Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Do you know you have paint in your hair?

It’s been a holiday weekend here in the UK and I’ve spent the time redecorating my kitchen and dining room, which is why I have paint in my hair and was using the washing machine as a breakfast table this morning. I’m childishly proud of the fact that I painted two ceilings – not well, but what the heck – it’s not the Sistine Chapel.

The house I’m living in now is over 100 years old. It was semi derelict when I bought it, but only five minutes away from the ocean – who could resist? While I had all the major work done by professionals, it has more of my blood, sweat and tears in it than any other place I’ve ever lived. Every wall in the house has been painted by me, and I’ve also tiled, gardened and put furniture together.

Poised at the top of a ladder, wondering what I was going to blog about, as well as musing on what we put into the places where we live, made me think about houses in books, and how often they have a pivotal role.

For Jane Austen property was a really big thing, the measure of a man’s worth and his value as husband material, as well as being the setting for the book, so much so that Mansfield Park and Northanger Abbey are actually the book’s titles.

I would guess the most famous literary house is probably Manderly. Most people can quote the first line of that book, even if they have never read Rebecca.

I’ve just completed a manuscript for the UK Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writer’s scheme – unpublished writers have to submit a typescript every year, which gets you a crique from a published writer who is an expert in their field. As Mai pointed out the other day, having something you need to work towards focuses the mind and makes you produce your book a year, even for the unpublished. That book, Never Coming Home is a new departure for me – it’s turned out very dark, straying into Lisa Gardner and PJ Tracy territory, so I am wondering what my reviewer will make of it. The first thing that Devlin, the hero, sees about Kaz, my heroine, is her house, a place that I invented in Chelsea, in London, and he uses it as a yardstick to assess what sort of a person she is.

We’ve had so many wonderful historical novelists blog with us recently that it has inspired me to do something totally frivolous (and I hope fast) for a complete change of pace. I’m researching for a gothic style romance set in late Victorian times. It’s set then, so that I have the chance to create a house in the style of Augustus Pugin, who worked on the Houses of Parliament and William Burges, who was responsible for much of the interior of Cardiff Castle, which is gothic fantasy of a high order. The Pre- Raphaelite painters will probably get in there somewhere too. I hope I manage to get away from the research long enough to write the actually book.

I’d be interested in hearing about other people’s favorite fictional houses or places they have set, or would like to set, a book. Have you got a dream house just dying to get built? Doing it on paper is really cheap, and you don’t even get paint in your hair.


Anitra Lynn McLeod said...

All I could think about while reading your blog is I have to repaint my kitchen. And I really don't want to. It's an old house with a million weird angles. Sigh. But I know it will look better when I'm done. :)

I have always wanted to visit Larry Niven's Ringworld. Imagine living on a huge ring with the sun in the center . . .

Mel Hiers said...

I love P.J. Tracy! They're a mother/daughter team aren't they?

You know, my fictional houses pretty much reflect the overall setting. Most of my characters live in rural places and have modest homes. One of these days I'm going to go hog wild and build a crazy big one for my imaginary people! :-)

Savanna Kougar said...

Evonne, you always come up with the best topics. Homes, houses, dwellings are often central to a story, especially a saga.

Gothic must really be out in the ethers. In Black Cat Beauty the hero owns a recreated gothic mansion in the Hollywood Hills, but where better for a spooky celeb Halloween party?

I've done estate mansions to modest cabins, to no home at all -- oh yeah, and living on a starship.

Let us know how your critique goes.

Evonne Wareham said...

Repainting the kitchen has been on my to do list for two years. It really does feel good, once you've bitten the bullet.

PJ Tracy are mother and daughter, an interesting partnership. They re-named the first book over here - it was Do you want to play? In the States it was Monkeywrench. It always intrigues me how these choices are made.

I'll let you know about the crit. At the moment Louise Allen, who blogged with us a few weeks ago and who is the scheme organiser this year, is getting manuscripts arriving by the barrow load from the post office. The deadline is Friday!!

Savanna Kougar said...

Evonne, I forgot to mention my heroine's name in Risk-Fierce Ravishing Pilot is Kazmaryk, Kaz for short sometimes.

It might be kinda silly cool if someone designed a program to search out heroine and hero names to find out how many times a certain name has been used.

Lexie O'Neill said...

I love and dream about houses. In Backwoods Invader, the main setting is the old country farm house where said invader gets guns pulled on him. In his own world, his "house" is a castle meant to imitate a sharp, tall cliff with waterfalls inside.
Hmmm...we painted the kitchen last year:) Got my curtains in the back of the house--we'd been living without for the entire five years we've lived here!
Next year, my bedroom!
Enjoy the fresh paint smell:)

Savanna Kougar said...

Lexie, cool about the farm home in contrast with the hero's cliff-looking castle. I've always wanted a house with a waterfall. I used to make innovative designs, which would have worked if I'd had the funds to build.

Anitra Lynn McLeod said...

Ooooo, so off topic but I always wanted a house with a stream that ran through it. I've seen houses with swimming pools but I mean an actual creek that runs through the living room or something. I dream about a house like that a lot. :)

Savanna Kougar said...

Anitra, I think that would be cool too...a waterfall with a bathing pond, and a stream.

When I was kid it used to upset me when we'd throw the christmas tree out. So I figured why not have one growing beneath a skylight type of roof, and this was before I knew about skylights. I know I drew out the plans several times as I was growing up.

Tim said...

Good Job! :)