Archive | March, 2014

News Roundup: Val McDermid in Manchester, RJ Samuel’s Launch Party, VG Lee on Video, Book Reviews, and More…

28 Mar

Things were finally a little more sedate on the news front this week, but we don’t really do sedate here at UK LesFic, so as a special bonus I’ve added a write-up of Val McDermid’s appearance at Waterstones in Manchester on Wednesday night. Enjoy!

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val mcdermidFollowing hot on the heels of Joanna Trollope’s reimagining of Sense & Sensibility, Val McDermid’s take on Northanger Abbey is the newest release in the Austen Project, in which six best-selling contemporary authors have been paired with one of Jane Austen’s complete works: Sense & Sensibility, Northanger Abbey, Pride & Prejudice, Emma, Persuasion and Mansfield Park. Taking these well-loved stories as their base, each author has been tasked to write their own unique version.

Val McDermid is always good value at an author event. Funny, personable, and genuinely interesting, she covered a lot of ground during Wednesday’s chat. Starting with Austen, she spoke about how returning to the classics as a fledgling author helped to improve her writing, and how unpicking the plotting of such writers as Austen and Agatha Christie provided her with a masterclass on structuring a multi-layered story. Her own version of Northanger Abbey differs from the original in that parts of the mystery are held over to the end, whereas Austen plays all of her cards with a good twenty percent of the novel still remaining. Val admitted that she found the task “daunting” and refused to participate when she was initially asked. Northanger Abbey was specifically assigned to her due to its elements of suspense and intrigue – “Can’t really see me doing Pride & Prejudice, can you?” – and she confirmed that she was tempted to slaughter a few of the more annoying cast members in ways far too gruesome for the project. At an earlier point, chatting to her editor, she had discussed how much fun it would be to rework Emma as a lesbian novel, “Which is probably why they didn’t ask me to do that one!”

northanger abbeyMoving on to her writing in a more general sense, she identified Sarah Paretsky (V.I. Warshawski) as an early influence, as Paretsky had created a strong female protagonist who didn’t need to get a bloke in when she wanted to get something done. Val also revealed that she doesn’t plot as rigidly as she used to. Her first novels were plotted chapter by chapter, but at some point this suddenly stopped working for her, sending her into a panic. “What if this was it?” What if she had dried up? Hurtling towards a deadline, she would speak to her editor on the phone: “It’s fine, it’s all fine. I’m writing!” and eventually went to Italy, sequestered herself away and wrote 65,000 words in nine days of solid graft. She could barely string a sentence together when she had finished, but her editor was certainly happy: “It’s the best first draft you’ve ever handed in!” Since then, her process has been looser, something she called “driving at night writing”, in that you know where you start out from and your eventual destination, but the middle bit reveals itself incrementally as you go along.

In closing, Val answered questions from the audience, signed copies of Northanger Abbey, and posed for piccies. If she’s heading to your town in the not too distant future, she’s well worth hanging out with.

Val’s version of Northanger Abbey has just been released in hardback and e-book.

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And now onto the news proper…

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I’ll kick off with a date for the diaries, as Kiki Archer will be appearing at the Polari Literary Salon on Monday 28th April. The event takes place at the Level 5 Function Room at Royal Festival Hall, South Bank Centre at 7.45 p.m. Tickets are £5 and available to book here. I’ve added the listing to our events page for those who might want to check back in a little closer to the time.

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VGLeeSticking with Polari, VG Lee has a new video of her reading from her forthcoming novel Mr Oliver at a recent Polari evening:

Mr Oliver has had his heart broken by falling for a much younger women, and in this scene he’s on a cruise to recover. A lady of a certain age also feels like getting over her own woes by trying to seduce him. The result is VG Lee’s classic mix of tragedy and comedy.

Head over to YouTube to watch the video.

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the january flowerCrafty Green Poet, who won a copy of Orla Broderick’s The January Flower in our recent giveaway, has reviewed the book over on her blog.

The whole book is very poetically written, full of lovely phrases. Oddly I felt this sometimes stopped me feeling close to Mary. I also often felt that the individual characters, other than Mary, could have benefited from more consistently and better developed voices. Having said that, this is a lovely book to read for a different insight into life in the Scottish Highlands and for its portrayal of people living in close connection and awareness of nature.

You can read the full review here.

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AplacesomewherMeanwhile, the Lesbian Reading Room has been waxing lyrical about RJ Samuel‘s new novel,  A Place Somewhere:

A Place Somewhere is an extremely well-written novel, well edited and crafted – always a joyous find when one reads a new author, particularly somebody who is self published. The characters RJ portrays are well rounded and have an integrity that is sometimes challenged by their heart-ache and loss, but ultimately shows them for who they really are.

The review can be read in its entirety at the above link.

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RJSamuelAuthorPicRJ is also having a launch party for the novel and the song, starting at 7pm GMT (3pm EST) on Saturday 29th of March. On the event page, RJ has this to say:

As the theme of the book is a bit dark (online deception), I‘m hoping to make the launch a more positive experiment in connection.. I’ll be reading at some point and Sharon Murphy will be performing the song. There’ll be friends at the party here in Galway (Ireland) and I have (just about) managed to figure out how to live stream from here. I’m also hoping to have FB friends video chat with us on FaceTime or Skype.

I’ll post the details of how ye can watch the live stream if you’re interested, but I was hoping to get some idea of who would be interested in participating in the video conversations. Please comment or PM me if you’d like to take part. Please remember, this is a new (and kinda scary) thing for me so it might not be very ‘professional’, just informal. I just love the idea that we might be able to connect ‘communities’ across the world in some small way.

For more information, head over here to the launch party Facebook page.

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And that just about rounds up the roundup. Hope everyone has a fabulous weekend. I’m on nights and the clocks are going forward, WOO HOO!

News roundup: Hild makes it to the UK, a new old book from LT Smith, food porn from Cari Hunter and music from RJ Samuel

21 Mar

While most authors seem to have been distracted by the latest Buzzfeed quiz of which actress would play them in their life’s movie (Emma Watson, mutter mutter, I wanted Meryl Streep, mutter mutter), there’s still enough going on to bring you a news roundup:

coldwindNicola Griffith‘s Hild makes an appearance in the UK, without Hild appearing on the cover. Have a look over here for the classy UK edition and release dates for the various formats. Nicola is also adding the finishing touches to a short story, Cold Wind, which has more tantalising artwork. It will be available (free) from April 24 on the science fiction / fantasy website Tor.com.

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cover_hearts-and-flowers-borderL.T. Smith‘s Hearts and Flowers Border has been reissued with her new publisher Ylva. This second revised edition is now available on Amazon in paperback and for Kindle. Here’s the blurb:

A visitor from her past jolts Laura Stewart into memories—some funny, some heart-wrenching. Thirteen years ago, Laura buried those memories so deeply she never believed they would resurface. Still, the pain of first love mars Laura’s present life and might even destroy her chance of happiness with the beautiful, yet seemingly unobtainable Emma Jenkins.

Can Laura let go of the past, or will she make the same mistakes all over again?

Hearts and Flowers Border is a simple tale of the uncertainty of youth and the first flush of love—love that may have a chance after all.

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FrogMusicIt’s also not long now until Emma Donoghue‘s Frog Music is available. For those of you who want to tease yourself a little more while waiting here’s the trailer over on Goodreads.

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New author Clare Lydon will be online for a Q&A session about her popular debut London Calling. You can catch her in the discussion group The Virtual Living Room on Sunday 6th April at 3 p.m. tumbledownforblogEST. To join the discussion group click here.

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If you’re one of those readers who loves background to a novel, don’t miss out on Cari Hunter‘s post to accompany her latest book Tumbledown. The post details Cari’s research from locations of derelict warehouses to some obligatory food porn. Cari’s also happy to answer questions about the book in the comments section. Here’s the post.

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sharonmurphy1As mentioned on last week’s news, the song RJ Samuel wrote to go with her new novel A Place Somewhere is now available to purchase on Amazon’s MP3 store,  available to everyone that is apart from RJ and anyone else in Ireland. Irish fans will just have to wait for the iTunes version or nip over here to cdbaby.

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BSB_Because_of_HerThere’s a nice guest post on the Bold Strokes Author Blog about KE Payne‘s latest novel Because of Her. KEblogged for us earlier this week about why she writes YA fiction to reassure people that it’s OK to be gay. Her work certainly strikes a chord:

Because of Her is the kind of YA book that makes a difference without being forced. It doesn’t tell you how all people my age are supposed to feel, but it reminds us there are others who have gone through the same things as us. Everyone has been this age, but some people seem to have lost the ability to understand how it feels to be a high schooler. Thank goodness K.E. Payne hasn’t because people my age, myself included, need writers like her telling stories for and about us.”

You can read the full post here.

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merylstreepFinally here’s a picture of Meryl Streep, just because. (Look if she can pull off roles from Thatcher to Mamma Mia then she can do me – stupid Buzzfeed.)

Because of Her – a guest post by Ke Payne

18 Mar

BSB_Because_of_HerKe Payne is a best-selling author of entertaining YA lesfic that appeals across the ages. She writes the kind of romantic girl-meets-girl stories she wished were around when she was growing up. Here she talks about her latest novel Because of Her and what it’s meant to early readers to be reassured that it’s OK to be gay.

I did a Q&A on another author’s blog a while ago, and one of the questions I was asked was what message did I hope readers took away from my books? My answer was short and sweet: I wanted readers to know that it’s okay to be gay, and, just like you can’t help which food you love, or which clothes you love, you can’t help who you love either. This assertion was at the forefront of my mind when I started to write my latest novel, Because of Her. I didn’t want it to just be a let’s run around and tell everyone how fab it is to be queer, I just wanted people to read it and realise that, hey, the world isn’t going to stop turning just because you happen to be gay.

Because of Her packs a lot into its 264 pages. My heroine Tabby is uprooted from her small town in the northeast of England and enrolled in an exclusive girls’ school in London when her father’s new job forces the family to move. Taken away from her girlfriend Amy, Tabby hates her new life in London and rails against everything and everyone in the hope that she’ll get sent back to the northeast. That is, until she spots the lovely Eden across a busy classroom…

Whilst battling her feelings for her classmate Eden and feeling guilty about Amy at the same time, Tabby also has to run the gauntlet of prejudice from Eden’s two ghastly friends Gabby and Beth. Thankfully Tabby has support from her new best friends Libby and Greg, and while of course good triumphs over evil in the end, writing the book really made me think about every school kid that’s ever had to fight against homophobia.

Shortly after Because of Her was published, I read an incredibly poignant review from a gay teenager who had just finished the book and wanted to express how much reading it had helped her personally. She said she could identify with Tabby, because she too was at school and having to face the sorts of ignorant comments Tabby faces because she was, as she said, “different from the other girls”. Although this reader wrote that she wasn’t out at school (Tabby is), her words, “I liked how I lost myself in this book and saw how Tabby faces her enemies. I really drew confidence from how Tabby reacted against the bullies” absolutely hit home.

Then, soon after that review, I received an email which was just as touching. It was from a reader in her late forties who told me she’d read Because of Her because she’d so enjoyed my last novel The Road to Her as it had shown her that “YA books weren’t just for kids”. She too told me Because of Her was personal to her and said that she wished there had been books like it around when she’d been a teenager because she felt it would have helped her come to terms with being gay a lot earlier and, as she put it, “stopped her from living a lie for too many years”.

Both the review and the email struck a chord with me as I could genuinely identify with each one. To this confused teen growing up in the 1980s, lesbianism seemed stuck in the Victorian era; if we didn’t talk about it, then it didn’t exist. I longed to read books that might give me answers to my many questions: was I the only one feeling like this? Was it wrong to like girls? Was I going to hell in a handcart because I fancied Wonder Woman? Like reader number two, when I was a teen, all I wanted was to read books where I could identify with the heroine and for her to reassure me that what I was feeling wasn’t immoral. I didn’t want to read about boy meets girl, or about girl chasing boy because she fancies him but he doesn’t fancy her back (yawn). Just like the teenager that wrote the review of Because of Her, I wanted to read books about what I was going through. I needed to read about characters that didn’t give a flying fuck what people thought about them, and I wanted to absorb all those books that told me I wasn’t weird for being Team Bionic Woman rather than Team Bionic Man (I said it was the eighties, didn’t I?).

Most of all, though, through reading those types of books, I simply wanted to reassure myself that I wasn’t alone, because it sure as hell felt like it at the time.

It was only later when I was still trying to figure out what I was, and when lesbian fiction was starting to become much more available, that I was able to devour the books I’d craved as a teenager. I loved them all, and drew comfort from them. I wished I could be the girl in the story; I wanted to be that confident lesbian who gave a middle finger to all those who didn’t understand. Those type of books are wonderful because they take you out of the real world, if only for a while, and place you somewhere where you’re comfortable with who you are, and where you’re also accepted by others for who you are.

That was what I wanted to achieve when I first started writing YA novels: books that send out an important message to all ages, while still being the sweet, romantic girl-meets-girl stories I so wanted to read for myself way back then. In Because of Her, I wanted to show that with the support of others, you can overcome prejudice. If you believe in yourself, you can rise above the bullies and the haters and those that plain just don’t understand, and show that you are a better person than they are. My heroine, Tabby, does just that. She ignores the comments and snide remarks that she has to deal with every day at school and proves to herself and those around her that she’s a better person than they are. She’s honest to herself, doesn’t take any crap from anyone, and with the help of her friends, rises above the hateful whispers that follow her down the school corridors.

KePayneBecause of Her, I hope, tells those reading it that they should never fall to the haters’ level, and that it’s the haters and the ignoramuses that end up looking stupid. If you can have confidence in who you are, and if you can continue to walk with your head held high despite everything, then the only losers will be those that choose to refuse to understand.

So if I can write just one book that a reader can identify with–whether you’re fourteen or forty– and take comfort from, then read again when they need the message reinforced that being gay is nothing to be ashamed about, then my job is done and the message is loud and clear: it’s most definitely okay to be gay.

News Roundup: New Novels from Just About Everyone, Reviews Galore, Awards, and Upcoming Events

14 Mar

After Tig‘s heartfelt plea in the last news, you’d think all the UK LesFic authors would be off sunning their bums on an island somewhere and giving us both a rest. Ha. Not a bloody chance. Here is another rather lively News Roundup…

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First out of the traps this week are Jade Winters and RJ Samuel, who have both released novels within the last couple of days.

say somethingJade’s latest, Say Something, is now available on Amazon (UK) , Amazon (US), and Smashwords, and we have a blurb to go with the cover we recently previewed.

When love-struck teenagers Jessie and Toni’s clandestine affair is exposed, Jessie’s only option is to move on. Feeling betrayed by Toni, she swears she will never trust another with her heart. Fast forward ten years when, in a strange twist of fate, this vow is put to the test as Jessie and Toni are thrown together by chance. Can Jessie put the put the past behind her to help Toni – who now needs her more than ever. Will she be able to deny the feelings that still run deep for the only woman she has ever loved?

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AplacesomewherRJ Samuel‘s A Place Somewhere is also available on Createspace, Amazon UK, and Amazon US. This is what LesFic reviewer Terry Baker had to say about the novel:

I’ve loved each of RJ Samuel’s books, this one is in my honest opinion, her best to date. Told from the heart and written from the mind and muse. Truly a wonder to behold. A definite and firm favorite to be read time and again. 

You can read the full review at this link.
 

Not content with writing the book, RJ also wrote a song with the same title, a clip of which can be heard over here on YouTube.

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pauline georgeNever one to rest on her laurels, Terry has also been casting her eye over Pauline George‘s début novel, Jess:

Now and then I come across a début author who shines through. Pauline George is one such author. She has written a wonderful story with believable and loveable characters. All well developed, multidimensional and easy to get to know.

As always, you can catch up with the full review here.

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crin claxtonOoh, just nicking in under the deadline, Crin Claxton‘s novel, The Supernatural Detective is a finalist in the 2014 ForeWord Review Book of the Year Award: Gay and Lesbian category.

Each year, Foreword shines a light on a small group of indie authors and publishers whose ground-breaking work stands out from the crowd. Foreword’s awards are more than just a shiny sticker on the front of a book; they help connect the best indie books to readers eager to discover new stories written by previously unknown authors.

The finalists are selected by librarians and booksellers, and the winners will be announced at the American Library Association annual conference on June 27 in Las Vegas.

Congratulations and good luck, Crin!

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statesofindependence2014If you’re looking for something to do this weekend, Amy Dunne and editor Victoria Oldham will be flying the Bold Strokes flag at the Leicester festival States of Independence, a celebration of the breadth and diversity offered by independent publishers throughout the region. As Vic so succinctly says:

The event is free to attend, and there are panels and book vendors, and a whole crowd of people who loves books as much as you do. If you’re in the vicinity, this is where you should spend your Saturday!

The event takes place Saturday 15th March at De Montfort University, and all the necessary details, including information on the LGBTQ panel (the topic of which is The Road to Integration), can be found at the above link.

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season's meetingsWe’re sticking with Amy Dunne for a moment, as her second novel Season’s Meetings now has a blurb and a lovely new cover (yes, that is Amy’s own pup Kimmy, in a starring role!)

Could the festive road trip from hell actually lead to love?

Catherine Birch is a lonely workaholic who hates Christmas. This year, she is being forced to celebrate with her best friend’s family in the Highlands of Scotland. Having missed her flight, Catherine reluctantly ventures on a road trip with beautiful stranger Holly Daniels. Although polar opposites, the intense attraction between them is unmistakable. Just as Catherine begins to think spending Christmas with Holly might not be so bad, a raging snowstorm leaves them stranded in the middle of nowhere. Huddled together, with little chance of rescue, they forge a pact: if they escape, they’ll make this a Christmas to remember. But will it be remembered for the right reasons?

With a December release date, the novel is perfectly timed to slip into your Christmas stocking. Hey, it’s never too early to plan these things, there are only 285 shopping days left, folks!

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BSB_Because_of_HerKE Payne is also keeping herself very busy on the writing front. Her fifth novel Because of Her (available now from the BSB site, and on wider release from March 18th) has been given a standing ovation at Lesbian Fiction Reviews:

If I could use just one word to describe the book it’d be sweet, and this applies to the main character, the plot and the way K.E. Payne tells the story. I felt completely caught with Tabitha because she’s a down-to-earth, sensible and sensitive character. She’s not perfect, doesn’t look like a model; she’s just a girl with insecurities and fears who is violently taken away from what she’s known her entire life and has to face a big challenge.

once the clouds have goneWhile novel number 6 – Once the Clouds Have Gone – now has a cover and a blurb:

Nine years after leaving the small Scottish town where she’d grown up, Tag Grainger is forced to return following the sudden death of her father—and back to a life she’s long since put behind her. After inheriting a share in a family business she wants no part in, Tag is overwhelmed by the dark clouds of her past: her brother can’t forgive her, the nephew she adored doesn’t remember her, and everywhere she goes there are whispers about how she abandoned her family. With her old wounds reopened, Tag longs to escape again, until the appearance of the intriguing and spirited Freddie Metcalfe forces her to reevaluate much more than she thought she needed to. But while Freddie is harboring a secret of her own, can she help Tag reconnect with her family and move on from her past?

Once the Clouds Have Gone is due for release in October.

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duffy_maureenSome more dates for the calendar now, with Maureen Duffy set to headline at Polari on March 17th. Paul Burston’s celebrated Polari salon provides a platform for new and emerging LGBT literary talent and showcases the very best in queer writing. From the Polari website:

Maureen’s latest novel, In Times Like These, is a fable that puts politics to its ultimate test. Jill Gardiner describes it as ‘a pacy, exciting read, centered around an out-lesbian MP and her artist girlfriend, whose well-established relationship is very much of our times.’ 

For tickets and further details about the event click here.

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frogmusicFinally this week, Emma Donoghue‘s Frog Music tour, will see events taking place in Brighton (25th March), Norwich (26th March), and Cambridge (1st April). More details on each of those dates can be found at the links, while a full worldwide listing of the tour is on the Latest News ticker-tape on Emma’s homepage.

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Right, that’s yer lot. For those with the weekend off, have a fabulous one. For those working it, like me, keep your heads down, it’ll be over before you know it!

Q&A with Clare Lydon

11 Mar

Today on UK LesFic, we welcome new Indie author Clare Lydon, whose début novel London Calling shot to number one on the Amazon Lesbian fiction chart on the day of its release and has been sitting pretty there ever since. A tale of one woman’s search for love in modern-day London, London Calling is littered with ladygays, a vat of tequila and a colourful array of Converse. We put some questions to Clare about her new novel…

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london callingA warm welcome to the UK LesFic hot seat! Please tell us a bit about your novel  London Calling. What inspired the characters and the story?

London Calling is the story of Jess and her journey getting her life back on track, as well as her search for new love back in her home town of London. She’s just returned from three years in Australia heartbroken and broke, and we follow her as she reconnects with the city, her family and friends, new mates and lovers, and dodges bullets from her past.

I dreamt up the bones of the story while I was in Sydney on holiday with my partner who’s from there. I was sitting in a coffee shop on Oxford Street (gay central) and just started writing. I love cities and found Sydney inspiring too, so I knew I wanted to work it in somewhere. Most of what I wrote about it fell onto the cutting room floor though, so maybe I’ll release the Director’s Cut of the book sometime soon with all that detail back in. Now there’s an idea…

Would it be true to say that the city of London functions as one of the novel’s characters? What it is that makes London such a great place to write about?

London is the greatest city in the world – only New York comes close to it. There’s always something happening in London, which means it’s rich pickings for a writer: art, culture, architecture, scenery, cuisine, sport – you name it, it’s here. I’ve lived here for 15 years and grew up only 30 miles east, so the city’s always played a starring role in my life.

I’ve read so many lesfic novels set in America and I wanted to write one set in London, with its energy springing from the pages. My aim was to write a novel true to the world I live in, a modern world with technology and culture rippled through it and brimming with lesbians.

The synopsis for London Calling places its protagonist Jess Sharp “at a crossroads – back in London, living in her parents’ spare room, jobless and single.” Knowing a little something about the price of housing in London, is this scenario something you or your mates can relate to?

clare lydonAbsolutely. Housing prices in London are crackers and landlords have to be one of the most discussed topics across the city. It’s tricky to find a job that pays the bills and gives you enough to work and play too, as Lena Dunham so beautifully depicts in Girls.

I know a lot of people in Jess’s situation, wondering how they’re going to get on the housing ladder while paying extortionate rents. She’s lucky she gets a place so central for the price she does, as her friend Kate is happy to cover her costs and nothing more. Housing is always a hot topic of conversation for 30-somethings, and for many Londoners having stairs or a garden is a scenario that’s never going to happen.

LesFic is a genre that has been dominated by American writers, but the Brits seem to be storming up the charts at the moment. Any thoughts on why that might be?

Firstly, because we’ve got some brilliantly talented writers! Sure, the Americans have the publishing clout and the history in lesfic, but the Brits have got great things to contribute too. Secondly, seeing as there are no lesbian publishers in the UK, the rise of self-publishing has helped many UK authors get their voices heard, which is great. And lastly, I hope it’s also because the lesfic word is getting out among the UK’s lesbians, and they’re enjoying seeing their lives reflected in print.

Speaking of storming up the charts – did you do anything outrageous to celebrate when London Calling hit number one in the LesFic chart on its first day of release?

I was out having dinner with my friend who designed my cover, that night. We had dinner, went to a bar, and I was on the bus home when I got a text from two of my mates telling me I was No.1. I couldn’t believe it. I got chatting to a very gay man on the short walk from the bus stop to my house and told him – I couldn’t keep it in. His name was Gordon and he was wearing a straw trilby with flowers in it. He gave me a massive congratulatory hug and told me to remember the moment. We’re now BFFs, obviously.

You’ve said previously that London Calling took four years to complete. What gave you the kick up the bum to get it finished?

I’d had it half-written for ages but was too busy with life to finish it. However, last May I got made redundant from my job and decided to use the money to take some time off and throw myself into writing. I spent the first few weeks at my mate’s house in Spain writing in the morning, sunbathing in the afternoon – hard life – then came back to the UK and finished the first edit. It was a beautifully hot summer to have at my mercy, and the writing flowed. Then I went to LFestive last November to meet some other UK authors, and once I’d told them I was going to do it, I figured I’d better follow through.

If you could be the godchild of any two authors, whom would you choose?

JoJo Moyes and Jeanette Winterson. JoJo’s books are always heart-breakingly beautiful and Jeanette’s work speaks for itself. Oranges is probably one of the best debuts ever and her recent memoir about her mother was so raw it bled off the page. I’d also like Armistead Maupin and Nick Alexander as my godfathers – both fantastic writers and I’m particularly pleased that Nick Alexander is finally getting the acclaim he deserves.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’ve completed the first draft of my second book, and now I just need to knock it into shape. It’s a completely different book to London Calling, dealing with a slightly older age group and based in the country – but I’ll probably return to London for the next one. I’ve learnt so much over this past year doing my first book, so I hope editing and publishing the second will be a breeze. Time will tell!

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Cheers very much, Clare!

London Calling is out on Kindle now, with other digital versions following soon. The paperback version will be out at the end of April. Find out more about Clare and her writing here at Clare’s website.

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News Roundup: Brits Listed as Lambda Award Finalists, Reviews, Interviews and a Call for Submissions…

7 Mar

I think there’s something wrong with UKLesFic writers. Why aren’t you all procrastinating and naval gazing like normal writers. Shouldn’t you be surfing the web and wasting time on Facebook rather than doing something constructive like writing new books, getting great reviews and being short-listed for awards? Here is an awful lot of news:

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LammySealLet’s start with the Lammys. As one of the most prestigious LGBT fiction awards, it’s fantastic to see some UK names across the categories. A loud whoop and a very British handshake to these Lambda Literary Award finalists:

Nicola Griffith for Hild: A Novel in bisexual fiction
Jeanette Winterson for The Daylight Gate in the lesbian general fiction category
Val McDermid for Cross and Burn in lesbian mystery
and Andrea Bramhall for Clean Slate in lesbian romance

Finalists get a swanky night out in New York where the winners are announced on 2nd June.

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POLARIpinkLARGEProceedings for the annual Polari Prize have also kicked off with a call for submissions. This respected and regular feature in the literary calendar judges début works by UK authors that explore the LGBT experience. It is open to poetry, prose, fiction or non-fiction, published (including self-published) in the UK between 2 February 2013 and 1 February 2014. Last year’s prize was refreshingly won by a crime genre novel – The Murder Wall by Mari Hannah.

The Bookseller also reports that WH Smith is supporting the event this year and will be selling short-listed books (announced September) in its travel stores. The winner will be announced in October.

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Onto reviews.

OutLateWithFriendsThe Rainbow Reader reviewed Suzanne Egerton‘s Out Late with Friends and Regrets. Not one for simple glowing praise, The Rainbow Reader always gives insightful and thoughtful reviews and she found a lot to admire and recommend in her critique of Suzanne’s book.

Ms. Egerton offers up a long list of interesting and engaging characters, and sprinkles the narrative with entertaining, clever, and colloquial dialogue. Her pacing is quick, the detail is descriptive without being burdensome, and the humor is honest and charming.

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tumbledownforblogCari Hunter‘s Tumbledown was reviewed over on the Lesbian Reading Room. This is what they had to say about the action/thriller sequel to Desolation Point:

“Once again Ms Hunter outdoes herself in the tension and pace of the plot. We literally know from the first 2 pages that the evil is hunting them, but we are held on the edge of our seats for the whole book to see what will unfold, how they will cope, whether they will survive – and at what cost this time….Well written, edited and effortlessly enthralling, Tumbledown is a wonderful read. “

Here’s the full review.

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BSB_Because_of_HerTerry Baker reviewed Ke Payne‘s Because of Her – a tale of of 17-year-old rebel Tabby Morton who is forced to move to London and attend a posh school in the hopes that it’ll make a lady of her.

“Although this is a young adult book, don’t let that stop you from buying it and enjoying it. I was hooked in from the first page right the way through to the last page. KE Payne has a wonderful way with words and her stories are well written and emotionally charged…Homophobia, teen angst, teen romance, coming out, keeping secrets, is all dealt with in a sympathetic and understanding way against a back drop of an upper crust school and parents at the end of their tethers with their teenage daughters… I’m looking forward to reading more from this up and coming author soon.”

You can read the full review here.

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Moving swiftly onto events:

JessPauline George will be launching her book Jess on 29th March in Brighton. She will be reading extracts and signing copies. Get there early for a free glass of bubbly followed by nibbles. Full details are: The Marlborough, Brighton, 29th March from 6.30 p.m.

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VG Lee is guest author at another writing masterclass by Paul Burston. This one covers performance and promotion skills and has the following topics:

  • Overcoming stage fright
  • Working with audiences
  • Establishing the right atmosphere from the start
  • What makes a bad performance – from voice to body language
  • What reading aloud can teach you about your writing
  • How – and what – to tweet to get the right kind of attention
  • Social media promotion strategies for authors

About the course VG Lee says:

I’m thrilled to be Paul Burston’s special guest at his Performance and Promotion skills for writers Masterclass. I think for authors taking part in readings, and who want to energetically promote their work, this will be invaluable. So often over the years I’ve seen an audience lose interest in a well written book, just because the author is reading so badly or reads for too long.

You can find full details here.

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say somethingJade Winters revealed the cover for her next book. She gave readers palpitations by starting off the announcment with “Sadly this will be the last book I write”.  Fortunately for them this sentence ended with “without the need for glasses”. Release date for the book is “soon”.

Jade’s Guilty Hearts is reviewed in this month’s Diva. In the issue she also gives her writing tips to budding romance writers.

Terry Baker also reviewed Jade’s Caught by Love. This is what she had to say:

This book is a well written, page turner. I was totally hooked from the very first page, right through to the last page. There are so many twists and turns and ups and downs, it was like being on a rollercoaster…. This story is definitely one of Jade’s best. Somehow though, I get the feeling I’m going to be saying that about each new book of Jade’s I read.

Full review here.

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clarelydonOne of the worst offenders of high work-rate and efficiency this week is new author Clare Lydon.

Clare’s début was released last week and shot to number on the Amazon UK lesfic charts. The novel was reviewed on Planet of the Books. This is what they had to say about the story of Jess who finds herself back in London, living in her parents’ spare room, jobless and single:

“A well crafted and juicy lesbian chick-lit that is one of the strongest to come in publication since the deluge of self-e-publishing came along. While accessible publishing has led to a marked increase in lesbian fiction, the quality across the board is variable. That is not the case with Clare Lydon’s London Calling which is as strong as any mainstream straight chick lit from a major publisher.  It a nutshell, it’s got everything you would expect from the genre, along with a heavy dose of real-world lesbian culture thrown in.”

Full review here.

Clare has also been busy with Q&As. Over on LGBTQA Culture you can find out about when she started writing, her favourite authors and music, and who she’d like to be stuck in an elevator with. And in G3 she talks more about the book and of whom she is the literary lovechild.

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best lesbian romanceBold Strokes author Jane Fletcher has a short story (The Things You Don’t Do) in the anthology Best Lesbian Romance 2014, edited by BSB’s Commander in Chief, Radclyffe. The anthology is currently available on Kindle and will be released as a paperback on March 20th.

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NicolaGriffithFor those who like to rest their eyes every now and again, and give their ears a bit of a work-out, Nicola Griffith has a new podcast up, in which she chats with her partner Kelley Eskridge, Jonathan Strahan, and Gary Wolf:

It’s the kind of conversation that would have suited a late night in a hotel bar: Hild, historicity, genre, reading stance and more from four people who love to read and think.

The unedited podcast runs for about an hour and is available at this link.

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ylvaYlva Publishing have put out a call for submissions for a Christmas anthology. It will be a collection of romantic, erotic and humorous stories with as wide a range of moods as Christmas elicits. Proceeds will go to good causes that provide a roof over the heads of homeless LGBT youth: the Albert Kennedy Trust in the UK and the Ali Forney Center in New York City. The deadline is 31st July and stories should be between four and eight thousand words. You can find full details over on Women and Words.

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baliholidayNow writers, go and take a holiday, or have a plot crisis, or something, and give UKLesFic blog an easy week hey? Here’s some inspiration – no, for a holiday not another book.

A Q&A with RJ Samuel

3 Mar

rjsamuelRJ Samuel has a fascinating background. She was born in Nigeria to Indian parents but succumbed to the allure of Ireland where she completed her medical studies and continued to live for thirty years. She also had a few years sojourn in France, and now she plans to move to Texas.

Her novels reflect her varied life with settings from Galway to Kerala and a compelling mix of genres. Her debut, Heart Stopper, was a medical thriller which she followed with two magical realism tales, Falling Colours and Casting Shadows. A Place Somewhere will be published in March and is a tale of online deception.

Over to RJ:

I want to start by thanking Clare Ashton and Cari Hunter for the opportunity to write this guest blog post and for their great work with this site. I’m in awe of their energy and their willingness to put in this effort alongside their own author work and busy lives. Thanks to Clare for taking the time to ask the specific questions that made me organise my thoughts.

Aw shucks. Thanks RJ. Now stop procrastinating and answer the questions 🙂

Please tell us about your latest novel A Place Somewhere. What’s it about in a nutshell and what was the inspiration behind the characters and story.

‘In a nutshell’…this is the part I find the most difficult. To summarise the months of searching, writing, scrapping, re-writing, thinking, pretending to write etc. into a neat little shell.

Aplacesomewher

How far would you go? Would you lie to protect the innocent? ALEX HART risked everything to be with her online girlfriend of two years and moved from Ireland to America. But the unthinkable happened and she is emotionally and financially ruined. Devastated, she turns her anger and betrayal into a mission to root out those who deceive the innocent online. When a mother pleads for Alex to protect her daughter from an online predator in Ireland, Alex must become what she hates. How far will Alex go before losing herself in her own web of deception?

The inspiration for this story came from a personal experience that shattered my view of the world. It may not have been much of a thing in the grand scheme of things, but it changed me. A friend helped me in the immediate aftermath and advised me to try to write a story. So I did. A short story called The Alleyway (which ended up being shortlisted for the 2013 Over the Edge ‘New Writer of the Year’ competition). And then, as usually happens with me, the seed of a novel sprouted in the ruins, and it grew into a different story, not a personal one, and yet so personal.

To actually answer the question – The novel, in a nutshell, is about love and deception and the destruction of belief. It is about how the effects of being deceived change a person until for them there is no black and white anymore, and while that might be a good thing in many ways, it leaves them seeing in grey.

After your last novel, you had some trouble writing. What grabbed you about this book to get you going again?

I had trouble writing after the last novel because it was my ‘muse’ for that novel that had deceived me. But not just my external muse, my internal muse as well. In some ways, the betrayal by my internal muse was the part that rocked me the most. If I could not trust myself to ‘know’ the truth then I might never be able to see what was real and what was fake. I retreated into a cave and if there hadn’t been that one friend who refused to let me be alone there, I might have given up. It was a struggle to emerge from the experience at the same time that I was forcing myself to write about similar experiences. Perhaps I should have taken a complete break from writing. I did, in a way. In the last year, I have not been able to write any short stories or other fiction apart from that short story which was an immediate reaction to what had happened, The Alleyway, and the novel, A Place Somewhere. I think, though, that fictionalising and therefore growing a completely new story from that initial ‘bad’ seed has helped me on a personal level to grow in a more healthy way than I would have stuck in a cave with no light.

I had fully intended, as a challenge to myself, to attempt to write a romance as my fourth novel, but my genre-breaking-marketing nightmare-fusion thing got in the way again (as it did in Heart Stopper, which started out as a pure medical thriller and grew to become a story that was also about belonging and culture and love). It felt wrong to be writing a ‘romance’ when I did not believe anymore. It took quite a few months for me to let go of the idea that I would be failing if I couldn’t write a romance and I just wrote what felt right to me.

How does A Place Somewhere differ from your other novels?

heartstopperWhile this novel is different in style to the other three novels (actually, each has a different style as I change and grow), it still reflects my voice. I think the most surprising thing for me was I found that the most difficult part (apart, of course, from the daily ripping open of wounds), to be that I didn’t have the backup and comfort of writing from the POV of an Irish-Indian or an Indian. Before I started this novel, I didn’t think that would be a problem because I had written short stories from many different perspectives, a young straight white guy, an older white male, a young white female, a middle-aged Indian woman…. In fact, at one of my first readings in Galway, I read out a story from the POV of a straight older white male who loved a younger woman, and the organiser of the event told me that an older white man had come up to her after and expressed amazement that the story had been written by a young (ahem), Indian, lesbian woman. I thought that if I could experience love for a woman then I could write that believably from the point of view of anyone who loved a woman. However, with the novel, I found myself struggling to write from the point of view of someone who was meant to belong to the society in which they lived. I did ask a white Irish woman born and brought up in Ireland what it felt like to belong somewhere and I got some interesting thoughts because we couldn’t communicate exactly what the issue was, as from her point of view, the default was being from somewhere. I eventually let go of the need to get it ‘right’ and just wrote from the point of view of human beings growing up with the struggles that shaped them. The writing got a little easier once I had found out what those individual struggles were for my characters.

You are known for having wonderful Irish settings in your novels. What kind of mood and setting does this one have?

fallingcoloursI think this novel is not as descriptive with the settings as the other three novels were. I write descriptions of setting as an extension of the character’s feelings about a place. So for Kiran in Falling Colours, even nature conspires with her emotions on seeing Ashley for the first time. I wrote the first section of A Place Somewhere (set for a few days in New York, Boston, and Cape Cod) before I went to Provincetown in October, thinking that I would use my visit to enhance the descriptions of the settings. But I ended up leaving the text alone.

This was a conscious choice because the main character, Alex, is seeing the world from a barren place. Parts of the story are set in the Burren in County Clare, which is a stunning place and full of magic, but I have restricted the description to how Alex feels about being there. I had to enlist the help of another writer who lives in another setting in the book (Washington State, thanks Tonie!) to get a feel for that area, as the budget did not extend to crossing America.

The majority of the novel is set in a ‘ghost estate’ on the outskirts of Galway. This is probably a setting that many of my readers from outside of Ireland will not see or hear about, though there was a recent article in the New York Times about these estates that are now dotted around Ireland. Similarly, many readers might not realise that people, young and old, never got to live in their homes, have lost their homes or are struggling to survive in these estates. There have been many suicides in this country as a direct result of the corruption of the banks and government. However, my setting is not a true description of the difficulties of ghost estates as it just happened to be a setting and not the reason for the story. I don’t write about these things as issues and I definitely do not presume to speak for anyone because I do not feel like I have the necessary detailed knowledge for political or social commentary. I write stories about fictional people in fictional situations and if they happen to be in circumstances such as these, then a wider audience may learn that there is something going on in this corner of the world and make a choice to learn more about it if it interests them.

This particular story could have spread in so many different ways, but I made a decision to focus on one person’s journey through deception. In one way, the ‘place’ is not important and while there are a lot more places in this novel than in the other three, I wanted a sense of dislocation, of displacement, to get across the sense that where you are physically sometimes does not really matter when it comes to how you feel.

I have to say that no matter how hard I tried to keep the mood dark because the subject matter is dark, I found that there were elements of humour and lightness peeping out. I think the mood shifts over the course of the novel (as it did for me over the course of the nine or ten months I spent writing it). And there is a kid and a dog in it. (Yes, I’m deliberately leaving that hanging there).

What elements of your writing have your readers loved and are common across your work?

castingshadowsI did a quick check with a tiny wee sample of readers and this is what I got back… Can I just say I love that I can email some of my readers (at all hours of the day/night) and they come back with these responses off the top of their heads. I might just shut up from now on and let my readers speak more for me. These responses are from my first/beta readers of A Place Somewhere, so they are including the fourth novel in their views.

No two stories of yours are the same, characters that I can identify with (i.e. get to like or not), consistently well written and edited books, your style is unique, you write what your muse tells you and not what you think people want to hear, you don’t write inside the box and put out books full of sex, but you make your books a nice comfortable easy read, books I would want to read again and again.

Great character development, even the secondary characters are well developed… self effacing humour, it’s a little thing, but when the subject matter gets heavy and angst levels begin to rise, your natural turn of phrase brightens some pretty dark scenes. Your ability to draw the reader into the scene… Through your characters, you voice what many of your readers cannot. You are not afraid to express deep and sometimes profound feelings. Your prose turns your books from everyday Lesfic into literary Lesfic. Your writing is a pleasure to read.”

incredible twists and turns…keeps me guessing, engaging characters – with human/realistic strengths and flaws, enchanting descriptions of Ireland (makes me want to travel), captivating story and character development, beautifully written sentences and dialogue, warmth and subtle humour, main characters are women on compelling journeys, challenging and thought-provoking…sometimes it is good to be taken beyond your comfort zone!, I love reading a book that entertains, challenges, explores my emotions, teaches me new things, leaves me satisfied, but impatient to read your next! All your books do this…

My readers seem to be quite a diverse group. I have readers who are from completely different backgrounds and are varied in terms of their sexuality, race, beliefs, cultures. I write for myself, but I write also for that perfect reader, the one who connects to something, anything, in my writing and my words make them think and feel something different, even for a moment. I guess therefore, all my readers are my perfect reader because I’ve heard from them that my writing has affected them in some positive way. (I know that’s a skewed sample 🙂 but so what, it makes me happy and shouldn’t what can sometimes be a painful job bring some happiness?)

What are your plans now?

I hope to do some work on the Vision Painter series (graphics and re-branding and packaging etc., maybe a book trailer).

And another type of hard work starts now with the publishing and post-publishing process of getting the book out there, where I will have to begin a conversation about things that still have the power to hurt.

I haven’t even mentioned that one of the characters in A Place Somewhere is a musician/songwriter and she writes a song (well, I wrote the words) and I’ve been trying to get it put to music and recorded to release with the book. I got great background on the creative process for musicians from another author who is also a singer/musician (thanks Jodie). I really wanted the singer for A Place Somewhere to be local and Irish and lesbian and I’m delighted to have the possibility now of working with a singer whose voice and guitar-playing I have loved from the first moment I heard her perform here over 20 years ago. I’m waiting to see this week if the words work for her. If they do, I hope that the song will be ready to release in the middle of March with the book. Note how positive I’m being 🙂 This is not an impossible task. After months of procrastination, I finally asked her yesterday and sent the words to the poor woman and now she only has a week 🙂

My real plans, however, are to avoid talking to anyone or doing anything that might sow the seed for another novel. I said after I published Casting Shadows that my mind needed a break. That might have been courting disaster. I had two weeks of calm before my world blew up and that seed landed in the ruins.

Though…I am moving to a strange land with my wee dog after 30 years in Ireland…. Sounds like fertile ground…Nooooooooo….

So why the devil are you moving to Texas?

God knows! 🙂