I’m Nina Milton, and this blog is all about getting out the laptop or the pen and pad to get writing. My blogposts are focused on advice and suggestions and news for writers, but also on a love reading with plenty of reviews, and a look at my pagan life, plus arts and culture.
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I've just read a great new release; a book set in Italy in ther 16th Century, but as full of dark evil as any recent Lee Child. Set on true events, it's a gripping read. It's The Devil's Tune, by Fran Kempton, and I'm lucky enough to have her here this week, guest-blogging on Kitchen Table Writers.
I asked her what she meant, when she describes the writing process as 'dream spinning' – is this how she wrote The Devil's Child? This is what she says…
If you are reading this you are probably a dream spinner, or hope to be. This is my name for a writer struggling with their one thousand words each day – or not. Instead of conjuring up the all- too- familiar vision of a lone, stressed creature slumped over a computer while wearing coffee-stained pyjama bottoms, it envisions a more spiritual creature, possibly clad in a cashmere lounge suit, weaving tales in the manner of Scheherazade at the feet of her Sultan.
Jean's cat often helps her write
Oh, all right, I am getting carried away here, but I have just launched a new book under a pen name and I am quite euphoric about having another set of stories in hand, quite different from anything I have written before. I understand a little of what Dr Jekyll felt when he escaped from Mr Hyde, but in happier circumstances.
There is a useful lesson here for any writer. Creating a different persona even for a day or two in your own writing space can be a liberating tool. You will be surprised at what your imagination throws up. It’s also a useful tool for a creative writing class.
We know that writers get their ideas from everywhere – out of the ether, in dreams, from a place, a scene, a weird thought. It is fitting in this year when we are celebrating the two hundredth anniversary of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein to remember that she read something in a scientific journal about ‘galvanism.’ From this came her idea of galvanising a corpse and bringing it to life. Essentially, we writers or dream spinners, are trying to galvanise our imagination into coherent life so that we can form the words of our stories.
In my case the fascination with the subject of my book, the 16th century composer, Carlo Gesualdo, was sparked by strange music, the Italian Renaissance and grisly murder. A tale that Hollywood might have rejected as over the top appealed to me immediately. Gesualdo’s life has been the subject of two operas, plays, a film by Werner Herzog and even a ballet by the New York City Ballet Company. Fortunately for me, few books have been written about him in English.
There is a particular problem in writing historical fiction about real people. You are spinning a story around someone who actually lived. Is it permissible to take imaginative liberties with this person? When I wrote my first book, a spin off from Pride and Prejudice featuring Lydia Bennet, I was occasionally reproached for taking liberties with Jane Austen’s sacred characters, but I pointed out that they were fictional and therefore fair game for a writer’s imagination.
After writing two spoofs and two travel memoirs I decided that my venture into serious historical fiction warranted a new name. Thus Fran Kempton was born and I feel I should create a life, a back story for this shadowy character. Marjorie Bowen, one of my favourite HF writers wrote more than one hundred books under various names. I can’t match her output but I approve of her imaginative take on her own personality.
Many writers have used pen names for a variety of reasons, not all of them honourable. Dean Koontz, writer of horror stories, used eight or more pseudonyms because his output was so vast that publishers could not cope. Food for thought there, I think.
Mostly, writers use pen names in order to change direction, veer into a new genre, as I have done. JK Rowling famously departed from boy wizards to write detective fiction as Robert Galbraith. Agatha Christie, when wearied of crime and its trappings had fun writing romance as Mary Westmacott, Anne Rice, celebrated creator of memorable vampires had a previous life as a writer of erotic fiction under the name AN Roquelaure.
The launch of Who Needs Mr Darcy
Sometimes a writer is so uncertain of his abilities that he starts out in disguise. Stephen King published his first novel as Richard Bachman. If the he is a her there is a powerful reason for altering the name. If the writer is perceived as male it is a definite advantage. PD James used this formula – the initials give an impression that the writer is a man. Another writer of historical fiction, S J Sansom, admits to using this formula. It is a sad that this should still be the case in 2018. Perhaps I should have called myself Francis Kempton – or even Frank!
I moved to Bristol from London many moons ago having lived in the USA and Latin America at various times. I studied at Exeter University and did a Master’s Degree at Cardiff,University of Wales.
I write historical fiction ranging from the Regency period to the Italian Renaissance. I have also written two books of travel memoirs, including:
The Devil’s Tune by Fran Kempton (Jean Burnett)l 2018 (Chetwynd Books).
Who Needs Mr Darcy? (Little Brown). Published as The Bad Miss Bennet in USA (Pegasus)
The Bad Miss Bennet Abroad (pub. By Canelo)
Vagabond Shoes –a travel memoir-(Chetwynd Books)
A Victorian Lady in the Himalayas (Brown Dog Books)