Hello everyone! This is the 25th and penultimate event in the Put It In Writing Virtual Book Festival. And it’s my pleasure to welcome second-chance romance author Claire Baldry to the festival today. Claire is going to share her thoughts on the use of imagination in her writing.
So over to Claire:
I have always believed that imagination is the finest of all human qualities. It allows us to empathise with people in situations we have never experienced. If we let it, imagination has the power to improve our world and build new inventions. It has the potential to stop us hurting others, because we can envisage their potential pain. As writers, imagination allows us to combine pieces of our experiences together and create a whole new world.
So when people ask me ‘Where do you get your ideas from?’ the only reply I can offer is:
“You never know what’s in your head, until you start pulling it out.”
Again and again, I hear authors explain that, however hard they plan their novels, the characters seem to take over and lead the storyline in all sorts of unexpected directions. And that is the same for me. Imagination is a powerful and mysterious tool.
The deeper I get into writing a book, the more likely it is that I will find myself talking to my imagined characters. So when I’m asked “Are your characters based on real people?” I always reply “Not one person, but bits of loads of people I’ve known, and some I’ve seen on TV or read about, and some who just seem to emerge.”
How does the power of imagination translate into writing? I’ve tried to unpack this a bit and take a look at some of the characters and the setting in my latest novel ‘My Daughter’s Wedding’. The bride, Charlotte, is very self-centred, inconsiderate towards her mother and partly formed by the indulgence of her father. But she is also a hard worker, a good mother, and still only twenty-four. Is she based on my own daughter? Certainly not, but there are occasional echoes of my own daughter in the most self-centred phase of her teenage years. And when Charlotte loses control of herself in an emotional and hurtful outburst, she can’t stop. That bit of Charlotte is me, admittedly not often, but it does happen.
The mother of the bride’s new man is also a mixture. His perceptions as a teacher are definitely mine, but his humour comes from my husband whose wit is always sharpest in the company of women.
The looked after child, Carly, is partly based on pupils and families I encountered as a teacher, but I also drew on a variety of second-hand experiences told to me or watched on TV to enable me to enter the head of the abuser with whom Carly has a relationship.
I hope I have been successful in creating these characters. Blogger, Linda Hill was kind enough to observe……
”Claire Baldry has created a cast of people who felt real, flawed and authentic.” (Linda’s Book Bag)
And yet I have chosen to take these fictional characters and place at least some of them in my own hometown of Bexhill in East Sussex. The setting is real. It was a pleasure to weave my imagined characters into such familiar places. I hoped that asking my readers to use their imagination was a good way to promote my coastal hometown, which relies on visitors as part of its economy.
Blogger Anne Williams described the benefit of the setting.
“And I must mention another element of the story I loved, its vivid sense of place. Bexhill, Hastings and their surroundings are unknown territory for me, but I felt like I’d had a rather lovely holiday – the descriptions are just wonderful, the restaurants and the markets, the geography and the attractions, the detail drawn with care but never intruding, just enhancing the backdrop for the story.” (Being Anne)
I would like to write a sequel to ‘My Daughter’s Wedding’, to develop the lives and personalities of some of the characters into a whole new story. As yet, I have no inspiration, but if I keep delving into my head, hopefully my imagination will eventually pull something out.
With grateful thanks to Anne Stormont for allowing me to share my thoughts as part of her Virtual Book Festival.
Anne: And thank you to you too, Claire for this fascinating insight into how you use a mix of imagination and reality – to excellent effect – in your writing.
And now we have an extract from Claire’s above-mentioned book :
My Daughter’s Wedding
From the Back Cover:
When ‘bride to be’ and single parent, Charlotte, discovers that her 61-year-old widowed mother is in a new relationship, she struggles to come to terms with it. “Why do you need to have a man, at your age?” Charlotte asks, “Can’t you just be a grandma?”
The growing tension between mother and daughter combined with preparations for the wedding impact on both family and friends. In this compelling and unashamedly romantic tale of finding love in later life, the experience of a young care-leaver who is tasked with making the wedding bouquet, is skilfully intertwined with the family’s – sometimes turbulent– preparations for a modern wedding.
Angie was fastening her jacket when the phone rang. “Mum, it’s me. I need a favour.”
“Ask quickly then. I’ve got my jacket on. I was on my way out.”
“Why on earth are you wearing a jacket? It’s boiling out there.” Angie was irritated by her daughter’s increasing habit of treating her like a child.
“It’s breezy on Bexhill seafront. What do you want, Charlotte? I’m in a hurry.”
“Can you pick Joe up from school on Wednesday? His dad’s let me down again.”
“No, I’m sorry Charlotte, I can’t. It’s Uncle Jack’s funeral on Wednesday.”
Angie could hear daughter’s annoyance. “I still don’t see why you have to go. You didn’t like him.”
“I’m the only one left now on Grandpa’s side. I’m going to represent the family.”
“Uncle Jack won’t know you’re there.”
“I’m just doing what I believe is right. Sorry about Joe, but you’ll have to find someone else. Charlotte, I have to go.” Angie put down the phone. She grabbed her bag and stepped out of her flat and onto the wide landing. She deliberately walked past the lift and descended the four flights of stairs.
“I am not yet old,” she told herself, “I have a right to my own life.” The July sun was strong. Angie began to feel hot as she hurried along the promenade. She was pleased Charlotte wasn’t watching as she removed her jacket. By the time she reached the little Thai restaurant, her friend Alison was already seated at a table. Alison waved an empty glass at Angie.
“Wine? You look flustered.”
“I am flustered, and yes please. Well done for remembering to bring the bottle.” The restaurant wasn’t licensed, so the two friends took it in turns to bring wine to their weekly lunch.
“Let me guess, it’s Charlotte.”
Angie let out an exaggerated sigh. “She talks down to me as if I’m senile. And she forgets I have a right to a life of my own. I’m her mother, not her servant.”
Want to read more? You can buy a copy of the book here
Former headteacher and English Advisor, Claire Baldry, lives on the East Sussex coast with her husband Chris. She has published five booklets of amusing poetry, an autobiographical novella and two novels. Claire has a very regular schedule of engagements as a speaker and light-hearted performance poet. She regularly fundraises for charity, and Claire and her husband were awarded the SE Diabetes UK fundraising Inspire Award in 2017. Claire is passionate about promoting books and poetry with protagonists and issues which appeal to readers in mid-life and beyond. She is the creator of the ‘Books for Older Readers’ website and has won two awards for her poetry from the Silver Surfers website.
You can connect online with Claire at the links below: