Tag Archives: novel

A green eggs and ham experience. Coincidence?

You remember green eggs and ham?  My kids loved Dr Seuss stories. So did I. Here’s a kids’ video clip to remind you.


Sam pestered so much for his friend to try green eggs and ham that in the end . . . what do you know? The lesson is this: you have to try things before you can say you don’t like them.

Green eggsand ham

sometimes you have to try things

My own green eggs and ham experience

I’m coming to it. What has this to do with writing fiction? And green eggs and ham? Yes. really, I’m coming to it.

Recently I met two new people.  When I learned what they used to do my jaw dropped. One was a consultant medical neuro-pathologist. One used to be a truck driver.

This is how the conversation went with the retired consultant.

She: There’s a lot of current research into mild brain injuries. Even one trauma can have repercussions.

Me: Really? What kind of repercussions?

She: A whole host of pain-related conditions.

Me: How about transient global amnesia?

She: You know about that?

Me: Yes. I had a bizarre episode last August when I forgot everything.

She: What had happened to you before?

Me: I was knocked down by a car and banged my head on the ground. I broke bones, too. Now I’ve got CRPS. They call it algodystrophy here.

Trust me. We’re getting to the green eggs and ham bit.

This fabulous woman explained to me what had been happening in my brain. Eight months later, at a time of stress, my brain said Enough. It shut me down. Made me sleep. Afterwards, I forgot the forgetting.

Her explanation in simple terms put me in a different place. I felt relieved. There was a reason this amnesia had happened to me. What a superb coincidence I met her.

I had a lovely conversation with the truck driver, too who I met while he was walking his dogs. He has loads of tales to tell. Adventures. Characters. Places. Unusual goods. I’m plotting Book Two of Trobairitz – my female truck driver. I’d been hoping to take myself up to the truck stop nearby on the motorway and eavesdrop snatches of conversation, even ask questions outright. But I have problems driving since my injuries. Now I have a trucker right on my own doorstep. What another superb coincidence.

How come these two people suddenly arrived in my life?


Here we go. This is it. The green eggs and ham moment.

In fiction I cannot abide coincidence. It riles me no end. So much so, I was inspired to write my own little ditty. Apologies to Dr Seuss.


In future, past or present tense

We do not like coincidence.

We do not like it, Cee or Mick.

We think it is an author’s trick.


They do it when they’re in a spot.

They do it to support a plot.

They usually do it in the middle.

It is deceit. It is a fiddle.


The hero hides behind a door.

Hears facts he never knew before.

Clues she left upon the bed. Duh!

Something missing in the shed. Duh!


Coincidence along the street.

Convenient strangers characters meet.

Authors must know it is a ‘fou’.

But do not know what else to do.


It walks and quacks just like a duck.

We do not want it in a book.

We do not want it in our fiction.

It is a cop-out, causing friction.


It is not good. It is not clever.

We’d ban coincidence forever.

And yet, and yet, we do declare

Coincidence is everywhere.


We do not like it when we’re reading.

But it fills the life we’re leading.

No easy-outs in fiction stuff.

In Life, we like it well enough.


Plots and story lines that rely too much on coincidence annoy me. But the truth is, coincidence does happen in real life. Maybe it’s time for me to try it in my fiction. It’s my own, personal green eggs and ham.

But I think I’ll try it in a short story first.

What do you think about the use of coincidence in fiction?





For the love of writing. Plans for 2015

thinking about writing

getting your thoughts focused

I have to get my love of writing head back on my shoulders. Christmas and new year celebrations are finished. The decorations come down this weekend. The house will look bare and I know I’ll have an urge to go round cleaning everything. The fridge needs sorting out – I’ve forgotten what’s in there. There’s a heap of washing and ironing left over from before Christmas and then we got French electricity tariff ‘red days’ and I couldn’t do it anyway without running up a huge bill.

So there’s plenty of housework type stuff to do. I’ll do it. Slowly. Don’t talk to me while I’m doing it because my head will be somewhere else and I won’t answer you.

I’ll be organising my love of writing thoughts. Making plans.

thinking about writing

getting thoughts organised

Because I must write. Without writing I’m not myself. Something’s missing. When I drift off into that thinking-land you might as well talk to the wall because I’m not in. Celia is in her head but she’s not in the room.

But why must I write? Oh, that’s a good question.


that’s how I feel

love writing

the temptation of words

It’s more than that, though. It’s so much more than slotting into a comfortable routine. So much more than any other thing that you fit into your normal daily activities. Writing is not in the same category as sweeping the floor or making the beds – small jobs which, for me, do carry a trace element of a sense of satisfaction when the job’s done.

Writing is not even in the same category as eating or sleeping – bigger jobs that are absolutely vital to your well-being.

Think about the need to breathe and you’re getting close.

Writing is as much a part of me now as is the CRPS I was diagnosed with last year. CRPS is why everything I do is now done s-l-o-w-l-y. It hurts to move. It hurts more to stretch. Constant pain saps energy and leaves you feeling very low. There are times when I feel I’ve completely lost the creative spark to begin something new. But on good days?

desire to create

the greatest love story in the world?

I have that desire. Sometimes it feels more like an affliction. It’s an itch that must be scratched. A hunger that must be fed. It’s selfish and unreasonable and is not open to negotiation.

Sorry chaps, but it’s better than sex. Or chocolate.

It is an all-consuming passion that teases and tempts. Sometimes it abandons you or flatly rejects you. Slaps you in the face and makes you feel a fool.

Sometimes, though, it loves you back.

It’s for these moments you carry on. You make your plans. You do your research. You find things you never knew. You find things about yourself you never knew.

love of books

the love of books

I’m making plans for my writing in 2015. Books Two and Three of Trobairitz are in outline only. A second collection of short stories is further along the pipeline. ‘Queer as Folk’ should be ready in spring and features more ‘quirky’ short stories about ordinary people in extraordinary situations.

I’d like to make more effort keeping in touch with online writing groups but if I can’t I won’t beat myself up. On good days I have to write.

Thank you for reading my Random Thoughts page. Feel free to message me with your own thoughts. I’m on Twitter @cmicklefield and have a FB author page.

May you love and be loved in 2015.

TROBAIRITZ the Storyteller

Publication of TROBAIRITZ the Storyteller goes ahead. Here’s the front and back cover.

Trobairitz the Storyteller

publication November 28th 2014

What does the cover of TROBAIRITZ tell you?

First, I want it to have  warmth. A satisfying, bread and butter sort of comfort. A cover that does something to your senses, even makes your mouth water.

A cover that says it’s not quite in the world you know. An imaginary world. Almost dreamlike.

I hope it makes you ask yourself questions.

Why is it a picture of a village?

Where is it? Does it look like England? No.

Why are there no people in the design?

What does the word Trobairitz mean?

( I wrote a post on who the Trobairitz were. Here is a link to that post. You can go to the Categories section on the right sidebar and in the drop down box choose Trobairitz for all my posts on this subject.)

So, the Trobairitz were female troubadours of the 12th and 13th centuries. What has that got to do with my new novel set in present day Languedoc?

Bringing the past into the present

Trobairitz were bringers of news and storytellers. They sang, too, to their own accompaniment and their themes were often about current affairs and romantic love as well as traditions and the place of women within values and attitudes of the times.

My 21st century Trobairitz is a truck driver. At an overnight truck stop in the heart of Languedoc, Weed tells a story. The themes of tradition and women and relationships are woven into the tale she tells but in her real life those are the very things that cause her problems.

The fact that Weed’s story is set in a circulade is also relevant. A circulade is built in the shape of a snail shell. Curving rows of houses surround and protect the church on top of the hill. They’re designed to confuse raiders. Even today it’s possible to lose one’s way in the maze of narrow streets and alleyways.

In TROBAIRITZ the Storyteller, the shape of the village is reflected in the stories Weed tells. There is a central theme, hiding under the archways, shrinking back into narrow passageways, revealing itself only gradually. I like that kind of a tease in books.

I decided to lighten the appearance of the cover for this first of the TROBAIRITZ trilogy. The original was too dark and didn’t give the right feel. You’ll see there’s still a bit of darkness hovering in the background and, as in real life, there will be episodes of darker happenings as Weed’s story progresses.

I deliberately chose not to have people and/or faces in the design. When I’m reading I like to make up my own images of what the characters look like. I especially don’t like those front covers showing ladies clad in silks and satins etc. which bear no resemblance to the actual story. You might want to read a previous post about book covers.

Why did I make Weed a truck driver?

Our resident teenage online gamer, aka Gollum Boy gave me the idea. We were eating dinner one night and I said,

‘What kind of a job would a woman have where she travelled about to different places all the time?’

‘That’s easy,’ he said. ‘She drives a truck.’

Volvo truck

Duh. Why hadn’t I thought of that? I love trucks. I think they’re the sexiest vehicles on the road. GB’s suggestion was perfect for the character I had in mind: a feisty lady who knows how to handle working in a man’s world, a woman who enjoys men’s company but has issues with commitment.

Why does she have issues with commitment? And why is she called Weed?

Ah. TROBAIRITZ the Storyteller – book one of the trilogy is available next Friday 28th November. Just in time for Christmas stockings!

Finding my author brand

You’ve got to have an author brand. Here on the Huffington Post they tell you why you need one. See, you have to stand out. There’s a lot of competition out there. How is an author to attract buyers to his/her work when there are so many other writers with similar appeal?

Author brand

standing out from the rest

I used the word ‘buyers’. See what I did there? Not readers. BUYERS. Because when push comes to shove, as authors we are in the business of selling whether we like to think about that or not.

In a former life I learned a bit about selling. I demonstrated product at trade shows and discovered that potential customers respond well to a smile and a friendly approach. I had the advantage of that brief face to face meeting and the product at hand for them to see and touch and listen to me talking about it. The product and I made a lot of sales.

So how can I get to the people who might want to buy my books? I can’t meet them face to face and smile at them. I can’t demonstrate that this is exactly the book they want to read next. I can’t make them feel they’re dealing with a supplier who has a professional approach and will deliver what they’re looking for.

But I have to try.

Selling my writing is no different from any other market place.

Author brand

what’s the purpose of your author brand?

No different from selling toys at the toy fair or bullocks at the cattle market. There are sellers and there are buyers. I just have to find the right buyers. They are out there, but they won’t come looking for me.

So, what is the purpose of a brand? With cattle, it’s about who they belong to. It’s a recognisable mark that shows who is the owner. How can I apply that thinking to my books?

The internet is full of advice about marketing yourself and your books:

Know your audience

comes out very high on the list of things to consider when building your author brand.

Question: Who is most likely to want to read my novels?

Answer: Women like me. Curious women. Not necessarily my age.

Question: What purpose does my novel serve?

Answer: To meet emotional needs.

My author brand must give my readers a warm feeling. I want them to look at the cover of my novels and know they will be going on an emotional journey which, although there will be heartache, there’ll be some kind of hopeful denouement.

And when they have read and enjoyed their first book by Celia Micklefield, I want them to know they can expect a similar experience from the next one. There will be characters they can care about. In the plot there will be shocks and twists and tragedy and successes.

author brand

warm coloured cover

And when they turn the last page I’d like to give them that momentary sense of sadness, that small bereavement of having finished with those characters and their story. I want them to want more. So they’ll go and buy the next one.

My author brand must show in my Tweets and on my author FaceBook page and here in my posts on my website. I’d like to have book covers that say ‘Ah, another story by Celia Micklefield’

I’m working on it.

Thank you for reading my posts. Don’t forget to FOLLOW CELIA.

How sad is ‘The End’ ? Missing your characters.


The End of the book

image from ‘The Guardian’

Some people feel sad when they finish reading a book or a series. There’s a new hole in their lives, they say, when the last page is turned and the characters they’ve come to know and support fade away.

Here on Reddit, there’s a discussion about how finishing a book causes sadness.

Bailey laments the coming to the end of a series in 2013 in her BookBlogging blog.

In Yahoo answers the discussion mentions sadness at finishing a book because the reader has become so attached to the characters.

On GoodReads, too, there are readers who explain how they feel sad when they’ve finished reading a book they’ve really enjoyed.

So how do writers feel when they’ve finished?

If you can feel sad when you’ve finished reading a book, how much sadder are you going to feel when you’ve finished writing one?

The writers at Jungle Red discuss it here. Most writers feel something of a kind of emptiness but deal with it in different ways. Some jump straight back into the next novel. Others enjoy taking a break.

Flaubert said this –

I love my work with a love that is frenzied and perverted, as an ascetic loves the hair shirt that scratches his belly. Sometimes, when I am empty, when words don’t come, when I find I haven’t written a single sentence after scribbling whole pages, I collapse on my couch and lie there dazed, bogged in a swamp of despair, hating myself and blaming myself for this demented pride which makes me pant after a chimera. A quarter of an hour later everything changes; my heart is pounding with joy. Last Wednesday I had to get up and fetch my handkerchief; tears were streaming down my face. I had been moved by my own writing; the emotion I had conceived, the phrase that rendered it, and satisfaction of having found the phrase–all were causing me to experience the most exquisite pleasure.”

He must have been depressed beyond imagination when he actually finished.

I admit I’ve made myself cry

when I’ve killed off characters. I’ve got myself all riled up during arguments between my fictitious people and found it difficult not to take sides. I’ve felt for myself the heartwarming/heartbreaking bits, but the act of finishing, actually coming to ‘The End’ has been a very strange feeling indeed.

When I finish a short story, I can’t wait to submit it and see if a magazine is going to take it up. I don’t grieve for the fact that story is finished. I’m not so invested in the characters. I’d be wrung out like a rag if I became so deeply involved as with the characters in a full length novel.

So, now I’m missing the characters in Patterns of Our Lives. They’ve been a part of my life for so long. The best I can do for them now is market the book and find ways to promote my work and persuade people to read it so they can come to love Sandra and Jean, Polish George and Ronnie Logan and all the others. Like grown up children, they have to go out into the world.

I’ll leave the final words to the Bard:-

‘Tis almost morning, I would have thee gone—
And yet no farther than a wan-ton’s bird,
That lets it hop a little from his hand,
Like a poor prisoner in his twisted gyves,
And with a silken thread plucks it back again,
So loving-jealous of his liberty.

I would I were thy bird.

Sweet, so would I,
Yet I should kill thee with much cherishing.
Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow,
That I shall say good night till it be morrow. [Exit above]

Romeo And Juliet Act 2, scene 2, 176–185

The End

farewell my friends . . .

Meet My Main Character. Blog tour

A writer friend of mine invited me to take part in a blog tour. Would I be interested in answering a few questions about the main character in my Work in Progress?

Patterns of Our Lives

Meet my main character

how many secrets?

Oh, I said. I haven’t got a work in Progress. It’s finished. I’m taking a break before starting the next one.

It didn’t matter. I could use Patterns of Our Lives for the blog tour questions. So, it’s thanks to Siobhan Daiko that I’m bringing you the results.  She is currently working on her novel The Orchid Tree, set in Honk Kong 1941-1945 and 1948-1949.  We’ve both chosen to have events of World War Two feature strongly in our first novels.  We’ve also both been inspired by old photographs.

Siobhan is an accomplished writer whose work is very highly rated by readers and by other authors. I’ve read the opening to The Orchid Tree and it sounds exactly the kind of read I enjoy.

Here’s a link to Siobhan’s blog, where you can find out more information about Siobhan and her work.

I think blog tours are a great way for writers to share news and help each other. This one was started here and I thank Teagan for getting this thing rolling.

Here goes.

What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or historic person?

My present day character is widow, Audrey Freeman, returned to England from Australia to search for the truth about her mother. The real main character is Jean Thompson who lived through World War Two. They are fictional characters. Any resemblance to real people is for me to know and for my readers to wonder.

When and where is the story set?

The novel has two settings. First there’s Kingsley, Yorkshire, 1935 to 1965, a fictitious town based on my birthplace of Keighley and its neighbour Bingley. My second setting is Walsingham, in Norfolk 2009-2010.

The dual narrative treatment allows the reader to discover more about Audrey Freeman’s ancestry than she knows herself.

What should we know about him/her?

You don’t need to know anything in advance about Audrey. She’s chatty and tells you all about herself right from the off. We learn straight away how she cherishes old family photographs.

Readers see Jean’s life in the sections of ‘snapshots’ from the past. We get to see events Audrey has no access to. The snapshots she cherishes don’t tell her the whole story. In Jean’s era, when they left school at fourteen, young people moved straight from childhood to become an adult with adult responsibilities. There was no in between stage. Teenagers hadn’t been invented.

What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life?

The main and obvious conflict is World War Two and how it affects my characters in a north of England industrial town where munition factories worked round the clock.

What messes up both Jean’s and Audrey’s lives are the secrets passed on from one generation to the next.

What is the personal goal of the character?

Audrey wants to find out the truth about her mother’s past. Jean wants to find love.

Is there a working title and can we read more about it?

My working title was Walsingham Matilda. It wasn’t until I wrote a scene where Audrey uses the phrase ‘patterns of our lives’ that the lightbulb moment arrived and I realised all I needed to do was add capital letters and I had my new and more appropriate title. It sums up the theme of the book perfectly.

When is publication?

Patterns of Our Lives is available from June 14th 2014. It’s just gone live on Amazon as a paperback. I haven’t yet finished formatting for Kindle.

Many thanks to Siobhan for the invitation. Don’t forget to visit her blog. Just click on her name to go straight to more information about The Orchid Tree.

Patterns of Our Lives

I‘m delighted with the cover for Patterns of Our Lives.

So much so, I’ve decided to reveal the cover of my upcoming novel. Here’s a sneak preview:

Cover reveal

Patterns of Our Lives

an epic family saga

Patterns of Our Lives

My first novel is a family saga from 1935 to 2010. Set in Yorkshire and Norfolk, the book follows widow Audrey Freeman’s search for the truth about her mother.

How could generations of one family keep so many secrets for so long?

Do you know the full story of all those people who feature in your old photograph albums? Those little square black and white pictures don’t tell the whole truth. Maybe none of us is ever meant to know.

Heartwarming, heartbreaking, Patterns of Our Lives is essentially a story about love and the sacrifices people make in its name.

book cover

coming soon . . .

I’ve borrowed heavily from knowledge of my birthplace but I’ve messed around with its geography. I ask the good people of Keighley, West Yorkshire and their neighbours in Bingley for their forgiveness. Kingsley is my fictitious town based on both my former haunts.

Similarly, I ask the people of Norfolk to forgive my messing with their geography, too.

Of Yorkshire and Norfolk in wartime I have no personal experience. Events in Patterns of Our Lives are authentic. Characters are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons either living or dead is entirely coincidental.

But then, I would say that, wouldn’t I?

Publication by Amazon as a paperback and for Kindle – only weeks away!

Would you like to be among the first to know when Patterns of Our Lives is available? Sign up to get an email or watch for Tweets or on my FaceBook author page.

(Edited June 8th)  Publication date brought forward to June 14th. Get it for your summer read.

Here’s a link:http://ow.ly/y0jUH

Book covers. Judging a book by its cover.

Book covers have been discussed in other people’s blogs. Usually they poke fun at ridiculous designs. On Google images, you can find pictures of the 10 worst book covers of all time etc. Some of them are so bad they’re hilarious. Mostly they are genre fiction of the kind of inexpensive reads you used to find on a market stall. Self-published books are notorious for having poor quality covers. But what about book cover design on recent highly-rated books from mainstream publishers?

I don’t like some current fashions in book covers. There, I’ve said it. Can’t be plainer than that. Some book cover designs are so awful I wonder what their authors thought about the packaging of their precious months of hard work. Self-published books have some kind of an excuse for having terrible covers, but where mainstream publishers put out our favourite authors’ latest novels in covers that scream second-rate, I get annoyed.

Here are examples of some of the books I’ve read:

bad book cover


What were they thinking putting that cheap red title in letters that look like worn road markings? If I didn’t know Mr Coben’s work I wouldn’t have bought this book. It looks as if it’s about some pervy paedo with a taste for little boys. Yuk!

I have no qualification in design so you’re entitled to tell me I don’t know what I’m talking about. But I’m entitled to my opinion and it’s this: current trends in book cover designs can be misleading.

In some cases, very misleading . . .

bad book cover

great story – terrible cover

Oh, Kate I loved this novel, but the cover? It cheapens your plot and characters. It looks like a quasi-erotic historical romance. It is based on historical events, of course, and there is a story of love woven within it, but the novel is so much more. This cover design neglects the hardships endured by your primary female characters. Anyone would think the whole book was about a Russian princess in her red satin gowns waiting for Prince Charming to arrive.

Misleading book covers

Why do they do it? Why do they want to make novels look as if they’re about something else? Here’s more –

misleading book cover

deserves something better than this tired image

Painter of Silence by Georgina Harding is contemporary literary fiction. It rips your heart out. I think somebody must have briefed the designer with ‘It’s a haunting tale of  . . .’ and the designer stopped listening, didn’t bother to read the book and came up with a book cover that looks like it ought to be a ghost story. Ooh- er – something nasty in the attic, eh? And what is Mrs Danvers doing climbing the steps in this version of a burnt out Manderley?

Speaking of Rebecca, look what they did to a reprint of du Maurier’s classic story.

bad book cover design

tasteless book cover

It’s no better than a card from Moonpig or the Dog’s Doodahs or Funky Pigeon. And what’s with all this red, satin stuff again? Is this another case where the cover designer never read the book?

Won’t readers new to the author be disappointed when they discover the story hasn’t got any red satin glamour about it at all?

Won’t that same disappointment prevent them from buying books by that author ever again?

What is the point of misleading prospective purchasers?

Here’s another classic novel with a badly updated cover.

bad book cover

dire book cover


Everything about this cover is SO wrong. They couldn’t even choose a font that encapsulates the era of the narrative.


I don’t like book covers where they use a scene from the film, either.

bad book cover

how could you tell what kind of a book this is?

This was a good book before they made a film out of it. Why put famous actors’ faces on the cover? To attract a different body of readers? Misleading again?

It seems to me publishers are afraid of what they choose to call literary fiction.

So, stop calling it that then.

A good read is a good read whatever genre you want to put it in.

Here’s a cheap and nasty looking book cover where the story is about cheap and nasty characters.

bad book cover

should have been a cult read . . .

Layer Cake was given me by friends returning to England. I’d never heard of it and didn’t know it was also a film. The characters are such villains and probably a little stereotypical, but it doesn’t matter because this is one entertaining read. You can’t help rooting for the protagonist. It belongs with other cult reads but with a cover like this it’s only ever going to find its way into the second-hand shop, in my opinion. I get the car and the iron, but what’s with the Humpty Dumpty colours and the primary school layout?

It looks like a Haynes car manual. With an iron. How to repair those small dents in your bodywork . . .

book cover

mixed feelings about this one

One Day I can look at the cover of One Day and see the faces. On other days I see a wobbly candlestick. But then, when the original Batman film poster first appeared I wondered why it had on it an open mouth with strange golden teeth.

Do you remember the one I mean?

two ways of seeing it?

Can you see the teeth? Ah, well.

So it might be just me.

What do I know?

Sometimes book covers are spot on even if they are still misleading. Here’s an example of one I think works well.

book cover

designed to arouse curiosity

The cover for 50 Shades does its job well, in my opinion. It makes you wonder about what’s inside. The cover is actually classier than the narrative and that’s where it’s misleading, but the lady made a packet so she must be right.

I like the lone figure in the landscape appearance of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels. Not only are they appropriate for the storyline but they are instantly recognisable as another Jack Reacher walking into trouble novel. You know you’re not going to be disappointed. There’s no misleading.

The lone figure image worked well for Carlos Ruiz Zafòn’s   Shadow of the Wind. Great book; great cover.

book cover

mouth-watering cover, full of promise

I loved this book. The lone figure is not a Jack Reacher type, standing tall (all 6ft. 5 of him ) ready to get his fists out and sort the problem. The shadowy figure here has his head down; his shoulders slightly stoop. You know you’re going to feel sorry for him or worry about him at some point.

There’s mystery in that fog.

There’s danger in those dark buildings.

book cover

a paler version


The cover is enticing.

The lone figure emblem didn’t work so well second time around.

Or, maybe it did. Maybe it was truthful. It was a paler image for a paler story. I think it was a mistake to stick with the same kind of imagery as the first book.

Do you get disappointed by book covers? Do they sometimes put you off buying a book?

How important do you think book covers really are?

I’d love to read your opinions. Drop me a line and share your thoughts.

What kids used to read

Have you forgotten what kids used to read? I was doing some research for an idea I have for a new novel and I came across a childhood book of mine as I rummaged through old notes and boxes of stuff. I was astounded.  My search came to a halt and off I went down the sidetrack. As you might remember from a previous post, it often happens – don’t worry.

I’d won a prize at primary school and in those days prizes most likely would be a book token. I was 8 years old. This is the book I chose.

what kids used to read

I read this when I was 8yrs old

From the Royal Series by the publisher Ward Lock & Co, this classic children’s book by Robert Louis Stevenson had been our class reader. I loved it. I liked it best when our teacher, Mrs Hall read from it. I wanted to be able, like her, to put expression into the action and read aloud with confidence.

The book cost 4 shillings. I remember my mother being surprised that this was how I wanted to spend my prize token. Treasure Island was really for boys, wasn’t it? Was I sure that this was what I really wanted?

She showed me other books from the same series.

what kids used to read

I read this one later

Uncle Tom’s Cabin was one I read when I was a bit older. What Katy Did or what she did next didn’t interest me at all. However I did enjoy Little Women when I was around eleven. So, I went home with Treasure Island and read again the story of all those great characters.

NextWhatKatyDidNow here’s an interesting thing. Look what Ward Lock had to say on the back cover of the Royal Series and I quote exactly as printed on the dust cover.

Ward Lock 1957 said . . .

These stories should be read by all young people, for they are an essential part of our cultural heritage and as significant in the educative process as any subject in the school curriculum.’

Wow! They go on to say,

Above all, through an exciting world of imagination, they will gain knowledge of human beings and their ways that would otherwise take a life-time to acquire.’

Blimey! Sounds like they were publishing books for young Martians.

Ward Lock now publishes text books for teachers and students. I wonder what they think about how children’s literature has changed over the years. Or ways it hasn’t changed at all. Here’s a link to their current web site.

Here’s an excerpt from Treasure Island Chapter 4 – punctuation as original –

‘It was already candle-light when we reached the hamlet, and I shall never forget how much I was cheered to see the yellow shine in doors and windows; but that, as it proved, was the best of the help we were likely to get in that quarter. For – you would have thought men would have been ashamed of themselves – no soul would consent to return with us to the “Admiral Benbow.” The more we told of our troubles, the more – man, woman, and child – they clung to the shelter of their houses.’

I wonder how many 8 year olds would get their heads round that now?

By the end of Chapter 5 there have already been three deaths: Jim’s father upstairs on his sick bed; Captain Billy in the inn from a stroke after drinking too much rum; and Blind Pew who is trampled by horses.

Murder and mayhem just to get you started. Good guys and bad guys.

In what ways do you think children’s literature has changed?

Please join in. I’d love to hear from you.

Thank you for visiting my website.

Gran Lit. Are you serious?

How very dare you? You mean, it’s only for Grannies?

Nonsense. Hilary Boyd writes for people not for bookshelves. (My words)

Don’t call it Gran Lit

I’m so heartened by her attitude to publishers’ need to classify fiction into genres.

“Bollocks,” she said when the Gran Lit classification was first suggested to her.

Gran-Lit writer

photo by Quercus

Oh, Hilary, please come to France and be my honorary sister. Who says people don’t want to read about older women?

Not me.

Who says you can’t have romance and sex with older characters?

I didn’t say that.

I’ll tell you who said it: Publishers. To be exact, their readers. You know, the ones who hold back the gates from the likes of aspiring novelists such as you and me. They are the ones who are in charge of the slush pile. They pass on to the people who really make the decisions only the books that excite them.

But they’re all teenagers, darlings. They only know about fantasy: werewolves and vampires and robots and spies and spaceship ghosts and the like. They also read those books with photographs on the front of men (boys) who are built of muscle and iron and their women nearly wear red or black satin. Or else they read titles like Carlotta’s Christmas at the Cup-Cake Café and the cover looks good enough to eat if you’re into sweet and sickly Candy Floss.

See? Fantasy. Do I sound full of sarcasm? Of course I do.

When they’re older, they’ll get a life. In the meantime, I mustn’t be too hard on them. They got it SO wrong, didn’t they?

Who makes up the majority of the reading population?


We’re still here. We’ve had our kids and years of sleepless nights. We’ve looked after ageing parents during their last days. We’ve lost sleep all over again when the grandchildren were unwell. We’ve had our own illnesses and close shaves. We’ve had a life. And, let me repeat myself, we’re still here. And we’ve got a little money to spend on small treats like a damned good story to read.

We’re old enough and wise enough to read all manner of different kinds of books. We have open minds. We’ll read about police detectives, little girls in France, 6ft 5″ ex marines on a one man mission to rid the USA of scum bags, widows with autistic sons, kids in a fight to the death struggle – you understand me – and once in a while, we want to read about people with whom we can identify more closely.

See, the young readers employed by the publishers couldn’t possibly understand that because they haven’t got there yet.

So it’s hats off to Quercus for publishing Hilary Boyd in the first place and having the nous to put her out as an ebook.

The Boomers have spoken. Gran-Lit? Bah, Humbug. It’s L.I.F.E., darlings. People get older. Even publishers. And now they’e having to get wiser, too. Go Hilary.