Archives for literature

First Edition: Mrs Dalloway

Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf was published in 1925 and was actually created from two short stories – Mrs Dalloway in Bond Street, and The Prime Minister. It is one of Woolf’s best known novels as all the action takes place on one day in June 1923. The story moves backwards and forwards in time, and in and out of character’s minds, as a picture of Clarissa’s life is constructed.  A first edition of the Hogarth Press 1925 edition [above right] is for sale at Peter Harrington, at time of going to press, for £1,750. Around 2000 copies of the first printing were produced. A rare first edition of the American book [below] with the Vanessa Bell dust jacket, published in 1925 by Harcourt, Brace and Company, is for sale at Raptis Rare Books for $5,500.  The story Clarissa Dalloway is making preparations for a party she will host that evening. The day reminds her of her childhood spent in the countryside at Bourton and makes her wonder at her choice of husband. She married reliable Richard Dalloway rather than the demanding Peter Walsh. When Peter arrives, the tension of her old decision resurfaces. The film A 1997 film starred
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Categories: Book Love.

Authors, obsessive?

Scratch an author and you are likely to find an obsessive beneath the skin. Someone who would rather be writing than doing anything else… and if not writing, reading, or thinking about writing. And it seems to make no difference if the author is published or unpublished, just trawl WordPress and you will find authors, learning to write a novel by writing a novel, who talk about ‘needing’ to write, ‘wanting’ to write. Donna Tartt says she only feels happy if she is writing, and if she doesn’t feel happy writing the book then it’s most likely her readers won’t feel happy reading it. If this is the case, it doesn’t matter how long it takes the write the book. Tartt’s first, breakout, novel, The Secret History, took eight years to write. Her second, The Little Friend, took 10 years. The Goldfinch, her award-winning third novel, another 10 years. Read my review of The Goldfinch here. Click here to read the full interview with Tartt in the Telegraph. Joseph Heller apparently wrote the first line of Catch-22 in 1953, and used it as inspiration to plan the characters and story. The novel was published in 1961. Read the first paragraph
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Categories: On Writing.

I agree with… Hilary Mantel [again]

Hilary Mantel “When you are writing, your characters are flickering constructs, they are always on the move. It’s much more like people you know well in real life. You are not looking at them fixedly every moment to judge their features, what you do have is a general impression of them, of their energy.” [From ‘Wolf at the Stage Door’, an interview with The Sunday Times Magazine, December 8, 2013] I didn’t get this when I first started writing fiction. Looking back at some of my early characters in short stories, they were a bit paint-by-numbers. Clunky. It took me a while to let them do what they wanted to do. This was partly my thing about planning, about control. I knew where the plot was going, so the character would do ‘this’. Unfortunately for my plans, my character actually wouldn’t have been caught dead doing ‘this’. She wanted to do ‘that’. I learned to let my characters be themselves. ‘Wolf Hall’ by Hilary Mantel [UK: Fourth Estate] If you agree with Hilary Mantel, perhaps you will agree with:- James McAvoy – good writing has to come first Caitlin Moran – reading is not a passive act Amanda Hocking –
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Book review: The Miniaturist

Eighteen-year-old Nella starts her new life as a married woman at her husband’s home in Amsterdam. He is a wealthy merchant and it is an arranged marriage. But Nella finds herself in a world she did not expect: a husband never at home, an abrupt and unwelcoming sister-in-law, two servants who behave as if life on the Herengracht is full of secrets. Nella feels always at a disadvantage. The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton is an intriguing treasure box of a story. Johannes Brandt’s wedding gift to his wife is a cabinet, a kind of empty doll’s house for a young woman, a miniature of their home intended to be used by a young woman to learn how to run a home. “The accuracy of the cabinet is eerie, as if the real house has been shrunk, its body sliced in two and its organs revealed.” It frightens her but she is unable to formulate why. There is other disturbing imagery to suggest life in the house is not as it first appears. On the dark walls there are paintings of dead animals and at Nella’s first public outing as a wife, to the Silver Guild dinner, Nella meets Agnes Meermans. Agnes wears
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Categories: Book Love.

Applying the rules of art to writing: admire your forebears…

“… but don’t try to build a career by repeating their discoveries. Most students come to art training after a passionate engagement with established or historical art. Nothing is more thrilling than to delve deeply into the beauties of Titian, Turner, Rodin, or Cézanne or into the edgy excitement of contemporary work. But every student must remember that art is a constantly tilled field, and its job is to overcome what we know in order to examine and celebrate what we don’t yet know. What makes work of the past endlessly satisfying is the vistas it provides into a moment in history. Every artist must do the same for his or her moment.” Excerpt from ‘101 Things to Learn in Art School’ by Kit White Every writer must read. If you want to write crime fiction, read Sayers, Christie, James, Larsson, Rankin. If you write thrillers, read Harris, Boyd, Grisham, King, Le Carre, Fleming. But don’t stop there. Read outside your genre too. Read the classics, read genres you know nothing about. And read as a writer. Learn from the masters. Then leave behind all that you have read, and write your own thing. Yes learn from the masters, but
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Categories: On Writing.

Book review: Elizabeth is Missing

Can there be a more unreliable narrator than an 81-year old woman with dementia? Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey is a brilliant debut. Maud lives on her own, she has carers visiting, they leave prepared food for her and tell her not to use the cooker. But she does love toast. There is a rebelliousness about Maud which immediately made me connect with her. She reminded me of my mother, who suffered from dementia. I was impressed with the way Maud’s condition is portrayed, in convincing detail, slowly deteriorating as the story progresses. Maud writes herself notes, as memory prompts, and keeps them in her pockets and around the house. The note she re-reads most often is ‘Elizabeth is missing’. Elizabeth is Maud’s friend, and she is not at her house. The story has a cyclical motion as Maud finds the note, goes out to hunt for Elizabeth, and then is told by someone that Elisabeth is not missing, that she is fine. And then Maud finds the note again, and the cycle re-starts. Interwoven with Maud’s search for Elizabeth, is a narrative strand set in 1946 when she lives with her parents and lodger Douglas. People are displaced
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Categories: Book Love.

Book review: The Awakening of Miss Prim

The title gives away the storyline of this charming tale by Spanish journalist Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera [below]. Miss Prim is to be awakened. The assumption is that the catalyst for this awakening is love. But that is to over-simplify a thoughtful tale of self-knowledge, or maturing as an adult, about making the leap from intellectual maturity to emotional maturity. Prudencia Prim is a librarian who begins a new job in a private house in the village of San Ireneo de Arnois, in an un-named country. Even when I had finished the book I was still unclear in which country it is set, though this does not affect the storytelling at all. Miss Prim is to catalogue the private library of a man who is never named, but is known simply as The Man in the Wingchair. San Ireneo is an unusual village, it feels as if you are taking a step back in time. “That morning she urgently needed to buy notebooks and labels. The day before, she had had a small disagreement with her employer, the fifth since her arrival at the house. He’d come into the library and declared that he didn’t want her to use a computer
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Categories: Book Love.

New books coming soon

Dorothy Koomson Dorothy Koomson’s next two novels will be published by Cornerstone, where she has moved from Quercus. With Quercus, Koomson published The Rose Petal Beach in 2012, and The Flavours of Love in 2013. Previous novels include My Best Friend’s Girl [Sphere, 2006], chosen as a Richard and Judy Summer Reads pick, it sold 587,325 copies according to Nielsen BookScan. Her sixth novel, The Ice Cream Girls, was adapted for ITV last year. Her first novel for Cornerstone will be published in Century hardback in spring 2016. To read Koomson’s interview with The Independent about The Ice Cream Girls, click here Robert Thorogood Creator of BBC television series Death in Paradise, Thorogood has signed a deal with Mira Harlequin UK for three novels. The novels will take inspiration from the television show and feature Met police officer Richard Poole and Detective Sergeant Camille Bordey. Thorogood has been an avid reader of murder mysteries all his life and is a huge fan of Agatha Christie. To read a BBC interview with Thorogood on how he wrote Death in Paradise, click here To watch the original trailer for the television series Death in Paradise, click here To read an interview with
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Categories: Book Love.

I agree with… Celia Brayfield

Celia Brayfield “There’s a face I know too well, the face of a debutante writer who doesn’t want to leave their comfort zone, a queasy little moue that means they want their protagonist to have an inoffensive life. No conflict, no anger, no unpleasantness, and definitely no passion, no death and no war. ‘My character would never do that,’ she says, not realising that fiction without its darker side is like a Miss Marple mystery without its murder, all tinkly tea-cups and nice chats with the village postmistress.” [excerpt from MsLexia magazine, Dec/Jan/Feb 2013/2014 issue]  I find her words quite depressing, that new writers now are not daring to take risks. When I think back now to my fellow students on the numerous writing courses I have attended, there were some who were cautious but thankfully there were more of us who pushed it perhaps too much. Brayfield continues: “It’s not only creative writing students who wince when they’re invited to create some conflict. The editor of my first novel, set partly in Malaysia during World War II, wanted me to cut ‘the war stuff’ – without which there was no plot. My agent wanted me to cut the sex and
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Categories: On Writing.

Book review: Burial Rites

So much has been written about this book by Hannah Kent, I feel pretty sure that by now you know it is the fictionalised story of an Icelandic woman found guilty of murder in the 1820s. You may possibly also know that this book, rich in Icelandic saga and with Iceland present on every page of the story, is written by a young Australian. If this book does not win a drawerful of awards, it will make me lose faith in literary awards. The confidence with which the story is told defies the knowledge that this is a debut novel, any allowances I had mentally made for a debut are not required. Not only does Kent write a historical novel set in a foreign country with a difficult language, from page one you are in Iceland. Put aside the names of people, the names of the farms [the map at the front of my edition was much thumbed in the beginning, then forgotten], Iceland surrounds you as you read the story of Agnes Magnúsdóttir. You sit with her in the badstofa, the smell of the dung walls in your lungs, the dirt under your fingernails. “The herb plot of Kornsá
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Categories: Book Love.

New books coming soon

David Mitchell The Bone Clocks, the new novel by Cloud Atlas author Mitchell [below], will be published by Sceptre in September 2014. It tells the story of Holly Sykes who in 1984 runs away from home; 60 years later she is living in Ireland with her granddaughter as the world’s climate collapses. The story follows the arc of Holly’s life, from a Swiss resort where she is a barmaid, via the Iraq war in 2003, and then a widower. Peter Matthiessen In Paradise, the final novel from 86-year old US novelist Peter Matthiessen who died on April 5, has just been published by Oneworld after its publication was brought forward following his death. Previously scheduled to be published in June, In Paradise is about a group of people at a meditation retreat at the site of a Second World War concentration camp and the subsequent revelations that surface. A Yi A Perfect Crime by A Yi, a Chinese novel about a teenager who murders his best friend, will be translated by Anna Holmwood and published by Oneworld in early 2015. Vanessa Manko Manko’s novel The Invention of Exile follows the life of a Russian émigré when he is deported from
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Categories: Book Love.

Book review: Citadel

I read a lot of books. Amongst those with the strongest sense of place, the ones that linger in my imagination, are the Languedoc trilogy by Kate Mosse. Citadel, the third novel in the series, is set in ad342 and 1942 during World War Two. Unusually with a trilogy, you don’t have to have read the other two books in order to enjoy this one. Certainly it is some years since I read Labyrinth and Sepulchre and the details are hazy, each book stands on its own. I enjoyed this book immensely. The story centres on a small group of women who fight against the Nazi regime and who, by the very fact that they are women, are able to slip unnoticed along the night-time streets of occupied Carcassonne. The Prologue describes ‘the woman known as Sophie’ and the reader is left to wonder, which of the women in the story is ‘Sophie’? I must point out that the story is slow to get going, I had to be patient, but I trusted Mosse [below]. It did make me question whether my attention span is shortening, I hope not. If it is I must read longer novels to re-stretch my
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Categories: Book Love.

New books coming soon

Rachel Cusk Outline, the seventh novel from Rachel Cusk, is being serialised in The Paris Review then published by Faber on September 4, 2014. To read the first instalment at The Paris Review, click here A woman writer travels to Athens teach a writing course. There she meets a series of people who tell her the stories of their lives. Nina George In 2015, Little, Brown will publish German bestseller The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George. It is the first novel by George to be published in English. Published in Germany as Das Lavendelzimmer [The Lavender Room], it tells the story of Jean Perdu, a bookseller in Paris who thinks of himself as a ‘literary apothecary’. The one thing he cannot heal is his own broken heart. Click here to read more in English about the German version of the book. Ferdinand von Schirach Taboo, the new book by Ferdinand von Schirach, will be published in the UK in 2015 by Abacus. The German writer is author of the 2013 summer Waterstones Book Club pick The Collini Case, published by Michael Joseph. Click here to read an article in The Guardian about The Collini Case and the author’s grandfather
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Categories: Book Love.

My new Facebook page

The eagle-eyed amongst you might have noticed a new button in the right-hand column. I now have a ‘Sandra Danby Author’ page on Facebook, and I’d love you to click your way over there and like it. There you will find extra content that doesn’t appear here, including lots more about Ignoring Gravity such as snaps from the filming of the book trailer [above] and author interview, research photos from locations I used when writing the novel, and general snippets as I whirl in the excitement of Britain’s Next Bestseller. Coming soon on Facebook… two pairs of sisters are at the heart of Ignoring Gravity, so to celebrate sisterhood I will be discussing sisters in writing, in art, in music, in business. Sister power! So if you have any suggestions of successful and influential sisters, please let me know… the more the merrier! Click here to read the first chapter of Ignoring Gravity. To learn how you as a reader can choose the books you want to be published, click here to watch a one-minute video about Britain’s Next Bestseller.
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Categories: Book Love, My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity' and On Writing.

I agree with… Lauren Owen

Lauren Owen “I think family relationships are very interesting; the idea of what you tell the people who are closest to you and what you don’t tell them – or what you’re able to tell them. And whether or not being able to tell them everything about yourself means that your love for your family is not complete.” [in an interview with ‘The Bookseller’ magazine, February 7, 2014]  The Quick is Lauren Owen’s first novel, a gothic tale about brother and sister James and Charlotte who grow up in a huge old house in Yorkshire. Owen is driven by this family dynamic, and I agree with her that all families are fascinating: who can know what really goes on in a family except the people involved? How well does your brother really know you, or you him? What is he not telling you, what is he hiding from you? When James stops communicating, Charlotte sets off for London to find him. It’s the same in my novel Ignoring Gravity. It never occurred to Rose that there were secrets in her family, that her parents would not tell her the truth. Click here to read more about Rose.   ‘The Quick’ by Lauren Owen
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

New books coming soon

Abbie Ross  Doubleday has signed two humorous novels by debut author Abbie Ross. Hippy Dinners, to be published in May this year, is set in Wales in the 1970s. The second novel is un-named. Alan Warner Their Lips Talk of Mischief is the eighth novel by Man Booker Prize-longlisted author Alan Warner. To be published by Faber in August, the book is set in the 1980s and follows two penniless writers who share a flat. MP Wright Debut crime novelist MP Wright has signed a contract for two novels with Black and White Publishing. Heartman follows the story of JT Ellington who has recently arrived from the West Indies in 1960s Bristol. The first of a series of books featuring Ellington, Heartman will be published in July this year. TV rights have been optioned by World Productions. Kirsty Ferry The Memory of Snow, an adult fantasy novel by self-published author Kirsty Ferry, has been bought by Choc Lit in a two-book deal. The Memory of Snow will be re-launched by Choc Lit this spring. Ferry’s second novel, a time-slip story, will be published in the autumn. Ferry is the second self-published author recently signed by Choc Lit, Melanie Hudson was signed in
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Categories: Book Love.

‘Ignoring Gravity’: what’s going on

It is two weeks since I got the news that Ignoring Gravity was going to be part of the new publishing imprint Britain’s Next Bestseller. The launch is on March 28, 2014 so the countdown has started! I now have provisional front covers, which I am very excited about – I wrote a fairly tight brief and my graphic designer has done a great job. Out of the eight dummies he produced, I immediately discarded two.  I stuck the remaining six on the wall, so I see them every time I walk upstairs, and have already discarded another three. It is vital to get this right, as everything else seems to flow from the look of the cover. In order to write the brief,  I visited my local bookshop and looked at cover design: the new titles on displayed on tables by the door, and older titles in the bookcases. I didn’t worry about the title at this point, I was looking for covers that caught my eye – title, use of colour, image, typography. Then I went home, stood in front of my bookshelves and pulled out book after book. The subsequent pile yielded some covers I really liked,
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

One year old, what a journey!

A year has passed since I published my first post here. Looking back, I didn’t know much about blogging. I saw it as a way of getting my writing out into the public sphere, getting people to read it. What I didn’t expect was the huge community of bloggers who love books, reading and writing, just as much as I do. So THANK YOU to everyone who has read my blog over the last 12 months – thanks for finding me, and liking me, and adding your comments. It’s been a real learning process, some things worked, others didn’t, it took me quite a while to figure out how to work WordPress. Some things are still a mystery to me! To read my very first post, a short story called ‘Magic and Mischief’, click here ‘Magic and Mischief’ was a finalist in the London New Writing competition in 2002. In 2003 it was published in Diaspora City: the London New Writing anthology [pub. Arcadia Books] along with short stories by Maggie Gee, Iain Sinclair and Toby Litt. Buy it from Amazon here
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Categories: Book Love, My Short Stories and On Writing.

New books coming soon

JD Oswald Crime writer Oswald, who writes the Inspecter McLean series, has signed a five book fantasy deal with Michael Joseph. The Ballad of Sir Befro is an epic fantasy series following a boy called Errol his dragon Benfro. Together they will shape the future of the Twin Kingdoms. Dreamwalker, the first of the five, will be published this autumn. Antti Tuomainen Dark as My Heart, a second novel by Finnish writer Antti Tuomainen [below] is to be published in the UK next year by Harvill Secker. His first book in English, The Healer, is published by the Random House imprint. Dark as My Heart is related by Aleksi, who applies for a job as caretaker of the isolated seaside estate belonging to his mother’s former employer. Rachael Lucas Pan Macmillan has signed three books and an e-book novella from Rachael Lucas. Sealed with a Kiss, Lucas’s self-published debut novel, is a story of friendship, romance and rescued seals set on a remote Scottish island. It made the Kindle top 10 and has been downloaded more than 70,000 times. It will be published by Pan Macmillan in paperback in May, with a sequel e-book novella to be released for Christmas 2014. A third
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Categories: Book Love.

New books coming soon

Garth Risk Hallberg City on Fire, the debut novel by American writer Garth Risk Hallberg, will be published in the UK by Jonathan Cape. Film rights for the novel were sold to Scott Rudin who produced Captain Phillips and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. City on Fire is set in New York in the 1970s, and culminates in the evening of the 1977 blackout. The book has split UK publishers, according to The Bookseller magazine. One called it a “game-changer” and “better than Franzen,” while another publisher described it to The Bookseller as “quite patchy” and “very much about New York in the 1970s.” Natasha Boyd Eversea, the first in a series of novels by Natasha Boyd about Hollywood film star Jack Eversea, is to be published by Headline Eternal. Eversea goes to sleepy Butler Cove in South Carolina to escape the tabloid glare and his increasingly vapid life. There he meets local girl Keri Ann Butler. Previously self-published, e-book and paperback versions will be published, to be followed by the second book in the series, Forever, Jack, to be published by Headline Eternal this winter. Melanie Hudson The Wedding Cake Tree by Melanie Hudson, originally self-published and shortlisted
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Categories: Book Love.