This odd little image is of a fake snake artfully placed, by me, on the remains of one of last year's hanging baskets, in the hope that it will scare off marauding and destructive magpies. From my kitchen window, I've been watching them swoop down and make off with the last of my little over-wintering plants plus chunks of the container, so having had enough, I went online and discovered this amusing deterrent - irresistable, at least for me, so I walked up to our local toyshop and asked to be shown some fake snakes (I chose the most aggressive and poisonous-looking one).
But of course, being in one of my writing personae a picture book author, the two words grabbed me, and I fell instantly in love. 'Fake' rhymes with SO many words, and I began playing. How about a 'fake cake', made from pink and green kitchen sponges topped with white emulsion? A 'fake hake' made of silvery fabric and caught in a net could hang from my ceiling. A 'fake lake'? I think I've already seen one of these, made from row after row of polytunnels. A 'fake rake' might be made from uncooked sausages tied to a broom handle, while a 'fake brake' could be life-threatening. And, moving into surrealism/existentialism or maybe even quantum physics, what is a 'fake fake' (discuss)? How I love the all silly places words can take you to, and, who knows? there might even be a picture books in all this nonsense.
I recently read two Young Adult novels, one by a colleague I'd be happy to call a friend (we share an agent, too), the other by Frances Hardinge who's recently won the Costa Prize for fiction, both books very different in style and setting. The first: MORE OF ME, by Kathryn Evans, set very much in the here and now, with spot-on contemporary teen dialogue, offered a very unusual concept which simply grabbed me by the throat. Encountering her extraordinary premise, I just had to find out how it was going to be resolved, and I had no clever theories of my own. Quite brilliant.
The second, THE LIE TREE, is much longer and more complex, with its Victorian setting slowly winding around the reader like the eponymous Lie Tree. Its protagonist, Faith, is a highly intelligent young woman hemmed in, as are all the female characters in this novel, by the restrictions placed on them by the 'morality' of their age (doubt if this book will go on sale in Saudi Arabia!) With its setting on a strange Northern island, chilly, wet, muddy, sea-battered, it's a haunting and unforgettable read. Both books have been published with ebook versions, which is how I acquired and read them (ain't technology wonderful?) And no, the image on the right is not one of the island, but it's still chilly and Northern - it shows some junior members of my family cavorting as pseudo-trolls in Norway.
There are two kinds of writer, no, there are two kinds of people, and I'm getting more and more obsessed by this. I picked up a radio interview a while ago, and got it in the middle, so I have no idea who it was being interviewed except that she seemed to be a writer. Asked whether she knew what was going to happen in her novels, she replied: Of course. Otherwise it would be like driving without a road map. The second kind of writer - me, unfortunately - grabs a few interesting ingredients, puts them together, stirs, simmers, until something 'comes out'. Sometimes, as with recipes when you grab anything that comes to hand, this works, and indeed, has, but often it doesn't. And as with both writing and cooking, so it is, I realise, with life - a thought I find quite disturbing.