The arts pages of newspapers and magazines often have recommendations for holiday reading but I haven’t come across a travel webpage that gives a link to a novel that is set in an exotic holiday destination. Well, not until Google opened up a lovely surprise for me.
I was engrossed in one of my favourite displacement activities: Googling for links to a random range of topics that happened to have caught my attention that day – anything from Aardvarks to the Zodiac . In this case, it was ‘Lamma Island’, for reasons that’ll be clear to followers of this blog, and as I scrolled down the first page that Google had led me to, I found this link.
There was a photo that I recognised and it immediately attracted my attention. You can guess how amazed I was to find a direct reference to my novel, Paper Lanterns, under the heading Lamma Island Holiday Read
“Looking for a book to take on your holiday to Lamma island? Want to read a book that is set in, and captures the spirit and charm of Lamma Island to give you a taste of what to look forward to? Or do you want to relive happy memories of a previous visit? Then take a look at the Christine Coleman’s latest novel, Paper Lanterns.”
As you can see in the review by John Cairns, a resident of Lamma Island himself, I have received the seal of approval for my representation of the island and the lifestyle of its ex-pat inhabitants.
This has made me wonder if there are any other travel sites that have caught on to this idea.
There are a couple of authors in particular whose books immediately spring to mind as ideal for promoting the places in which they are set.
Linda Gillard is renowned, not only for her brilliant writing and strong themes but also for the way she draws the reader into her landscapes and entices them to discover the Isle of Skye for themselves.
Emotional Geology is a novel in which the landscape itself becomes a key character in the story.
On her website, this photo aptly illustrates her explanation of the title:“Rock is a concrete record of the past, of what happened to the Earth – a build-up of pressure, seismic upheaval, erosion. When you look at rock you’re looking at layers of time. I think our minds and our memories are like that - a record of what we’ve been through and the toll it has taken - so the “excavation” of the past (which is what happens in the novel) becomes emotional geology.”.
The heading on the review page of her enthralling second novel, A Lifetime Burning,
would be perfectly at home on any travel webiste: “FIND A PLACE FOR IT IN YOUR HOLIDAY LUGGAGE!”
Among the accolades and prizes for her third book, Star Gazing,
is one that the Scottish Tourist website should include: STAR GAZING was shortlisted for the UK’s first environmental book award, the Robin Jenkins Literary Award, promoting writing inspired by Scotland’s landscape.
(Oh, and as well as being shortlisted for the romantic novel of the year (2009) it was also shortlisted in 2010 for Woman’s Weekly’s “Best Romantic Novel since 1960!)
Adrienne Dines is another author whose novels evoke the differing moods of the geographical and cultural settings of an island –her landscape is rural Ireland with its humour and hospitality and its dark side of shame and buried secrets.
Her first book, Toppling Miss April,
has been described by the Irish Examiner as ‘A cross between Father Ted and Ballykissangel…hilarious!’ There’s no doubt about Adrienne’s wicked sense of humour in this novel,
but her next book, The Jigsaw Maker, moves from affectionately gentle fun and romance to something far darker.
Her third novel , Soft Voices Whispering,has been described as “Hard to put down and impossible to forget, this is a book with a big heart. (And the cover is so bleakly beautiful, it’s worth framing.)”
If you’re planning a holiday anytime now, you couldn’t do better than order some of these books to take with you!
So what’s the connection between Rhubarb Crumble and getting published? The first clue is: The Custard Factory. I guess that won’t help much unless you’re familiar with Birmingham’s revolutionary new arts and media quarter, opposite the Coach Station in Digbeth.
For me, the relevance of that former factory building, is the fact that it’s the home of Radio Rhubarb – of which the jewel in its crown is The Crumble, a weekly broadcast presented by the multi-talented Jan Watts
I was delighted when she invited me to be interviewed on The Crumble. She’d already emailed me the link to her programme so I knew she’s a highly competent and enthusiastic presenter.
The last time I visited the Custard Factory was several years ago (It was when I handed over the complete manuscript of The Dangerous Sports Euthanasia Society to Luke Brown of Tindall Street Press – although they eventually rejected that novel, it was through them, in a roundabout way, that I found a different publisher.
Yesterday, as I approached the entrance to the Custard Factory, the narrow street seemed even more colourful than before, and I don’t remember ever having seen this amazing sculpture of a giant Green Man. (You can get an impression of the scale from the man at the bottom of this picture, on the left of the green wall.)
Here’s Jan in the studio (affectionately called The Fish Bowl – as you can see from the photo above) with Kip, the calm and very efficient producer.
After an amusing pre-recorded poem about Ants (or Aunts), I was fascinated to hear Steve Ball,
Associate Director (Learning & Participation) of the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, talking to Jan about his work, which he describes as “the best job in Birmingham” and he made it sound as though that could be true.
You can listen to Steve and the rest of hour-long programme by following the link. If you can’t spare a whole hour, you can click the right-hand arrow below the bar, until the orange strip is about an inch along (just above the ‘r’ in ‘player’ in the sentence: ‘Open in popout player’.) Here,
you can listen to me reading an extract from The Dangerous Sports Euthanasia Society. After that, Jan asks me about getting published that first time, and what happened with my next book, Paper Lanterns. I mentioned the cache of real-life love letters
(see the Sunday Mercury article)
and I read the heart-breaking letter from the young Chinese woman. You can also hear me reading the prologue to Paper Lanterns, which is set in Sutton Coldfield in 1971. This is one of the three significant periods in the novel.
You can read an extract from the middle section of the book, in which I’ve used these letters to invent a whole new storyline, in the on-line magazine, Cairns Media.
If you’d like to read the first extract published by the same on-line magazine, you can see it here.
One of the benefits of writing a book, and better still, of getting published, is the way it opens doors to lots of other writerly activities, such as giving talks, running workshops, and attending Literary Festivals as a performer, as well as being a member of the audience. Another enjoyable aspect of being a writer (with or without being published) is making friends with other writers.
Last Thursday I was able to combine a visit to my writing friend, Crysse Morrison, with an opportunity to be one of eight castaways in an event listed in the Frome Festival Programme as Desert Island Reads. Crysse herself had to step in at the last minute to take the place of a performer who was unable to attend. You can read more about the event on her blog.
I’d left my own camera in her house so thanks are due to Crysse’s camera and to Wendy, one of the festival organisers, who took this picture, which features, from left to right:
Me, Kevan Manwaring,Keely Beresford,
Crysse, David Johnson, Philip de Glanville and Adrian Tinniswood
Desert Island Reads was described as “eight local celebrities share a favourite literary extract and tell us why they chose it.” I felt a bit of a fraud as I was neither “local”, not a “celebrity” but no one seemed to notice. When Crysse had first invited me to take part, I’d thought about including some real-life letters, because of the role that real-life letters had played in my novel Paper Lanterns, but it was proving quite difficult to find something that not only had inspired me in the past, but still lived up to the memories of it.
After searching my bookshelves I found an edition of the letters and poems of John Keats and was relieved to find that the he could still work his magic on me. I’ll quote some of the extracts that I read in a future post. Take a look at the on-line programme for the ten-day Festival and you’ll be amazed by the wide variety of all the events.
Crysse was heavily involved in the organisation of several events, but she’d booked tickets for us both so that she could relax with me for the evening at ‘Cabaret Sans Frontiers’, a totally surreal and highly entertaining event –
and here I quote from her own blog: “the eccentric energy of Cabaret sans Frontieres, this year offering its macabre and madcap medley from a ship bound for ‘the edge of the edge of possibilities, and beyond.’ “
Here are a few more photos of the music
and strange exhibits that we were encouraged to inspect during the interval, such as this ’spider’ appearing to rest on the top of a cabinet, to whom I offered a sip of my white wine spritzer.
The next morning, before I set off for Sussex to visit my mother for the weekend, Crysse insisted on taking me to an amazing exhibition featuring the intricate, imaginative, and brilliantly bizarre constructions and sketches of Ralph Steadman.
If you’re anywhere near Frome, make sure you take a look.
There were no signs anywhere asking people not to take photos of the exhibits, so I’m hoping that no one will object to these.
On my return from Sussex
I was greeted by the sight of multiple copies of The Birmingham Sunday Mercury that Gardening Husband had bought for me to use as marketing material for my novel, Paper Lanterns.
I’d been told that it would be published today, and I was delighted with the double page spread, giving the story of the cache of real life letters that inspired the middle section of the book.
Here’s a photo of the man on the receiving end of the love letters from two different women,
and here’s the young Chinese girl, with a small selection of the letters behind her. It’s fascinating stuff, and anyone who’s read the book is likely to enjoy seeing the originals of the letters that I have adapted for the novel.
I posted the fifth and final question of my Virtual Treasure Hunt last week, and copies of The Dangerous Sports Euthanasia Society have been sent to a winner in Italy and one in Scotland, while three copies of Paper Lanterns should now have arrived at their new homes in the Midlands and the South West.
Many congratulations to the winners (to be honest, there were only five people who managed to find all five answers, though several others came up with two or three. I’ve just had to go through these questions and their accompanying hints myself, and even I found some of the a bit tricky to track down!
For anyone who didn’t manage to find all five answers, here are the links to the relevant questions and these are the answers.
Question 1 ANSWER “So near, and yet …”
Q 2ANSWER “Sunday, 10 January 2010″Q 3 ANSWER “that was not there a little while ago”Q 4 ANSWER a mountain climbing Guinness drinker
Q5 ANSWER “The craft of writing a book can be learned” and “Jeffrey Archer”
I won’t ask you to detect the link between Hens and this picture. Yes, those small creatures on the bottom left of the picture do have feathers and wings and they also lay eggs, but have you ever seen hens swimming with their chicks paddling in their wake?
I don’t think this next picture will be much of a clue,
though astute followers of this blog might remember a post I’d made last August in which I’d mentioned that Kew Gardens was within walking distance of the house which my daughter and her boyfriend had just bought. This picture of Kew Pier was taken last Saturday afternoon from a pleasure boat trip that had been organised by my daughter’s friends as part of the celebrations for her Hen weekend.
They couldn’t have dreamed up a better activity for a day when the temperature reached 30 degrees – the main point of it being its lack of any activity more strenuous than climbing a short flight of steps up into the bright sunshine or down into the shade. It was lucky that the original plan for a seven-mile circular walk from Box Hill had undergone a radical change. The bride-to-be (not to speak of her mother and future mother-in-law) might have collapsed with heat-stroke. As it was, we had the cooling breezes through wide open windows below deck where we unpacked a sumptuous feast and drank pink fizz.
We were heading for Hampton Court, but this was one of those occasions when the journey was more significant than the destination. We wouldn’t had had time to visit the flower show, so we strolled through the walled gardens and breathed in the scent of a thousand roses.
On the way back I was fascinated by the sight of two boys in their canoes, using a kneeling technique that looked incredibly unstable, but was obviously a powerful way of gaining speed. I suppose that the theme of Desert Island Reads can be loosely linked to this watery picture, but more to the point, it relates to an event I’ll be taking part in this Thursday as part of Frome Festival. Scroll down a bit when you reach this link and you’ll see what I’ll be up to.
I’m really looking forward to this, and have just about made up my mind about my own Desert Island Read. I’ll let you know more about the causes of my indecision later.
It’s been a good week for yet more book-related activities after the excitement at Winchester Writers Conference last weekend:
1)SOMETHING NICE, but not unexpected: I received an email from the Lamma-zine reviewer of Paper Lanterns, John Cairns, with a link to his own e-zine, Cairns Media. He’d previously asked if he could quote an excerpt from my novel there, and here it is, complete with some of his own pictures to illustrate the scene from Paper Lanterns when Ann arrives at the ferry pier on Lamma island.
If you’ve read it already, you might like to see the photos, and if you haven’t, you’ll get a flavour of the book and the accuracy of my descriptions when writing the novel.
2) SOMETHING NICE AND TOTALLY UNEXPECTED: I solved the mystery of how Tammy from Tennessee had come across a brief description of my novel, Paper Lanterns. You might not find anything extraordinary about this until you think of the thousands of novels published each year, many with the weight of a huge marketing machine behind them, and then consider the fact that Novel Press is a frail new-born, with Paper Lanterns as its only product so far, and nothing behind it at all except my efforts, and the good wishes of my small group of fellow writers.
The only way I could think of that might have led Tammy to my book, would have been the lovely review from the excellent Rhaposdy in Books, with its large following of readers, most of whom are also Americans.But no,Tammy had arrived there through sheer happenstance (as I’ll explain in a later post). Until this week, I was too involved in discussing the most convenient way of getting the ten copies safely to her home in Tennessee, and it was only when I heard that the package had arrived,(two days after being picked up by the carriers, DHL) and the copies distributed to the other members of her group, that I thought of asking her how she’d come across it in the first place.
3) SOMETHING NICE that had been planned a couple of months ago: an ‘author’s talk’ that I gave on Thursday morning at Erdington library. Last month I was talking to a writing group there. This time, it was a reading group. One member who had read and enjoyed Paper Lanterns, commented on her perception of the way that novels these days are presented to the reading public. She felt that the we, the readers are being manipulated by the needs of the publishing world to produce sure best-sellers, and that many of the books that are promoted in bookshops have been written with an eye on an imaginary camera, as if they were packaging their stories in a way that would easily convert to film scripts.
I was glad to hear her views, as they seem to accord to those of Jonathan Davidson of Writing West Midlands in his article ‘New Ways of Publishing’ in which he expresses the hope that “poor writing won’t be quite so often foisted upon us in an attempt to get a return on investment or to distort our reading tastes for purely commercial gain.”
And now for the fifth and final question in my Virtual Treasure Hunt. Congratulations to everyone who’s already emailed me the correct answers to the first four questions (It’s still not too late to find the answers – you can start here, and then find the links back to the earlier questions)
(a)What is the fourth statement about Writing a Book that I won’t immediately want to contradict?
AND,(HINT) if you’ve found the right page, you’ll also be able to tell me the answer to this, linked, question
(b)Which author re-wrote one of his novels 30 years after its publication?
The first five people to ‘contact me’ with the correct five answers will win a copy of either The Dangerous Sports Euthanasia Society, or my latest novel, Paper Lanterns: