It is such a pleasure to extend a hearty Kyrosmagica Welcome to my good friend, author, blogger, Hugh W. Roberts.
Hugh W. Robert’s debut short story book Glimpses has just been launched in time for Christmas. Isn’t that just too wonderful for words? You can see from Hugh’s face that he is speechless. But, I’ll be coaxing him with lots and lots of questions and Hugh will be spilling the beans on what it’s like to hold a copy of your very first book.
Hugh, unfold those arms…. and proudly take a copy in your hands.
Here it is in all its loveliness, isn’t that cover just so eye-catching? Excuse the pun. But it really is. I do so love a pretty book cover.
Glimpses – Synopsis
After publishing some of his short stories on his blog, Hugh W. Roberts, who suffers from dyslexia, received numerous requests to publish his short stories in a book.
Here, at last, are 28 short stories that will take your mind on a rollercoaster of a ride into worlds that conceal unexpected twists and turns.
‘Glimpses’ allows the reader a peek into the lives of everyday people who are about to have life lead them on an unpredicted path. From a mysterious deadly iPad app, to a hole in the fence that is not all it seems, to a strange lipstick that appears to have a life of its own, you will encounter terror, laughter, sadness, shock and many other emotions on journeys which promise a thrilling and gripping climax.
If you are a lover of shows such as ‘The Twilight Zone’ and ‘Tales Of The Unexpected’, then you’re in for a real treat with this first collection of short stories from Hugh.
Dare you take a glimpse into the lives of these unsuspecting characters?
Author Question time….
Marje @ Kyrosmagica: Who is author, (isn’t that exciting!) Hugh W Roberts?
I’m a 50 something dyslexic man who recently moved back to my homeland, Wales. I live with my civil partner, John, (we’ve been together for 23 years and became civil partners in 2006) and our Cardigan Welsh Corgi, Toby. We now live in Swansea, but during my life I have lived in various parts of the UK, including London where I lived for 27 years. I’m retired and spend most of my time writing. I also enjoy photography, walking, cycling, food, watching TV, and the odd glass or two of red wine.
Marje @ Kyrosmagica: How did you feel when you held your book Glimpses for the first time?
It was an amazing feeling. Unfortunately, I was the only one in the house when it arrived, but I could not stop myself from opening the package and seeing my book. Seeing your name on the front cover of the book you’ve worked so hard on is one of the best experiences of my life. From the title of an ABBA song, ‘I had a dream,’ as a young child I had a dream to write a book. Being dyslexic stopped me, but when I discovered the world of blogging in 2014, my dream opened a new door.
Marje @ Kyrosmagica: I love your book cover art, Hugh, what made you choose this particular design?
George, my book cover designer, was introduced to me by Geoff Le Pard. I had all sorts of crazy ideas of what I wanted on the cover, but George came up with the idea of a bookcase and an eye which completely captured the idea of the title of the book. I loved it, and all the ideas I had were shot down. I’ve had fantastic comments about the cover. I only hope that the book can carry on and get the same praise.
Marje @ Kyrosmagica: Tell me all about the writing process that culminated in Glimpses.
It started back in April 2014 when I published my first short story on my blog. The story, ‘Last Train to Aldwych’, is the first story in the book. It got some amazing comments and I was asked to write some more. Gradually, I built up over 30 more, but it wasn’t until my short story ‘The Truth App, went viral that the idea of putting all the stories into a book came to me. Yes, people had asked me if I was going to publish the stories in a book, but I honestly thought people were just being polite. How wrong I was.
Marje @ Kyrosmagica: I believe there are 28 stories in various genres, what made you write such an eclectic mix?
Like my blog, I wanted the stories to be a variety of genres. Most of them show the dark side of my writing, but that doesn’t mean to say I had to stick to writing horror or supernatural stories.
I weaved my trademark ‘unexpected ending’s into drama, comedy and fantasy and people loved them. I’ve always believed that variety is the spice of life, so I’m hoping the book will appeal to lots of people and not just those who stick to a certain genre.
Marje @ Kyrosmagica: Are you a plotter or a pantser? What style suits you best and why?
Without a doubt, I’m a panster. Sometimes, I know what the ending of a story is going to be and I then go about writing it from the end to the start. However, most of the stories I have written start with an idea and I’ve no idea where the story is going to take me. For example, ‘The Truth App’, was meant to be a short story of around 1,200 words, but I ended up writing another nine parts which I published on a weekly basis because readers had such a big appetite for it. During those nine weeks, I had no idea where the story was going until it finally concluded in part 10.
Marje @ Kyrosmagica: Has blogging influenced your writing style?
Yes. If it wasn’t for blogging then I would have never written any of the short stories in Glimpses, let alone all those posts over on my blog. I owe blogging a lot and will be forever grateful for the turn in direction it offered me.
Marje @ Kyrosmagica: I’d love to find out more about some of the stories included. Do you have a favourite snippet you could share?
That’s a tough question, Marje. A favourite? Well, as it’s you, here’s a snippet from a story I wrote as part of a writing challenge I participated in. The challenge was a photo of a big old wooden chest and participants were asked to write a piece of fiction or poem about it. I called the story ‘Gloria’s Chest.’ I wonder if you can guess where the story is going?
Let me take you on a journey to a magical place. This is a place where many come. Some even make a return visit. It’s a beautiful location and a place where you will receive the friendliest of welcomes.
Meet Gloria. Isn’t she beautiful? Look at those deep blue eyes and her lovely long, white dress. It’s made from paper. I know it’s hard to believe, but it’s the softest paper you’ll ever find.
What’s that? Oh, I thought you’d ask about that. The gem stone that hangs from the chain around Gloria’s neck is the Swarthmore stone. It’s believed to have been unearthed in the year 1568, in the Furness area of the county of Cumbria, in north west England. Everybody that comes here asks about it.
Let’s follow Gloria. She has something very important she wants to show you. While we walk please feel free to admire the surroundings and take in the relaxing atmosphere. I promise you that you’ll never see such a beautiful place as the one you are in right now.
Is Gloria a ghost? No, I can assure you she’s not. She’s exactly the same as you and me. I know it looks as if she’s floating, but she’s real. Can you hear the beautiful singing? It’s Gloria who is singing. It’s one of her favourite Beatles songs. She’s happy today that you’ve come to visit her.
Here we are at our final destination. Everything you see here is just as real as what you’ve already seen. I know that old chest looks out of place, but it’s what Gloria wants to show you. Please step forward and stand next to her and she’ll open the lid.
Marje @ Kyrosmagica: Hugh, that’s such an extraordinarily enticing snippet and your photos are so amusing! But, it’s time for another question…
Marje @ Kyrosmagica: Which character from your stories are you most proud of and why?
I love all of them, but if I had to pick one then it would be ‘Rusty Balls’ from my story ‘Rusty’. Rusty is not who you think she is and was created from another writing challenge I participated in. I can’t remember what the prompt was but it may have been to write about something that was not all it seemed to be. I don’t think anyone could dislike Rusty (the person). When you read the story, you may feel very sorry for her, but Rusty is a determined lady and she’ll do all she can to carry on being the star of the show. People love her because she makes them laugh and forget about the parts of everyday life that we all often find ourselves in and wish we could be away from. I’ve been asked to bring Rusty back into some more stories. It’s something I’m working on.
Marje @ Kyrosmagica: Rusty sounds fantastic, can’t wait to read about her…
Marje @ Kyrosmagica: Like all writers you must have met the odd brick wall of frustration from time to time. How did you deal with it?
I get up and go for a walk. I’ll go and watch TV, or read. What I don’t do is get all frustrated and angry about it. It happens to all writers but, for me, getting angry and shouting and screaming about it is negative and I’m a firm believer than negativity leads to even more negativity. It’s probably easy for me to say because I’ve always been a positive person, but I find taking a break away from writing usually helps oil the creativity clogs and, before I know it, they’re turning again.
Marje @ Kyrosmagica: Promotion – Harrods have named their Christmas bear after you. What an honour wouldn’t you agree?
Well, I’d love to think this year’s Harrods Christmas Bear was named after me but, truth be known, I rather think somebody in their marketing department probably has a son, nephew, dad, uncle, or granddad named Hugh. When I first heard, he was called Hugh, I thought the person telling me was having a joke, but then my partner got the bear for me and, sure enough, his tag says ‘Hugh’. Yes, quite an honour, especially as it’s happened the same year that I have published my first book.
Marje @ Kyrosmagica: Tell me about inspiration, perhaps certain authors or individuals have inspired you, do tell.
I’ve already mentioned writing challenges and most do inspire me to write. In fact, I also believe they can help when it comes to overcoming writer’s block. I love looking at photographs because I can often see a story hidden within them. If I had to choose an author who inspired me then it would be Armistead Mauplin who wrote the ‘Tales of the City’ series. Rod Serling, creator of ‘The Twilight Zone’ is also somebody who inspires my writing and whom I admire.
Marje @ Kyrosmagica: I hear that you are a big fan of Christmas, the Harrods’s bear, told me! Was it your intention to publish during the festive season?
Yes, big time. I’ve always enjoyed the festive season. December is my favourite month and I was determined to publish my first book during it.
Marje @ Kyrosmagica: As a dyslexic writer what would you say to fellow dyslexic creatives considering publishing a book?
Don’t allow dyslexia to stop you from writing and publishing a book. I allowed it to stop me from writing for far too long. There are many reasons why I did that, but there is so much support and encouragement out there for people with dyslexia to write Anybody with the condition should never be afraid in showing off their writing. Once you do it, not only will you amaze yourself, but you’ll be an encouragement to other dyslexic writers and will help them in pursuing their dreams of becoming a writer.
Marje @ Kyrosmagica: What advice would you give to bloggers contemplating joining in the next Bloggers Bash?
Don’t be afraid in coming to the event. It’s great making friends online, but nothing beats meeting fellow bloggers for the first time and giving them a hug. I think we should have the bloggers bash at least twice a year, but don’t tell the other committee members that!
Great answers Hugh, and I agree so much with your last two comments, don’t let anything stop you writing and we definitely should make the Bloggers Bash, a biannual event.
To celebrate the launch of Glimpses Hugh is offering six wonderful Amazon gift prizes. Follow the link here to find out more : Hughs Views and News Competition
Please do support Hugh and buy a copy of his book, and if you could share a review even better…
Universal buying link for Glimpses: http://hyperurl.co/42ou22
A very interesting interview on The Story Reading Ape about our very own Judy Martin, (blogging as the delightfully witty and engaging Edwina’s Episodes,) who has recently released a poetry book – Rhymes of The Times. Do share and spread the word.
What a privilege it is to be here on Chris’ blog amongst all these wonderful people. It is a wonderful opportunity for me to tell you a little about myself.
Well, my name is Judy. Actually, it is Judith but no one EVER calls me that, except perhaps my mum when I was younger and she was mad. My family and most of my friends call me Jude except one of my nieces who calls me Scrude sometimes (she likes to rhyme as well)! I get a bit cross though if my nieces and nephews they forget to add the ‘aunty’ on most of the time (even though some of them are in their 30s)!
Talking of my family, I am the second youngest of six children, which meant that I didn’t really get much of a chance to get a word in edgeways, especially as I was a shy…
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The autumn of 1705 brings Royal Navy Captain Gabriel Wallace to face off against an enemy within the ranks of the Admiralty itself that threatens his career, his reputation, his family, and something even more far-reaching in its plot.
Court-martialed and with Admiral Chambers, the mastermind fearfully known as the Chambers of Hell, out for his destruction, Wallace finds he has allies willing to face the might of the mightiest power on earth, with some allies in the most unlikely of places. The crew of his former command, the Majesty’s Venture, mutinies from the Royal Navy. With capture by his enemies close behind, Wallace agrees to become captain once again.
With a ship at his command, Captain Gabriel Wallace sets out to fulfill his mission, the completeness of which only he knows.
Now a pirate by situation, Wallace sets out for the Colonies and the Caribbean. Will his crew remain loyal as they leave the rule of the Royal Navy behind? Will his lifelong friend, Miles Jacobs, follow Wallace blindly without knowing the whole story? Finally, will the young Lieutenant Maddox Carbonale stay under the command of Wallace or have plans to lead instead?
With these questions in his thoughts, Gabriel Wallace wages war on Chambers and goes after the largest haul in the history of the Spanish Main. Whom does Wallace meet along the way? To whom are his loyalties to: vengeance or something more powerful?
If you love tales of adventure, of the sea, of the struggles of men, and nods to history, this is your book. Read Amber Wake: Gabriel Falling and you’ll have a new appreciation for all of The Razor’s Adventures Pirate Tales.
Isn’t that cover just beautiful, it certainly makes me excited to read the book, here are the links to buy a copy.
As you will know I’ve been a fan of Ronovan’s Haiku challenges for some time now… that’s how I got to know the guy. In fact Ronovan kind of introduced me to the whole haiku landscape, and for that I am indebted. I doubt that I would ever had written haiku if it wasn’t for his weekly challenge. So with that in mind I thought it would be a lovely idea to do a shout out for his new book, and some questions for him to answer..
Amber Wake sounds a fascinating historical adventure doesn’t it but how did it all come about? I was very interested to discover more about the authorial partnership between Ronovan and P.S. Bartlett, particularly as I would perhaps one day like to write a joint novel with my daughter who also writes. So my questions below focussed on the pros and cons of co-authorship.
I am curious about how you and P.S. Bartlett got together to write Amber Wake Gabriel Falling.
I believe we met through Twitter to begin with, and she offered a copy of her book, The Blue Diamond: The Razor’s Edge. I read it, liked it a lot, and did a review. I followed that up with an interview and we became friends, started exchanging emails a lot about writing and ideas. That led to the ideas of prequels to her book and for me the writing of Amber Wake: Gabriel Falling.
Do you have very different writing styles, or are you quite similar in your approach?
You may connect with Ronovan through:
Do check out Ronovan’s blog and his other links for loads more information, and of course a smashing blog to follow. Support this worthy fellow he really works hard for the blogging community.
Bye for now,
Marje @ Kyrosmagica x
Reblog of Judith Barrow’s interview on Smorgasbordinvitation.
It is my pleasure to interview an author, poet and blogger that I connected with a few months ago. She is very generous with her support of other authors and bloggers you will find a great many interesting posts on her blogs. Meet Judith Barrow and enjoy the wonderful scenery of her adopted home and her books and blog.
Judith Barrow was originally from Saddleworth, near Oldham, and has lived in Pembrokeshire, Wales, for thirty four years. She has BA (Hons) in Literature with the Open University, a Diploma in Drama from Swansea University and a MA in Creative Writing with Trinity College, Carmarthen. She has had short stories, poems, plays, reviews and articles published throughout the British Isles, notably in several Honno anthologies. Her play, It’s Friday so it must be Fish was performed at the Dylan Thomas Centre in Swansea. A short film was made of her play,
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April Author Spotlight Terry Tyler. Reblogged from Luccia Gray’s blog Rereading Jane Ayre.
April Author Spotlight 2015
Letter ‘T’ is for Terry Tyler, author of Kings and Queens
Why do I recommend Kings and Queens?
I loved the unique premise of Kings and Queens. It is an original take on the Tudors by transferring them to contemporary England. It was fun working out who the contemporary characters might have been in Tudor England, and watching how the author adapts them and their circumstances to recent times. Terry has chosen a very clever way of exposing her main character, who is denied a point of view in the novel. Various first person narrators, his wives and his best friend, each with their unique voice, tell us all about Henry Lanchester, so that we get to know Henry through the eyes of those closest to him. Another noteworthy aspect is that it brings the reader face to face with the cyclical nature of life, love, and history…
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On Saturday 18th April 2015 I heard Cathy Cassidy talk about her new novel Looking-Glass Girl, in the Cambridge Union Blue Room, Cambridge Literary Festival. I was accompanied by my youngest daughter who has read several of the Cathy Cassidy books, so she was happy to come along and hear this much admired author of her childhood. The audience consisted of lots and lots of young girls.
Cathy started off her talk by addressing the youngsters in her audience with the answer to the question that is most often asked by her fans:
What subjects did she like when she was their age?
She did like English but it wasn’t a 100% full on love. She enjoyed writing stories, but wasn’t too keen on spelling or grammar. Such excellent news and hope for all those amongst us who are bad spellers, and weak at grammar.
Cathy’s Route to Writing
After Cathy left school she started off at Art college in Liverpool, and later became an Art Teacher in a Coventry Secondary school. Her old art teacher at her childhood school wasn’t exactly inspiring, in fact he seemed a bit prehistoric. Those old school art classes seemed to be fashioned out of the “time of the dinosaur.” With the topic of teachers fresh in her mind she asked if there were any teachers in the audience who had managed to, “get through the net.” Of course, there was bound to be a teacher who had wriggled through the net, and there was, so she had to be careful. She jokingly said that, “alters what I can say to you.”
Now, this is the point in which Cathy Cassidy really switched on my listening ears, and I reckon, my daughters too, and no doubt the rest of the audience too. She said her favourite thing to do at school was daydreaming! She had been an “enthusiastic” daydreamer who got caught. Now she had devised a way not to get caught whilst daydreaming and had three daydreaming tips which she would like to share with us. Unfortunately she said that she couldn’t pass these tips on just now. There was a teacher present! So, she encouraged the youngsters in the audience to email her to get these daydreaming tips. What a lovely thought, daydreaming tips, maybe we should all have a copy of these! Cathy is a no. 1 advocate of day dreaming. She would love nothing better than for “daydreaming lessons” to be part of the classroom curriculum! In her opinion daydreaming is “never wasted.” After all, she gets paid to do it. What a lucky woman, just imagine all the fabulous places she has been to, touring, promoting her books, Beijing, Singapore, Poland, France, these were just a few of the places that she mentioned that she has been to.
She started off her writing career in Scotland. At the time she had teenagers at home who would make a lot of noise, playing musical instruments, so she resorted to writing in a shed in her garden. It was her own personal writer’s retreat. We should all have one of these, though in my case it isn’t my teenage daughters who make such a noise, it tends to be my husband! He is a teenager at heart, he always has his music up full blast or is playing one of his many guitars. I think he secretly likes it when I’m not around then he can make as much racket as he wants! Digressing a bit, oops, back to Cathy. Now Cathy has moved to Merseyside, she has an indoor writing area but she still remembers that shed with great fondness.
150th Anniversary of Alice in Wonderland
It is the 150th Anniversary of Alice in Wonderland. So not altogether surprising that Cathy the previously crowned queen of teen was approached to write a Alice themed book. She was desperate to do this “lovely challenge,” being that she had always been inspired by the Alice in Wonderland story which she had read at the age of nine. The Alice story is “like a fairy story,” which Cathy identifies with, though “perhaps Alice is braver than I.” It has this quality about it that makes it feel, “like it has always been there.” At thirteen she returned to the story again and her response was a little different, she seemed to notice a “dark, sinister,” aspect that she had overlooked when she was younger. She liked the idea of “time being really important.” I do too! Time plays a bit part in my writing too! John Tenniel’s original illustrations of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland grabbed her attention, particularly Alice’s sticky out skirt, and her wavy hair. Alice developed into quite a style icon for Cathy. It is a look that Cathy really likes and one that she still models today.
Cathy’s Childhood Reading
Cathy spent her childhood going to three different libraries a week. If you consider that she could get six library books per library that’s a lot of books! It became such a compulsion that her mother resorted to hiding Cathy’s books.
Cathy’s Favourite Book as a Child
Cathy’s favourite book as a child was Watership Down by Richard Adams. She remembers one occasion in which the coolest boy in her school came up to her and asked, “What you reading?” She had been really worried what his response would be when he saw the book, but to her surprise he said,”Watership Down is the best book.”
Cathy’s Favourite Character in her books.
Her favourite series was The Chocolate Box Girls and her favourite character in this series is Honey. Cathy likes how full on and interesting she is.
How She Started Off Her Writing Career
Cathy started off her writing career by sending stories to Jackie magazine. She sent off hundreds of stories and at the age of sixteen she received a nice rejection letter. Ironically she ended up at an interview for an Office Junior job at Jackie magazine, and became Fiction Editor.
Cathy’s publisher wanted her to write a dark and a little bit scary story, not a re-telling of the classic Alice in Wonderland story, so she came up with Alice’s Looking-Glass Girl. In the novel there is a themed party in which everything that could go wrong does go wrong. Her Alice in Looking-Glass Girl is a year 8 pupil. The novel explores jealousy, friendship problems, and bullying. The bully Savvy, intrigues Alice so much that Alice feels compelled to go to Savvy’s Alice themed party even though this is most probably asking for a shed load of trouble! I like the sound of a bully intriguing you, that’s an interesting way to go.
Goodreads Synopsis of Looking-Glass Girl
To celebrate the 150th anniversary of Alice in Wonderland, a compelling modern-day re-imagining of Alice’s story by every girl’s favourite author, Cathy Cassidy. Alice is thrilled when Savannah invites her to a Wonderland-themed sleepover; she’s wanted to join this circle of friends for so long. Finally, she’s fitting in. But an accident suddenly changes everything and Alice is rushed to hospital. As her friends and family rally round, a mystery begins to unravel. Was Alice pushed, and why – who would want to hurt her? Can her loved ones – and the gorgeous boy who doesn’t want to leave her side – help Alice survive? Looking-Glass Girl is the stunning new book from Cathy Cassidy, an unforgettable tale of friendship and love from one of the UK’s best-loved authors. Cathy Cassidy is Puffin’s top-selling author for girls. She was an art teacher, a magazine editor and an agony aunt before becoming a full-time writer. She has worked at Shout magazine and previously at Jackie, the magazine named after Jacqueline Wilson. Cathy tours extensively around the UK – meeting over 10,000 young readers in 2012. She has twice won the prestigious ‘Queen of Teen’ award. Cathy lives with her husband, two teenage children, two dogs, two cats and a rabbit.
Cathy’s Writing Process
Cathy doesn’t tend to plan much, she uses methods that work best for a “visual person like me,” such as drawing, creating a collage of the “world of characters,” as well as the daydreaming method to come up with her characters. The story plays out like a “movie that runs through my mind.” She writes directly onto her laptop. I don’t plot much either Cathy so with you on that one!
The Inspiring Force
Her father was the inspiring force behind her writing. He repaired cars but he was a big believer in dreaming. He supported and believed in Cathy. We all need someone like this to inspire and guide us.
Her Daizy Star books are based on herself, and the covers and illustrations are done by Cathy.
A Bit of a Secret
There were lots of girls with the name Catherine in her class in school. So nowadays she likes to steal cool interesting names at her book signings. What a great idea! So next time Cathy asks you to sign her book, you’ll know that she’s up to mischief!
Such An Inspiring Talk
It was an amazingly inspiring talk. I really enjoyed it. I thought Cathy was a wonderful speaker. I’ve always been enthralled by the fantasy element in the Alice in Wonderland story. Cathy delivered a “you believe in you,” talk and a remember to daydream message that are so incredibly important. As we left the talk my daughter and I talked about daydreaming, she said that she liked to doodle in the margins of her workbooks but not all her teachers appreciated this creative artistry! That’s a shame as she is a visual person too, who likes creative pastimes such as photography, art, textiles, and writing.These childlike daydreaming qualities are often forgotten when we become adults but these attributes are the ones that allow us to explore our creative side fully. I shall have to doodle again! So next time you find yourself daydreaming, allow yourself to drift off, you never know where it might take you.
Cathy’s Blogzine: http://cathycassidydreamcatcher.blogspot.co.uk/
In this Blogzine there are lots of opportunities for young readers to contribute, and to write reviews of her books.
A very interesting About Me page: http://www.cathycassidy.com/me
Her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/cathycassidyauthor
150th Anniversary of Alice in Wonderland: http://lewiscarrollresources.net/2015/
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On Sunday 19th April 2015 I arrived in time for the Cambridge Literary Festival Publishing in the Digital Age talk in The Cambridge Union Blue Room. Luckily I just managed to catch my bus by a hair’s whisker or else I would have been late. There were two speakers, Rachel Colbert, of Headline Press, and Mary-Ann Harrington, from Tinder Press. Tinder Press was launched two years ago in 2013 as Headline’s literary imprint, “a place where classy, intelligent writing could thrive.” Mary-Ann enthusiastically has managed to acquire lots of lovely authors for this fairly new imprint, including Mary O’Farrell, their launch title author of Instructions for a Heatwave, Helen Walsh, author of The Lemon Grove, and Eowyn Ivey debut author of Snow Child, to name but a few. “Snow Child became an international bestseller. It was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize 2013, and Eowyn won the International Author of the Year category at the 2012 National Book Awards.”
Headline is a long-established publishing house, having been around since 1986, so Rachel asked Mary-Ann why had they chosen these troubled times to start a new imprint?
For Mary-Ann it felt like “the logical next step,” they felt “hungry to do more,” and books such as Snow Child were out there waiting to be discovered and to be successful in terms of sales. She wanted to create a small imprint of ten to twelve titles in which world of mouth would drive both debut authors and established authors success. These authors would then be given the prestige that Literary authors deserve. This small focus meant that these titles could become “reading group fiction,” or “word of mouth fiction,” and could be delivered into the right hands. There would be continuing support for these authors. A strategy was developed to find the perfect readers and advocates of these books, ensuring that this prestigious literature was placed into the right hands. The focus was on keeping it “special,” “small,” “diverse,” and “building up relationships.” With this strategy in place books could be issued to the booksellers, bloggers, and writers to endorse them. “Trust” was the key.
Rachel asked about opportunities for new writers given that the number of independent book retailers had now fallen drastically to less than one thousand shops.
Mary-Ann began by saying that yes it is a difficult marketplace. There are challenges, and threats but there are also opportunities. The high street chains are troubled so launching debuts is a difficult task. Booksellers have to think of new and exciting initiatives to generate interest. Tinder Press is passionate about championing new writers such as Sarah Leipciger debut author of The Mountain Can Wait.
Rachel continued to discuss this topic, she suggested that debut authors do have an advantage in some ways.
Mary-Ann was quick to agree, new authors are seen as “promising,” and intriguing, therefore they get a fair amount of publicity and attention. Readers love nothing better than finding new authors.
Next Rachel explored the rise of Digital Books.
Mary-Ann argued that for an established literary author e-books are a good method to generate sales. With debut literary fiction the book needs to be seen, reviewed, and recommended so the traditional publishing route is better. She mentioned “the importance of a book as a physical object.” Yet that doesn’t mean that Mary-Ann isn’t aware of the current trends in self-publishing. On the contrary she mentioned that she, ” is very interested in self-publishing.” She suggested that authors taking the self-publishing route should put energy into their marketing, to make as much of an impact as possible.If they are successful it can pay off and they can be signed by major publishers. Again, it’s about creating relationships, and making sure that your material, the book itself, the cover, your social media presence is of the highest quality. Next, they talked about kindle. The focus centred firmly on hard work, creating an amazing profile, blog, and making sure that your on-line marketing strategy is first class.
Rachel had a tip for those who intend to publish to e-books. In traditional publishing there might be some empty blank pages in the opening pages of a physical book before the story begins. With e-books this is unnecessary, so make sure that you don’t have a lot of empty pages at the beginning of your e-book, start straight into the story, put any other pages at the back of the book.
For a successful self published book to be picked up by a traditional publishing house it would have had to have sold in the region of 50,000 plus copies. That’s a lot of books! Of course they do keep an eye on the progress of self-published books. It is worth trying as many agencies as possible when looking to publish your book. Explore many avenues to get your work read, write short stories, and flash fiction, these are all an excellent idea. If you’re going directly to a publisher make sure that they know that you are confident in your intention, and that you wish to bypass the lengthy process to get your books straight into the publisher’s hands. Mary added that without an agent publishing is extremely hard, you must put time and energy into it. “Persistence” is the key.
Rachel felt that YA and Children’s literature is a growing area so possibly the market is not quite so saturated. Again check guidelines when submitting to publishers, agents, and follow them very carefully. Do not give them any excuse to ignore your submission, which will most probably be the case if you make mistakes.
Mary-Ann mentioned that Tinder Press is an imprint which publishes “international” books, an example which she cited is an Australian novel: Stephanie Bishop’s UK debut, The Other Side Of The World. This is a beautifully written literary novel. Novels such as these provoke the word “love” to readily come into the conversation when she pitches these kind of books in-house. These special books thrive with writer’s endorsements, and there is a “reproduction effect” as each reader experiences a powerful, personal response when reading the book, which is then reproduced over and over again.
Next the topic moved on to new writers and the Submissions process
Mary-Ann is one of three editors at Tinder Press. They look for a publishing model that is full of enthusiasm. There must be a strong narrative hook to provoke an emotive response. Though, sometimes a quieter novel might come along that still captures the editor’s attention because it is so wonderfully written or is a bit different. They look for books with engaging stories that leave you with a “strong feeling,” that you “want to share,” they might have “a strong international flavour.” Tinder Press wants their readers to be challenged.
When submitting Mary-Ann suggests that the most important consideration to bear in mind is the “kernel of the book.” This is so important. The author should be able to tell their story in a couple of sentences that are so memorable that the editor will sit up and take notice and ultimately the reader will want to go on this fictional journey. It is also helpful if editors are able to see that the submitting author has a social media presence. Long established authors don’t necessarily have to, but new writers are encouraged to do so. To be a member of a writer’s group, or to have successfully taken part in writing competitions, anything along these lines will give the editor a sense of the writers capabilities. But, don’t rely on this alone, first and foremost it is the book itself that will drive the editor’s decision whether to accept it.
New authors are given excellent advice from the in-house Tinder publicist about building good relationships. This community of support is very important. Mary-Ann recommended looking at the way that successful authors conduct their social media, use some of these as a model to get ideas.
In March Tinder had an open submission for two weeks from unagented authors. This is now closed. Their publicist did such a good job in publicising the event that they received a whopping 2,000 submissions. They anticipate that they will find an author from this process. When submissions are open, they hope that the successful author will have all the necessary skills to be accepted straight away. Though Mary-Ann did say that if they find an author with promise they would be prepared to mentor that author.
A member of the audience asked if they take submissions from non-fiction writers.
They may take one submission from a non-fiction writer, they would be interested in memoir.
So, what did I think about Publishing in The Digital Age?
I’m so glad I went to the talk. I discovered lots of new exciting Literary Fiction, and also I gained some insight into the workings of the submissions process. It was well worth it. If you’re interested in books and/or writing I’d highly recommend attending a Literary Festival, it is inspiring and so much fun.
How many of us would classify ourselves as normal? Is there even such a thing? If there is do we even want to be normal?
Lisa Williamson’s talk at the Cambridge Literary Festival on Saturday 18th April 2015 was held in the Cambridge Union Blue Room. The proceedings were kicked off in very ebullient style by James Dawson, YA author, of several novels including: Say Her Name, Hollow Pike, Cruel Summer, and This Book is Gay. James eloquently set about reminding us that this talk wasn’t about himself but was in fact about Lisa Williamson, the debut author of The Art of Being Normal.
Lisa began her talk by reading the first chapter of her very well received YA novel: The Art of Being Normal. This chapter only consisted of one paragraph and three short lines, but that’s all she needed to capture the audience’s attention:
“One afternoon, when I was eight years old, my class was told to write about what we wanted to be when we grew up. Miss Box went round the class, asking each one of us to stand up and share what we had written. Zachary Olsen wanted to play in the Premier League. Lexi Taylor wanted to be an actress. Henry Beaumont planned on being Prime Minister. Simon Allen wanted to be Harry Potter, so badly that the previous term he had scratched a lightning bolt on to his forehead with a pair of craft scissors.
But I didn’t want to be any of these things.
This is what I wrote:
I want to be a girl.”
She went on to tell the audience about David, the fourteen year old boy in her novel who is going through puberty. Puberty is difficult enough if you are happy in your body, but if you are a boy who wants to be a girl can you even begin to imagine how difficult that must be? David befriends a new boy called Leo. They form an unlikely friendship. Leo is a bit rough around the edges, and his background is different from David’s, Leo lives in a council estate. This novel is principally about Transgender but it is also a novel about friendship. It sounds to me as if The Art of Being Normal would appeal to a wide range of young YA enthusiasts, and older people like myself who love to read YA, and appreciate a good story about friendship.
Lisa Williamson is not Transgender so how did she come to write about Transgender issues? She is an actress, acting under the name Lisa Cassidy, you may have seen her in the John Lewis commercial, playing Monty the penguin. Of course acting in this particular commercial didn’t inspire her to write about Transgender, this happened quite by chance. She worked a variety of temporary office jobs until she found herself temping in the NHS Tavistock, in the Gender Identity Department. This job was a lucky strike. She typed up notes about Transgender kids, and enjoyed it so much that she decided to work full time in this role. Through this process Lisa began to realise that Transgender kids are “normal,” that they are “just regular kids,” who are unrepresented in YA literature. This lack of representation is remarkable considering the fact that they are “more common than red hair,” as James Dawson puts it. Lisa was nervous about her workplace reaction, and didn’t tell them at the time that she was writing a book about Transgender.
Lisa didn’t use a real Transgender person’s story rather she assimilated various stories and came up with the character of David. Her writing process started with fleshing out the characters rather than focussing on the workings of the plot. James Dawson remarked that the gruff Leo was his “favourite” character!
Lisa is fascinated with “abandoned places,” and the “bleak seaside,” and this shows in the choice of some of the locations in The Art of Being Normal.
Without a doubt it has been an amazing experience for this debut author. From listening to her talk one gets the sense of her feeling responsible for the welfare of the Transgender community. She received a message from one reader who said, that I: ” Don’t feel like I need to hide away anymore.” How wonderful to have had that kind of a positive impact on a young person. She hopes that the book will “change your perception,” and that the “book will speak for itself.”
Of course considering the fact that she is not Transgender herself there were bound to be cries of: “What right does she have to write about this?” But James Dawson argued quite rightly that yes you, “Have to write about characters that are not you.” Who wants to read about themselves? Nobody!
Lisa Williamson’s book was published on the 1st January, so soon after all the excitement of the Christmas festivities. In fact it was such a stressful time that Lisa felt like her eyebrows were falling out, to which James Dawson quipped, that she “can put her eyebrows back on now!”
What about a second book? Somehow this is difficult, the second book is “hell,” there are many pressures, currently she is working on idea six or seven. James Dawson was quick to support her with the encouraging words, ‘Take your time, its fine.” By the time you get to the third book you can relax. No doubt by then, I reckon, Lisa’s eyebrows will have completely recovered their former glory.
An audience member asked about the impact of social media on Transgender kids. Overall both Lisa Williamson and James Dawson seemed to feel that social media is a positive force, and a brilliant resource. This kind of on-line help wasn’t available to young gay men when James Dawson was growing up. Now there is a wealth of on-line resources for authors to connect with and support each other, and for kids to get the help and advice that they need on all sorts of LBGT issues.
Lisa has chosen YA as a means of expression because she loves YA, she believes that YA allows the author to be right there, “pushing boundaries, exploring.” I agree. YA literature showcases a time when everything is fresh and new, but also a time when life is filled with many difficult decisions and issues for the young people she is writing about.
Would the novel have been such a success if it had not been about Transgender issues? Of course the Transgender was a hook, a definite way to get attention, people are fascinated by the unusual, the “unlikely gang,” as James Dawson puts it. There haven’t been many books on this topic, it is so unrepresented, this is also true of LBGT in general.
Lisa’s Williamson’s talk was thoroughly illuminating. I attended with my two teenage daughters, both of whom enjoyed it very much. At the end we went off to buy a copy of the book, and wondered what to ask Lisa Williamson to write at the book signing. Should we ask her to write all our individual names, or ask her to address it to the Mallon family? That sounded a bit ridiculous Addams family like, so we ended up giggling in YA fashion in the signing queue, and opted for all our names to be added individually. Lisa signed the book with a flourish, and in her black pen she highlighted the word normal in a black rectangular box. Some of us might prefer not to be thought of as “normal,” we might like to be a bit special and unique, but some amongst us are just longing to be “normal” as we can and to fit in. We are all a little different, and deserve to be respected for who we are, regardless of our sexual orientation, gender, transgender, race and religion, and long may it remain so.
About the author (via Goodreads)
Lisa was born in Nottingham in 1980. She spent most of her childhood drawing, daydreaming and making up stories in her head (but never getting round to writing them down). As a teenager she was bitten by the acting bug and at 19 moved to London to study drama at university.
Following graduation, Lisa adopted the stage name of Lisa Cassidy and spent several happy and chaotic years occasionally getting paid to pretend to be other people. Between acting roles she worked as an office temp and started making up stories all over again, only this time she had a go at writing them down.
Lisa lives near Hampstead Heath with her boyfriend Matt, where she is lucky enough to split her time between writing and acting. In her spare time she reads a lot of books, continues to daydream and eats way too much ice cream.
I’m delighted to Welcome Ian Probert to Kyrosmagica for a lively Q & A session. Lovely photo Ian. Very casual. That floor is spotless. So, first things first let’s start off with the preliminaries, the getting to know you questions, before I start to tease you into revealing more.
Where do you live now? If you could live anywhere in the world where would that one place be?
I live in Islington and I couldn’t think of anywhere better to live. I’m a bit like Douglas Adams. He was an Islingtonophile. I interviewed him at his house once but ended up spending the afternoon listening to Randy Newman. It was enough to put me off Randy Newman for life. We spoke a lot about John Lennon. He had a bootleg of Real Love, which the ‘threatles’ eventually made into a pretty terrible single. It was a bog shock when he died. But then when isn’t it?
Have you always known that you wanted to write? When did you start writing? Did you have a Eureka moment or did you just come to it gradually?
I’m going to sound big-headed but at school I was only good at two things: Art and English. As a kid I filled exercise books up with terrible stories about vampires. However, as a working class kid growing up in Bristol writing was what other people did. As such I had a succession of dead end jobs until one day I found a typewriter and sent something off to a magazine. I was lucky that the first thing I ever wrote was published. These days I’m more used to rejection.
What inspired you to write? Favourite authors maybe, and/or some other more mysterious source of inspiration/influences?
My first professional job was writing letters to fellow students’ banks at art college. I was paid in beer and discovered that I was really good at it. Inspiration? Well I can give you a list of people that I like: Brett Easton Ellis, Paul Auster, H E Todd to name a few off the top of my head. But they weren’t the inspiration. The inspiration was LIFE. Like most people I occasionally have something to say. I find that I can communicate better through the written word. I’m crap at talking. I splutter and sound like an idiot. My wife is great at this. She tears me to pieces in an argument.
Kyrosmagica – Me too, I communicate better through the written word too. Speaking is much, much harder.
If you could summarise your love of writing in one sentence what would that sentence be?
I’d paraphrase Joseph Turner. ‘Writing is a rummy business.’
What kind of special qualities do you think a writer possesses? Apart from a touch of madness!
A writer or a GOOD writer? There’s a big difference. We all have differing opinions of course, but to me a real writer should be able to hit the ground running. To engage the reader from the first sentence and, more importantly, to make the reader forget that they are actually reading. To me it’s never been about the number of words you know, or where you place the commas. It’s how you present your ideas. It’s ideas that make a writer, not words.
Do you follow any particular routine of writing? Are you a structured writer? Or do you just throw caution to the wind?
I’m completely unstructured. I work when I feel like it at any time of the day or night until I start to bore myself. If I’m bored so will the reader be. That’s not to say that I don’t admire people such as Nick Hornby and Zadie Smith who, I believe, rent offices and treat writing like a 9-5 job. It’s horses for courses.
Kyrosmagica – I’m unstructured too. So identify 100% on that one.
Would you consider yourself an introvert, extrovert, a people person or an animal lover? Sorry, for the silly question but I reckon a lot of writers are animal lovers, and well there seems to be two writing camps, shy writers and more outgoing ones, and those who are just plain obsessed with their dogs and cats. Or a family man perhaps? Just trying to get a handle on you as a person.
Who is Ian Probert?
I’m old enough to recognise and to have come to terms with the fact that I’m completely weird. My wife sees it too. So do other people who know me. I seem to spend most of my life trying to put up a normal front that people will find acceptable. I’m certainly not alone in this. I’m a curious combination of incredible egotist and whimpering insecure baby. A compliment can make me a friend for life, a criticism can make me reach for the switchblade. Years ago a journo at the Big Issue gave one of my books a bad review. I actually waited outside their offices intent on taking it up with him personally. Thankfully he
didn’t appear. Do I like animals? Not really. I don’t understand them. I can see that as a species we have a deep rooted, fundamental urge to enjoy a symbiotic relationship with other creatures; but me, I’d rather have a Playstation. You don’t have to feed it. It doesn’t need walking. It doesn’t cover your clothes in hair. And you don’t have to organise people to look after it when you take a holiday. You can’t play video games on a pet either.
Kyrosmagica – I admire your bravery. All those pet lovers out there will be incensed. Yes, incensed!
What made you write Johnny Nothing? Was the book born out of a sense of boredom, or dissatisfaction with life?
Well it’s been pretty well documented elsewhere that I was very ill for about 15 years and I wasn’t able to write. I was close to death. When I finally got better I had a creative burst of energy and wanted to write something for my ten-year-old daughter, who didn’t have much of an idea that I used to write for a living. It ended up – I hope – being for kids and adults. I think it’s actually a fairly political book. Although naturally there are lots of fart jokes.
Kyrosmagica – So sorry to hear about your illness Ian. Glad you got through it. Must have been dreadful, fifteen years. You deserved one heck load of a creative burst of energy after suffering that long. Oh and what a combination! Politics and Wind. Sounds about right!
How important do you think a title is? How did you choose the title of Johnny Rotten and your other books?
A title is very important. Which is why I didn’t call the book ‘Johnny Rotten’. Had I done that I may well have attracted an audience of ageing punk rockers, which wouldn’t have been such a bad thing. However, I wanted to attract kids. So I called the book ‘Johnny Nothing.’
See what I mean? I’m too sarcastic for words. Make one simple typo and I jump on you.
Kyrosmagica – Oops sorry, Ian, I deserved that! It’s my generation. Johnny tends to equal rotten in my sub-conscious. I must have been listening to punk rock when I typed up the questions.
Since I’ve proven myself to be an incompetent
punk rocker I may as well try to redeem myself with a couple of excellent quotes:
John Lydon: “You should never, ever be understood completely. That’s like the kiss of death, isn’t it? It’s a full stop. I don’t ever think you should put full stops on thoughts. They change.”
Freddie Mercury: “Is Billy Idol just doing a bad Elvis pout, or was he born that way?”
Back to my Questions! Who are your greatest supporters and your most difficult critics?
My wife is unbelievable. She has complete and utter faith in me. Which is something that I certainly don’t have. If it wasn’t for her I would probably stop writing and become a waiter or something. Most difficult critic? All of them. I can’t think of a writer who can take any criticism. Most writer refuse to read reviews because they find it too hurtful. I can have hundred good reviews but the bad one is the only one I will remember.
Kyrosmagica – It must be tough. I am always very aware of this when I’m reviewing, I try to be honest, and fair. People forget how much time and effort authors invest in their writing. Writers bare a little bit of their souls on public display.
I think the choice of illustrations in a book can make or break a book, do you agree? There is a darkness to the illustrations which makes the book visually startling and different. How did you find the illustrator for Johnny Nothing?
Well keep it under your hat but I did them myself. I didn’t put this in the book because I didn’t want it to detract from the writing. If you read my book Rope Burns (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Rope-Burns-Ian-Probert-ebook/dp/B003YXXKWU/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8 (Buy it now kids!)) you can hear all about my doomed attempt to become a famous artist.
Kyrosmagica – This is the moment when I confess that I want to kill you, a writer and an artist, how talented can one person be! UGH! Take a look at the artwork from Johnny Nothing and cry!
I’m over that outburst now. BACK TO MY Q AND A!
I believe you have self-published and also traditionally published. What are the pitfalls of both methods, and what method of publishing would you recommend to debut authors?
Oh blimey. I’m still trying to get my head around this myself. I don’t know. In traditional publishing you might get an advance and some help with the marketing but not much else. They get you in the papers but take 80% of your earnings. Most traditional publishers still expect you to do the bulk of the marketing. In indie publishing you get no advance but a bigger slice of the pie. Obviously you have to do all the marketing yourself, which is really hard. Did I say INCREDIBLY, UNBELIEVABLY difficult? Newspapers won’t review your books and you struggle to get on the radio or telly. I don’t think that either method is satisfactory but I do enjoy the independence of indie publishing. I do, however, miss interacting with other human beings.
If you could choose one quote to inspire others to write what would it be?
‘Marley was dead to begin with…’ If you can begin a book better than that you’re going places.
Kyrosmagica – Ha Ha! Scrooge, Humbug!
What are you working on now?
Something called ‘Dan’s Dead’ in which the hero dies on the very first page. It’s going to be a pretty short book!
Kyrosmagica – Sounds intense, but intense is good.
Now here’s to a wonderful excerpt of Johnny Nothing. CHEERS! ENJOY!!!!
EXCERPT OF JOHNNY NOTHING
Bill had a shaven head and was wearing a blue tracksuit. He was almost seven feet tall and built like an outdoor toilet made of brick. Bill didn’t realise this but he was a distant descendent of Neanderthal Man. He had only one eyebrow – one long bushy eyebrow that reached right across his forehead. He looked like what you might get if you force fed a member of Oasis with a half-tonne black plastic sackful of steroids. And if you were brave enough to be present when he took off his tracksuit you would discover that his back was so covered in hair that he was able part it with a comb. If Bill had had more of an interest in fashion, he might even have considered giving it a curly perm and perhaps a few extensions. On his right arm, Bill had a tattoo which simply read ‘Bill’. This was in case he woke up one morning and forgot who he was. This was actually less unlikely than you might imagine because standing next to him was his twin brother. His name was Ben and he was identical to Bill in every way except that the tattoo on his arm read ‘Bin’ (the tattooist was either South African or not a very good speller). He was wearing a red tracksuit. Bill gave Mr. and Mrs. MacKenzie the tiniest of smiles and managed to grunt ‘hello’. Ben gave the couple exactly the same tiniest of smiles and also managed to grunt ‘hello’.
The two men were standing protectively close to Johnny. They were so large that in the confines of Johnny’s bedroom they looked like giants, which they were. They were so enormous that each of them had their own postcode. They were so gigantic that they had their passport photos taken by satellite. They were so humungous that you could spend all day thinking up rubbishy jokes about how big they were and never adequately describe just how indescribably, earth-shatteringly ENORMOUS they were. By no stretch of the imagination could you call them small (unless, of course, you were a lot bigger than them). The pair of Goliaths were having to stoop slightly so as to avoid head-butting the ceiling, which actually even looked a little scared itself. They were a terrifying sight. Even scarier than a school trip to a Weight-Watcher’s nudist
There was a long, pregnant silence in the room like this:
This eventually gave birth to an even longer post-natal silence, which, in the interest of preserving the rain forests or the battery on your Kindle, I shan’t demonstrate.
The four grown-ups eyed each other nervously. Bill and Ben looked at the Mackenzies like they were looking at insects that could be squashed into pulpy insect juice any time they so desired. The Mackenzies looked at Bill and Ben like they were looking at two giant skinhead Neanderthal bully boys who had just appeared from nowhere in their recently and unexpectedly decorated council flat. Johnny looked a little scared. Finally Billy Mackenzie managed to get his mouth working a little and spluttered: ‘Who are you?’ And then: ‘What do you want?’ There was another long silence – let’s call it a pause – while Bill and Ben looked at each other as if trying to decide who was going to answer. Finally Bill spoke: ‘You the boy’s parents?’ he demanded in a voice that sounded like an angry rhino with horn-ache. Although if he was clever enough he would have realised that this was a rhetorical question. There was yet another long silence (you’ll be relieved to hear that this is the last silence you’re going to get in this chapter) before Billy Mackenzie mumbled ‘Yes’.
‘We’re Johnny’s bodyguards,’ continued Bill. ‘We’re here to make sure that everything’s hunky dory.’
‘Hunky dory?’ Mrs. Mackenzie suddenly found her voice. ‘What do you mean ‘hunky dory”?’
Now Ben spoke: ‘What my brother means to say,’ he explained. ‘Is that we’ve been – how shall I say – contracted – to make sure that this young feller’s affairs are in order.’
‘Get out of my house!’ interrupted Mrs. Mackenzie, suddenly feeling a little braver, although she had no idea why.
Bill and Ben looked at each again for a moment. They did this almost as much as your mum looks in the mirror. Or you dad looks at websites that he shouldn’t be looking at. ‘First of all,’ said Bill, ‘This isn’t a house – it’s a flat.’
‘And second of all,’ said his brother. ‘We ain’t going nowhere. And neither are you.’
‘Johnny who are these men?’ Mrs. MacKenzie asked her son, ignoring the two giants.
‘I’m sorry mum but…’ Johnny started to speak but Bill cut in like a pair of scissors that chops sentences into bits.
‘…What the young feller means to say is that the fun’s over.’
‘The fun’s over?’ repeated Felicity MacKenzie numbly.
‘That’s right,’ continued Ben. ‘You’ve had a right old time. You’ve been spending his money like it’s your own. You’ve been ripping the poor young feller off. And we’re here to put a stop to it. From now on things are gonna be different.’
‘I’ve had enough of this,’ said Mrs. MacKenzie. ‘Nobody speaks to me like this in my house…’
‘Flat,’ corrected Ben.
‘Nobody speaks to me like this in my flat. Billy, call the police!’
As usual Billy MacKenzie did as he was told. He reached into his pocket for his mobile phone. Before he had the chance to even turn it on the gigantic frame of Bill was towering over him.
‘That an iPhone?’ asked Ben.
‘Erm… Yes,’ said Billy, who could only watch as the huge man took it from him and with one hand crushed it into a chunk of buckled metal and shattered touch screen.
‘I think it’s broken,’ said Ben. ‘You ought to take it back to the Apple store. Tell ‘em that you’re not getting a decent signal.’
‘Right!’ cried Mrs. MacKenzie. ‘We’re leaving! You’ll be very sorry you did that. I’ll fetch the police myself!’
Now the giant frame of Bill was standing in front of her. He was holding something in his hand that looked a little like a child’s toy space gun.
‘Know what this is?’ he asked. Although once again he wasn’t clever enough to recognise that this was a rhetorical question.
Mrs. Mackenzie regarded the object for a moment. Then she shook her head.
Whatever it was she guessed that it was not intended to provide pleasure, happiness or fulfilment. Anything that has a trigger and a barrel and goes ‘bang!’ seldom does.
‘Come on Billy!’ she said. ‘We’re leaving!’
Bill stood in front of her blocking the doorway. ‘Not so fast,’ he said, not so slowly. ‘It’s called a Taser. See this little trigger at the front? If I press this it’ll give you a small electric shock. It won’t hurt you…Well not too much anyway.’
Bill raised the object and gently touched Mrs. MacKenzie on the arm. There was a loudish bang and a flash of blue neon light and Mrs. MacKenzie collapsed groaning to the floor. She was conscious but wasn’t able to move her arms and legs ‘Oh my gawd!’ said Billy Mackenzie bravely charging out of the room in terror.
He got as far as the stairs before there was a second flash. He, too, crumpled to the floor. Bill dragged him back into the bedroom by the scruff of his neck.
Johnny Nothing got to his feet and stood over his two parents. He looked anxious. ‘Are they… Are they… OK?’ he gasped.
‘Don’t you worry yourself,’ smiled Ben. ‘Give em a few minutes and they’ll be right as rain.’
‘But they’ll think twice before they try to run off again,’ said his brother.
Ian Probert has been scribbling down words ever since he learned to spell the phrase: ‘Once upon a time…’. He is the author of Internet Spy, Rope Burns and a bunch of other titles. Internet Spy was a bestseller in the US and made into a TV film. Rope Burns is a book about why books shouldn’t be written about boxing. Ian has also written things for a shed load of newspapers and magazines. When Ian was a student he used to write lots of letters to the bank manager.
“Great new kids book alert! My two are in hysterics reading Johnny Nothing by Ian Probert (and I am too).” Jane Bruton, Editor of Grazia
“Oh, Wow! Dark, sordid, grotesque and hilarious are only a few words I can conjure up to describe this hilarious book.” Lizzie Baldwin, mylittlebookblog
Johnny Nothing is best-selling author Ian Probert’s first ever children book – although adults are enjoying it too. The story of the poorest boy in the world and the nastiest mother in the universe, the book is earning rave reviews. Children and grown-ups are all laughing at this incredibly funny kids book
Take a look for yourself:
To celebrate the paperback launch of Johnny Nothing we are offering a free Kindle copy of the book to the first 100 people who Tweet the following message:
@truth42 I’m reading Johnny Nothing by Ian Probert. http://geni.us/3oR8 #YA
The first ten readers who answer the following question will also receive a signed print of one of the book’s illustrations.
Q: What is the tattoo on Ben’s arm?
Send your answers to firstname.lastname@example.org
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Eimear McBride’s talk at the Cambridge Literary Festival, discussing her prize winning debut A Girl is a Half-formed Thing, was chaired by Tom Gatti, the culture editor for The New Statesman. As we waited in our neatly formed queue to enter the lecture theatre I and my fellow book enthusiasts were given a copy of The NewStateman. I’ve never received more than a sense of irritation whilst waiting in a queue before, so a free gift was a nice surprise! The talk was held in Trinity College, Cambridge in the Winstanley Lecture Theatre. The venue was a short walk from the market square through a stone archway. I followed a line of people heading through the inner walkways of the College. Inside the Lecture theatre was small and intimate. Eimear McBride was adorned in sombre black apart from her striking blue, thigh length cowboy boots. Was she what I expected? I think the clue was in her colourful boots, this lady thinks deeply about life but has a lighter, more frivolous side too.
Eimear McBride began with a reading of the first paragraph of A girl is A Half-formed Thing. This first paragraph is most probably the most difficult to follow, there is a rhythm to her writing style that takes a while to master. These first words begin in the womb: For you. You’ll soon. You’ll give her name. In the stitches of her skin she’ll wear your say. Mammy me? Yes you. Bounce the bed, I’d say. I’d say that’s what you did. Then lay you down. They cut you round. Wait and hour and day.
Hearing the words spoken by Eimear somehow brought them to life for me in a way that silently reading them just didn’t achieve. An interesting observation considering that Eimear seems to be heavily influenced by her dramatic training. Rather than taking the obvious route to writing, studying English Literature at University, she elected to follow a more dramatic route. In fact she wonders if the close study of English Literature would have made her write a totally different kind of novel. Her two main influencers are Joyce, a major influence in her twenties, and British playright Sarah Kane. Sarah Kane’s play Crave made her dare to be the author she wanted to be, to hold nothing back, to say what she wanted to say. I myself have witnessed Crave, this play was performed by my daughter, an AS student at the time at Comberton Sixth Form college. I found the language of the play and the portrayal of the students disturbing. The original play contains several dark haunting themes with four un-named characters. I can see why Crave would have been one of the influencing factors encouraging Eimear to write her novel, to push the boundaries of what is deemed to be acceptable literature. Eimear mentioned that A girl is now to be a play too, and this doesn’t surprise me at all, I can see that A girl would transfer well to the stage.
Eimear started writing A girl after a burglary in London. All her hand-written notes for another idea were stolen, so she had to start anew. One wonders what may have happened if the burglar hadn’t stolen her long hand notes? Would she have continued to write a different story entirely? Maybe this burglary was a fortuitous twist of fate.
Eimear’s background does mirror some of the story. She grew up in Ireland and came from a very religious background. In fact when she first came to London she was astonished to find that people don’t pray fervently in their living rooms as a daily occurrence. Sadly, she experienced two family bereathments, her father died when she was a child, and her brother Donagh died of a brain tumour. But the boy in A girl is not her brother, and the girl is not her. Of course it was not her intention to write such a harrowing tale. But one can’t help but wonder if this novel is a by-product of her sense of loss? A sad reeling at her brother’s death at a young age?
There are no semi-colons in her novel, horror of horrors, and no complex words. By writing with the minimum of fuss, she hoped to take herself, the author, out of the reader’s experience, so that the reader could experience and interpret the novel as he or she saw fit. In this she has succeeded. Each reader will react to this novel differently, there will be subtle, personal differences, and A girl will not appeal to everybody. Eimear didn’t plot. She hoped that the uncluttered style of writing would make the characters the focal point rather than the sequence of events.
The title of A Girl is a Half-formed thing slipped into a conversation with her husband. This long winded, ungainly stream of words seemed to fit the awkwardness and unstructured essence of the story, so the decision was made, the title was chosen.
I do admire Eimear for standing up for what she believes in. She had a long and difficult path to publication, I believe it took her ten years to get there. It would have been easier if she could have bypassed the unimaginative marketing departments of those publishers who rejected her. I do wish her every success in her future endeavours and hope that her success will make publishers pause and consider novels that don’t fit the usual marketing mould for success.
After Eimear’s interesting and inspiring talk I walked through Cambridge city centre admiring the Christmas lights. Walking past the taxi rank for a brief moment my eyes lingered on the long line of waiting taxis, wouldn’t it be nice to hop into one? But that would be an unnecessary expense. When I arrived at my bus stop I was greeted with two words, Eimear would have been impressed: No Destinations. Had I known all along? I always seem to have these verging on psychic moments. Hey, hold on don’t get all crazy on me!Of course this is sleepy Cambridge not bustling Edinburgh, and it’s Sunday. So I did hop into a taxi, and it cost me much more than a bag of chips. I wasn’t the only one to make the same mistake, a couple I met had to go all the way home to St. Ives, not Cornwall, I hastily add. Their taxi fare would have been a nasty surprise.