Mad, Bad And Dangerous To Know

If you recognise that phrase, you’ll know it was once said of Lord Byron, coined by his jilted lover, Lady Caroline Lamb.

I’m not sure I’d describe anyone who loved animals as much as Byron did, as mad or bad. He had an impressive menagerie by any standards for a Lord of Scottish descent and it followed him on his Grand Tour across Europe and gathered momentum as he went. In a letter to his friend Hobhouse in May 1819 he added a request for four dogs of varying breeds, to his shopping list for toothbrushes and Macassar Oil. He was also known for his relaxed attitude to his household, who we are told he ‘bantered with’ rather than ruled over.

As for dangerous to know – I like to think he was just ahead of his time. Today, we probably wouldn’t give him a second thought. He may have been dangerous for others reputations but their fault if they overstepped the mark. It wasn’t any secret.

Byron’s colourful prose and turn of phrase are what lures me to him. He describes the events that unfold in his life with the same dry wit and picture painting detail as Joe Orton did in his diaries. He refers to Don Juan, the focus of the epic poem he was still writing at the time of his death in 1824 as ‘Donny Jonny’.

I’m glad he has played such a prominent role in my family history. Even now he inspires intrigue whenever he is mentioned. So I’m not giving him up just yet. And it’s enormously satisfying writing him into my script as if I have a claim to him. I suppose in some way I do. And that’s fine by me.

You can read my book ‘A Most Faithful Attendant – The Life of Giovanni Battista Falcieri‘ by purchasing it here.

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60 Seymour Street

So here I am. London. It’s been a while. First point of call is Seymour Street. If you’re into your genealogy and like London history you’ll love this.

Currently I am sitting in Borough Barista. It’s the ground floor of a four storey house at 60 Seymour Street. These days it has a bright yellow door and very helpful staff. It’s a great place to sit here and write. So I do.

It’s always been a ground floor shop so no ruined architecture here. But back in 1851 it used to be a busy bakers and the building was known as 31A Upper Seymour Street. By 1851 it had two new lodgers upstairs. Tita Falcieri and his wife Sarah.

By then Tita was already firmly planted at the Board of Control in Leadenhall as a messenger. Sarah, without employment on the census, presumably enjoyed retirement as the wife of a messenger with a reliable and modest income. I think life here passed very quietly by comparison. It was well earned.

They lived here for the next 24 years. Tita died here in one of the upstairs rooms in 1874, still in the employment of what later became the India Office. Famous in his own way for his role in history. Sarah also died here just a few years later in 1877. And so came to an end a part of Byronic legend.

By 1851, just a stones throw from here, the crystal palace of the Great Exhibiton had become a serious tourist attraction. I don’t doubt they went. It must have been an incredible site. And all around here are streets they knew. People they knew. Benjamin Disraeli lived just around the corner and a host of other names from their literary past.

I am really into the touchy feely aspects of family history. Being able to go to houses, the scenes of events, graveyards and pick up objects and ephemera. It is a really important part of what I do. Most of the other side of Seymour in this area has been obliterated by the starkly modern York House but this section is much as it ever was. People still live upstairs as they always have. The technology and the modes of transport may have changed, but essentially it’s much the same.

So here I sit. Thinking about the 24 years of history that are imprinted on these walls. Tita was the last of his kind. One of the last few witnesses who had first hand experience of Lord Byron. And the last from the days of Italy and Greece. I’m not sure how you process that. You take it in a bit at a time and before you know it, it’s there. A part of you and your history and in some ways you take it forgranted.

But you don’t forget.

You can read my book ‘A Most Faithful Attendant – The Life of Giovanni Battista Falcieri‘ by purchasing it here.

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Too Busy Blogging

I wonder if blogging is sapping my desire to write anything more substantial? Maybe by distracting myself with all this other stuff, I’m forgetting the bigger picture.

Lots of authors blog. You have to be great at selling your own work. The culture of online publishing means promoters don’t do it because who’s selling real papery things anymore?  But it makes sense. The book or script is just one thing. A blog is how you continually add interest to your work, add personality to the person behind it and get yourself an audience.

In the same way reading expands your creative mind, shouldn’t writing help to exercise the creative muscles? And realistically I can’t always be writing another book or script. The fact of the matter is I HAVE to write. I have to write every day and I like variety.

I’ve been looking for inspirational blogs. Mostly amusing ones. The last thing I read that was really funny was the Joe Orton diaries. I have a very dry sense of humour.

But most of what’s around now seems to be a sales pitch and I hate the hard sell. It’s just a round up of how well things are going. ‘Look at my latest signing event’. ‘Oh I wrote a chapter today’. Blah blah blah. I hope mine isn’t as boring as theirs.

The only one that springs to mind is The Bloggess. If you haven’t come across her yet Google is your friend. I am very jealous of that natural ability to write as you speak. It’s all in the flow. The turn of phrase. She has become a legend in her own lifetime. And her books which include ‘Furiously Happy’ do exceptionally well.

So maybe she is all I need.

End.

You can read my book ‘A Most Faithful Attendant – The Life of Giovanni Battista Falcieri‘ by purchasing it here.

Lord Byron and Peter Cochran

If you needed any proof how out of touch I have become on the subject of Lord Byron since my book was published, the other day I read of the passing of Peter Cochran in May 2015.

Afterwards, whilst searching for another contact I found Peter’s name in my emails and found our correspondence from way back in 2002 when I wrote an article about Tita Falcieri for The Newstead Byron Society Review. It was one of the first published pieces I ever wrote on the subject.

Looking back, the path of our conversation seems so incredibly naive, knowing what I now know. I was still getting to grips with the basics of my family tree and the life of Byron and Shelley when we were writing to each other on this and the wrecking of the Don Juan in the Bay of Spezia. It is a realisation how far my work has come.

I don’t know if he ever knew that my book was published. I hope he did. I guess I’ll never know. It’s strange because my email is littered with brief conversations with recognisable names regarding publishing, tv programmes and visits to archives. I don’t delete any of it. They are the legacy of years of research. And it’s nice to dip in once in a while.

You can read my book ‘A Most Faithful Attendant – The Life of Giovanni Battista Falcieri‘ by purchasing it here.

Happy Endings

I don’t like happy endings. It’s just not realistic is it? I like tales that end horribly or surprise you with something you couldn’t possibly have predicted. An ending that shocks you and hangs with you long after the credits have rolled leaves a lasting impression. Cold Feet Season 5, Breaking Bad, Chronic. All unexpected painful cliff hangers.

Life isn’t full of happy endings. Although I know there are some lucky people out there that always fall on their feet.

They are predictable, safe. They don’t challenge your senses. They don’t make you question anything because what they’re doing is saying ‘actually, don’t worry, it’ll all turn out okay in the end’. No. Just no.

I don’t think I could write something like that. It wouldn’t feel natural. At the very least leave your audience wondering what the hell happened. That’s the lasting impression. Be brutal with your characters. Do they deserve to have it easy?

You can read my book ‘A Most Faithful Attendant – The Life of Giovanni Battista Falcieri‘ by purchasing it here.

Taking Off The Brakes

‘Never ride a bike with the brakes on. If something is proving too difficult, give up and do something else.’

Geoff Dyer via Jon Winokur

Several posts ago I mentioned in passing how the book I had published in 2014 may have been the script I SHOULD be writing now.

So I’m just lobbing in a curve ball here and saying that I’ve put away the other project I was struggling with and I’ve pulled out my book and started the next phase of ‘A Most Faithful Attendant’.

And unlike the other one, this comes easily. Scenes that have played out in my head for years, fall onto the paper at an alarming rate. Nothing has been forgotten. The pitch and the plot are already there. The characters, all based in truth, already formed.  Places and dates already dictated to me from history. I enjoy the accuracy and the scope that it gives me. And I’m putting my slant on it.

I am pulling out my old research materials, re-reading my work and finding just how much I still like Lord Byron and his wit and his writing style. Whatever people said about him, I think he was a nice person. Ahead of his time. And that makes him fascinating to us. But he is just a small element of the script I am now writing although clearly a focus of sorts.

I’m working out how I can include it in what I am doing now. And I am having so much fun. This feels right. It happens because it wants to. Because it can. And because I can do it.

So there it is.

You can read my book ‘A Most Faithful Attendant – The Life of Giovanni Battista Falcieri‘ by purchasing it here.

Distractions

At the risk of giving away my age, I am finding the difference between writing now and when I started very very different.

Most of my writing these days is in blog form. I write as part of my business, so it’s very much industry based though still creative as it’s from my personal view point. And then I have this blog which I’ve recently begun for the writing side. I have an overactive brain that needs to vent.

I wanted to document reviving an old script and whatever comes after that. It occurred to me not so long ago that I have achieved something. Every day is another writing experience. If I’m not actually writing I’m writing in my head. It never stops. Incidentally I wrote this one in my head in the shower.

Back when I started out, and admittedly I did start young, there weren’t distractions. I was still a teen living at home when I began the script I am trying to rewrite now. We didn’t have the internet or social media. I wasn’t even allowed to have a TV in my bedroom. I didn’t get a mobile phone or access to the internet until I went out to work full time in London.

So I found it easy to lose myself in the worlds I created on paper. I could read books for hours. These days I find it impossible to concentrate on anything for long periods. And it’s definitely a failing. I am constantly darting between different projects and tasks. I can’t even watch a film without picking up my phone to check my social media streams.

Admittedly my world has changed a lot. I run my own business which is all consuming. A lot of what I do involves social media. I am my own PR, marketing, advertising and sales agent as well as creating the product. The industry I work in is quite fickle. You have to keep at it non stop to stay in the game and make enough to live on. And I have workaholic tendencies so there is little holding me back. Work is important to me. If you put work first everything else will follow. You have to be dedicated and unrelenting. You have to really want it.

But I can’t disconnect for the more substantial writing in my life. Once my book was published in 2014 (and I admit it was a struggle to complete once my business launched) I found it hard to focus and I haven’t completed any major writing or research since then.

Now I want to redraft my script I am finding it difficult. I need to get into the head of my leading man, to get to the essence of what he is so I can rewrite him. Disconnecting and solely concentrating on it seems impossible with everything else that’s going on around me.

I am beginning to understand why people go on retreats. The only way I am going to manage this is to go somewhere there is no internet.

I get very jealous of people who don’t use social media. Mostly these are people who have others to do it for them. I suppose you reach a certain level of fame and you don’t need to tweet or add selfies because fans do that for you. And agents find you work. People are basically asking you to work with them. I can’t see me ever reaching that point. I’m not even sure I would want that. But it’s a nice thought.

You can read my book ‘A Most Faithful Attendant – The Life of Giovanni Battista Falcieri‘ by purchasing it here.