An insight into the publishing world…

Posts tagged ‘writers’

Introducing Popular Author Rowan Coleman

So…I’m back!

And why have I waited until 2015 to post another interview?

To give myself some credit, there is a very good reason for this, and that is why I hope you’ll forgive the silence. You see, in August of last year, after kick-starting a very intensive job hunt for a publishing role, I received invitations to interview for 5 different publishing jobs all within the space of two weeks.

Anyone who knows me and knows just how hard I have been working towards a publishing career will know just how exciting this was for me. It was also very time-consuming and costly as all of these were outside of Hull and most of them were in London (a good 4-hour journey away on train.)

Eventually I was offered the role of Editorial Assistant at Emerald Group Publishing in Bingley (just outside of Bradford.) I don’t think I’ve ever felt so excited and happy in my life.

…Oh, and not to mention overwhelmed. The next four months consisted of finishing my notice at my current job, shopping for and buying a car, house hunting in Pontefract (equidistant from Hull and Bingley), moving to a new city, and starting a brand new (exciting but challenging) career in a strange new location. All at the same time. I was physically and mentally exhausted. Something had to give, and unfortunately it was this blog.

However…

In the midst of all this, my close friend and published children’s author Annie Dalton (whose interview you can read here) managed to help me get in contact with some very established and successful people in the publishing and literature world in order to conduct interviews with them. This is how I managed to get an interview with none other than Rowan Coleman, author of The Memory Book. The Memory Book recently won the Seal of Approval from the Richard and Judy Book Club (and for a good reason – the book is amazing. My next book review will be on The Memory Book.)

Needless to say, I am so very excited that she agreed to do an interview for my blog. This is a Big Deal for me. As a newbie blog writer and interviewer, I may not be the best, but Rowan’s personality springs from the pages through whatever she writes, so this interview is well worth a read as a sneak peak into her life and work. Enjoy!

Rowan Coleman

Rowan Coleman

Can you tell me how you got into writing, and then how you initially got published?

I’ve been into storytelling and writing stories since I was a child, but my first publishing deal came after I entered and won Company Magazine’s Young Writer of the Year short story competition. Winning was not only a huge boost to my confidence, but it also opened doors to agents and publishers and set me on the road to getting my first novel published.

Did you always want to be a writer?

I have always had my head stuck firmly in the clouds making up stories, but I think I didn’t realise that that translated into being a writer until I was in my late teens – early twenties. And really it wasn’t a firm ambition until I was in my late twenties. I always thought it would be an impossible dream.

Tell us a little bit about your novel The Memory Book.

The Memory Book is the story of Claire, who at the age of around 40 is diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer’s Disease. It sounds like it could be depressing, but really it’s a book about love, in all its forms, but especially maternal love. It’s about learning to live in the moment, to grab hold of life and make sure you leave a legacy behind in the form of happy memories.

The Memory Book, part of Richard and Judy's Summer Book Club 2014.

The Memory Book, part of Richard and Judy’s Summer Book Club 2014.

You’ve just won the Richard and Judy Seal of Approval. What does this mean for you and your career?

Personally it means a great deal to me. It’s something that I think every writer secretly dreams of, and it’s a real boost to my confidence. Professionally it means that hopefully my books will reach a wider audience, and that more people will read The Memory Book. I really hope so!

Which of your (many) awards are you most proud of and why?

I think the award that has the fondest place in my heart is the award for Best Romantic Read from The Festival of Romance. It came at a difficult time in my life, and it meant so much to me. It really helped me pick myself up and dust myself off, and get on with doing what I love.

How important do you find social media to be in the life and career of a published writer?

It’s a great place to meet readers and make writer friends. I think you need to treat it as a kind of virtual cafe, and not constantly try and sell, sell, sell – though all writers have to do that now and then, because our publishers make us!

Do you believe authors need a strong online presence in today’s climate?

Yes, I think a strong online presence for anyone who isn’t already very well established is very important.

How do you deal with this while juggling a large workload and even larger family?

Badly!

Did your life experiences as a mother change your outlook on life? Did it affect your writing at all?

The moment you become a parent the world is a much scarier place. Interestingly, I had my first child shortly before my first novel Growing Up Twice was published, so apart from that book, I’ve always been a mother and a writer at the same time. I don’t think motherhood affected my writing directly so much, but I do think my books have gradually grown up with me.

You also write under the name of Scarlett Bailey, whose writing you describe as more ‘comedic’ in your blog. What do you feel are the benefits of writing under another name?

Well, I think it’s just nice for me to have a very fun romcom persona. I love writing the Scarlett books, they make me laugh a lot, and I love the sort of slightly fantastical and whimsical element in them. It’s very freeing as a writer. The simple reason I write them under another name is that they are very different from my Rowan books, and it’s easy for readers to know what they are getting when they pick one up.

How about the disadvantages? 

Well, Scarlett is very demanding and bossy, and keeps borrowing my clothes!

Which (if any) of your works are you most proud of and why?

Very hard to say! I am proud of that fact that last year I republished a short novella called Woman Walks into a Bar from which 100% of my profits were given to the charity Refuge. I haven’t reached my £10K yet, but I am slowly getting there.

What type of literature do you most enjoy reading?

I love reading, and like most readers, any sort of book can catch my eye. Recently I’ve really enjoyed The Girl with All the Gifts, Dr Sleep, The Killer Next Door, Where Love Lies and The Accident.

Would you say there are any themes running through all of your books, or do they each deal with their own unique themes?

I suppose if there is one theme running through my books it would be it is never too late to make the change that will make you happy.

What advice would you give as a successful writer for others just starting in the industry?

Write every day, if you can. Commit to writing, treat it like a profession, show the industry that you are serious about what you are doing, and be polite – really polite, all of the time. The publishing industry is a small world. Everyone knows everyone.

What are the biggest changes you’ve noticed in the publishing industry since you started writing?

Well, I suppose that would have to be the rise of ebooks and Amazon, which in wake of the demise of the Net Book Agreement means that readers never want to pay full price for a book, and actually they’d like to pay less than the cost of a cup of tea or certainly a greetings card. This is hard to bear for writers who try and earn a living creating quality fiction, but someone let the genie out of the bottle, and now we all have to live with it! It also means that there are greater opportunities for writers who might not always be traditionally published, and many are carving out great careers for themselves, so there is always a bright side.

Follow Rowan Coleman on Twitter @rowancoleman

See what Richard and Judy have to say about The Memory Book here

Find out more about Rowan Coleman here.

Have you read any of Rowan Coleman’s work? Please discuss this with me in the comments below!

Advertisements

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

Tag Cloud