Blog Tour Day 3: Being Anne Reading

Blog tour listingsFINALThe weekend is over, the hangover vanquished and today I’m over at fellow North Walian Anne William’s blog, Being Anne Reading, with a QnA and the kindof review that makes a grown author weep with joy: http://beingannereading.blogspot.co.uk/

Thank you, Anne.

Laura x

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My favourite reads of 2015

As another year draws to a close, it’s traditional for me to post a list of my most memorable reads – books I’ve enjoyed most – over the past twelve months. This is a very personal list; I’m an author, not a professional critic, and my taste is eclectic. So much depends on mood, though like many readers there are those authors I return to time and time again. There’s one on this list and a couple of new authors I’ll definitely read again. In 2015 I read 35 books for pleasure (I read many more in my role as editor and mentor to developing writers) and here are my top ten, in no particular order!

Some of my favourite reads of 2015

Some of my favourite reads of 2015

The One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

Moyes always hits the spot for me, and this was a delight from start to finish. Gorgeous.

A Song for Issy Bradley by Carys Bray

A beautifully written, poignant debut about the myriad faces of grief. Moving.

Notes on a Scandal by Zoe Heller

Old but wonderful. Barbara is one of the saddest, most deliciously screwed-up protagonists I can think of. Incredible.

The Memory Book by Rowan Coleman

Alzheimer’s, love and family, covered with Coleman’s trademark warmth and insight. Tender.

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

Flynn’s debut about a hack returning to her small town home to cover child murders is stronger and nastier than her breakthrough novel, Gone Girl, IMHO. Disturbing.

Blackmoor by Edward Hogan

An exquisitely written story about a Derbyshire pit village, the damage the community wreaks on an Albino mother, her husband and boy and its  repercussions. Poignant.

My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher

A YA novel about a young boy whose sister is killed by an act of terrorism. The novel is a few years old now but still so relevant. A book every child should read. Pertinent.

Saltwater by Lane Ashfeldt

A beautiful collection of short stories inspired by the sea. Dancing on Canvey and Catching the Tip-Tap to Cayes de Jacmel were stand-outs in a fabulous collection. Tangy.

The Mysterious Affair at Castaway House by Stephanie Lam

A time-slip dual narrative set in a grand, cliff-top house in a fictional seaside resort (though obviously based on Brighton), this is a compelling mystery peopled with memorable characters and passages of utterly gorgeous prose. Reminiscent of Sarah Waters and Agatha Christie.

OK, so I cheated on the last book, using more than a one word summary, but, hey, it’s almost Christmas!

And on that note, I’ll finish by wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and here’s to a successful and happy 2016. Happy reading!

Laura x

 

Imposter syndrome

One of the more interesting responses to the Chris Bryant v James Blunt brouhaha comes from novelist Sarah Perry in the Independent. She argues, convincingly, that Blunt misunderstands the relationship between wealth and privilege and artistic success. You can read her article here.

I posted a link on Facebook and Twitter and had such interesting conversations I wanted to blog about it. You can read the dialogue here.

2015-01-21 15.30.22Like Perry, my origins are not discernible in my accent (I don’t have one, pretty much) and like her, I find publishing events ‘alarming’ and bluntly – pun intended – scary. My shadow self is terrified that I’m about to be found out – imposter in these posh circles that I am. My stepfather was a steel worker and a mechanic and my mother has held a variety of jobs, all low-paid and low-skilled, and I went to Manchester Metropolitan University, so like Perry, I’m never in danger of bumping into friends of the family in the industry I now work in.

However, I recognise how fortunate I have been. I’m tenacious – irritatingly so, some would say – I’ve worked hard, I have some talent (or so I’m told) and I have also had some luck. Without this, it unlikely that I would have ‘made it’ *hear me snorting*

Of course, the core of the debate surrounds funding for the arts and without such support there are voices that will simply go unheard. The same is true of further education. Over the past fortnight, I have spoken at events at the University of Hertfordshire and at Kingston University.  At both, the students were warm and receptive – an absolute pleasure to speak with. At Kingston, I appeared with author Sharon Zink, a fellow resident of Brighton, and it was reassuring to take to the lectern with someone I knew, because, guess what, I was very nervous. Imposter syndrome again.

During the Q & A, an audience member pointed out that neither of us had studied creative writing, that neither of us had an MA, nor a BA, in the discipline. (I’ve not got an MA in anything; Sharon has a PhD – she’s a clever clogs J) The observation wasn’t meant in a derogatory manner and it led to an interesting discussion on the value of degrees in creative writing, but it reminded me that once upon a time I had wanted to study for a creative writing MA, and guess what, I couldn’t afford it. Going to my parents for help wasn’t an option. Instead, and this is what I told our audience, I read everything I could about craft – books, articles, magazines, anything and everything. I continued to read voraciously and I wrote. A lot. And, as I’ve said, I got lucky. However, I know a couple of writers for whom an MA was invaluable, priceless, 100% necessary in building confidence as much as working on craft and without it, they doubt they would ever have had the confidence to submit work. And what a shame that would have been.

Life is unfair, no doubt. But I believe in equality of opportunity and believe that as an advanced, civilised society we must do everything within our power to at least attempt to level the playing field, in the arts, as in other areas of society. Diversity is enriching – for all.

Here endeth the rant.

A review of The Girl on the Pier – and some blathering

Girl on PierAs a rule, I don’t review here on my blog. Doing so would imply posturing as a critic, something more serious than the often casual, personal but considered, thoughts I leave on Amazon, Goodreads and Waterstones’ online presence. However, rules are meant to be broken, and regular visitors will note that I do review from time to time, and the observant amongst you will notice that such reviews tend to cover books by indie authors or those published by smaller houses; the theory being they might need more of a boost. So, today, I’ll talk briefly about a debut novel from acclaimed sports writer, Paul Tomkins, The Girl on the Pier.

I might never have met Paul or read his novel but for a confusion of Brighton addresses, and I am grateful for that minor administrative error. Let me explain. Alongside my fiction, I work as an editor/mentor for developing writers – freelance and for literary consultancy, Cornerstones. Paul hired Cornerstones to look at his novel but a mix up at Cornerstones HQ meant that I received the manuscript instead of another Brighton editor, Araminta Hall. As it happens Araminta is a friend of mine (and author of the best-selling Everything and Nothing and more recently, Dot). Anyway, I was working on another manuscript and had to pass on Paul’s, but the incident connected us. The novel’s intriguing and promising premise stayed with me, and I was delighted when, months later, I received a copy of the novel.

First off, it is an object of great beauty. Cleverly designed with high production values, it is a book to cherish. I have fetish-like tendencies when it comes to books and I love stroking this one – it even has flaps (ahem). So beautiful is it that it came as a surprise when I discovered it is self-published. I emailed Paul to find out the story behind his decision to go down the indie route because I knew there was agent interest in the book and because, bluntly, I’m nosy. But that’s a story for another post.  Possibly …

I rarely read self-published work, not unless it comes highly recommended or I know the author’s work from short-stories or other published work in reputable media. I know that there are some fantastic self-published books out there, but the harsh truth is that there is an awful lot of rubbish and life is too short to wade through the proverbial. This sentiment is shared by many and I might incur the wrath of many for saying this, but hey-ho, it’s only my opinion.

But, I will shout about The Girl on the Pier because it deserves to be heard above the noise (din?), because it is a work of serious intent, well-written and with a fabulous central conceit. Here’s my brief review, and if you’d like to buy the book there are links at the bottom.

Forensic artist Patrick is charged with the reconstruction of the skull of an unidentified girl found on Brighton’s famous West Pier in the 1970s. As he painstakingly reconstructs the girl’s face, memories of a childhood crush surface, blending with obsessive thoughts of a magical night spend on the pier with Black, a beautiful photographer, in the 1990s. An accident means that Patrick loses Black’s telephone number and is unable to trace her, yet he never forgets her or the incredible night they spent together. Abandoned as a boy by his parents and successive lovers, Patrick is an intelligent but damaged man, and as we follow the two mysteries, the lines between fact and personal fiction become increasingly blurred.

Reflective, atmospheric, and written in gorgeous prose The Girl on the Pier is a literary thriller about ghosts from the past, art, disappointment, obsessive love, and the slippery nature of memory. In Patrick, Tomkins has created a seductive and beguiling narrator, one so smooth it takes a while before you might begin to question his version of events. Set mostly in and around Brighton, the now destroyed pier is exquisitely evoked and the story is choc-a-block with intelligent insights. ‘The hardest thing in human existence is to accept that what’s done is done. Death is final. But so too are our actions, each and every last one of them. We can seek to alter the course of where the present is heading, and we can apologise, and try to put right that which we have got horribly wrong. But none of it can change what actually took place.’

It’s common in reviews, especially nowadays and by marketeers, to liken books to others, but I can’t do that with this novel because it isn’t quite like anything I’ve read before.  And this is a very good thing. Commonly, I lean towards faster-paced works but I really liked this book and it made me want to improve my own prose. And what I will say is that if you enjoy well written stories which require a little thought and leave you thinking, then you should enjoy The Girl on the Pier.

Buy the book on Amazon here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Girl-Pier-Paul-Tomkins/dp/1784621048

Find out more about Paul and his work here: www.paultomkins.com

When Does His/Herstory Begin?

Fellow Accent Press author, Tom Williams, has written a thoughtful piece on his blog about the point at which a story can be seen as historical, with particular reference to my novel, Public Battles, Private Wars. Tom makes a number of pertinent points and it’s well worth a read.

Do so here: http://thewhiterajah.blogspot.co.uk/2014/07/public-battles-private-wars.html

BTW – Public Battles, Private Wars is FREE for Kindle and iTunes until the end of July! http://amzn.to/1kibQTc