Thursday, 9 September 2010

Guest Blog from Michael Nath

Michael Nath is the author of La Rochelle, a literary fiction title published by Route. Described as 'stylish, very funny and discreetly surprising' by London Review of Books, this title was a strong favourite for the new selection of Exclusively Independent titles.

Here's a brief word from Michael...

People like saying, ‘X, Y, Z is dead!’ Maybe it makes them feel bold. There’s nothing like a new start, is there? Or a revolution. But what often happens after they’ve said X, Y, Z is dead is that the new start actually consists in settling for less, and making a smaller effort. This seems to have been the case with readers and writers, ever since a smart Alec called out, ‘Modernism is dead!’; which brings us to the subject of a new book by Gabriel Josipovici, called Whatever Happened to Modernism? Professor Josipovici argues that the English novel has become caged in recent decades, and that its famous practitioners have been putting on a tame show, for all their swaggering. This has annoyed the literary reviewers and metropolitan columnists, who’re in the habit of making a fuss of certain big names, and don’t appreciate being told they’ve been cheering cows; but it happens to be true. The ranking writers and the prize-winners make it solely because the idea has caught on that ‘Modernism is dead’; the consequence of this is that contemporary writing can prowl about quite safely in its cage, or not prowl at all but just peep through its fingers.

In La Rochelle, with the critical support of Route, you could say I was trying to break out of the cage; I may have failed, but I’ll keep trying. I don’t think Modernism is dead. What is the authority of the claim? I don’t think novels are obliged to demonstrate ‘narrative drive’ either. All this little phrase tells us is how contemporary fiction and the creative-writing schools bow to capitalism; for why is the novel obliged to behave like Grand Theft Auto? Nor do I think the best style for prose fiction is the ‘starve-the-reader’ one they teach you on the writing courses; for why should the novel count calories? Let’s have the baroque back in the novel. Let’s have a banquet on every page. Let us mix it with the philosophers, the scientists and the priests...


Many thanks to Michael and Route Publishing for the blog. Readers can purchase a copy by visting the Route website.


Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Guest Blog from Paul Burman

Paul Burman is the author of The Grease Monkey's Tale, which is featured in the new selection of titles. Published by Paperbooks, this title is Paul's second novel with the company, not to mention also being included in Legend Press' fifth collection of short stories, 10 Journeys, with At the Rawlings' Place. Here's a piece from Paul, giving us a rare insight into what it takes to be a published author.

This morning, I was held responsible for someone’s house being a mess. Instead of doing housework across the weekend, they’d got caught up with The Grease Monkey’s Tale and hadn’t been able to put it down – things had slid from there. They’d needed to know what was going to happen to Nic the mechanic, and so the cleaning and tidying, the vacuuming and polishing, had gone to scratch and they’d spent too many hours on the sofa reading.

It was the finest of compliments and made my day. And it capped a great week for The Grease Monkey’s Tale with over a hundred sales (that I’m aware of), a number of people describing it as a thriller and a page-turner (which I’m thrilled by), and the announcement that it’d be one of six titles in the forthcoming Exclusively Independent promotion.

Very often, though, such compliments are followed by a conversation about writing and one question in particular: How do you go about the process of writing?

For many years, the answer would have changed from one manuscript to another as I experimented with writing the best novel I could – a compulsive read for the reader, a compulsive buy for the publisher and something I enjoyed being involved in from go to woe.

This question of process was not something I’d really tried to articulate before, but frequent attempts to answer it recently have helped me discover a response. Finally!

On the whole, I prefer to have more than one writing project on the go at once. It’s an approach that grew out of writing The Snowing and Greening of Thomas Passmore and The Grease Monkey’s Tale, which I didn’t so much write back-to-back as write alternately – a couple of drafts of one and then a couple of drafts of the other, draft after draft – at the same time as trying to make them as unlike one another as possible.

With Number Three and Number Four, however, I’ve allowed myself the freedom to do this to a greater extent: I’ll spend a couple of hours on one and then a couple of hours on the other. It’s a process that keeps me excited with whatever words I’m tapping away at and looking forward to returning to the story-in-waiting. Far from making the process disjointed, it allows time for ideas to settle and for new ideas to grow – sharpens the focus in deciding what to pursue and what to leave alone.

In terms of drafting, the real sense of beginning lies, for me, in mapping out pages and pages of dot-points, exploring who the characters are and what motivates them; about location, mood, atmosphere, the different layers... trying to discover the voice that might tell the story. It’s only when that voice finally begins to reveal itself that I might start the first paragraphs for Chapter One – a matter of testing the voice and listening to it.

From there, it’s a matter of redrafting those opening paragraphs and maybe adding another couple of paragraphs, before drafting the lot again; playing with the words and phrases as I go. In this way, the story is built in blocks, tier upon tier, until eventually the first full draft is finished and I can begin working with it as a complete text – cutting, moving, adding – polishing until I can see the reflection of its narrator.

Many thanks to Paul for writing a blog for the site. Both The Snowing and Greening of Thomas Passmore and The Grease Monkey's Tale, are available to buy direct from the Legend Press site.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Guest Blog from Ruth Dugdall

Featured in the new cycle of Exclusively Independent is the award winning The Woman Before Me by Ruth Dugdall - Legend Press.

This book tells the story of one woman's devotion, and investigates the boundaries between love and obsession.

How can we escape what others have created? We all become what our pasts make us. Whether it’s in replication or rejection, rebellion or duty, our life’s journey is written on our skin like a tattoo, the map to the heart of us. What has the teacher learnt? What does the barrister wish to defend? Those who hold others under lock and key, what do they seek to control?

The Woman Before Me

We are all just one event away from the loss of love, of the status quo, of the illusory balance in our lives.

The characters in The Woman Before Me are ordinary people made extraordinary by an unusual situation or an unusual choice. I am interested in extremities, situational and emotional, which would include crime but also madness, sexual deviance, and obsessive love….

Happiness is a fragile, transitory thing. In some ways only when it is gone can we truly discover what we are made of, the very essence of our self: integrity, courage; or the opposite. Whether or not we can be survivors. I’m compelled to explore human emotion (especially grief, jealousy, anger) and the tentative grip any of us have on our lives.

I spent years working with criminals, including murderers and sex offenders, and every novel has been inspired by a true event. Although there is often a crime or violent incident at the core of my writing, my novels explore the real consequences of crime. In much genre crime fiction, when the perpetrator is successfully caught, natural order is restored. If anything, my writing is the opposite of such escapism.

The Woman Before Me is (I hope!) a reflective novel. A careful exploration of loss and love, an emotional insight into ourselves. I want the reader to close the book and hug their child a bit tighter, kiss their lover more softly. To feel they have actively participated in the journey, arriving with a different view of their own surroundings…

…If only for a moment.

Many thanks to Ruth for putting this blog together for the site - The Woman Before Me wond the CWA Debut Dagger Award, as well as the Luke Bitmead Bursary leading to it's publication with Legend Press. To buy a copy for £7.99, head to Legend Press site.

Friday, 3 September 2010

EI Relaunch - New Selection Announced!

WBM cover As previously mentioned, Exclusively Independent is now being relaunched, and we have a fantastic selection of titles to get the ball rolling! There are six titles chosen, including Legend Press' very own The Woman Before Me and from Paperbooks, The Grease Monkey's Tale. The final selection is as follows:

Pantomime Life of Joseph Grimaldi - Andrew Stott (Canongate)
Crossing Jerusalem, Journey at the Centre of the World's Trouble - Nicholas Woodsworth (Haus Publishing)
La Rochelle - Michael Nath (Route)
The Grease Monkey's Tale - Paul Burman (Paperbooks)
The Accident - Ismail Kadare (Canongate)
The Woman Before Me - Ruth Dugdall (Legend Press)

The titles will now be sourced by Gardners, distributed to independent bookshops and libraries, and displayed for the extended period of time of six weeks.