Hyancinth and the Astronomer’s House

hyacinthPeople keep raising their voices  in my new novel the Astronomer’s House and demanding to be heard. At first there was story number one – the building of the house, how it came to be, the Astronomer, his wife and daughter and what befalls them. I0,000 words and I thought it was over and that I was ready to move on to the next phase in the life of this extraordinary house, which will take me right up to the present day.

But it was not to be. It seems there was unfinished business, characters who needed to speak, who came to the fore – a horseman, a toadman and a peddler, as well as Jack Corey and now Hyacinth, all demanding their say.

I wonder if this has happened  because I’m reading George Saunders, Lincoln in the Bardo ( if you’re going to be influenced then it may as well be by the best )- which is full of voices and ghosts. Or if it’s because, as he decorate the kitchen, John has been listening to The Doors – Hyacinth House. Or was it my uncovered garden treasure…

Up until today  Hyacinth was a minor player. Then this morning I went out into the garden, to the shed,  and found a basket of last year’s hyacinths blooming, blue – my favourite colour for hyacinths – and wild. They were a complete and gorgeous surprise.

I brought them indoors, their scent filled my study and there she was – Hyacinth. I’d planned to write something else entirely but she just fell onto the page.









The Secret of Writing

I’ve been away by the sea, writing – long walks, wine and writing go well together. I got a lot down in my notebook. Writing in the ‘flood,’  as Whitman advises.

The secret of it all is to write in the gush, the throb, the flood of the moment–to put things down without deliberation–without worrying about their style–without waiting for a fit time or place. I always worked that way. I took the first scrap of paper, the first doorstep, the first desk, and wrote–wrote, wrote…By writing at the instant, the very heartbeat of life is caught.”

 Walt Whitman

So, I now have 10,000 words of my new novel, The Astronomer’s House. They need editing for sure, but I got them down…



So where do you find the time to do the housework ?

It was a while ago, but not that long ago. It was a wet winter night in a small town west of Manchester where writers had gathered in a community centre hut, heated by an ancient paraffin stove, to welcome my friend and mentor @liftwicetasted. She was there ( as a favour to a friend) to talk about her writing. She had a lot to say that was interesting and inspiring, she always does, she’s great cabaret. They warmed to her, one or two had even read her books but then came the questions, disappointing at first, anodyne and then, quite simply, out of nowhere – outrageous.  It came from a man, it came flying like a bullet from a double barrelled shotgun,  ‘So where do you find the time to do the housework and, what does your husband think?

 I learned something that night, something painful about our failure to change attitudes, about what I might face as a writer just starting out.

 If you think things have changed you’d be wrong. Writers who are woman are asked these kind of questions all the time; about, house, home, children… After all, how dare we? How dare we put writing before these?

 Well I say we do and we dare and we don’t give a fuck about the housework.

And today, being International Women’s Day,  l’m celebrating my dirty house and my messy life, and along with them, my novel Sometimes a River Song, which has earned me much love and some great reviews, and the 8,000 words of my new novel just sitting waiting for more…

Jackie Flemming

Writing Inspiration

I’m eight thousand words into my new novel, working title – The Astronomer’s House. It’s been hard going. It always is at the beginning until you feel you have something solid forming and I think I’m there – but what a long way to go. So  to encourage myself and who knows, maybe you, I’m going to post my favourite inspirational writing quotes here regularly for a while- along with other things  that may motivate and inspire, including fragments of my own work.

I’m starting with the great William Faulkner and the simplest but best piece of advice I know ~

Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it’s the only way you can do anything really good.

– William Faulkner

William Faulkner





When Good Women Do Nothing

I want to avoid it all, the news, Brexit, May and Trump, social media too, especially Twitter, but I’m drawn to it, moth to the flame.

I am the moth that inhabits the old, paper lampshade, hanging like a globe, in my study. The moth has been there for weeks, flitting round and round, ceaselessly, whenever I switch the light on. I make up my mind to release it, to free it from this trap. Surely it must be exhausted by now.

Exhaustion is the enemy. Exhausted, overfed, helpless, we die away. We give up, we give in, we switch off. But to switch off is tantamount to appeasement. We have been warned, to stand idly by is to court greater danger:

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men (and women) do nothing – Edmund Burke

The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing – Albert Einstein

Every day some new horror emerges, some new offence against human decency and dignity and what good does retweeting it do and what point is there in doing anything that is not a proper protest, that is not demonstrably, directly political? I must speak up, write up. But how? And how can I justify writing anything unless it directly addresses the horrors of this, ‘post truth,’ world?

It is possible to argue that writing by its very nature is a political act. It stands as an expression of freedom; of thought and word, an attempt at the truth, the art of empathy and compassion. But how much can writing a novel set in eighteenth century London and East Anglia help an Iranian woman detained in an American airport?

I know (from a close friend) how terrifying it can be to be detained in a US airport, to endure hours of waiting alone, while her husband was left with no idea what was happening to her, to be refused the opportunity to contact him, to be forbidden to speak. How bad now, I ask?

Are things so bad that I should stop writing the novel or the stories I am engaged with? Should I make them over, re-write them? Should I allow myself to be stopped in my tracks by this giant truck, heading all our ways. The answer must be, no. To stop is to give in. To alter seems like an admission of failure and a poisoning of art, if not of soul. Surely the only thing to do is to endure while taking every opportunity that presents itself – to march, to protest, to petition, to sanction –  to resist.

So,I will not be turning off the news, in fact I will be contributing financially to the free online press (in my case The Guardian) because we need them now like never before. I will not disappear from social media, and I will not stop writing my novel because then this climate of terror, of hate and intolerance, will have prevailed.

Please scroll down for some good news and a great event for writers and readers…

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