Review – The Shadow Owner’s Companion by Eleanor Hooker

This is poetry born of Ireland and all its beautiful contradiction. There are few places in the world where Christianity, Paganism and Mythology collide with such force and rain their colours into the literature. With the poet we walk the boundary between the seen and the unseen, the known and the unknown. We walk on the water and between two worlds. There is wonder in both and fear in both. And there is an anxiety here that a sideways step will lead to an unintended crossing. The battle is between the old gods and the oldest God, creator, creature and land. And always we return to the water, the point of passage.

The poet uses her understanding of form to isolate and highlight the uncanny. She draws out the emotion of fear and turns it over and over in her hands, looking deeply into it for truth, however that comes. Truths that are sometimes easier to see with the eyes of a child. Remembered knowing. We learn that strong does not mean never lost, that adult does not mean fully grown. She turns over the experience of endings and leaves them open and questioning.

This is poetry of the boundary. This is poetry of balance, of gain and loss, afraid and unafraid of pain. The poet has a gentle gift for repetition that sings her intentions into each poem. The structure is precise and studied but at no point does it overwhelm or even distract from the message.

This is way-finding.

The Shadow Owner’s Companion is available from Dedalus Press. http://www.dedaluspress.com

Eleanor Hooker can be found @eleanorhooker_ on Twitter

Letters to my Husband – by Stephanie Butland – Debut Novelist

Today I have the pleasure of heading up the Blog Tour for debut novelist Stephanie Butland.

ButlandBlogTour (2)

I had the opportunity to ask Stephanie about her journey from idea to novel and this was her reply:

‘Letters to my Husband’ is my first novel (it was originally released in hardback as ‘Surrounded By Water’). It’s the first of three novels set in a small town of Throckton, and it’s a story about loss, love and the unexpected places that life can take us to. It begins when Michael, a well-respected police office, drowns, saving a teenage girl who had fallen into a lake on a cold January night. We follow his widow, Elizabeth, as she struggles to come to terms with his death, and the shocks and surprises that come to light in the aftermath of his death.

This novel had a prologued journey from my head to the page to publication. It began as a comic novel about a committee – I had made an impulse decision to take part in Nanowrimo in 2011 and hadn’t really given a lot of thought to what I wanted the book to be about. 20,000 words in it stalled, and an insightful reader suggested that the committee – which I had thought would be a great way to bring together a group of diverse characters – might be holding the story back When I took the idea of the committee away from the book, I found that the real content was in Elizabeth’s bereavement. So I started again, writing a series of interlocking first person narratives which told the story much better – although once the book was bought by Transworld, my editor suggested that a third-person narrative would be even more effective. She was right. But the letters of the title have remained unchanged since the very first draft.

I’m now writing my fourth novel. I’ve learned a lot about the writing process, and the way I write is now better organised, and less wasteful of words, which is a great relief ( there are few things more dispiriting than spending 6 hours working on a book and ending up with 18,000 words less than you started with). But ‘Letters to my Husband’ taught me something really important about writing, and it’s this. Start somewhere. Write something. Keep going. If you do that, you’ll get there eventually.

Letters to my Husband  by Stephanie Butland is published by Black Swan 9/4/15.

Stephanie can be found at

http://www.stephaniebutland.com   or  @under_blue_sky on Twitter

The next Blog in the book tour is http://www.shazsbookboudoir.blogspot.co.uk

The Transformation from Written to Audio – by Jane Isaac

When I received the news last year that the audio rights to my second book, The Truth Will Out, had been sold, it was met with a mixed response. Of course, I was excited – who wouldn’t be? But it also delivered a huge dose of apprehension too. Who would they select to read the book aloud? Would it be a good fit? Would their voice create the right level of suspense and tension for a thriller? How would they cope with the different accents in the book?

Scroll forward several months and a box of author copies landed on my doorstep. I opened it with trepidation, but was pleasantly surprised when I saw the finished product. It looked wonderfully professional, something I might see on a shelf in a library, or for sale in a bookstore, and is beautifully finished.

The unabridged box set contained eight CDs spanning almost nine hours and is read by Cathy Sabberton, whose bio claims numerous theatre and TV credits including Emmerdale and Cold Feet.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I placed it in the machine and pressed play. I admit, when the CD started it did feel rather strange to hear my own words read aloud. But Cathy’s beautifully engaging reading voice quickly allayed any nerves. Very soon I became lost in the story and it felt like I was listening to a play, or ‘Book at Bedtime’ on Radio 4. And how did she cope with the different accents? With great ease. Even with DS Pemberton’s Yorkshire accent, she seemed to adjust her voice effortlessly, allowing the story to flow.

I’ve only listened to the first few CDs, but I have to say I’m truly delighted with the results so far. It’s such a huge thrill for somebody like me to hear my words being read by an accomplished actress.

Jane Isaac is a crime fiction author of An Unfamiliar Murder and The Truth Will Out. She lives with her husband, daughter and dog, ‘Bollo’, in rural Northamptonshire, UK. Jane’s latest title, Before It’s Too Late, will be released on 1.6.15

Jane loves to hear from readers and writers. Visit her website at http://www.janeisaac.co.uk, where you can email her through the contacts page or peruse her blog ‘Caffeine’s not a crime’.

Alternatively you can find her on Twitter @JaneIsaacAuthor

The Truth Will Out – Paperback and Audio versions are available on Amazon.

Review – Meridian – by David Rose

After the first few breathless sentences you relax into the arms of a storyteller who knows his craft, not that this is a gentle ride. Thought darts like a swift, weaving and tracing an order in the blue. This novel is about order and pattern, the natural and the constructed, the concrete and the ephemeral. It is also about purpose and permanence. We are involved in a literary Brownian motion, skipping and colliding between stories, between lives. It remains to the reader to decide which if any of these lives is altered in the observing. The narrator asks the same question of his own observations. Does it ultimately matter?

Matter is dual intent. The writer is building a microcosm of experience for the purpose of understanding. He does this by deftly layering first person accounts of experience and bleeding them into each other, at first precisely and obviously, as if to teach us the rules of engagement, and then freely and with added pace. My suggestion would be to trust each wave, trust the flow of thought. It is taking you ever onward.

Flow is such a gentle term for what is, in places, a flood of thought.

There are flood defences.

Each of the minute glimpses of a life could be unfolded into a complete story. Something which won’t surprise you if you are familiar with David’s short story work. And although you may be tossed in the current but you won’t be overwhelmed.

This is gifted, beautiful writing.

I defy you not to learn something.

Meridian – by David Rose is published by Unthank Books,  who can be found here

http://www.unthankbooks.com

@UnthankBooks

Review – Terrace – by Richard Skinner

It’s about Time.

Richard Skinner is skilled at unpacking the moment. His observations, like drops of ink into a bowl of water, blossom out in unexpected directions, unfolding and unfurling the world. His language is deceptively simple. It’s almost possible to miss the way that he plays with sound to draw the reader to a conclusion. The work engages the senses with a studied intensity taking them almost to the edge of comfort.

It’s about Time

He uses ekphrasis, haiku, lists as litany, to interrogate the instant and out pour colour, perfume, light, life, and death. They are laid out before us for observation. They are the What and the How. The Why is a personal exploration of his own place in the maelstrom of Time. This is the thread that runs through every poem in the collection. The question is one of where he stands and what that means. What does that mean for a man? And, given a man’s place in time, how does he move forward?

“They say that a Yew can walk an acre in a year.”

If so, how far might a man walk?  How far might I walk?  And do I have the wisdom to do that?

The work of Richard Skinner is a beautiful example of condensed questioning.

The Terrace by Richard Skinner is published by Smokestack. You can find him here:

@RichardNSkinner   http://www.richardskinner.weebly.com

Debut Novel Release – Author Chat with Caroline Roberts

Caroline writes contemporary fiction; emotional stories about love, loss, betrayal, and family, that explore how complex and yet beautiful love can be. She lives in stunning rural Northumberland – sandy beaches, castles and gorgeous countryside that inspire her writing. “The Torn Up Marriage” is her debut novel. In her own words, it is a powerful and poignant story about the bomb of an affair, and the key instinct to protect your family. But what happens when you tear that family apart?

The road to publication was long for Caroline, having written seriously for ten years, completed four novels and been submitting to agents and then publishers directly for the last five years. Finally it all came together in July last year, when 2 major publishers offered her deals within the hour! It’s all been a huge learning curve. She tale about her debut novel and shares a few tips for any aspiring authors below.

The Torn Up Marriage is an emotional story, where did you get your ideas from?

I am intrigued by relationships and by the “messier” side of love – it’s more true to life. A magazine article initially sparked the idea…by detailing how difficult it had been for a family coping with the fall-out of the affair, but how they were trying to make it work. I wanted to show how everyone involved would feel, the betrayer as well as the betrayed, the children, the grandparents; the idea just grew. And I wanted to show how love, even when battered and bruised, can survive.

Why did you choose Northumberland as a setting?

I have lived in Northumberland for the last 13 years and absolutely love the place – its rolling countryside, moorland hills, and the most amazing sandy beaches with castles perched on cliffs overlooking them, are just stunning. There are also historic towns, such as Alnwick, with its honey-coloured stone buildings. I think many people still don’t know a lot about it, being rather unique and undiscovered country tucked away on the borders between England and Scotland. My novels are all set in Northumberland – it’s just an inspiring setting to have!

Do you have any tips for aspiring authors?

* Write what you are passionate about. If you love what you write this will make the writing process so much easier, and it will come through to the readers (and hopefully publishers/agents) and spark their imagination and interest too.

* Finish the book! Just keep going forward and get the story out. Make time to write regularly, and you will get there. Editing is for later.

* Polish up your first 3 chapters, spend time on your synopsis and cover letter, and only then start sending it out. Try and be as professional as possible.

* Persevere – the submission process can be long and hard, and rejection is never easy. Try not to take it too personally – easier said than done, I know – but keep going and try and learn from any critical feedback you may get.

* Link up with other writers. Look for local groups, or link with groups in your genre. The support and friendship within organisations such as the Romantic Novelists’ Association is invaluable. (It was only by taking a deep breath and pitching at the RNA conference that I got my book deal offers.)

* Take a look at my blog for further tips and feedback on writing and submitting:
http://carolinerobertswriter.blogspot.co.uk/

You can find Caroline on Twitter here
@_caroroberts

Richard Skinner – Terrace

Richard Skinner is a novelist, essayist and poet as well as being one of the driving forces at the Faber Academy. His new pamphlet ‘Terrace’ is due to be published by Smokestack in April 2015.
I had an opportunity to ask him what this new collection is about.
Here is his reply:

The 22 poems in ‘Terrace’ were all written 2008-14. I didn’t put in any poems written before then into the collection because they seem distant to me now, almost as if written by someone else. It’s other people who are best at identifying any common themes running through your work and my editor at Smokestack, Andy Croft, describes ‘Terrace’ as a ‘book about the meanings of perfume, light and colour, exploring the world in a series of striking images, and juxtaposing them in unexpected ways to reveal at the end a ‘bigger picture’ that was always there, only hidden.’

The 22 poems published together allow me to see what interests me most in terms of form and technique. For example, I love lists and the idea of ‘list as litany’ and there are a couple of poems that are just lists of objects, but these objects take on a special significance, a near-sacredness even. In “Death in a French Garden”, the bottles of medicine are metonyms of a mysterious death. We don’t see what happens, only what remains after the event. “My grandmother’s things” is a list of things belonging to her that I have kept and which now act as aides-memoire. In making these lists, I’m writing about what’s tangible and visible as a way of talking about what’s intangible and invisible.
There are a couple of poems based on Greek myth/Biblical characters. I have always been fascinated by the Orpheus myth and every poet has to write a poem about him, don’t they? Orpheus’ ‘mistake’ lies in his desire, which leads him to see and possess Eurydice when he is only destined to sing about her. Only in song does Orpheus have power over Eurydice, but he loses Eurydice because he desires her beyond the power of the song, and he loses himself too. “Nefertiti” is a very earthy poem about sights, sounds and the smell of: ‘neroli, of oris butter,/ the roots of iris-floral,/ obscenely fleshy, like the odour/ beneath a breast or between buttocks.’

Some poets whose style and subject matter are close to my own heart are: Wallace Stevens, Sylvia Plath, Ian Hamilton. More recently: Pauline Stainer, Michael Symmons Roberts, Marion Tracy. And whichever way you turn, there is always TS Eliot. Short poems work best for me. I love the super-condensation of a short lyric or imagist poem. Short dense poems can expand your mind in every direction and the shorter the poem is, the more expansive it is. For me, that’s what David Burnett was getting at when he said,
‘Prose adds. A poem multiplies.’

You can find further details here
http://richardskinner.weebly.com/terrace.html
@RichardNSkinner