On the corner of Worship St

9 06 2014

I tweeted the other day (@hhcoventry) about the title of a story which came to me whilst walking through Shoreditch in London. It whirled around in my head with various ideas slotting into place. Some I discarded as derivative e.g. where we first met, where she died, where I was born. Some I discarded because they were just a bit shit.

I am a chick-lit writer. It’s in my soul. But there has to be more. My drawer of ideas fills up regularly and so perhaps it is time to consider other genres, other foci and then do a bit more than just consider them. Chick-lit isn’t dying but tastes change and readers are looking for something different.

Chick-lit will continue to be the bread and butter of my life but why not try a different flavour of jam. Suspense, thriller, psychological nightmare horror. All are in the mix but for Worship St I am thinking about a heist.

I do detectives in my chick-lit novels. Chick-lit-dicks as I have called them before. But now it is time to jump to the other side of the fence and stay within the law when solving a mystery. I see a police detective – a woman of course, it’s what I know – with a snitch who hears something about Worship Street in the wind. A half heard conversation. A hard nut vanishes for weeks only to be seen in Shoreditch. Why Worship St? Just a quiet backwater or a cut-through for a security van when the high st is closed for repairs?

I like the idea of fitting a story to a title. That’s why so many competitions do the same in the writing world.

Now I need to decide which one of my creative minds I will task to bring DI Sheila Cooper to life. Make her breathe. Make her strong. Make her love. Make her real!

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White hats, black hats, masks and pencil moustaches – who’s the baddie?

14 10 2013

I don’t write children’s books where, for the very young, an author has to make the baddie obvious. They cackle rather than laugh, they lurk rather than wait, they are sly rather than cunning. And they often wear a black hat.

In the world of adult literature the role of the baddie isn’t so clear cut. Nor should it be. There are bad people out there – people without redeeming characteristics, without a care for the social convention. But they are pretty rare. Most of us live in shades of gray – not 50 necessarily, but quite a few and those shades can lighten or darken depending on what we are doing at any one point in time.
Ask anyone not locked up in my cellar and they see me as a good man, someone with obvious flaws, attractive ones of course, but nothing which would put me on a register or lead to imprisonment. Ask me, and I might give you a bit more background about hidden motives behind good deeds which may cast shadows on your perception. Does that make me a baddie? How would I portray myself as a baddie in the written word to put the reader on notice or should I leave it to them to work out for themselves?

The latter is the obvious answer. Leading my reader by the nose is not how I see the contract between us. Every one of us has had a bad day, most of us succumb to the darker urges to varying degrees at some time in our lives. I think it is my job to show by actions, by written thoughts, by implication that this is the villain of our show. If you, dear reader, are worse than the bad things I illustrate him or her with then I rather imagine you will keep it to yourself!HH Coventry wears many hats but does not have a pencil moustache!





Crossing the genre Rubicon

21 09 2013

I write chick-lit and am proud of it! But some people have issues with being typecast into a genre. He only writes westerns, she’s a feminist author, see when his next historic romance is out, M&B weepie etc etc.

Some people get so annoyed with being ‘trapped’ they seek to escape. There are a number of ways of doing this and we can see in the real world that it really works – if you have the skill and talent to get away with it.
• Iain Banks / Iain M Banks – fiction / science fiction
• JK Rowling / Robert Galbraith – fantasy / crime
• Stephen King / Richard Bachman – horror / oh, er, horror

How do they do it though? I am steeped in my genre. I love the ability to hide hard hitting reality under banal conversation and trap readers seeking a sex & shopping moment inside a complex detective story under a chick-lit cover. Chick-lit-dicks satisfy nearly all my needs as a writer because I work at it and make the genre my own.

Crossing into a fantasy world or horror would be a wide river indeed. I would spend my time fearing I was paddling in the Styx rather than the Rubicon. Would all my readers leave me to pay the lonely ferryman as critics pan the attempt to cash in with second-rate output? Or would it be safer to use the pseudonym until it was proved I knew what I was about and could float your boat (perhaps taking the analogy too far?)

Ask a secondary question. Do genres really exist with boundaries we dare not cross?
B*ll*cks to that! I’ll write what I want





First books – how autobiographical are they?

16 08 2013

First books are autobiographical.

This is something I have always known, both intellectually and anecdotally. The proof sits on the shelves of any bookseller. First novels are where authors pour their naked souls only to edit and rewrite to take some bits back, hide themselves away again, disguise and disfigure to bring new heroes and villains to life.

I have often wondered if I re-read the first novels of each of my series, would I see different facets of the creative mind in each heroine. Does Mrs Vintner hide more darkness than Penny B? Will Mischa give people a view of my lightness of spirit at times?

Or…

Or is the first novel which no-one sees the one where you are most naked? We all have that first book – it may not be finished – it may never have fully left your mind– but we authors all have the first embarrassing secret text where we gave too much and could not edit it enough to hide our true selves from the readers

To quote some advice given in my latest work:

“This is your first novel. There are always autobiographical elements. Don’t worry about it, there has to be. But if you don’t give Mischa her own face, her own voice, she will assume the readers know her as well as you know yourself. You, the writer, are just recording her actions, her thoughts – not your own – no matter how similar you might think she is.”





Chick-lit-dicks

8 08 2013

It has long been known that chick-lit is not the easy way in to being an author. Admittedly there are some shockingly bad examples which have somehow escaped the slush pile – often in response to a publisher’s need to have something out there “on-trend”. Self-publishing is also home to a number of books that would benefit from a spell-check, an editor’s green pen or a lit match.

However, chick-lit at its best is good. Better than good. It is structured yet creative, offering the reader an escape without forcing them to think too hard or reach for a dictionary. Feeding enough data to spark the imagination without being patronising, and they don’t have to have to lead the reader by the nose to the next set-piece. It’s not all muscles and passionate embraces.

I love the concept of detective stories in the chick-lit arena. Chick-lit-dicks I call my heroines. It is a bit tongue in cheek but it is what they are. Chick-lit detectives, private dicks, brains for hire, crimes to solve, helping people who need it. And if they find the necessary romance along the way? Well, it comes on their own terms and not just because some pecks get flexed or they fall for the “Why Miss B, you’re beautiful under those glasses” line.

Chick-lit, like any genre, needs regular reinvention. It’s not all sex and shopping. My heroines do indulge in both but they also make a difference to the people they meet. Not just chick-lit with a heart, chick-lit with dicks!