Thrillers With Attitude Literary Smorgasbord; Emma Hamilton

If you have ever been anywhere near a writing group or book festival of any kind, you will know that writers come in all shapes and sizes, from big robust circles, to tiny stabby stars. They come in different flavours too, from cool, classic vanilla, to eyeball-exploding, triple-hot chilli sauce.

Thrillers With Attitude is on a mission to find out what makes these weirdly-shaped and strangely-flavoured writers tick.

My guest this week is emerging children’s author, Emma Hamilton.

Hi Emma, thank you for taking part in the Literary Smorgasbord. Please, tell me a little bit about yourself.

Thanks very much for inviting me.  I married very young, straight out of school, and was mother to four gorgeous little boys by the time I was twenty-five. As you might imagine, life was extremely busy. Now that they are growing up (and now I am no longer married) I find myself with more time to devote to the things I want to do- like writing.  I still spend a lot of time with children through my job as a nanny and find myself naturally drawn towards writing for pre-schoolers. I also write poetry (the kind that’s definitely not suitable for children) and short stories.

What were you like at school?

I absolutely loved everything about school.The learning, hanging out with my friends, even the tests and exams. Okay… I might have been a swot.

When did you start writing?

I began writing as soon as I could form the words on the page. I remember coming home from school in primary one and writing notes to my mum detailing my day, instead of just telling her about it. She still has one, I believe.

As a teenager, most of my writing was in the form of letters to my London pen friend, Jeremy. We would send massive wads of heavily scribbled A4 up and down the country to each another, occasionally accompanied by a mix tape or two.

I plucked up the courage to go to my first creative writing course (run by the Workers Educational Association – WEA) around 12 years ago. They put on a crèche so that my boys would be looked after and I was lucky enough to have the late Highland poet and writer Angus Dunn as my tutor. I can confidently say that that was the point where I began to take my writing more seriously and to devote as much time to it as I could – which still wasn’t very much. The breakdown of my marriage two years ago made me really examine what was important to me. I realised then that I must prioritise my writing and so embraced it with a new fervour.

Have you ever kept a diary?

Absolutely. As a teenager, I had one of those locking ones with the flimsy wee keys which I updated religiously every night. It was full of rambling angst about whichever boy was filling my thoughts at that particular time. I don’t keep a diary now, though I still find it useful to vent onto the page when I have things to work through. It’s still mostly about teenage boys- this time, my sons.

How would you describe your style of writing?

My childrens’ stories are written in rhyme, taking a joy in rhythm. I like to write in this style simply because this is the form of story I most enjoy reading aloud. I like to use Scottish words where I can to give a hint of a sense of place.

Are you inspired by any writers in particular?

Julia Donaldson and Linley Dodds are my inspiration for my childrens’ stories.  Who doesn’t love The Gruffalo or Hairy MacLary? I aspire to produce something that is as enchanting to children as those stories.

What are you working on just now?

At the moment, I’m working on a series of rhyming stories about a wee girl called Maggie, and the challenges that being four years old can bring. The first two are called Maggie’s Screamy Day and Maggie’s Green-eyed Day. You get the gist!

What has been your best writing moment so far?

Seeing the first illustration for Maggie’s Screamy Day, drawn by Phoebe Jones.It felt amazing to see the characters brought to life by her, and seeing her interpretation of them. She really caught the feeling of the moment she was portraying, I just thought, yes – someone else gets Maggie completely!  It was a great feeling.

Is there any one book you would like to have written?

Fifty Shades, because I’d never have released the horror of it into the world.

What are you reading right now?

I’m reading Black Roses by Jane Thynne as my bookgroup chosen text. It’s not something I would have picked up myself, but I’m really enjoying it. This is exactly why it’s great to be part of a bookgroup.

If there was one person – contemporary or historical – you could spend a day with, who would you choose and why? How would you spend the day?

I would love to spend the day with Audrey Hepburn. She was such a clever, remarkable woman with a rare level of empathy. I’d like to speak to her about her time spent in Holland as a teenager through WWII and the role she played in the Dutch resistance. I’d also like to hear about her UNICEF work in later life. And of course, get a lesson in eyeliner application!

A few quick questions to finish with. Favourite book?

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Author…

Haruki Murakami, Ali Smith, Michel Faber, Sarah Waters, A.L. Kennedy… I can’t pick just one.

Drink…

The Botanist Gin, COFFEE!

Food…

Anything that someone else cooks for me.

Film…

Boyhood

Television programme…

Orange is the New Black

Radio programme…

Radio 4’s Bookclub

Music…

I like the local Highland music scene and support it whenever I can. Spring Break, The Leonard Jones Potential, Lionel, Ashley and the Cosmonauts and Sara Bills and the Hasbeens are among my favourites.

Good luck with your Maggie books, Emma, and thanks for taking part in the Literary Smorgasbord.

Emma Hamilton

Emma Hamilton

LG Thomson is the author of Boyle’s Law, Each New Morn, and Erosion.

 

Row K, Seat 7 – Episode III, The Return

SV400052

The lights had dimmed and now the audience settled as the Pearl and Dean theme faded and the screen was filled by a shot of a jumbo jet taking off, accompanied by the immortal voiceover, You don’t have to fly to India to enjoy a delicious Indian meal.  

The advert, for the Spice of Life restaurant in Abronhill, played at every single screening in the County Cinema in Cumbernauld, and every single time it played everyone in the audience snickered and muttered because the actor doing the voiceover managed to mispronounce Abronhill.

The Spice of Life was just around the corner from Abronhill High School, where Gregory’s Girl was set.  The showing I saw of Bill Forsyth’s heart-warming  film was riotous.  There was uproar every time a character in the film turned a corner and ended up five miles away.  There was even more of an uproar whenever anyone in the audience saw someone they knew in the film.  As all the extras were from the town, there was a lot of uproar.  It was a strange and exciting feeling being from somewhere as utterly ordinary as Cumbernauld and seeing people I knew in real life up on the silver screen.  Given the mayhem in the cinema, I guess we all felt the same.

Despite not appearing in the film, I still managed to receive some direction from Bill Forsyth.  This  when I inadvertently blundered into a scene.  I have since blocked the words he used from memory.  I sincerely wish I could do the same to the sound of the jeering crowd.  I had wondered why they were all standing there, but I somehow managed to miss the camera.  And the boom.  And the actors…

The scene of my humiliation took place outside the Spice of Life where I tasted my first curry, and just around the corner from my friend Kevin’s house.  My favourite scene in the  film is the one in which his bedroom window makes an appearance.

It would be several years before I would fly to India and enjoy many delicious meals, but in the meantime there was the County Cinema and the Spice of Life.

LG Thomson is the author of Boyle’s Law, Each New Morn, and Erosion.

Only 361 days until…

christmas, bah-humbug

Scotland’s big news story of 2014 was the Independence Referendum.  The campaign was highly engaging and (mostly) well-fought.  Although the result was a 45/55 split in favour of retaining the Union, Scotland’s political scene has been reinvigorated and the debate continues.  During this period I have questioned and reassessed my own political beliefs and, after much consideration, have come to the conclusion that the only workable political system is a benign dictatorship – with me in charge.  The Thrillers With Attitude Benign Dictatorship manifesto is making excellent progress, but, in keeping with the season, this post is talking Christmas.

I enjoy a bit of Christmas.  The mid-winter yuletide celebrations give us something to look forward to – twinkling lights to brighten the darkest days, a little festive cheer to lift the winter gloom.  What I don’t enjoy is the increasingly frenzied build-up to one day.  If we’re lucky, we’ve got an eight month respite until next year’s Christmas fare makes an appearance on the supermarket shelves.  Unless that is, they bring it forward just a little more and we can start stocking up for Christmas before Easter.

When Thrillers With Attitude rules the world, all things Yule will be restricted to the month of December.  In fact, for the sanity of shop workers everywhere,  the endless loop-playing of The Most Greatest Ever Christmas Songs In The World Ever* will be restricted to the week before December 25th.  And for the benefit of the greater good, the greed-fest that is Black Friday will henceforth cease to exist.

*Although Thrillers With Attitude Benign Dictatorship does not generally condone censorship, it is willing to make an exception for Mistletoe and Wine by Cliff Richard.

Thrillers With Attitude wishes you peace,  good health, and happiness for 2015.

LG Thomson is the author of Boyle’s Law, Each New Morn, and Erosion.

Loving The Vernacular

Red oose

Red oose

This morning, as I was writing a fight scene for Boiling Point, the sequel to Boyle’s Law, I used the word juked, as in he juked out of the way.   It was the perfect word for the scene but when I came to type it I realised that, like oxster and oose, I could not recall ever having seen it written down.

As is often the way with these things, the more I looked at juked, the stranger a word it seemed, until finally I began to think I’d made it up.  The fact that it makes no appearance in my Chambers Dictionary didn’t help.  However, I did find it on an Australian website, Online Dictionary.  According to the references there, from the 1913 Webster Dictionary, it comes from the Scottish word jouk, meaning to bow or duck the head.

Oxster, in case you are wondering, turns out to be spelt oxter, and means armpit.  Extensive online research revealed that it is used in Irish and Northern English, as well as Scottish dialects.

Oose is a lovely Scots dialect word for fluff.  Good places for oose discovery are under beds, in the corners of pockets and beneath cushions, but probably not in crime thrillers.

Next month Thrillers With Attitude  brings you skelf, dreich, and fusty.

LG Thomson is the author of Boyle’s Law, Each New Morn, and Erosion.