The very bestest pens in the whole world are blue gel-ink pens with a nice fat nib. I love the way the ink looks on the page, all fat and smooth and luscious. Everything looks more important when it’s written in gel-ink. There are some downsides (they’re expensive; they don’t last long; I’m left-handed, so I get giant blue smears on my ring finger), but I don’t care, because I love them anyway.
Unfortunately, everyone else in my family (especially my daughter) loves them too. So no matter how many I buy, somehow I never seem to have one. In these circumstances, I’ll basically settle for anything that will leave a mark on the paper and isn’t actually my own blood.
I have two kinds of notebooks. Notebooks I buy and then worship for their sheer ineffable beauty that makes me want to weep with joy; and notebooks I’m actually going to write in. I learned quite early in my writing career that the more beautiful the notebook, the smaller the chance that I’m actually going to use it.
A small selection of the notebooks I buy and then worship for their sheer ineffable beauty that makes me want to weep with joy
Look at this one. Look at its beautiful antiqued cover, and its gold embossing, and its spine that reminds me of my grandmother’s bookshelves but in a good way, and its beautiful thick creamy paper, and best of all, look at the little clicky clip thing that keeps it shut! It’s so beautiful! So naturally, I’m not going to write in it like ever.
This is very different, but equally gorgeous. I love the fat ditsy rabbits, lolloping about with their bellies all round and gorgeous. The colours remind me of my favourite dress from when I was three. Its beautiful smooth creamy pages have no lines, because lines would constrict the quirky little doodles that someone worthy of this notebook would clearly fill it with. I’m not going to write in this one either.
This one is quite plain on the outside – almost plain enough to be written in – but then it has these gorgeous brown pages like hand-wrapped parcels. It feels delightfully organic and casual, like that one friend who grows their own vegetables without going on about it and throws the best parties in summer. My handwriting is definitely too uptight and formal for this notebook. I can’t possibly write in it.
This one has my name on, as well as a picture of the exact kind of typewriter I wrote my first novel on, when I was fifteen. It was a present from my lovely, lovely husband, and it’s my most favourite notebook in the whole world. I actually managed to write in this one a little bit, but my handwriting looked crap, so I stopped. I still feel guilty about it.
Notebooks I actually write in
After years and years and years of writing notes on till receipts and my own hand and the backs of discarded print-outs stolen from recycling bins, I finally discovered Moleskine notebooks. They are literally the only notebooks in the world that are simultaneously lovely enough for me to covet them, and also not so lovely that I can’t bear to ruin them. They come in all sorts of colours and finishes, so you can fritter away many tortured / happy hours choosing. They’re also excellently designed. They lie beautifully flat no matter where you are in the book, they’re a great size, and the lines are exactly the right distance apart. They’re PERFECT. I never feel bad about writing in them. I used this one for my most recent novel Lily’s House:
Thanks to the magic of Moleskine, I even managed to find an Alice notebook that I could feel okay about writing in. This beauty saw me through The Winter’s Child, which will be published in October 2017:
And I’m already looking forward to breaking open its successor. Look at that beautiful sage cover! It’s going to be awesome.
For outlining, I love A4 paper and post-it notes. Each sheet is a chapter; each post-it is a plot-point, character trait or important theme; and because they’re infinitely moveable, I can re-arrange for as long as I need to. (Although sometimes I find I’ve left myself notes that don’t actually mean anything…my personal favourite was for The Winter’s Child, where I had a post-it that simply read “Something happens”. Brilliant.)
I also collect postcards to send in with submissions, contracts, invoices and so on, because postcards make me smile and I hope they make the recipient smile too. This is my current favourite, bought in the Paris Catacombs this Spring, and waiting for the right occasion:
The first books I truly fell in love with were fairy-tales. I’m drawn to their beauty, and to the darkness beneath their glittery surface. So my novels (The Summer We All Ran Away, The Beach Hut and Lily’s House, all from the brilliant Legend Press) all have quite a strong magical flavour. My most recent novel, Lily’s House, explores the relationship between my heroine Jen and her grandmother Lily – who may or may not have been a witch.
My fourth novel The Winter’s Child (October 2017) is set in my home city of Hull, beginning on the last night of Hull Fair. Hull Fair is the largest travelling fair in the Europe, and each October it takes over our city with lights and colour, terrifying rides…and fortune-tellers. Susannah Harper, visits a fortune-teller and receives a chillingly specific prediction; her son Joel, who has been missing for five years, will finally come back to her by Christmas Eve. In the days and weeks leading up to Christmas, Susannah finally begins to unravel the truth about how and why her son disappeared, and why now – after five years – he’s finally ready to come back to her.
My website is www.cassandrajaneparkin.wordpress.com, and when I’m feeling very brave, I tweet @cassandrajaneuk. You can check out my books at www.legendtimesgroup.co.uk/legend-press/authors/author-cassandra-parkin.
Most recent novel: Lily’s House, from Legend Press, October 2016.
Forthcoming novel: The Winter’s Child, from Legend Press, October 2017.