I’ve been making a big effort to sort and tidy things, to get rid of what’s not needed, or what I’m hanging on to for purely sentimental and not practical reasons – I don’t mean items of personal value, I mean things such as an old pair of socks I really loved but now have holes in, a pen which no longer works but I bought from a particular place, an unused postcard from decades ago… I’m having a big clearance!
I came across ‘A Strong Hand from Above’ which I must have written over twenty years ago, and was my second proper novel – well, actually third but the first one is really not worth mentioning, and I’m not sure i even have a copy of it. When I wrote it, computers were feeble things compared to what we have now, and my story was saved on floppy discs (remember them?) I had a friend retype it onto them from some other script I had – who knows where that might be now, all I have is a paper copy I printed. I had forgotten all about it, and was amused and interested to find it today.
Honestly, it’s like the sort of book which might be bought at an airport and taken on holiday, it’s a pure romance! I didn’t think so when I wrote it, I thought it was an adventure, a mystery, a strong independent woman who has unexpected misfortune fall upon her, and a man (yes, from the first time he appears he is obviously the hero!) who she really doesn’t like (you get the picture) and who apparently hates her (yes you really do get the picture) gradually and unexpectedly (no, really????) becomes the hero who she saves (yes, she’s a strong independent woman) and obviously she doesn’t run away to New Zealand, she falls into his arms… and you can anticipate the rest.
I was laughing as I skimmed through it, but I began to see patterns of writing and ways of expressing myself which still feature in my novels today, although I hope I have progressed somewhat in characters, plot and more than anything in the actual substance of my writing. I did wonder about whether it was retrievable, but no, I really don’t think it is! Once I got over the amusement and not a little embarrassment, I saw that although the characters were believable, and although the plot did in a way hang together, it was just so predictable, the characters stereotypical, the writing was well and truly on the wall from the first few pages, that although it might be plundered for a few ideas, really, it was just a sweet and predictable romance I didn’t want to put my name to!
There is a particular scene, which when you read it, the title of the novel gives every single aspect of it all away!