Saturday, 29 June 2019

New Release Spotlight & Guest Post: The Road to Cromer Pier by Martin Gore

The Road to Cromer Pier by Martin Gore

Janet’s first love arrives out of the blue after forty years. Those were simpler times for them both. Sunny childhood beach holidays, fish and chips and big copper pennies clunking into one armed bandits.
The Wells family has run the Cromer Pier Summertime Special Show for generations. But it’s now 2009 and the recession is biting hard. Owner Janet Wells and daughter Karen are facing an uncertain future. The show must go on, and Janet gambles on a fading talent show star. But both the star and the other cast members have their demons. This is a story of love, loyalty and luvvies. The road to Cromer Pier might be the end of their careers, or it might just be a new beginning.

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Plays or Novels? Decisions......Decisions....
I started my creative writing journey with pantomimes, which led to plays and then novels. So which do I prefer writing? Well there are of course pros and cons to both.

I do have some concerns that professional theatre is stifling plays. The cost of actors is such that writing a play with more than four characters is virtually a kiss of death. They simply cannot or will not take the risk. I count myself as a lover of theatre, particularly of musical theatre, but I seldom go now as the new plays on offer don’t seem to have good stories, tending instead to push an agenda, be it austerity or gender or race. A notable exception was Maxine Peake’s Beryl, which featured the life of cyclist Beryl Burton, and a cast of six! The Hypocrite, a play about Lord Hotham and his fracas with the King at the gates of Hull was brilliant, but the huge cast benefited from RSC funding.
I remember reading Michael Eisner’s biography about the turnaround of Walt Disney in the nineties. At the time Disney’s fortunes were fading. At his first script meeting, where he attended as an observer, people kept asking ‘What would Walt have done?’. Having heard this a few times Eisner reminded his people that whilst Walt Disney was clearly a genius, he was in fact dead. What mattered was having a great story. The resurgence of Disney under his leadership was down to telling great stories that make you laugh or cry.
Tell a great story and people will come. I love Tim Firth’s writing, from the hilarious Flint Street Nativity to the inspiring Calendar Girls. Amanda Whittingham’s Ladies Day is fabulous too. I also saw Curious Incident, which explored autism brilliantly, but in a heart warming and humorous way.
But the instant reaction of the audience in a live theatre is just fantastic for a writer. I love to hear what works and what doesn’t. I wrote He’s Behind You to take a funny dig at privatisation, but it also had a controlling man subjugating an intelligent woman. The audience reaction was great, but they laughed in places that I had not expected. The male lead was featured watching his own funeral from heaven and the audience laughed. It had not occurred to me that it was funny, but the audience clearly did. Mind you it can work the other way. In a 2008 pantomime I wrote a Gordon Brown gag which didn’t get a laugh all week! Well you can’t win ‘em all.
But you are restricted in writing plays. Even leaving aside the number of actors you can have, staging, sound, lighting and costumes are all potentially problematic. Giving Cinderella fifteen seconds to get her frock on is unlikely to go down with costumes, and having a dozen people leaving that stage at the same time is unlikely to find favour with the Stage Manager who is working in the dark to change the scenery at the time.
Modern scene changing is amazing, with simulation the order of the day. The days of elaborate sets have largely gone. Curious Incident, a play about an autistic adolescent, was extraordinary in this respect. The simulation of a tube train using only sound and light was terrific. There are just so many examples. As a writer you need to cover all of these aspects.
Casting too can be tricky. Too many characters with playing ages in their twenties will work well in professional theatre, but won’t do well in an Amdram group of average age seventy! Certainly my Amdram Group. The Walkington Pantomime Players, struggles to find contemporary comedies with a cast of six or above.
Novels give you so much more time to weave backstories and develop characters. I enjoy holding images in my head as I travel, so I can feature them in my books. We stayed with friends in Magdale near Holmfirth in Yorkshire, and the old mill I saw there became the mill in Pen Pals. Again in Pen Pals the two lovers starting their affair in Florence was no accident. I’d visited two year’s previously and loved the place, particularly The David.
In The Road to Cromer Pier the theatre is real of course, which posed a particular problem. How do you do justice to a real show which is an iconic piece of British Theatre? It took me eighteen months to rework the draft to make it work. But the surrounding locations provided a rich source for the book. I might wish that Cromer Railway Station was more evocative of the town’s Victorian past, but it is utilitarian and bleak. However given the mood that Lauren was in as she sat there, her dreams shattered, austere and bleak worked very well. Even the Argos store next door plays a part, silently mocking their ex-employee, as she sees it.
The canteen scene in Pen Pals was a particular favourite of mine. I wrote it as an exercise in a creative writing class originally, but it fitted perfectly as Brenda toured the closed factory site, so full of memories. Before I retired I had visited an old cosmetics factory near Wakefield, with a view to leasing part of it. We toured the site, and came to the huge canteen. Obviously the site had employed many people, but they were long gone, leaving the canteen forlorn and empty. It just worked so well with the mood of my character as she went around her factory one last time.
But there are downsides to novels of course. The seemingly endless editing isn’t so much fun, and proof reading? For someone with the attention span of a goldfish it is a nightmare, but as the author YOU and only YOU are responsible for the final product.
Feedback you get much less spontaneously, but get it you will. In my case I got many great reviews, with the only negative being for grammar. I earned my living for many years through effective writing, and I regarded it as a key strength. On reflection those that criticised Pen Pals were right to do so however. Nothing kills a readers enjoyment of your story more than a missed word or incorrect use of grammar. The latest version of Pen Pals is now perfected, but the ratings are on there. The only three star reviewers loved the story but not the grammar. Sometimes you have to take it on the chin!
Amongst the many lovely reviews though my favourite came from an adopted child, who said that in Pen Pals I got her attitude to her birth mother spot on. That sort of comments really lifts you, and keeps you going.
So I see merits to writing both plays and novels, and The Road to Cromer Pier is available as both. If your Amdram group wants to try the play why not contact me through the website on or twitter @authorgore ?
Martin Gore

 June 2019

I am a 61 year old Accountant who semi-retired to explore my love of creative writing. In my career I held Board level jobs for over twenty five years, in private, public and third sector organisations. I was born in Coventry, a city then dominated by the car industry and high volume manufacturing. Jaguar, Triumph, Talbot, Rolls Royce, Courtaulds, Massey Ferguson were the major employers, to name but a few.

When I was nine year’s old I told my long suffering mother that as I liked English composition and drama I was going to be a Playwright. She told me that I should work hard at school and get a proper job. She was right of course.

I started as an Office Junior at Jaguar in 1973 at eleven pounds sixty four a week. I thus grew up in the strike torn, class divided seventies. My first career ended in 2015, when I semi retired as Director of Corporate services at Humberside Probation. My second career, as a Non Executive Director, is great as it has allowed me free time to travel and indulge my passion for writing, both in novels and for theatre.

The opportunity to rekindle my interest in writing came in 2009, when I wrote my first pantomime, Cinderella, for my home group, the Walkington Pantomime Players. I have now written eight. I love theatre, particularly musical theatre, and completed the Hull Truck Theatre Playwrite course in 2010. My first play, a comedy called He's Behind You, had its first highly successful showing in January 2016, so I intend to move forward in all three creative areas.

Pen Pals was my first novel, but a second, The Road to Cromer Pier, will be released in the Summer of 2019. 

I’m an old fashioned writer I guess. I want you to laugh and to cry. I want you to believe in my characters, and feel that my stories have a beginning, a middle, and a satisfactory ending.

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