Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Book Review: In A Cat's Eye

In A Cat's Eye
By Kevin Bergeron
Published by Authonomy

Kevin Bergeron's debut novel, In A Cat's Eye, explores the secrets and lies we tell to survive.

In A Cat’s Eye tells the story of Willy as he sets out to find out the mystery of his friend, Nancy’s, death. Both Willy and Nancy live in a crumbling boarding house where people on the fringes of society are allowed to stay - on the surface everyone knows each others business but everyone is concealing a secret or two. The police have concluded that her death was either an accidental OD or suicide. But Willy thinks it's murder – The evening before, Nancy talked about moving away and starting fresh. He sets out to prove that there is more than meets the eye with Nancy’s death.

The protagonist, Willy, is very thought provoking - a protagonist who at times behaves like an antagonist - can he be trusted, can I root for him? Willy is an honest, flawed, sly character who lacks self control and reminded me of Forrest Gump with his mannerisms and his attitude. He doesn't want to give up and will battle with the other intriguing cast of residents to find out which one is responsible. Bergeron captures the unreliable voice of Willy successfully but he is a character that I found hard to root for – he turns to violence if he doesn't get the answers he wants and burns a cat with a cigarette. But nonetheless, Willy is an intriguing character - his odd ball moments will have you laughing on one page and then wanting to clip him around the ear on the following page. 

Throughout the novel, Willy is concerned by Nancy’s Virgin Mary statue which disappeared around the same time as her death. This statue is very much like Willy and Nancy’s relationship – he has put her on a pedestal and cannot see past her perfections- the drugs and the reason why people call her a ‘tramp.’ He carries on searching, determined to prove the police wrong. The sharp dialogue makes up for the fact that more description could be needed. 

This whodunit unravels at a quick pace and you will yourself finishing this book in no time. In A Cat's Eye is currently available as an ebook.

Thank you to the publisher who sent me a physical copy.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

The 'Redrafting Your Novel' Recipe

This is my current recipe for redrafting my novel:

Ingredients needed:
A printed first draft chapter
A red pen
A notebook
An electronic version of the chapter

Optional ingredients:
Lots of water (this can be substituted for any liquids)
Chocolate - any shape and size
Writer's scarf - I shouldn't really have to mention this because you should already have one.

Preparation and cooking time:
This depends on your commitments and also the state of the first draft chapter. My original plan was one chapter per week but sometimes this takes longer as I need some thinking time to reorganise the chapter in my head, to think about new scenes, to decide if I need to make a major chop. Trust me, it will take as long as it takes. I started redrafting in January - I am currently on chapter four.

  1. Print off your chapter. Read from beginning to end, trying to resist the urge to make changes.
  2. Step away from the chapter and let the chapter seep into your head. Start thinking about the changes you need to make to take this chapter to the next level. Be honest.
  3. Start making amendments and adjustments with the red pen. Cross out sections and use your notebook for writing new sections. Try and think of all of the previous weaknesses from your past writing (I like to write long beginnings just so I know what my characters are doing before the action). Think of some of the crap books you have read and make sure you don't do the same.  
  4. Add another huge helping of honesty. 
  5. Take lots of deep breaths and use that red pen.
  6. Question every scene, every character, every sentence - do they advance the plot? Is this necessary? Stir, vigorously.
  7. Trim back the description. Or add more. You decide.
  8. Dialogue - read it aloud.
  9. Cut, chop and re-grow with new words. You may even have to chop the whole chapter. Deep breath. You can do this.
  10. Massage the good parts.
  11. jiggle the words. Make each one vital. Shake the scenes. Make each one vital. Rip apart and rebuild the chapter. Make it vital to the book. 
  12. Keep going even though there is a small voice coming from the back of your head, telling you it is all crap. It's not. You need an internal critic but sometimes its ego, like yeast, can expand too much.
  13. Add all of your adjustments to a new electronic version.
  14. And save!
  15. Reprint the chapter. Start again. OR move onto the next chapter and come back later once you have worked on the whole of the book.