Spotify

I only recently discovered Spotify. I used to use Napster, until the music industry wanted to pretend it was Napster killing music sales, not Simon Cowell and totally manufactured bands whose careers are micro-managed to the extent they have their favourite colours chosen for them when they’re interviewed in Jackie magazine. Assuming there still is a Jackie magazine, obviously.

So I put together a Not Your Heart Away playlist. It’s all the songs mentioned in the book plus a couple more that just fit. If it ever gets made into a film this will be the the soundtrack. Until then, just enjoy it while you read.

 

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He shall return no more to his house

 

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Out walking this morning I cut through the short-cut by the graveyard on Tunstall Common. You didn’t know there was one? Townies. Well there is. Anyway.

The stone nearest the path was dated 1832, erected to the memory of William and Hannah Smith of Potash, Tunstall and now I’ll have to find out where Potash is or was. It was part of fertiliser, if it helps. It begged the question what memory is, something I’ve been thinking a lot about after writing Not Your Heart Away and more particularly the  film-script. The film ending is different and begs the question whether anything at all is real and true.

The more I think about it, the more Claire’s question to Ben, ‘Is it true? Do you think it’s true’ and Ben’s reply: ‘Maybe it doesn’t matter if it’s true, so long as you believe it is,’ seems to sum-up every question and answer I’ve ever heard.

Are Hannah and William remembered because I know their names, or are they really only remembered if I could say what colour her hair was, or whether he preferred beer or cider? Either way, they had a rather nice inscription on their tombstone:

‘He shall return no more to his house, neither shall his place know him any more.’

I don’t know the Bible but apparently it’s from the Book of Job. Hunter Thompson used to use a lot of biblical quotes if you remember. He said it was because it was the one book handy in every hotel he ever stayed in when he was stuck for a quote, or just someone else’s stuff to read.

It made me think of the sequel to Ben and Claire’s story and just as I did a Spitfire seemed to lace through the still bare fingers of the trees and the sound of all the lives that were never lived rumbled through the clouds. It was Caroline Grace flying her plane from her workshops at Rendlesham two miles away.  Nothing supernatural at all. Not really.

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And another fantastic review for Not Your Heart Away

Certainly solicited, I know the person who wrote this and I’m somewhat disconcerted to see that it is the most critical of all the reviews so far. But if this is as damning as it gets then Not Your Heart Away is on the right track.

For those men of a certain age, who grew up in an era of patchouli oil, smoky pubs and vinyl records, Not Your Heart Away is a sort of emotional time machine which instantly, effortlessly and somewhat disturbingly transports the reader back to their adolescence. It would be cliched – and untrue – to refer to this as an age of innocence. Carl Bennett’s nineteen year old protagonist Ben has mostly one thing on his mind and it certainly isn’t innocent. But there is a strange naivete about a pre-satnav and iPod world where driving any distance involved maps and cassette players, and a Zippo lighter, twenty Marlboros and a pint of cider was about as good as it got.

But Bennett’s second novel – which picks up where last year’s debut A Day For Pyjamas left off – is much, much more than a nostalgia trip for middle-aged men the wrong side of 50. Themes of loss – loss of love, loss of innocence, loss of friends – are interwoven with asides and observations on such diverse subjects as UFOs, rolling the perfect joint and the legend of the Glastonbury Thorn. Not many authors could juxtapose Bob Marley and AE Houseman, Patti Smith and Shakespeare, and get away with it, but these characters make it sound perfectly natural. There is a dreamlike, sun-tinted quality to Bennett’s prose which derives in part from his ability to evoke the wide open spaces of Salisbury Plain, the delicious (and never to be repeated) laziness of post-A level summer holidays and the sheer joy of a road trip with friends in a car borrowed from your parents.

And throughout, the aching, the sweating nervousness, the misunderstandings and the real fear of first love. On one level it would be easy to dismiss Not Your Heart Away as a familiar tale of teen angst and unrequited love. Ben’s stumbling, fumbling and ultimately humiliating pursuit of Claire will strike a chord with many of us. But it is Bennett’s gut-wrenching, relentless, visceral ability to put the reader in that place, at that time, with that girl – to enable us to say, “that’s me, that was my story” – which puts the novel in a class of its own.

Not Your Heart Away is not without flaws. Whether deliberately or not, the narrative bewildering switches from past to present tense and back again – sometimes within the same sentence. Ben’s best friend Peter, a key character in the first half of the story, disappears without trace in the second and is never heard of again. Theresa, Ben’s unimaginative and undemanding girlfriend, suffers a similar fate and somewhat conveniently fades into the background. At times, the verbal jousting between characters is confusing and repetitive. The lack of resolution or denouement is strangely unsatisfying and there is no doubt that when, in the closing stages, the story catches up with the present and we encounter the middle-aged Ben, the writing lacks the insight and depth of earlier chapters. Perhaps this feeling of loose ends still unravelled, and fates not yet determined, is deliberate. After all, life rarely has neat conclusions, and more rarely still is there a “happy ending”. Maybe it’s just a ploy to get us to buy the third and final part of Ben’s story.

But these are minor complaints. Not Your Heart Away is, by any standards, a remarkable story. It takes you back to a time and place – not just a memory but a palpable, tangible time and place – just as surely as a whiff of dope or a snatch of Roy Harper. It is both unsettling and comforting, dream and reality, fact and fiction. If you left school in the late 1970s, it is not just Ben and Claire’s story, it’s yours. As Ben himself says, “It’s soul, it’s heartland. It’s where I’m from.”

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Pitching it right

Last week I went to London and walked around Broadwick Street for a while, looking for Cascade’s offices. I thought I knew Broadwick Street; I worked in Kingly Street about a hundred years ago. An office that used to be run mainly on lager and cocaine has now become a Fitness First gym and I’m still not sure whether or not that’s an improvement. Anyone working there back then would have assumed you were already out of it if you’d told them that’s what was going to be built there.

Anyway, I’d submitted my 10 pages and mine, along with not many others out of the 150 that came in was judged good enough to pitch, which is why I was there. It was my first filmscript and my first pitch, so I felt about as confident as a kitten in a dog shelter.

It went ok. But they didn’t buy it. They want to see some more of mine, hampered only by the fact I haven’t got another one ready, but I will have. Today I had three ideas for doctoring the script of Not Your Heart Away to make a more obvious transition from the middle to the end, which I’d thought was so screamingly obvious that it didn’t need saying. Apparently it did and if I had they might have optioned it. They had a copy of the book, so I hope that next weekend someone is sitting in their chair saying ‘do you think it’s too late to change our minds about this?’

So we’ll see next time. Now all I have to do is write it again.

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The word on the street

martinNYHAAnother happy reader. That could be the beer though.

Word seems to be getting round at last and sales are picking up. Not Your Heart Away is getting some lovely reviews and the huge compliment of being invited to pitch to turn it into a full-length feature film by Cascade, this coming Thursday. If you haven’t got your copy yet you can buy it here on Amazon.

So far, fingers crossed, not a single negative review, apart from one person who has un-liked me and the book on Facebook and refused to talk to me since she read it. It’s fiction, for heaven’s sake. It can’t be that bad, surely?

And another sale today. It seems to be going down well despite being set firmly in a blurry late 1970s- mid-1980s timeframe. I was worried this would limit the audience a bit so I checked with the Office for National Statistics. These are the figures the government uses. Quite interesting stuff, especially useful for defeating pub bores talking about immigration, but that’s another story.

People aged between 40 and 65 amount to one in three of the UK population. 15 to 30s are just one in five people in the UK. So much for teens being the only market. My generation are the majority. And we can remember this stuff…..

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Checking out the movies

Unbelievable but true, I’ve just been invited to pitch Not Your Heart Away as a film. It’s taken over three solid weeks to convert the script from book to film format, but it’s ready for Wednesday. Cross your fingers for me at noon, would you?

Now all I have to do is learn how to pitch. And decide whether to change the ending. Have I got time? Not really. But the new ending’s a lot better, like a very, very dark Richard Curtis Four Weddings.

I think I’ve got to, really.

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Another lovely Amazon Review of Not Your Heart Away

Whenever I get a nice review  on Amazon I post it up. Because I love sharing so much.

4.0 out of 5 stars NYHA, 18 April 2013
By
Sergio Andrade (Porto, PORTUGAL) – See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)
Amazon Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Not Your Heart Away (Paperback)

As we live and grow older, we cross several turning points, several junctions of existence.
Those “pit stops” of life, made up of Time and Space and desire and fear and hope and places and faces and people. People you used to know, people you used to be.
And sometimes, you just can’t help it but stop, turn around and look back into that specific point in your life, growing smaller and smaller in the horizon, and ponder on how things turned out for you and wonder how things might have been different.
“Not your heart away” is a book about that. It’s a book WITH teenagers, but I wouldn’t recommend it TO teenagers. Sure, it can be read by teenagers, and the brightest ones amongst them will even understand it; perhaps some will even relate it to some events in their lives. But I wouldn’t recommend it…it presents too much spoilers on life and the passing of time.
It is better meant for those of life who can and will look back…those who know the longing for the unreachable days of blue and golden youth…and ideal that crosses the boundaries of when and where.
NYHA has its centre in a specific time period, a specific place. Being a teen in England in the 1970s. But, relevant as those characteristics are, they do not close themselves from other times, other spaces, other lives. Its specificities can be blood-linked to anywhere, any when, any who.
Fiction as it is, you can sense the writer has poured out a lot of his soul on this book, this simple yet beautifully written little gem, poetical at times, with extra bonus references to paranormal (or metaphorical!?) entities, UFOs, and local folklore.
The greatest magic, however, is the way it sparks in each reader his/her personal memories and the way they can be related to the narrative, regardless of its time and space. And magic is real, just so long as you believe…

 

 

Call me vain, but I don’t have an agent so I have to do my own marketing and PR. Unless of course, you’d like to be my agent. If you want to talk about that, let’s do lunch, baby!

Call me. Laters….

 

 

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Checking out the movies

For the past few weeks I’ve been working against the clock to get a film script finished. The race was my own fault. I used to check the BBC Writers Room website religiously, to see what competitions were on, how to submit scripts and so on, the way you do. With the whole frenzy of publishing, editing, re-editeing, re-proofing, railing against my own stupidity and re-editing and proofing again, as Clint used to say, I kinda lost track of it in all the excitement here.

When I looked at it recently it was as if Christmas had come again and I was six. A film company, a real one, with offices with chairs and everything, was asking for film scripts with one proviso, which was interesting in itself. Not that they were being picky or anything, but they insisted the scripts had to actually exist before people sent the first ten pages in.

It reminded me of the old Californian joke: Dude 1: Like, I’m writing a screenplay? Dude 2: Awesome! Neither am I!

But I was. There was a strict 9am deadline on it for yesterday, 15th April, so I turned Not Your Heart Away into a screenplay. I hope I did, anyway. The first ten minutes has a shipwreck, Ben the narrator’s recurring nightmare;  a UFO as he lives near Salisbury Plain and a ghostly Spitfire, because of an old factory he drives past, because he’s English, because the film is about England and because. What more do you want while you’re still opening the Kia-Ora?

So we’ll see. I still have to finish the screenplay formatting, which is a time-consuming pain as I didn’t have time to learn any of the script-writing software packages and ended-up doing it in Word, the old-fashioned way. Still. It’s done. I was typing until half past one some nights and trapped a nerve in my leg from sitting still too long, but it’s done.

I also found a line that makes the final scene about a billion percent happier, sadder and just generally rounder, a real snappy ending. The storm that brings harm also makes fertile. I’ve got to get back to formatting. My eyes have gone a bit leaky now.

If you can’t wait for the film to come out, you can buy the book here.

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On a clear day you can smell forever

It’s a late Spring, the same sort of weather as the time Not Your Heart Away was set. The sky is grey but the birds are singing. And just as then a cold Spring that combined light evenings with chilled hands, a time someone recalled as one of country pubs, cold girls and warm cars. It’s odd remembering that as I’m trying to work against the clock trying to get the book turned into a film script for Monday.

It’s going well but I just don’t know if I’ve got enough time. Bolstered though by a rather lovely email I got today from the lady who runs the Suffolk Arts Club.

 

PS  Have read the last section of your book, excellent.  Have now lent it to Elaine who was here when you came last Saturday

Caroline Wiseman

Caroline Wiseman Modern and Contemporary

The Aldeburgh Beach Lookout and The Art House

 

I think I’ve found some new energy, after that. I know this: that I’ve never done anything better or more worthwhile than writing this book and this script, now. Wish me luck.

 

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Claire

The character Claire in Not Your Heart Away is fictitious. So it was a bit of a shock to find her picture on my laptop, or at least, how I imagined her to be. I was just tidying up, getting rid of some stuff, putting files in folders when I found her.

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I have no idea who took this picture or when. Sadly, it wasn’t me. But it’s definitely Claire. The big but not luxurious house in the English countryside late one summer afternoon. The coltishness. The waiting. The cigarette. I couldn’t have made this up if I’d tried.

But I still don’t know who owns the rights to this picture and I’d like to use it for the cover of the book. So if it’s your picture, please let me know. If you think you know whose it is, get in touch.

There is a reward, a free paperback copy of Not Your Heart Away. And yes, to save you the bother, I’ve already looked on TinEye. It’s not there.

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