One of the many things about the internet that I enjoy, is the way I can gather snippets of interesting information that wouldn’t normally have caught my eye. The daily on-line headlines from The Bookseller are a useful source of book-related news. Yesterday, I had the pleasure of reading about one of my favourite authors, David Mitchell –
I say that Mitchell is one of my favourites, but so far I’ve only read two of his novels, Cloud Atlas and Black Swan Green. Some people might question my use of the word ‘read’ since I listened to the unabridged versions on CDs during my frequent long car journeys and numerous short ones. Cloud Atlas was amazing, and one of these days (once I’ve got round to reading his others ) I’ll read it again.
I can’t pretend that there’s the remotest similarity between my novels and those of this hugely talented and successful Booker-nominated novelist, but as a writer, I found it refreshing to see that he still takes delight in hearing how people have reacted to his books. Interviewed at the Edinburgh Book festival, he refers to a man who told him that his wife reads Cloud Atlas (2004) every year and “she finds something new each time“. When asked about the possibility of winning the Man Booker Prize he says, “I felt honoured and pleased (by the nomination), but it’s the guy who approached me to tell me his wife reads Cloud Atlas once a year that I think is just so great.”
It’s worth reading the whole article to find out more about his books and his own approaches to writing, many of which I can also identify with.As I’ve said on several occasions, the positive comments on my own novels is what helps to keep me going, especially now that I am in charge of all the marketing of Paper Lanterns.
Here’s another enthusiastic email that arrived via the ‘Contact Me’ page above. It’s from a reader who knows and loves Lamma Island, confirming that I’ve ‘got it right’!
“Since I was introduced to your book via the Lamma Website, I have been dying to read it as I have been a frequent visitor to the Island since my son moved there 14 years ago. Like you it holds a special place in my heart being a place like no other. I have not been disappointed by your book as for me it evokes the spirit of Lamma brilliantly and is a great read. I loved your references to places on the Island, I think it was really clever of you to weave such an intriguing story onto a mere spec in the South China Sea and evoke such a sense of place.”
And here’s one from one of the Bookcrossers I’ve mentioned in my previous post. It clearly demonstrates how this wonderful organisation encourages its members to read more widely:
“This was a book which is out of my usual genres, though through Bookcrossing I have once again embraced many types of book and new authors, which I had got out of the habit of reading… I liked the gentle flow of the storyline peeling away the revelations ~ whether from the letters of Ann’s grandmother, her mother and her own self discovery ~ until the three time lines all dissolved into one as the story ended…the descriptions of the scenery and the people in the community were very vivid and evocative and reinforced my imaginings from my relatives’ tales…A wonderfully engaging tale which I enjoyed and as I do know someone else who would enjoy this book I intend to get a copy as a present…”
This is something that I find quite difficult to do because:
(1) that old chestnut of ‘not having time’
(2) I don’t find it easy to write a summary of a plot without giving the game away.
(3) When I’ve finished a book that I’ve enjoyed, I need to let it ‘settle’ in my head for a while, as I work out what feelings I’ve experienced while reading and how the author has achieved these effects.
I love reading detailed reviews on other people’s blogs, and that brings me to number (4) There are often so many excellent summaries and insightful critiques of a book that I’ve read, it seems a better use of my time to direct people to the relevant sites, as in this previous post so I’m delighted that there are so many enthusiastic book readers and reviewers out there. And yes, of course I’m doubly appreciative of reviews for my own novels!
Yesterday I was thrilled to get this wonderful review from a highly accomplished writer, Robin Lewis of Left Lion, a printed and online culture and listings magazine which covers Nottingham, with a specific focus on the local music and arts scene. (I love the first statement: “Unhappy families are always more interesting than happy ones”, though for me, it’s only ‘true’ in fiction!)
(The Lion logo makes more sense when you know that it was named after a stone lion outside the Council House. )It’s the place where I did my MA in Writing (and also where my son was born, over thirty years ago) so I have great affinity with the city. You’ll also see Robin’s detailed on-line interview with me, if you scroll down after the review.
Getting published is hard enough, but marketing your book is even harder, especially when you are your own publishing house. So I’ve been very heartened recently to find yet more insightful critiques. It’s fascinating to find how different people react to the characters in Paper Lanterns – I can see that it makes for a lively discussion for book groups, as you can tell from this extract below from the friendly group in Tennessee (holding their own paper lanterns on the evening of their discussion).
I’ve mentioned them in a previous post but I’ve just realised I haven’t explained how they discovered this novel. It’s not (yet!) available in bookshops in the U.S. so I’d thought that Tammy must have found out about it from the review on Rhapsody in Books, but no. Tammy explained how she’d Googled for Book Club Reads and then had arrived at a new on-line book group based in Birmingham (UK)
They’d wanted to choose a book by a local author, and Paper Lanterns was one of them. Tammy had followed the link to my Amazon page and had liked what she saw, so she contacted me via this site, and the rest is history.(I’ve hidden a few phrases that might have given awat too much for those who haven’t yet read the book)
“Everyone could relate to the family drama– we had a deep discussion about how things were probably hidden in every family from different generations, and which generation we could most closely relate to at this point in our lives.
Most thought that at first it was hard to keep up with the characters (who was who) until we kept reading and then it all fell in place. We also talked about how it took a talented writer to be able to pull that off like you were able to do. (smiles)
Ann was a huge discussion– we wondered if there was a reason she was made to sound so homely looking.
Also, the way you portrayed Vivienne as such an uncaring mother, xxxxxxxxxxx was a big discussion. No one could relate to how a mother could be so cruel to her child (the negative remarks she would make). It takes a great writer to be able to evoke these kind of emotions in the reader.
We all loved your writing style and thought you did an excellent job with the descriptions of Hong Kong and the surroundings. And, the way you left xxxxxxxxx (the ending) left the reader thinking long after the novel was finished…..We have all passed our copy of the book on for others to enjoy. (so many people in our area will enjoy your talent)
It’s so nice to know that my novel is being read so widely - though anyone reading this on my blog will see that my books can be ordered here from anywhere in the world with free P&P. I’ll soon be sending off a package of 13 copies of paper Lanterns to a book group in Italy.
And of course, there are the wonderful Bookcrossers to spread the word!
– I’ve been given links to the ‘Journeys’ that several copies of my book are making and it’s been fascinating to read their responses.
The last few days have been like another world! The only time I’ve picked up a pen to write anything in a book was on Saturday when I was one of the witnesses to sign the register at St Nicholas Church
in Chiswick at my daughter’s wedding.
I know that many other proud mothers and fathers of the bride will have experienced similar emotions to mine, but I doubt that any can have had quite such a wonderful day as we all did! OK, OK, so you disagree! But I think there’s something about this type of occasion that places it on a higher plane altogether – some kind of parallel universe that we can stumble into for a brief section of time. Once we’re back in our real lives we can store those memories and value them for what they were, rather than cling to them as a bench-mark against which we measure our happiness quotient!
One way of extending the pleasures of a very special event for a little longer, is to meet up with close friends and family the following day and share perceptions of the event, so I felt doubly lucky to have been invited to lunch by Clarissa, my friend and my daughter’s godmother, for a birthday treat at the Goring Hotel together with my husband, my son and his new girlfriend. His presence was an extra treat as, like my daughter, he lives in London. (If you want to read more about this fabulously opulent place, and see a poem I wrote after my first visit there, click here).
Back to the wedding itself: my daughter, Sara and her (now) husband, had organized every detail of the entire event, so all I had to do during the months of preparation was to offer verbal support over the phone and carry out one or two minor tasks. When she showed me the draft of the order of service, and asked if I might be able to write a poem to be placed on the back page, I agreed to try. As you might imagine, this was a huge challenge, so I was very relieved when the creative juices began to flow in the right direction! You can judge for yourselves below.
Sara and Ric met at the Corinthians sailing club,
and they had arranged for the bride’s wedding party to go in a boat, a minute’s walk from their home,to be taken to the beautiful old church further down the river. As mother of the bride, I didn’t take my own camera with me – for one thing, it didn’t fit into my small handbag and anyway, I realised that photographer wasn’t included in my role. I’ll post a few pics in a few days.
The reception was at the club house, an ideal venue for the happy couple!
And here’s the poem:
The Wedding Day
For Sara and Ric
Although the day itself seems magical,
the slow unfolding of a fairytale
in which the princess in a silken gown
glides down the river in the bridal barque,
her radiance out-dazzling the white wings
of her attendant swans, it’s merely
a bright exclamation mark in the elusive
book of chance that led them here.
Now they’ll set out as man and wife in the same
boat, the frail vessel of their hopes and dreams,
but they both know their love, if nurtured,
will be strong enough to anchor them
in times of harsh reality, and light enough
to harness all the winds of happiness.