Monday, 19 November 2012

The Next Big Thing

Introducing the next two Next Big Thing authors who have answered questions on their latest books. 

Annie Kirby, author and writing tutor
Annie and I had stories published in the Bracket anthology and have both written for Comma Press. She has written short stories, essays and articles and is currently working on a novel she first thought up in a Creative Writing class fifteen years ago. You can find her blog here.

Russell Smith, author The Grenshall Manor Chronicles
I met Russ whilst studying for the MA Creative Writing. He's a good personal friend and saved the day one Christmas by putting together a Lego racing track for my son Jack that I'd bought but couldn't figure out. Russ' latest story is released next month as part of a collection of short stories called Crime Net. You can find his blog here.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Single Mother on the Verge
Available as an iBook, on Kindle
on Kobo and as a Penguin Paperback, 

Roll up! Roll Up!
The Next, NEXT BIG THING thing writers being are getting ready to post: last week I was tagged by Michele Gorman.  I'm  introducing this week's writers in relentlessly slow style, like a reality TV show results night.

So far we've had Michelle Green

You can read her inspiring post here.

Coming up a brilliant mix.

Alice Kuipers, award-winning young adult and children's author living in Canada

Alice and I both studied on the MA Creative Writing at MMU, back in 200? ... well back a few years! She has published some cracking novels. She's incredibly prolific (cue writer envy).  We also worked briefly together on Manchester's City Life magazine in the good days, nice little lunches, followed by coffees in London.  You can find her blog here.

My PhotoZoe Lambert, author of The War Tour,  shortlisted for the Edge Hill Short Story Prize

Zoe and I met in our early twenties just after she had graduated from the MA Creative Writing at UEA, where she had studied under some of those BIG NAME creative writing tutors that steal supplement headlines. We met through some mutual friends that were studying here in the UK from San Francisco. My friend on the MA course dated a professional dominatrix that studied with Zoe on her course. A decade of wine-soaked nights later, we are still firm buddies. You can find her blog here.

Two more to be added later....  

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Roll up! Roll Up!  

THE NEXT BIG thing tagged writers so far are getting ready to post: last week I was tagged by Michele Gorman.

...and then I wrote my answers a day late as I was in a cottage in the Lake District surrounded by rain imagining I was actually recreating Wuthering Heights.

Here's my post for The Next Big Thing.

I'm going to do introduce this week's writers in relentlessly slow style, like a reality TV show results night.

The wonderful writer Michelle Green, whose writing and spirit I admire very much, is up first.
I'm very lucky to workshop my writing with her too.

Michelle, please take a bow....

You can read her inspiring post here.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

The Next Big Thing

I’m on an annual writing holiday in the Lake District with some fellow writers , where I’m hoping to get to grips with my novel in progress, Katy Sullivan – and it seems – a mini collection of short stories (I’ve been writing one a day – three down, three to go).
It's taken me a little longer to get my book finished over the last few years because my son is now a teenager and I wanted to spend some time with him. I also got a job as a magazine editor which pretty much EATS my time.

Last week, the very impressive Michele Gorman tagged me to answer these questions about my book. 

In turn, I'll tag five more writers who will tell you about their 'next big thing' next Wednesday. 

I have to apologise for mine being a day late – the cottage I'm staying in is at the foot of a mountain - internet is miles away – there was a hell of a rainpour – and there was no chance of taking a walk that day.

I’m going to tell you about my UK published book Single Mother on the Verge, as I’ll be releasing it as an eBook called Life on the Verge in Canada and the US this December. 

Where did the idea come from for the book? 

There was a spate a few years ago when the supermarket shelves were filled with books about married women with four children, summer houses in the Home Counties, husbands with great salaries, and problems like whether to put diesel in the four-wheel drive – or petrol – matched with grand debate about whether Hermione van Winkle bought her dresses from Whistles or Reiss. 

I didn’t feel any of this represented my life – or actually the life of other women I knew, who were educated, intelligent and fabulous, but actually getting by on a very average – or even below average – incomes. And so I started this blog, it won an award a few month later, and then about six weeks after that sold to Penguin as a book.

What genre does your book fall under? 

Narrative non-fiction: it has a lot in common with popular fiction but is actually a memoir. That means what you read is true, according to my perspective of course.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition? 

As a Hollywood comedy 

Rhys Ifans would have to be my Welsh boyfriend at the time, Rhodri, who I write about in the book and is an eco-warrior. 

My London love interest, Toga: Christian Bale.  

Morton – a ‘mature’ love interest (actually, now he’s probably ancient! I haven’t seem him for a while) – Rowan Atkinson 

Maria  – me of course, so I could snog all of the above. Or Anna Friel, she’d be better. 

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book? 

Twenty-something mother is almost strangled to death, meets unlikely hero, finds love, makes love, finds another unlikely hero, struggles to handle an eco warrior, needs big solutions to pay small bills, finds love, makes love, finds love, makes love, makes life-changing decision. 

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? 

Single Mother on the Verge was published by Penguin in the UK. I’m going to self-publish the eBook in the US and Canada as Life on the Verge because I'm excited by the potential of new-fangled forms – though publishers interested in taking on the paperback are very welcome to get in touch with my agent Jon Elek

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript? 
The book sold on proposal – I had about 10 months to write the whole thing, (80,000 words) and the a few months to edit it. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? It’s a family story similar to Nick Hornby’s About a Boy, How to be Good, or Tony Parsons' Man and Boy. There’s romance and tragedy and sex. The UK cover looks like chick-lit, but I think that’s a little deceiving because it’s an observational book about society, politics, family and the environment. 

Who or what inspired you to write this book? 
I felt I could write a book for women not from 'middle England' that might reflect their experience of life. I wanted to write about serious issues such as domestic violence, abuse, poverty, the environment and relationships – but with humour, a gentle touch, and an easy approach. 

When I was writing the book, I imagined the reader was sitting next to me, and that I had her hand in mine as I was telling this story and saying to her – or him, probably her – You know, I fucked up too. Life is hard. Bad things happen. But it’s not the end of the world, and actually you’re going to be OK. You’re also going to have a lot of fun on the way to being OK

A few things were happening in my life at that time: I was living on a social housing estate, I was dating an eco-warrior, we were having an open relationship, and I’d fallen for a number of men with fancy-pants jobs in London. It was a wacky, fun and hilarious time. But also excruciatingly sad: my son was being raised by just me – and that was because one night his father had strangled me. 

What else about your book might pique the reader's interest? 

My five writers for next Wednesday are

To be revealed on Saturday when I'm back home... 

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Rice or Roses?

Single Mother on the Verge
Available as an iBook, on Kindle
on Kobo and as a Penguin Paperback,
When the weather is hot conversations turn to love.

In Manchester groups gather to eat their lunches by the Bridgewater Hall or on St Peter's Square.

The sunglasses people wear seem to act as masques at a ball, and furtive glances pass across the pavements in the hope that no one catches on – or if they do then he or she might stretch their legs out a little further, lean back and pretend to soak up more sun.

'We have a proverb in China,' said my friend as we sweltered in the heat. 'Do you want rice or roses every day?'

I thought for a moment. I eat rice at least three times a week, I definitely wouldn't want it every day. 

'Maria –'

She tends to talk to me as though she is shouting.

'I want roses.'

'This is where you are going wrong,' she sighed. 'You cannot have roses every day. You need rice to live. You see now how this makes sense?'

'I'd prefer to have roses some days, than rice every day.'

'We all want roses,' she said, 'but we can't have roses. We need rice to live. This is what it is like with a man, roses don't last, you need rice.'

'Even so, I'm a roses girl.'

She tutted and turned back to her work.

'You are not looking for a man,' she said. 'You are looking for a hero.'

The office was quiet. I smiled at her words because she'd made me think of the Bonnie Tyler song and then all I could see was the image of a woman striding the floor to an 80s beat.

'I'm not looking for a hero,' I said. 'Just someone to put the bins out.'
Then it reminded me of what my French friend had said when she spoke about her husband:
'I'd rather be treated like a queen than kiss a King's ass.'

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Rowing for Beginners

'Lean right back, pivot the hips, up to front stops, feather, blade in... and push –'

It was a glorious morning and I was on the canal learning how to row. Tommy was sitting behind me being quite patient. He's been rowing for his whole life and now he's retired.

'You need to go slower.'

I thought I was slow. Really slow.

'Push your bottom back – I'm sorry we're going to have to use words like bottom,' he said. 'I hope you don't mind. Okay so push your bottom back and relax.'

'I don't mind you using the word bottom,' I said sticking the blades back into the water and trying to pull a full stroke.

'Watch the pools of water form as we leave them behind, look at the trees, the sky, the water ... You're thinking about it too much, don't think about it. Now slowly forward, relax your back –'

He tried to grab at my vest as I surged forward, my hands gripped tightly at the blades as though I wanted to fight the water, not glide over it. He hesitated for fear he'd yank my bra straps and sighed.

'I don't know where to grab you,' he said. 'I can't very well pull your hair.'

'No, don't do that.'

'Rowing is a very bodily sport,' he said apologetically.

I know, I thought, gazing over to the boat shed where men in Lycra were hoicking a quad up onto their shoulders to bring to the water. That's why I'm here.

Then I heard a fog horn, well not actually a fog horn but my best male friend Dillon who just so happened to be drifting by on a barge, on a barge holiday, waving his arms like a lunatic and calling out for me. 'Oh Maria, darling, Maria, darling – you're rowing, you're rowing...'.

I blew him some kisses across the water and waved.

He turned around to his friends. 'Oh look, she's rowing. Go on then, row.'

'Concentrate,' said Tommy as he tapped me on the shoulder. I sensed he felt bad for tapping me on the shoulder. 'Don't let him distract you. Think of nothing. Backstops, and go.'

Single Mother on the Verge
Available as an iBook, on Kindle
on Kobo and as a Penguin Paperback,

But I wasn't thinking of nothing, I was thinking of how to get on that barge for a cup of tea. And then I was thinking of the boys in the boat shed, and then I was wondering if I'm too old at thirty-four to become an Olympic athlete.


Saturday, 19 May 2012

Gender Roles

On Friday Teenboy and I were in the car driving to school. I didn't want to drive as I'm trying to cycle to work, and run, and row, and play tennis – since I started my fitness routine I've gained weight, don't give me all this "it's muscle" rubbish –  Teenboy was expecting a lift to school and so had dragged his feet around the house. I, on the other hand was dressed like an athlete in search of some hurdles.

I like the time we spend together in the car. It's an enclosed space where we can talk to one another and I can squeeze his cheeks. When it's raining, or there is traffic, then that's even better.

It's the only time I get to legally trap him in one spot.

'We had PSHE yesterday and the teacher was talking about working mothers,' he began.
'That's interesting,' I said, 'what did she say?'
'That it works better if the man goes out to work and the woman stays at home and doesn't work.'

Teenboy goes to an all boys' school: there are no cookery lessons (domestic science) and I think this is because they expect the boys to get with the girls from the girls' school – and for the girls to cook for them. It's contemporary-archaic.

'I said to the teacher,' continued Jack. 'Well, what about all the single mothers in this country?'

Right on, I thought. Right on.

'What if there is no man at home?' he continued. 'Then those families wouldn't have any money at all.'

'Indeed, or what about the women who left their husbands and had never had a job, how would they find work?'

'And besides,' he added, 'I'm the only man in our house, so I told her: "I'm not going out to work."'

'And what did she say?'

Single Mother on the Verge
Buy the Book: Kindle, iBook, Paperback
'She said, "I hadn't thought about that."'