Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Confession 11 RIP Alice Thomas Ellis

RIP Anna/Alice:

A sad moment this morning as I read of the death of Alice Thomas Ellis. She was the first real author I ever met. Working on a documentary about her was also my first close-up look at the authorly life. It looked pretty damned good to me - she wrote in bed in her pyjamas. She was married to Colin Haycraft who owned Duckworths, housed in an old piano factory just down the road from their big shabby Victorian house in Camden Town. Colin cheerfully followed us around while we followed Anna around, dishing out tumblers of whiskey and chatting about anything and everything. As well as this lovely husband she had lots of good-looking sons, a moody daughter and Janet. Janet was a close friend and an employee at the same time. Beryl Bainbridge lived in the same street, (as did Alan Bennett and Jonathan Miller). Beryl was always popping into the basement kitchen for a fag and a chat by the Aga. Anna had this amazing house in Wales too, in the middle of the middle of nowhere. It was haunted and the crew and I played ghost tricks on each other. She was a warm and funny, but sad, lady. She never got over losing her teenage son in an accident.

I had no ambitions to write at that time, I was more concerned wondering if she'd ever write about me. I caught her surreptitiously studying me once as we stood by a skip, in Gloucester Crescent. I looked for me and my skip in her subsequent novels but we never appeared.

I worked on character today. Realised I couldn't go any further until I'd firmed up a few people and changed some names. Also, woke up this morning realising I had to condense the first three chapters into one. This meant losing lots of lovely wordcount, but that's how it goes.

Before getting going I read Rose Tremain on character:

There's so much on this site. There's this fun tool that does the William Borroughs, David Bowie cut up thingy for you:

and J from my writing group recommends the character building tool.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.


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Anonymous said...

Is the documentary referred to available still?

Stephanie Zia said...

Hi, It will be in the BBC archives. It was a 1980s Bookmark Programme entitled Secrets Of Strangers.