Tag Archives: fiction

May Interview – Rebecca Gransden 

For May’s interview I caught up with Rebecca Gransden, author of the fantasmagorically delightful Anemogram. Rebecca has also kindly offered a paperback giveaway of Anemogram to one lucky reader of this interview. All you have to do is retweet this interview on your twitter account to be in with a chance to win. You can read my review of Anemogram here: https://lifehasafunnywayofsneakinguponyou.wordpress.com/2016/09/12/anemogram-review/

What was your background and how did you get into writing? 

I’m from the south coast of England and have what I guess would be classified as a traditional working class background. I received a few encouraging words at school and they confirmed my unsteady assertion that I could write a bit if I put my mind to it. I’ve concentrated mostly on short stories over the years, until I attempted to write my first longer piece in 2014. That resulted in my first, and only release so far, Anemogram. 
You sound a lot like me there! Except I’m yet to finish my novel never mind have it published! What are your ambitions for your writing? 
To always push myself forwards, to strive to improve in the areas I think I need to, and to challenge myself. If I don’t feel I’ve moved forward in some way or another I see no point in releasing anything, especially with regard to novels. My predominant impulse is to not shortchange myself or do a disservice to anyone who might pick up my writing. For this reason I will always take risks. To me, feeling comfortable is a sign that I need to move on, whatever the outcome.

Which writers inspire you? 

I have writers I admire, probably too many to mention here, but I’ll say Paul Auster, Chekov for his short stories, JG Ballard, and Lydia Millet is great stylistically. I’m mostly inspired by fellow indie authors whose work connects with me, such as Leo X. Robertson, Harry Whitewolf and Rupert Dreyfus. It’s important to me to have the immediacy of those currently creating as an energising force. And their stuff is great.

Anemogram has a very unusual premise and theme, where did the idea come from? 

I wish I knew! I had about two weeks to come up with some basic ideas in order to take part in National Novel Writing Month. I knew that I wanted a female protagonist, and to cover some specific themes, and then embarked on a pretty intense month. Anemogram is the result.
It sounds like you work well under pressure in that case! Are you working on anything new at the moment? 
I’m taking a break from writing as intensely this year, but I do plan to fit in a novella at some point. I have a short story collection that I’m in the process of finalising in order to release. Last year I completed the first draft of a science fiction themed novel, and I will return to that to edit, although I have no idea if and when I’ll release it.
You have quite a lot going on then! What do you use to do your writing? Pen+paper, computer, typewriter etc. 
All my writing is now carried out on a laptop, just for convenience. My first few short stories were handwritten and it was valuable to transfer them to the laptop making adjustments and improvements as I went. I am interested in attempting something handwritten again as there is a difference in the process that could be creatively beneficial.

It can’t be denied that handwriting makes your arm hurt a lot more than typing though 🙂 Would you ever consider writing in a different genre or is there a genre you wish you could write? 

I’ll try anything in any mixture or permutation. I want to incorporate different areas, to make things interesting and keep pushing myself. Always willing to fall flat on my face if it’s fun! I’ve found it difficult to categorise Anemogram. I worry about genre placement after writing, if at all. I have a whole bunch of horror stories that may be released at some point.

How often do you write? Do you set yourself a word target or just go with it when inspiration strikes? 

I like to set aside specific periods of time to immerse myself in what I’m writing. It doesn’t suit me to have multiple projects active at once, as all my energy needs to point one way. I have a generalised minimum daily word count when I’m in a writing phase, though life does get in the way of that sometimes of course, but if that happens I’m mindful to play catchup the next day in order to stay on a self-imposed schedule. When I’m not actively writing I’m either editing, reading, researching, beta-reading, promoting or doing something to ensure I stay engaged.

What sort of publishing route did you choose and why? 

I’m a supporter of self-publishing as my instincts are that as far as possible writers, and anyone who produces a creative commodity, should retain ownership of their work. This puts pressure on those who do self-publish to ensure that what we release is high quality, especially with regard to formatting and presentation. I love the spirit of independent publishing, on whatever scale, and most of the interesting reading I come across originates from that world.
Without a big publishing house behind you though, how do you market your books? What have been your marketing successes and failures? 
As I have only one release so far my experience of promotion is quite limited. For me, it is important that any promotion I do is an extension of how I make my way through the world, and gives an accurate impression of what I and my writing stands for. I’m aware of what I won’t do—such as pay for reviews—and prefer to look for fun ways for my writing to find those who may be interested in reading it.
If you could be the original author of any book what would it have been and why? 
A book that I returned to endlessly as a kid called Encyclopaedia of Legendary Creatures by Tom McGowan. This was full of definitions of supernatural and mythological beings from around the world and each creature was depicted in an accompanying illustration by Victor Ambrus. His drawings are very distinctive and chilling. I think it would’ve been a fascinating project to put together, and exciting for the author to collaborate with such an amazing illustrator.
I might have to check that out as I love myths, legends, etc. What are your views on good and bad reviews? How much do you think the success of books relies on reviews? 
Reviews are great to have as they do help give a general impression of what a book is about. There’s no denying that it is helpful for a potential reader to have reviews available in order to gain further information about a book before they decide if it is for them or not. My strategy has been one of seeking out readers and reviewers who may get something out of reading my book. I’ve tried to be quite focused and I’ve had a mostly positive experience, whether my book has been enjoyed or not. My concern is not so much to do with a positive or negative reaction, but if my book has been fairly represented or not. I think discerning readers who are familiar with review sites and with review culture look for indications of whether the book will appeal to them, and can filter out much of the noise. Reviews mean less as they are distrusted more but they are still important at this stage, and there’s no doubt positive reviews have an effect.
Thank you so much for taking part in the interview Rebecca and for agreeing kindly to do a giveaway as well! 
If you’d like to see more from Rebecca you can check out her website, Amazon account and social media pages here: 

Website: https://rebeccagransden.wordpress.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/rlgransden

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Rebecca-Gransden-1046981001979898/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14235808.Rebecca_Gransden
Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Rebecca-Gransden/e/B014I5D5OU/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

Descent, Son of a Mermaid by Katie O’Sullivan. Review 

Descent by Katie O’Sullivan is the first YA book about mermaids I’ve actually read. I love all things fantasy but for some reason haven’t come across a mermaid related book before. But I’m pleased to say that I enjoyed this one! 

Shea McNamara is a normal boy who lives on a farm with his dad and deals with fancying girls, hating the spoilt rich kid and trying to get a pass to spend his birthday at a baseball game with his best friend John. Oh and trying to ignore the weird traits he has like being able to remember everything he ever reads, and eyes which adjust to the dark. 

But when his father is killed in a freak, flash tornado, Shea has to move to Cape Cod to live with his grandmother. Here he begins to unravel the mystery of his mother’s disappearance and enters a world he never believed could exist. 

The story is really engaging and quite a quick read, mainly because it’s quite short. I found the characters interesting, and the plot engaging if simple. The underwater world is well constructed and the ending perfectly set for another instalment! 

The Virgin of the Wind Rose by Glen Craney 

Glen recently contacted me to ask me to review his newest novel The Virgin of the Wind Rose and I have to admit I was highly intrigued by the subject matter. The real identity of Christopher Columbus? It’s definitely a line which draws you in. 

The storyline is a bit hard to grasp at first due to there being many different puzzle pieces fitting together and being narrated seperately. 

Jaq is a rookie state department lawyer enjoying her life and embracing her religion, when she suddenly receives devastating news which leads her to the male dominated lands of Ethiopia to investigate a murder. 

Here she teams up with the mysterious antiquities thief Elymas to find the one relic which will rebuild Solomon’s Temple. 

Meanwhile many centuries before, a parallel story runs in Portugal. A young boy named Pero gets involved in the oldest secret societies; Portugal’s Order of Christ. Keen to begin exploring the seas Pero gets involved with the reclusive Prince Henry the Navigator. 

The story flits back and forth between past and present as the ‘real’ identity of Christopher Columbus is finally revealed. The reader soon starts to realise that there is a connection between the real CC and the modern day second coming of the Messiah. 

The writing is heavily detailed, it’s engaging but not an easy read. At time the detail feels a little too much, but there is so much history and build up entwined in there that it’s definitely worth it. 

The writer is correct in saying that this is a story for lovers of Dan Brown or anybody who loves the history of religion. 

Ragdoll by Daniel Cole – review 

Netgalley always asks for an honest review. Most of the time that’s easy because I tend to love books! Unfortunately, in this case I really didn’t. 

Ragdoll by Daniel Cole has a great review score on Goodreads and even had a write up in Writers Magazine which made me really excited to read this. However, I was somewhat disappointed. 

Ragdoll focuses on a team of misfit police officers working for Scotland Yard. There’s William ‘wolf’ Fawkes who spent time in an psychiatric hospital after an incident in a court room. Detective Baxter as well as harbouring a secret crush on Wolf is hiding other secrets which would threaten her job, while Edmunds a transfer from fraud is trying to prove himself by digging into things that someone doesn’t want looking at. 

Meanwhile there’s a killer on the loose and Wolf is revealed as one of his next victims. 

Sounds great doesn’t it? Unfortunately, it wasn’t. 

The writing was mediocre at best, Cole originally wrote Ragdoll as a script and it shows. The characters are all dysfunctional and have no seeming basis in reality. I didn’t find the plot very interesting at all there were no feelings of suspense or desire to race through the pages. Instead I felt myself skipping some of the flat, boring paragraphs. 

There were a lot of cliches and some things which didn’t even seem very realistic like news anchors showing pictures of mutilated dead bodies and footage of people being murdered on live television which just wouldn’t happen in real life. All in all I’m afraid I couldn’t recommend this book. 

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Review 

First off I want to say that if like me you’d seen the film first and had no idea what to expect from the book, then in order to enjoy it you need to know something important: 
This book is based around some old photos. Creepy old photos of what were once named ‘freaks’ (think Victorian freak shows) and other photos which are made creepy by tricks of light. You know the sort I mean; I’m thinking American Horror Story. The author Ransom Riggs had collected these photographs from charity shops, antique shops and junk shops as well as people’s private collections (because yes, people do collect the oddest things!). The book was originally planned as a picture book but developed into a narrative based around the pictures instead. 

Another thing, I’d probably recommend you see the film first. The book is better of course (it always is) but it does give you some foundation to base the pictures in your mind on. This is the (and I hesitate before using this word) problem with a book based around photos it causes a struggle to create the usual pictures in your mind as a reader. Particularly as some of the photos used for the same character were not the same person in the picture. Subtle differences but different nevertheless. Also if you’re expecting a creepy horror story that isn’t exactly what you get, so avoid disappointment now. 

Anyway, now that I’ve hopefully cleared up some of the reasons that this book has been criticised I’ll get on to my full review. I’ll start off by saying that I’ve given this book an easy 5*. 

Jacob Portman is the son of a rich pharmacy heiress mother and a failed author-cum-birdwatcher father. He finds escapism in the stories his grandfather tells him about his evacuation as a persecuted Jew in the Second World War. Jacob’s grandfather Abe tells him tall tales of ‘peculiar’ children who he lived with in a huge house on a little Welsh island. He even has the photos to back it up; creepy twins, levitating girls, and boys infested by bees. Not to mention the terrifying monsters who hunted them. It’s only as he gets older that Jacob begins to suspect his grandfather was lying to cover up the horrors he experienced in the war. 

But when Jacob’s grandfather dies in suspicious circumstances Jacob and his father take a trip to the island to find out more about Abe’s past in the hope it will settle Jacob’s case of ‘acute stress’ brought on by witnessing his grandfathers death. 

It’s on the island that he meets Miss Peregrine and her ‘peculiars’. These children all have a ‘peculiar’ talent just like in his grandfathers photos and it’s here that Jacob’s ordinary life becomes extraordinary. 

It’s a very engaging book, the photos are brilliant particularly if like me, you find those old creepy photos fascinating. Riggs writes beautifully and weaves together a story full of magic and mystery, any YA fantasy lover’s dream. In my book it shows a true talent to be able to put together a whole narrative based around a bunch of old photos and I can’t wait to get stuck into book 2. 

Reading Challenge 2017

I’ve decided to take part in the 2017 reading challenge. The idea is to inspire my readers and followers with 26 different books every 2 weeks for the whole year. It starts off with week 1: A Book You Read in School. 

It was a difficult choice but I’ve decided on Spies by Michael Frayn which I read for my GCSE English literature. 

A book which explores both human mistakes and the fallible nature of memory it is engrossing despite being aimed more at children than adults. 

Set during WWII, the narrator and his friend decide to play a game of spying. They pretend that the friend’s mother is a German spy and it’s up to them to stop her and bring her to justice. As you may expect things don’t exactly turn out to be as innocent as they first seem. Very quickly the story changes from aimed at children to a mysterious murder mystery full of shocking revelations, leaving the reader reeling. 

Mount! By Jilly Cooper. Review 

Like many others I snapped up Mount! As soon as it was released desperate to return to Rutshire and return to my love of the Campbell-Blacks, Lloyd-Foxes and Rannaldinis. Never been particularly in love with the horse racing side of it; unlike others I still really enjoyed the art/music/film/school etc books which have followed since Polo so the fact this was a new racing book was neither hear nor there for me. I was leaning more towards my love of the wonderful characters who I had fell in love with since my grandma first lent me The Man Who Made Husbands Jealous when I was 16. 

Spoilers ahead 

I’ve allowed Mount! 3* because of my genuine love for the Rutshire chronicles. Also my love for the characters and the way that this felt like curling back up into a favourite armchair after returning from a long holiday. 

I don’t want to write a review which is purely criticism so I’ll give the good parts: 

I love the satirical humour and the hilarity of the ‘bonks’ between characters. 

I like learning more about the world of horse racing and the sort of ‘how the other half live’ insight which we as readers get in these books. 
I love that JC can still shock me now that I’m far more worldly than I was at 16. 

Unfortunately, that’s all that I can really pull from it. Overall I found the book to be highly homophobic, particularly racist and horrendously sexist. This might have been something JC could get away with in the early 90s but not now, it’s not a funny ‘look what you used to be able to get away with saying’ when it’s published in 2016. The stable hands are treated in an awful way with girls made out to be sluts with nicknames like ‘Lou-easy’ and the boys are treated like studs competing on who can lay the most women. Characters of foreign descent as thrown in willy nilly as if JC only put them there for political correctness. For example a couple of hundred pages in we hear from Shaheed ‘a Pakistani stable lad’ who is then never referred to again. ‘The Blacks’ is a frequently used phrase and then softened by highlighting the fact that Rupert and Taggie adopted black children. Jan who is supposedly gay throughout the early parts of the novel is nicknamed ‘Jansy Pansy’ and one of the only other gay characters Ash is presented only as a potential racist who is then called ‘a f***king f**got. Both men and women are accused of being fat when barely over 10 stone and while I understand this is to with the weight needed for jockeys I think there could have been a better way to describe it than fat. 

For those of us who loved Rupert and Taggie and delighted in their relationship and Rupert finally becoming faithful it was disappointing to see both of them straying with Old Eddie’s carers. Gala starts off as a winning character who you can’t help but pity as she moves through life so miserably following the horrific murder of her husband and animals in Zimbabwe. Just when you start to like her though she turns into this horrible person who is sleeping with Rupert while still professing to adore Taggie. JC’s attempts to play this off as a romantic love affair are ruined by Rupert’s cries of ‘oh butterc*nt’ and Gala’s reluctance to tell Rupert that Taggie has cancer until she’s bedded him again. Not to mention the fact she had already slept with his grandson young Eddie. The fact she ends up with Gav only further serves to annoy me because Gav deserved so much better. 

As for Jan, it’s obvious from the off that he is the one causing problems and sabotaging everything and also trying to steal Taggie. Frankly this would have worked fine if it wasn’t for the rushed in ending which ended up being beyond ridiculous. A centuries old grudge about a horse race between two ancestors was just ridiculous and unbelievable. As was the attempts by JC to frame Bao when it was highly obvious it wasn’t him. 

I probably would read another Rutshire Chronicles book because of my dedication to the series but this one gave me nothing of my old love for the series and I’ve come away more than a little disappointed.