My reading in March took a bit of a hit. I can’t think why!
I did read two completely stonking books though 😊 Recursion by Blake Crouch is an immense, mind-bending thriller. I wasn’t actually clever enough to understand all of this book, but the bits I could grasp blew my mind. If you enjoy time-travel and books that hit you in the face with science-based action, then this is one for you! Dear Mrs Bird by AJ Pearce is Completely Lush. Could not put it down. Set during WWII, it follows a young woman’s dream to become a journalist, which is Very Quickly Thwarted. Dealing with profound issues of loss and trauma in a gentle and joyous way, this book is one I would recommend at any time, but particularly in this odd period! One other author I want to give a particular shout-out to is Jenny Colgan. All of her books are a jolly escape into idyllic lives – great for when the world seems to be crumbling around us…
As always, read them all and then we can be chums 😊
David Owen’s fourth book was released this month, and he generously agreed to answer some of my questions about his books, reading, and writing 😊 If you don’t already, go follow him on Twitter, he is an irreverent voice in the sometimes slightly too serious world of publishing…
Tell me about your latest book
It’s called Grief Angels, and it’s kind of a double-edged sword. On one side it’s a contemporary YA narrative focusing on a new friendship between two misfit boys – Duncan and Owen. On the other side it is a fantasy narrative, as Owen is periodically pulled through to a mysterious forest realm where he must contend with lost spirits, shapeshifting monsters, and newfound powers. Think along the lines of A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness or Eren by Simon P. Clark.
Grief Angels is about grief… shockingly! In its most obvious definition (Owen is dealing with complex feelings around the death of his father), but also in a broader sense; how grief can be tied into growing up, losing friendships, and nostalgia. Basically, I find it impossible to come up with a brief elevator pitch for it!
Thankfully, the frankly jaw dropping artwork by Leo Nickolls, on both the front cover and some chapter illustrations throughout, sell it better than my attempt to blurb it!
Tell me about your writing week
My writing has to fit around my full-time job, so I don’t have a particularly glamorous schedule. I’ll get home from work around 6pm and aim to be at my desk by 6.45pm. Then I’ll write until 9-9.30pm. I also usually try and write for three to four hours on one weekend day, and then have the other off, but if I’m deep in edits or close to the end of a draft I sometimes just keep going for it.
It can be a frustrating way to write because there isn’t time for multiple projects and some evenings I’m just too tired to manage anything, BUT having limited time does motivate me to actually use it productively.
Tell me about your agent
I’m represented by Ella Kahn at Diamond Kahn and Woods. Everybody always spells her surname incorrectly.
I submitted to Ella when she was an assistant at a larger agency. She read my submission and passed it up the ladder, but unfortunately it didn’t get any further. However, Ella was planning to launch her own agency so she tucked my submission away for later. Several months down the line she got in touch to ask if I was still seeking representation.
That’s why she felt like the right person – because she was passionate enough about my writing to keep me in her mind and ultimately make me her first client.
Tell me about the kinds of books you like to read
I generally like to read books that are a little bit dark and have a unique central idea. That might be really high concept sci fi or fantasy, or a theme or voice I haven’t read before. If a book isn’t striving to do something original, I need it to be doing what it’s doing really well.
One of the best novels I’ve read so far this year is Nothing Ever Happens Here by Sarah Hagger-Holt. This is a super-sweet story about a child dealing with her father coming out as trans. Another of my recent favourites was Bearmouth by Liz Hyder. It’s a totally unique young adult novel written in colloquial voice – it really filled me with hope! And one more is Untold Night and Day by Bae Suah, which is like nothing I’ve ever read before. It’s like a kaleidoscope of video game NPC side-quests collapsing into each other.
I’ve also got into graphic novels recently. It feels like a different kind of reading that gives me a new perspective on writing and storytelling. That’s proved really refreshing. One I’ve been raving about is Rusty Brown by Chris Ware. It’s a simultaneously sprawling and intimate look at mundane lives in a rural US town, which is insanely ambitious. Usually a bit sad and full of disappointment – a bit like reality!
Any advice for aspiring authors?
My only advice is pretty well worn.
Reading widely will help with your craft, keep you inspired, and improve your market awareness. However, don’t worry too much about the latest trends. Unless you get really lucky, you’re only going to end up chasing them and will always be behind. Write what you feel strongly about and worry about where it fits on the shelves later.
Just keep writing. Even when it feels like you’re only producing rubbish, even when you hit a brick wall, even when you reach the middle of a project and realise it’s not working. Sooner or later something will click and you’ll be glad you persevered.
Buy Greif Angels from all good bookshops (or take it out at your local library), and keep up to date with David’s news (and important pictures of his cats) on Twitter or by visiting his website😊
Although I read slightly fewer books in February, I am still on my way to reading 120 books this year 😊 All my faves have a little heart next to them.
Heartstopper Vol 3 carries on one of the cutest and most relatable love stories being told at the moment. I highly recommend to any fans of graphic novels! I, Cosmo is a masterclass in voice. The story is told from the point of view of an incredibly believable Golden Retriever. It’s a great one for any dog lovers out there! I’m not normally a fan of historical novels but We Must Be Brave is phenomenal. Set during World War Two and spanning over 50 years, it follows one woman’s journey through destitution, finding family, the struggles of the war, and tells the story of the heart-grabbing love between a mother and a daughter. The Silent Patient blew me away. I don’t want to say too much because I don’t want to ruin it… so just read it, okay?
In fact, read them all and then we can be friends 😊
This year I’ve set myself the challenge of reading 120 books, and I stormed it in January.
The books with hearts were my faves, and the rest are a jumble 🙂 The Black Flamingo is glorious. Read it if you love lyrical coming-of-age stories. Olive, again was a return to an old friend, and it is beauifully told. If you like character driven novels that aren’t afraid of exposing the realities of human nature and frality, then check out anything by Elizabeth Strout. Love is for Losers is coming out in May 2020, and is one to pre-order (or reserve at your local library) if you like hilarious young adult novels with strangely likeable main characters. For me, it echoed the Louise Rennison books I loved growing up, and I hope Wibke Brueggeman’s books will become beloved by young people just like those were for me 🙂