Friday, 27 December 2013

A selection of my favourite reads 2013

Well, everyone else is doing it.

In no particular order

Alex – Pierre Lemaitre
At first I was thinking, here we go, another book where a serial killer kidnaps and tortures a beautiful young woman. And then it wasn’t.  Amusing, original and demands you turn the page.

The Cry - Helen Fitzgerald
A striking “dilemma” novel, emotionally charged and brilliantly executed.

An Exquisite Sense of What is Beautiful – J. David Simon
I read this right at the start of the year and it has stayed with me.  Manages to be both exquisite and beautiful.  Need I say more?

Blood City – Douglas Skelton
Gangsters in Glasgow in the 80’s. A fast, furious and fascinating read. (I’m sure I could slip another “f” in there. Mmmm. Best not.)

Grim Company – Luke Scull
An excellent debut into a brand new fantasy series. Avoids the information dump a lot of new fantasy novelists feel they need to start off a series.  A great set up and a team of characters I want to spend time with. I was hooked from page one. (And the author has the best name, right?)

Norwegian By Night – Derek B. Miller
A hero in his 80s, in a foreign country, fighting to save a young boy’s life.  Manages to combine lyricism with pace.

Beautiful Ruins – Jess Walters
Cinematic, laugh out loud funny and utterly charming. You will fall in love with this book.

419 – Will Ferguson
Won the Giller Prize (Canada’s version of the MAN Booker). A prizewinner that’s readable!  An author who knows his way round a tasty sentence and a genuinely thrilling and fascinating plot. Also a reminder, if we need one, how the so-called developed world bowing at the altar of the god of profit has damaged Africa.

Nos4r2 – Joe Hill
Genuinely creep-inducing – gave me the shivers at several stages through the reading of the book. A chunky read with crisp writing, Hill gives his old man a run for his money.

I’m certain you’ll find something here to enjoy. So go, buy one or more, wontcha?


Thursday, 5 December 2013

Q and A with debut author Sara Bain

What’s the new book about then?
The Sleeping Warrior can be loosely described as an urban fantasy, for want of a better description. It’s a crime thriller with a subtle fantasy element thrown in.

Mixing up the genres of contemporary fiction has been quite a challenge and I hope that readers will approach it with their minds wide open and focus on the story as a whole. The title is well represented in the book: as a famous mountain vista from the Ayrshire coast; as the central heroic character of the story; and as the inherent dormant warrior spirit within us all that awakes in times of crises.

Describe your inspiration for the book?

I am a fantasy author and have been writing heroic fantasy for a few years. For some reason, I decided to take a break from the epic and write a contemporary novel as my debut.

Speculative and slipstream fiction is becoming more popular with readers and much of it is being serialised on the TV and finding its way into movies.

Since I started writing the book over five years ago, it’s obviously not my intention to jump on the bandwagon of consumer preference; I just liked the notion of placing a fantasy character into the real world and seeing what he’d do. That was the intention at the beginning and I loved the way he worked.

Talk to me about your main character/s.

The main protagonist is a self-centred, cynical young lawyer called Libby Butler who finds her life turned upside down after meeting Gabriel, a stranger in a south London police station’s custody suite. As she finds herself in more and more dangerous situations, she comes to terms what is really important in life and what is merely misguided aspiration.

I really admire honour as a human characteristic. Even though we know little about Gabriel, you have to respect his strength and self-control. He is a man who doesn’t abuse his powerful advantages over others and teaches solely by example.

Did any themes come out of the writing that surprised you?
Identity as a theme underpins the story. It must have been a subconscious thing because I never really thought of a main theme when writing the book. For some reason, I wrote a scene where Gabriel happened to be reading Umberto Eco’s Name of the Rose and everything suddenly came together as if it was always meant to happen. It was completely accidental. I tried to think of intelligent literature that he would be interested in and remembered that Eco said something to the effect that a name can be so rich in meaning that it has no meaning at all. I don’t want to give away any of the story, so will just say that a name can empower or deprive.

Why fantasy?
I like to go to places where I can escape for a while and immerse myself into completely different worlds. Fantasy has always been my preferred genre to both read and, therefore, to write.

Why write?
I suppose I have had a career in writing. I was an editor for a legal publishing company and then a newspaper journalist, so the written word has always been part of my day job. Some people paint to release creative imagination, others play music. I write because that is the means by which I can best convey my thoughts.
Why go it alone?

There is still quite a lot of stigma attached to self-published authors, despite the fact that even peasants can be king on Amazon. I even note that quite a few amateur book reviewers will only accept traditionally published authors, which suggests to me that even readers will turn their noses up to authors who have decided to go it alone.

The fact is that publishers, who have controlled what people read for so long, are fast losing business to the likes of Amazon and finding out that readers are perfectly capable of choosing what they want to read for themselves. You see time and time again, authors who could paper their walls with rejection letters, become best-sellers overnight.

I’m quite conventional in a way and, until recently, have always aspired to being a traditionally published author. I’ve thought long and hard about this and, when The Sleeping Warrior attracted the interest of three publishers, in a fit of defiance, I thought ‘why should I give it to them?’

I then decided to start up a publishing house which, although I am the first author to be published by it, I certainly won’t be the only one. I really don’t care if other writers or readers sniff at the fact I’m self-published. There is so much effort expended in the process and so much I have learned that I feel my achievement has been truly great. I am so proud to be able to hold a real and tangible paperback copy of my first novel in my hands and say ‘I wrote this and then I published this all by myself.’

 To buy Sara's captivating book go HERE