What We’re Reading in… February

recent article in The Bookseller told us what we already know: reading is good for us.

So, what are we at Robert Hale currently reading?

Esther, Editorial Controller:

9536900_Zola_LadiesParadise.indd“I tend to read a couple of books at the same time but for the last few months, my main read has been Zola’s The Ladies’ Paradise (Oxford World’s Classics). This French classic captures Victorian Paris very well; fashionable ladies, ambitious members of staff of the Ladies’ Paradise shop, and a desire to love and be loved are all prominent features, not to mention the rise of commercialism that was sweeping through Europe at this time. It’s a good read so far. The reason I read 19th century literature is because these books have the power to pull us back to an earlier period in history to let us experience what we don’t know – entertainment, politics, and industry – and imagine what life could have been like had we been there at the time.”

 

catherine - pile of booksCatherine, Design and Production Manager:

“I’ve had to promise myself not to buy any more books until I’ve got through the pile on my bedside table (see photo). I’ve been a fiend for buying books but not having enough time to read them!

cathering - broadchurchI’m currently enjoying Erin Kelly’s Broadchurch (Little Brown: Sphere) which gives extra background on the characters in the TV series. She’s written the book based on the first series with its creator Chris Chibnall. The stories are only available as eBooks at present but it’s a genius marketing tool. I’m a big fan of Erin Kelly’s books – her latest, The Ties That Bind (Hodder & Stoughton), being among my book pile. In addition, I’m about two thirds of the way through Jo Nesbo’s The Bat (Vintage). It’s the first Harry Hole case but issued in translation somewhat after his other books in the series. I have found previous Jo Nesbo books take a while to get into but worth persevering with!”


Sarah, Marketing and Publicity Manager:

“I’m reading The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert (Bloomsbury).Sarah - signature of all things
It tells the story of a fictional female botanist, born in 1800, who has dedicated her life to her science, but finds this life turned upside down when she falls in love with a man whose beliefs run contrary to her own.

The book fuses together the Victorian concerns of science, divinity, magic and exploration. It’s very engaging and beautifully written for a story laced with science, and I’m enjoying learning about botany and related historical events, such as the foundation of Kew Gardens.”

 

Isobel, Marketing and Publicity Assistant:

“I’m reading Picked Up Patched Up and Sent Home: Why I Love the NHS by Carl Walker (Robert Hale). It’s a nice way to look at a subject that is veryIso - NHS topical, but can be a little morbid/ overwhelming. Carl’s tales of his many encounters with the public health service reminds me how fragile our bodies are, but somehow this isn’t done in a depressing way. Carl humanises the people who work for and use the NHS, and makes fun of sensationalist headlines that have turned the acronym into a political buzzword of horror. His style of writing is silly and clever at the same time, and makes me laugh loudly while I sit in Pret on my lunch break.”

 

Kindle’s ‘100 Books for £2.99 or Less’ Features Three Robert Hale Titles this February

Two of E. V. Thompson’s titles, A Blue Dress Girl and The Bonds of Earth will be on this month’s ‘100 Books for £2.99 or Less’ promotion at Amazon along with The Ledbury Lamplighters by Kerry Tombs.

Happy reading!

ledburyThe Ledbury Lamplighters Synopsis

On Christmas Eve, 1888, a mysterious stranger arrives in the small Herefordshire market town of Ledbury, intent on a curious mission. A few days later, on New Year’s Eve, as the Ledbury Lamplighters see out the year by extinguishing the town’s lamps, a prominent local businessman is murdered in full view of partygoers. Detective Inspector Samuel Ravenscroft is once again reunited with his old friend and colleage, Constable Tom Crabb, and as they embark upon their most dangerous adventure yet, they gradually unravel a sequence of events that threatens the very political and social stability of the country. Meanwhile, the man known as the Whitechapel murderer returns from exile to carry out one final assignment for his new masters…

Bonds of Earth EV ThompsonThe Bonds of Earth Synopsis

In 1837 when rich deposits of copper ore are discovered, a huge influx of out-of-work miners flock to the area from Cornwall’s far west, bringing with them problems alien to the hard-working but easy-going countrymen. Young Goran Trebartha, whose working life is divided between two farms, finds himself caught between the seemingly incompatible cultures, his problems added to when life is further complicated by the arrival of a mine captain and all his female family. Avarice and intrigue, the vicissitudes of farming life and the sheer desperation of hungry miners all add to bewildering changes that will irrevocably alter the course of Goran’s life.

Blue Dress Girl by E. V. ThompsonBlue Dress Girl Synopsis

When a Chinese peasant girl is chosen as a concubine to Li Hung, Chief Customs Officer for the bustling port of Canton, her parents tell her it is a great honour – but the seedy reality is far from honourable. After an incident with a lecherous British trader she is sent away and is injured during the voyage when a British man-o’-war fires at the junk in which she is travelling. Second Lieutenant Kernow Keats, a Royal Marine from the man-o’-war, boards the junk and, moved by the plight of the fragile young girl, makes arrangements to take her to a mission hospital in Hong Kong where their romance blossoms. However, a love affair between a British officer and a Chinese peasant girl is unthinkable in 1857, and when Kernow becomes inextricably involved in the vicious war being waged by the Chinese Taiping rebels it seems their love is doomed. From the author of Chase the Wind and Though the Heavens May Fall this beautifully told saga is majestically woven around the lives of two people, discovering unexpected feelings in unfamiliar territory.

Check out these and other great books in February’s Kindle promotion now…

Wendy Perriam Author Interview: Part Two

wendy perriam

Credit: Frank Baron

Earlier today, in part one of Wendy Perriam‘s interview, the author discussed her average writing day, her journey into publishing and just where her ideas come from. In part two, she compares writing short stories to novels and looks ahead to the digital age and future plans.

Is it more difficult to write short stories or novels?

The received wisdom is that short stories are more difficult, but I have never found them so. Novel-writing is definitely more laborious, involving more advance-planning and in-depth research – a marathon, in contrast to a hundred-metre sprint. And, even when I’ve completed a novel, it’s much harder to assess three-hundred pages than a mere half-dozen or so, which can be read at one sitting, without getting sidetracked or losing the thread.

On the other hand, writing short stories is certainly a challenge, in that the essence of the short-story form is concision. That means cutting out extraneous detail and paring down the prose. It’s a bit like making stock: you boil down the bones to extract the goodness, remove the debris and reduce and reduce until you’re left with the pure meaty essence.

Do you have a particular favourite character from any of your books?

I tend to prefer the bad girls to the good ones. Some of my female protagonists are dutiful and “normal”, such as Morna in The Stillness The Dancing, or Jennifer in Born of Woman. Others are wild and whacky, like Carole in Sin City, who loses all her money in Las Vegas and ends up working in a brothel, or Thea in After Purple, who masturbates on trains and shoots the Pope. My sympathies are with these ‘naughty girls’, perhaps because I was born one myself, but had no chance to go wild in my strict Catholic home and cloistered boarding-school. One of the advantages of being a writer is that your characters can live alternative lives for you!

As for my male characters, I’m attracted to the overbearing, dominant ones, such as Christopher, the haughty stained-glass artist in Bird Inside, or Caldos de Roche, the protagonist of Absinthe for Elevenses – snobbish, selfish, but also flamboyantly sensual; a man who makes love to church music, because only that, he claims, has the power and passion of sex itself.

Yet I’m fond of the wimps, as well – Bryan, for instance, in my blackly comic novel, Fifty-Minute Hour, who takes his toy snake to bed and longs to parcel up his mother and post her off to a far-flung destination, with no ‘if undelivered, return-to-sender’ address. And I also have a soft spot for Eric, in Broken Places, who feels he’s a coward and a loser, yet wrestles heroically with his fears and ultimately achieves success, despite his unhappy start in life.

To tell the truth, I’m fond of all my characters. As their creator, how could I dislike or disown them, whatever their frailties and follies?

With the digital age upon us, do you still believe in traditional publishing or are you an e-convert?

Broken Places by Wendy PerriamForget the digital age – I don’t even own a television or a mobile phone! With my passion for the radio and my dislike of computers, I suspect I’m stuck in a 1950s time-warp. For me, books are companionable friends, each with its own individual character. I’m currently reading four different novels and all four are quite distinctive: one slim and spare and spanking-new; one chunky and well-worn; one with a vibrantly coloured jacket; one stark and grey and severe. I don’t want them reduced to anonymous downloads; shorn of their interesting covers and their heterogeneity. Books as physical objects also furnish a room, and my flat is crammed with them. I still have my childhood favourites – tattered but treasured copies of Parliacoot, Thunderhead and Milly-Molly-Mandy.

On the other hand, many of my own titles are already issued as ebooks, or in the process of being converted, so, in some ways, I welcome ebook readers. And, with my deteriorating eyesight, I’m certainly attracted by their facility to increase the size of the type. My 800-page paperback of Our Mutual Friend – one of the four mentioned above – is certainly causing me eye-strain!

Have you ever been tempted to write about someone you know (including the ability to adjust their fate accordingly…)?

No. Two of my fellow authors, once extremely close, now no longer speak to each other because one depicted the other in a novel – surely a dire warning to all novelists. Anyway, the role of the fiction-writer is to invent characters, in contrast to the biographer – although even biographers run the risk of ructions and libel-cases.

The most I might do is ‘steal’ certain aspects of someone I know and use them for a character who’s totally unlike them in every other way. For example, Charles, in my novel, Cuckoo, has my dad’s love of order and efficiency, but his job, background and general demeanour are a far cry from my father’s. And for my novel, Michael Michael, my friend Mary Edwardes allowed me to use her own experience of being married to a Michael Edwardes, whilst also knowing two other, unrelated Michael Edwardes. I also drew on her work as a psychotherapist, but the character I eventually created was nothing like Mary in outlook and personality.

What’s next for you…?

The total rewrite of my seventeenth novel, which I’ve just completed in its first draft. Although I made constant daily revisions throughout the writing process, I now need to don my editor’s hat and read the whole thing through with a highly critical eye. I’ll be looking out for any saggy passages; any repeats of ideas or phrases, and also trying to assess its general feel and structure. Is it too long? Does the beginning drag? Are there any characters who fail to convince or need greater delineation? Do any scenes need more drama, especially sex-scenes?

I also have to choose a title. I have two in mind, but neither is quite right. I remember a really hairy time, some years ago, when my new novel was due to go into production but I’d still failed to come up with a title. My frantic publisher summoned me and some of his colleagues to a brainstorming session and the six of us eventually hit on an idea – although I have so say it’s the least favourite of all my book-titles.

Although the editing process is hard work, I find it the most enjoyable and least stressful stage of writing a novel. All the words are already on paper; the whole plot is worked out, and a suitable ending in place. The research is done and most of the hassles are over – I hope! I may find on my re-read that my new baby isn’t as strong or healthy as I thought, and needs not just a bit of TLC, but weeks of Intensive Care. Well, my Peter Rabbit mug is standing by, prepared for a long slog!

Wendy Perriam‘s novel Broken Places and collection of short stories I’m on the Train! are scheduled for release 30 April 2012. Both are available to pre-order now.

Check out Wendy Perriam‘s website at http://www.wendyperriam.com/

Robert Hale Ltd’s Sales and Publicity Manager Ruby Bamber on the London Book Fair (LBF)

London Book Fair logoThe 2012 London Book Fair is over, at least for another year. And after a mighty three days spent manning our stand, rushing off to meetings and cramming as many free pens into my beautiful, new Robert Hale Ltd bag as furtively possible I am finally back in the office, getting down to my real life work. Phewf.

London Book Fair, for those who are unfamiliar with it, is the largest annual book trade fair held in the UK.  It has also grown in size, in recent years and is now held in the resplendently large Earls Court exhibition centre. I defy anyone with a love of books to walk in and remain unimpressed by the sheer scale of the place – the enormous, colourful stands and the buzz of the atmosphere really do help to showcase the very best of publishing, and the very best of books and writing.

However, it is most definitely a place for serious business and over the course of the three days I met some extremely interesting people – working in all sectors of the trade – and attended a number of the digital seminars, hosted by the fair.  Here at Hale we have gone down the route of producing our ebook titles through Faber Factory, hosted by the well-established publishers Faber & Faber. Attending the ebook conference run by them, for the publishers they are working with on the digital front, it was breathtaking to see the amount of data analysis that is possible from the digital market.  With ebooks it is easier than ever before to assess readers’ tastes, habits, reading personalities, and hopefully judge releases accurately and accordingly. This was echoed in the Kobo seminar, and the showcasing of their Kobo pulse programme gave an exhilarating glimpse into the possibilities of harnessing readers’ interest and ensuring they are kept up to speed with title that will suit their tastes, and widen their horizons.

Attending the book fair is a genuinely exciting experience, it is thrilling to be surrounded by people who clearly love books, and the writers who produce them, and I thoroughly recommend having a look around if you get the chance, next year. There will always be a cheerful welcome from us all on the Robert Hale Ltd stand, and you might even be able to nab yourself a few pens…

London Book Fair

Roger Silverwood on What Makes Great Crime Fiction

Roger Silverwood was educated in Gloucestershire before National Service. He later worked in the toy trade and as a copywriter in an advertising agency. Roger went into business with his wife as an antiques dealer before retiring in 1997. His Inspector Angel series is now on its 18th book.

Here he talks about how he came up with Inspector Angel and what he thinks makes great Crime Fiction.

Where did the idea for Inspector Angel come from and how has it been developing the character over all the books?

I based Inspector Michael Angel on my father who had most of his virtues; his bad points are all mine; and his good looks are the product of any Hollywood studio in the 1940s.

I was getting tired of reading about the fictional copper portrayed as a hard drinking, smoking, swearing, gruff type who always had women trouble. While I am sure that there must be some policemen like that in real life, I wanted a character that was more likeable and believable. So I dreamt up Inspector Michael Angel, who is a real man with old fashioned standards, good manners and simple charm but could be wily and tough when necessary. He is happily married (most of the time) to a wife who also has a mind and a will of her own. He is attractive to other women and is occasionally propositioned, such situations up to now he has dealt with in a gentlemanly way. I wanted him to enjoy a drink, but be sober, always hard up, well-educated but not an academic. I didn’t want him to be as intellectual as Sherlock Holmes; that sort of clever scientific approach had, I thought, by the turn of the century been well and truly over replicated. He would also be annoyingly pernickety and meticulous over all the nitty-gritty details of an investigation, but it would be the minutiae that would lead him into solving the case. This is well exemplified in The Cheshire Cat Murders, the 18th Inspector Angel Mystery.

What drew you to writing crime?

There is a sort of magic about writing crime stories. The idea of creating a mystery and then solving it seemed to be the appeal to me. As a boy I was fascinated by stories with such naïve titles as, The Duchess’s Pearls, Sir George’s Will, The Mystery of the Locked Room and so on. I read everything like that to do with crime that I could get hold of before graduating as a young man to Dorothy L Sayers, Wilkie Collins, G K Chesterton and then on to Raymond Chandler. I guess crime was the only subject I would ever want to write about.

What key elements does a great crime novel need?

I write setting the scene with familiar elements in it so that the reader can believe that he or she is actually looking over Angel’s shoulder as the story unfolds. I want the reader to feel the tension and be involved in working out who the murderer is, and there should be enough interesting, credible activity and suspense throughout the narrative to keep him or her turning the page right up to the exposé.

THE CHESHIRE CAT MURDERS – SYNOPSIS

Detective Inspector Michael Angel and his team are desperately searching for a wild cat on a killing spree in the South Yorkshire town of Bromersley. It appears that the cougar is under human control and is trained to kill to order. Retired schoolteacher and well-known cat enthusiast, Miss Ephemore Sharp, becomes the prime suspect, but Inspector Angel is unable to prove her guilt. Matters take a decisive turn when she is found in possession of the antique pot figure of a famous performing cat called ‘Pascha’. Angel is greatly tested and the investigations become more mystifying and dangerous, as he races to find the explanation to stop more mayhem and murder. This is the 18th in the highly successful Inspector Angel series.

The Cheshire Cat Murders is available to pre-order now in hardback.

The Snuffbox Murders is out now in ebook.