An insight into the publishing world…

Posts tagged ‘novels’

I’m back with an awesome reading challenge

Well, it’s been a while since I wrote, right?!

I tell you, trying to be so IN with the publishing community is absolutely amazing. It also gives me so much to do and so many ideas, with so little time to actually get it done. But I’m going to try my best to continue blogging this year.

I’ve started an AMAZING new job as Assistant Copy Editor at a new mental health publishing company called Trigger Press, so there’s that to deal with too. I will blog more about it later, so watch out for that.

Amazingly, on top of all of this, I’ve given myself quite an ambitious reading challenge for 2017, too, despite having ambitions to do a million and one other things and still find time to work, eat and sleep.

I know a lot of people scoff at the idea of new year’s resolutions, but I love them. One of them for this year is to travel all around the UK and learn about the different places in my own country. I realise I know so little about the UK and so I want to remedy that, and enjoy life outside of work a bit more. Perhaps I’ll blog about that too, maybe. Or I’ll just keep a personal diary for that. I don’t know if I can possibly start a travel blog as well as a fairly quiet publishing one 😮 I’ve done quite well with that so far, as I’ve already planned quite a few trips and already taken my first one to Sheffield.

What I’ve also decided to do is set myself a “52 Books by 52 Publishers” reading challenge. Averaging at one per week obviously, but some of that will have to involve binge-reading on my holidays, but that’s OK. It’s 52 by the end of the year, not 1 a week.

52-books-by-52-publishers

Apologies for the rubbish picture. These will improve.

 

So far I think I’ve read around 6 or 7, so I’m kind of on target, but I will post the first review up shortly.

Any genre goes. I am mainly concentrating on independent publishers, but the Big 4 will show up some places too. The only rule I’ve set myself is that different imprints that belong to the same publisher do not count. They have to be 52 completely different publishers. Makes things more interesting and more challenging that way.

If anyone feels like being a nosy bugger, here’s my amazon list that shows you the ones I’m looking at buying/asking friends and family to buy me for birthday etc. over the year. I won’t necessarily get them from Amazon every time, as I am trying to visit lots of indie shops this year or buy from the publisher’s website where possible, but Amazon and Goodreads are the easiest place to make a wishlist and probably the easiest way to get others to buy for me (I can just point them towards a list and they can pick which one they want to get me.)

http://amzn.eu/6L8JH2r

If anyone has any recommendations of books or publishers, PLEASE, holler!

Follow the journey on Twitter @cox_stephanie  #52booksby52publishers

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/publisherstephaniec/

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Introducing Writer and Playwright Janice Fosse

Today’s interview is with Janice Fosse, a children’s playwright and writer who is a connection of mine on Twitter (never underestimate the power of social media in networking!) Here, in her charming and comic style, she discusses her love of writing, the difficulties of writing for children and her optimism in the face of a very difficult publishing market…

The colourful and lovely Janice Fosse

The colourful and lovely Janice Fosse

Please tell me a little bit about yourself and your career.

I have been telling stories my whole life. From organizing make-believe on the playground to circulating stories in serial format to devoted readers in high school via spiral notebooks, I mistakenly thought my love of telling stories translated into a love of performing, and for many years my educational focus was on acting, with writing stories nothing more than a diversionary hobby.

After completing the requirements for a BFA in Acting from Augustana College in Rock Island, IL, I found myself with one more year of school to go, and decided to pursue a second BA in English with a creative writing concentration. I finished the degree in one year, and found that writing had been the underlying passion all along. While performing is fun, you are always saying someone else’s words. It turned out that I wanted to be the one to make the words, the worlds, and the rules. You could call it creative megalomania, I suppose!

Upon graduation I secured a job in the public access department of a small-town cable company as a producer. I wrote scripts for commercials, did voiceover work, produced television shows, and even helped create and was chief question writer for a local-access game show that gained modest popularity. Writing was always there in the background though.  

After eleven years at the cable company I became an asset, which led to me being liquidated when the cable company sought to purchase a larger media outlet. With eleven weeks of severance pay, I found myself with the free time I needed to finally write a book from beginning to end. I managed it in eleven weeks, completely hated every word and abandoned the work without revising it. During that time I also organized an improvisational comedy troupe and skated with the local roller derby league, where for a time I led the league in ejections for poor sportsmanship. Still, writing was there. By this time I had created the basis of a fantasy realm called Ethia, to which my current series of novels refers. With eleven years of dabbling, I’ve managed to come up with a rich history and mythology for Ethia, which has been an invaluable resource from which to draw. I hope someday to novelize some of the incomplete snippets I’ve written about Ethia’s history into some sort of cohesive work.

The trick is writing a play that the children can understand and appreciate, while still providing something that will be entertaining for the parents to watch.

There are now far more writers than there are places for them in the market. What made you realise that your writing might be commercially successful one day?

A friend of mine sent some of my unpolished science fiction to an editor for critique without my knowledge, and the editor was impressed enough to suggest that, with some tweaking, my story could be quite successful. I’ve been working on that story for the last couple of years (with a rather large hiatus due to the birth of my daughter), and have one novel in the series in revision, and a second over halfway through the first draft.

How did you get into the theatre industry and what is the biggest challenge in writing for children?

I met the owner of Stars of Tomorrow, a company that teaches acting and play production to school-age children, through my work with the improv comedy troupe. I became one of their senior instructors, thanks to my theatre degree, and began writing plays for the classes. To date I have had over a dozen plays performed by students in classes throughout the Northern Illinois area, which have been extremely well-received by their audiences.

For the most part, when children are performing a play the audience is going to be largely comprised of parents and other adult family members. The trick is writing a play that the children can understand and appreciate, while still providing something that will be entertaining for the parents to watch. I write comedies, and I try to find that tricky place where the humor is appropriate and entertaining for both adults and children. Many of the characters I write in my plays are wryly self-aware, and the whole play comes off as a little bit cheeky, which usually fits the bill for all parties involved.

Why do you enjoy writing for children?

I enjoy the opportunity to be silly, to stretch my imagination and sense of humor without having to cater to the inherent cynicism of adulthood. It’s also important to write things for children without pandering to them. Kids will rise to the intellectual level with which they are presented, and I enjoy the opportunity to teach, through writing paired with instruction, various aspects of comedic theory, so that they know why what they’re saying is funny.

Why is it so important for writers and publishers to engage in social media now?

With the current market saturation and the ease of creating an online presence, writers and publishers must engage in social media if they are going to get anywhere with promotion and publicity. Unfortunately, one of the things I’ve noticed happening, particularly with Twitter, is that some authors misunderstand the difference between using social media to build an online following and simply spamming adverts about their book every few hours. Social media is an absolute necessity for writers and publishers because there is no freer and more easily accessible marketplace for your book than the Internet, but it should be used wisely. Sharing blog posts, thoughts about writing, and anything else gives what would otherwise be nothing more than a faceless advertising machine a human feel and more of a sense of connection with potential readers.

How do you maintain confidence and motivation in your efforts to become published, especially if you’re ever rejected by a publisher?

For many years I thought that nothing I wrote would ever matter if it wasn’t picked up by a mainstream publisher, got worldwide distribution and a movie option, possibly a spinoff TV series, a theme park, etc. However, the more I’ve gotten into my story and learned to love the characters and the world in which they reside, I find myself caring less and less about the end result, as long as I get to tell the story. When the story is the most important thing, success comes from within, and no amount of outside rejection can touch it. I hope.

What do you think your writing can offer readers that others might not?

I try to blend emotional honesty in my characters with fantastical situations, while incorporating elements of almost-believable science fiction. I’ve been told my greatest strengths are in my humor and my characters – they are very much alive, and likeable (even the villains, in their own way), and they are, I hope, realistic. Even when the situations surrounding them are anything but. I like to think of my characters as atypical heroes – they are insanely human (even when they aren’t); they’re flawed and not necessarily pretty, a little bit dorky and absolutely relatable. My books are for the kids who read books but never see characters all that much like themselves reflected back in the pages.

I enjoy the opportunity to be silly, to stretch my imagination and sense of humor without having to cater to the inherent cynicism of adulthood. 

What are the biggest differences between playwriting and writing novels? Do you have a preference between the two?

For whatever reason, playwriting comes much more easily for me than novel writing does. I can kick out a final draft of a play in a matter of days, while novels are far more arduous. However, I enjoy novel writing far more than playwriting. In a novel, you get to climb into the characters’ heads and see the world from their perspective. In a play, motivation is implied and not directly discussed, where it is one of the main foci of writing a novel.

What is your personal view on self-publishing?

It’s tempting, for sure. It offers the possibility of total creative control – everything from the story to the cover and all publicity. Which is a double-edged sword, because it means the author is responsible for everything from the story to the cover and all publicity. The more I read about self-publishing, the more tempting it sounds. However, in the YA market, I think it’s a bit more difficult to self-publish, because metrics show that YA readers still prefer print books to ebooks, which presents a larger upfront cost, plus figuring out ways to get your book into the major retailers. They get grouchy when you just stick copies of your book on their shelves!

And finally, what do you like to read?

Right now I’m reading Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series from the beginning, as well as Parkland by Vincent Bugliosi. I read anything I can get my hands on; science fiction, fantasy, YA of all sorts, histories and philosophies, books on writing and folklore and utter trash. A writer needs to have a deep well from which to draw, including books that are so awful they serve as a reminder that even bad books get published. I do hope that my books don’t end up on that list for anyone. But, hey, if they do, at least they serve as some sort of inspiration.

You can follow Janice on Twitter @JaniceFosse and learn more about her and her work at janicefosse.com

Do you have any questions for Janice? Post in the comments below and I will get your questions answered!

Introducing Publisher, Author, Editor and Blogger Samantha March

Today’s interview is with a woman who completely blew me away when I interviewed her. Her motivation, efforts and work ethic are really to be admired, I don’t know how does it all. Her experience in publishing is vast, and she spends her days editing, writing, blogging, publishing, and proofreading – my dream career! Here she explains how she pulls it all off…

Samantha March, editor, blogger, author, publisher.

Samantha March, editor, blogger, author, publisher.

Please tell me a little bit about yourself and all the different projects you work on.

Oh, where to begin! Maybe chronologically? I started Chick Lit Plus in 2009, a book and lifestyle blog. I was hoping to gain some connections in the publishing industry as I had high hopes of publishing a book, and I also simply enjoyed writing and giving my feedback and thoughts on a variety of topics. From there, I did succeed in becoming a published author. My first novel, Destined To Fail¸ released in 2011, and I also started my publishing company, Marching Ink, at the same time. I have since published two more novels, The Green Ticket and A Questionable Friendship, and Marching Ink has ten titles total between myself and four other authors.

Let’s see…somewhere in between all of that I started CLP Blog Tours, a blog tour company. I love being able to connect authors and bloggers and readers, and the first tour was ran in 2011, and I love that I am still able to do something I love so much.

I am also a freelance editor, offer manuscript critiques and other promotional services via Chick Lit Plus. I work in marketing for Booktrope Publishing, and I also have an Instagram yoga page with my best friend, The Cheeky Chicks. But for my most important roles, I am a wife to my husband of almost two years and a puppy mom to our adorable Vizsla, Aries.

Tours are a great way to help increase exposure, make a connection with book bloggers, get more reviews for your book, and get more social media presence.

How did The Cheeky Chicks come about? How much success have you had since you started?

Oh, The Cheeky Chicks! My friend Holly and I had been trying to think of something fun to do for months before we decided on joining the Instagram craze. We actually started talking about fitness and beauty, two things we really love, but once we started we quickly fell in love with all things yoga and decided to dedicate our page to showing our daily practice and progress. We started in September and we’ve had an absolute blast. It’s fun, it’s good for our health, we’re learning new things, but we get to do it all together, which really is the best. As friends get older and get married and get new jobs, etc, sometimes friendships can slowly fizzle out or not be as strong as they once were, and this gives us another reason to talk pretty much throughout the day and see each other often for practice 🙂

How did you get into publishing? In what area of publishing do you work as an editor?

I first got into publishing when I released my first novel, and I also bought the rights to my own LLC, Marching Ink. My goal was to maybe one day publish for other authors too. Cat Lavoie was an editing client of mine, and I fell absolutely in love with her debut novel, Breaking the Rules. I put it out there to her that I was brand new but I felt passionately about her book and would love to publish for her, and she said yes! She also has published Zoey & The Moment of Zen with Marching Ink, and I’ve been so fortunate to meet her in person twice!

I do freelance editing with Chick Lit Plus, offering my services through the website. I also do proofreading and manuscript critiques!

You’re an author – tell me a little bit about your work and your journey into becoming an author.

I was nine years old when I knew I wanted to be an author. I always loved reading and wrote my own stories for years, and even though I still had the dream when I was in high school, I thought being an author was not very achievable. I told myself to get a “real” degree and if I still wanted to purse writing after graduation, I could. Well, one year prior to receiving my Bachelors degree in Business, I started writing Destined to Fail. Two years after graduation, it was published 🙂

With so many successful projects going on, how do you manage your time effectively? (I know I find maintaining a blog alongside a full-time job challenging, let alone working out and hosting a number of social media channels!)

It’s hard. Time management is by far the most challenging part of my day. I have myself to think about, but then my Marching Ink authors, my Booktrope authors, my blog tour clients, my editing clients. I need to be reading for book reviews and writing blog posts and keeping my social media up to date. It’s all me, I have no virtual assistant or anyone else helping me out with my social media feed, though I do have a team of reviewers with CLP and they totally rock. Little things I do to try to help is make lists and don’t turn the TV on while I work. No really! But my lists are a huge help. I have so many to-do lists and calendars it’s comical, but they really help keep me on track and not miss a deadline or special project. I also have my own office in my house, so I don’t work on my couch with my laptop on my lap with E! turned on. I have specific hours (that I make myself, yes, but I hold myself to them) and do regular things like give myself a lunch break and only a lunch break during the day. I try to remember this is my full-time job, and I need to treat it like that, not like a hobby. That really, truly helps me. And I love what I do 🙂

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What work is involved in organising blog tours? What are benefits of blog tours?

When booking a tour, there are several packages to choose from. Authors can select tours with only reviews, release day blitz tours, tours with interviews and guest blogs, etc. I try to have a little of everything in there, because each individual case is different. My part is getting book bloggers interested in joining the tour, which means sharing a post on their blog on a particular day. Tours are a great way to help increase exposure, make a connection with book bloggers, get more reviews for your book, and get more social media presence. CLP Blog Tours sets up a tour page for each tour and promotes it even before the tour starts, and tweets 2-4 times in a day on each specific tour.

Which part of your vast career and experiences do you find the most rewarding?

Oh boy. I love making connections with readers and other authors. I think it’s really rewarding with blog tours to help authors gain that connection as well, because these are really so beneficial in our line of work. I love being able to meet someone online, and after months of chatting and finding all these bookish things we have in common, be able to call them my friend. I have met several authors and other bloggers at book events through the years, and that is probably my favorite part. It’s amazing what the internet gave us, truly.

I have met several authors and other bloggers at book events through the years, and that is probably my favorite part.

What would you say is the most effective way to market your book blog?

I think social media is huge. No doubt. Daily content is really big too. I have at minimum one new post a day on CLP, but more like 2-3.

Do you like to read other genres?

I do! I love a good mystery or supernatural book – those are probably my next favorites 🙂 And I would love to try a supernatural!

A Questionable Friendship, Samantha March's novel.

Happy Publication Day, Samantha!

Today is the publication date for Twenty-Something: A Collection, published by Marching Ink! The first collection from Marching Ink features three full-length novels in Twenty-Something. From the good girl that is tired of playing by the rules in the new adult novel from Laura Chapman, to the friendship between two women that isn’t what is seems in the women’s fiction novel from Samantha March, and then the loveable Roxy that will give us plenty of laughs and touching moments in the chick lit novel from Cat Lavoie. While all characters are indeed Twenty-Something, we believe this collection can be enjoyed by readers in a variety of ages.

20%BlogTours

Samantha’s blog tour company CLP currently has an offer of 20% off blog tours until 30 April! Check out http://www.clpblogtours.com/ for more information.

Connect with Samantha!
http://www.samanthamarch.com/

Facebook
Twitter
GoodReads

Chick Lit Plus Links
http://chicklitplus.com/
Facebook

Buy A Questionable Friendship:

Amazon
Barnes & Noble – eBook

Introducing Digital Publisher Andri Nel

Andri Nel, South African Digital Publisher

Andri Nel, South African Digital Publisher

Please introduce yourself! What is your personal and professional background, and how did you get into publishing?

I am Andri Nel and I live in Pretoria, South Africa. I completed my Publishing honours degree at the University of Pretoria, the only University of South Africa where you can study publishing, at the end of 2014 (our semesters work on full years not half years) and I will be furthering my studies at Oxford Brookes University on September when I start my Masters in Digital Publishing.

Digital Publishing is my passion. I fell in love with it 3 years ago in my final year of my undergraduate degree and have been working in as many fields of digital publishing as I can here in South Africa. During the years in which I completed my honours degree I entered the world of freelance digital publishing, doing both conversions and drawing up digital publishing strategies for publishers. Digital publishing is a very young field and one that is even more daunting to most publishers in South Africa where we are still struggling with a very bad reading culture, poverty and very little access to the internet in the rural areas. My personal goal is to help break the ice in this field and make digital publishing accessible to all publishers and use it to enhance the reading culture in the eleven official languages of South Africa.

Tell us about the company you work for. What type of publishing do you work in?

I am involved in a number of projects in the field of publishing, all focussing on digital publishing. As a freelancer I am currently working on the implementation of a digital publishing strategy for a nature publisher, Briza Publications, as well as the conversion, selling and launching of an independent author’s book on the compilation of prison letters by Ghandi’s son in law during Apartheid South Africa.

To keep the bread on the table I work on projects in educational digital publishing and have perfected the art of editing eBooks on screen. It was a learning curve as this is not a field which has been practiced a lot in South African publishing.

My passion lies with a venture called KliekClick which I started with three other women. KliekClick is an independent digital publisher publishing original short stories for children between the ages of 9 and 15 in Afrikaans (one of South Africa’s national languages and my mother tongue). We have a website and online store where children can buy stories in ePub and mobi format for as little as R5 (£0.25c). We also encourage children to write to us. The bulk of our stories came from a writing competition we launched on Facebook and the response was overwhelming. KliekClick is venturing out into educating learners about digital reading in 2015 with visits to schools and encouraging more children to write in their mother tongue. It is a venture I am extremely passionate. Our site is in Afrikaans, but please give it a look at www.kliekclick.co.za as well as our online shop at www.kliekclick/winkel.co.za

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Who is your target audience?

As a freelancer my target audience is publishing houses looking to venture into digital publishing and independent authors wanting to self-publish in digital format.

KliekClick’s target audience is children between the ages of 9 and 15, but also their parents as they are the ones with the money (of course).

What excites you most about digital publishing?

The possibilities digital publishing holds for publishing and especially publishing in South Africa. It is still a challenge for publishers in South Africa to understand that eBooks are not a replacement for print book (especially not in South Africa’s economic climate), but rather an extension. What excited me about working with publishers is teaching them new skills and seeing them get excited about the new ventures. What excited me about KliekClick is the opportunity we are giving short story authors, who are mostly turned down by big publishers, to have their stories published and the positive response we receive from both parents and children about the stories and the new experience they are having by buying and reading digitally.

KliekClick, the independent digital publishing company started by Andri Nel and three colleagues.

KliekClick, the independent digital publishing company started by Andri Nel and three colleagues.

How well received is digital publishing in South Africa? Is there a large publishing industry and a lot of publishers where you live?

Publishing in South Africa is mainly monopolised by the group NB Publishers, who own most of the smaller publishers, and then a lot of international publishers with branches here such as Penguin Random House, Oxford University Press and Pearson. Smaller publishers in South Africa focus on the niche markets such as language or nature. The industry itself is very small in South Africa though and is very female dominant, it really seems everyone knows everyone.

Digital publishing is still very new to South African publishing and many publishers are reluctant to venture into it. There are almost no South African publishers that publish in digital first format or even bring out a digital edition along with their print edition. Most eBooks are only backlist titles. Educational publishing has been more willing to enter into digital publishing as the Department of Education is pushing for digital learning in schools. The reluctance of most publishers is understandable as there are not real publishers with the necessary skills in digital publishing here yet (the digital publishing program was only added to the publishing curriculum 4 years ago) and because of the lack of internet infrastructure we have in the country. Most people cannot afford eReaders and tablets and despite internet connection being relatively good in the cities, some rural areas do not have any internet connection. Some publishers have started the transition, but there are still many obstacles to overcome for digital publishing.

Do you agree with the view point that is being widely discussed at the moment, about how all publishing professionals will soon need digital publishing skills to stay ahead in the game?

I think all publishers should have an understanding of all skills and fields in publishing. For example any publisher should have at least a minimal understanding of copy editing and proofreading. I think the same goes for digital publishing. Everyone in publishing should understand how it works and understand the “lingo” but not everyone needs to be a developer, not everyone needs to know how to code and create the eBook from scratch. It is a matter of understanding the field and how it fits in with your field of publishing.

eBooks are not a replacement for the print book, but rather an extension.

What do you feel are the advantages of digital publishing?

There are many generic advantages such as lower environmental impact, lower production costs (sometimes) and readers always being able to have their books with them. However I think the biggest advantage of digital publishing is the enhancement it can give to publishing. Not all books should be eBooks, I truly believe that, but those that are should not simply be a print book in digital format, what is the use. eBooks, in my opinion, should be advanced with media overlays, videos, links inside the book and outside the books. For publishers I think the biggest advantage of digital publishing is that for the first time in a long time, we can be completely creative, almost crazy, again and think outside the box. It makes for an exciting new chapter for publishing in general.

I think all publishers should have an understanding of all skills and fields in publishing.

What are the challenges facing digital publishing at the moment?

I think one of the biggest challenges is the platforms we are currently reading eBooks on. There is such a variety, but at the same time no real standard. Not only does this confuse readers and in many cases make them turn from eBooks all together, but it also makes the publisher’s job very difficult. Each platform it seems uses its own format and own DRM (which is a challenge in its own right) and it is becoming increasingly difficult to create one file which can work on all platforms. Even though productions costs might not be as high as print, they are pushed up because compatibility tests now need to be done on all different readers. Maybe it will never happen, but ultimately I think it would be best if there was one true standard for all eBooks which could allow easy reading and even sharing amongst readers.

Cartoon of Andri and her publishing colleagues.

Cartoon of Andri and her publishing colleagues.

In your point of view, will digital make print obsolete, or compliment it?

I don’t think digital will replace print, but rather enhance it. Some people will always read print books (no matter their age) others will prefer digital. Some books will always be better in print, others in digital. I compare it to paperback and hardcover, the one enhanced the other, neither one overshadows the other.

What do you read in your spare time?

I love reading classics (over and over again), biographies and Afrikaans novels, as I still love the way the Afrikaans language has evolved on the writing front.

You can follow Andri on Twitter @An3nel

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

Sorry for the delay in blog posts, readers. I have been extremely busy recently – with  a number of job interviews! One of them, in fact, turned out to be successful and I am now officially an Editorial Assistant!

However, this won’t stop me maintaining this blog. I am passionate about books and will continue to write about them. So, onwards and upwards for me!

Okay, so I know I promised you guys a review of a book that didn’t have a ridiculously long title – but it happened again. My next book choice was We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler:

 

Yep. Another one with a long title.

Yep. Another one with a long title.

I actually bought this book from a shop in King’s Cross station waiting to come home from one of my interviews. My 24th birthday, which occurred on the previous Friday, had provided me with a little stash of money in my purse which was BEGGING to be spent in a book shop. I may have also bought this little beauty from Paperchase:

bookjournal

I now have a book to write all my book reviews notes in as I go along. Result!

While I’m more inclined to buy and try books that aren’t necessarily in the charts and/or might benefit from a little more exposure, I loved the sound of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves and I just couldn’t put it down and buy another instead. So it became my little companion on my four-hour trip home to Hull.

I also really want to publish a book review for a book that didn’t win me over completely, as I want to show that I actually do have an opinion other than ‘OH MY GOD HOW FABULOUS WAS THIS BOOK?’, but unfortunately…that’s not going to happen this time either. I absolutely adored this novel.

The great thing about this book is that I actually can’t spend time writing out the plot for you (which seems pointless to me anyway) as it would completely ruin the twist (and also, as the front cover hosts a quote which says “‘One of the best twists in years'” I am not spoiling it for the reader when I tell you that there’s a twist). All I can do is tell you what the book did for me, and why you absolutely need to buy a copy and start reading it straight away.

Rosemary is growing up and has finally made it to college. However, she struggles to commit herself to the future when she has so many unresolved issues and unanswered questions lurking in her past. She knows that her psychologist father used her childhood as an experiment. She has almost forgotten some things, and continuously represses others. She hasn’t seen her older brother Lowell in ten years, and her sister Fern disappeared when Rosemary was five years old. She cannot move forward with her life until she goes back, until she finally understands what happened all those years ago.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves is a novel which concerns itself with child and adult psychology, the difficulties in identifying real and false memories, and the art of storytelling. It explores language and how it can shape human perception. It is both hilarious and heartbreaking at the same time.

“Language does this to our memories – simplifies, solidifies, codifies, mummifies. An oft-told story is like a photograph in a family album; eventually, it replaces the moment it was meant to capture.”

The novel begins with the narrator insisting that she will “Skip the beginning” and “Start in the middle.” This becomes a theme and technique throughout the book, to highlight to the reader that the exact same story can be retold in different ways in order to glean information that will help form a good understanding of Rosemary’s life story. As the novel moves along, we realise that Rosemary is on a path of discovery just as we are. As she retells her story from different perspectives, she begins to remember facts and events that she has long ago forgotten or repressed. She explores how language and the retelling of stories can affect how a person remembers events themselves. She shows how an event can change from what it once was to what the person wishes it to be, and how false memories can affect a person’s outlook on life.

“Why are there so many scenes I remember from impossible vantage points, so many things I picture from above, as if I’d climbed the curtains and was looking down on my family? And why is there one thing that I remember distinctly, in living color and surround-sound, but believe with all my heart never occurred? Bookmark that thought. We’ll come back to it later.”

Rosemary often refers to human psychology and development throughout the book, and her outlook is largely influenced by her father, who is a psychologist and scientist. She often disagrees with her father’s methods or opinions, but she can’t quite help exploring her world and the world around her through scientific studies and experiments. Perhaps that is what seems normal to her, although she wishes this wasn’t the way things were for her and her family. You can almost feel Rosemary’s internal struggle. The reader sympathises with her attempts to fight her instincts and behaviours which she formed due to her father’s treatment of her and her siblings as they were growing up.

The novel deals with sibling love and rivalry in a way that I’ve never experienced before. It demonstrates the fragility of human nature and how difficult it is to trust your own memories and your own perceptions. It encourages you to come at stories from a number of different angles, and to form your own understanding. It prompts you to think differently about your own behaviours and perceptions of your own world.

It is fresh, breathtaking, and utterly unique. I fell in love with this book. There is no wonder that it was longlisted for the Man Booker prize this year. I have a number of friends and family members who want to try it. I suggest they buy copies because it will take a number of readings, and each one will be different. I suggest you do the same too.

You won’t be disappointed.

 

 

 

You can buy a copy of the book here

Follow the publisher Serpent’s Tail on Twitter here.

Publisher’s website here.

Karen Joy Fowler’s website is here.

 

Tony Hogan Bought Me An Ice Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma by Kerry Hudson

This novel came into my hands in quite a different way to the usual trip-to-the-bookshop routine. Anyone who looks on my Twitter or Facebook feeds for more than 30 seconds will know that I’m currently searching for a job in publishing. As such, I decided to become more actively involved in the literary scene in my home city of Hull (incidentally, the City of Culture for 2017!).

It was at a literary event named Head In A Book (run by the editor of local publisher Wrecking Ball Press) at Hull Central Library that I first heard about the book. I hadn’t read it before attending, and so I went into the event a little blind. The author, Kerry Hudson, was giving a talk with fellow author Russ Litten about this book and also about her newest novel, Thirst, which is on my ‘to be read’ pile. Immediately after the talk was finished, I went ahead and bought the book. There was no way I was leaving without a copy. Russ and Kerry did a great job of selling it to me!

First off, I should state that Tony Hogan Bought Me An Ice Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma (I’ll refer to it as Tony Hogan for short from here on out) is unlike any other book I’ve ever read. In a good way! To use such a narrative viewpoint is extremely brave; Kerry Hudson said herself at the event that she expected to be ‘given a lot of stick’ for writing a first person narrative which begins in a child’s infancy (from the minute she’s born, in fact). When I heard about this, I was dubious as to whether it would work. My first thought was that it would lose credibility as nobody could physically remember things – in such detail, at least – from such an early age.

However, it doesn’t seem to take away from the book at all, at least in my view. If anything, it works to highlight how easily a young girl can grow up perceiving the poverty, conflict and brutality of her life as normal. It also helps solidify Janie’s bond with her mother, Iris. Despite Iris’ flaws and occasional neglect, Janie is utterly devoted to her as she is growing up. Iris is her lifeline and her only chance of survival, and in setting the book at the absolute beginning of Janie’s life, the author manages to convey that perfectly.

The Head In A Book event for Tony Hogan Bought Me An Ice Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma. Yes, I will review books with short titles, too. I promise!

The Head In A Book event for Tony Hogan Bought Me An Ice Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma. Yes, I will review books with short titles, too. I promise!

The novel follows Janie, ‘the latest in a long line of Aberdeen fishwives’, as she and her family go through life moving from council estate to council estate, in increasingly dangerous and deprived situations, struggling to survive in a state of constant poverty. But Janie is different. She’s seen her mother, and the generations before her, failing to make anything of themselves and she decides that she wants more from life.

Kerry mentioned in her conversation with Russ that one of her original titles for the book was Echoes of Small Fires (a line from the book), but the publisher decided against this as it was “far too literary a title” for a book with such brutal subject matter (and so much swearing!). Be that as it may, the book is filled with “literary” language that really sets the writing apart. Take, for example, this line:

It was so quiet I wondered if the people who lived there ever turned up the telly or stitched their sentences with shouted swear words aimed to wound.

The entire novel is peppered with beautiful and lyrical wording such as this, which works fantastically as it contrasts heavily with the harsh subject matter, making it seem even more shocking. Because of this, I found myself really feeling for Janie and her entire family. Yes, they are surrounded by drug takers, alcoholics and dole bums, but Hudson portrays Janie, her little sister Tiny and her mother Iris in such a vulnerable and tragically fragile way that you cannot help but want more for the family. Here it is not a case of rooting for the legally and morally perfect protagonist – there are none in this book. But Hudson managed to make me overlook the character flaws and wish for a better world for Janie, because in a better world she could become a better person.

The Observer reviewed Tony Hogan and described it as ‘colourful, funny, joyful and compelling.’ While it is definitely not ‘joyful’ throughout (in fact there are some pretty grim and upsetting scenes) it is ultimately a very realistic piece of work that grips you from beginning to end. It is funny, it is sad, and it is definitely compelling. The characters will stay with you for much longer than it takes to read the book. And considering how good it was, it didn’t take that long to finish.

Novels like Tony Hogan are what the literary and publishing world seems to be lacking for the most part. One of the main themes of Kerry’s talk at Head In A Book was the working class writer and the struggle to get published. Kerry and Russ talked at length about the difficulties facing working class writers due to elitism in mainstream trade publishing. Kerry argued that the publishing industry needs to introduce a wider spectrum of voices – including working class voices – into literature. She stressed that it is the job of publishing and writing professionals to break free of the mindset that some people of a certain type (i.e. working class or underprivileged, forced into a criminal lifestyle) ‘do not deserve to be seen in literature.’ These things DO happen, these people DO exist, and they have a right to be heard and represented in writing.

As a result, Kerry runs an amazing and inspiring project called the WoMentoring Project which offers ‘free mentoring by professional literary women to talented up and coming female writers who would otherwise find it difficult to access similar opportunities.’ – womentoringproject.co.uk

This writer is not only speaking out and being heard on behalf of working class female writers everywhere – she is also paving the way for others to do the same.

You can follow these people on Twitter:

Kerry Hudson @KerrysWindow

Russ Litten @RussLitten

Wrecking Ball Press @wbphull and Head In A Book @hiabhull

Hull Libraries @hull_libraries

Hull City of Culture @2017hull

Website links:

Kerry Hudson

The WoMentoring Project

Head In A Book

Wrecking Ball Press

Vintage Books

Hull City of Culture

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