Thursday, 26 March 2015

Debut Spotlight: Jane Alexander

Today it's my pleasure to introduce to you debut author Jane Alexander and her novel The Last Treasure Hunt which is published today.

Jane Alexander’s short stories and creative non-fiction has been widely published in a number of anthologies and literary magazines, including Mslexia, Litro and The Orphan Leaf Review. A winner of a major national story competition, and the recipient of a Scottish Arts Council New Writers bursary, Jane is also a lecturer in creative writing at the Open University.

The other day, someone told me a story about the moment a tabloid journalist decided to quit her job. She was paying a child for a photograph of a dead classmate when she suddenly asked herself: What on earth am I doing? How did I get here? 

It’s a shocking story – or at least, it should be. But after the Leveson Inquiry, we know so much about the immoral and illegal tactics of a small section of the tabloid press that revelations like this have lost the power to genuinely shock. The celebrity obsession, the phone hacking, the invented stories… (of course, novelists invent their stories too, but the difference is that our characters are made up – or if we are inspired by real people, we go to a lot of effort to make sure there’s no resemblance to the real person, or to any persons living or dead, to our knowledge). These dirty tabloid tactics might prompt disapproval, but somehow we’ve ended up with a society in which they’ve become almost expected.

When I wrote The Last Treasure Hunt, this kind of normalisation was something I wanted to explore: the way that ordinary people can deceive themselves about the morality of their actions when dubious behaviour seems somehow to be expected of them. The press, in my book, are relatively restrained, staying just the right side of the legal line and twisting facts to create the stories that will sell. Just everyday tabloid behaviour – but if they were on your doorstep, twisting the facts of your life into half-truths and lies, how normal would it feel? The main character, Campbell, the target of their attention, comes to occupy a similarly murky territory, blurring the boundaries of truth and fiction as he tells his own story. 

In his shoes, we would all be smarter, more moral than Campbell. But then, that tabloid journalist who quit her job surely never dreamed she’d find herself bribing a child for his dead friend’s picture. Perhaps a conscience is easier to mislay than we might like to think.

At the age of thirty, Campbell Johnstone is a failure. He’s stuck behind the bar of a shabby pub, watching from the sidelines while everyone else makes a success of their lives. The most visible is Eve Sadler, a childhood friend and rising Hollywood star. 

When Campbell tries to rekindle their relationship, he longs for the glitter of her success to rub off on him – but a single shocking night changes everything, in ways he could never have predicted. When the dust settles, Cam’s life is transformed. The recognition he’d given up on is within reach – but at what cost? The Last Treasure Hunt explores our obsession with fame and celebrity with great intelligence and sly wit – it’s a modern media morality tale with bite.

To celebrate the launch of The Last Treasure Hunt by Jane Alexander I’m taking part in the official virtual treasure hunt!

Here is the first clue to kick things off…

Clue 1

From the Space Needle to the Big Apple
This is where our lovers first meet
If you climb to this dizzying height
You’ll find your quest complete.

How the hunt works:

  • Each clue refers to a landmark or iconic location in a film. The landmark/location is the answer – when you figure it out, make a note of it! 
  • (If you need a hand, check out the #treasurehunt hashtag on Twitter or Instagram for a hint to the landmark’s location…)
  • Clues will be revealed by some fantastic book bloggers from March 26th until April 21st. Keep checking back on Jane Alexander’s dedicated treasure hunt page (janealexander.net/join-the-hunt) or on the #treasurehunt hashtag for links and new clues.
  • When all the clues are revealed, the first letter of every answer will make an anagram. Solve the anagram and you have your final answer!
  • Email this answer and all the landmarks you figured out to hermes@saraband.net by April 30th to be entered into the prize draw. Two entrants will win a signed copy of The Last Treasure Hunt – and if you’ve guessed the most landmarks and locations, you’ll win a goodie bag and something special from Jane personally! On top of that you’ll get bragging rights on Twitter and we’ll publicly dub you queen/king sleuth. 

Good luck!

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