Tag Archives: characters

The name game

If you were going to be an author, what would your pen name be?  It’s a fun game to play.  I’ve published books as Josie Lloyd and Jo Rees, but for my latest venture, I’m going out as Joanna Rees.  So posh.  So grown up.

Yep, finally, after all these years, I’ve left behind my maiden name and nickname and I’m writing under my full and proper monica.  The thumb twiddling is over, people.  It’s back to work for me.

This is what it says this week in the press:

Wayne Brookes at Pan Macmillan has acquired UK/Commonwealth rights to two new novels from Joanna Rees via Vivienne Schuster and Felicity Blunt at Curtis Brown. Rees will move from Transworld to Pan Macmillan for her next novel, TORN, to be published in spring 2012.

Brookes said: “Torn is epic storytelling at its very best, and as soon as I read the first chapters I knew I had to have it. Full of glamour, corruption, murder and romance, this is what a real blockbuster novel should be. It spans the decades, taking sibling rivalry to a whole new level. Torn is like your favourite soap opera all wrapped into one mammoth novel and will appeal to fans of Penny Vincenzi and everyone who found themselves devouring the pages of Kane and Abel.”

Rees commented: “I couldn’t be more thrilled to become a Macmillan author and delighted to be working with a creative editor of the calibre of Wayne Brookes. Torn is my most ambitious project to date and I feel very lucky to have the expertise of the excellent Macmillan team behind it.”

So there you have it.  Great news for what’s supposed to be the most depressing week of the year.

Anyway, I mention it, because I’ve started practising signing my own again – something I haven’t done since I was eight, when writing one’s signature endlessly seemed like an essential thing to do.  It helps that Emlyn bought me a Mercedes for Christmas – a pen – not a car (damnit). It’s a chunky silver thing with funky burgundy ink.  TORN, by Joanna Rees looks particularly good in it.  And they say writers are narcissistic…

But the nuance of names is very important.  Now I’m fully into writing TORN, I spent lots of my day deciding what to call my cast of thousands.  Of course, names do fall in my path.  The name of the bully in school – she’s in as the arch bitch.  The woman who was snotty about my credit card bill payment being overdue (not my fault)  – she’s in too.  You cross me lady, you get botched plastic surgery.

Seriously, you’d be surprised how many fictional serial killers are named after real-life traffic wardens.

Emlyn and I once did a book signing in Amsterdam and this very handsome man turned up called Fox Mulder.  It happened that we were renting his house.  At the time the X Files were huge and we thought it was great he was called after the lead.  It turned out that his assistant at work was called Dana Sculy.  He suspected that the script writers for the X Files had nicked the employee list of the IBM Corporate Law department.

So if you have any good names, sling them my way.  Today I’m after a New York wedding planner, an impotent lawyer and a Soho pimp.   I can’t use my ex-boyfriends, but I could use yours…? Suggestions please.

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Doing the ‘To Do’ List

Does anyone else write endless lists?  I spend my life writing the damn things.  I can’t help it.  I’ve even just bought myself a new Moleskin notepad for jotting notes down on my next book, and instead of exciting plot ideas and cool character names, it’s already filling up with ‘To Do’ lists.

The thing with obsessive list-writing is that I don’t find it particularly satisfying, even though on each list I always include something I’ve already achieved, just for the satisfaction of crossing it off.

I’ve been writing ‘To Do’ lists all my life.  I found a list in my parent’s attic which I wrote when I was nine.  It said:  Grow up.  Live in London.  Get married.  Be a writer.

How simple!  I should be thrilled there’s a list I’ve finally completed.  Even if it took me 30 years.

I think the problem is that my lists these days, is that they are so panoramic in their vision and not at all specific in their time limit, although it’s always my outlandish assumption that each list is a day’s worth of tasks.

Take today.  At one end of the spectrum are the small things I need to do.  These include: wrap present.  Send text about a play date.   Both list-worthy entries and not to be forgotten.  So far, so good.

However, in the middle of the list, is the whole bunch of every day tasks that are permanently repeated on every single list I write:  load washing machine, make kids’ beds, take out compost, unload dishy, go to supermarket, school run etc etc.  This stuff runs to a page.  I don’t know about you, but when I start committing the machine of life to paper, it seems absurd that I ever get anything done at all.  But the list isn’t finished there.  Oh no…

Because now comes the occasional jobs section of the list.  This section can get a bit out of control and can make me feel a bit panicky.  Today’s pressing tasks include: mow lawn, clean cooker, sort car insurance, put landing pile of clobber in loft, take jumble to charity shop, dry-cleaning, hire carpet cleaner….Stop!  STOP!  See what I mean?

Then at the end of the spectrum there’s the big stuff.  A hang-over from my nine-year-old self, perhaps:  Get a new computer. Learn to speak Spanish.  Put solar panels on the roof.

I think list-writing is an entirely female affliction.  Emlyn never writes lists.  Or if he does, it’s because I’m dictating the shopping list and he goes to the shop and buys exactly what’s written down.  No more, no less.

See, I don’t get it.  How can he do that?

Because I go to the supermarket and obviously I have a list, but  I never look at it.  Why would I consult it?  I wrote it, so I know what’s on it, right?  Wrong.  I always forget the one thing I went to the shops for.

Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that secretly I’m an off-list kind of girl.  I write lists and then do a fraction of the tasks on them.  So for example, the washing is still in the washing machine, the kids’ beds are unmade, I haven’t wrapped the present, mowed the lawn, or organized solar panels for the roof, but I AM off for lunch instead.

All of which leaves me wondering, why do I write these list at all?  Are they a job advert for a magic fairy, perhaps?  Or is it because I can control my world on a piece of paper and not in real life?  Or is it just that I’m a writer and writing lists is a justifiable literary procrastination?  Maybe I’ll put that on my list of things to find out.

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