Friday 29 July 2011

My Bookshelves...

This week I’m picking up on the bookshelf feature I started earlier in the year, where I talk about favourite authors and show off my prized collection of first editions and ‘keepers’ - as I like to call my most loved books. This time I’m talking about the fabulous author of six equally fabulous novels, Kate Fenton, whose humorous and witty tales of country life in the wilds of Yorkshire are written in a pacy distinctive style that I can hardly get enough of, which is a shame, as the lovely Kate hasn’t published a book since ‘Picking Up in 2002!’

Author Kate Fenton

I met Kate a few years ago at a Romantic Novelist’s Association conference. She is great fun, a real joker, and is as witty in real life as she is in her books. To my surprise, she laughed heartily while admitting that her recent lack of input/output on the writing front was down to her suffering from writer’s block. She said she was “deeply embarrassed, mortified, terrified, and stupefied by a sense of failure.”

On her blog, she says this of her predicament: “No, I haven’t written a new novel recently. By which I mean, nothing since ‘Picking Up’. I guess I experienced Writer’s Block, that scary phenomenon about which one reads with the ghoulish fascination inspired by tales of, say, poltergeists or a fatal addiction to slot machines, while smugly thinking such a dreadful fate could never happen to ME. Except it did. And I’m here to tell you it’s no fun.”

Kate has further apologised to her many fans, saying: “I’m sorry to say my books are currently more or less out of print. It’s all my own fault, natch. In this fast-changing retail world, a book has a shelf life rather shorter – in fact, much shorter – than that of a can of baked beans. And if authors fail to deliver new titles, old ones tend to get put speedily out to grass. Re-issues are promised if and when a new novel is published. Ho-hum.”

It apparently took Kate four years to write and finish her first novel The Colours of Snow (which is my personal favourite of her books) and three years later she produced ‘Dancing to the Pipers’. It took her two years apiece to write ‘Lions and Liquorice’, ‘Balancing on Air’, ‘Too Many Godmothers’, and finally ‘Picking Up’. So, despite the speed with which the plots in Kate’s books furiously race along, she has never really been a production line writer has she?

What sort of books are these, you may ask? Well, Kate herself says:  “Oh, I write about, birth, sex and death, really. Doesn't everyone? Also God, dogs, adultery, D-I-Y, suicide, Morris dancing, incest, murder - you know, everyday life in North Yorkshire. With jokes.  But I don't do moody, magnificent brutes, heaving bosoms and surging passions on moon-kissed Caribbean beaches. The odd chilly paddle in Llandudno, maybe.”

The good news is that Kate is still trying to write: she says (talking about herself in the third person) on her (sadly neglected) blog: “That’s right: it’s because she’s run out of excuses, jokes and even suicide threats, in trying to explain her ongoing failure to produce Novel Number Seven. Admittedly, she has been trying – in our view, very trying. You should see her, staring at the wall, muttering to herself, decimating the world’s forests with the manuscripts she so regularly chucks away with a manic cackle as she grows ever poorer, fatter and more morose.”

To me, Kate’s previous novels are a testament to the fact she is a great writer. I can read her books over and over and enjoy them all the more. If she (ever) manages to write another novel, I shall be delighted and it won’t matter a jot to me how long it took her to do it. It’s all about quality not quantity, right?

Kate Fenton Novels on my bookshelves

So here’s a question for you if you are a writer, what’s your opinion on writer’s block and have you ever suffered from it? If you are a reader, how long are you prepared to wait for another novel by a favourite author?

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My previous bookshelf features:  Ruby FergusonJilly Cooper