I have the very great pleasure to be todays stop on The Escape by Clare Harvey blog tour. I have a brilliant exclusive guest post by Clare – it is an amazing post. Plus I am sharing my review of The Escape, so grab a cup of tea and have a look.
I was born in North Devon, and lived there until just after my seventh birthday, when my family uprooted and moved to Mauritius for two years. After living overseas, we moved back to Surrey, and then later back to Devon, where I went to secondary school and took a foundation course in art and design.
I read Law at the University of Leicester, but chose not to follow a legal path, deciding instead to do voluntary work in Tanzania and hitch-hike from Zanzibar to Cape Town, where I stayed for a year. After my African adventure, I worked for an overseas charity, picked up a journalism qualification, and fell in love with a soldier. Much to my parents’ dismay, a safe career as a solicitor never looked likely!
I’ve had an itinerant adulthood, working variously as a freelance journalist, radio reporter and English tutor in Nepal, Germany and Northern Ireland as the trailing spouse of a serving soldier.
I’m now settled in Nottingham, with husband, three children, a black German Shepherd dog, and a father-in-law who lives in a detached annexe in the garden – it’s a busy household. However, I haven’t given up on the wanderlust just yet. Although Nottingham’s home for now, we’ve got a camper van and a canal boat, so who knows where next…
Procrastination by Clare Harvey
Let’s talk about procrastination. No, wait, let me make a cup of tea and Google the definition of procrastination, and then we can make a start (see what I did there?)…
Procrastination is the action of delaying or postponing something. Most of us, but authors in particular, are very good at procrastination. When you work from home there are tempting lollygagging opportunities a-plenty. This morning, for example, I promised myself I’d be at my desk by 9am, but six acts of procrastination delayed the start of my working day by an hour and a half.
I was a little late back from my morning dog walk (and as there’s no boss to shout at me if I’m not at work on time, I don’t tend to rush). Then, whilst the coffee was brewing, I decided to post a photo on my Instagram feed, which meant I got sucked into social media for a while, and there was an interesting person on Desert Island Discs on Radio 4, too, so I didn’t rush drinking my coffee. Just as I was giving myself a metaphorical kick up the backside, my husband phoned, then the postman arrived with a parcel – a new hairstyling gadget, which I felt I just had to test out…I finally opened my laptop at 10.30. In any normal job this amount of shilly-shallying would surely get me the sack?
I should be stricter with myself, shouldn’t I? Shorten that dog walk, limit my use of social media before I’ve completed my to-do list, turn off the radio, ignore personal phone calls, leave the parcels unopened. In short, I should flipping well get on with things, right?
I believe that procrastination – or at least a kind of managed mindlessness – is positively beneficial to writers. Let’s go through my dilatory start to the day again, and I’ll tell you why:
1. The extended morning dog walk/run:
Writing is a sedentary occupation – we need to get out from behind our desks and move about. Exercise has been shown to boost creativity, and running to thumping bass beats increases self-confidence, both of which are essential to authors. Being outdoors is also an ideal opportunity for a spot of mindfulness. When I’m out I try to spend a few minutes internally describing my surroundings (today it was the pink vapour trails criss-crossing the powder blue skies, my breath puffing dragon-clouds in front of my face, and the slide of my boots on the muddy path, for example); this has the twin benefits both of calming me down before the day begins, and also exercising my writer’s mind by practising a bit of word painting.
2. Personal phone calls:
As I mentioned, authors lead a hermit-like existence. I’m not sure about other writers, but I spend a lot of time talking and listening to the voices of made-up people inside my head! Real life – family and friends – are critically important in keeping me grounded and sane, and I’m sure that’s true for most other authors too.
3. Dithering on social media:
For authors, social media performs two critical functions: writing is a lonely job, and social media connects you with the world. Almost all the contact I have with fellow writers is via Facebook groups and Twitter feeds, and without it I’d run the risk of feeling increasingly isolated. In addition, social media is a crucial marketing tool. I usually post something every weekday so that I’m maintaining contact with my readers. This morning I posted a photo of some old graffiti I’d spotted on my walk, which I just thought was unexpectedly beautiful. I also put a promo link on a FB group for saga readers, inviting them along to my book launch. Social media helps market my work, connects me to readers and writers, and is sometimes an outlet for creativity, too.
4. Listening to the radio:
I like having Radio 4 quietly chattering along in the background in the kitchen, and although it doesn’t usually stop me from getting to work, sometimes it’s worth allowing myself to be diverted. A couple of years ago Hillary Mantel’s Reith lectures on historical fiction were an essential listen for hist fic authors like me. And only a few weeks ago an item on the radio sparked an idea that I developed into a synopsis, and is now my current work-in-progress. You never know when an obscure radio feature might send you off down a new creative path, so it’s always worth a listen.
5. Taking the time to brew a cup of real coffee:
Most authors probably swear by a caffeine shot to get their creative juices going, but it’s more than that. My morning cuppa is a ritual – I have a little Italian-style coffee pot that you heat on the hob, and I have to go through the rigmarole of filling the pot with water, spooning the coffee into the chamber, tamping it down with the back of the special coffee spoon, heating the milk in a separate jug, etc. Rituals give focus and structure to our lives. I might not go out to work, but making that coffee helps make my brain transition from home to job, and after I have finished drinking it, I’m ready to leave behind thoughts of shopping, washing, homework projects, and doctor’s appointments, and open my laptop, or pick up my pen.
6. Opening parcels:
Okay, I admit it, this one really does count as procrastination. I just wanted the fleeting thrill of unwrapping something, and once it was open, I couldn’t help giving my new hair styling gadget a try. I probably could have been at my desk a few minutes earlier – but at least I’m definitely not having a bad hair day today…
Five out of six ain’t bad, I’d say. Stalling, temporizing, dilly-dallying, vacillation – call it what you like, some kind of delaying tactics are an essential part of an author’s day, and for me this morning has definitely been a procrastination win!
The Escape is out now in paperback, e-book and Audible.
About The Book
A compelling wartime drama for fans of Lucinda Riley, Rachel Hore and Katherine Webb
Detta works as a translator for a Nazi-run labour camp for French workers. One winter morning in early 1945, Detta passes a group of exhausted British prisoners of war who are being force-marched westwards. The following day she receives an urgent message to contact the local priest. He is harbouring a group of escaped British prisoners of war in the manse: can she help?
London, 1989. Miranda is a 19-year old photography student in London, in thrall to her older boyfriend, a journalist called Quill. In November the fall of the Berlin Wall is all over the news. Quill asks Miranda to come with him to Germany: before they leave, Miranda’s grandmother gives her an old postcard of the village she was born in. Miranda hopes that working together in Berlin will help cement the cracks in her relationship with Quill, but one night his behaviour spills over into violence, and Miranda ends up fleeing through the rubble of the Berlin wall and into the East. As she travels further, she begins to suspect she’s being followed by the Stasi. If she goes on, she worries that she’ll be taken into custody and be accused of spying; if she turns back, it means returning to Quill.
At last her grandmother’s photograph offers the solution. She tells people that she is going to find her family in the East. The Catholic church, and the manse, opposite where her grandmother once lived, are still standing. And the secrets of the past begin to be revealed.
Wow, what a gripping and thought- provoking book. From the very first page when Detta spot’s the Russian planes flying over her office, I was hooked. I wanted to know what would happen to her and what came of Tom. I was turning the pages lightening quick, becoming more and more engrossed in a story that spans from 1945 to 1989. This is a truly thrilling and moving book, set during two unsettled and dangerous times, and centres around two women in particular.
This is the first book I have read by Clare Harvey, I didn’t know what to expect from her writing. Yes, I have read a lot of great things about her work, but I like to make my own opinions, and my opinion is that Ms Harvey has a true skill. She has a rare gift, time slip stories at times don’t always work and some can fall a little flat or become confusing the further into the story the reader gets. But not this one. Ms Harvey easily takes the reader from Detta in 1945 and jumps cleanly to Miranda in 1989, the transitions from one woman and one era to the next and then back again is perfectly timed and written.
As I said above the story is split between two era’s; in 1945, Detta lives in a little village in Germany working as a translator – which gives a real insight into what was going on at this stage in the war. The Russian are moving in, there is a quiet hostility that just jumps out at you read. The part with the mother and baby trying to get on the train and facing an onslaught of hostility was particularly moving. When she receives word from the local priest for help, she at first is uncertain as whether to assist as he is harbouring escaped British prisoners of war. Dare she help him and these poor men, while putting her own life at risk if she was ever caught?
The second part of the story set during 1989 the Berlin wall has fallen and trainee photographer is right in the thick of it. She is only in Berlin as her older boyfriend; Quill asked her to go with him, but one thing leads to another and the night ends in violence. As she flees the feeling of threats and danger is ever present, it leaped of the pages and your heart is in your mouth as your follow Miranda as she makes her way through some pretty harrowing moments, believing she is being followed she ends up using the old postcard her grandmother gave her, and says she is going to find her family in East Germany.
The threads that start to appear which link the two women makes for compelling and intriguing reading. The way Ms Harvey has entwined raw history throughout the story is beautifully done. There is a real sense of not knowing what’s to come, at not letting anything slip through your fingers as you never know if you will ever get the chance or see the person again. There are moments which had shivers running down my back and tears in my eyes; such as the march of the concentration camp workers, wearing nothing but rags and skeletal thin as they lumbered past Tom’s prisoner of war camp is harrowing.
This is an absolute stunning piece of writing, it’s sensitive, poignant, engaging, compelling, beautifully written, rich in historic detail, a thrilling story which will grab you and not let you go. Really this is a perfect book for all those who love historic fiction, if you love the likes of Pam Jenoff, Alison Richman or Kate Mosse then read this book.
It is in one word; Perfection! – Honestly, I can’t say any more it is really is.
This was a complimentary copy via the publisher in exchange for a honest review as apart of this blog tour, thank you so much Jess.
The Escape can be found at Amazon, do buy it, I cannot recommend it enough.