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INTERVIEW WITH SCOTTISH NOVELIST KAREN CAMPBELL!

Today I’m thrilled to present an interview with Karen Campbell. She is the author of five novels: The Twilight TimeAfter the FireShadowplay and Proof of Life - all Hodder & Stoughton. Karen’s new novel This Is Where I Am and is out now, published by Bloomsbury Circus. A graduate of Glasgow University’s Creative Writing Masters, Karen also teaches creative writing and carries out freelance communications training.

Photo: Ian Watson, Studio Scotland

I recently read her latest novel ‘This Is Where I Am’ and was hugely impressed. The story of the relationship between a Somalian refugee and a Glaswegian volunteer was incredibly moving and life-affirming. Karen’s first four novels are within the crime/police-procedural genre, whilst her fifth novel is somewhat of a departure from this; as Karen explains below, all 5 of her novels have a lot more in common than one might think at first glance. 

Here Karen shares her thoughts on writing, on Glasgow and the Scottish vote, amongst other things:

[1] I understand you attended the Glasgow University creative writing course. How do you feel this helped you as a writer? And how do you feel about creative writing classes in general?

One of the main benefits for me in doing the Masters was that sense of being part of a community of writers and fellow readers, where you could both share work and be inspired.

When you start writing, it tends to be a solitary, hidden thing – almost like a guilty secret you don’t want to mention! And there’s a sense, or a worry maybe,  that you’re ‘getting above yourself’ or being arrogant or self-delusional in some way – when all you’re really trying to do is tell stories, and work out what you and your characters think about life, beliefs, emotions, whatever. Suddenly being with all these other folk who also think the same thoughts as you, who you can talk to and share your work with and not be embarrassed or shy was like someone had turned a light on for me. It wasn’t a prescriptive course – nobody said ‘this is how you write a novel’; it was more about listening to established writers talk about what works for them, being set a few challenges, having your ideas stirred up – and then being left to get on with it – with a bit of nudging and gentle guidance. But I never felt I was being asked to ‘be’ a certain type of writer; only given the space and encouragement to be the best possible writer I could be.

[2] In a previous life, you were a police officer! Your first novels were based around this theme. Your latest novel ‘This is Where I Am’ seems a departure from this. What brought about this change in your choice of subject matter? How was writing this novel a different experience from writing your previous ones?

To me, there’s honestly very little difference with this book and my others. They’re all about social issues, all set in Glasgow. I’ve always said that, with my first four books, I was writing about people who just happened to be cops, but the thrust was always about identity – the public and the private faces we present to the world: lives behind closed doors, behind facades, behind the uniform – and This Is Where I Am  is a variation on that theme. Those faces you pass in the street everyday – who are they? Where are they from? What do they go home to at night? I find all of that fascinating.

Having been a police officer before my kids came along, that was the impetus to start writing the first book – to try and describe what it’s really like to walk down the street in uniform – the same 20 year old girl you were the week before, but with a new ‘status’ imposed on you by the clothes you’re wearing, the expectations and restrictions that places on you, the presumptions folk make about you and so on. With each police book I wrote though, I was pushing myself further and further away from what I knew. For example in the second novel, After the Fire, I write about what happens when a police firearms incident goes wrong. I’ve never been a firearms cop, never even held a gun. So all of that required a lot of research, and every book thereafter was much less about my own experience and more about exploring other lives, about the disparity of what wee ‘bits’ folk see of you and the ‘whole’ you (if there is such a thing!) . So This Is Where I Am feels like a natural extension of this, definitely.

 

[3] ‘This is Where I Am’ tells the story of a Somalian refugee, Abdi, and his Scottish mentor, Deborah. Can you share some of your methods into researching Abdi’s situation and Deborah’s work?

Glasgow has the biggest amount of refugees and asylum seekers in Scotland – but it wasn’t until my husband started volunteering for the Scottish Refugee Council (SRC), that this ‘issue’ became more personal, about real people like you and me. I couldn’t count how many times I said: ‘You’re joking?’ when Dougie would talk about stuff he’d seen that day: Folk destitute after having their claim for help refused. Asylum seekers left in limbo for six or seven years. Families with children, settled at school after years of living here, being abruptly ‘returned’ to a place their kids no longer knew. And I kept thinking: what if it was me? That was the key for writing ‘This Is Where I Am’.

I started to imagine what it must be like to lose your home, your job, your family and end up in a place you never even knew existed. Like driftwood. The most immediate way in for me was to think of language.  When you go abroad, and you can’t speak the language. You can’t articulate what it is you feel. You feel stupid, vulnerable. Scared. And that’s before you have to start thinking about arguing your case for sanctuary, about battling the system, about remembering what you’ve lost.

I spoke to several refugees and asylum seekers, to try to get the facts right, about refugee camps, about the asylum process , but also to try to build up a picture that went beyond what I might imagine it must feel like to be a refugee. Having my husband working as a volunteer helped hugely with understanding how the SRC charity operates, and what Deb’s role as a volunteer might be within that.  I also did lots of online research, watching documentaries about Dadaab Refugee Camp, reading UN reports etc. But when it came to writing the characters, I had to boil all the facts down to feelings. Abdi is a dad who’s lost his wife. He’s lonely and sad. He’s fled to a foreign country – which is disorientating, and makes him scared and brave in many different ways. He’s trying to get to grips with what he ‘is’ now, who he can trust and what kind of life he can make for himself and his daughter.  Debs is also suffering a loss, and learning how to live in a way she hadn’t planned, so she’s just as confused and vulnerable as Abdi. These are universal emotions –we’ve all felt them. Of course, Abdi’s traumas are far bigger than any I’ve suffered, so I spoke to a doctor and an educational psychologist about the impact these experiences could have. But one of the things that struck me most about the refugees I spoke to was their resilience and their hope, so I tried very much to show that too. This is definitely a hopeful book .

 

Dadaab Refugee Camp

[3] How important is Glasgow to you as a writer? What part does it play in your oeuvre as a whole? I read one review of ‘This is Where I Am’ that said it is a celebration of Glasgow – how do you feel about that view?

That’s a great thing to say! It definitely felt like a bit of a love letter to the city – after writing about some of the darker bits of Glasgow in my police books, I was keen to show off some of the many, many lovely and/or quirky places Glasgow has to offer. Plus, writing from a refugee’s point of view, it forces you to look at the world anew – places that you take for granted can look very different through an outsider’s eyes. For example, Kelvingrove Art Gallery is a splendid, Baroque museum – and it’s free to enter. But, if you didn’t know that, and you saw the man in uniform at the vast, arching front doors, you might not even venture up the steps to look inside. You might actually see it as intimidating instead of welcoming.  Which could be a metaphor for Glasgow…!

Even in the police novels, I always tried to show the light and shade of the city. It is a wonderful place, with beautiful parks and buildings, a really sharp, distinctive identity and a gallus humour that can’t help but seep into the dialogue of the characters I write. But my next two books won’t be set in Glasgow – I think you need to keep stretching yourself away from the familiar if you want to keep ideas sparking. Certainly, I feel I need to do that at the moment. Also, we moved away from Glasgow a few years ago, and now live in rural Galloway – so maybe that has something to do with the change in setting too.

 

[4] ‘This Is Where I Am’ was a Radio 4 Book at Bedtime. How was that experience of hearing your book transformed into a sound piece? 

It was amazing. It was the first time I’d had anything adapted, and I’d no involvement in the process at all, so the very first time I heard it was when the initial episode was broadcast. When Abdi spoke, I must admit, I had a wee sniffle – the actor playing him got the voice SO right – Abdi was a multi-faceted man, with a temper and a sense of humour - not a ‘victim’ at all. And Maureen Beattie, who played Deb was also spot on. I’d met Jane Marshall, the producer, in advance and she was so lovely about the book, I knew it would be in safe hands. Obviously, a lot of the ‘side’ stories had to be shaved off for reasons of time, but the essence of the book was all there. Plus radio had some real advantages – there’s a part in the book where Abdi’s daughter hums a Somali lullaby, and Jane managed to track down a recording of this and have it playing in the background of some of the scenes. Which set me off snivelling again..!

[5] Would you like to share your view about the Scotland vote? 

Happy to share! Since the turn of the year, I’ve been speaking at various events across the county on behalf of Yes – as have a huge amount of creatives. This has been such an exhilarating, dynamic process for Scotland, and it’s been a real privilege to be involved. Not many folk get the chance to truly consider: What kind of a country do I want to live in? What do I think about democracy and where it should lie? The Yes movement is such an inclusive, positive campaign – living near the border, I’ve shared a platform with many English Scots who also see the benefits of what our Holyrood Parliament has already done for us, and how, with control of all our resources, we can build a better Scotland. It’s about taking responsibility for our own actions, our people, our policies – all that any nation wants really. Everything’s on a knife edge at the moment, but whatever way the vote goes, folk are so engaged – they’re suggesting a possible 90% turn out, which is amazing for democracy and politics as a whole.

[6] Can you share what you’re working on next? Are you attending any events coming up you’d like to publicise?

Sure. I’ve got a new book that will be coming out with Bloomsbury next spring. It’s called Rise and surprise surprise (see above answer!), it’s set in Scotland in the run-up to the referendum. Essentially it’s about a marriage in crisis and a cuckoo in the nest of that marriage, who brings her own problems to bear, but it’s also about how you feel safe, and where you call home when you carry your shadow with you. And I’m just back from Italy, where I’ve been doing a bit of research (involving much wine and pasta…) for the book I’m starting now, about the US Buffalo soldiers in Tuscany in WW2. I’ve never attempted a historical book before, so am way out of my comfort zone! But the story’s been nudging at me for 3 years now and I can start to feel the characters forming in my head – in fact, I wrote the first 500 words today. Only 89,500 to go!

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Rise-Karen-Campbell/dp/1408857928/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1410530783&sr=1-1&keywords=karen+campbell+rise

Thanks so much to Karen for such fascinating responses. Please look out for her books in your next bookshop browse and I’d particularly recommend ‘This Is Where I Am’ as an excellent read. 

To find out more about Karen and her work, check out her website here:

http://www.karencampbell.co.uk/

and her Wikipedia page:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karen_Campbell

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INTERVIEW WITH KATHERINE CLEMENTS!

Today is paperback publication today for the excellent historical novel THE CRIMSON RIBBON. To celebrate, I’ve interviewed Katherine about her writing and here it is, including my original review of her debut.

[1] Why have you been drawn to this period of English history in particular? What appeals to you about this period? And what aspects of it make you glad you live in the C21st?!

I first became interested in the 17th century after reading Rose Tremain’s wonderful novel Restoration. I began reading history about the period and was fascinated by some of the historical figures and the English Civil Wars. As I learned more about the revolution I came to understand what an important time it was in British history.

What appeals to me is the way that society was recognisably modern in some ways, for example we see the beginnings of the Enlightenment, the birth of an uncensored press, the establishment of parliamentary democracy and radical political ideas that still seem pertinent today, but all in the context of a religious, superstitious, patriarchal society that still feels mysterious and alien. I became interested in women’s experiences during the civil war years, because it was a time of upheaval when many norms were challenged. There are numerous stories of women doing extraordinary things and I wanted to explore that. Having said that, the position of women in the society of the time makes me very glad I live now, along with the obvious things like modern medicine, running water and sewerage systems!

 

[2] Your novel involves two extraordinary women. What did you learn about the position of women in this period and what did you feel was important to you in rendering this aspect?

What struck me early on about the real Elizabeth Poole’s story was the limit of her political influence. Here was someone who tried to make a difference – regardless of her questionable motives – and it was unusual for a woman to attempt that. She wasn’t alone – in fact the civil war period saw a big increase in women becoming more overtly political – but ultimately the impact they had was restricted. Sometimes, women who spoke out were condemned as mad, licentious, or both. I very much wanted to tell the story of these women who were on the edge of acceptable society, acknowledging how courageous it would have been to speak out.

[3] The title of the novel can be read as a metaphor for some of the themes within it. How do you feel ‘The Crimson Ribbon’ echoes throughout the narrative as an image?

The title actually came quite late but I was always conscious that the imagery of the crimson ribbon was significant. The use of ribbons in hand-fasting ceremonies was an influence, plus the association of the colour red with other key themes and ideas. To quote the book: “Red – the colour of passion, the colour of the Army, the colour of blood”. I’ll say no more because I don’t want to give spoilers, and I prefer to let people make up their own minds, but it’s been incredibly interesting to see how readers interpret it.

[4] Can you describe the planning stages of writing your novels? What part does research play and how do you tend to organise this? What work do you do in terms of planning the plot and character?

I’m still finding my way with this. For The Crimson Ribbon I planned very little but spent an awful lot of time reading and researching the historical background. I wrote a first draft, planning as I went, then rewrote several times. It was laborious, but during those years I learned a lot about how to write a book (and how not to!).

The second time around has been quite different, as I’ve been working to a deadline. Again, research has been a significant part of the early workload but the plot was planned more thoroughly. Working with real historical figures and events gives me a structure upon which to build the story. This can be a blessing and a curse, but it’s a useful starting point, and I do love a good timeline! I like to work on every character, making sure they all have a backstory and clear motivations. All this work might not make it into the final piece but it needs to be done. It’s the same with research; I need to know much more than will ever go into the book.

Any plans I make will always change as I write, but I like to have an idea of where I’m headed. At the end of each writing day I try and plan out what comes next. It helps me to keep going. I keep researching throughout – there’s always more to know and things that need to be checked.

 

[5] Can you share anything about what you’re working on now? Also, do you have any events coming up you want to publicise?

I’ve almost finished work on my second novel – as yet untitled – which is a re-telling of the legend of The Wicked Lady. The legend tells of a noble-born highwaywoman who terrorized Hertfordshire in the 1650s. I’m bringing together research on the real life figure to whom the legend has traditionally been pinned, and the myths surrounding her, to create something entirely new. It will be out in 2015.

I’ve got a few events coming up in the autumn. I’m particularly looking forward to visiting Toppings bookshop in Ely on 26th September, because of the local connection with The Crimson Ribbon. It’ll be great to visit Ely again, now the book is out. I’m also looking forward to taking part in an event on witchcraft at the Harrogate History Festival in October.

 

Here’s my review for THE CRIMSON RIBBON:

Tautly constructed and beautifully written,I was gripped from the first page. Not for the faint-hearted, Clements writes about her era with honesty and does not flinch from the more unsavoury details of everyday life. Her characters are believable and compelling. There are plot twists I did not predict for a moment, and I pride myself on being able to spot a good twist a mile off! We follow the protagonist through some harrowing events and will her to triumph in the end. The historical context is so well wrought, I could see, hear and smell my way through Civil War England. I would recommend this novel to anyone who likes a great historical page-turner, yet also appreciates accomplished patterns of imagery and other advanced literary techniques. It is also a fascinating examination of friendships and love. Overall, a winner. Well done to the author! I predict great success…

Thanks very much to Katherine for her insightful and fascinating answers and I wish her all the very best of luck and success with her super debut novel. Happy Publication Day, Katherine!

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EDINBURGH BOOKFEST REPORT!

Just back from the Edinburgh International Book Festival and we all had an AMAZING time. Here’s what we got up to. 

First we checked into our lovely Hotel Tigerlily, just down the road from Charlotte Square, then a short hop down the road to the festival itself.

We loved the venue for the festival - Charlotte Square in Edinburgh, taken over by a melee of tents and walkways, full of bookshops, cafes, writers and readers and general chatty loveliness. The weather was sunshiny-showery but the rain didn’t matter as we just listened to the raindrops on the canvas well protected from the downpour.

We had a wander round the bookshop before checking in and Poppy made a beeline for a certain book she spotted on the Today at the Festival shelf:

We saw that my venue had been changed - to a bigger tent! (Perhaps more tickets had sold than was expected…who knows!)

Firstly, I had an appointment with photographer Chris Close, who has been producing a wonderful exhibition of pictures of the authors at the festival. Simon took some photos of me having my photo taken! Chris was very chatty and nice and put me at my ease. I’m not used to this sort of thing! And it all seems very odd, when I’ve been sitting alone in my study for all these years…

And here’s Chris’s final picture, up in the festival exhibition. Looks brilliant, Chris! Thank you.

Then we went into the Authors’ Yurt where I needed to check in. We were all welcomed and given our backstage passes:

Even Poppy’s cat Chester required identification…

The Yurt is like a green room for the participants and is very chilled out and relaxed, with nice things to drink and nibble on. We saw quite a few of the great and good around and about, including Simon Armitage, Menzies Campbell, John Mullan and Haruki Murakami. Soon after, my fellow event friend Debbie Taylor arrived - author of Herring Girl and editor of Mslexia - and our chair Julia Eccleshare, Guardian children’s fiction editor. We had a chat through our event and how we wanted to order things, and then my lovely editor Suzie Doore arrived. 

I was starting to feel pretty nervous, but with Simon, Poppy and Suzie to reassure me - and hearing that my mum and brother Robert had arrived at the venue - cheered me up and took my mind off things. Here’s Simon - my rock - proudly wearing his lanyard in the yurt:

Debbie and I were asked to do a photo call with some press photographers (where I stood very awkwardly, feeling extremely self-conscious - sorry to those photographers if I presented a rather stiff and terrified demeanour!) and then we were set up with microphones - thanks to my sound lady who lent me her little shoulder bag to pop my microphone in, as I didn’t have any pockets!

And here we are, our little family, chilling out in the wonderful Authors’ Yurt:

We walked over to the venue and I met Roland Gulliver, the deputy director of the festival and very busy and all-round very nice chap.

Now it was time to go in, and I had to swallow my nerves, especially when we went up on the stage and saw perhaps 40 people or so sitting before us. I was thrilled though to see so many people, as I wondered if (apart from Debbie’s many fans) if my contingent would basically be my family and my editor and that’s it! So it was wonderful to see all those nice people there and I thank all of you for coming!

Here we are, me, Debbie and Julia doing out stuff on stage at the Baillie Gifford Corner Theatre:

We both did some readings from our books and discussed child characters, voice and style. There was only time for one question from the audience, sadly, as I was really interested to hear what our audience wanted to know about. Our question was from a young lady who is a writer herself and asked a very interesting query about how to keep on track with a long manuscript when you keep getting waylaid by criticism and editing and other interruptions. Our consensus was to just keep writing and not over-edit as you go along, as you’re more likely to break the flow. Perhaps don’t even show it anyone before you’ve finished a first draft, as other voices can interfere with your own. Yet we agreed too that all writers are different and some will spend hours over one paragraph before moving onto the next, but that’s not how Debbie and I do it presently, and that suits us.

Afterwards, we were in the festival bookshop to meet some audience members and sign some books. 

It was so lovely to meet all of you lovely people who came to buy books - thank you so much - and to hear your interesting questions too.

So, the main event was done and I could relax a bit! I did enjoy it hugely in the end but I was pretty shaky beforehand and glad it was time for ice cream! Then my family and Suzie all went to a restaurant called Gusto just down the road. Here are Poppy and I outside it later on that evening:

But the festival wasn’t over for me yet, as I had kindly been asked by Roland Gulliver if I’d do another reading from THE VISITORS for an evening event in the Guardian Spiegel tent for Jura Unbound at 9pm. So, after saying a fond goodbye to my lovely mum and brother Rob (very sad to see them go and very grateful they came), we headed back over to the square, which was looking very sparkly and atmospheric in the darkness. 

I have to admit I was more nervous about this bit than any of it! I’ve never done a stand-up reading to a microphone on stage before, and the lights were very bright and I was all a bit wobbly and starstruck! I rather like this image Simon took below, with the hazy lights shining and the mysterious darkness beyond, as that just about sums up my state of mind as I stepped up there!

But I got through it and the audience were very polite and listened beautifully - thank you to everyone there. A delightful young lady called Eleni came up afterwards to get her book signed too, which was lovely.

And we were done! A wander round the bookshop, a cup of Earl Grey and a chocolate brownie later, and we were finally in bed for the night, ready for our day of sightseeing in the morning.

After a fabulous breakfast at Tigerlily we hit Edinburgh. The castle in the morning:

with amazing views of this beautiful city of Edinburgh:

and down the Royal Mile, with all its wonderful street performers on the way:

Next was a quick visit to the amazing Blackwell’s Bookshop on 3 floors in the heart of the city, where I’d been kindly asked to sign some stock by Ellie, who was also the one who told us to visit the Museum of Scotland (more on that later - thank Ellie, it was brilliant!) We were met by the lovely Ewa who looked after us and was very interesting to talk to. All the books had been lovingly prepared - thanks guys!

Then we found a lovely great pile of them on the festival display table:

And on to the brilliant Museum of Scotland in the afternoon, where we could have happily stayed all day, there was so much fascinating stuff to see:

A wonderful museum, highly recommended and FREE! Thanks to all the brilliant staff there. We had to rush off to get our train and though we were all shattered, we did not want to leave beautiful Edinburgh, particularly as there was still so much to see.

All photos by our resident expert photographer, my lovely fella AKA Simon.

So that was Edinburgh. Thanks to Simon and Poppy, my mum, my brother Robert and my editor Suzie for coming along. It was an honour to be invited, a privilege to appear with Debbie Taylor, Julia Eccleshare and my fellow participants in Jura Unbound. Thanks also to all the audience members and book buyers who came - it was wonderful to see you all there. And thank you so much to the Edinburgh International Book Festival for a wonderful experience and a weekend that all three of us will never forget.

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kerrydrewery:

Next up in my series of interviews with literary/creative folk is Rebecca Mascull. Rebecca’s debut novel , The Visitors, was released earlier this year about a deaf-blind girl and some spooky goings-on in Victorian England.

She’s appearing at this year’s Edinburgh Book Festival where she’s also…

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INTERVIEW WITH LOUISE WALTERS

To celebrate the paperback publication tomorrow of ‘Mrs Sinclair’s Suitcase’, I’ve interviewed the lovely Louise Walters about the book.

[1] Tell us a little bit about ‘Mrs Sinclair’s Suitcase’. 
It’s a story about two women, the centenarian Dorothea and her thirty-something grand-daughter, Roberta. Roberta discovers a letter from the war years that seems to contradict all that she understands about her grandmother’s past. There’s romance and a bookshop and secrets and loss and discoveries. 
[2] The book is a dual-time narrative, using parallel stories from the present day and the 1940s. Which story came first to you and how did you develop the two strands? 
The Dorothy/Dorothea story came first. That was all I had in the early years as I was thinking about the characters and their story. Then I decided I needed a modern day strand too, something to bounce around on if you like, to help develop the original ideas. At first Roberta wasn’t related to Dorothy. She just worked in the bookshop and discovered the letter. That didn’t really work and a critique told me something I already knew, really - there needed to be some form of connection between Dorothy and Roberta. So I turned them into grandmother and grand-daughter and things flowed better from there. I had to work hard on making Roberta’s story as interesting as Dorothy’s, and I’m not sure I quite achieved that. But that’s the risk of dual timelines, one is almost always more gripping than the other.
 
[3] What kind of research did you have to do to render the 1940s sections of the book? 
I read a few books, looked a few things up on the internet. I don’t go a bundle on research. I like to get my story straight in my mind, and have a first draft down, before I research. I don’t want any clangers in there, any silly and obvious historical inaccuracies,but at the same time, the story comes first for me. The thing I try to strive for is getting the language right in dialogue. There’s nothing more jarring than reading a modern day expression coming from the mouth of a character living years before the expression was coined. I try to avoid that.  
 
[4] Can you explain some of the editing process this novel went through from first to final draft? 
It went through twenty two drafts.They weren’t total re-writes. But once I’d got to the point where I’d made lots of changes, I felt it was time to call it a new draft. It evolved over several years. I had it critiqued in 2012 which resulted in some quite big changes, including making Dorothy and Roberta related, as mentioned. Then I was fortunate enough to be signed by my agent Hannah Ferguson, who also had some editorial ideas. Then of course I worked with my editor Suzie Doore at Hodder. There were four edits: structural, line, copy, and proof. There were changes throughout these edits. It was a great experience. 
[5] Can you tell us anything about your next book? 
I’ve written a third novel (I have a “bottom drawer” novel like most writers, I suspect!) and I’ve been working with my agent on that. It’s kind of a triple time-line this time, and it was confusing the hell out of me until I opened a spreadsheet! It’s about a forty-something woman trying to make sense of her past. That’s the essence of it. There’s revenge, love, atonement, friendship, redemption, a bit more revenge… classic themes that are so much fun to write. I hope it will be my second published novel. Fingers crossed!
Thanks to Louise for such interesting answers. Wishing you great success with your lovely novel.
See my review of this book below:
MRS SINCLAIR’S SUITCASE by Louise Walters

 

This dual-narrative novel follows present-day Roberta - who works in a bookshop and finds letters and cards inside the old books – and 1940s Dorothy who meets a Polish pilot during the Battle of Britain. Secrets from the past resurface chapter by chapter as the relationship between Roberta and Dorothy is gradually revealed. The lives of these two women and the conflict between their inner feelings and the outer world – and for both, a reluctance to fully engage with that outer world, looking in from outside, always on the edge of things – are beautifully rendered by the writer. Traditional aspects of women’s lives - such as childbirth, relationships with parents, marriage, adultery, cookery and laundry – are explored in a sensitive and careful way, all the while the central mystery unfolding and drawing the reader onwards. I particularly enjoyed the scenes between Dorothy and Jan, her Polish pilot, which achieved a kind of timeless quality which I did not want to end and was eager to return to. I’m trying to avoid giving away any plot spoilers, but suffice to say there is a central scene recollected by Dorothy – told in flawless stream of consciousness – which was devastating and harrowing to read, brilliantly done – you’ll know what I mean when you get there. The characters will live on long in the memory, and the scenes in Dorothy’s kitchen and in the fields surrounding her farm are etched in my mind. A lovely book, touching and very moving.

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I’VE UPDATED MY WEBSITE!

Since the paperback of THE VISITORS came out the other week, I’ve been tidying up my website with some new links to articles and reviews.

See the other pages on this site for all sorts of information on THE VISITORS and other aspects of writing and reading: 

  • CONTACT/LINKS is where you’ll find loads of online articles by me & interviews, as well as who to call if you want a review copy, author appearances etc.
  • THE VISITORS tells you about the ideas behind the book and there are links to plenty of the latest online reviews so you can see what other people thought of the book.
  • READING MATTERS and WRITING TIPS offer my thoughts on books and how to structure them.
  • IMAGES shows pictures of some of the elements that have influenced THE VISITORS.

Thanks for reading. :-)

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historylivesathodder:

THE VISITORS, Rebecca Mascull’s debut novel, is published today in paperback! Here is another exclusive extract from her beautiful book. We hope you enjoy it…

I dress with care. I insist I do my own hair but ensure it is carefully checked by Lottie. We walk down to the hop garden and find the…

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historylivesathodder:

Here is an exclusive extract from Rebecca Mascull’s brilliant debut novel, THE VISITORS:

I know two figures approach by the stirring of air and their tread. One is Father and the other follows: tiptoe-light, tentative. Father pats my tear-dried cheek. I grasp his hand, do not know the common way…

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WATERSTONES AUTHOR EVENT!

August 27th 6.30-7.30pm Waterstones Lincoln High Street - I’ll be there - will you?! All you need do is pop into the shop and reserve your ticket or telephone 01522 540011 to have a ticket put aside for you.

There’ll be a reading from THE VISITORS, author Q & A, paperback book sales and an opportunity to have your book signed by the author. 

So, come to the beautiful cathedral city of Lincoln, talk books a while and get the perfect summer read or gift for a friend. Hope to see you there.

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historylivesathodder:

We thought you might like to know a little bit more about the inspiration behind THE VISITORS. Here are Rebecca’s answers to some readers’ questions:

Where did the idea for the Visitors come from?

I’ve mentioned the deaf students I worked with and Helen Keller. Many of the other features of…