Valerie Penny: Guest Blog
I am delighted to be with my friend Nina Romano on her blog today. We share a love of reading and writing: this is a powerful link. I believe that to be a good writer you must first develop a love of reading and stories and telling stories. I remember when my younger sister and I were little girls our Mum used to make time to sit and read us stories on a Sunday afternoon. These were not like bed-time stories, on a Sunday we would get to sit in the ‘good’ living room and she would read us books including Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, King Solomon’s Mines by H. Rider Haggard, Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome and Emma by Jane Austin. Our mother instilled in us a love of literature and a great respect for books and authors.
We loved listening to the stories but after we were in bed, my sister often could not get to sleep right away, so I would make up my own stories to tell her until she fell asleep. The first book I ever wrote was one of these stories, an adventure entitled The Douglas Family. I was about nine years-old. I always planned to write a sequel, maybe one day I will.
It is often said that when we are teenagers we rebel and when we grow older we become ourselves again. It was certainly true of me! I have always read voraciously but my writing, for many years was confined to studies, work and journals. However, when I was older, I discovered blogging when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. My way of coping during my treatment was to revert to the type-written word.
I read all I could about the disease and began to blog my journey at: www.survivingbreastcancernow.com. However, I have also always enjoyed good food and loved to travel. It is said in my family that I’d go to the opening of a paper bag! So I decided to start another blog to encompass these interests. Whenever I go anywhere, or go out to eat, I share the experience here at: wwwhotelandrestaurantreviews.com, and although to date it has not resulted in free meals, I live in hope!
It was also during the time that I was recovering from cancer that I began my book review site. For almost a year I was too ill, first from the disease and then from the cure, to do very much. However, I could read: and I did, even more than I ever had. It seemed sensible to extend my blogging to include reviews of the books I was reading, so my third blog, www.bookreviewstoday.info was born. I began to get asked by writers to review their books and I am always happy to do that. I do not make a charge, but I receive many excellent novels and biographies in return for my honest reviews.
I always enjoy reading books by writers that are new to me, as well as those with whose work I am familiar. I just like to read. I have always found that reading can take you to all kinds of places to meet different people. Perhaps it is my love of travel, this time through the medium of the written word. This was a great way for me to escape, especially from myself, when I was ill.
I particularly enjoy sharing my views on books I have read, I read a great many book reviews, too. When I am reading a book review, I’m looking for an honest opinion about the book. I also like to learn a bit about the author, their background and how they came to write the novel. It is also important that any review, like any other piece of writing holds my interest but please, please don’t spoil my enjoyment of the story by telling me what happens! That really upsets me.
My own debut crime novel, ‘Hunter’s Chase’ is to be published by Crooked Cats Books in February next year, so I will have to get used to being on the other side of reviews. My goodness, hat is a daunting thought. In ‘Hunter’s Chase’ my story is set in Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland. Setting is very important to me in my writing, even when I wrote ‘The Douglas Family’ for my sister all those years ago, I could visualize the house the family lived in, each room and the garden in which they had so many of their adventures.
I did consider creating an imaginary town for my protagonist, DI Hunter Wilson. However, I know the city of Edinburgh well as I lived there for many years and it has everything a writer could need. It is a diverse city with all different kinds of buildings and people. It is small enough that characters can move around it quickly and large enough for it to be credible that anything I want to happen there, could happen.
Edinburgh is a gorgeous European city with a castle, a palace and a cathedral, wealthy homes, horrible slums, fine restaurants, fast food outlets and idiosyncratic pubs. It is home to an Olympic size pool, the National Rugby Team and two famous football teams. It also hosts the Edinburgh International Festivals every August. Edinburgh plays such an important role in my novel that it almost becomes a character in the story. What more could my characters want than to have this metropolitan city as the setting of my novel, Hunter’s Chase?