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!

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

  1. Nikki Busch March 28, 2014 at 5:23 pm #

    Looks like lots of exciting news coming from our UK authors! Thank you for keeping us posted about this. I am looking forward to hopefully attending the virtual launch party for RJ Samuel.

    • Cari Hunter March 29, 2014 at 2:49 pm #

      Everyone certainly seems to be having a bumper spring, Nikki! Glad you’re enjoying the updates, hope you have fun at RJ’s bash 🙂

  2. R J Samuel March 31, 2014 at 9:19 am #

    I want to thank you both, Clare and Cari, for such a wonderful site and for including me in your posts. I’m worried now I’m crossing the pond 😦 that I’ll be ruled out…can I claim honorary Irish status even though I’m in America….?

    • Cari Hunter March 31, 2014 at 12:44 pm #

      No, sorry, as soon as you leave these fair shores, this site shuns you FOREVER!

      Ha. Don’t be a daft sod, course we’ll still include you. Many many best wishes for your travels.

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