Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Anna Chilvers' Blog

Selected last week, one of the new titles for Exclusively Independent is Falling Through Clouds (Bluemoose Books).

There have been a number of moments in my life when I have decided to be a writer.

The first was probably when I was about seven years old and decided to be famous for being the youngest person ever to have a novel published. I started on chapter one – many, many times. I wrote Chapter Ones of books influenced by Beatrix Potter (little pigs go off on an adventure with their belongings tied up in a handkerchief on a stick), C.S.Lewis (children find themselves transported to a wonderful magical world full of green mosses, bluebells and magical pools) and the Pullein-Thompsons (girl makes friends with a horse) and many more.

Time went on, and school pushed me to make career choices, and writer didn’t seem to be one of options on offer. So I went for Educational Psychologist instead and chose all the right ‘O’ levels and ‘A’ levels and got into UCL to do a BSc in Psychology. All went well until one day somewhere in the third term, when I thought, hang on, stuff this, I wanted to be a writer. So I left university and got a job in a bookshop. I also walked about on Hampstead Heath a lot, visited Highgate Cemetery and wrote a lot of poems. I started a novel, but my particularly crap boyfriend didn’t like me giving extended attention to something other than him and burned it.

A few jobs, an English degree, a husband (who is completely lovely still after 20 years) and two children later, I thought, hang on, I wanted to be a writer. The girls were small and I was at home and I thought, now or never. So I joined a class and went on a course and started writing. Pamela Johnson, a wonderful writing teacher from Goldsmith College, asked me how long I thought it would take me to write a novel and I said about two years. She said, write it in one. So I went home and wrote a novel in eight months.

I wrote Falling Through Clouds whist completing an MA at Sheffield Hallam University. The reasons I am still writing are these - one – it’s what I’ve always really wanted to do - each of those moments was an epiphany. And secondly, the encouragement, support and downright nagging of people who believe in me.


Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Bonnie Greer on VoxAfrica

Voxlogo_390_235 VoxAfrica filmed an interview with Bonnie Greer last Thursday 19 January, while taking part in an event as SOAS University.

Click here to link across to the show, Bonnie's piece is roughly 43 minutes in.

VoxAfrica is the first Panafrican, bilingual and independent TV channel.

Many thanks to Micol Carmignani for his help organising the footage. Be sure to have a look at VoxAfrica TV, either online, cable or on satellite for the most current affairs from Africa.


Submissions Call Now Open!

The new call for Exclusively Independent has now opened!

All Independent Publishers are welcome to submit up to three titles by emailing in the AI and ms. For more information, or to submit work, please email the address below.

We look forward to receiving them!


Monday, 25 January 2010

Reviews of The Dark Side of Love

Having just been selected for the next cycle of Exclusively Independent, detailed below are some fantastic reviews...

The international best seller from Arabia Books, The Dark Side of Love by Rafik Schami, continues to experience ongoing success.
Here are just some of the great reviews:

'A masterpiece! A marvel of prose that mixes myths, stories, tales, legends, and a wonderful love story... You will experience a Scheherazade in sparkling colours - a big love story, which does not spare us the sharp knives of grief.' - Die Zeit

'At last, the Great Arab Novel - appearing without ifs, buts,equivocations, metaphorical camouflage or hidden meanings..... Despite its length, the book is a compulsive read. We experience a long-awaited revelation of a society too long presented as a set of gruelling orexotic stereotypes. And the mythic elements endure, in the grist of many twisting tales. The continuing roll-call of revenge for old slights is exemplified by a piece of dialogue in which two brothers toast their success in avenging their father's death after 15 years,and one notes: 'A Bedouin would say: well done, lads, but why in such a hurry?' - Simon Louvish, The Independent, 31 July 2009.

'There are no faux-magical pyrotechnics in the telling, but richly detailed characters working through real situations, characters whose inherited wounds the reader comes to care deeply about. Each is vividly drawn,with quiet and acute intelligence.' - Robin Yassin-Kassab, The Guardian, 16 May 2009.'With its feuds, lovers, murders, villains and assorted heroes and heroines, this is a novel to enjoy and to ponder.' - Claire Hopley, The Washington Times, 11 May 2009.

'With its feuds, lovers, murders, villains and assorted heroes and heroines, this is a novel to enjoy and to ponder.' - Claire Hopley, The Washington Times, 11 May 2009.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Nick Griffiths' Blog

In the new selection will be Nick Griffiths' novel In the Footsteps of Harrison Dextrose, published by Legend Press in 2008.

Also author of Dalek I loved You (Orion), this book is a satire against the backdrop of innumerable travel books.
As a journalist since the late 80s, I started writing a novel to test the limits of my comedy writing. It turned out to be a long test. In the Footsteps of Harrison Dextrose took a dozen years to complete – more off than on, I’m relieved to report – and I’m currently trying to write the sequel in a shorter time. A far shorter time.
This opening line:

It was my 18th birthday when I chanced upon Harrison Dextrose’s The Lost Incompetent: a Bible for the Inept Traveller, little knowing that it would one day lead me to kill a man with a dead penguin.

It only occurred to me eight years after I had started writing the thing.

What I had forgotten, and I imagine childbirth is similar – do your worst, Mumsnet – is how bloody difficult it is to write a novel, and a comedy novel in particular. Every single word has to count: to further the plot, to colour a scene, to raise a laugh. (There were 86,000 of them in ItFoHD.) Yesterday I was up at 2am, trying not to poison a shaman while accidentally killing a tribal leader and somehow stealing a ventriloquist’s dummy – a scenario that has been turning my brain inside out for the past couple of weeks. But I nailed it finally and lay awake for another hour, gibbering quietly, so overloaded were my thoughts. Today I feel like a golem being quietly pelted with snowballs.

Is it fun? No! Every morning I sit at my Mac with The Fear, seeking distractions to put off the dreaded moment when I commit words to novel. Once I start, the excitement builds and I wonder why I prevaricated. Is it fulfilling? And how. Slowly but surely, Looking for Mrs Dextrose lives, as the characters from that first book continue their adventures. I know their fates, their touching, sometimes dark, sometimes funny life-changing moments. I just need to stop writing this.


Thursday, 21 January 2010

January Selection of EI!

We have now had the panel meeting and I'm happy to announce that the following ten titles have made it into the selection:

In the Footsteps of Harrison Dextrose by Nick Griffiths (Legend Press)
The Obelisk by E.M Forster (Hesperus Press)
The Stone Gallows by C. David Ingram (Myrmidon Books)
All My Shows are Great – The Life of Lew Grade by Lewis Chester (Aurum Press)
Cut on the Bias edited by Stephanie Tillotson (Honno Press)
Duckling Chronicles by Emilie Christensen (Winged chariot Press)
Baber’s Apple by Michael Marr (PaperBooks)
Falling through the Clouds by Anna Chilvers (Bluemoose Books)
The Dark Side of Love by Rafik Shami (Arabia Books)
Deadly Waters by Pauline Rowson (Fathom)

Over the next few days I'll be featuring various author blogs, and any events that may be coming up.


Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Event Alteration!

As previously listed, Bonnie Greer will be hosting a talk at SOAS this evening (19th January). The time has now been changed now starting at 5:30, until 7:00pm.

VoxAfrica TV will be filming the event, along with some short interviews and vox-pops. After the event I will be posting up links to this footage, just in case you don't make it there tonight.

School of Oriental and African Studies
Brunei Gallery, University of London
Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG

Admission is free.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Just a quick note...

As you know, the current cycle of Exclusively Independent should be in shops and libraries from the start of each month. This month has been rather tricky thanks to the holidays and then a surprising amount of snow, therefore we have decided to extend the cycle by one week.

The new stock will be flying into stores from 10 February as opposed to the 3rd.

Hopefully the stock should be in place by now, but if not, bear with us and the titles should be in place soon!



Monday, 11 January 2010

Submissions Call Now Closed!

The next round of Exclusively Independent has now closed.

Many thanks to all the publishers that submitted titles, they will now be collated into the submission pack and sent to the panel.

The panel meeting is 20 January, so check back here to see which titles made the list!


Friday, 8 January 2010

Isabel Ashdown's Blog

Currently featured in Exclusively Independent is the fantastic Glasshopper by Isabel Ashdown. An extract from the book won the 2008 Mail on Sunday Novel Competition, praised as "Magnificent...made every word work and left the reader anxious to read on."

Isabel Ashdown on why laughter and pain will always share the page.

Andy stands motionless, staring up the tree. He suddenly snatches up into the branches, then screams like a girl and throws something at the ground as if it bit him. “Shit! Shit!”
“What is it?” I crawl across the rug, out of the shade, to look at the thing on the ground.
Andy crouches next to it, and cautiously pokes it with his finger.
“What is it?” I ask again.
“It’s its tail. I pulled its bloody tail off.”
We stare at it a bit longer with the sun’s rays burning down on our backs.
I stand up and press my palms together to do a Japanese bow. “Ahhhh! Glasshopper! Indeed, you have patience of cobra. Your initiation is complete!”

Andy stands and returns the bow, and I suddenly see us as others might, as two skinny boys in baggy pants, standing in the middle of nowhere in the scorching midday sun. I start to laugh, but it’s a nervous kind of laugh, one I can’t control, and it takes me over till I’m on my knees pounding the dry ground with my fists, screaming and laughing like a madman. Andy’s with me, rolling about on his back, clutching at his belly as tears roll down his face. “Glasshopper!” he howls. “Glasshopper!”

When the story of Jake first started to emerge, I knew it would be the story of a boy growing up with an alcoholic parent. Let’s not kid ourselves, the subject matter is tough, and it’s not for everyone. But in telling this story, I wanted to portray the normality of such a childhood – through its profound turmoil and pain, as well as through everyday moments of humour and triviality. In every other way, Jake is an ordinary thirteen year old boy – he’s saving for a hi-fi, he has a crush on his Classics teacher, and he’s not yet worked out how to be cool around other kids. But he has his particular burden to bear, in the shape of his dependent mother; and life’s not always rosy.

It was important to me that Glasshopper did not develop into a work of ‘misery-lit’. God forbid. As I wrote, the humour in Glasshopper became integral to the storytelling, enhancing the poignancy of Jake’s difficult childhood, rather than, I hope, reducing it. Jake’s unshakeable optimism gets him through the highs and lows, and in moments of teenage comedy and laughter we are able to understand how it is that he copes with his less than idyllic lifestyle.

To quote the wise words of Mark Twain, “The human race has one really effective weapon, and that is laughter.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Bonnie Greer Events for the New Year...

9781906558246 First week back and we have two great events to announce for Bonnie Greer and the fantastic Obama Music.

Tuesday, 19th January: Bonnie will be hosting a talk at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) from 6:00-8:30pm. Taking place in the Brunie Suite, admission is free. For more information, contact or call 0207 898 4370.

Thursday, 4th February: 'In Conversation with Bonnie Greer' - Bonnie will be discussing her new novel from 6:30pm, as well as signing copies. Admission is £3, however this is redeemable against purchases of the book. Tickets are available in store, or call 0207 851 2400

So pencil them in the diary as each event promises to be a fantastic evening!


Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Val Harris' Blog

Sea Creatures by Val Harris, will be displayed in the new cycle of Exclusively Independent. The title is published by Cava Books which is a fiction imprint Gingercat Books.

Sea Creatures is my third novel, and was the most challenging to write because of some of the issues it explores. I happened to be in Cornwall, in Talland, when the idea for the plot began to develop and set it there. I have loved Cornwall since I was a child, reading books about it, making it a holiday destination for my own family since the nineteen seventies – adoring the moody wildness of its coastline. I also happened to be reading ‘Moment’s of Being’ by Virginia Woolf, who lived in Talland House in St Ives. You could say that it was her quote, which I refer to at the beginning of the book, that inspired Sea Creatures, but perhaps it was more the catalyst that spurred the story on.

As the plot began to develop, London also became an important setting too. Place is quite important for me when I write. Setting a novel in a familiar setting, helps me to know where I am. My previous novel, The Siren, was set on the Amalfi Coast, and my next novel is set in East Africa. I also like intrigue and try to add a bit of a shock factor to all my novels.

Sea Creatures has a central theme focusing on the effects of the disappearance of a parent on a young family at the time of that disappearance, and the subsequent underlying and imbedded effects as they grow into adulthood. Like most families, the children could not be more different. Charlie, the middle child with an older and younger sister is, I think, a lovable character but with a sinister occupation. Jenna, the eldest sister, who has stayed in her beloved Cornwall (and who narrates the first part of the book in the first person), is the link between them all and the one who tries the hardest to hold the threads of her family together. Olivia, who was never a Cornish girl at heart, leaves the family home at the first opportunity for the bright lights of London and a career in publishing. But her snooty and frosty veneer covers a vulnerable interior. Running parallel with their lives is an artistic and hedonistic father, plus some secrets revealed and a whole host of underlying issues including adultery, drugs, a terminal illness and that little injection of intrigue. I really took those characters to heart, and loved spending time with my imaginary, dysfunctional family.

A parent disappearing is not something I’ve experienced myself, but I have been close to someone who has, so I was able to glean some firsthand facts as well as draw on general research about this subject which is another part of writing that I find hugely interesting. The cover for the book is very special for me. It was a commissioned painting by David Axtell, a Cornish artist, who cleverly captured my description of the scene I envisaged.


Monday, 4 January 2010

Exclusively Independent Call Now Open!

Enter sign New Year and a New Exclusively Independent list!

The titles are currently making their way into bookshops and libraries, so it's time to open up the submission call.

Publishers can submit up to three titles simply by emailing in each AI.

The submission call closes Sunday 10 January, so send your titles in, and be sure not to miss out!

If you have any questions about the project, or want to submit titles, please email the address below.


Lorraine Jenkin's Blog

Happy New Year everyone! Hope you had an enjoyable and restful holiday. First day back and kicking off EI for 2010 is a blog from an author featured in the new cycle. Lorraine Jenkin's novel Eating Blackbirds.

Who's Under Your Bed?

Strange really, how one small experience can inspire a whole book; for my second novel, Eating Blackbirds, it was that simple. I had an old house and my bedroom was in the attic, accessed by a stepladder. The attic lights were across the room and to reach them, I negotiated low beams, sloping ceilings and the clutter of a woman for whom being house-proud was something that happened to other people.

I got used to cracking my head on beams and once went for two weeks with a large scab across the bridge of my nose for having mis-judged my own height after a good night out. Of course, the sensible thing would have been to leave a light on downstairs - but that would have been too easy.

Whilst abroad writing my first novel, Chocolate Mousse and Two Spoons, I was dragged down an alleyway by a man with a knife and had a fight with him (it’s OK - I have three brothers, so I won) and it changed my feelings of safety and fed my “monster imagination”. Returning from my trip, I was no longer simply afraid of breaking my nose on entering my bedroom, I was suddenly aware of all sorts of other possibilities.

I spent weekends at my partner’s and would return Sunday night to my cold, empty house and as I crept up the ladder, I would imagine what would be hiding in my bedroom, waiting to grab my feet as I stumbled for the light switch. My rational mind could dispel the monsters, but I would move onto the bloke who lived in a cold cave in the hills who knew that my house was empty. He would reach through the dog flap and slide the bolt. He would start by warming himself by the fire, but as confidence grew, he would watch telly, cook a meal or take a bath. I imagined him comfy in my bed, thinking he would snooze for an hour or so, but still being there when I got home…

Of course, the obvious place to hide when you are about to be discovered in someone’s bed would be underneath it (although in reality, there was probably not enough room to hide a troll, let alone a bloke). And so, my character Godfrey was born…

Eating Blackbirds was therefore worked backwards and forwards from the point of Godfrey lying under the bed in the rarely-occupied second home that he has “moved into”, because his own home (and life) is cold and sparse. He starts by spotting an interesting book and “borrowing” it, and moves on to taking his washing there and luxuriating in their bathtub. As expected, the owner finally makes an appearance, hence Godfrey lying there trying to resist grabbing his host’s ankles…

People who know me aren’t sure whether to quite believe that I never took my washing to the second home that I used to clean. Did I honestly not do a load of cooking for my freezer in their cooker, rather than use my own electricity? Did the writing about someone stealing teabags from work roll off my pen just a little too easily?

For my response, I have honed my indignant look and mutter about the virile imagination of authors…

Author Profile
Lorraine Jenkin quit her job and went off round the world to write her novel, Chocolate Mousse and Two Spoons. She has written a variety of pieces for newspapers and magazines, including The Guardian and The Times. Her second novel, Eating Blackbirds, was released last July by Honno and her third, Cold Enough to Freeze Cows is due in July 2010.