Of Musings and Wonderings

{December 30, 2012}   Goodbye, 2012

I can’t think of any other way to put it, but this year has been one hell of a rollercoaster. It’s one of the few years I’m looking back on and thinking, yes, I’m glad to say goodbye to it. Not that this year has been all bad; like I said, it’s been a rollercoaster. There have been ups, and downs, and it has kind of taken its toll on me.

I’m looking forward to 2013. I’m eager, now, for a new year to start, for a chance to really shake off 2012 and focus more fully on the future. And that is exactly what I’m going to do. What’s happened to me in the last year, the bad stuff wasn’t life-changing, wasn’t stuff that has to follow me into the next year. And I’m grateful for that.

This time last year, I was in a relationship. Shortly after Valentine’s Day, I found myself once more single. We’d been dating for just over a year, and it sucked. I barely got out of bed for a couple of days, just watched films on my laptop. I cried until I was exhausted. And then, with the help of my very good friends, I went out, I got drunk, I watched Wales beat England in the Six Nations, and I wrote. I spent the rest of the semester focusing on work, on writing, on my dissertation. And it was an experience. I proved (to no one but myself) that I was strong enough to get through something like that and still achieve a 2.1 degree.

So, yeah, I also graduated this year. I couldn’t help but feel just a tad proud about it, unable to believe I’d made it through three years of University. Once I donned that cap and gown, I had to keep checking myself. Although I knew it was what I had been building towards since I started, I think on the day itself I realised I never actually thought I’d make it.

On the flip side, I said goodbye to a city I had fallen in love with. Many people dismiss Hull and, you know what, most of them are people who have never been there. People in Hull are friendly, the University was brilliant, and nights out are cheap as hell. Some of the best – and worst – experiences of my life were there, I made some amazing friends who I also had to say goodbye to. It was hard, and even now I still get a pang for the place. I would suggest visiting if you ever get the chance, especially in October when they have Hull Fair. Seriously, I could not get enough of the fair. It’s huge, and if you like rides, well worth going.

I left Uni, and started temping at the end of July. And by September/October time, they’d offered me a permanent full-time role in a different department. It’s such a good feeling when you realise that actually working hard pays off, and it’s put me in a very decent position for someone not long graduated. I have a proper, real job with proper, real responsibilities. It’s scary at times, but I’m now finding myself in a place (financially) I’ve never been in before. I can really consider doing things I’ve never let myself think about.

Even with work, I did NaNoWriMo. Anyone who read my post just before will know I didn’t think I’d do it this year, but somehow I did. Not only that, but I finished early. Again, I proved something to myself; that I can – and will – always be able to write, to push myself to achieve something like that. And – fingers crossed – I’ll be able to do it again next year.

So there have been ups this year, without a doubt. But the last few weeks have been a bit, well, they’ve slipped down. I won’t go into the details but they mostly involve friends and guys. Most notably, I found out a couple of weeks ago that someone I (sort of) liked had a girlfriend. It hit me like a ton of bricks and was one of those moments where you realise the important things (like dropping the ‘sort of’ and putting in really, maybe) too late.

It happened, and I was upset, and I lost my phone that night and had a very kind taxi driver drop it off the next day. And then I decided I really, really needed to stop going back to the past and start focusing on the future.

And that’s what I’m going to do. The things that happened to me this year weren’t that bad, even if they seemed it at the time. But 2013 is going to be better. How do I know that? Because I’m going to make it better. I am in a totally different place than I was this time last year, physically and emotionally, and I’m a different person, too. There are some exciting things coming up for me, things that are making me very eager to greet 2013 with open arms.

Whatever happens, I’m looking forward to the future, whatever it brings.

Happy New Year!


So, I got tagged by A.J Race to participate in this, for which I’m hugely thankful. See, I’m on the verge of finishing Play The Game, my current main work-in-progress, and have sort of been looking for an excuse to talk about it. As soon as it’s finished, I’m going to be looking out for people to read over it and give me some feedback. (If you like the sound of it, just drop me an e-mail at gracebunting@hotmail.co.uk) Anyway, rather than tag people, I’m just going to leave this as an open thing. Just drop me a comment, so I can at least check yours out. (And if you haven’t already, go check out A.J Race’s blog. It’s good.)

What is your working title of your book? Play The Game. Working title but I think at this point, it’s pretty much set in stone.

Where did the idea come from for the book? Heh…what a story. Okay, so first semester at University, I came home for a weekend, met this guy, really cute, and headed back to Uni. Nothing happened. (As a side-note, I was six hours away) A few weeks later, I met another guy. Very different. Again, nothing happened. Apart from a few texts with both of them. (And an interesting train journey home for a friend’s birthday. I’d planned to meet up with Guy #1 after not hearing from Guy #2, only to have Guy #2 text me when I was on the train to see what I was doing that night. Never saw either of them again after that.) My brain tends to take situations like that and go, yeah, but what if this happened…or if it happened to a girl, and she totally fell in love with the guy-at-University but then he hurt her and she goes home but she has to go back! It basically goes off on tangents. The actual story became so much more than that, but that’s where the idea came from.

What genre does your book fall under? Romance. But when it was on Fictionpress, I had a few people comment that it didn’t feel like a ‘typical’ romance. Which makes me very happy. It’s not chick-lit, or erotica, or anything like that. Okay, it’s only ‘romance’ because that’s the easiest thing to put it under. Could be ‘drama’, too, but to me it’s just the story of a girl.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? I’m not good with actors/actresses, especially as the characters are in their early twenties, so no Jensen Ackles. And they’re British. Sooo no Americans. (Makes it more difficult as almost everything I watch is American. And, again, no Jensen. But one day, Jensen, you WILL be in a movie version of one of my books. Hopefully.) Err I’ll be back after Googling young British Actors. Hang on. Okay, Nicholas Hoult as Nate, even though he’s barely in Play The Game. And because I don’t want him to be typically drop dead gorgeous, Colin Morgan as Harrison. Mainly because I saw a picture of him with a beard and was like “Hell yeah!” Robyn is the most difficult. She should have a bit of an edge to her, and be pretty but not in the typical stunning actress way. Okay, have an unknown as Robyn. I prefer it that way.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? Christmas holidays were supposed to be about having fun, but for Robyn it means trying to get over one guy, failing in not falling for another and trying to keep her family together.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? Self-published, via Kindle, because I can’t currently afford to self-publish any other way and I want to get something out there. So, yeah, coming soon to Kindle!

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? I really have no idea. Not that long, I don’t think. It was only around 20,000 words at the time, maybe a lot less. But it’s taken me six months to finish this edit of it.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? Another one that’s really hard to answer. Like I said above, it’s not a typical romance, and I don’t think I’ve read anything it could be compared to. (Not to say there isn’t books out there like it. I just haven’t come across them.)

Who or what inspired you to write this book? I will happily admit than whenever I write something vaguely romancy (or with a male protagonist), it’s been the men in my life who usually spark of ideas. My dad and brothers are polar opposites to the dad and big brother in the book, but there are some moments where aspects of them could shine through. And it means I could take what my dad and brothers are really, really not, and create two men who just don’t know how to be the people they should be. And yeah, there are aspects of different guys I met in my Gap Year in both Harrison and Nate, although not a lot from any one person. Plus, well, a lot of it is more the experience than anything else, no matter who was there during that experience.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? Most female romance leads seem, to me, to be career women or teenagers. Robyn isn’t. She’s a young woman struggling to find her place in the world, coping with the difficultly of feeling like she’s leaving behind something important in going back to London. And it’s not just Harrison. She’s seen her family fall apart and she’s trying not to let that happen again. Basically…it’s not just fluffy boy-meets-girl. It’s more girl-meets-boy-while-family-shit-kicks-off.

So, there we go. What do you think?

{December 1, 2012}   Leaping From The Page: Resistance

Just over four years ago, I went on a little adventure. Well, it felt like an adventure at the time. It was the furthest I had travelled on my own. The build up to it was exciting, as I felt I’d more than earned the trip to Ty Newydd, having won my place in a local writing contest. (Which involved me reading a short story in front of a theatre full of people. One of the scariest things I had ever done.) Anyway, I jumped on the train at Cardiff, and stepped off hours later – having travelled out of Wales, into England, and back into Wales – in Bangor. There, I was picked up and driven to Ty Newydd Writer’s Centre itself. It was an experience I will never forget, and it cemented in me the idea that I had, without a doubt, picked the right course to do at University the following year.

(As a side note, if you ever get the chance, do go there. It’s a beautiful house, with a beautiful garden, and the writing course itself was brilliant. The two running the one I went to were more than encouraging, and they gave me the sort of push that still keeps me going.)

One of the things I really liked were the books. There were so many there; a small library has books you can read at will, and there’s a bookshelf dedicated to books you can buy. It’s on a stair case, so coming down it one day I spotted a cover that caught my eye. Glancing at the blurb, I decided to give it a shot, and brought it.

I completely fell in love with this book.

It tells the story of a small Welsh farming village, where the women wake up one day to find the men have disappeared. Struggling to come to terms with it, and struggling to keep the farms going, the women band together and push through. That is, until a small band of German soldiers turn up, looking for something. The main plot – focusing on Sarah – runs alongside the story of George, a young man recruited almost as a spy, for those willing to fight against the German invasion of the UK.

Oh, yeah, did I mention that the novel takes place during World War Two, in an alternative reality where the Nazis have invaded the UK? No? Well, now you know. As it turns out, the men have left the women to join a resistance group, dedicated to doing anything possible to make it difficult for the Germans to remain. They blow up bridges and railways, they move into caves stocked with weapons. And this part of the novel is based on real plans in place during WWII, made in case the German army did reach Britain’s shores.

The book brilliantly reflects the setting, the time-period and the emotions the women go through. Everything ties in together, and Owen Sheers has a brilliant skill of really being able to draw you in. In just a few pages, you really care for these characters. You want the men to come back because you want them to be happy. And, as the book goes on, Sarah’s confusion between wanting her husband back, wanting him safe (though it’s not clear if the safest place would be at home or away) and her feelings for one of the German soldiers, seeps in. I remember struggling to decide if I wanted Tom to walk back in or wanted Sarah to run off with the soldier.

And Sheers does something I, personally, have seen few male writers do; he writes brilliant female characters. They remain realistic, and strong. And that’s important. The women learn to cope on their own, remaining stubborn in the face of the soldiers but realising that, actually, neither group can survive without the other. It’s interesting to see how they react to the invaders and, indeed, to see the invader’s reactions to their own situation.

Each character is human, and in a novel dealing with Nazi soldiers in World War Two, that’s an amazing feat. They’re not evil, or cruel. None of the characters involved are. Each person is shown just as someone trying to cope in a difficult situation and, again, Sheers writes it brilliantly.

So, yes, I loved the book. Which meant when they announced it was being filmed (with Michael Sheen and Iwan Rheon) I was pretty excited. Beneath this excitement, there were reservations. It’s hard to see how much of the book could be translated to the big screen, as much of it focuses on the emotions of the characters. There’s little action, and part of me hoped they would actually show some of the scenes that are left out of the book; it would have been interesting if they could fit in some of the work carried out by the men in the resistance, rather than have most of it conveyed by second-hand news as it is in the book.

From Misfit super-hero to Nazi fighting post-boy

From Misfit super-hero to Nazi fighting post-boy

This does not happen. In fact, a lot of the tension that Sheers conveys so well in the book disappears. Much of the film drags, and a lot of what makes the characters so relatable, so realistic, and so easy to care about, seems to have been stripped away. Sarah’s writing to Tom quickly becomes boring and over-used, and whereas in the book we see the women taking care of the farms, there is little of that in the film. In the book, they struggle, then overcome this, before winter hits and makes things much more complicated. In the book, it’s at this point where the soldiers step in to help. Not because the women can’t handle the farms, but because the winter makes it harder to do the chores single-handedly. The film jumps from struggling to soldiers stepping in, meaning the female characters aren’t shown at their strongest.

This is especially true of Sarah. Andrea Riseborough plays the main character as a moody, moping woman, who does nothing but move from scene to scene and act hard done by. The book’s version is, of course, hard done by, but she rises above it with the knowledge that she and the other women are in the same position. In the film, there’s little interaction between the women, so the community aspect of it is lost.

Slightly more expressions than Kristen Stewart.

Slightly more expressions than Kristen Stewart.

The relationship between Sarah and Albrecht is built up slowly in the book, and it feels natural. It has all the complications you would expect of a woman in an occupied country and one of the occupying soldiers, but throughout it you can almost feel the same glimmer of hope the characters must be feeling. In the film, this disappears. Instead, it feels like in one scene Sarah is shutting Albrecht out, and in the next she’s wandering through the valley with him, looking mildly happy. It feels almost forced, rushed, and the inner emotions of the character struggling to come to terms with her feelings just isn’t conveyed well to screen.

The one thing I will say for the film is that the scenery is beautiful. It captures the changing landscape of the Welsh valley, even when it fails in doing the same for the characters.

Oh, yeah, and one other point – the best scenes were, by far, those with Iwan Rheon and/or Michael Sheen. They, out of the whole cast, not only had the best characters in the film but some of the best dialogue; Rheon, especially, played George so that, as a viewer, you really felt for him. Sheen’s portryal of Tommy Atkins showed a man willing to do anything for his country, and in both you could see men fighting – in different ways – for what they believed in.

This is a book I would recommend to anyone, well worth a read, but unless you’re a fan of lengthy, boring period-drama films with little happening, stay away from the film adaptation.


et cetera