Musings of a Blackie

Not a Romance Reader

I’ve never really been one for the romance genre. It’s not to say I don’t like romance novels, it’s more that I’d never really found one that filled me with an urge to read more. Granted, until last year I had only ever read four romance novels, three of them being the Fifty Shades series, the other was a novel by Rachel Gibson, a book so bland I can remember neither the title nor the story. It wasn’t until I read Winterflood’s Passion, the first novel by Diana Thompson, that I actually found a romance novel that I enjoyed. When I read the novel for the first time, what struck me the most was Diana’s ability to create such vivid imagery. Winterflood’s Passion is set in the Southern Highlands, a veritable cornucopia of scenery porn. Diana harnesses the natural Australian beauty of the Highlands and uses her beautifully emotive and rich descriptions to pull the reader deep into her story.  Those of you who have read Fifty Shades of Grey will attest that artful descriptions of scenery were the farthest thing from E.L James’ mind when she wrote the series. It’s safe to say that Diana’s well-rounded approach to romance novel writing was a welcome surprise when I began reading.  I think, like most of us who are unfamiliar with the romance genre, I had constructed an idea of what the novel would be in my head before I even picked up the book. I naively believed that all Romance had to follow that cringe-worthy mould of awkward sexual encounters and the over-use of the term ‘throbbing member’, but Diana’s novel surpassed all expectation.

For me, one of the most interesting aspects of this novel was the development of the protagonist, Charlotte Ranleigh. Charlotte is a young widow who is living in self-imposed exile in her marital estate in the Southern Highlands. Life for Charlotte has fallen into a rut after the unexpected death of her husband, Michael, one year earlier. After Michael’s death, Charlotte is overcome with guilt over their last parting. She closes herself off from everything around her, giving up her dreams of owning an art-school, punishing herself for something which was out of her control. It’s not until Charlotte is introduced to the playboy, art-dealer Daniel Winterflood, that her life begins to blossom again. When Daniel enters the picture Charlotte is given the motivation to start living again. She begins painting once more, and slowly starts to return to her former self. To me, this book was as much about Charlotte’s personal development as it was about the love story between her and Daniel. Diana created an amazingly real and relatable character through her development of Charlotte. It’s almost impossible to not love Charlotte, and through the book I found myself sharing her joy as she began to rebuild her life.

I have never thought of myself as a romance reader, but after reading Winterflood’s Passion (and having a sneaky read of Diana’s next novel, a book which follows the story of the dreamy vet Nick Delaney) my mind has been changed. I can truly say that a love story has never interested me quite like this one, and I think that has to be attributed to the copious amount of thought and time that went into Diana’s first novel. Each character is so sincere and realistic, and you can really see the love and effort that Diana has put in to developing such intriguing and individual characters.

Winterflood’s Passion is a truly unique and beautiful novel that offered me a new perspective of the Romance genre.

 

You can buy your copy of Winterflood's Passion here!

 

This blog was originally posted on annablackie.com on the 10th of August, 2015.

Ideas

As an amateur writer, I am constantly coming up with new ideas for stories or blogs. The note section on my phone is filled with obscure one-liners and vague ideas waiting to be utilized. I’ve gotten into the habit of carrying a small notebook with me wherever I go, and dashing down whatever ideas pop into my head. Generally, they’re fairly obscure ideas that need to be heartily developed before they even come close to making sense. But sometimes, they’re massive ideas that have so much potential I can’t even believe they’ve come out of my brain. I think one of the hardest things about being a writer is accepting the fact that sometime an idea is simply lacking. It doesn’t matter how much work you may put into it, you can pour your heart and soul into a story, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to be any good. It’s all about the idea. The idea is the structure that has to carry your words on its back. It’s like a house, without a solid foundation it will crumble, and who can blame it?

While writing a ten-page script for my screenwriting class this semester, I discovered the importance of a strong idea. We were asked to develop the idea for our screenplays in the first few weeks of the semester, and I struggled, finding every idea I developed to be too long-winded or convoluted to fit within the word-length provided. So, I followed the simple path, choosing a more simplistic idea in the hope that I could make it both spectacular, and fit it within the guidelines (the joke was on me when it ended up being  five pages over the limit, leading me to spend a frantic three days attempting to cut it down). My story was focused on one key character, Henry. It was basically a four-day story about the terrible life of Henry, a man haunted by the criticism and hatred of his mother, struggling to make his way through his menial life. It’s not until he has a major breakdown on the train to work that he snaps and begins to be present in his own life, no longer letting bad memories of the past stop him from living.

As I said, my idea was simple. This simplicity was reflected in my feedback, where my teacher questioning the motivation for Henry’s sudden change of attitude. At first, I was insulted, I’d put almost a month’s worth of work into this ten-page fiend and my teacher is now telling me he doesn’t get it, seriously? But then I thought about it, and yeah, I put a lot of work into the assignment, and the writing was good, really good actually (not to toot my own horn, but after a month of work it had better be good, right?) but it wasn’t the writing that my teacher was commenting on, it was the idea. Henry’s story seemed unrealistic because it was. The idea itself was flawed and there was no way to fix that besides changing the entire concept.

I think there’s a kind of clarity in realising the importance of an idea. We all know that you can’t please everyone. Some people may love your work and other may hate it, but usually that can be chalked up to the fact that this world is made up of billions of people all of which have very varied opinions and preferences. For me, accepting the importance of the idea has taught me to doubt myself less. Previously, when getting bad reviews or feedback, I used to doubt my writing, spinning myself into a self-deprecating hole and telling myself that the only way to improve was to focus on the words themselves. But this isn’t necessarily true. It’s clear to me now that sometimes it doesn’t matter how brilliant the writing is if the idea is complete and utter trash.

 

Originally posted on annablackie.com 

To Kill a Mockingbird

“Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.” To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, is undoubtedly the best book I’ve ever read, and my favourite novel. In the weeks before returning to Macquarie University for the last year of my English degree, I pulled the book off the shelf and started to read it again. I think I’ve read this book at least once, every year since I was assigned it in school in 2008. Every time I read it, I find something different, something I may not have understood when I was younger, an issue I have more perspective on now, or something I just plain missed. Therein lies one of the greatest joys of re-reading this novel, its ability to consistently interest an excite me.

There’s a home-like feeling that I associate with To Kill a Mockingbird, not only through the story and its morals, but through the experiences that I associate with the book. When I opened my worn copy to begin reading it for the eighth time, I had a vivid recollection of the first time I read it seven years ago. I remember the way I devoured the novel, and then reread it once I was finish, unable to believe I had enjoyed it as much as I did. When I got to page 182, I noticed the small tea stain in the left hand corner of the page. It was from my first long-term trip abroad to Argentina for three months. I’d started reading Mockingbird again to stave off some homesickness. I was reading too quickly and knocked over my tea as I turned the page, spilling it all over Scouts description of Judge Taylor and his unusual smoking habits.

Last Sunday, while living the life of leisure next to my parent’s pool, I splashed some water on my bookmark, a clothing tag made of organic paper with a bright orange, natural dye string. This string leaked everywhere, leaving a new, very bright orange mark on my book. Another memory made; another stain to remember it by.

I think this is a feeling everyone shares, in their own way. That feeling of connection, a pull that draws you to a particular thing, be it a movie, a song, book or artwork. These things that make you feel something nothing else can. Almost as if this piece of art, crafted by other human, shares a little connection with your soul. It sounds silly, now that I see it in writing, but it’s a feeling I’ve had many times before; when you fall into something so easily, and wonder how it’s possible for someone else’s words to resonate so strongly within you.

To Kill a Mockingbird gives me this indescribable feeling, like talking to an old friend after a long time apart and just falling into place instantly. This novel evokes something special inside me, a connection that could only be shared with an inanimate creation. So, my recommendation to you, readers, is this: find your book, search for this connection. Read until your eyes are straining and sore. Read everything until you find your To Kill a Mockingbird. Because, to me, having this book sitting on my shelf, able to be read whenever I need it, is one of the most comforting things in the world.

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