Monthly Archives March 2015

On the radio in Spain

An e-mail from Talk Radio Europe flew into my Inbox with three easy questions:- Did I fancy a day trip to San Pedro de Alcantara, near Marbella? Yes. Could I talk about my book, and about adoption? Yes. Was it okay to speak in English, not Spanish. Bueno? Absolutely, yes! I was thrilled to be asked to appear on The Book Show, the weekly book discussion programme on Spain’s biggest English language radio station for ex-pats. The Book Show is broadcast every Thursday evening in Spain by Talk Radio Europe to half a million listeners. I really enjoyed chatting with presenter Hannah Murray [below] who explained the personal appeal which Ignoring Gravity has for her, she has two friends who were adopted, with differing experiences: one had a happy childhood, the other experienced a rockier road. These friendships gave Hannah a key insight into the adoption storyline of Ignoring Gravity and she asked me some really interesting questions. To listen to my interview, click below.   Make sure you don’t miss out on information about forthcoming Rose Haldane novels, sign up for my [irregular] newsletter here. Read what other readers are saying about Ignoring Gravity here. Want to know more about
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Categories: Book Love, Book publicity and My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity'.

Book review: Wolf Winter

This book had me gripped from page one.  It is difficult to categorize: thriller, yes; beautifully-written, yes; sexually-charged, yes; ghosts and spirits, yes. ‘Wolf Winter’ by Cecilia Ekback is a chilling Nordic thriller set in a bleak winter landscape deep in snow, the mutilated body of a man is found by two young girls and the ramifications reverberate throughout the winter months. This disparate community of families, residents and itinerant Lapps, feel threatened by something on their mountain, Blackåsen. It is a hard life for newcomer Maija and her two daughters Frederika and Dorotea. Maija’s husband leaves them for the winter to get a job on the coast, and so Maija deals with the unnamed threat in her own way, a way which some locals see as suspicious, perhaps even witchery. The mountain is there on every page, the wind, the snow, the cold. The Swedish expression ‘wolf winter’ means two things: an unusually bitter and long winter, and the darkest time in a person’s life. Both apply to this novel. Excellent. This is Ekback’s debut novel and I look forward to the second. For Cecilia Ekback’s website, click here. If you like this, try:- ‘Burial Rites’ by Hannah Kent ‘The Killing
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Categories: Book Love.

Plotting a series

Do you write standalone books, or series? Are series limited to particular genre? How do you go about plotting a series? JK Rowling [above] said in 2006 that the fact she’d sketched out the entire Harry Potter series had been criticised by some. “I think they thought it was very arrogant of me to write the end of my seven-book series when I didn’t have a publisher and no-one had heard of me.” Now she is series planning again, this time for up to seven crime novels featuring PI Cormoran Strike, who first appeared in The Cuckoo’s Calling. Second novel The Silkworm was published in 2014, and the third is said to be on the way. I don’t have a problem with that, do you? Is it arrogance, or just confidence in a good character and lots of story ideas? When indie/trad published author Hugh Howey [below], of Wool series fame, was asked at the 2104 London Book the secret to selling lots of books, he said: ‘write the next one’ and ‘write a series’. Howey and Rowling are prolific, they are obviously driven to tell stories. Rowling famously invented Harry Potter during a train journey, without pen and paper to
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Categories: On Writing.

From a dodgy film, to blog, to author website

My online journey to this author website has been an interesting process, starting from nothing then step-by-step finding my way via my first WordPress blog. Read more about my journey in this article at the Society of Author’s blog. The Society of Authors has 9,000 professional writer members, and has represented the rights of authors for more than 100 years. Members range from well-known novelists such as president Philip Pullman [below] to professional writers such as textbook writers, academics, non-fiction authors, broadcasters, illustrators and translators. I think the annual membership fee of £95 is money well spent. Particularly good value are the SoA’s training courses, two of which I attended during the development of my blog and website. Other benefits include the society’s Author magazine, sponsorship of prizes, networking groups, and an online searchable database of authors. To read more about my website on the SoA blog, click here. For the benefits of joining the UK’s Society of Authors, click here.   ‘Ignoring Gravity’ by Sandra Danby [UK: Beulah Press] Buy now 
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Categories: Book Love and Book publicity.

Rose Haldane: not just one book but the first of a series

Ignoring Gravity is the first novel in a series about Rose Haldane ‘Identity Detective’. Rose, a journalist, discovers she was adopted as a tiny baby, and Ignoring Gravity tells the story of her search for her birth family. The story is told from her point of view, so we see the diaries and documents she discovers, we experience her anger, pain and sense of betrayal. But the adoption triangle includes so many more people than just the adoption baby. So in the Rose Haldane series, I will be exploring the story of others involved in adoption. The second book, Connectedness, focuses on the experience of a birth mother, who gives her baby away. The story rejoins Rose and her sister Lily two years later, but the main focus of the tale is on Justine Tree. Her mother has died and she is bereft, but Justine’s grief is double-edged. When she was an art student in Spain in the 1980s, she became pregnant.  The Yorkshire-born artist, now famous around the world, is desperate to find the secret daughter she gave up for adoption. Justine and Rose meet at an interview about Justine’s latest art collection. The two women connect, so much so that
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Categories: Book Love, My Novel: 'Connectedness' and My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity'.

A poem to read in the bath… ‘Sometimes and After’

I am making a point of reading poets I am unfamiliar with, and wanted to share this poem by American poet Hilda Doolittle. ‘Sometimes and After’ Yet sometimes I would sweep the floor, I would put daises in a tumbler, I would have long dreams before, long day-dreams after;   there would be no gauntleted knock on the door, or tap-tap with a riding crop, no galloping here and back;   but the latch would softly lift, would softly fall, dusk would come slowly,   and even dusk could wait till night encompassed us; dawn would come gracious, not too soon,   day would come late, and the next day and the next, while I found pansies to take the place of daisies,   and a spray of apple-blossom after that, no calendar of fevered hours, Carthago delenda est and the Tyrian night. Doolitte died in 1961. I love the transitory passing of time in this poem. And no, I didn’t understand the last line. Google Translate tells me ‘Carthago delenda est’ means ‘Carthage is destroyed’ in Latin, which I didn’t study at school. ‘Tyrian night’ still mystifies me, can anyone else help? For more about Hilda Doolittle at the
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Categories: Book Love and Poetry.

How to get ahead: Donna Karan

Donna Karan : “Time is your most valuable commodity and a precious resource. Prioritize! To me, that means putting aside time for what matters, including time to creatively recharge and meditate, as well as time to be with your family.” [quote from ‘Grazia’ magazine January 18, 2010] Fashion designer Karan is right. I don’t know about time to meditate, but I do put aside time to write. I have many writer friends with small children and jobs, who still manage to write by scheduling an hour in their diaries here and there. Just thinking about writing, wishing you were writing, doesn’t put the words on the page. What’s the best advice about writing you’ve ever been given? For Donna Karan’s website, click here.   ‘My Journey’ by Donna Karan [UK: Ballantine Books] Buy now Try these tips to get ahead:- Zandra Rhodes Anya Hindmarch Vivienne Westwood And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Prioritize to get ahead: advice from #fashion designer Donna Karan via @SandraDanby #amwriting http://wp.me/p5gEM4-1aB
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Categories: On Writing.

My Top 5… book trailers

This is my latest Top 5. Always being amended, like Desert Island Discs… Click the links to watch the book trailers. 1 ‘The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry’ by Rachel Joyce Buy nowClick here for Rachel Joyce talking about her writing process. 2 ‘The Aftermath’ by Rhidian Brook Buy nowClick here to read my review of The Aftermath. 3 ‘Frog Music’ by Emma Donoghue Buy nowClick here for my review of Frog Music. 4 ‘The Lie’ by Helen Dunmore Buy nowTo read my review of The Lie, click here. 5 ‘The Bear’ by Claire Cameron Buy nowTo find out why I loved The Bear so much, click here for my review. Which are your Top 5 book trailers? Do you agree with my other ‘Top 5’ choices?:- My Top 5… fictional heroes to follow on Facebook My top 5… music to write to My Top 5… novels in an English setting And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Try a #booktrailer for a taster of a novel: here are My Top 5 http://wp.me/p5gEM4-1e8 via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love and Book publicity.

Author interview at Jera’s Jamboree

In her interview about Ignoring Gravity at Jera’s Jamboree book blogger Shaz Goodwin asks Sandra Danby: “Was there anything about your protagonist that surprised you?” “Rose’s picture of the world is torn up and initially she deals with it in a pragmatic way,” explains Sandra. “She uses her journalism skills to find out the truth of her adoption. But she has moments when it all seems completely hopeless. I didn’t expect her to consider giving up, which she does”. Read the full interview at Shaz’s book blog, Jera’s Jamboree, here.   ‘Ignoring Gravity’ by Sandra Danby [UK: Beulah Press] Buy now To read what other readers are saying about Ignoring Gravity, click here.
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Categories: Book Love and My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity'.

New books coming soon

The World According to Anna is the new novel from Sophie’s World author JOSTEIN GAARDER. It will be published in November 2015 by Weidenfeld & Nicolson, in a translation from Norwegian by Don Bartlett. It tells the story of a Norwegian teenager and a girl from the future who haunts her dreams.   I Saw A Man by OWEN SHEERS will be published by Faber in May 2015. It tells the story of Michael Turner, moving from London to New York and the deserts of Nevada, as he bonds with the family next door after the sudden loss of his wife. Then something happens which leaves Michael bearing a secret, a secret he must keep at all costs. Sheers’ first novel Resistance, also published by Faber, was translated into 10 languages and turned into a film. Click here for Owen Sheers’ website.   All Together Now is the new full-length novel by KERIS STAINTON. It will be published in summer 2015 by Hot Key Books, which also published two of Stainton’s novellas on the Hot Key Unlocked imprint under Stainton’s pseudonym Esme Taylor. Described as Friends meets Fresh Meat, the story is set in a house share in Liverpool and aimed at young adult
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Categories: Book Love.

Book review: The Shadows in the Street

After a spell of reading historical books, I needed a comfort read, something familiar. A pageturner, but well-written. So I picked up this, the fifth in the Simon Serrailler detective series by Susan Hill. And I tweeted about it. Susan Hill replied with the question: “Comfort?!!” I know what she means; a crime thriller should not be comfortable reading. I replied: “Okay, discomfort with familiar characters”. I finished the book that same day, but sat back and considered what made me feel comfortable with this series of books. Firstly, the quality of the writing. Hill’s detective Serrailler is a literary gem, he is distinctive but believable, seems ordinary but is extraordinary. And he is surrounded by a close-knit family whose stories I also follow from book to book. Hill is particularly good at creating mood – a skill also used in her ghost stories – and her description of place is minimal but so effective. For example, “It was a damp, mild October night with a thin mist drifting away over the black water of the canal like a spirit departing a dead body. The air smelled green.” And there is depth to her writing, literary and cultural references there
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Categories: Book Love.

Great Opening Paragraph 69… ‘I’ll Take You There’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“In those days in the early Sixties we were not women yet but girls. This was, without irony, perceived as our advantage.” ‘I’ll Take You There’ by Joyce Carol Oates Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘Tipping the Velvet’ by Sarah Waters ‘The Big Sleep’ by Raymond Chandler ‘Family Album’ by Penelope Lively And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: I’LL TAKE YOU THERE by Joyce Carol Oates #books via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-1xi
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Family history: surname research

Do you know anyone with the same surname as you? I have only ever met one other Danby, so I was curious to explore the roots of my name. As an experiment, search on Google for your surname. I did, and these were the top five entries:- The Wikipedia entry for Danby, a village in North Yorkshire, 44 miles from where I grew up. Yorkshire.com‘s tourist guide to the village of Danby Plumbing and heating engineer, B Danbys. Based in Hull, 38 miles from where I grew up. The Duke of Wellington pub in the village of Danby, North Yorkshire Local community website Esk Valley, where the village of Danby is located on the North Yorkshire Moors. So, my surname is anchored in Yorkshire. This is a light-hearted search, my next stage is to investigate the surname resources online. If you want to research your surname, click on these links here:- The Surname Society The Guild of One-Name Studies The Internet Surname Database UK BMD Select Surname List Great Britain Family Names Profiling website Just out of curiosity, I Googled Rose’s surname – Haldane- from Ignoring Gravity. Here are the top three entries of almost 2.9million results:- Architectural joinery company Haldane
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Categories: Book Love, Family history research and My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity'.

Film/Book: ‘Last Orders’ by Graham Swift

Last Orders – The Book Won the 1996 Booker Prize.  Left, is the cover of my much-thumbed paperback bought in 1996. See the current cover below. Why is this book so special? The characters are so real, the situation so real. We are used to reading great American novels about family. Well this is a great British novel about family and friends, their lives, the inter-connections, the squabbles and the love. And it takes place over the course of one day. Brief summary: butcher Jack Dodds has died and he requested his ashes be scattered at Margate. So his three best friends and his son drive to the Kent seaside town and along the way we see Jack’s life story, his war service, hop picking and meeting Amy, and finally struggling with the finances of his butcher’s shop. From the first line, the voice of Jack’s friend, Ray, is so clear: “It ain’t your regular sort of day. Bernie pulls me a pint and puts it in front of me. He looks at me, puzzled, with the loose, doggy face but he can tell I don’t want to chit-chat. That’s why I’m here, five minutes after opening, for a little
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Categories: Book Love.

Book review: Housekeeping

This book by Marilynne Robinson had been on my shelf for a while, bought because of reputation, and anticipated. Perhaps I expected too much of a first novel because, though it has amazing reviews, I struggled to connect with the story. The writing, however, is beautiful, poetic, elegiac. It is the story of Ruth and Lucille, orphans, who grow up beside a haunting lake in the vast open countryside of mid-America. The lake dominates the life of everyone who lives around it, it floods every year, and floods the house where the two girls live, first with their grandmother and then with their Aunt Sylvie. We see Sylvie’s attempts at housekeeping dwindle as the house floods each winter, as her care for the house fails, so the two girls are uncared for. Not abused, but not clean, not sent to school, not disciplined. It is a novel about the failure of housekeeping in this house, and in the family, and it is the two who girls who suffer. The sad story moves at a slow pace, and until halfway through I had no clear picture of how the two girls were different. It is Ruth who narrates, much of which
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Categories: Book Love.

Famous people, reading… Marilyn Monroe

I have two favourite Marilyn Monroe quotes. She was talking about acting, and life, but both can be applied to writing. “Just because you fail once doesn’t mean you’re gonna fail at everything.” “It’s all make believe, isn’t it?” Click here to read the last interview with Marilyn Monroe, first published in Life magazine on August 17, 1962. Monroe’s autobiography was first published in 1974 by Stein and Day [below], 14 years after her death, and is still in print from Taylor Trade Publishing. ‘My Story’ by Marilyn Monroe [UK: Taylor Trade Publishing] Buy now See these other famous people, reading & writing:- Benedict Cumberbatch Madonna Bella Lugosi And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Famous people, reading… Marilyn Monroe reading about, Marilyn #books #film via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-1e4
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Family history: identifying headstones

Tracing relatives – whether you are researching your family tree or on the trail of your birth family – will inevitably lead you at some point to a graveyard. Finding the headstones of relatives is always a bittersweet moment, but the text and dates may drive your search onwards.That process is now easier as 22,000 new headstone records have been added to the database at TheGenealogist.co.uk with additions of records from Buckinghamshire, Devon, Gloucestershire, Northamptonshire, Somerset, West Midlands, Wiltshire plus 12 Jersey parishes.  Each entry comprises the text of the memorial inscription, photographs of the headstone and its surroundings. Once you have identified the record you want, you can then view a map showing the graveyard location. For more information about the online headstone database, click here for TheGenealogist.co.uk. In Ignoring Gravity, Rose searches a graveyard for the headstone of her birth mother. To read how I researched that scene, click here.  Want to know more about Ignoring Gravity? Click here to watch the book trailer. ‘Ignoring Gravity’ by Sandra Danby [UK: Beulah Press] Buy now And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Trying to find the headstone of a relative? Try these
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Categories: Book Love, Family history research, My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity' and On Researching.

My Top 5… author websites

There are some authors I love to read, there are others who I read because I learn something from their books. Here’s my list of the author websites I find useful. 1 Kate Mosse Heaps of writing advice, interesting snippets about her writing life and her latest books. Lots of depth, lots of content to explore. She blogs and tweets regularly. Click on the link ‘Kate’s Advice to Writers’ for writing advice from Kate and her creative writing teacher husband, Greg. To read an interview with Kate Mosse talking with The Independent about her new book, The Taxidermist’s Daughter, click here. To read why Kate Mosse says her skill is storytelling, rather than literary fiction, click here to read an interview with The Guardian. For my review of Citadel, the last of the Languedoc trilogy by Kate Mosse, click here. Buy the book 2 Susan Hill Another writer whose website is regularly updated, loads of book information and special offers, including exclusive short stories on Kindle, special book editions and signed copies. And she was born in Scarborough, North Yorkshire… like me! To read my reviews of Susan Hill’s books, including the fantastic detective series about Simon Serrailler, click here
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

How Paula Hawkins writes

Paula Hawkins “The set-up is often the fun part. You can set up all these scenarios and all these red herrings, but drawing all those strands into a believable conclusion is actually incredibly difficult to do in a way that isn’t hackneyed… It’s a really hard thing to make that final fifth a convincing ending.” [in an interview with ‘The Bookseller’ magazine, October 31, 2014] The Girl on the Train is a fantastic thriller, but I think there is a misconception that only the writers of thrillers worry about laying clues and red herrings. All novels need storylines which tease the reader to keep reading, to turn the page, to read one chapter more before turning the light out. Laying clues about characters, their past, their secrets, their betrayals, hopes and dreams, can be as complicated as plotting a thriller. Perhaps the clues are not as dramatic as in a thriller, but still there needs to be a trail of breadcrumbs for the reader to follow. Read my review of The Girl on the Train. For more about the film of the book, and Paula Hawkins’ second thriller, click here. See how these other novelists write:- Hanya Yanagihara Anne Tyler
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

I agree with… Matthew Thomas

Matthew Thomas: “It’s rooted in autobiography, that’s inescapable… But when I started, I had this anxiety about it and I tried to deny the autobiographical, for example, giving these characters professions that my parents didn’t have. But that really didn’t work. And strangely, when I loosened up and started putting actual autobiographical elements into the story, the more the characters took on a life of their own and became more fictional.” [in an interview with ‘The Bookseller’ magazine, June 20, 2014] American author Matthew Thomas is talking here about writing his novel We Are Not Ourselves. It is a multi-layered family story which starts with Eileen Leary, the daughter of Irish immigrants, in mid -20th century New York. The location: where Thomas grew up. The occupations of Eileen and Ed, her husband: the same occupations as Thomas’ parents. Ed develops Alzheimer’s: so did Thomas’s father.  It is a character-driven story and one which in the beginning, though driven by his own life experiences, Thomas tried to separate from reality. It is an experience all authors are familiar with. I am asked regularly whether Rose Haldane in Ignoring Gravity is me, because we are both journalists. No, she is not, but
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Categories: On Writing.