Of Art and Artists…

Gentileschi, Artemisia; Self Portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria; The National Gallery, London; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/self-portrait-as-saint-catherine-of-alexandria-243732

Last week I completed the final edits on my new novel, Of Light and Love, which tells the story of a famous artist, Caro, who loses her muse when her wife dies and she can no longer paint. She has to resort to letting out a room to a younger woman, Laura, who is studying animation. It is a sapphic age gap romance, and also gave me an excuse to explore the nature of art. Naturally it required a lot of (extra) research, which was interesting, although most never reaches the page.

I thought it would be fun to include some of the paintings referred to in the book. The main picture is by Artemisia Gentileschi, who is Caro’s hero (and mine). She was an amazingly resilient woman, and despite a traumatic life she painted until old age with passion and sensitivity. Caro and Laura travel to the National Gallery in London and rave over the painting above.

Three other paintings mentioned in the book are Escher’s staircases as depicted in Relativity, which distorts perspectives and gravity; what should be coming up is going down etc. This is how Caro feels some of the time, following the death of her wife. The next painting also features a staircase, and is Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase. This was one of the first representations of movement in a painting. Caro decides she’d like to paint Laura as she dances around the kitchen when she’s cooking. The final painting shown above is one of a series of paintings by David Hockney, done during lockdown on an iPad. Laura and Caro have a “discussion” about whether you can really paint using digital media. Caro is not impressed.

Anyway, fingers crossed Of Light and Love will be out in September. In the meantime if you would like a free story, do sign up for my quarterly newsletter. Follow this link http://eepurl.com/h2Bien and receive a free copy of When Hannah met Suki. Hannah and Suki are two main characters from my debut novel Warm Pearls and Paper Cranes.

Cover for When Hannah met Suki

The Unintended Consequences of Research

Dad with his previous lockdown project, SS Corona


One of the wonderful things about writing is that you can unravel quirky facts, or read around a subject and call it research.

I’ve been researching World War Two for my current WIP and have asked questions of both my Dad (who’s 91) and my ex-father-in-law (who’s 92). Both have provided me with fascinating details of the time, most of which will never hit the final page. The irony is neither will ever end up reading my books. My dad does not like or approve of my lifestyle and when I first came out to him over twenty years ago cut me out of his life and his will. It’s been a long slog back to normalcy, with the help of advocacy of both my late stepmother and my brother, and now we have a good relationship, although there are number of taboo subjects that we avoid.

In my research on the land army, I decided to conflate an incident I read about and a memory from my Dad that he has related on a number of occasions. I asked him to write out everything he could remember about it, which he did and I asked some follow up questions, part of which will make it into the manuscript.

When we spoke about the incident, Dad said how much he had enjoyed thinking back over it and recalling the details (he has an excellent memory) that we decided to do an experiment.

We speak every night. Before the pandemic he was off doing things, but like everybody else in the lockdowns, his interests and activities have been severely curtailed. He found the first lockdown a lot easier to deal with, maybe because it was as we were about to hit spring, it was a novelty and because it was warmer, he could potter in his garage and created a model ship from scrap wood he had lying around. Inevitably, we called it the SS Corona.

This time though, he has found it a lot harder, both physically and mentally, as a number of his acquaintances have caught Covid 19, it was cold and wet and he has missed meeting up with people. He seemed to be slipping into despondency and started to repeat what he had said, not because he didn’t know it was a repetition, but because he wanted to keep me on the phone and have a connection. I put my hand up that I am not the world’s most patient person (as my daughter will testify), and even with poetry readings twice a week with him, there are only so many times I can hear what he’s eaten during the day and be polite and enthusiastic.

So, given how much he enjoyed thinking about and relating his war story I have started to ask him about facets of his life, from his childhood, during the war, in the RAF etc. He thinks about it during the day and writes notes, then relates the stories in the evenings. As he now has something to think about and something different to talk about, he has been more cheerful and I’ve listened with genuine interest. In short, our connection has been strengthened, and all because I asked him about his experiences in the name of research. Who knew asking simple questions could lead to a deeper bond and understanding? Irrespective, I’m grateful.

Are there places research has taken you that you didn’t expect?