Friday, October 27, 2006

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

A reader writes.

I got the following message from someone who's read Taking Comfort. Like me, he's a member of the writers' website writewords, which I think is how he found out about me and the book. It also explains the first line of his message.

Anyhow, I really loved his response, particularly because I have been searching for a way - without damaging my chances of anyone ever buying the book - of warning people that the book may not exactly be to everyone's taste. I think "Beadle's" response is just about perfect in that respect.

Hi Roger

I suppose one of the problems of being a published author on a site like this is that you get nutters like me contacting you as if you're their best mate!

I just wanted to say that I have just finished reading Taking Comfort and wanted to congratulate you. I also wanted to tell you that I came nearer than any other book I've read to throwing it across the room in frustration.

I struggled with the way it was written at first, the repetition of words and phrases and sentiments. I was more than halfway through before it finally clicked and I felt the rhythm of the writing, the spiralling of the characters’ minds, their confusion and doubt.

Maybe one of the reasons I reacted against it so strongly initially is that it was a very accurate rendering of that turmoil one’s mind goes through dealing with everyday issues, whether it is seeing tragedies or just coping with the rush hour tube traffic.

It was a challenging book, or perhaps I’m just not challenged in that way very often. But I want to congratulate you because ultimately you created a world that was frightening yet comforting in its reality (which was also frightening), as well as being familiar but very alien (which again scares the pant off of me).

Ultimately I also liked the plot – I’m big into plot, and narrative, which is why I sometimes get frustrated with books that look like they’ve been “written” rather than just appearing fully-formed in my hands.

I’ll go now before I out stay my welcome. Good luck with this and your future work.



I would also like to say that in a further message Beadle went on to say this:

I can see that it would be quite easy to see back and say - ah, let's make this straightforward - but you didn't and that takes guts, and the people that supported you to get it published also show guts, so beyond your own achievement I think it shows a bit of light in the murk of the publishing industry. [My emphasis.]

Uh, if there are any people who still have it in for Macmillan New Writing, please take note.

Monday, October 23, 2006

We have a winner.


Okay, she got it right, though her deductive reasoning wasn't exactly watertight. As I said in my comment, we did have mixed staircases and landings. And every now and then things got mingled up anyway.

So what a stupid pointless lie. Except for the fact that the person next door to me was Allison Pearson's (note the two 'l's now, cfr!) boyfriend at the time.

A very old copy of Metropolitan, as edited by Fiction Bitch, will be heading cfr's way, as soon as I can find it.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

8 things about me.

I got memed by Debra Broughton absolutely ages ago. Sorry, Debra, that it’s taken me so long. Okay. Here are 8 things (apart from it takes me ages to get round to doing these things).

By the way, this meme reminds me of Three Things About Me by Aliya Whiteley, so in honour of Aliya, one of the things below is a lie. A prize to the first person who correctly identifies the lie (sorry Aliya, I’m nicking your idea).

1. I used to have elocution lessons when I was a kid. I come from oop north, you see, and my parents thought it would be a handicap in life having a northern accent. My dad wanted me to be a newsreader. The lessons were given by a gentleman called Mr Heap, who smoked cigarettes with a holder. Very sophisticated. I can almost remember one of the exercises, ‘My father’s car is a Jaguar and Pa drives rather fast. Past drafty barns and something farms pa goes whizzing past….’

2. Also from my childhood, I have my Silver Blades certificate for ice skating. I used to be able to do all sorts of stuff, including going backwards, even had my own skates. Then I didn’t do it for years and years and years and the first time I went on the ice as an adult I was petrified and rubbish.

3. Again from my childhood, I used to go potholing and quite enjoyed it, though I was always relieved to get out. I have never felt tempted to give it a go as an adult.

4. I have long nails on my right hand and short nails on my left. Good for finger pickin’ on the guitar. I have a guitar but I rarely play it these days. I keep my nails trimmed to the requisite lengths just in case.

5. When I was at University my room was next door to that woman off the Late Show, Alison Pearson. You know the one who wrote that book, I Don’t Know How She Does It. That’s the title of the book, by the way, not a comment on her achievements, which are considerable nonetheless.

6. I drink a lot of coffee. In fact, my coffee-drinking habit provides my family with a theme when it comes to present buying. I have received coffee scented notebooks, coffee tins, coffee mugs, coffee coasters, coffee T-shirts, coffee clips and, um, coffee.

7. I once met the actress who voices Wendy in Bob The Builder and got her to ‘talk Wendy’ to me.

8. In my twenties I was quite often mistaken for Timmy Mallett by little kids.

Okay. So which one is the lie? A prize of a vintage, collectable copy of the sorely missed literary magazine Metropolitan, which also happens to contain one of my short stories goes to the first commenter to spot the lie.

Oh, and I think I have to nominate some more people. Not sure how many but I imagine it might be 8. Apologies if you've already been done...

Steve Augarde, Matt Curran, Fiction Bitch (The Tart of Fiction), Samantha Grosser, Lucy McCarraher, Nik's blog, Cate Sweeney, Charlie Williams

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Suroopa's spectacular sales.

The posting I did about my royalty statement has attracted the most comments, and drawn the most visits, of any posting I've put up so far.

It prompted an email from my fellow MNW-er, Suroopa Mukherjee, author of Across The Mystic Shore, in which she reveals her own highly impressive sales results. She also has something interesting to say about how her book has been received in her home country of India.

With Suroopa's permission, I'll quote from the relevant bits of her email:

I got my own royalty statement, though the cheque will only reach me after the tax bit is cleared. In my case across countries. I was truly surprised to discover that my book has sold as many as 2918 copies, with 1756 in UK (hard back) and the rest in India (paper back). I think MNW has done a great job in the way they have taken care of the books, both in terms of the constant support and encouragement and publicity. I have no idea what other publishing houses do as a norm, but certainly the kind of flak that MNW got was misplaced. I think the 6 of us "first authors" have no reason to complain.

My book sold despite the fact that I had virtually no support system in hand (no fond friends and relatives, not even a website) so clearly MNW has an efficient system in place. Many thanks to both Will and Sophie! The best words of encouragement came from Mike. He wrote that many of their best known authors would not have done better with their first novel. Words I will treasure! Would you believe it, in India my book was reviewed and interviews were published in all the major dailies and literary magazines. I counted - 18 and 3 more to come. I think the Macmillan name carries its own weight. I believe what authors, first time or otherwise, really need and look forward to is a system that sustains talent, rather than all this hoopla about commercial viability.

I had one added advantage in India. The controversy died down soon and my book was evaluated on its own terms. The only bit of criticism that got my goat was the frequent reference to poor editing. Many of the grammatical errors that were listed, is really the way I write English as someone who approaches it as a foreign language, third removed from our Indian reality. Naturally we make the language stand on its head! I am glad my editor saw the quirkiness and decided to retain it. So for any flaws in my writing I take the blame. My editor was fantastic.

You can find out more about Suroopa and her writing, including her plans for her next book, here.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

My amazon twin.

For quite some time now my amazon page has twinned me with The Mathematics Of Love by Emma Darwin.

It's one of those weird X-file like mysteries that no one can explain. What makes it particularly astonishing is that Emma is one of the few novelists I have actually met in person. She was kind enough to come along to one of the MNW launches. (There were so many, you know.)

I also know Emma from the writers' site, writewords, where she is an extremely friendly, supportive and well-informed expert. You don't think that could be the connection, do you?

Well, of course, knowing Emma as I do, and having our books twinned, I was naturally very keen to read her novel (TMOL, as it is known to those in the know).

I finished it today and absolutely loved it.

Here are some thoughts:

Emma's grasp of the nuances of detail that make up the textures of her characters' lives struck me as nothing less than clairvoyant. She handles the historical material masterfully so that it never gets in the way of the story, but does the job of allowing the reader to experience the reality and immediacy of distant - and not so distant - events. She also moves between the twin time periods seamlessly (the book is set in 1819 and 1976), linking them by thematic connections and a parallel narrative pacing. Two stories are being told - of Stephen Fairhurst, a veteran of Waterloo, and of Anna Ware, a hot, bored, lonely teenager - but each serves to add meaning and resonance to the other by the simple action of perspective.

It is a highly intelligent book, written with great control, and yet it has an emotional power that is all the more breathtaking for that.

The Mathematics of Love is one of those books you sink into. From page one you know you are in safe hands. My only complaint is that I reached the end of its 400 plus pages all too soon.