Archives for authors

Famous #writers, reading… @StephenKing

Tripwire, Lee Child’s third book in the Jack Reacher series, is keeping Stephen King’s attention from whatever game he’s watching. Perhaps basketball? As any true reader knows, it is torture to put down a book to go out when really you just want to read to the end. And Stephen is very near the end. There are 23 books to date in the Jack Reacher series, I wonder how many Stephen has read now? Stephen is reading an American Penguin edition [above] with a distinctive cover.   ‘Tripwire’ by Lee Child Amazon UK See these other famous people, reading & writing:- Grace Kelly  Charles Dickens Gregory Peck And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Famous writers, reading… @StephenKing picks up a @LeeChildReacher novel #amwriting https://wp.me/p5gEM4-3AI via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

My Porridge & Cream read: LM Milford @lmmilford #books #crimefiction

Today I’m delighted to welcome crime writer LM Milford. Her ‘Porridge & Cream’ read is 4.50 From Paddington by Agatha Christie. “My Porridge and Cream novel is 4.50 From Paddington by Agatha Christie. I think it may even be the first Agatha Christie book I read and began my love affair with her writing. It’s the book I pick when I’m feeling tired and want something easy to read. I almost wrote ‘simple to read’ but of course Christie’s plots are never simple. The copy I have is old and battered and I think bought from a second-hand bookshop while browsing. I couldn’t tell you exactly when I read it, but it’s probably back in my early teens and it helped me to find the writing genre where I belong. “Miss Marple is one of my favourite characters. She looks like a fluffy old lady but underneath that outward appearance is a core of steel and a very quick brain. I love the way she solves the crime by using just her wits and her experiences of living in a quiet country village. Her knowledge of the psychology of human behaviour is what makes her so formidable. I also love Lucy Eyelesbarrow, quietly competent and
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Categories: Book Love.

How George Saunders writes

George Saunders “My room is flooded with family photos, there’s a desk, a printer and two guitars that I play when I’m stuck in a paragraph. I work with an obsessive quality, but I’m wary of the blandness that routine creates and my best work is only summoned by irregular habits. Part of me wants to go through life on autopilot. I have to lure out the crazy person in me who’s honest and intense.” [an interview with ‘The Sunday Times Magazine’ April 1, 2018]  The idea of stopping to play the guitar, to free the moment, to throw off predictability, really appeals to me. I don’t have a guitar but I do have a Yamaha keyboard in my study [below], its daily presence reminding me of my adult vow to rekindle my childhood piano playing. Later in the same interview, Saunders says: “I do a lot of semi-physical things to break up the day, like service the hot tub or record a riff on the guitar to restore my writing focus.” This made me laugh out loud. I achieve the same effect with a trip to the supermarket, loading the washing machine or going to yoga. But when I stopped
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Categories: On Writing.

#Bookreview ‘A Ladder to the Sky’ by @john_boyne #Ambition #Plagiarism

Maurice Swift is one of life’s takers. A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne is the story of his life, told mostly by a series of people he meets, spends time with, has relationships with. Note that I don’t say ‘and who he loves’, because Maurice Swift loves only himself. He is single-minded and does what he needs to do to get on and get what he wants; he wants to be a major novelist and, oddly for such a self-obsessed person, a father. I read the book in a strange state of tension wondering to what lows he would next sink, waiting for him to get his just desserts. Boyne’s novels are always thought-provoking and this is no different. But I found it a difficult novel to read in that Maurice is not the sort of person you want to know. He lies, dissembles, steals, discriminates, copies, exploits and basically sucks dry a person until, when he has got all he needs, he moves on. We first encounter Maurice in West Berlin in 1988. The sixth novel of sixty six year old Erich Ackermann has won a prize and, on the subsequent publicity tour, he notices a young
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Categories: Book Love.

Famous writers, reading… William Faulkner

Double-Pulitzer prizewinner William Faulkner looks comfortable, reading The Silver Treasury of Light Verse. This book was published in 1957 in America by New American Library and the photograph of Faulkner [below] looks to date from this time. He died in 1962 aged 64. I studied American Literature at university and read Faulkner. His books still sit on my bookshelf, slim Penguin Classics editions. The one that stayed with me is As I Lay Dying, about the death and burial of Addie Brunden. Her family takes her coffin by cart to be buried amongst her folk in Jefferson, Mississippi.   ‘As I Lay Dying’ by William Faulkner [UK: Vintage] See these other famous people, reading & writing:- Ernest Hemingway William Golding Bella Lugosi And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Famous writers, reading… William Faulkner reads THE SILVER TREASURY OF LIGHT VERSE #books https://wp.me/p5gEM4-3cV via @SandraDanby
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Categories: On Writing.

My Porridge & Cream read: Jackie Baldwin

Today I’m delighted to welcome Scottish crime writer Jackie Baldwin. Her ‘Porridge & Cream’ read is Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. “The book that has never failed to delight and soothe me over the years is Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. I must have been in my early teens when I first read it and so embarking on a turbulent adolescence of my own alongside those of the March girls. At a girls school and with no brothers, the world of boys was something of a mystery to me too so I loved the character of Laurie and the subtle shifts and turns in his relationships with all the girls over the scope of the novels. “I have had many copies of the book over the years but this one [above] is my favourite as it contains all three books in the series. Part of its enduring appeal for me is the characters who are all just flawed enough to make them endearingly frail and human. My favourite character is Jo who is unruly and tempestuous and rails against the confines of poverty and the expectation that women should conform to the domestic role expected of them rather than pursue any
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Categories: Book Love and Porridge & Cream.

My Porridge & Cream read: RV Biggs

Today I’m delighted to welcome mystery writer RV Biggs. His ‘Porridge & Cream’ read is Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. “I first read the book as a child, which is a very long time ago, so would be in the 1960s. I’d hazard a guess at 1966 when I was nine or ten years old and probably as a book we were given to read at school. I recall having my own hardbound copy a little later, given to me as a present, but one of my uncles borrowed it to read to my cousin. After a while I never saw it again. Many, many years later my sister-in-law brought me a new hardbound copy as a birthday present and this is the copy I still have.  “I’ve read Wind in the Willows many times over the years and mostly when nothing else seems to appeal. It draws me in because of the childhood magic of it… animals having adventures… the Wild Wood… but also because of the setting and style. Kenneth Grahame describes the landscapes with exquisite perfection, setting the scenes of the seasons so that I’m there… inside his world. I believe that the description of
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Categories: Book Love and Porridge & Cream.

Famous writers, writing… James Patterson

James Patterson is not an author I’m really familiar with, apart from knowing he writes hugely successful crime thrillers and mysteries. And then I heard that he is one of those authors who gives back… with grants to independent bookshops in the USA and UK, and also in literary programmes to encourage adults and children to read. In the UK he formed a partnership with the National Literacy Trust, an independent charity that aims to change lives through literacy.  If, like me, you are unfamiliar with James Patterson, here are a few facts:- By January 2016, he had sold 350 million books worldwide; He doesn’t just write thrillers, but also children’s, middle-grade and young adult fiction; His first novel The Thomas Berryman Number was published in 1976 while he worked for advertising agency J Walter Thompson. It was turned down by 31 publishers, and finally won the Edgar Award for Best First Novel. And so here’s a photo of Patterson at work… judging by the palm trees outside the window, he must be at home in Palm Beach, Florida.   ‘The Thomas Berryman Number’ by James Patterson [UK: Arrow] See these other famous people, reading & writing:- John Updike Peter
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Categories: On Writing.

My Porridge & Cream read: Julie Christine Johnson

Today I’m delighted to welcome novelist Julie Christine Johnson. Her ‘Porridge & Cream’ read is Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. “Several years ago I created an annual tradition for myself: in December, as the light fades earlier each day and I retreat from the expectations and demands of modern commercial holidays, longing only for the renewal of Solstice, I soothe my tired and cold spirit with a reread of a work by one of my most treasured authors, Jane Austen. Her six completed novels — Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey, Persuasion — form a canon of comfort and delight on my bookshelves. Among all these timeless treasures, it is that charming and soulful comedy of manners, Pride and Prejudice, I most anticipate. Truthfully, I rotate it in every couple of years. Each time I read the opening line, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife” my entire being relaxes into a smile of familiarity and joy. Pride and Prejudice is the story of intelligent, independent Elizabeth Bennet, the eldest daughter of five in a family of modest
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Categories: Book Love and Porridge & Cream.

I agree with… Lisa Jewell

When asked about the snooty attitude towards commercial fiction, Lisa Jewell replied: “That if you read something in two days, it’s not as good as something which took you two weeks to read.” [in an interview with ‘The Bookseller’ magazine, April 21, 2017]  I dislike labels which limit our exploration of the novels we choose to read. Genres are cosy, familiar, we know what we are going to get. But what about reading outside your comfort zone? Jewell talks in this interview with The Bookseller about how she was labelled as a ‘chick lit’ author when she published her first novel, Ralph’s Party. “I will never, ever know if it worked in my favour or not. Unless someone can give me some data and say, ‘If you hadn’t been perceived as chick lit, you’d have sold fewer books,’ then I think, ‘Fine, okay.’” The time for the chick lit label is over, she hopes. Essentially, genre labels like chick lit are a convenient way for the book trade [publishers and retailers] to categorize novels for management purposes. For example, I dislike the way crime fiction is separated from general fiction on the shelves in bookstores. I like to browse. And who
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Categories: Book Love.

My Porridge & Cream read: Linda Huber

Today I’m delighted to welcome thriller novelist Linda Huber. Her ‘Porridge & Cream’ read is A Cry in the Night by Mary Higgins Clark. “I have a few ‘Porridge & Cream’ books, but I think the creamiest has to be A Cry in the Night by Mary Higgins Clark. It came out in the early 80s, so I must have bought it then – I devoured all the Mary Higgins Clark books as soon as they were published. At that time, I was young physiotherapist, living in Switzerland, far away from ‘home’ in Glasgow. The main character in this book really struck a chord in my heart – Jenny, a devoted mum to her girls, trying to do her best for them under impossible circumstances. I suppose I re-read this book when I feel the need for a little mother-love in my life! My own mum is gone now and I’m mum myself to two boys – and still in Switzerland, which is now ‘home’. The thing about having two home countries is, you have neither 100%. I have dual nationality, I speak two languages, my life is here in the middle of Europe – but Scotland still has a
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Categories: Book Love and Porridge & Cream.

First Edition: The Sea The Sea

The Sea The Sea by Iris Murdoch [below] won the Booker Prize in 1978. This hardback first edition, signed by the author, also features an inscription. Published by Chatto & Windus in 1978, the inscription is to Martyn Goff, administrator of the Booker Prize from the early 1970-2005. The distinctive cover features ‘The Great Wave off Kanagawa’ by Hokusai. The story Charles Arrowby withdraws from society to the seaside to write his memoir. There, he meets again his first love Mary Hartley Fitch. Again, he idolizes her and tries to persuade her to elope with him. When she won’t, he tries to kidnap her. This is a tale of obsession and arrogance To read the opening paragraph of The Sea The Sea, click here. The film The film Iris was released in 2001. Murdoch was played in youth and old age by Kate Winslet and Judi Dench, her husband John Bayley was played by Hugh Bonneville and Jim Broadbent. About their lifelong romance and then the sad descent of Iris into dementia. Watch the official trailer here. The current UK edition Still in print as a Vintage Classic edition, this is the current cover. Buy at Amazon Other editions My Triad Granada edition
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Categories: Book Love.

My Porridge & Cream read: Kate Frost

Today I’m delighted to welcome women’s novelist Kate Frost. Her ‘Porridge & Cream’ read is the classic Chocolat by Joanne Harris. “To be honest, I have more than one ‘Porridge and Cream’ book, and they’re all quite different, but the book I’d happily pick up when feeling ill or run down is Joanne Harris’ Chocolat – a delicious and delightful character-driven novel centred around single mother and chocolatier Vianne Rocher and her young daughter, Anouk. I first read it over a summer, not long after it had been published, so around 2000 or 2001. I’d recently moved in with my boyfriend (now husband) and we’d been to Greece together to meet his parents and the whole of his extended Greek family, so a book set in a French village that immersed its characters in local life with the focus being on food and delicious chocolate creations resonated with me and my first experiences of a Greek family and their abundance of delicious food. I’ve only read Chocolat two or three times (like I said it’s one of a number of favourites), but it is the perfect book to get pulled into when I’m feeling down. The most recent time I read
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Categories: Book Love and Porridge & Cream.

My Porridge & Cream read: Rosie Dean

Today I’m delighted to welcome romantic comedy novelist Rosie Dean. “The book I have chosen is special because, after reading it, I knew I wanted to become a writer too. I first read Prudence by Jilly Cooper when I was swotting for my finals. My housemates and I decided we couldn’t survive the exams without some light relief so we joined the local library and, between us, took out twelve books at a time. We mainly chose Mills & Boon romances because they were easy to read in a couple of coffee breaks – and provided wonderful light relief from our studies. At the appointed time, we would gather in one of our rooms, coffee, biscuits and books to hand, and read for half an hour, occasionally sharing a juicy passage for further entertainment. One day, Prudence was in the mix and I was hooked. I don’t know how often I’ve read it – maybe five or six times. I have no idea what prompts me to pick it up – anymore than I know why I call a friend after months of silence. But I always know the comfort I will feel amongst the eccentric Mulholland family and observing the
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Categories: Book Love and Porridge & Cream.

Famous writers, writing… Joseph Conrad

Joseph Conrad said “Art is long and life is short, and success is very far off.” I write because I can’t not write. Since I could hold a pencil, I have written stories and I will die before I manage to write all the ideas in my head. Conrad knew this too. Read the opening paragraphs of The Secret Agent and Lord Jim.   ‘The Secret Agent’ by Joseph Conrad [UK: Penguin Classics] Buy now See these other famous people, reading & writing:- Gregory Peck Beryl Bainbridge Jonathan Franzen And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Famous writers, writing… #author Joseph Conrad via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-yn
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Famous writers, writing… Peter Carey

Peter Carey on re-writing:  “If you ever read one of my books I hope you’ll think it looks so easy. In fact, I wrote those chapters 20 times over, and over, and over, and that if you want to write at a good level, you’ll have to do that too.” It’s good to know that even double-Booker winners don’t get it right first time. So re-draft, re-draft, re-draft… Read my review of Amnesia and the opening paragraphs of Jack Maggs and Illywhacker.   ‘Illywhacker’ by Peter Carey [UK: Faber] Buy now See these other famous people, reading & writing:- Agatha Christie Joseph Conrad Benedict Cumberbatch And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Famous writers, writing… #author Peter Carey via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-yn
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Applying the rules of art to writing: embrace the ‘happy accident’

“All forms of painting, film photography, sculpture, printmaking, and non-mechanical modes of production produce unintended results. When a passage of under-painting looks ravishing, or some studio calamity produces an arresting effect, embrace the accident and incorporate it into the piece. Exploit the unexpected consequences of experimentation and process. If you see it, own it.” Excerpt from ‘101 Things to Learn in Art School’ by Kit White The same, for me, applies to writing. I particularly love the exploratory process when working on an idea. It could be for a novel or a short story, perhaps a character, or a setting. I enjoy teasing the idea, and this is when free-writing works for me. The majority of what I write goes into a folder marked ‘exercises’ and is used as background, but some pieces find their way into the finished novel. When I am re-drafting, I get a kick when I come to one of these early passages: it reminds me where the idea started, and refreshes my delight in words I wrote months/years previously and have read many times over. ‘101 Things to Learn in Art School’ by Kit White [MIT Press] Buy now And if you’d like to tweet
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Categories: On Writing.

Famous writers, writing… John Updike

“A narrative is like a room on whose walls a number of false doors have been painted; while within the narrative, we have many apparent choices of exit, but when the author leads us to one particular door, we know it is the right one because it opens.” I came late to Updike, in the late 70s I read my first, Couples, while at university. After that I got into the Rabbit books. I came across this quote recently though and, as a novelist, liked it.   ‘The Witches of Eastwick’ by John Updike [UK: Penguin Modern Classics] Buy now See these other famous people, reading & writing:- Jerry Lewis Ernest Hemingway Iris Murdoch And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Famous writers, writing… #author John Updike via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-yf
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

New books coming soon

Elizabeth Day Paradise City is the new novel from Observer journalist Elizabeth Day, to be published by Bloomsbury in spring 2015. It tells the story of four Londoners “whose lives intersect in a beautifully constructed story of class and ambition, loneliness and belonging, guilt and restitution”. Bloomsbury, which also signed a second un-named novel by Day, also publishes her two previous novels Scissors, Paper, Stone and Home Fires. Rebecca Levine A four-book epic fantasy series, The Hollow Gods by Rebecca Levine, will be published by Hodder starting with the first book, Smiler’s Fair, in July 2014. The books are set in Ashanesland, where the wandering city of Smiler’s Fair is a meeting place for a multitude of unusual characters. Previously, Levene has written tie-in books for the Doctor Who series. Andrew Marr Fourth Estate is to publish Head of State by television journalist and historian Andrew Marr in the autumn of next year. The novel is set among the world of politicians and journalists. Raymond E Feist The new series from Raymond E Feist, The War of the Five Crowns, is to be published by HarperVoyager. The first novel, King of Ashes, will be released in May 2014. The series, which
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Categories: Book Love.

New books coming soon

Philip Teir The Winter War is a debut novel by Finnish writer Philip Teir. Already published in Finland and Sweden as Vinterkriget, it will be published in the UK in spring 2015 by Serpent’s Tail. The Winter War tells the story of a family coming apart at the seams. Max Paul is a Finnish sociologist known as the Sex Professor, his wife Katrina. At Max’s 60th birthday celebrations, their simmering resentments threaten to explode. David Hofmeyr Stone Rider is a coming of age YA tale by David Hofmeyr, set in the dustbowl town of Blackwater. Influenced by Westerns, the rival tribes of teenagers don’t ride horses but semi-sentient mechanical “bykes”. Penguin will publish Stone Rider in 2015. Jessica Cornwell Cornwell, granddaughter of John le Carré, has sold her ‘literary Da Vinci Code’ trilogy to Quercus. The first, The Serpent Papers, will be published in 2015. The trilogy is set in Barcelona and tells the story of three bodies appearing in rapid succession, their skin tattooed with a cryptic alphabet and tongues severed. Investigations into the death lead to an ancient book of witches and writing women and “a whispered secret from the time of Christ”, The Serpent Papers. Mark Haysom
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Categories: Book Love.