Dark Angels Note 75

Dearest Friends,

Welcome back to our weekly Dark Angels Note.

We’ve managed to pin down the busiest bee in the biz, Lisa Andrews, for this week’s note. Strap in, it’s another good ‘un.


1. Tell us about something you’re working on right now. 

Now is an interesting concept! For the past decade I’ve been working on a novel set mainly in London during the Blitz. There have been some incredibly productive periods and some hefty lulls (mainly after rejection letters from agents!). I find the submission process and inevitable ‘no thank yous’ incredibly draining, so this year I gave myself permission to not write and two things have happened.

First, I’ve discovered an unexpected love of – and aptitude for – lino printmaking. It’s all got a bit out of hand very quickly! I am in love with everything from the carving tools, to the paper, to the slight sense of danger around the fact that the carving could go wrong at any point and you don’t know exactly how it will turn out until you’ve printed the piece. In a funny sort of way, it is not completely dissimilar to the way I write a lot of the time (i.e. no idea how it’s going to work out!). The second thing is that I have started to fall back in love with the idea of my novel and am now giving serious thought to self-publishing it. I’ve lost a lot of the naïve desire to ‘be discovered’ and would now be quite happy if a handful of people found some pleasure in reading it.


2. Can you recommend something for us to read?

This is my favourite question ever. In fact, if I could have a superpower, it would be to recommend the perfect book to the perfect person. And there so many possibilities – do I choose an old friend like Angela Carter’s Wise Children, or a new discovery like Bridget Collins’ The Betrayals? If it’s searing memoir as essay I’d have to say Emile Pine’s Notes to Self(thanks, Therese Kieran). If poetry is your bag then do I choose Alice Oswald’s Falling Awake (A Short Story of Falling is, in my humble opinion, the perfect poem), Robin Robertson’s Swithering or Raymond Antrobus’s The Perseverance? I could go on…


3. What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever read or received?  

‘The first draft of anything is s**t’. Sorry for the swearing! It’s attributed to Ernest Hemingway and something I discovered back when doing my MA in Creative Writing. Ever since then I have given myself permission to write badly. In fact, I now actively embrace the badness. Because badness means words on a page. And words are so much easier to edit than a blank page.


4. Share one thing you do when you get stuck.

I suppose my answer is a summary of my replies to 1 and 3. Pausing isn’t the same as giving up, so like a lot of writers, I’ll take a break. That might be to make a cup of tea, go for a walk in the local park or fall in love with a completely different artform. But deadlines are not always conducive and since I have always found editing so much easier than writing, more often than not I’ll try and remind myself of Mr H’s words and just get on with the business of writing badly in the first instance.


5. What’s your desert island book and why?

Easy. Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall. It’s nice and chunky so it takes a while to get through (also handy if I’m pillow-less) and it’s a bit of history I find myself coming back to time and again. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read it now. And for reasons I can’t really explain (spoilers) I love the last three lines. Every time I re-read it I feel like everything in the narrative is building to that moment. It’s not even a big old firework of an ending. It’s just anyone with even a passing interest in the Tudor period knows better than Cromwell at that moment what’s around the corner. There’s something really satisfying about being deep inside his head and yet knowing more than he does.

Thank you so much, Lisa. You may now add Book Whisperer to the long list of professional skills in your bio 😉.


Seasons’ Greetings

If you haven’t got round to getting your copy of Seasons’ Greetings just yet, there’s still time. It’s a flawless book in every way; writing, design and production. A limited edition, numbered and signed for £40, it makes for a very thoughtful gift. Get yours here.


Dark Angels Gatherings

Our Tuesday night gatherings are off and running once again. Same time as before (7.00-8.00pm in the UK), but with a new Zoom link. If you fancy an hour of connection and reflection in the company of other Dark Angels, you’d be very welcome; bring a friend too.

Be well, keep reading, keep writing and know that we’re always here..

From everyone at Dark Angels

Also published on Medium.