IT BEGAN WITH A BOY CALLED TOM

Tom for blog My first blog ever and I’m following Lizzie Lamb, Adrienne Vaughan and June Kearns!

Before I learnt to read, my youngest aunt loved to read to me, except when I asked to hear more of The Water Babies.  Aunt Ede preferred fairy tales or any Beatrix Potter.  I loved those too but I wanted to know what happened to Tom.  All her life Aunt read only romance so what she probably hated most in The Water Babies was the ending:

“And of course Tom married Ellie!”  My dear child, what a silly notion!

Water Babies for blogDespite most of it going over my head, I believe The Water Babies sowed the seeds of my yen to write fiction.  As you can see I still have that book.

I’ve loved books forever, couldn’t wait to learn to read, and I wrote, letters, a sort of diary to my absent mother.  As an only and adopted child, inherent loner and compulsive reader, I spent hours curled in a cavernous armchair, like most of my generation, immersed in Enid Blyton, Richmal Compton, the classics – Alice in Wonderland, Treasure Island, Three Musketeers, Little Women – how those March girls got on my wick. I thought, one day I would like to write a book.

What sort of book?

Read since Christmas 2012 No.1As you can see from the picture of my recent paperback reads, I don’t favour any particular genre.  On Kindle, since Christmas I’ve also read, Up Close by Henriette Gyland, Terry Tyler’s Dream On and the first two volumes of Peter May’s  Lewis trilogy.   None of these diverse books, in my opinion, are worthy of less than 5 stars, and I have just finished The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides.  Set in the early 1980s, Eugenides shows not tells how, despite ‘deconstruction’, the novel today remains essentially the same as Austen’s.  Like any of Jane’s, and many other ‘literary’ works, it’s about the nature of human love.

So what sort of book, when I finally came to write it, is Last Bite of the Cherry?

Dark romance, Lizzie says.  My heroine, Monica says, “I don’t want to get married.  Not ever.  I want to live”.   Also a quote from one of my Amazon reviewers – “The three interwoven love stories keep up a fast pace which made it very hard to put down.”   And thanks to New Romantics 4 it’s out there being read.

ThistleAnd why the thistle, pleasant to look at yet prickly?  Symbolic of Last Bite of the Cherry and my next novel, Twins of a Gazelle.

Mags

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Posted on April 8, 2013, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 44 Comments.

  1. Fab first blog post, Mags. It’s always great to learn more about what and who inspires and inflences an author. I too loved Enid Blyton and still have a few of her books on my shelf somewhere. I have Last Bite of the Cherry on my Kindle, ready to read. I always enjoy interwoven stories within a novel so can’t wait to get started. You’ve also prompted me to read (at long last!) The Water Babies xx

  2. An impressive start 🙂

  3. What a thought-provoking and inspiring blog post Mags. My Grandmother loved The Water Babies and used to read it to me. I still have my copy too and funnily enough was only thinking about it the other day. Thanks to you I think I’ll re-visit it.

    • Margaret Cullingford

      Thank you for your comment, Alex. Think I’v already said Water Babies wouldn’t be considered PC nowadays, but despite it’s Victorianisms it’s still a good story.

  4. Margaret Cullingford

    Thank you, Jan. The only Enid Blyton I still have is The Children of Willow Farm. Who knows, this and Wuthering Heights might have influended my featuring a farm in West Yorkshire in Last Bite. Must say my favourite EB’s were The Secret Seven.

  5. What a fabulous first post, Mags – and one that perfectly sums you up. All calm and even on the surface – while underneath, wild storms, hidden depths! Loved Last Bite of the Cherry – a really seductive read with its own hidden depths. (Have to say, I LOVED the March girls in Little Women – that’s us both summed up!)

  6. I adored Enid Blyton, too. Her books always had my young mind on flights of fantasy. When I went to Dorset last year I found an Enid Blyton Wishing Chair! I had to sit in it and have my photo taken! 🙂

    • Margaret Cullingford

      Yes, in my opinion, EB did stimulate your imagination. Made you think maybe you could make your own adventures, and when I was a child we were lucky, we had the freedom to do just that.

  7. I loved Enid Blyton, too. Her books always had my mind on a flight of fancy. I even sat in a Wishing Chair last year in Dorset!

  8. Sounds like a familiar route Mags – I still want to find that Bridge where Pooh Bear leant over and played Poo Sticks. What made me want to write – love of words really; can’t beat the English language I think even though its a “mongrel” in many ways. Why has it taken me so long to find the right genre for me – sorry no idea,

  9. Great blog Margaret….I suspect most writers were obsessive readers long before picking up a pen.
    I read many of the books you listed under the bed clothes with the aid of a small torch…
    Thank heavens,in this age of technology, the ability to read and write flourishes.

  10. Margaret Cullingford

    ‘Influended’! Either a typo because of nerves. Or I need new glasses.

  11. Hi Margaret,
    Great first blog. You’re a pro now. Like your aunt, I too loved the Water Babies but frowned on the ending. Really like the The Romantic4’s website. Exciting to look at, and your blog post was fascinating, enjoyed the read.

  12. Hey Mags! Great first blog post. I’ve never read Water Babies. Like you I was influenced to start writing because I loved reading so much and wanted my favorite stories to never end. 🙂

    • Margaret Cullingford

      Thank you, Katherine. Sorry my reply’s late, a gltich apparently. I know what you mean about not wanting stories to end. Often, novels haunt me because I keep imagining what might happen after the end. Water Babies, a great story, but very Victorian. Kingsley was a fan of another Charles, Darwin. In retrospect I can understand why my poor aunt didn’t necessarily find it an entertaining read. Course none of this bothered me at the time.

  13. Margaret Cullingford

    Thanks for your comment, Cathy. Afraid lots in the Water Babies would be frowned upon now as non-PC. You have to make allowances for it having been written in 1862 – before even I can remember – and as a child I liked the whole fantasy bit, I suppose.

  14. nice one Mags!

  15. So enjoyed reading your blog entry, Mags. Look forward to reading more, too. Another only child I spent hours reading and like with you, writing seemed to be the obvious progression.

    • Margaret Cullingford

      Glad you enjoyed it, Liz. Only children do seem to read a lot. My one-and-only did too, and drawing. He became an artist though, not a writer.

  16. adrienneauthor

    Loved your blog Mags, your memory is amazing, I read all Enid Byton’s, the Water Babies, Richmal Compton, and the classics you mention, I loved The Arabian Nights series of stories, but can’t remember any of the detail! I also remember the ‘Reading Books 1 – 10’ in school and how I raced with my chum to be the first to finish the ‘prescribed reading list’ so we could chose which books we wanted to read ourselves. How grown up we felt!

    How’s your new one coming along?

    • Margaret Cullingford

      Wasn’t too difficult remembering when I still had that battered copy of the Water Babies, and my Aunt’s later comment, ‘that damned old Water Babies you always wanted me to read . . .
      As for the new one, Twins is getting there, but the new new one (untitled) slow but sure.

  17. Interesting first blog, Mags. I too loved the Water Babies and always shed tears at the cruelty of those times. And your the cavernous armchair hit a chord too, I spent hours curled up too (usually when I should have been revising for exams). Five Go To Kirrin Island was my favourite Enid Blyton. Public Libraries were a lifeline then and it does worry me that future generations might not have the same advantage that we did..

  18. Margaret Cullingford

    Think it was the misery and the sociological preachiness of Water Babies that got to my aunt, which of course went completely over my head at the time. She never liked too much reality in the books she read. Agree with you about libraries. We’re lucky we still have a thriving library round the corner which seems to get a lot of children involved from toddlers upwards. How much longer it’ll last is something else.

  19. Judy Hodgetts

    What a lovely and interesting first blog, Mags. It struck a chord with me – I have a really old copy of The Water Babies, and Charles Kingsley wrote it by the stream in a house half a mile from me, and where a friend of mine now lives! Keep the blogs coming!

  20. Hey Mags, great blog post. I didn’t start reading books until I was about twelve years old. I devoured comics instead and it doesnt seem to have done me any harm. I wasn’t read to as such, but my grannie used to tell me tales (gleaned from going to the cinema three times a week) about Edith Cavell, The Three Musketeers and the Scarlet Pimpernel and all the Scottish Heroes. She was a great story teller although all I ever saw her read were True Detective magazines with scantily clad ladies on the front being strangled by silk stockings. Ha ha. Now you know why am I as I am. Lol.

    • Margaret Cullingford

      Your grannie sounds great, LIzzie. Actually read the Scarlet Pimpernel, and so began my fascination with the French Revolution. When I was older, wasn’t exactly on the side of the aristos, natch!

  21. Very interesting blog, Mags. I’ve not read the “Water Babies”, but I devoured Enid Blyton as a child. Later I moved on to Barbara Cartland, and then to Dickens. Much later Jane Austen because I found her quite difficult to read as a young person.
    And many thanks for the “shout” – I’m delighted to be in the company of such fabulous authors!

    • Margaret Cullingford

      Thanks for your comment Henriette. Really enjoyed Up Close – page-turning suspenseful plot set in atmospheric Norfolk. For me you couldn’t go wrong.

  22. I’m reading “Up Close” at the moment.

    Riveting, evocative, I’m loving it – and I am WAY out of Choc Lit’s normal demographic!

  23. You might like to listen to this Mags… A recent discussiion of The Water Babies, Mariella Frostrup, Radio 4 here’s the link –– http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01rfy5m

    • Margaret Cullingford

      Thanks for this, Lindsay. Think I shall have to buy the new Oxford edition of Water Babies, especially as the editor mentions stuff I’ve found out about Kingsley – see in replies above. Also will have to put Aminatta Forma’s The Hired Man on my TBRL. We were staying near Dubrovnik end of May 1991 just before the whole Yugoslav conflict kicked off. Disturbing, and sad, already a sense of menace in the air.

  24. Great first post Margaret. I really like the sound of your novel. Wishing you every success.

    • Margaret Cullingford

      Thank you, Sue for your kind comments. Sorry I’m late in acknowledging, a technical glitch I understand.

  25. Loved your first post, Mags. I loved Enid Blyton books too, read and reread the Malory Towers books especially, plus Chronicles of Narnia and Little House on the Paire series too. Spent many happy hours reading as a child and still do when I can. Looking forward to your new book as I loved ‘Last Bite of the Cherry’ – it’s interwoven stories give it a cracking pace and make it hard to put down.

  26. Margaret Cullingford

    Thanks, Kate. Think there’s a pattern. We avid readers can’t help become writers.

  27. Hi Margaret
    How brave you are to start this blogging business….From my own experience (and obviously the many who have responded to your first “posting”), reading is very much a precursor to becoming a writer.
    I too spent every waking hour (and night-time too)under the bedclothes with a torch devouring Enid Blyton and many others. One of my all time favourites, The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett ..is it the sense of adventure in us that makes us want to write?

    • Margaret Cullingford

      Yes, Casey, I think it is a sense of adventure, and being able to make up adventures in our head when we may not actually be able to go on one that does make us write.

  28. Margaret Cullingford

    I would like to apologize to everyone whose comments I’ve replied to late. Apparently a glitch in the system, which my clever techie, Annette has put right. Thank you, Annette.

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