Friday, 28 March 2014

in which I love the world

Hello my beautiful blogettes!

Do you know that it is four and a half weeks until my manuscript deadline for 'The Bookshop Book'? I am a mess of stressful excitement (that's a slight exaggeration.) Mainly I'm worried about missing out something very important (imagine if I missed out my own bookshop, how hilarious would that be? Probably not so much).

Anyway! I am happily drowning in bookshops, and books about books, and books about bookshops that I bought in bookshops (SO META). On Monday I'm going to Hay on Wye (I can't believe I've never been before). I'm road-tripping it with the lovely Sam who runs Books & Ink Bookshop in Banbury, and I shall be leaving the house at 5:30am. I am ready for all the books.

Next week I'm also chatting to Bill Bryson about his favourite books and bookshops, and I've been talking to Hank Green (of VlogBrothers awesomeness) about why he thinks bookshops are important places, too. I am seriously so excited to share this book with all of you when it's published in October. I feel so lucky to have been able to research amazing bookshops, and talk to authors passionate about them, as well as being completely inspired by people like Luis Soriano - who runs a mobile library on the back of a donkey in Colombia.

Yep. That's right.
Sometimes, the world is just an amazing place.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend. x

Friday, 21 March 2014

first loves, real mermaids, and Chinese paper lanterns

Happy World Poetry Day, folks!

Did you know that, in Shakespeare's day, it was common practice to dig up dead bodies and burn them, to make room for the newly dead? Cheerful, eh? Shakespeare wasn't a fan of this, so he wrote a 'curse poem' to go on his grave, to stop anyone digging him up:

Good friend for Jesus sake forbear,
To dig the dust enclosed here.
Blessed be the man that spares these stones,
And cursed be he that moves my bones.


So, to celebrate World Poetry Day, I've made a little video of me reading my poem 'Kitchen.'
(NB: As far as I'm aware, this poem isn't cursed.)

(If you're viewing this in an email, you might have to click here to view the video.)

I am also offering free worldwide postage on my poetry collection 'The Hungry Ghost Festival' for the rest of the month. (It's published by The Rialto, and it's about first love, real mermaids, and Chinese paper lanterns .) It's £5.50. To grab a copy, just hit the button below.

Lots of love


Saturday, 15 March 2014

Author Interview: Kirsty Logan (and book giveaway!)

Today is the release date of The Rental Heart and Other Fairy Tales by the wonderful Kirsty Logan. It's twenty tales of lust and loss. These stories feature clockwork hearts, lascivious queens, paper men, island circuses, and a flooded world. The collection is published by Salt, it's bloody brilliant, & Kirsty's here to talk about it.

As well as it being the release date for The Rental Heart, it was also announced this week that Kirsty's novel The Gracekeepers has been bought by Harvill Secker. Hurray!

Everyone who replies to this blog post by Sunday 23rd March will have their name put into a hat. The name pulled out of that hat will win a copy of Kirsty's book. This giveaway is open worldwide. 

Kirsty, welcome to the blog! Tell us, how long have you been writing?

Since I was a little-bitty thing, making up stories to try to drag some of my mum's attention away from my baby brother, who had blonde curls and rosy cheeks and was generally a tiny giggling angel. Meanwhile, I was a grumpy dark-haired pouting child in the Victorian style, and not nearly as likeable. So I wrote stories instead. I won my first writing contest when I was 8, for 'The Tale of Felicity Fieldling', a not-very-subtle Beatrix Potter rip-off. I was in the local paper and won £50 of book tokens.

What, for you, has been the most exciting moment of your career so far?

See above (book tokens). Since that day I've always wanted to be paid in book tokens, but for some reason it hasn't happened.

What's your favourite fairy tale?

Donkeyskin. It's so dark and strange, but it has a logic that I love. Before dying, the queen makes her husband promise that he'll only remarry if he finds the woman as beautiful and charming as he finds the queen. The king searches for years, but then realises that the only woman he loves as much as his wife is his daughter. To avoid marrying her father, the princess makes an impossible demand: a dress the colour of the sky, a dress the colour of the moon, and a dress as bright as the sun. She gets them, and runs away dressed in a donkeyskin, staying hunched and dirty. Finally, of course, a handsome price falls in love with her, etc. etc. happily ever after.

I'd love to retell it, but it's just too dark – and I'm saying that as someone who's written about fraternal incest, miscarriage, and a woman who gets bricked up in a wall as an anchoress until she dies. I love the beauty of Donkeyskin contrasted with the utter desperation: the father's terrible decision to marry his daughter, and the daughter's panicked flight in the filthy animal skin. It's a visceral and horrible story – and yet it has such odd magic too.

What books are you most excited to read this year?

Anneliese Mackintosh's Any Other Mouth: a new, hard-hitting Scottish Bell Jar for 2014. Kerry Hudson's Thirst, which will be such a departure from her semi-autobiographical debut and will give her a chance to shine. Tana French's The Secret Place – I love all her books, and I can't wait for this one. Then there's the new Emily Mackie and Sarah Lotz and Rainbow Rowell and Roxane Gay and Lauren Beukes… I could go on all night! So many good books to look forward to.

If you could go away for a week, to write, where in the world would you go?

To the sea. I've gone on writing retreats all over the Scottish coast: Cellardyke and Belhaven on the east coast, Farr up north, the isle of Skye off the west coast. The sea always inspires me. It brings me back to myself.

Tell us about your novel.

The Gracekeepers is about a circus boat in a flooded world. It's got a dancing bear who is just barely tame, birds in cages that mark mourning, a grief-stricken acrobat, a revival ship with an enormous Virgin Mary painted on the side, a fire-breather and a sinister clown and a ringmaster who literally has glitter in his blood. I loved writing it.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Dance to 90s hip-hop with my rescue puppy Rosie (she doesn't dance, exactly, more runs around and bites her squeaky doughnut toy), lurk around the stacks in the university library, go on Sunday adventures with my girlfriend Annie, read children's ghost stories (Leon Garfield and Chris Priestley are dark as fuck and really inspiring), crochet a blanket while watching Veronica Mars, have friends round for a crafternoon, lie on my bed and listen to riot grrrl on big headphones.

What do you want to write next?

I've already got my next four books planned out! I'm currently working on my next book, 'A Portable Shelter', as part of the Gavin Wallace Fellowship. It's a collection of short stories all linked by a frame story – like those children's horror books that had lots of different stories told by a bunch of storytellers at a sleepover or by a campfire. I love those books. I think we all have a 'portable shelter' inside us, made up of the stories we read and our own memories, which we can retreat into whenever we need comfort or guidance. I'll be exploring that idea, as well as Scottish and Scandinavian folk tale tropes (witches, sea monsters, selkies, werewolves, etc.) and various types of loss.

Next it'll be a novel, Little Dead Boys, which is a ghost story about a lesbian couple with dark secrets, very modern and gritty and Glasgow-set but with a magical realist, Gothic feel; then a story collection, Girl With the Most Cake, inspired by Hole's Live Through This album; then a novel about pro-wrestling. I'm so excited to write them all, though when I think about it, it'll take six or seven years for me to write them all! I plan to alternate between novels and short story collections, as it seems to sate my need for both short, sharp shocks of story and the more immersive world-building of novels.

Hopes and dreams?

To be honest, I've already surpassed any dreams I had! Having my stories out in the world, and then my novel picked up by Harvill Secker, and potential publication deals all over the world: it's more than I ever imagined. I'm so grateful, and it all feels so unreal. I'm just waiting to wake up.

Kirsty Logan is an award-winning writer based in Scotland. Her fiction has been published in literary magazines and anthologies all over the world, broadcast on BBC Radio 4, displayed in galleries, and translated into French, Japanese and Spanish. Kirsty has received fellowships from Hawthornden Castle and Brownsbank Cottage, and was the first writer-in-residence at West Dean College. She has previously worked as a bookseller, and is now a literary editor and freelance writer.

Everyone who replies to this blog post by Sunday 23rd March will have their name put into a hat. The name pulled out of that hat will win a copy of Kirsty's book. This giveaway is open worldwide. 

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

oh dear, there's something in my eye...

The Book Nook in Texas have written a quote from 'The Bookshop Book' on the window of their bookshop. And now I'm a little bit emotional.

(The Bookshop Book is out in October)

Monday, 10 March 2014

"I feel like you have a unicorn inside you."

I'm sure most of you know about the sketch show Portlandia. But for those who don't, let me introduce you to Women and Women First (the Black Books of America).

(click here to view the video on Youtube)


Sunday, 9 March 2014

every bookshop has a story

Hello, everyone! I'm so sorry the blog has been quiet. Manuscript deadline for The Bookshop Book is fast approaching (end of April) and I'm currently working like a person possessed.

However, today, the sun is out and I've been writing in the garden which has been excellent. Penny-Slow is very excited to be out of hibernation, as you might be able to tell:

and The Bookshop Book is going well (I think! I hope!). 

Here's the blurb:

Every bookshop has a story.

We’re not talking about rooms that are just full of books. We’re talking about bookshops in barns, disused factories, converted churches and underground car parks. Bookshops on boats, on buses, and in old run-down train stations. Fold-out bookshops, undercover bookshops, this-is-the-best-place-I’ve-ever-been-to-bookshops.

Meet Sarah and her Book Barge sailing across the sea to France; meet Sebastien, in Mongolia, who sells books to herders of the Altai mountains; meet the bookshop in Canada that’s invented the world’s first antiquarian book vending machine.

And that’s just the beginning.

From the oldest bookshop in the world, to the smallest you could imagine, The Bookshop Book examines the history of books, talks to authors about their favourite places, and looks at over two hundred weirdly wonderful bookshops across six continents (sadly, we’ve yet to build a bookshop down in the South Pole).

The Bookshop Book is a love letter to bookshops all around the world.

It'll be out in October. Authors involved now include Ian Rankin, Brian Aldiss, Audrey Niffenegger, Tracy Chevalier, Jacqueline Wilson, Cornelia Funke, Bill Bryson... and the list goes on! Hank Green is even getting involved. DFTBA!

Here's a sneak peek at the dedication page:

In other news: I'll be unchaining myself from my writing desk to talk at Blackwell's in Oxford on 23rd April, which is World Book Night. More details on that, soon. 

I hope you're all having a lovely weekend.