Richard and Judy's Blog
New books to come and Dancing on Ice...
Tuesday 22 March 2011
Good grief, what a week. I will never hear Katy Perry’s ‘Firework’ again without seeing in my mind’s eye Chloe and Michael taking their first tumble yet on the ice. Straight for the skate-off for them. As Sam discovered the week before, the judges have a low tolerance for mishaps. He dropped his hat during props week in an otherwise fab performance. Skate-off for him too.
But it all adds to the drama. In fact, I told Chloe after her and Michael’s brilliant skate-off performance punched them into this Sunday’s final, (my little girl – in the final!!!) if I was scripting DOI as a drama I’d have written in that accident. Added hugely to the watchability of the show and was a reminder of how unbelievably difficult what they are all doing out there is. Robin Cousins told me that the levels of skill on display now are higher than in any of the previous series. Judy and I might just burst with pride yet. Anyway, good luck to Sam, Laura, and Chloe on Sunday – may the best skater on the night win.
Meanwhile, as This Perfect World takes up pole position in WHSmith ('a must' if you have ever been bullied or descended to a spot of bullying yourself) Judy and I have, after weeks of relentless reading, selected the Summer Reads; our next list of eight titles. It gets harder and harder to winnow out the winners from the long list WHSmith send to us.
People are always asking what our criteria are. It’s a mix of the subjective and the objective. First and foremost, we are looking for nothing more or less than a damn good read. Simple as that. And we both firmly believe that all the books we choose must start strongly. My heart sinks when someone says: ‘Oh, you must read such-and-such. Don’t be put off by the first four or five chapters, it get’s really good from about the middle onwards.’
Nope. Won’t do. Of course, you have to give any book a start, let it establish itself and its characters, pick up the cadences and rhythms of the writer, but there’s no excuse for long, sluggish openings that drag on and on before something finally flickers into life. I always feel that if someone can write a rattling second half to a novel, why not a rattling first half too? Maybe it’s the journalist in me, but the most important part of any story you are telling is the opening. If your headline and intro doesn’t grab them, why should they read on?
We also look for a nicely balanced, diverse list. No good picking eight whodunnits, however good they are. And obviously, the writing has to be good. Deft editing is crucial too. There was a book submitted once – I won’t name it – which had a strong plot, good characters, and very nice dialogue, but on every page was a crashing cliché or overabundant use of adverbs (people only have to ‘shout’ – in this case they invariably shouted ‘loudly’ (is there any other way? Do you know anyone who shouts quietly?) or ‘angrily’ (what they were shouting made it perfectly clear how angry they were) ......you get my drift. A good editor would have filleted all that irritating stuff out and I can’t understand why they didn’t.
Anyway, to come back to the Summer Reads. They’re good – very good. WHSmith and we will announce the titles in a few weeks. You seem to be thoroughly enjoying the current Spring selection – Room is doing particularly well, but they are all very strong sellers and word of mouth from the High Street is overwhelmingly positive. Judy and I really try very hard to recommend the kinds of books we genuinely think will bring as much pleasure to as many people as possible. We’re incredibly proud of our authors, especially the first-time writers, and know how much pleasure they in their turn get from seeing their ‘babies’ fly up the best seller charts.
We put the finishing touches to the list this morning down here in Cornwall, (where it feels like a May day today – blue sky and shining sea, birds singing almost dementedly in the strong sunlight) the next step is to write our short and then long reviews for the website (richardandjudybookclub), WHSmith’s website, and Woman’s Own. Then in a few weeks we’ll interview all the authors on camera for the internet outlets. I love that part – they are always so interesting about their individual writing habits, and how their plots are formed, sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously. (I’m writing my first novel at the moment – done three chapters – and I find that the dialogue and twists and turns occur to me quite spontaneously. It’s very weird, almost like having a waking dream over which you have little or no control. Except that, unlike a dream, logic plays its due part).
And the other big writing job of the week? That’s where we came in. Chloe’s banner. It’s got to be a good one; this is the final, after all. But I may follow the advice someone sent me via Twitter. Cut the cute stuff (‘Let’s Go Chloe: Allons-y Michael !’ may, I freely cocede, have been a bit fruity last Sunday. Why not, my Twitter friend suggested, just write a giant ‘CHLOE!’ and have done with it?
Why not indeed? We don’t want any adverbs creeping in, do we?
Cheers everyone – and vote Chloe!!!!!!!!!