WRITE ON IN HASTINGS – Miranda Innes
Local author Miranda Innes tells HIP Literature editor Pete Donohue of her adventurous writing journeys and how she has ended up in St Leonards:
I have written twenty books, four for myself, and the rest – gargantuan, pointless, so yesterday, non-fiction tomes on crafts and gardens and stuff – to buy guitars and football gear for my two sons.
Twenty years ago – those boys by now become men – I left London, my sinecure as garden editor of Country Living, my partner of a decade, and bolted for love and freedom. Went to live on an abandoned goat farm in rural Andalucía with a heart-stopping view of distant mountains and sunsets. It was here that the white noise of panic, poverty and parental responsibility was finally reduced to a muffled cough and I leapt boldly, against the advice of my agent, into documenting my escape. From start to finish ‘Getting to Manana’ was a love story – my reply to any question was ‘gorgeous’, I developed smile biceps, I scrambled out of bed every morning to gasp with joyous wonder at the light, the sun, the warmth, the ragged limestone extrusion ‘el Torcal’ that made our North view, the dogs, the cats and my painter paramour, Dan Pearce.
As it happened, my agent’s first and only phone call – to Transworld publishers – was successful, and I acquired a glossy head-prefect with no discernible shred of humour to edit my book.
The next book ‘Cinnamon City’ manifested the acid end of the emotional spectrum. It wrestled with the biggest mistake I have ever made – and there have been many – buying a riad in Marrakech in 2001. A virulent read it may be, but it became what Transworld called a ‘best seller’ (no sign of that in revenue) and an unmentionable newspaper’s Book Club Book of the Month for December 2005.
I followed this with ‘Spaghetti Romance’, my account of moving from Spain in 2006 to a crumbling farmhouse in Umbria. I pictured a cutesy boxed set of the three books, whizzing off the shelves like Pringles. The head prefect shook her glossy head mournfully, and quietly regretted that we had not moved somewhere more interesting.
Dammit! Her loss! Self-publishing was plainly the answer.
So far that, and my next venture into self-publishing, a novel of curious inspiration best forgotten, have earned me enough for two cappuccinos and a chunk of carrot cake.
Three years ago we returned to the UK, to St Leonards in particular because of the mendacious met. office opinion that the sun always shines here. We have family, already knew some good locals, and have met loads more.
Writing is such a thrill for me, my ticket to a fascinating, unexpected, secret world. Why then is it so confoundedly difficult to sit down and do it? Partly because life here is too busy. We live in the maverick epicentre of the planet and there’s always something to marvel at. It is also a happy place, and being is what you do when you’re happy, writing is how you wriggle out of unhappiness.
But since coming back I have finished two novels, ‘Heart Music’ which I started with an American in Umbria. She demanded that we co-write a romance. ‘Don’t hold back on the cliché’, she directed. So it tells of plucky Loretta Greenberry, a violinist from Galax, Virginia, coming to New York in the Great Depression to save her family from destitution. The other, ‘The Bulldog and the Butterfly’ is a cautionary tale about the perils of moving abroad in search of a happy ending.
Of course coming home is the happy ending.
All I need now is to stop sitting in the sun on the beach. Find a publisher. Get on with ‘City of Widows’ about Hijras in Varanasi. Stop sitting in the sun…..