Saturday, 16 October 2010

Afternoon Tea with Robert Goddard

Recently friends and I enjoyed 'Afternoon Tea with Robert Goddard' - an event held as part of the Warwick Words literary festival.

Robert Goddard's first novel, 'Past Caring', appeared in 1986. He followed this with a further twenty books, many with historical settings, blending mystery and adventure into complex plots. His latest novel is 'Long Time Coming'.

Robert spoke for around an hour to a packed hall. He began by telling us how he used to imagine that being a writer would be a glamorous life. Experience has since taught him that it is more a life of hard work and invention. I am always amazed at how novelists consistently come up with new ideas over a period of so many years. So where does Robert find those ideas? News stories can be a source of inspiration, he suggested, particularly those where ordinary people become involved in crime. Murder seems especially fascinating to readers. Robert asked whether this is because we can imagine circumstances where we might be tempted to commit it ourselves. History, which Robert studied at Cambridge, also has endless possibilities for plot ideas.

In response to questions from the audience, Robert talked about his process of plotting a novel. He said that while he does continue to plot in some detail before starting to write, often the story can change as the characters evolve. I liked his tip for finding names for his characters - study the gravestones in cemeteries! Robert revealed that one of his own favourite novelists is crime author Michael Dibdin. And a final thought for writers: imagination needs to be trained and exercised through regular use. The more you do this, the easier the writing will come.

Following the talk my friends and I had some fabulous cake, and agreed that Robert Goddard had been a very funny and entertaining speaker. I would definitely recommend seeing him in person if you have the opportunity. Thank you Robert for such an enjoyable afternoon.

For more about Robert Goddard, his website is here.


Old Kitty said...

Oh thank you for this info on Robert Goddard and the link to his site. I'll definitely look out for his books! Thanks.

I so agree about how you may plot your story to death but the characters do somehow evolve in such a way to throw a spanner in all that careful plotting. I always discover this everytime I start to write a story!! I'm a "pantster" writer when to it comes to plotting as my lovely US writerly bloggers say!

Glad you had a great time and a lovely tea and cake treat after! Take care

Joanna said...

This is fascinating and I'm keen to read Robert Goddard now. Thanks, Joanne.

I agree with the imagination needing to be trained and kept in regular use. I think it's like a lot of things we do. Once we stop for a while, it can take time to find our way back to where we were. And, when we do get there, we find it has seized up a bit. So it's best to write daily, as much as you can fit in, so that the mind doesn't get rusty.

It seems as if my brain actually hurts when being exercised. I had an English teacher at school who told me that deep, prolonged, single-minded thinking was, in fact, quite physically painful. But so worthwhile.

Laraine Eddington said...

I enjoyed your account Joanne. I am always delighted to find new authors such as Goddard and Dibdin. I really enjoyed Meg Rosoff's books that you recommended. Did I already tell you how much I liked the novel "Room: A Novel". It was totally engrossing. You might look it up if you haven't already.

bazza said...

Hi Joanne. I went accross to Robert Goddard's site and read the first chapter of his new book.
Thanks for the introduction; can you suggest which to read first? I think I would enjoy his writing.
Seems like you had fun and fabulous cake. How lovely!

joanne fox said...

Kitty, there was a wide choice of cake. I had the fruit cake, though the rest looked lovely too!

Joanna, I don't know if I would describe that kind of thinking as physically painful, but it is definitely tiring, even after a couple of hours.

Laraine I'm so glad you liked the Meg Rosoff. I am a mega-fan of hers. Thank you for the recommendation of 'Room: A Novel' which I will certainly look up.

Bazza, people tell me Robert Goddard's first novel 'Past Caring' is a great read. I haven't read that one myself, but the one I've read most recently is 'Take No Farewell'. A lot of Robert Goddard's books are quite long, and I think that one was around 500 pages, but it still kept me guessing the whole way through.

Karen said...

What a lovely combination - an entertaining talk and cake!

One of my colleagues at the library where I work is an avid fan, but for some reason I've never tried any of his novels. I'm determined to now though :o)

joanne fox said...

Karen I hope you find one of his in your library to take home. Just the thing for these long autumn evenings!