Thursday, 30 October 2014

Māori Culture in my Novels. Earning the Right.

After a couple of weeks of editing and getting print copies ready for Createspace, I was desperate to get back to writing Du Rose Sons. But first I needed to do some research. Usually it involves visiting pa sites such as Rangiriri or tramping to the top of Taupiri Maunga, just to see what it looks like off the top. Once I forced my gorgeous husband to drive me to Port Waikato because that’s the town that Hana can see from the top of Logan’s mountain. Logan’s comment to Hana that, “There’s nothing there,” was not only true, but it’s what my husband said to me before we did the hour long journey there weaving and winding through the mountains. It was pretty beautiful though.

Mount Ruapehu
There is so much about hidden New Zealand that is truly stunning. It’s not just the big sky or the phenomenal ridge of tide as two oceans clash just off Cape Reinga, it’s the raw nakedness of the geography and the incredible richness of the culture.

My Hana Du Rose Mysteries have embraced Māori culture more as they’ve progressed, not least because Logan Du Rose has such an intricate history attached to the land he owns and the family he belongs to. There are some shocks to come in Du Rose Sons that you won’t have seen coming, but I wanted to extend the richness of the Māori tapestry within it.

View from the top of Taupiri Mountain
My qualifications to do this are probably somewhat flaky in that I am an immigrant with no Māori heritage whatsoever. But before emigrating from the UK, my children and I made serious efforts to learn Māori, despite being ridiculed when we got here for it, albeit mainly by white people! We arrived in the country knowing how to introduce ourselves, make simple greetings and recognise signs. We knew not to stick our tongues out at anyone and not to put our backsides anywhere near surfaces which might be used to for food. Now that last one sounds odd but you would be surprised how often you rest your butt against your kitchen surface or how many of your teenagers hoik their bums onto the counter or table to chat to you. So see, our feeble attempts were worth it. That is considered offensive. You don’t put your nono where you eat your kai!

As a family we visited the Waitangi Treaty Grounds and spoke at length to a lovely man there who was brought up on the site and remembered the English flag being blown up when he was a boy. He loved that my children attempted to converse with him and showed an interest in his heritage. I also studied for a year extramurally with Te Wanaanga Aotearoa on a Māori history course, which was immensely enriching. I had such an incredible response from Māori people who I asked for help while I was doing the course and had some neat conversations. I went to a cafe once and sat with my books out studying and ended up with the barista sat next to me trying to point out Te Wherowhero’s pa up in the Hakarimata Ranges on an ordinance survey map. Now that was fun!

Taupiri in the early morning mists
So today I’ve been researching some Wise Words of the Māori in a beautiful book by Murdoch Riley of that name, Revealing History and Traditions.

I will list some I think you might find inspiring and relate them to a section in Du Rose Sons just to tease those of you desperately hanging out for it.

Riding my horse by the Waikato River
Tama Du Rose
There is a scene in which Tama empties Hana’s pantry searching for food and eats everything he finds. He’s home on leave from the fire service for a reason that if I told you, I would have to kill you for knowing. But he’s hungry and foraging and Alfred says of him,
Ahakoa nui, ahakoa iti, Pūrangatia ko te aroaro o Taiawa.
No whether large or small, it will be heaped up in front of Taiawa.
Now Taiawa was a traveller and a glutton it seems and would eat absolutely anything put in front of him. Actually he sounds like the perfect child but anyway, this sentence aptly describes the grazing Tama.

Logan Du Rose
Logan takes his whakapapa seriously and his debt to the people of the land. His grandmother, Phoenix Du Rose buried his afterbirth underneath the ancient kauri tree at the top of the mountain and his body will return to the mountain after death. His daughter was born in the same place at the end of Du Rose Legacy and he unwittingly buried her afterbirth there too, scraping the baked earth over it with the heel of his boot. The moko tattoo on his upper arm and shoulder details his heritage, even though he discovered at the age of forty that his heritage was not as he believed.
E kore e taka te parapara a ōna tūpuna, tukua iho kia a ai.
He cannot lose the spirit of his ancestors; it must descend to him.

Ahakoa mate he tētē kura, e ora ana he tētē kura.
Although one chief has died, another will take his place.

E haere atu ana he whakatipuranga
E haere mai ana he whakatipuranga.
One generation goes and another generation arrives.

Researching Maori Wise words
Will, the archivist in the Du Rose Museum which Hana has started up at the hotel in the mountains is the guardian of the Du Rose taonga and artifacts. In Du Rose Sons, Hana has cause to take issue with a particular item and in protecting it, Will says,
E hara i te mea, he kotahi tangata nāna i whakaara i tō pō.
It was not one man alone who was awake in the dark times.
He is trying to tell Hana that she should consider more than one version of events.

I’ve chosen heaps and would happily share them all with you. But at the risk of boring you, I will give you a final insight into the character of Reuben Du Rose, who you met in Du Rose Legacy. Of him it would be said,
E tohe i ngā tohe a Pōtoru.
Stubborn as the stubbornness of Pōtoru, who rushed foolishly to his own destruction.

The picture I painted on my living room wall.
Whanau means family.

 #amwriting #NewZealand #novelines

Saturday, 25 October 2014

2 Degrees of Separation - No Escape

Raised in the UK and West Germany in an insular family of airmen and service people, my world was small. Not just childishly small, but a mini version of the real thing. When we emigrated to New Zealand after the sprawling population of Britain, I was struck again by how small the world can seem.

With only four million people, give or take a few hundred, it stands to reason that the country will function like a large city. I never knew all the people in Market Harborough, the town in England where we emigrated from, but I couldn’t leave the house without greeting a fair few. We couldn’t quite list the colour of everyone’s underwear from observing their washing line, but it was close on occasion.

Sometimes when I write, it feels as though my characters link and swirl in a bizarre dance, knowing each other and things about someone else that can be used to vary the pace of the plot. Someone always knows someone who knows someone. Perhaps on other continents, that can seem a little convenient, but once you’ve lived here a while, you realise that it’s how things are.

It’s called 2 degrees of separation and yes, there’s a name for it. It’s even the trademark of a mobile phone provider.

In the UK, if you go to a party and know almost nobody, conversation will invariably focus on two main topics.

“What was the weather like when you left home? It was raining where we were.”

“How did you get here today? Did you get stuck on the M25? It was like a car park this morning.”

In New Zealand, the conversation goes very differently. Occasionally it might be drawn towards the weather in a particularly dry lull in the chatter but we live on an island that is only a few kilometres across in some places. Auckland for instance, gets battered by tides and weather fronts driven by the Tasman Sea to the west and the Pacific to the east. The city can experience four complete seasons in a single day. It’s the same for the rest of us too. I have been rained on from a cloudless sky before now. There's no point mentioning it - it will be different in a minute!

The roads are largely dreadful, so we don’t mention those. When we first arrived, parts of State Highway One weren’t even sealed and Hamilton only just got a decent bypass after 150 years of existence. If we start talking about roading, we might not stop and anyway, it’s boring.

This is how the conversation in New Zealand with strangers will definitely go.

“Oh, you’re from Hamilton? Good old Tron hey. You might know my cousin; he lives in Pukete and works in a jewellers in Te Awa.”

Now if you did that in the UK - which unwitting New Zealanders will do when visiting with their, ‘Oh do you know John Smith from London?’ - you would get looked at as though you were mad. Not so here.

“Lives in Pukete and works at Te Awa? What’s his name?”

“Hone Ropata. He’s the manager.”

“Tall chap, nice teeth, got everything pierced?”

“Yeah, that’s him.”

“Ah yep, I know him. He goes out with my daughter’s best friend’s sister. Nice guy.”

See, I can hear you sniggering already but I’m telling you - that’s New Zealand! And yes, it took us by surprise too.

My husband once travelled an hour and a half to Rotorua with a colleague on business. They decided to go into a cafe for lunch which they had never been in before. Whilst there, my husband recognised a man sat at a table in the corner and approached him after they had eaten. And yes, it was his old boss from the bank in England that he worked in before we came. The man was on holiday in New Zealand.

If that’s not enough for you, then how about this?

We arrived on a one-way ticket with our four small children and used a camper van to tour the North Island. We camped in the far north at Russell and attended Sunday service at the oldest church in New Zealand which still has the musket holes in the walls from the Maori wars. A lovely ex-pat couple offered us to go back to their beautiful house on the beach for lunch and guess what?

Yes, our kind host turned out to be the obstetrician who delivered my husband in Bradford Royal Infirmary maternity unit over three decades previously.

My very beautiful daughter in
Palmerston North. This was on the cover of About Hana for a while.
If you are still doubting, then try this.

Whilst also in Russell, we parked next to a couple with a pop-top caravan. We chatted a few times and they gave us their address in Hamilton.

“That was nice,” I said to my husband afterwards. “Where’s Hamilton?”

“No idea,” he replied. “But isn’t that the place that everyone in Auckland told us to avoid. I seem to remember them saying, ‘take the 1B and go round it’ I’m sure that’s the place.”

Memorial to Captain Hamilton who is the namesake of
the city of Hamilton
So south we went, avoiding Hamilton and hit the east coast and a place called Te Puke. We were a good nine hours away from Russell and at least two from Hamilton - where obviously we had never been. In the camp site spa at 9 o’clock at night, we met a lovely lady and her granddaughter. Our four children and her one played around together and we got chatting.

“Ah Russell,” she said. “My friends just went for a holiday up there. You might have met them.”

Husband and I roll our eyes at each other. As if.

“Yes they’ve got a pop-top caravan and he limps slightly...”

Oh my goodness! Further chatter confirmed that it was definitely them.

A few weeks later heading north again, I glance up to see the welcome board for...

“Why are we in Hamilton?”

“I just wanted a look,” my husband says and I groan a bit. The town is beautiful; the sun is shining and the family consensus is to stay for a few days. “I’m going to ring that couple we met in Russell,” husband says and I’m gripped with misgivings. You just can’t do that! They won't have been serious! How embarrassing is this going to be?

They invited us for tea and we stayed the night. A week later we rented a house from them and have been in this area for nine years. On the Sunday, we went to their church and who should we see there but the woman from the spa - with clothes on this time.

My eldest daughter posing for the cover
of Free From the Tracks on the railway
line in Ngaruawahia
There are massive cultural differences between New Zealand and other countries and this is definitely one of them. The whole nation is one big community. Nobody is a stranger because there’s always this connection. I have given up fighting it. I will always know someone that they know and vice versa. 

As a Christian, I know that God had a hand in our journey over here because he slung so many good people across our path to help us out. But he used a cultural factor that was already here to do it.

If novels by New Zealand authors seem a little unrealistic from the point of view that everyone’s lives are bound up in each other’s then it’s because that’s truly how it is. If you’re reading our work from the safety of another continent, don’t make the mistake of thinking we played out some complicated plot sequence just for convenience. It’s highly probable that the murderer will be the hero’s brother’s-dog’s-cat’s-Uncle Tom-once removed from the budgie’s aunty.

So don’t scoff at us.

And whatever you do - never criticise one New Zealander to another. It is an absolute certainty that they will know them and you will end up sorry you ever mentioned it.

2 degrees of separation has no escape.

#travel #amwriting #NewZealand #tourism #2degrees #2degreesofseparation #novelines 

Thursday, 9 October 2014

An Exclusive Interview with Logan Du Rose

I'm nervous before he arrives as his reputation precedes him. I see him striding across the car park and he's unmistakable in his Jackaroo hat with his cowboy boots peeking out of the bottom of well fitted jeans. He's gorgeous and at the same time, infinitely dangerous. I won't be allowed to mention his association with the Triads or other big Auckland players and I've already been told not to ask about his family. It's private and my editor has warned me in the pre-interview, if Logan Du Rose feels that I have overstepped the mark, he will walk away and the interview will never be printed. 

He ducks slightly as he walks in the door of the low-key cafe, tucked away at the back of a shop that sells animal feed, saddlery gear and farming items. It's where he asked to meet and I stand up to shake his hand. He's well over six feet tall but is imposing in more ways than just his height. There's a latent power that comes off his broad shoulders in waves, the authority and bearing of geunine mana.

He orders coffee with a low, resonant voice that has the waitress fluttering her eyelashes and then he pays for mine as well. That's class. He hitches his hat back on his head a little but doesn't take it off. It acts as another barrier between him and me.

"How tall are you?" I ask him to start the ball rolling. 

"Six feet four inches in my socks," he answers and smiles as I almost peer under the table, but manage to stop myself. When Logan Du Rose smiles, an ugly scar under his right eye crinkles and makes him look even sexier somehow. He doesn't smile often.

"Tell me about your hotel," I say. "It's just won a New Zealand Tourism award. What's it like to have created one of the North Island's top destinations?"

He sighs. "It's been a long road and taken a lot of planning to get everything in place. And it's not happened overnight." He pauses for a moment and fiddles with a sachet of sugar. "It started with the house really, making that into somewhere people might want to stay. It operated as a conference centre for about ten years before we converted the honeymoon suite and added other stuff. Then we started doing weddings and smaller events."

"You actually grew the business while you lived and worked in the UK," I say. "How hard was that to manage from a distance?"

He shrugs and looks around for his coffee before answering. "It worked fine. I had good managers and I came home periodically. I was no biggie."

He's so casual that I want to ask him about the other stuff, but I'm taking a risk because it's personal. "Your parents ran it for you, I understand. They obviously did a good job." I throw in the compliment in the hope that he won't just walk away. His gorgeous grey eyes narrow and flash but it could have been the sunlight.

"Yeah," he replies, a little wistfully. "My parents ran the bloodstock business and the homestead. But they always had good local help and it makes a difference. A business stands or falls by its employees and mine have always been quality." 

I risk it. "I'm sorry about the death of your mother. That must have been tragic, especially before Christmas." It's like I've pressed the detonate button and he brings his feet square to the floor and puts his hands on his knees. One more personal question and he's going to follow through with his threat. He's going to leave. I daren't ask my next question now. I know that his father remarried the housekeeper within less than a year but I'm not going to push my luck and ask him how hard his mother was to replace in the business sense. He'll read into it.

"So tell me what your site has to offer tourists looking for a weekend break or a week long stay? Is it somewhere that I could take a family with a couple of children?"

He relaxes. "Totally. There's a camper van park on the side of the mountain that has electrical hook up facilities and on site bathrooms and cooking areas. There are kilometres of bush tracks which run through most of the property and you can arrange to have a picnic delivered to you just about anywhere. There's a lake and areas to fish or swim as long as you're happy to be out in the natural environment. We just finished putting in a thermal hot spa, so that's another option if you just want to chill out and relax. The hotel is fully catered or you can stay there and travel up to Auckland or out into the township. It's up to you and there are packages to suit just about everyone. No two people enjoy the same holiday."

"Would you go into the health and spa business?" I ask and he shakes his head. 

"No." He doesn't offer a reason and I'm forced to accept his reply.

"I read in the appraisal of your facilities that the horse trekking is spectacular."

Logan Du Rose gives me one of his rare smiles. "Well, we've been in the business of horses for generations, so that figures. The mountain is beautiful and most of the stock were bred there. Visitors to the country want to see the real thing and that's the way to do it, on horseback. The property runs right across to the mountain range above Port Waikato." He grins. "Hell of a view of the Tasman Sea from up there."

"So I've heard," I say but he doesn't offer me a visit or a chance to see it. Pity. "Your Maori heritage is obviously very important to you." I point to the ta moko tattoo showing through his sleeve and realise too late that once again, I've touched on a raw spot. His face shuts down and he purses his full lips. It's clear that he's answered all the questions that he's going to but I trail him around the store as he looks at saddles and tack. His hands are gentle and slender as he touches the leather work on a bridle. They are covered in lots of scars and cuts and I know that hemophilia has gone through every generation of the Du Roses so far. I want to ask him about it, but can't. 

"I heard that you play guitar," I say and he looks at me curiously.

"Yeah," is all he replies.

We look at some more saddles and bridles in the back of the store and he buys a pair of cute cowgirl boots. I give it a go, "Are those for your wife?"

He nods and smiles widely then. "Yeah, she looks good in this stuff. It's her red hair I reckon. She's pretty stunning." 

"What's your favourite dinner?"

He laughs, "A good old boil-up."

"Does your wife make that?" I dare and he looks at me as though I'm straying on dangerous territory again.

"No, course not. She's English. It's a Maori dish."

"Does your daughter ride yet? Phoenix."

To my amazement, he nods his head enthusiastically. "Definitely. I put her up with me when she was six weeks old and you can't get her off now."

"Does she have her own horse?" I ask, foolishly as I know the child isn't two yet.

He nods and fingers the trim on an expensive saddle. "I've chosen a foal for her. A stock horse. They'll be ready to learn together. For now, she just rides with me or my wife but she can sit up there on her own, she just doesn't have much control."

I'm stunned. "You seem to have an affinity with the land. Is that nature or nurture? Did someone teach you how to respect it or is it something you always knew?"

"Both," he replies, for once candid. "If you respect it, it will respect you." He pays for the boots. "We done here?"

All I can do is nod and he offers me his hand to shake again. His handshake is strong and definite and makes me feel safe. Then he strides out of the store clutching his gift with obvious care and gets into his 4 x 4. I realise that I know nothing new about this enigmatic man from half an hour in his company, than I did before he walked in. He's been a teacher for more than twenty years, both in New Zealand and abroad, he's widely travelled and highly academic. He's a multi-millionaire and until last year, owned stocks all over the world and met his wife at the age of fourteen on a short trip overseas. They didn't meet again until twenty-six years later. I wanted desperately to ask him about his birth father, Reuben Du Rose - not the man who brought him up and I wanted to ask him about his daughter's namesake, Phoenix Du Rose, who crafted him into the man he now is and gave him his love of the whenua.  

 I know realistically that he had no intention of telling me any of that and at least I got him to talk about the hotel for a while. But I'm left with an impression of a powerful man who loves his family passionately and is both loyal and honest with his heritage. He's made a big impact on me and he did it with the smallest action. It wasn't the sense of threat when I strayed into topics he didn't want me to, or his short, clipped answers. It was the look on his face when he paid for the gift for his wife. Real, genuine, love. 

Hana Du Rose is one lucky woman. 

Monday, 6 October 2014

Passive Voice - Shoot to Kill

I was astounded when someone pointed out that one of my novels contained ‘passive voice.’ I had no idea what they were talking about. I went on a mission to find out exactly what they meant. I re-read my work and still couldn’t see it, so I Googled and came up with numerous blogs detailing it. Back to my work I went and...oh no! There it was, glaring out at me.

How does Passive Voice sneak in there?
 Not everyone does this and I think that my personality has a lot to do with it. I’m not a direct speaker and don’t function well in groups. Therefore, I have a tendency to understate everything to take the attention away from me. I’m married to a Yorkshireman who traditionally, “calls a spade, a spade.” That’s not me. I prefer to call it a “digging thing” and work up to its proper name. The other reason - is that we often write exactly how we speak. This is where other sorts of errors also creep in. Only “direct speech” in writing should be colloquial and for the rest, we must follow the rules.

What does Passive Voice do to your writing?
 Basically, it’s an opt-out clause for your subject or character. What the writer does with passive voice, is to rearrange the sentence, often without realising and take the action away from the character, therefore reducing the kick of the sentence. It’s a bit like tying a karate expert’s arms and legs up so that he can’t get out and then telling him to defend himself. He could, but it might just take longer. It’s the opposite of active voice and it forces your reader to stand outside the action instead of in the thick of it.

What does Passive Voice look like?
 There are lots of examples, but I will share some of mine with you. Experts might debate the actual grammatical legitimacy of calling it that, but for arguments sake, here are my crimes:
‘He was going to the shops.’  = ‘He walked to the shops.’
‘He was taking his child to school.’ = ‘He took his child to school.’

These are just silly examples, but every individual does it in a variety of ways. As you can see, WAS is a key for me when I’m blitzing passive voice in my work.

Wordiness can do it too without you realising. This is something that I am guilty of. I remember an English teacher in 7th form saying to me as he handed my work back, “I gave you an A because it was beautifully written but when I read it again, I had to fail you. You wrote eloquently but didn’t actually say anything.” Oops. There it was, the coveted A crossed out and replaced with the F. 

Lesson learned? Nope!

Sometimes much as you hate it, you have to rewrite the sentence. I know it hurts, but it has to be done so suck it up, take it apart and put it back together again. I know we don’t want to hear it, but SIMPLE IS BEST.
‘Carla was hurt by Tim’s words.’ = ‘Tim’s words hurt Carla.’

I have noticed that BEGAN is also another biggie for me. I recently did a search on the word ‘began’ in Blaming the Child and was astounded to find 95 incidences of it. There’s no way anyone could have ‘begun or began’ that many things in one novel. I don’t think it’s physically possible.

Repeated words can also reduce the effectiveness of your writing. It’s a dulling down that you don’t want to happen as it allows the writer to detach from the action and potentially wander off.

Below is an example from Blaming the Child. It hurts me to show you this because nobody wants their dirty washing dangled in front of the world but in the spirit of helping others, here goes. The first paragraph is the writing with problems highlighted and the second is the edited work. I could still change it more if I wanted but don’t want to lose the essence of it too much. It is after all, me speaking to the reader from the heart.

"When after two hours of half walking, half crawling, Declan declared that they had covered half a kilometre, Calli began to cry shamelessly, huge drops of water cascading down her face and off her chin into the cruel, unrelenting ground cover. “It’s dark and everything looks the same,” she sobbed. “I hate it.”
Declan came back to her, leaving his pack on the ground and vaulting the fallen kauri trunk that he had just managed to navigate. He landed next to the stricken girl in the leaves and dust and put his arm around her, doing his best to comfort her but still afraid of a backlash. “You hate too many things, Cal,” he sighed, brushing stray curls away from her face. “Your heart doesn’t have room for it all.”

The nuked version:

When after two hours of half walking, half crawling, Declan declared that they had covered five hundred metres, Calli sobbed shamelessly. Huge drops of water cascaded down her face and off her chin into the cruel, unrelenting ground cover. “It’s dark and everything looks the same,” she sobbed. “I hate it.”
Declan came back to her, leaving his pack on the ground. He vaulted the fallen kauri trunk that he had just navigated with difficulty, landing next to the stricken girl in the leaves and dust. He put his arm around her, trying valiantly to comfort her but still afraid of a backlash. “You hate too many things, Cal,” he sighed, brushing stray curls away from her face. “Your heart doesn’t have room for it all.”

I do have to warn you though, the trouble with finding this stuff, is that you have to go back through everything you ever wrote and change it. It’s a bit like discovering that in every photo from 1973 onwards, you had your skirt tucked up in your knickers. You have to find and destroy all the evidence. Nothing must remain to humiliate you. Operate a ‘shoot to kill’ policy with passive voice and wordiness. But don’t go silly with it. Try to remember that you are writing for another human being who just wants to touch your soul, so avoid making your writing so technical and clinical that it loses your humanness. That brings a different kind of detachment between you and the reader and you don’t want that either. 

The other unfortunate issue is that you can spot it in other writer's work and it is enough to drive your reviews down to a 1* after 150,000 words of passive voice clanging in your ears. You become like the chain smoker who gave up and now hates all other smokers with a passion that outclasses any non-smoker, because you know what it does to them. Be kind about it though. Private message them and point it out. It's possible that they had no idea it was there.

#writingtipsandtricks #author #grammar

Friday, 3 October 2014

Defining 'Support' in a Writer's Strange World

I often accuse my family of not supporting my writing.

There are lots of reasons why they don’t read my work.

Maybe it’s embarrassing.
Maybe it’s just not their thing.
Maybe it’s crap.

How would I ever know, when all I get are non-committal answers in the way of shrugs and grunts. ‘Your mum reads it,” they plead. “Isn’t that enough?’

‘Not really!’ I think to myself as I strop off to my office, knowing that I deliberately won’t come out until tomorrow now - just to spite them. 

I rant to myself about all the boring essays I’ve had to read to satiate their educations or all the tedious work stories I’ve smiled through. Not to mention the times I’ve stunned even myself by remembering a colleague’s name and personal qualities or lack of...

I ironed some shirts for my husband today. And I put the coloureds wash onto the airer to dry. I smelled his gorgeous aftershave coming up from the clean shirts, masked only slightly by the washing powder and thought about my slewed perspective on life sometimes. I rarely do his ironing and lately, I’ve been so consumed with editing my novels that I rarely even put a wash on, let alone deal with the wet clothes. It occurred to me that as a writer, I must be a nightmare to live with. I used to be a decent sort of housewife. Our home was spotless, my car was spotless and usually myself and the children were too. But when I got into publishing my work, I found that I would glance at the laden washing basket, think ‘Oh yeah, I need to do that,’ and then forget about it until I passed it again on the way out.

I’ve become a little obsessive lately about wanting my husband to read my work, my blogs, my interviews, admire my stats and ‘like’ everything I post on my author page. And somehow, anything less than complete compliance negates all other efforts on his part to support me.

The Maori word to describe support is; taituarā.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word ‘support’ as meaning; to bear all or part of the weight of; hold up. But what it doesn't do, is prescribe exactly how that bearing of the weight must look, or what criteria it has to fill in order to be considered the correct sort of support. 

My husband has kitted out the most beautiful office for me to work in. He didn’t just grab me a flat packed desk from one of the cheaper retail stores. No, he sourced a work of art, complete with cloth top and a million drawers for me to hide my crap in. He didn’t complain when the cat moved into the filing drawer at the bottom, nor did he moan when I used a lump hammer to hang my pictures around the room. And last weekend he even bought me a proper two-seater sofa so that when people want to talk to me about something, they don’t have to stand next to me like a naughty school child. I think that probably qualifies as support.

I didn’t get all that just from ironing a few shirts, but I was somewhat humbled with the realisation that it’s probably the only selfless thing I’ve done all week.

I’m going to have fun with my children. They know that because I’ve warned them. There will be a clause in my will which will prevent them accessing any of my royalties until they answer a series of questions about me, my work and my motivation. They think it’s the moment. I might be like Shakespeare and become posthumously famous and popular. Then all those yummy dollars will be sat in an account somewhere until they put their heads together and work out which of them appeared the most times as unnamed cameos in my work. Or some other random question that I haven’t thought up yet.

But what about those who stand shoulder to shoulder with us? The ones who turn up at the end of a deafening squeal of anger, because our back-ups failed on the laptop or hard drive and we just lost six months of work. What about the poor soul-mate who schedules time with us to watch a movie, but sees out of the corner of their eye that we’re checking our stats online?

My poor chap regularly arrives home from work to no tea; the house completely in darkness and me sat in the dark somewhere tapping away on my keyboard in the dim light of the screen.

Isn’t that support?

I realised as I ironed his work shirts this morning that I had always previously accepted being married to a man whose idea of an engrossing read was a technical manual. I’m sincerely glad that he prefers that stuff to be honest. He’s been head hunted enough times in his career that I’ve got to tag along and live in some cool places. That probably wouldn’t have happened if he was Mr Average at work and buried his nose in Romeo and Juliet at the, like me.

My husband loves Marmite and I can’t even bear the smell of it. I wonder how I would feel if he insisted that because he loved it, I had to eat a whole pot by myself, while he watched over me eagerly for signs of boredom...or nausea.

I don’t see that working and I would be offended if someone vomited up one of my novels!

I’ve realised that I’ve been looking for support of a specific kind, whilst ignoring the incredibly valuable sort I do get. I wrote this article because I know that I’m not alone amongst writers who feel unsupported by family and friends. I know that because we chat amongst ourselves in the ether and express our dissatisfaction and jealousy when someone else points out that their husband or wife is their editor. Damn them!

There are significant advantages when your partner doesn’t read your work though. My husband is blissfully unaware that the dashing Logan Du Rose in The Hana Du Rose Mysteries is based on him and his misspent youth. I get messages from women all over the world who love Logan and sigh whenever his name is mentioned. I should be glad that he has no idea about his little fan base. I think he would be embarrassed...nay mortified actually.

And if he doesn’t read my blogs then he has no idea that I’ve been talking about him...or that I’ve ironed his shirts.