I have a most surprising announcement to make, with a little help from the Girl in my life:

 pearl earring

Yes! Girl with a Pearl Earring: The Opera will premiere on 24 May 2020 at Zurich Opera House. The music will be avant-garde, the story classic. I am already planning what to wear.

For more information about the production, have a look here.

 

 

 

 

 

At the moment I'm feeling a little like this:

jugglers

My new novel A SINGLE THREAD is written and edited but not yet published. I'm waiting for it to come out in September, when I will be busy busy answering questions about it, reading from it, running from place to place. And that's great. At the moment, though, there's a little bit of space for me to start researching and thinking about the next one. (More on that next month.) So I start doing that, and then I get asked to write a short story about where it's set. So I do that. At the same time, GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING is 20 years old (!), and I do some events to celebrate. Then I get asked to write an introduction to a special edition of A SINGLE THREAD.  Before you know it I'm pingponging between embroidery, painting, Winchester, Venice, Delft, the West Indies, bellringing, glass beads, Vermeer, cathedrals. My desk is getting messier and messier as I try to keep all the balls in the air. No complaints, of course. But I am starting to lose my words!

Happy Summer.

I am just going to put these covers out here. They are so beautiful and so different.

US AST cover final small  UK AST cover final small

The woman in green arrives in the USA on 17 September 2019. The scissors arrive in the UK on 5 September 2019. Other countries: 2020. I will be updating the website this summer - keep an eye out!

 

Why is it so hard to come up with a good title for a novel?

I’ve found that I either know the title from the start (Girl with a Pearl Earring – no-brainer), or I struggle to find one until the very last minute, with publishers breathing down my neck. Often someone else suggests the title (husband, agent, editor).

You would think that as the writer I’d know what the title should be. After all, I know the book better than anyone else. But maybe that’s the problem. I’m too close to the story to make a judgement on what the title should reflect.

What should a title do? It should be memorable but not so quirky that it irritates. It should intrigue. It should hint at something about the book, though it can’t tell you everything. It should conjure up an image that stays with you. How do you communicate the essence of a book in a few words? It’s hard!

Lately there’s been a fad for novel titles that are whole phrases or sentences, and completely unmemorable to me.  Titles like I Let You Go, Everything I Never Told You, When All Is Said, How Hard Can It Be? or All the Light We Cannot See. Some of these are good books, but I struggle to retain the titles because they don’t offera concrete hook I can hang onto.

To me good titles are strong and simple: War and Peace. Or an amazing turn of phrase that may not even mean anything: To Kill a Mockingbird. Or that make you do a double take: My Sister, the Serial Killer. Or make you laugh: Crazy Rich Asians.

For my latest novel, I spent months coming up with literally a hundred titles:

 

novel titles

None of them worked. The book is about a lot of things: embroidery, bellringing, cathedrals, single women in the 1930s. For me the struggle is to work out which element to emphasize.

At last lovely Ore at HarperCollins UK calmly lobbed one into the ring:

A SINGLE THREAD

Perfect. It references the embroidery and the singleness of the heroine, while also hinting at the tapestry that makes up a community. And it sets up a strong image easy for the reader to remember.

Why didn’t I think of it? Among the many titles I’d come up with, I’d used “Single” and “Thread” but not together. Thank you, Ore!

A Single Thread will be published in the USA and UK in September 2019, with other countries to follow. Now we just have to come up with a cover - even harder than the title!

On October 1st I pressed SEND on two years of research and writing a new novel. Off went the book through the ether to my editors. (In the old days it was a big jiffy bag I took to the post office.) It is a huge leap to press that button. No one had seen it; no one really knew much about it. Then I had to wait for them to read it and see what they thought.

It’s odd: by the time I turn in a novel I am so close to it that I have absolutely no idea if it works or not. An editor could just as easily say, “Sorry, this is terrible” as “Wow, fabulous!” For either response I would simply nod and accept their judgment, because my own ability to judge is shot. Strange, eh?

So what did I do while I waited? Well, in the book my heroine Violet Speedwell goes on a walking holiday in August 1932 between Winchester and Salisbury Cathedrals – 26 miles. I wrote the scenes without doing the walk myself, though I always meant to. So my husband and I and friends went a-walking, over a very rainy and then a very sunny weekend.

TCWinCathforweb      TCSalCathforweb

We started at Winchester Cathedral, and ended at Salisbury Cathedral. (Yes, THAT spire, all 123 metres of it!)

In between we stopped at a couple of places important to the novel.

farleymountforweb

 Farley Mount, an 18th-century folly to a horse

 

johnogauntforweb

The John O’ Gaunt Inn (which gets a bad rap in the novel but is actually very nice)

nethwallchurchforweb

The church at Nether Wallop (note pyramid similar to Farley Mount; same family)

 

tcwithnwbellsforweb

 Messing about in the Nether Wallop bell tower (I promise I didn’t ring them!)

 

And ... the editors are very happy with the book! Relief! I have a little tweaking to do, fixes to make it even better. Editing is a crucial part of  writing a book, and actually really fun.

 

There’s still the thorny question of a TITLE. Watch this space – once I’ve finally settled on one I’ll write about that tricky process.