The P Word – Piggybacking!

The problem with being an UK author published by a US company with primarily US authors and readers is that I’m always missing Facebook drama when it kicks off. Curse you, time difference!

That’s not really right. Facebook drama isn’t anything to get excited about, and proper grownups should avoid it at all costs. My mother calls is washing your dirty linen in public, and I get where she’s coming from. The thing is, it’s just too interesting to ignore!

When I blearily checked my author Facebook account at six o’clock this morning, news of alleged plagiarism was being discussed. I don’t know too much about it, and I’m hesitant to name names. I don’t know the people involved, and I don’t know the full story. It does make me realise that my gut reaction to the thought of co-authoring a book with someone – running away, screaming in fear – is probably the right one considering what seems to have happened.

That made me think about something else though, a real pet peeve of mine, and that is authors who write using characters created by somebody else. I call it piggybacking, and I mean all the Jane Austen books that write about Lizzie as Mrs Darcy, or have the Dashwood sisters fighting off sea monsters, and all the authors who have Sherlock Holmes help their own plucky detective out. What’s worse, all the authors who include actual historical characters in their work – Freud helping to solve murders, Oscar Wilde dropping in to share a few bon mots. 

This all makes me so angry!

For the love of God, people, create your own bloody characters! Stop piggybacking on the work of people who were creative enough to invent interesting characters! Just because their work has gone out of copyright and you can do it legally, it doesn’t mean that you can do it morally. It’s lazy, uninspired writing and I can’t stand it!

Authors who use real people as supplementary characters annoy me even more. How the hell do you know that the real historical person would behave like that? That they would say the words you put in their mouths? That they would espouse the beliefs you give them? The very best biographers would be hard pressed to do this. What self-inflated sense of ego makes you think that you could manage it?

I think the closest I’ve ever got in my own writing is have Daniel and Annabelle attend an audience with Queen Victoria, and have Sophia Preston be presented to her. In both books the queen is mentioned but not seen, which is as comfortable as I am with including real people in my books.

Historical fiction that tries to accurately represent actual history, through the medium of fiction – well, I have my doubts. A run-in with a Sharon Penman book made me dig in my heels on the topic, and no matter how minutely researched Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall is there’s no way that I can finish it. C J Sansome gets away with it because the main character isn’t a real person, but even then I only read the first book once.

Let’s not get me started on P D James, who should have bloody well known better than to write Death at Pemberley, or Ben H Winters who would be best served by never trapping himself in an enclosed space with me; I am of the firm opinion that if Jane Austen had wanted zombies or sea monsters in her work, she would have included them in her final draft.

So authors, do yourself a favour. If you can’t invent interesting, memorable, relatable characters yourself, don’t steal other people’s. It does you zero favours with this reader, and I’m sure, many others.




I’m such a nerd – and I love it!

I’m a Trekkie, a Pot-Head and a WingNut and I wear those labels proudly. They represent three different sets of  stories that I’ve loved for a long time and I’ll happily chat for hours about any of them. I’m a Browncoat, too, and I’ve been a Slayerette. I’m an Adventurekateer and a Whovian and if there was a name for fans of Paddington bear, I’d be one of those too. He has a very unnerving stare, you know.

What do Game of Thrones fans call themselves? I ask because I’ve been reading the books since they were first published and I watch the TV show with an excitement that borders of the ridiculous. I’ve never dabbled in the fandom though, until recently. I think it’s because I’m not sure which fandom I want to be in; there is a significant difference between the books and the TV show. I’ve been listening to a few podcasts about the books, and it’s made me fascinated by the backstory that George RR Martin, the Great Glacier himself, has created for his vast fantasy world. It’s irritating that the one podcast I can find that specifically talks about the history of Westeros has a host that I can’t stand, and even more irritating that my favourite book-related podcast is actually going on hiatus during the new TV season and joining the irritating host on his podcast, but I suppose I’ll have to grit my teeth and bear it.

Just like I know what house I’d be Sorted into at Hogwarts (not Gryffindor, sadly) I’m pretty sure which House I’d be a member of in the books. Or, at least, I know which House I’d like to be associated with.

In reality I’d probably be a peasant who dies of some horrible illness or is murdered by a rampaging army during the War of the Five Kings. Of all the places to live in Westeros, I think Dorne is the best. It’s semi-indpendent from King’s Landing, in no little amount due to the actions of the Rhoynish warrior queen Nymeria, who brought her people to Dorne, married its prince and ruled it after his death. It has better weather and wine than the rest of Westeros, women seem to be more highly respected there (probably because of Nymeria’s influence) and the men seem to be unreasonably attractive. RIP Prince Oberyn, His Royal Hotness. I like the motto of House Martell is Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken, which is my favourite of all the mottos.

So, Dorne it is. The next time I see a shirt on Tee Fury with the Martell motto on it, I’m buying it to wear during my rewatch of the show or re-read of the books.

I still don’t know what fans of the book or show call themselves, though. Anybody know?


This tumblr meme passed me by

Apparently Tumblr went crazy over a short video of a dad and a son having a really cool time with a trombone and an oven door. I missed it completely, not understanding how Tumblr works and all.

That prompted fan artists to go a bit crazy and put their favourite pairings in a trombone/oven door cartoon, asking who would be playing the trombone and who would be slamming the hell out of an oven door. There’s a funny Scully/Mulder one – no prizes for guessing who gets to play the trombone in that pairing. All this, however, was completely unknown to me.

Then, thanks to Buzzfeed and a round up of funny Harry Potter Tumblr posts, I came upon this gem:

hermione trombone

A Tumblr poster asked what Hermione was doing on the train when Ron and Harry were flying to Hogwarts in The Chamber of Secrets. This was posted in response, by this Tumblr user.

Now, remember, I had completely missed all the fuss over the video of the dad and the son having a blast in the kitchen. I had no idea what this cartoon was referencing. Yet somehow, the idea that in the absence of her best friends Hermione would take the opportunity to let rip on her trombone, with Crookshanks backing her up on oven door, just made me laugh outrageously. Yes, I know, Crookshanks didn’t appear until The Prisoner of Azkaban, but I’m still laughing at his shades so I’m going to let it go.

I think the reason that I laughed so much – and still do, it’s my phone home screen – is that I just love the character of Hermione so much. She’s plunged, age 11, into a completely different world, a world unlike anything she’s ever known before, and she just throws herself into trying to understand it, and excel in it. She doesn’t let anything stop her or get in her way of being the best witch she can be, even when she’s ostracised by her classmates. That’s why she’s a Gryffindor – somebody else, from a Muggle family completely separate from the wizarding world, might be too overwhelmed to cope with all the changes you’d need to make to fit in with a whole new life. Not Hermione, though – she went at it warp speed. It takes bravery to reinvent your life like that.

So, that’s why I laugh when I see this silly cartoon, based on a sillier 15 second video, because I’m pretty sure that when life hands Hermione lemons, she breaks out her trombone and rocks out. Once again, Hermione is an inspiration. And she looks pretty damn good in a pair of sunglasses, too.

(Just in case you were wondering, I think Annabelle Spencer (now Duchess of Rothmuir) would definitely be the one rocking the trombone, while her husband Daniel banged the hell out of the oven door.)