Author Archives: Candice Nolan

Wondering about the war

Candice: I seem to have read a few books about World War II recently.  Not specifically by choice but its just the ones I have picked up.

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The first was given to me by my ex-boss as a Christmas present.  Its called ‘All the light we can not see’ and follows the story of two sides of the war.  One is Marie-Laure, a blind girl who is displaced, with her father, from Paris to the coast at the start of the war.  The other is Werner, an orphan living in Germany who has an uncanny ability with radios and mechanics.

The two stories run in parallel as Werner is spotted by the Nazis and taken off to a camp to be made into a perfect soldier, and Marie-Laure finds out why she and her father ran, as he has been entrusted with the safekeeping of a precious diamond from the Museum he works in.

The second is ‘Mr Rosenblum’s List’ and relates the story of Jack Rosenblum, German Jew who has traveled to the UK before the War and is desperately trying to find his place after the annihilation of most of his family and race at home, accompanied by the British nervousness around someone with a German accent.

In his pursuit of a perfect Britishness, Jack ups sticks from his London home and successful business and moves to Dorset to build a golf course, something that will make him an equal with his peers.

Two very different books you say, well yes, but undercut with the same dark story of the horrors of war.  The first does not shy away from representing the way that your take away someone’s humanity by drilling them everyday, and how this can create a world that would think concentration camps are a good idea.    Jack sees the other side as his wife particularly struggles to cope with the fact she will never see her family again, as they were unable to get visas.  How hard must have that decision been, who can leave and who can stay.

Neither were books I would normally read but I enjoyed them both, even with the dark subject matter.  Sometimes its good to step out of the comfort zone and read something other than the ‘sunlounger’ read.  And also, never to forget what happened in that war, so it never happens again.

 

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Spreading the word

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Candice: A few years ago Phil and I had the chance to speak at Stratford Literary Festival.  To be honest I can’t believe it was 2016!  Since then a lot of discussion has been had about marketing the book and getting the word out there, but let’s be honest we’ve not been that great at it.   It’s one of our biggest downfalls, we just enjoy the writing too much.  I have a plan for that – but that’s for another blog post.

But, we have found a new group to talk too.  Phil had spotted a newish cafe in Leamington Spa, The Temperance. and we’ve had a few successful meets there, as well as Phil attending an event a few weeks ago we has sent us off on another route.

So this Thursday we are off to talk Book to a group of fellow enthusiasts at a Storytelling event.  We have done this one other time before, down in London, and got a good response.  One of the things about Phil and I is that we write like we talk, so the quips in the book are also the way we present, which has been independently verified as funny!

However, I’m more off the cuff and Phil is more formal, so I’m sat in front of a script that Phil has written.  I have to say I hate scripts, I feel obliged to be word perfect which makes me more nervous than actually just riffing it.  I think we’ve had powerpoint slides and cue cards before.  So between the two of us this afternoon we are going to plan a talk that is funny and gets across why you should read the book, but set up in a way that we are both comfortable with.  Looking at previous posts that might be harder than you think!

So, if you fancy a night out and meeting Phil and I then we will be in The Temperance on the 21st February from 8pm. It’s free so come and enjoy some reading and good wine.

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Get the facts right

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Candice: If you had been sat near Phil and I in Costa Coffee in Henley in Arden on Monday you might have wondered what was going on.  We’d had a disjointed meet up as it was – the first coffee house we’d gone to informed us that they were closing in an hour.  Ah, we thought, as I am on a drive to use local places, not chains, bang goes that idea.

So a quick cuppa in there and then down to the Costa, which was full of people with laptops (or having loud conversations with HMRC which is another story).  After an hour of writing, plus some coffee and cookie-fueled help, we passed our laptops over to see what each other had written.

I’d been focusing on the earlier story in the book.  My job recently has been to go back and check on what we have written: facts, continuity, stuff like that.  Phil has been very focused on one pivotal scene mid-book which pushes us towards the big finish.

Having read Phil’s scene there was one thing I wasn’t sure about. Would it actually happen like that?  I quizzed him.  He explained his thoughts.  But I still sat there going – ‘so what?’.

I know this is fiction but I don’t want something to be so glaring that it makes someone step out of the book and then lose their ability to suspend disbelief.  Saoirse Ronan had done that for me the other week as she chatted on Graham Norton about ‘Mary – Queen of Scots’.  A scene in the film shows Mary and Queen Elizabeth meeting – something that didn’t happen in real life.  I assume the writer wanted to bring out things that had been conveyed in their letters and this was the easiest way to do it on film.  However, when I watched the film yesterday I sat there at that point in the film thinking to myself  ‘this didn’t happen.’  It ruined to ending of a good film for me.

So for ten minutes, I pushed him on his logic, asking why the characters were doing what they were doing.  The man behind us in his business suit was doing his level best to pretend he was concentrating on his laptop but when we mentioned Councillor I’m sure he twitched.

We got there in the end, but I’m sure Phil wondered why I’d got such a bee in my bonnet. Well, its got to make sense.  Else its just going to annoy me and the readers – that’s why.

Phil: This story illustrates why we can write as a team so well.

I tend to let the story flow when writing the first draft, but having presented the words to my mate and been quizzed about the direction I was taking, we beat the idea about a bit. Eventually, I managed to work out where the story should be going in reasonable detail.

Having a sounding board is really useful and we’re pretty good at fulfilling this role for each other. It helps that we can both take a bit of criticism without flouncing off in a huff. It certainly saves time because we don’t need the re-writes you have to go through when working on your own when realising bits of the story don’t hang together.

 

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Welcome to 2019

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Candice: I’m writing this blog post on New Year’s Eve, listening as the radio station tells me that NZ and Oz are off celebrating their new years already.  Always find that concept a little strange, though I have travelled to both of those countries, it’s still weird that they are on different time frames.

So 2019 is a new start for me.  I’m looking for a new job and it’s giving me the chance to sit down and rethink what I want out of work; the balance of money versus enjoyment being a big consideration.  I’m currently writing a list of what I really want and what my actual aim is to help with the application process.

I actually think that is a really good way to start a New Years Resolution list, so rather than writing the things that you never actually do – like join a gym and go regularly, lose weight etc, if you actually write your end goal and the pros and cons for it, it might make you work harder for it.

eg Lose two stone.  Hard to aim for, too big a number, just hanging over you waiting for you to fail.

Real aim – Feel more comfortable being me.  Does that actually mean the weight, or does it mean a different job, spending more time with friends?  Do you actually eat because you are bored at work, bored at home, unhappy at work, not getting enough fresh air, stuck in rut with cooking?  There are lots of reasons why those two stones won’t shift. Book a few nights out with the girls, arrange for the kids to have a sleepover with the grandparents once a month, walk to work/around the block after work and suddenly you might find you’ve lost a stone.

My big one for this year is to drink less caffeine.  Many years ago I cut down to one to two caffeinated drinks a day.  I did notice a difference in my ability to get up in the morning and also weight maintenance.   Since being a parent I’ve taken to having a cuppa first thing in the morning, and it just carries on from there. I end up having four or five teas across the day, even though if I am home, there are decaf tea bags available too.  Part of it is boredom, I use it as an excuse to get up from the desk and have a break.  But I do think it’s making me feel more tired, and impacting on my sleep (and the rubber ring round my waist). My real aim is not to be so tired and enjoy my job, and less tea drinking will come.

I have lots of other things I would like to do, most of them book related, but they are rolling year to year.  Again, need to knuckle down and work out what the real reason I’m not that bothered about marketing for my own books.  That’s a question for another blog.

Happy New Year all!

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Twas the night before Christmas

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Candice: An early post this week as it is the calm before the storm in the Nolan household.

  • Presents wrapped – check
  • Table laid – check
  • Timings list for food prep for tomorrow – started

I’m feeling more comfortable as the other half has taken the child off for a few hours to play with her cousins, giving me time to do all the last minute stuff.

The build-up to Christmas this year has been a strange one.  I am leaving work in January so that makes it strange, I’m not so involved in the 2019 planning, I’m starting to stay goodbye to be people who I won’t see again.  I didn’t even get to party in my usual manner as factors beyond my control meant that the glitter stayed in the wardrobe this year.  I’m hoping to make up for that on New Year’s Eve.

As Phil said, the writing in the last few months has taken a back burner as I have been concentrating on what I am going to do next job wise.  This change has been my chance to sit down and look at what I really want out of work.

I’m hoping to take a short sabbatical before the next big thing, and use that time to do some writing (and acting and decorating).  Though I don’t need that sabbatical to be too long.  One needs to buy shoes and handbags, don’t you know.

I’ll be writing about new year’s resolutions next time, though I have a list already building, but for now, I’m off to check if the turkey has started to defrost yet, and how long to cook the parsnips for.

Merry Christmas one and all, enjoy whatever Father Christmas brings you.

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It’s behind you….

Image result for aladdin pantoCandice: We’ve not talked about the new book too much recently.  Phil has been busy with his modelling career (!) and I have been busy trying to find myself a new job.

You know you need a new job when the thought of going into the office makes you feel physically sick.

That plus preparing for the Nativity at school, Christmas Fayre, Homework and all the other fun stuff that comes with being the parent of a school-age child.  Anyway, excuses aside, Phil has been more productive than me and I’ve completely lost my mojo.

The central theme of the book is a theatre company who needs some help. And one of the big shows that they perform is a panto, Aladdin, something that Phil and I both know is important to both funding and crowd attendance in the world of theatre.

Phil has written the bulk of the piece.  As an expert in theatre after many years working front of house in a local one he knows more about the ins and outs than I do.  My experience is more on stage than off (Darlings).  But he decided we needed more research into this Panto in particular and suggested a Nolan Parker day out to go and shout “It’s behind you” and “Oh no it isn’t” at some unsuspecting cast in a very British tradition.

However, I have scuppered the plan.  I’ve taken to going to a Panto once a year for about the last 15 years, after I got given free tickets to see Bobby Davro in one a long time ago and loved it.  Some of them are better than others, some of them are ruder than others but all are good fun.  We particularly like the ones at the Birmingham Hippodrome which are always more adult and risque.  This year, however, the main star of Birmingham’s for many years, John Barrowman, has taken himself off into the Jungle instead for some reason.

The In-Laws suggested that we take the small people to one this year.  Now I knew that Birmingham would be a no go, and they live down south so we wanted something central.  Out of sheer fluke, we’ve ended up with tickets to Aladdin, the show that Phil and I have written into the book.  So, when Phil emailed the other day suggesting research, I had to say no as I was already going to see it somewhere else. He’s a bit put out.

I think this one will be slightly different experience than the usual as we will be wrangling three fidgeting children and there are no B or C celebs in the one we have chosen.  But I will be absorbing the plotline and performance for another reason this year.  Do I need to take my notebook?

 

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Reality too close to home

Police at scene in Enfield

Candice:  I like reading ‘police procedurals’ – I love the mystery and trying to work out who done it, often with some downtrodden main character leading the charge.  The gore, the horror, what happens next, the twists; they are all part of a good story.

However, the other week my local area became part of its own police drama which made me think about things a bit differently.

Monday morning I’m getting text messages from friends, ‘hope you are ok’.  Ok, ok in relation to what?  We are out with the in-laws in a park an hour away from home.

I reply – what do you mean?  They respond to say that there has been a double murder not far from our house!  Shocked to say the least. I log on to the web and discover that the night before, while we’d been tucked up in bed, a young man had decided to stab his ex-girlfriend and her mother.  It comes out later that he has a history of violence and she’d been calling the police earlier in the evening because of problems but one thing led to another and he decided to step over the line and viciously murder these people.

Reading this story in a book it would have been a great opener; screams heard in the street, two people lying dead outside their house and a van seen driving off at speed.  But this isn’t a book, its real.

For the next week, if I drove around the area I’d find my route blocked by TV crew vans and police tape. It was most surreal, like being in a show.  There were times when it felt like you do on the motorway when there is a crash,  you can’t help but look.  But I also thought of the people involved and the horrible impact on their lives in having someone taken away.  It made me hug my daughter a bit tighter at bedtime.

The experience won’t stop me liking my reading material but it will make me think about how fiction can become fact and how different that is for those involved.

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