Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Review and Guest Post: Secrets, Schemes and Sewing Machines by Katy Cannon

Delighted to have a fab guest post from Katy Cannon today, in addition to my review of her new book, Secrets, Schemes and Sewing Machines!


Katy Cannon on Finding Ideas

One of the questions I am most often asked as a writer is, “Where do you get your ideas?”

Unfortunately, this is also one of the hardest ever questions to answer. Who really knows where ideas come from? Most of the time they just show up, right? Then it’s more about writing them down before I forget them, and spending months working up the original idea into an actual, viable book.

The truth is, getting the ideas is the easy bit. Turning them into great ideas, and even better books is the hard part.

Still, if you’re searching for a starting point, here are just some of the places I’ve got ideas for stories from.

1.    Eavesdropping. Sometimes, a snatch of someone else’s conversation, usually completely out of context, can spark all sorts of ideas. I start imagining who might say that, and why, and suddenly I’m away.

2.    Newspapers. Not just the big headline stories, but the smaller ones, tucked away at the back, or the classified ads. Why is someone selling five grand pianos anyway? Where did they get them from? And is it the same person who is searching for someone who knew Nigel Rees in 1944? Why?

3.    TV & Films. Specifically, ones I hate. I start thinking about why I didn’t like them, what I would have done differently. Before I know it, I’m imagining a whole different film, in which things happen to my liking. I’d never copy an existing book, film or programme of course, but sometimes just the idea is enough to get me started on something wholly my own.

4.    Conversations. Sometimes specific ones, like when my agent asked me what I wanted to write next while I was eating a piece of cake. “Um, how about a book about a Bake Club?” But more often, just chatting to someone about their day, or something odd that happened to them, can lead me off on a tangent of possibilities.

5.    Asking What If? This is one of my favourite ways to develop stories. What if trees could talk? What if only I could hear them? What if my boyfriend wasn’t who he says he was? Why would he be lying? Just asking ‘what if’ often enough about the everyday things around you can give you enough stories for a lifetime.

6.    Other Books. Again, you have to be careful with this one – no ones likes a copy cat. But if you’ve read a book you truly love, think about why you loved it. What made it so special? Pick out one thing – a character, a setting, a theme – that you want to embody in your own story. Then find a way to twist it utterly, make it your own, and build your own, new, fresh story around it.

7.    Dreams. Not always the most reliable source of inspiration, but if you do tend to remember your dreams think about keeping a dream diary. The once or twice you have a nugget of genius in there will make it worthwhile! Your story will probably end up nothing like the original dream, but all we’re looking for here is starting ideas.

I hope that helps! Just remember, ideas are always out there, all around you. You just have to be open to seeing them. 

Review

Note: This is a companion book to Love, Lies and Lemon Pies, which I'd definitely recommend reading, but it DOES work as a stand-alone and I've avoided spoilers for the earlier book in this review!

Grace is looking forward to being the star in the upcoming school production of Much Ado About Nothing, but after missing the audition, she's relegated to understudy and making costumes in sewing club. Being a costume mistress definitely wasn't the plan, but it may leave her in a position to step into the lead role if needed - and there's a compensation in the form of new boy Connor, who's stage managing and after initially appearing to dislike Grace starts to warm to her. Will Grace get the part and the boy?

It took me longer to warm to Grace than it did to Lottie in the first book, partly because she's not particularly pleasant in that one and starts this with a similar attitude. However she's a great narrator with a stronger voice than Lottie had, and I felt that her character development through the book was really well-handled. I also absolutely loved the chemistry between her and Connor! Speaking of Connor, he's an excellent love interest, who's got good reasons for the way he initially judges Grace, and these play well into the later relationship between the pairing. Cannon's writing style is fun, easy to read, and kept me wanting to find out what would happen next - she's definitely very talented and has created numerous memorable characters I've enjoyed reading about over the course of the two books. (On that topic, I was really glad to see that Grace carried on going to Bake Club and we got to see more of that, and the people who went there who I'd grown to really care for in the first book.)

 I think overall I slightly preferred this one to Love, Lies and Lemon Pies, although the subplot with Grace getting to know her newly-discovered sister didn't quite grab me in the same way that Lottie's struggles keeping her mum's secret did in that book.

Like the first book, it's gorgeously published, with fun sewing projects replacing the recipes in Love, Lies and Lemon Pies - and a wonderful cover which is beautifully designed.

Definitely recommended to fans of YA contemporary novels!

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