Writerly Round-Up: September 2019
I’m sure it’s no coincidence that September, just nine months after Christmas and New Year, is a packed month for birthdays. So many of my friends have been celebrating this month. And I am no exception. In fact there are three of us: my brother-in-law, a close friend, and I, who were all born on the same day. So, as you can imagine, there’s been a fair bit of partying and treats this month, including four visits to the theatre. But there’s still been time for the odd bit of work, too.
Writing In September
I’ve written no fiction at all this month, apart from revamping an old story for a writing group competition; I didn’t win, but I now have another finished piece for submission elsewhere. I’ve also been thinking about the new novel series, which I will begin plotting tomorrow, and writing in November; more about that later.
Sales and Marketing
I have, however, written a huge number of non-fiction words this month, in preparation for another birthday coming up in a few days’ time. My prize-winning debut novel, Gorgito’s Ice Rink, is five years’ old and is having its very own birthday party, in the form of a celebratory blog tour, on Tuesday 8th October. On that day, Gorgito will be featuring in more than thirty blogs. There will be reviews, interviews, articles about my time in Russia, lots of different things to read. And as a special birthday treat, I’ve dropped the price, starting right now. For the first two weeks in October, you can pick up a copy of Gorgito’s Ice Rink for just 99p in UK or 99 cents in USA. It’s also reduced across the other territories served by Amazon platforms too. So if you’ve not read it yet, pick up a copy today.
And there’s one other piece of news regarding my marketing: I’ve decided to pull the plug on selling my fiction across all the platforms and am returning the novels and short stories to an exclusive Amazon deal. I still believe ‘going wide’ is a viable approach, and I know many highly successful authors who go down that route. But it doesn’t suit my current circumstances. And the good news for any Prime subscribers among you: you can now download all the Suzanne Jones thrillers, including the box set, for free.
This month, my research has been of the observational sort. My next novel is going to be set in and around the Haldon Hills, right here in South Devon, so I’ve been eyeing up locations for the fictional village where all the action is going to take place. At some point, there might even be a map!
Out And About In September
As I mentioned earlier, I had some wonderful theatre trips this month, comprising: our annual visit to the end-of-the-pier show in Babbacombe (very silly, but with a highly professional group of musical performers); an evening in the company of the brilliant Benjamin Zephaniah (bringing back many happy memories of growing up in Birmingham in the 1950s and 1960s); Voldemort and the Teenage Hogwarts Musical Parody (a must for any broad-minded Potter fan, it was very funny, with some great singers, but very, very rude!); and Sister Act (the latest excellent production by the far-from-amateur Sutton Coldfield Musical Theatre Company).
But there’s also been time for some literary outings. In just one day, at the Budleigh Literary Festival, I heard Joanne Harris talk about The Strawberry Thief and realised I am a couple of volumes behind, as this is #4 in the series and I’ve only read Chocolat so far (more for the TBR list!); listened to Susie Orbach bemoan the fact that twenty years after she wrote Fat Is A Feminist Issue (or FIFI as she endearingly calls it), the problem is even worse and now affects not just women and girls, but everyone; and was thrilled to get a copy of The Second Sleeper as part of the ticket price for the talk by Robert Harris, whose writing I love. I will be writing more about these talks on the Chudleigh Writers’ Circle blog over the next few weeks.
I spent a most enjoyable Saturday at the first, but surely not the last, Write On Totnes. Featuring a variety of workshops, an open mic session and a Poetry Slam, it was a packed day, but very useful. It was good to meet up with several members of both Chudleigh Writers’ Circle and Exeter Writers during the course of the event.
Preparations for the Exeter Literary Festival in November are reaching fever pitch; and as well as thinking about fund-raising (my role on the committee), I am working on my own two presentations. I will be appearing with writing buddy and fellow CWC member, Margaret Barnes, in The Lawyer and The Chemist Turn To Crime on Saturday 9th November. The following day, I will be sharing a platform with fellow Exeter Writer, Cathie Hartigan, in Can’t You Just Make It All Up?, about researching the background to our dual narrative novels. Tickets for these events and all the others (around fifty over four days) are now on sale and some of the events are selling really fast. Do check out the details and get booking now before it’s too late.
Writers Are Readers Too
According to Goodreads, I’ve read 47 books so far this year and am 9 ahead of target. Last month, I listed just some of the authors I was looking forward to sampling from the top of my ever-increasing To Be Read list, such as A A Dhand, Damien Boyd, Kate Furnival, and Amor Towles.
But what I’d forgotten was that other annual challenge I take part in: The Booker Shortlist! For the past few years, we have bought all six books when they are announced at the start of September, attempting to read them and predict the winner before the official announcement mid-October. Every year so far, we’ve failed to read all of them in time, and have certainly disagreed with the official decision each time!
However, this year, either the books are much more readable, or I’m getting better at reading literary fiction. I’m already nearly through book four, and have given five stars to each of the three I’ve reviewed so far. Here’s where I’m up to; I’ll talk about the others next month, and let you know if either of us managed to correctly predict the winner.
10 Minutes 38 Seconds In This Strange World by Elif Shafak
In the first part of this book, we travel with Tequila Leila through the 10 minutes 38 seconds in which her brain still functions after her murder; a fascinating literary device allowing us to hear her life story, triggered particularly by smells and tastes. We also hear how she met her five special (possibly only) friends. In the second part, we hear how those friends deal with the reality of her death.
This is a great mix of sad and happy; funny and terrible; trivial and deeply serious, all written in Shafak’s beautiful prose. It is a wonderful evocation of Turkey over the past seventy years and Istanbul in particular. A thoroughly enjoyable read, well-deserving of the Booker Prize short-listing.
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo
Twelve character, all with different voices, from different backgrounds, different times and different places, but interconnected by a complex network of (mostly) women. A mix of stories, some happy, some sad, some heart-rending, but all with a thread of hope, strength and sisterhood running through them. The writing flows beautifully and I raced through the whole book in a couple of days. I loved it. Well deserving of the Booker short-listing.
The Testaments: The Sequel To The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Written in three voices, this book continues the story of Gilead. Aunt Lydia is writing a secret memoir and compiling a dossier that could bring the entire structure, including herself, down. Agnes was born in Gilead and training to be an Aunt. Jade is living in Canada, but finds her world turned upside down by sudden tragedy. Three women, very different, yet whose lives become entwined.
I have not read The Handmaid’s Tale, and this is my first Atwood book, although certainly not my last. The writing was effortless; I loved the three different voices; and found the narrative device gripping. Highly recommended.