Category Archives: inspirations behind Mr Rosenblum

on the road

Today I went out with Julia, the lovely Hodder sales rep, to meet booksellers in the Dorset area. It was great to meet the people who will actually be selling Mr R. There are just so many people involved in the selling of a book – from the brilliant team at head office, to the traveling sales reps (make me think of old fashioned peddlers with donkey carts piled high with glittering books) as well as the booksellers in the shops.

Jack is on his travels too. I’ve been e-mailing with Professor M, my German translator. Having someone scrutinise your book in minute detail is quite an odd experience. In my alternate life as an academic, I have spent eons reading a poem, researching every line, and as a screenwriter I have interrogated the text I am adapting. It’s a fantastic experience, and one becomes quite obsessed with the source text – it feels at times like squatting in someone else’s brain. However, having that gaze turned upon one’s own work is quite disconcerting.

I’m now getting glimpses of the foreign covers. This is the Dutch one:

Dutch cover for Mr Rosenblum's List

And this is the Spanish:

Mr R in Spain!

Mr Rosenblum's List in Spain.

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Mr Rosenblum’s Cottage gets a new thatch

It’s been 20 years and it’s time for the cottage to be re-thatched. This is the cottage that my grandparents bought when they first arrived in Dorset and the place where I spent all my holidays as a child. The windows are really high as it used to be the village school and the teachers didn’t want the children to be distracted by interesting goings on in the lane outside.

The thatcher and his assisant are doing a grand job as you can see. My mum mentioned ‘Mr R’ to John the thatcher and he was very enthusiastic and is bringing his wife and their book group to the launch. If only he could have helped Jack and Sadie with their leaky roof in chapter 10…

bundles for the thatch

And you need a good head for heights… I feel dizzy.

I love the bright colour of the new thatch. It fades so fast.

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jitterbugs and other novel translations

Mr S and I are back in Dorset after a busy week in London. It was all rather fun – I met my charming Dutch editor, Jacqueline, and saw the cover for the Dutch edition of Mr R. The book is being busily translated at the moment, and editors and translators are starting to send through questions about the text. The biggest challenge seems to be the Dorset dialect. There is a motley collection of local folk in Mr R and they speak in broad Dar-set tones.

This was great fun to write: I scoured old dialect dictionaries, read lots of William Barnes and, of course, Thomas Hardy. The speech is written phonetically with dialect words like ‘jitterbug’ (glow worm) and ‘yow’ (ewe) and ‘noggerhead’ (idiot).  In old West Country speech, nouns are gendered as they are in German or Anglo-Saxon and are nearly always ‘he’. So, a roof in need of repair is: ‘ee’s in a bit o’ a bad way, isn’t ‘ee?’ I chose to elongate the ‘ee’ when transcribing, as I felt ‘e’ as in ‘e’s in a bit o’ a muddle’ sounds too much like cockney.

All well and good – gave the poor copy editor a bit of headache – but I thought it was all finished. Now, the poor translators are going through exactly the same thing. Jacqueline and her translator are trying different rural Dutch dialects and choosing which sounds best. Professor M who is working on Jack in German, is struggling with the eccentric spelling of the dialect. He emailed to ask what an ‘ersey mistake’ is – (it’s an easy mistake to make…)

It’s a very strange feeling to be taking a week or so off writing (agent Stan has Fred) while knowing that other people are busily working on Mr R. I think they are all in need of some of Curtis’s jitterbug cider.

Me still sort of working

I love living in Dorset

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Ah, home at last

It’s so good to be back in Dorset. Within a week I start to pine for green fields. The snow has almost gone here, just a smattering of white across the high ground. I think I timed it very well, carefully avoiding the evil slush.

Emails are flying back and forth as Sceptre (and my mum) try to organise the launch of Mr R and begin to arrange events for the book group tour. (If you want me to visit your book group, click on the link at the top of the page and leave a message – or email me at: mrrosenblum AT hotmail DOT co DOT uk). I’ll be very well behaved and will even bring my own biscuits.

Yet, while all this is going on, I’m hurtling towards the end of Fred. She even has a title. I can’t sleep for Elise and Mr Rivers wandering through my dreams. All I want to do at the moment is write. I have notebooks and files and scraps of paper, all filled with scribbles for the last few chapters and these are slowly making their way into the story. If only they could all stroll off into a sunset as lovely as this one…

Durdle Door sunset

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The thaw (and the last slice of birthday cake)

I’ve been in London again for a few days. Actually it was my birthday and I decided to celebrate in the big city with my friends. My mum came too and baked me a Baumtorte – a traditional German cake which literally means ‘tree-cake’. Rather than being baked in the oven, it is made by whipping up a vanilla flavoured batter which is then cooked in layers under the grill – like an enormous stash of very thin pancakes placed on top of the other. When it’s sliced, the layers look like the rings of a tree.

The recipe comes from my grandmother, Margot, a champion, if eccentric, baker. Each layer represents a memory or a thought, so it’s very appropriate for a birthday cake. The cake features rather prominantly in Mr R –  Sadie bakes it whenever she needs to remember something or someone. So, I saved a piece for Jocasta (my editor) who had never tried it before. I felt almost guilty at giving her rather stingy slice. Almost.

Today, Mr S and I finished off the last slice and I couldn’t help but feel a little melancholy. The last of this year’s birthday Baumtorte. There’ll be another layer on next year’s. It’s like the thaw. I love snow. It transforms the most stoic grown-up into a sledging six-year-old. We’re all transported back to a childhood in Narnia and a land of hot chocolate and stories before bedtime. But, with the thaw, the magic disappears. As the snow drips from the trees and turns into grey slush oil stained by car-tyres, we all grow up again in an instant. I don’t mind it once the snow has gone, but the act of watching it fade from perfect whiteness into sludge, I can’t bear. I’m tempted to hide in London until it’s gone.

And, yes, I switch off the Narnia movie, the moment that the snow begins to melt.

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Elegant in the snow

I couldn’t resist posting this picture of my grandparents’, Paul and Margot, looking so chic after a country snowstorm in the 1950s. My grandmother looks particularly fetching in her blouse and slacks.

Dorset in the snow - 50s

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Jack and Paul

The festive season was so much fun, but I am really glad to be snuggled at home writing again. Jocasta is busily preparing the paperback edition of Mr R and has asked me to find some photos of my grandfather, Paul, who was one of the inspirations behind Jack. I sent her the pictures through and she called straightaway to remark on how handsome and elegant Paul is. Jack is many things – determined, obsessive, tender, ‘five foot three and a half inches of sheer tenacity’ – but he is neither handsome nor elegant.I found myself oddly glad that Jocasta had observed the differences between the two men as well as the similarities.

I hope my grandfather would be proud of Mr R – even though he was never really a fan of fiction, never quite understanding why writers felt the need to make things up when the world is already chock-full of fantastic stories. I suspect he would not approve of Jack. He’s too rash and impetuous for his taste. And Paul would consider himself a far superior golfer.

Paul looking dapper in the Dorset countryside

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