Thursday, 17 October 2019

Emma's Review: The Glittering Hour by Iona Grey

Reviewed by Emma Crowley

1925. The war is over and a new generation is coming of age, keen to put the trauma of the previous one behind them. 

Selina Lennox is a Bright Young Thing whose life is dedicated to the pursuit of pleasure; to parties and drinking and staying just the right side of scandal. Lawrence Weston is a struggling artist, desperate to escape the poverty of his upbringing and make something of himself.  When their worlds collide one summer night, neither can resist the thrill of the forbidden, the lure of a love affair that they know cannot possibly last.

But there is a dark side to pleasure and a price to be paid for breaking the rules.  By the end of that summer everything has changed.

A decade later, nine year old Alice is staying at Blackwood Hall with her distant grandparents, piecing together clues from her mother’s letters to discover the secrets of the past, the truth about the present, and hope for the future. 

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Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Salisbury Literary Festival: Q&A with Richard Roper

Today I have a bonus Q&A today with Richard Roper ahead of his appearance at Salisbury Literary Festival this weekend.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your writing journey? 
Absolutely. Something to Live For is technically my debut but I wrote a couple of books before this which didn’t make it. I had decided that my third attempt was probably going to be my last, so thankfully it was the one that made came off! I was lucky enough to get a brilliant agent – Laura Williams at Greene & Heaton – and within a week of the book going out on submission I was in the mad position of having a UK and US book deal, with some European ones on the way. It made all the rejection and early morning starts worthwhile!

I'm looking forward to your panel at this year's Salisbury Literary Festival, how did you feel to be invited to be part of the festival? And what are you most looking forward to about your event? 
Thank you! I’m really looking forward to it, and I’m really flattered to have been asked. I’ve done a few festivals in the last month or so and it’s just the nicest thing to be given the opportunity to talk about your book, hear from other authors, and get to meet lots of lovely readers.

If  you had to give an elevator pitch for Something to Live For, what would it be?
A darkly comic, ultimately uplifting tale of a man who is faced with a dilemma: to carry on living a lie, or risk losing everything to have another shot at living life to the full.    

Sometimes you have to risk everything to find your something...

All Andrew wants is to be normal. He has the perfect wife and 2.4 children waiting at home for him after a long day. At least, that's what he's told people.

The truth is, his life isn't exactly as people think and his little white lie is about to catch up with him.

Because in all Andrew's efforts to fit in, he's forgotten one important thing: how to really live. And maybe, it's about time for him to start.

Loneliness and living  alone is at the heart of Something to Live For, both for Andrew with his fictional family and the people who have died with no next of kin, where did the inspiration come from for these storylines?    
What sparked the story was an article I read about the council workers who have to deal with the situation when someone dies alone. I knew I wanted to follow a character who did that job. And then I started to think about periods of loneliness I had been through myself, which had led to experiences both comic and sad, and decided to explore that further with my protagonist, Andrew.

How much research did you need to do about how councils deal with arranging funerals for those who have no family? 
I read enough to make sure I gave a believable account of the job Andrew does. But while the job does play a big part in the story, I was keen that at the forefront was the story of a man overcoming his own issues and learning to get out of his comfort zone, so in the end I cut quite a lot of the job stuff, as interesting as it was to find out about! 

Which came first for you  – characters or plot? 
Plot just about shades it. This was the first book I really planned before I started writing, so I thought a lot about where I wanted the story to go. Andrew’s quirks and idiosyncrasies came together during the writing. The same for Peggy, the person who arrives to change Andrew’s life. 

Do you think your experience as an editor helped you during the writing/editing process?
It certainly helped from the standpoint of being around so many talented fiction editors, listening to them pitching their books and talking about how why they had decided to commission or turn down a book. I work on the non-fiction side, and it’s all very different there compared to how novels are taken on!

When you're not in the midst of writing/editing, what type of books do you like to read for pleasure?
I read more fiction than non-fiction. I’m a real ‘word-of-mouth’ reader – if I see people on twitter raving about a book that’s what I tend to go for. The novels I enjoy the most broadly fit in to the reading group/contemporary fiction bracket, but I’ll give anything a go if it has a compelling story and interesting characters. 

And finally what can we expect from you next?
I’m on to book two now, which should be out in 2021 (if I pull my finger out and get it written in time…). 

If you're local or can travel to Salisbury this weekend, then there's still time to enter the giveaway currently running to win a pair of tickets to Richard's event with Keith Stuart although you'll have to be quick as entries close at midnight tonight. Enter here. 

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Monday, 14 October 2019

Salisbury Literary Festival: Introducing the Salisbury Greats by Tom Bromley

It's almost time for this year's Salisbury Literary Festival to begin so for the final post for this year it's my pleasure to hand the blog over to festival director Tom Bromley to introduce this year's Salisbury Greats.

One of the reasons for setting up the Salisbury Literary Festival was in order to celebrate its rich and varied literary heritage. Each year, the festival includes a Salisbury Greats strand, where we look in detail at the work of some of these authors, and the 2019 festival is no exception.

Over the centuries Salisbury and the surrounding area has provided both a setting for a number of wonderful novels, and also a home to many great writers themselves. Most recently, the playwright Barney Norris, who grew up in Salisbury, published his debut novel, Five Rivers Met On A Wooded Plain. At the heart of his book is the place he describes as ‘this quiet city, where the spire soars into the blue, where rivers and stories weave into one another, where lives intertwine.’

But Barney Norris is by no means the first writer to write about Salisbury. Norris attended Bishop Wordsworth’s School, which from 1945 to 1961 was famously graced with the presence of William Golding – one of the rare handful of novelists to have won both the Booker Prize and the Nobel Prize for Literature. It was while Golding was a teacher at the school that he wrote his most famous book, Lord of the Flies. However much his observations of pupil behaviour fed into that novel, the setting of Bishop Wordsworth’s certainly influenced his 1964 novel, The Spire. As well as working in such close proximity to the cathedral, Golding’s time at Bishop Wordsworth’s coincided with the rebuilding of the top of the spire between 1945 and 1951 – an echo of his own novel about the building of the medieval cathedral.

Saturday, 12 October 2019

Giveaway: Win a pair of tickets to see Keith Stuart & Richard Roper at Salisbury Literary Festival

This time next week it will be the main and busy day of events at Salisbury Literary Festival and kicking off the events at Salisbury Playhouse will be Keith Stuart and Richard Roper in conversation.

Keith Stuart is a journalist who has been covering video games and digital culture for over 20 years, he has written for numerous publications and is the video games correspondent for The Guardian. His bestselling debut novel, A Boy Made of Blocks, which was inspired by Keith’s relationship with his autistic son, was selected for the Richard and Judy Book Club. His second novel, Days of Wonder, was published in February.

Tom, devoted single father to Hannah, is the manager of a tiny local theatre. On each of her birthdays, its colourful cast of part-time actors have staged a fantastical production just for her - a day of wonder. However hard life gets, all Tom wants to do is make every moment magical for her.

Now, as Hannah begins to spread her wings, the theatre comes under threat of closure and the two could lose one another. But maybe, just maybe, one final day of magic might just save them both.
Richard Roper is a non-fiction editor at Headline. His debut novel, Something To Live For, was inspired by an article he read about the council workers who deal with situations when someone dies alone. A warm-hearted and humorous novel in the vein of David Nicholls and Nick Hornby, it was published by Orion in June.

Thursday, 10 October 2019

Salisbury Literary Festival: Q&A with Ayisha Malik

Today I'm delighted to welcome Ayisha Malik to the blog to chat about her latest book This Green and Pleasant Land as well as her appearance at Salisbury Literary Festival later this month.

Welcome back to the blog Ayisha, I can't believe it's been 4 years since I hosted a Q&A with you on publication day for your debut novel.  Can you give us a brief recap/intro to yourself and your writing journey.  Thanks for having me back! My debut novel was Sofia Khan is not Obliged and it was followed by its sequel, The Other Half of Happiness. SKINO was a CityRead London book this year so it was nice to relive talking about my first book. More recently, my third novel, This Green and Pleasant Land, was published. 

I’d always wanted to be a writer and I’d been told that the best way to get published is to work in a publishing house… I guess it worked since I spent several years working in publishing. First as a publicist at Penguin Random House and then as an editor at Cornerstones Literary Consultancy. 

How did you feel to be invited to be a part of this year's Salisbury Literary Festival?  And what are you most looking forward to about your event? (Sadly I cannot attend your event due to a scheduling clash so hope to hear all about it from a friend instead).
It's lovely to be invited to a festival so close to Dorset, which is where I went to research This Green and Pleasant Land – though it’s not explicitly set there, it is very much based on West Dorset. I’m looking forward to chatting to readers and the audience about the book and the writing process.  

If  you had to give an elevator pitch for This Green and Pleasant Land, what would it be?
When I first told my agent about the story I had in mind she called it a cross between The Vicar of Dibley and The Casual Vacancy. This was pleasing. 
Everyone has a place they call home. But who gets to decide where you belong?