just as messy, won't be anywhere near as painful...

Listening to: Eyes Wide Shut OST, (Various artists)

Thursday 5 August 2010

Pulling teeth

1037 words.

See you on 01.08.10… hmmm. I’m only four days late. An overdue short story and arrangements for a book signing got in the way. Honest. But this first chunk of the last third of the novel… it was very hard to get that thousand words written today. I've been easily distracted of late (although still managing to get a chunk of words down here and there) so I needed something to help me focus. I decided to try out a little anxiety-eliminating method called the Pomodoro Technique.

Basically you choose a task you need to get done, like, oh I don't know, WRITING A NOVEL, set a timer for 25 minutes and get on with it. You're rewarded at the end with a five-minute break before the next 'Pomodoro' begins. After four of these 25-minute chunks, you get to enjoy a longer break. And that's it. It's pretty simple (well, I say 'simple' but there's a book and various social networking sites and probably a help group too), and strangely effective. I do intend to jettison my little clicking timer once I'm comfortably back inside Paul Roan's world. I'm ruled too much by the clock as it is.

Listened to: Inception OST, by Hans Zimmer
Reading: Apartment 16 by Adam Nevill