Archive | February, 2013

Upcoming events with VG Lee and Val McDermid

26 Feb

VGLeeAs part of this year’s SHOUT festival, on Thursday March 7th author and comedienne VG Lee will be hosting a Spoken Word & Music Night featuring performance poet Dori Kirchmar, singer Faye Bagley and singer songwriter Amity. The event is being held at Birmingham’s lesbian pub The Fox, 17 Lower Essex Street, Southside, Birmingham B5 6SN. More information on these shenanigans, and the festival in general can be found on the main website.

330x235valmcdermidAnother date for your diary: Val McDermid will be at the Oxford Literary Festival, talking to Nicolette Jones about her latest novel, The Vanishing Point, and her life as a writer. Sunday 17th March at the Bodleian Library.

US-based readers can also catch Jeanette Winterson in New York on March 11th. She will be talking to AM Holmes as part of a Thalia Book Club event. More details can be found on the Lambda site.

News Roundup: Festival of Words, Rachel Dax, LGBT History Month and Nicola Griffith on her Next Big Thing…

22 Feb

bramhallLadyfish author Andrea Bramhall has updated her website with a piece about last weekend’s Nottingham Festival of Words: “I had a really great time chatting to people about books and LGBTQ matters, and attended a very interesting debate about LGBTQ writing and its place in publishing.” Read more on her blog.

Rachel Dax has been blogging about her series The Legend of Pope Joan. She describes what kind of reception Part 1 has had and what it’s like to top the pope charts on Amazon!

AfterTheNightThis weekend Rachel Dax and Clare Ashton are taking part in the Lesfic Indie Author weekend on the Yahoo discussion group the Virtual Living Room. Join up to ask them questions here. To coincide with the indie weekend Rachel Dax has made her first novel, After the Night,  free for this weekend.

Lambda Literary site has an article on LGBT History Month in the UK and how sexuality is portrayed in young adult literature.

Meanwhile, Nicola Griffith has been answering questions on her forthcoming novel, Hild, for The Next Nicola_05-08-30_003rBig Thing blog hop. For those who might have missed the NBT run-around, it asked authors to answer a series of ten questions, focussing on upcoming works that readers may not yet have heard about. Read Nicola’s entry here.

And a reminder: entries for the When Sally Met Sally / Freya Publications short story competition close on 28th February, so get your story submitted now! The judges are looking for 2000-5000 word stories on the theme of love, to be published in an anthology later this year.

After Mrs Hamilton, C-Spot Reviews and Mostly Lesfic book club

21 Feb

AMHAfter Mrs Hamilton by Clare Ashton was reviewed at C-Spot Reviews this week:

“This is what I have been looking for in lesfic since I started reading lesfic. This is what I have been wanting to read every time I have been disappointed by so many lackluster romances that flood the market. I felt the same way when I read Fingersmith by Sarah Waters; an almost immediate, desperate need to devour more stories with complicated characters that made me ache with sadness while making me indescribably happy.”

Read the rest of the review here.

C-Spot reviews has hundreds of reviews of lesbian fiction. Cheri (co-host of the Cocktail Hour podcasts) plus guest authors post reviews for all genres at C-Spot, but with an emphasis on lesbian novels and femslash.

mostlylesficIf you’re looking for a lesbian book club, the Mostly Lesfic group nominates and votes for a lesbian novel every month, discusses it online, holds a Q&A session with the author where possible, and then meets via webcam to discuss the book. Recent Books-of-the-Month at Mostly Lesfic have included Sarah Dreher’s classic Stoner McTavish and they are currently discussing Clare Ashton’s After Mrs Hamilton. Membership is open to anyone who signs up to a free GoodReads account (and likes pie.)


20 Feb

UKmeetThe fourth annual UK GLBTQ Fiction Meet  is to be held in the lovely city (okay, so I’m slightly biased!) of Manchester this summer and several lesbian authors are already signed up to attend. We were intrigued, so we asked novelist and organiser Charlie Cochrane to tell us more about it!

Charlie writes:

UK Meet started in 2010 with a dozen authors drinking tea and eating cake above a library. Since then the event has expanded, although the tea and cake and the chat—lashings of all three—still feature.  Now it’s more like a convention, although the social side of the weekend is just as important as the panels and the networking.

The single best thing about UK Meet is you can be yourself and it’s fine. Nobody will make you justify what you read or write, nor will they ask, “Why don’t you stop writing same sex romance and write a proper book, instead?” because we all know that we read and write proper books. Nobody looks down on you because of who you love or what you wear. Even when you’re a fifty something woman wearing a mini skirt that’s far too short for her.

ukmeet20123From that first meet, we’ve had writers of f/f (and transgender) stories involved. The anthologies linked to the event, such as Lashings of Sauce, have always featured contributions which reflect the whole GLBTQ spectrum, although there has always been a higher proportion of “gay”, mirroring pro-rata our delegates’ interests and our authors’ submissions.

That’s something we’d like to redress. Last year we had our first “We’ve got the gay, what about the other letters?” panel, something we’ll repeat this year. We’ll also have a table at the Buffet of Banter (small discussion groups focussing on particular areas of interest) dedicated to lesbian genre fiction and are keeping some tables free so that delegates can decide in advance what they want to focus on.

ukmeet20121Of course, many of our panels have a generic appeal to readers and writers, as they tackle subjects like blogging or self publishing which cross genres and interests. Last year’s “The pitfalls of being published” session would have benefitted aspiring and fledgling authors of any type of fiction (or non-fiction!) One of the keys to representation is participation, so—as head honcho i/c programme—I’d love to have more volunteers to take part on panels from amongst writers/publishers of lesbian/trans/genderqueer stories.  We all have so much to share, so much wisdom and experience and ideas. And nobody understands the whole “whose leg is it anyway?” and she said/she replied problems of writing same sex romance as another author of the same genre!

ukmeet20122But don’t take my word for how good the weekend is. Here’s what one of our new attendees said of their experiences at UK Meet 2012.

“This was the first ‘writerly’ conversation I’d ever had like that, with someone else who understands what you’re talking about, and it was like a whole new world of friends and possibilities had opened up to me.”

And that makes all the hard event-organising work worthwhile.

~ ~ ~

Loads more information about the meet, this year’s location, and ticket prices for authors and readers can be found over on the official site. If you needed any more incentive to go along, Charlie said there were jelly babies last year…

News Roundup: Nicola Griffith, Free Stuff! and the Rainbow Awards open for Business

18 Feb

ammoniteNicola Griffith (author of the Aud Torvingen series) dropped us a line after a series of tempting tweets led her in our direction. On our Authors Page we’d initially linked readers through to her website rather than her blog. In her own words, “When I have art for my new novel, Hild, a whomping great historical novel, I’ll redesign my website, but until then I mostly forget it exists :)” We’ve been mooching around her regularly updated blog instead for a good few weeks now and found a right little gem on Monday: the short story Mirrors and Burnstone, which is a free prequel to her novel Ammonite.


Speaking of free stuff (cunning link, eh?), over on Amazon there are only two days remaining for you to bag yourself a free download of VG Lee’s rather splendid Diary of a Provincial Lesbian. This special offer runs out on 20th February.

Lastly but by no means least, the Elisa Rolle Rainbow Awards 2013 are now open for submissions. The awards, which are in their fifth year, are an annual contest celebrating outstanding work in LGBT fiction and nonfiction.  Hosted by the tireless Elisa Rolle, the awards are one of the most notable events in the LGBT authors’ calendar. UK works and self-published books are eligible.rainbowed

We’ll be keeping our eye out for the winners when they’re announced in December. In the meantime, for more information on the submission process and the awards in general, head over here.

News on the run…Book Flash with Ellen Dean in the VLR tonight…

15 Feb

A bit last minute this, but the Virtual Living Room has given us a heads up that Ellen Dean (author of Beautiful Strangers) will be taking part in a Book Flash tonight.

717930The VLR – for those not in the know! – is a Yahoo group devoted to the discussion of lesbian literature. It has an enthusiastic following of readers and authors, and is a very friendly place to hang out.

The Book Flash – taking place this evening from 8 p.m. GMT. (3 p.m. EST) – places an author in the hot seat to answer pre-set questions about her book, and any other questions that are then posed by members. Head over to the VLR’s main page to find more information about the group, including details on how to join.

Valentine’s Day

14 Feb

Red_roseTo celebrate Valentine’s Day and the recent vote of approval for gay marriages, we thought we’d ask some of our favourite lesbian authors a few romantic questions! 

1) If you were to take the plunge and get married, what would your “first dance” song be and why? (If you’ve taken the plunge already, feel free to answer retrospectively!)

Manda Scott: I had to ask my partner this – I don’t do music – she says we’d have a ceilidh band and we’d let them pick something; sounds fine to me…

Rachel Dax: Not that we want to get married but… First dance song would be Still The One by Shania Twain – 15 and half years later and still together… 😀

24366Cari Hunter: Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Part 1 by the Flaming Lips. Just because it would be hilarious trying to dance to it. Great song too, though.

VG Lee: She Bangs by Ricky Martin.

KE Payne: Well, t’other half and I prefer to keep our dancing to the privacy of our front room as we’re both shy little creatures so I doubt we’d partake in the traditional first dance. If we did, Dido’s Thank You was always ‘our song’ when we first got together, so I guess we’d go for that.

Rebecca Buck: I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing by Aerosmith. I know, cliché. But it makes me cry and says everything about being totally in love…

Lesley Davies: I Want To Be Free by Toyah…Sorry, but I don’t aim on ever getting married (unless I can have a Star Wars wedding and dress as Han Solo when I find my Princess)

Andrea Bramhall: My Girl by the Temptations. Yes it’s cheesy, yes it’s old, but it’s a classic and I love it, and it’s exactly what it should feel like when I’m being twirled around in my wedding dress. *sigh*

Clare Ashton:  Between me and my very civil partner there’s an introvert and someone who hates being the centre of attention. So the first dance is some kind of hell. But I find the thought of dressing up as Abba for Take a Chance on Me oddly appealing. Maybe there’s a secret (and slightly odd) extrovert in there somewhere. Why Abba? Why ever not Abba?

Kiki Archer: It was You’re still the one by Shania Twain. We loved the lyrics! We are planning on upgrading our civil partnership to marriage and we will be doing the whole thing all over again in 2015. With lots more crying. (I am the one blubbing!)

Devon Marshall: I’m highly unlikely ever to “take the plunge” ( Kate Beckinsale is already married, alas) but supposing I did, my first dance song would be Jennifer Lopez’ Ain’t It Funny. I just love the song, and I’d need to be seriously drunk if I were getting hitched, which is also the only way I could be persuaded to try dancing Latin American style…

2) If you were to arrive early at a first date, what book would you be reading in the hopes of impressing your companion?

JeanRhys_WideSargassoSeaVG Lee: Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys.

Clare Ashton: Pride and Prejudice, although perhaps a gay version like Kate Christie’s, and The Secret History. I love romance novels and romantic comedy films. She would need to be able to cope with repeat viewings of Pride and Prejudice, When Harry Met Sally, Imagine Me and You, so this would be fair warning. Then I adore mysteries too so she would need a high level of tolerance for those too. austen-illustration1

Rebecca Buck: Antic Hay by Aldous Huxley. Because most people haven’t heard of it so it’d start a conversation. And that would mean I could enthuse about the 1920s for ages. Either that, or Pride and Prejudice. Or a history book so I can look all intelligent and then start talking about history a lot…

Devon Marshall: Stephen King’s It…to impress upon her that horror is, and always will be, my first love!

Andrea Bramhall: The Power Book by Jeanette Winterson. Love it and it’s a great conversation starter. Doesn’t hurt that it has a picture of a very naked woman on the front cover: conversation starter number two.

Kiki Archer: I am currently reading the hardback version of The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling, so it may weigh me down slightly!

traitors-fieldManda Scott: Given a lifelong aversion to being anything other than myself, whatever the circumstances, I’d be reading whatever I was currently reading. Just now, that’s the new (not yet published) novel by Robert Wilton called Traitor’s Field.  It’s a cracking second novel from a brilliant writer. If I truly wanted to impress someone, I guess it would have to be a Hilary Mantel.

KE Payne: Comprehending and Decoding the Cosmos: Discovering Solutions to Over a Dozen Cosmic Mysteries by Utilizing Dark Matter Relationism, Cosmology, and Astrophysics. In Greek. But I’d be careful to make sure the book wasn’t upside down while I read from it.

Lesley Davies: No book, I’d be carrying my DS and playing Mario. If that doesn’t impress her then she’s so not for me!

Rachel Dax: (Hypothetically of course – given that I’m already in a relationship…) I would have with me The Remarkable Journey Of Miss Tranby Quirke by Elizabeth Ridley. It’s lesbian, it’s historical, it’s well written and it’s one of my favourites.

Cari Hunter: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. If my date hated that novel, I don’t think we’d have a future.

3) If your date got to the restaurant first and tried the same crafty tactic, what book would make you run a mile?

Cari Hunter: Legendary Farm Tractors: A Photographic History. I’m sure it’s a fascinating book, but I’d be out of that door faster than she could say “Now, this here is a lovely John Deere.”

Manda Scott: That list is endless (!) but Fifty Shades would have to be right at the top.fifty-shades-of-grey-cac1d39d5bb5c20810b1314bcbf61dee35d8219b-s6-c10

Lesley Davies: Anything period costume-y, I can’t stand historical dramas.

Devon Marshall: Fifty Shades of Grey…I don’t even need to say any more about that, do I?!

KE Payne: Fifty Shades of Grey. Especially if they were wearing a gimp mask and had a riding crop propped up against the table. Time to go home and watch Corrie with a cup of hot chocolate if that ever happened.

VG Lee: Anything by DH Lawrence.

Rachel Dax: Fifty Shades Of Grey… Any book that postulates that it’s ok for a woman to sign a contract giving a man total dominance over her and then justifies itself by saying ‘It’s ok because he marries her in the end…’ is not the kind of book I’d want a potential lover to be reading…

Rebecca Buck: If my date was reading while they waited, I’d be unlikely to run anywhere. What better way to pass the time? However, I’d be wary of anything sci-fi or futuristic… or anything like a glossy magazine… Just not my thing.

imagesKiki Archer: Ummm, Fifty shades! Or possibly the lesbian kama sutra!

Clare Ashton:  The Well of Loneliness. No unhappy endings please.

Andrea Bramhall: I’d have to say something that is obviously fake. Like they’re reading Simone De Beauvoir, The Second Sex, got it open half way and can’t tell you anything about it. Obviously brought to show off and failing. Anything else, well at least it gives us somewhere to start and I’m always interested in learning new things.

So there you go: how to impress (or fail to impress) your literary date. Many thanks to all our authors for taking part 🙂

News Roundup: Cari Hunter, Barbara Davies and Lesley Davis

13 Feb

cadburyCari Hunter has a new blog post about the perils of dealing with Unknown Unknowns:

My favourite comment left in the margins during the editing of my upcoming novel, Desolation Point, was a slightly exasperated: “I know we’re in Sarah’s POV and she thinks British, but don’t you people ever wear pants?” To which there could only be one answer: “Yes, all the time. Right under our trousers.”

Ah, the joys of writing a novel with a bilingual point of view…

Read the blog here.

licensedtospyMeanwhile, Barbara Davies has been in touch to tell us about her new novel, Licensed to Spy, which is available now:

While the rest of the Canary Islands celebrates Carnaval, British secret agents Ashley Blade and Jemma Jacobs try to unravel a Libyan terrorist plot against the United States. If they don’t succeed, it’s goodbye to Boston and the U.S. eastern seaboard. Then the Libyan terrorists launch a new nefarious plot in Brazil, and Ash and Jemma scramble to save the world from a deadly sarin attack.

Ash and Jemma finally return home to London for some much needed rest and relaxation. Unfortunately, where Ash and Jemma go, trouble is not far behind.

palewingsFinally, Lesley Davis has been blogging about Pale Wings Protecting, a spin-off to her novel Dark Wings Descending. Read her entry on the Bold Strokes Authors website.

Q and A with Stella Duffy

11 Feb

Stella Duffy, writer, actorStella Duffy was born in London but grew up in New Zealand (which is responsible for that flavour in her lovely voice). She later returned to London and still lives there with her partner.

She has written eight literary novels, five crime novels (featuring the wonderfully flawed lesbian detective, Saz Martin) and numerous plays. She is also an actress, director and commentator, regularly heard on BBC Radio 4. Her books have been listed for the Orange prize and she’s won Stonewall Writer of the year twice.

So we’re a bit chuffed that she agreed to answer some questions for us and our readers here at UKLesfic!

JF asks: I loved Saz Martin and I’ve noticed that the books are now available on Kindle. Are you ever tempted to write just one more adventure?

SD: Tempted yes, but likely, no. In some ways I feel as if I went as far as I was prepared to go with Saz as a detective in novels, I’d need to develop her in a different way if I were to look at writing more crime stories for her. I think too, that crime fiction readers tend to like their books a bit more gory than I’m prepared to write. That said, the one part of the books I’ve always been interested in is Saz and Molly’s relationship, so there would be space in my thoughts for a book about the two of them and their family. I’m not sure there’s much market for happy ever after love stories though, is there …?

Clare asks: I love Parallel Lies. The main characters are fascinating and have some very unlikeable characteristics. Do you prefer to write likeable or unlikeable characters?

SD: Thank you, I loved writing it. I far prefer the more complicated characters. It doesn’t matter if they’re ‘good’ or ‘bad’, as long as they’re not one-dimensional. Even the small characters need to have a bit of light and shade.

Mags Dixon asks: Did you ever finish or subsequently borrow aspects from the Mills & Boon novel that you put together for the documentary on BBC? (P.S. the funniest scene was the preparation for writing the “scorching” love scene :D)

No, I didn’t. I might, and I think the idea is good for an unusual rom-com perhaps, but it simply wasn’t worth it to me to take time out from my own writing to write for a genre/form that isn’t really me – and even though they were very kind about the three chapters I did do, there’s no guarantee they’d have published the finished thing and I can’t afford to write on spec like that – ie, I’m always happy to write on spec and often do for new projects, but only for something I care hugely about. There’s no point in writing anything you don’t care about, it’s too hard as it is, without making it unimportant to your heart/spirit as well. I think that was the most useful point of the whole doc really, the part that says write what you want to write, not what you’re second-guessing the market wants. And yes, I like the martini bit too.

theodoraKath Murray asks: Kudos to Stella Duffy for doing this Q&A and supporting this blog. I’m just starting Theodora. I hadn’t heard of Theodora before and she sounds really interesting. How did you come across her? And how much time does the research take writing a book like this?

SD: I was in Ravenna for a book festival, saw the mosaics, and was blown away by them. I read a little about Theodora and was stunned when I came home to find that there were no recent books about her (none published in the UK anyway), and so I embarked on what became a much bigger project that I’d ever envisaged – and two books! The research took about six months. I was editing The Room of Lost Things at the same time, doing my reading for Theodora in the morning and my editing in the afternoons. I read about thirty different books on the period and the specific time, and then – taking the advice of friend and lovely historical writer Manda Scott – I just started. Manda was quite right, there comes a point, no matter how much research is useful, where you have to start making it up. (And going back to the books for the bits you don’t know when you get to them – after all, you can’t know what you don’t know until you get to that point.)

Theodora must have taken a lot of planning, but by nature are you a “plotter” or a “pantser”, i.e. do you write a detailed outline of your story or fly by the seat of your pants and see what happens?

SD: A bit of both, I tend not to start writing until I have a pretty good idea of what has to happen in the book, the three or four main plot points perhaps, but that’s not the same as fully plotting the whole thing. I’ve found that when I have tried to plot a book before I start, the writing tends to take it away from where the plot suggested anyway, so it becomes a bit of a pointless exercise. I sometimes find, a third or two thirds into the first draft, that I need to take a good long look and work out what needs to come next (as opposed to what I feel like writing next) and that can help too. I usually write quite a few drafts of a book, so the first draft is about making it all up, the subsequent drafts are to find the real story – which is not always what I thought it was before I start writing – and to bring that out in the book, through editing and rewriting. The Theodora novels were a little different in that there was already a ‘plot’ (ie, her lifeline), so the real work was in deciding what facts had to be there and enjoying finding way to bring them together with the sections I made up.

Which book has stayed with you, and which characters won’t leave you alone even though you’ve politely asked them to leave now they’re published?

SD: All of them to some extent, though Robert and Akeel from The Room of Lost Things are very special to me. And Theodora will always matter I think, because she’s been with me for so long and – generously – brought me a whole new readership, which is always welcome.

calendar-girl-stella-duffy-paperback-cover-artThe UK has several writers, like you, who unapologetically write lesbian stories but who appeal to the mainstream. What about your writing do you think attracts a non-lesbian readership?

SD: I hope that’s true, and if it is, I’d say it’s because I have never written lesbian (or any LGBT characters) as if we’re special or different or otherwise outside. Yes, the world may make us feel like that sometimes, and it can be true that we are outside – especially in countries where the laws are less on our side than they are here (I know it’s not ‘fixed’ here yet, but it’s good to remember there are many places where life is harder as LGBT and we need to do our best for those people too), but all people feel, all people love, all people fear, all people desire. And lesbian characters are all people too. I’ve also made a real effort to include non-white characters in my work. I know I may get it wrong sometimes, of course I must, any writer can only ever write from their own experience and their own life, but I’d rather write a work peopled by LGBT, straight, black, white, asian, young, old, able, disabled … and everything in between, than write (yet another) book about white middle class people having white middle class dramas. Those dramas are very real too, I don’t mean they don’t count, but there are plenty of books about them already, I like a bit of a mix of characters in my writing – just as there are a mix of people in my real life.

What are you working on at the moment?

SD: A new novel set in the early twentieth century, in south London, in the years before WW1. It’s not a family story, but it does include some of the family stories I know about my grandmother’s years in service, my grandfather’s childhood of severe poverty in Deptford – and the good bits of those lives too. Downton Abbey is giving the world plenty of posh people looking lovely in nice frocks, I’m a bit more interested in how it was for those living in a less glamorous world.

Stella-DuffyUKLesfic has loved your readings and performances at the (much missed) YLAF. Where can readers catch you now?

SD: I miss YLAF too, though I had a lovely time at LFest last year. I do readings all over the place, whenever I’m asked, and am very happy to do so if I can fit it in with my other work (theatre directing as well as always having a new book on the go). They’re usually listed on my blog.

Lastly, which book do you most re-read / what’s your comfort read?

SD: I don’t re-read that often, as I always have a massive pile of new books to read, but Russell Hoban’s Riddley Walker is the book I’ve given to other people most often, and JD Salinger’s Raise High the Roofbeam Carpenters and Seymour, An Introduction are among my other favourites. As are Jeanette Winterson’s The Passion, Marge Piercy’s Woman on the Edge of Time, Mary McCarthy’s The Group, Margaret Atwood’s The Edible Woman. And Shakespeare, I always like a bit – a lot – of Shakespeare.

Thanks Stella! Keep up with Stella’s work and appearances at her blog:

Lesbian authors on TV and Radio this week

11 Feb

Appearances this week by some of UK/Ireland’s most famous lesbian authors:

b01qhqgTell Me the Truth About Love: 1.45pm every weekday this week on Radio 4Valentine’s week and love is in the air – or rather the Radio 4 airwaves. Carol Ann Duffy and her fellow poets explore the language of love, from first flush to last gasp. Duffy celebrates the power of love poetry over the ages and examines the great works that say it all so much better than we could say it ourselves.

330x235valmcdermidOn The Culture Show, Wednesday 13th at 10pm on BBC2: crime writer Val McDermid inspects the British Library’s crime fiction exhibition to investigate the history of the whodunnit.

And, for anyone who happens to be reading this in Canada, Emma Donoghue is appearing tomorrow, 12 February, at the Canadian Writers in Person reading series, University of York, Toronto.