Monday, 30 May 2011

So what are people in publishing really like?

I'm back in London and I can't decide if I should be writing the play that I have been commissioned to write, the literary novel that I would like to write or the mystery series that readers might actually buy. If I keep very still and stare out the window, I expect I will hear the answer very soon in the rustling of the leaves on the trees in my garden or the twittering of the birds - I dare not tap on the keyboard in front of me for fear of drowning out a message from the universe.

You know that I was in New York last week, don't you? Is there anyone who doesn't know? The trip went very well but by the end of it I was wearing so much Touche Éclat under my eyes I looked like Adam Ant. And I overused the hand on hip pose that did me so many favours when I first turned up there. Like any magical gift, inevitably if its properties are abused it will turn on the recipient - meaning that by the end of the week I was placing both hands on my hips for all photographs and I looked like a middle-aged woman in a strop rather than the dashing English authoress I was hoping to portray.

But you don't want to know about that. You want to know what the Amazon people are like. Well, if you're in publishing - and I know there are a few publishing people who read this - then they're just like you. Some seem to have been recruited from other publishing houses, some have been promoted from inside Amazon and a few others have come from exciting, off-the-wall, lets-mix-it-up, not-book-related organisations. The thing that struck me most about this charming group of people was how clever they all are. If Lisa Simpson grew up and still played the saxaphone, and had maybe learned a couple of languages and done an MBA, and still said wise, sad, thought-provoking things, she'd fit right in, especially if she now drank White Russian cocktails.

In fact they're all so clever and talented, I did wonder, in my darker moments, what they actually need the authors for - though perhaps this is indicative of how little I understand about what authoring entails. You're supposed to spend your time writing, right? Currently I'm spending too much time being an author to write anything. I do think it would be considerate of Amazon if they could one day offer a ghostwriting service, with the clever people there writing my books so I can spend more time on Twitter. I ought to find out if they have an option for that on their customer services contact form.

If you're a regular reader I know you're tolerant of blog posts that veer wildly in tone partway through. So, since we're talking about lovely people in publishing, I'd like to draw your attention to Jamie Byng's intelligent, moving tribute in The Observer yesterday to his friend Gil Scott-Heron.

Liquid Lunch & Stormhouse

My friend Danny Stack - who has written for EastEnders and CBBC's Roy as well as writing and producing his short film, Origin - has written and produced a new comedy series for the web called Liquid Lunch. You can find the episodes online here and some behind-the-scenes info on his blog here.

Danny is a lovely man who has been blogging for years about the journey he has taken to get his work produced on TV, sharing information about what he has learned along the way. He has plenty of insider knowledge as he worked as a script reader and was also instrumental in setting up the Red Planet prize for screenwriters with Tony Jordan, which gives the winner a cash prize, a commission, an agent if they don't already have one, and mentoring from Tony. Danny has also started a series of podcasts about scripwriting in the UK with Tim Clague.

I have also mentioned two other friends, Jason Arnopp and Dan Turner, who have produced and respectively written and directed new British horror film Stormhouse which will premiere at the Edinburgh Film Festival this summer. Most recently they appeared at the MCM Expo in London to talk about the film. Jason is blogging about it all here.

It's always good to see friends doing well. It looks like 2011 is going to be a good year.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Do You Mind If I Smoke?

I'm back in London after a wonderful week in New York courtesy of Amazon Publishing. Unlimited access to free booze generally makes me behave like Fenella Fielding in Carry on Screaming but now that I'm home I'm back to sitting in the kitchen in my dressing gown staring at Facebook and going on cultural outings. This afternoon I'm going to the Miró exhibition at Tate Modern with my friend Brad and then we're going for dinner.

Brad and I have long been going to art exhibitions together and one of our most enjoyable excursions involved us giggling uncontrollably for more than 15 minutes when I got stuck in an interactive exhibit at Tate Modern. We have to choose our exhibitions a bit more wisely now than we might have done in the past as Brad has a new job that involves doing something interesting at the Royal Academy. If he were known to spend his Sunday afternoons hoiking and arse-pushing giggling women out of art exhibits, I doubt that it would endear him to his employers.

I hope your weekend is fun.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Reading at Stoke Newington Festival - Sold Out

I'm reading at the New Libertines event at the Stoke Newington Literary Festival next Saturday, 4th June. It's sold out, which is great news.

If you don't have a ticket, here's a link to a brilliant poem called Love Pig by Penny Goring who is also on the line-up. Her new book, The Zoom Zoom, will be published on 1st June and I'm looking forward to picking up a copy at the festival next week.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Splash Into Summer - Book Giveaway

I'm at Book Expo America in New York this week and, to celebrate, I have a signed advance review copy of my book, Alison Wonderland, to give away in the Splash Into Summer giveaway, 25th-31st May:
After her husband leaves her for another woman, twentysomething Londoner Alison Temple impulsively applies for a job at the very P.I. firm she hired to trap her philandering ex. She hopes it will be the change of scene she so desperately needs to move on with her shattered life. At the all-female Fitzgerald’s Bureau of Investigation, she spends her days tracking lost objects and her nights shadowing unfaithful husbands. But no matter what the case, none of her clients can compare to the fascinating characters in her personal life. There’s her boss, the estimable and tidy Mrs. Fitzgerald; Taron, Alison’s eccentric best friend, who claims her mother is a witch; Jeff, her love-struck, poetry-writing neighbor; and—last but not least—her psychic postman. Her relationships with them all become entangled when she joins Taron for a road trip to the seaside and stumbles into a misadventure of epic proportions! Clever, quirky, and infused with just a hint of magic, this humorous literary novel introduces a memorable heroine struggling with the everyday complexities of modern life.

"Only occasionally does a piece of fiction leap out and demand immediate cult status. Alison Wonderland is one... Smith is at the very least a minor phenomenon." The Times

The Splash Into Summer blog hop was hosted by I'm a Reader, Not a Writer and Page Turners. This giveaway is now closed.

Book Expo America - Winning Wednesday

The habit of posing for photographs is now so engrained that I put my hands on my hips at all times, even when waiting for the lights to change so I can cross the road. I have eaten so much sushi and sashimi that I'm put in mind of an apocryphal story I have heard (many times, because it's a story a friend of mine likes to tell when he's been drinking) about Japanese prostitutes who are fed a diet of nothing but salmon sashimi for days on end by fetishist clients who are interested in the waste products these women produce. I could probably make a lot of money if I could only find the time to research whether there's a market for such things here.

Last night I went to another party, this morning I'm meeting some other writers and going for breakfast before heading to a book store. I'm having lunch with a friend of a film producer I'm working with in England in midtown Manhattan and then I'm going downtown for my reading at Guerilla Lit this evening. If only this could go on forever but soon enough I'll be back in England sitting at my computer in my dressing gown, looking at Facebook and worrying about the word count for the novel I'm supposed to be writing.

I had hoped to meet up with lots of book bloggers who I know from Twitter and from reading their blogs but I underestimated how much free time I would have when I was actually in the Javits Center yesterday and how impossible it might be to spot people in the crowd. I managed to say hello to a few book blogging friends but I'm very sorry if I didn't get a chance to say hello to you yesterday.

If you're reading this and you're at BEA, please go to the Amazon Publishing booth at 3129 if you'd like an Advanced Review Copy of my book, ALISON WONDERLAND. If you're not at BEA and you'd like a copy, please scroll down to the post below to sign up to win a copy or click here.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Book Expo America - Touche Éclat Tuesday

Yesterday, if you read my blog, you'll know that I thanked my editor, my book designer and my publicist. Today I would like to thank Touche Éclat by Yves St Laurent and Ooh La Lift by Benefit, both of which I have applied, one on top of the other, in liberal amounts on the dark circles under my eyes.

Also, if you were at last night's party (which was wonderful, by the way - thanks to all concerned) I feel I ought to clarify that when I said, more than once, after a couple of vodkas, 'I'm pissed, I need a fag,' for me, it was two o'clock in the morning (though for you it may have been 9pm) and anyway, that's just how we talk in England.

And another thing - the reason I keep putting my hand on my hip every time someone takes a photo is because my daughter told me I should do it because it's flattering.

Photos: Above, with Alex Carr and Connie Brockway. Right, with Charlie Williams.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Book Expo America - Happy Monday

Today I did a book signing at the Library Journal Day of Dialog in New York and I saw the advance review copies of ALISON WONDERLAND for the first time. They look fantastic and there were several admiring remarks about the cover from the librarians who picked up signed copies. Hello to you if you picked up a signed copy today - thanks for stopping by.

Thanks to the designer, Brian Zimmerman, for the eyecatching cover and interior design, and the team at AmazonEncore for all their hard work on it, as well as Sarah Tomashek for arranging the signing today. Above all, thanks to my editor, Alex Carr, for acquiring the book.

Today has been a very good day. Apart from the book signing, I had a manicure, ate some sushi and wandered through Grand Central Station (again). New York is such a crowded, shouty, colourful, Art Deco city. Despite its reputation, everyone seems almost absurdly friendly. I'm very glad to be back here again.

Tonight I'm going to a party with my editor and some of the other Amazon Publishing editors as well as members of the book marketing team. Alex is based in Seattle so I haven't met him before, we have only talked on the phone. Normally you expect to bond with your editor over several boozy lunches - my previous editor was a very good mimic, which was slightly disconcerting but very entertaining - but I feel the bonding is complete, I just need to see his face to satisfy my curiosity about his appearance. I'm also looking forward to meeting the other Amazon Pubishing authors - apparently there are more than 60 of us in town.

I'm staying in a lovely hotel in midtown Manhattan courtesy of Amazon Publishing. There was even a welcome gift bag on arrival that included all sorts of delightful things, most notably a homemade cookie with the title of my book iced on the front. I won't eat it, of course. I'll take it home and put it next to the tiny iced book cover I was given at Brixton library last week. I have been published before, as you will know from reading this blog (or even from reading the previous paragraph). I don't remember there being any confectionary or baked goods involved last time round. If this is a new development in the world of publishing, I heartily approve.

If you're here for BEA, I hope you're having a great time, too.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Sunday Salon - New York

I'll be in New York all next week for Book Expo America.

This will be my tenth visit to New York but my first to BEA. On Monday I'm doing a book signing at the Library Journal Day of Dialog and then my publisher is hosting a party in the evening. On Tuesday I'll be in the Javits Center all day for BEA and then heading to the Bookrageous party in the evening. On Wednesay I'm doing a reading at Guerilla Lit and then on Thursday evening I fly home. I usually do exactly the same things when I visit New York and, although I'll probably revisit some old favourites, I'm going to try some new places too. I have never been to the New York Public Library or the High Line so I think I will try and visit both this time. If you have any suggestions, please let me know.

I'm looking forward to meeting lots of book bloggers and authors next week, including the authors who took part in Q&As on my blog: Charlie Williams, Connie Brockway, Karen McQuestion and Andrew Shaffer.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Book Expo America - Interview with Andrew Shaffer

I'll be heading to BEA next week and I'm looking forward to meeting Andrew Shaffer, a non-fiction author who writes for the Huffington Post and reviews romance novels at RT Book Reviews. He is also the creative director of irreverent greeting card company, Order of St Nick. His book, Great Philosophers Who Failed at Love, was published by Harper Perennial in January in the US and is currently available as an import in the UK via

Qu) Andrew, you'll be at Book Expo America to sign copies of your book, Great Philosophers Who Failed at Love. Is this your first visit to BEA?

I went to BEA last year and felt like a kid in Willy Wonka's candy factory. That's such a cliche, but it's the truth – I'd been to several conventions at the Javits Center in New York City, but nothing could prepare me for the sheer awesomeness that is BEA. I had no obligations and no scheduled events. I just wandered the convention center aimlessly, and enjoyed myself.

Qu) You operate two Twitter accounts, @EvilWylie and @EmperorFranzen, both of which lampoon the publishing industry. You also comment on the industry at the Huffington Post and your EvilReads site. Will you be blogging and Tweeting from BEA and, if so, will you be doing it as an author 'insider' or as an irreverent humorist 'outsider'?

That's a good question...I hadn't thought about it, but if I do any live BEA dispatches they'll probably be from my Evil Wylie Twitter account. I doubt anyone cares what Andrew Shaffer thinks of BEA. Evil Wylie's more entertaining, at the very least.

Qu) You have a useful list of BEA-related parties on EvilReads. If so, do you have a 'must-do' event or party you're looking forward to?

The Bookrageous party at Lolita Bar ( is going to be off-the-hook. The organizers, who also produce the Bookrageous podcast, will have a limited open bar...which the hundreds of Facebook RSVPs will probably drink through in a half hour. Get there early if you want to catch a glimpse of their featured authors, including Lev Grossman and Adam ('Mr. Peanut') Ross.

Qu) Where can we find you at BEA if we want to grab a signed copy of your book?

I'm signing on Tuesday in the autographing area (table 23) from 11:30am-noon. I'll also be participating in an 'author speed-dating' event on Friday at the Book Blogger Convention (, which is also at the Javits Center.

Qu) Where can we find you online?

My home on the web is I also blog as Evil Wylie at


Thanks, Andrew. See you in New York.

Lambeth Readers and Writers Festival

Thanks to everyone who came down to the Women Writers event at Brixton Library last night as part of the Lambeth Readers and Writers Festival. It was very well-attended by a friendly crowd who asked lots of interesting questions. It was a pleasure to meet Chris Manby, Lotte Daley and Gillian Hudson and hear them read. Thanks, as always, to librarians Tim O'Dell and Marie Ayoola who organised the event, and to Marie who hosted it. Thanks to Alastair from local independent bookseller Herne Hill Books who provided copies of our books for us to sign for readers.

Members of one of the library's reading groups presented the panel with flowers and a magnificent cake decorated with tiny iced replicas of our book covers. I brought my book cover home - actually, my daughter carried it home, protectively and lovingly - and now I'm not quite sure what to do with it. It's too beautiful to eat. I'll have to preserve it and donate it to the British Library after my death.

I have posted some photos of the event on my Facebook page.

On Monday I'll be at the Library Journal Day of Dialog in New York signing advance copies of my book, Alison Wonderland, and bringing warm wishes from the Brixton librarians to the American librarians at the event.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Love Libraries - New York and London

I'll be attending two library-related events in the next couple of days, one in London, one in New York.

Tonight I'm on the panel for a women writers event at Brixton Library as part of Lambeth's Readers and Writers festival. I have been to similar events at the library before - the most recent one featured Monica Ali, Rebecca Chance, Stella Duffy, Sophie Kinsella and Lisa Jewell. This time I'll be reading and answering questions with Lotte Daley, Gillian Hudson and Chrissie Manby. The events are well-organised and well-attended, with independent local bookshop Herne Hill Books on hand to sell copies of books for the authors to sign.

On Monday I'll be at the Library Journal Day of Dialog in New York, signing copies of my book, Alison Wonderland. The event is an opportunity for librarians, publishers, authors and booksellers to get together to discuss issues affecting the world of books and libraries. Authors in attendance include Karin Slaughter, who will be talking about the Save the Libraries campaign.

Will you be at either of these events? If so, please say hello. I have been reading some librarian-related fiction recently, most notably The Giant's House by librarian-turned-author Elizabeth McCracken, and American Wife by Curtis Sittenfield, a fictionalised version of a librarian-turned-First Lady very like Laura Bush. It would be a pleasure to meet more librarians in real life.

Finally, as a reminder of the importance of books to those who are otherwise isolated from the world and its comforts, I have heard that one of the World Book Night copies of Muriel Spark's The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie that I sent to a prisoner of conscience through English PEN's Writers in Prison programme has reached the recipient without the usual censorship intervention - apparently quite a rare thing. Hooray for Dame Muriel's brilliant subversiveness. I shall continue writing to the recipient and other prisoners of conscience, and sending books. If you'd like to do the same, you can contact and she can put you in touch.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

BEA and The Rapture

I know it's uncool but I have started packing for BEA, even though I don't leave til Sunday. I'm not going to take a coat because I want to have room in my suitcase to bring back some books, so let's hope New York is as sunny as London. I'll be taking my new dress, my other dress, my nice cardigan, my new cardigan, my jeans, some T-shirts, two pairs of shoes, underwear, my Kindle, my mobile phone, my computer, my camera, all the leads and chargers required for the above, and some make-up. I'll be packing several small packets of unsalted nuts and carrying them in my handbag at all times as I believe that the consumption of small amounts of protein at regular intervals is key to staying nourished and cheerful during events like these. Also, I'm on a budget: though my flight and (very swanky) hotel is paid for by my generous new publisher, I'll be responsible for buying my own lunch.

I'll take plasters as they (you) have a different word for them in America and I had difficulty making myself understood last time I was there and tried to buy some. I don't want to have to go through another hilarious mime in a chemist (drugstore) if my feet should get sore from all the walking around. Once I went on holiday to Albania* with some friends, one of whom was an artist. He went into a chemist and explained - by means of a series of illustrations executed in biro on prescription paper - that he needed some powder to treat athlete's foot. They sold him some thrush cream. I have the drawings and they look more like feet than vaginas to me. I'll look them out and scan them and post them on here some time. I have been blogging for four years now and no doubt there's another four to come, and, as in life, the same stories are bound to crop up again so please look out for the foot/thrush story with accompanying illustrations.

A few other people who will be at BEA have listed where they expect to be next week so readers of their blogs can find them. Here's my list so you can say hello if you recognise me from my rather flattering profile photo:

Monday 23rd
I'll be signing books at the Library Journal Day of Dialog, 12.30 pm
I'll be attending a private party in the evening so we probably won't see each other. But you never know. I will try and crash an after-party if there's one still going on so do say hello if you're there, unless I'm drunk, in which case steer clear - I'm way too much fun after a couple of glasses of wine and we've got the whole week ahead of us.

Tuesday 24th
I'll be in the Javits Center all day for BEA.
I plan to attend the Bookrageous Party in the evening.

Wednesday 25th
I'm at large in NYC again during the day.
I'm reading at Guerilla Lit in the evening.
I'll probably go to the Literary Death Match after-party if it's still going on. I'll probably be drunk if the reading goes well, and very drunk if it goes badly. If you see me I expect I'll ask you to take me dancing. Don't let me tell you my joke that I made in Twilo about ten years ago because it wasn't that funny. Don't let me tell you about the time I was here with the Royal Ballet - they didn't let me dance with them, either, except off-stage.

Thursday 26th
I'll be at large in NYC during the day.
That night I'll be flying home with a suitcase full of books.

I'll be blogging intermittently while I'm there and I'll write it all up for the Writers Guild magazine when I get back home. Of course, I'll have to readjust my schedule if the Rapture should take place on Saturday 21st.

Blondie - Rapture
Tags: Blondie - Rapture

* just like Lord Byron

Q&A and BEA

I did a Q&A over at BabsBookBistro about Three Sisters. Babs is offering her readers the chance to win a copy of the book in any ebook format. Please head over there to sign up if you'd like to win.

I'm looking forward to speaking on a panel of women writers at Brixton Library in London this Friday and then flying to New York for BEA next week. If you're going to either event, I'll look forward to seeing you there.

In other book-related news, FutureBook reports that Amazon will soon allow publishers to sell epub versions of their book on its site, and will also enable readers to read epub files on their Kindles. However there has been no official announcement about this.

Article in Forbes for writers with out-of-print books: Is there gold in your backlist?

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Parties and Mysteries

EvilReads has posted a list of BEA-related parties in New York under the heading 'the ultimate BEA Party Guide 2011' . I'm reading at Guerilla Lit on Wednesday 25th in the East Village but I'll be going to as many parties before and after that as I can. I have bought a new dress and some comfy shoes, so I'm looking forward to having a wild time while I'm there. If you're there too, I hope to see you. Please come and say hello.

Amazon has announced a new imprint called Thomas & Mercer which will publish mysteries and thrillers. If you missed it, here's my Q&A with Connie Brockway, the NYT bestselling author who will be the launch author for Amazon's new romance imprint, Montlake. I'm looking forward to meeting Connie next week, as well as Charlie Williams and Karen McQuestion, interviewed on the blog here and here.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Once Upon a Time - New Show From Writers of Lost

Here's a trailer for Once Upon a Time, the new TV series from two writers of Lost, Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis, which will be shown on ABC later this year. It stars Jennifer Morrison and Robert Carlyle and it looks great:

Three Sisters - Review and Series News

There's a lovely quick review for Three Sisters over at Babs Books Bistro today. Three Sisters is the first story in a new cozy mystery series set in London featuring amateur sleuth, Emily Castles. Each story will feature one of Emily's neighbours - in a street of 50 houses, very like the one where I live now - so I have plenty of material.

I'm currently writing the next story, provisionally entitled Victoria's Secret, about Emily's neighbour Victoria (who appears in Three Sisters). She runs an after-school acting and dance academy and - yes, you've guessed it - she has a secret. When poison pen letters start to arrive, it seems the secret might finally catch up with Victoria and ruin her pleasant life with husband Piers and their three sons. As the story has nothing whatsoever to do with bras and underpants, I might end up changing the title. Current possible alternatives include The Best Medicine (because someone dies laughing) and Happy Days (after the name of the dance academy).

I'm also outlining the third story in the series, provisionally entitled Targets in Torquay, about a conference in the seaside town of Torquay (pronounced Tor Kee - so I'll probably have to change the title as it's not clear how to say the word unless you have heard it before, though Agatha Christie lived there, so mystery-lovers might know it). Another possible title is Murder in Margate, though why anyone would go to Margate for a conference is not immediately obvious. The conference is attended by Emily's neighbour Dr. Muriel, who featured heavily in the first story and will also appear in the second. Actually, she'll appear in all of them because I really like her as a character. She calls in Emily for help when delegates at the conference start dying in outlandish ways, apparently picked off by one of their number...

Monday, 16 May 2011

Book Expo America - Interview with Karen McQuestion

Karen McQuestion is the author of six books, including A Scattered Life, which has been optioned for film. She'll be at Book Expo America this year and I asked her about what she plans to do while she's there:

Q:) Hello Karen, thanks for agreeing to answer these questions. Am I right in thinking that you have been to Book Expo America before?

Hi Helen, thank you for inviting me to be interviewed on your site. In answer to your question—yes, I’ve been to the Book Expo twice before. The first time was in 2004, when it was held in Chicago, a two hour drive from my home. I had no business being there. The Expo is for publishing folk, booksellers, and librarians, and I was just an unpublished novelist. But I desperately wanted to go, so I applied for a pass using the name of a publishing company that had recently accepted one of my essays for an anthology. I was sure I’d get busted, and all day I was a little nervous about getting found out, but it never happened.

I attended again last year in New York. That time I was legit, and I did a book signing for my first novel, A Scattered Life. I was able to hold my head high that day.

Q:) Do you have any tips for authors who are visiting BEA for the first time? What should they expect to get out of it?

The Javits Center is enormous, so comfortable shoes are a must. Keep your eyes open for celebrity authors. The first time I went, I bumped into R.L. Stine, literally. I stepped on the poor man’s shoe. He was very nice about it. Later that day, I spotted David Sedaris and walked past Daniel Handler, aka Lemony Snicket. Last year there was a huge line for the singer Rick Springfield, but he’s not from my era, so I didn’t join the hysteria.

There’s a great energy at BEA. You’re among book people, which, for me, is just the best. It’s a little humbling if you have a book coming out, because there are so many great books on display. But it’s also validating to know that if you’re there as an author, well then you’ve made it, and you’re no longer just some wannabe from Wisconsin. :)

Q:) You have two teen novels out this spring: Favorite and Life on Hold. Can you tell me a little bit more about them? Are they connected or are they two standalone stories?

Both are contemporary, standalone stories. Favorite has a mystery element to it. The main character, a teenage girl named Angie Favorite, is the victim of a botched abduction. As the story unfolds, she finds connections between the family of the man who grabbed her, and her mother, who’d gone missing five years earlier.

Life On Hold is the story of Rae, a 15-year-old who yearns for a stable home even as her mother thrives on moving from place to place. There’s a love story and a surly new girl at school and a tragedy and a happy ending. Everything a book needs.

Q:) I noticed from a Q&A on Amazon's site under the book description for Life on Hold that you don't outline your books. I just did a Q&A with Charlie Williams on this blog (he'll be at BEA this year, too) and he mentioned on his website that he doesn't outline, either. I'm trying to discover whether that's an indicator of how writers tackle other things in their lives. Does it mean you won't be planning meticulously for BEA?

You’ve made an interesting psychological observation, Helen. I think you might be on to something. You are correct--I’m not doing any planning for the trip to New York, and thought I’d just figure it out as I went along.

Q:) Do you have any other events planned this year where readers can see you in person or are you trying to shut yourself away and write your next book? If you're writing, can you tell us what you're working on?

I’m visiting with a few book clubs, and will be appearing at the Butler Public Library in Butler, Wisconsin later this summer. For the most part, though, this New York trip to the Book Expo is the big excitement.

My current writing project is an adult novel. It’s kind of a big mess right now, but I’m ignoring the urge to abandon it and am trying to trust the process. Fingers crossed it all comes together as I go along.

Q:) Where can we find you online? Do you have a Facebook or Twitter account or a blog?

If someone is looking for me, they can find me. :)
My website:

Thanks, Karen. See you in New York.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Sunday Salon - books and literary events

This week I have been doing some Q&As on my blog with authors who will be at Book Expo America the week after next. I also did a workshop with a group of exiled writers at the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture to follow up on World Book Night.

Of the 48 copies of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie that I was assigned as one of 25,000 'givers' on WBN, I gave some out at random on the streets of Brixton, sent seven to prisoners of conscience via English PEN's Writers in Prison programme and gave the rest to the writers at the Medical Foundation. Some good pieces came out of last week's workshop. Normally I pride myself on leading very upbeat, jolly sessions but the pieces last week were quite sombre and very moving, and most of us shed tears as they were read. Some of the pieces will be published in an anthology and others will appear online so I'll link to them when they're published.


I started reading the first of Christopher Fowler's Bryant and May books, Full Dark House. It's very good so far - clever, well-written and well-researched - and I expect to read the rest of the series. It starts in the present day but goes back to London of the 1940s during the Blitz to set up the partnership between the eponymous crime-solving duo. CF has a very interesting blog here and there's a Bryant and May 'Peculiar Crimes' site here with more information about the series.

I read the first three teaser chapters of Connie Brockway's historical romance, The Other Guy's Bride after reading her biography on her website in preparation for a Q&A I did with her on this blog. It's a great set-up for the story with a feisty British heroine heading to Egypt to find a precious artefact, and there's lots of humour in it. I'm hoping to grab an advance copy at BEA in New York next week but if not I'll look out for it when it's published in November so I can read the rest of it.

I also did a Q&A with Charlie Williams on my blog last week. His Royston Blake novels (about a doorman in the English town of Mangel) are being re-released, one a month, between now and August when a new book, One Dead Hen, will published. I'll be meeting Charlie at BEA so I have downloaded Deadfolk and I'll be reading it next week.

I'll be posting another BEA-related Q&A on Monday, this time with Karen McQuestion. She's the author of six novels, including A Scattered Life, which has been optioned for film. I plan to read the book before I meet Karen, too, so I have a copy of that on my Kindle to read next week.

Lovely Literary Events

Lambeth Readers and Writers festival starts next week with events involving authors including Courttia Newland, Lemn Sissay, Edward Docx and Chrissie Manby. I'll be appearing on a panel of women writers at Brixton Library on Friday 20th with Chrissie, Lotte Daley and Gillian Hudson.

I'll be heading to New York for Book Expo America next weekend and reading at Guerilla Lit in the East Village on Wednesday 25th with Terese Svoboda and Reinhardt Suarez.

The programme for the Stoke Newington Literary Festival has been published. Authors who will be appearing include Stella Duffy, Linda Grant, John Hegley, Emma Kennedy, Howard Marks, Karen McLeod, Courttia Newland, Dan Rhodes, Jon Ronson, David Walliams, Alex Wheatle and Evie Wyld. I'll be appearing as part of the New Libertines line-up at Baby Bathhouse at 4pm on Saturday 4th June. Further info about the New Libertines tour here.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Stormhouse - New British Horror Film

Friends of the blog, writer Jason Arnopp and director Dan Turner, have produced a new British horror film, Stormhouse, which will premiere at the Edinburgh Film Festival this year.

The film has a Facebook page or you can follow on Twitter to keep up with the news. I missed the BAFTA cast and crew (and friends) screening, unfortunately, but reports from that were very good. I can't wait to see it.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Book Expo America - Interview with Connie Brockway

NYT bestselling author Connie Brockway has recently been announced as the launch author for Amazon's new publishing venture, Montlake Romance. I have just downloaded and read the first three 'teaser' chapters of her new book, The Other Guy's Bride, due out in November 2011. It's an exciting story so far, and funny, too. Connie will be at Book Expo America in May so I asked her some questions about what she'll be doing there:

Q:) Connie, congratulations on being announced as the launch author for Amazon's Montlake imprint. Are you scheduled to talk about it at BEA or will your attendance be more informal than that?

No. They have sense enough not to give me a microphone lest I break into a Karaoke moment (or hour.) I'll be signing books, however.

Q:) You have written more than twenty books - and picked up a couple of prestigious RITA awards along the way - so I'm guessing that you must have been to BEA and other book fairs before. Do you have any tips for authors attending for the first time?

Enjoy the heck out of it. Everyone there likes books and some of them like your books and so will search you out to express their interest and possibly flatter you. Now I don't know about you, but in my life there's a definite dearth of flattery. Of course, there's additional sport in trolling for ARCs. Who doesn't like a sneak peak at next years mega-hit? I plan to bring an extra suitcase. And do not waste the opportunity to see NYC--- and, if you're a foodie like me, EAT NYC

Q:) Do you have any other events lined up where people can see you in person this year?

This year I'll be doing a workshop at the Romance Writers of America's national conference in NYC the end of June. And in September I'll be guest speaker at Karen Marie Moning's FeverCon in Florida.

Q:) Your first Montlake title, The Other Guy's Bride, is not out until 1st November. Six months ahead of the publication date, the buzz is already beginning to build. You have been through this many times before. Will you take advantage of these six months in the run-up to publication by trying to promote yourself online or at readings - or do you worry about getting too distracted by publicity and prefer to try to spend most of your time writing?

I'm still hunting for a cheap doppelganger to do the social media rounds. While it can be fun, it takes away valuable time I'd much rather spend writing. Not that I, or anyone else that I know, is able to hunker down in my office writing like I used to back in the mid-nineties (ah, good times). I'll be actively promoting THE OTHER GUY'S BRIDE a few weeks leading up to the pub date and for some time afterwards. Reading from my books? The idea makes me cringe. And it should make you cringe, too.

Q:) I love your biography on your website. It's charming and funny - probably the best example I can recall of a biography that made me want to read the author's books. Where else can we find you online? Do you have a Facebook or Twitter account or a blog?

Wikileaks. I blame Wikileaks. And, yes, please, look for me at and/or on twitter as @conniebrockway.

Thanks, Helen.

Thank you! See you in New York.

[Note: Blogger has been having technical problems so I had to repost this and I have lost the comments that related to it - sorry if you commented yesterday.]

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Book Expo America - Interview with Charlie Williams

Charlie Williams, British author of Stairway to Hell and the Mangel Trilogy, will be heading to Book Expo America in New York in May. I asked him a few questions about what he plans to do while he's there:

Q:) Charlie, have you ever been to Book Expo America or any other book trade fair before? How about New York, have you been there?

Hi Helen. I have never even been to America before. The furthest west I have been is Llanelli, as far as I know. Saying that, I always wanted to go to the US and just never got around to it. Like most other English kids, much of the cultural stuff I consumed in the 70s and 80s was American, be it music or comics or TV, and you tend to get a feel for what it's like over there. So I'm expecting New York to be all red Camaros with the doors welded shut, donut-eating cops and rappers.

I have been to a few big book events though, like Hay, the Brussels Book Fair and various crime ones. I'm sure BEA will be tiny compared to them. It's in a shack, right?

Q:) Why are you going to BEA this year?

AmazonEncore are publishing a few of my books (first up Deadfolk on 10th May) and they have invited their authors over there. It's a hell of a perk, getting flown out to NYC. I don't know what we're meant to do there but whatever it is, it's worth it!

Q:) It's interesting that you've got five books coming out in consecutive months between April and August this year. That kind of publishing blitz sounds quite unusual - what's the background to it?

One of the books was a novella - Graven Image - which came out in April from Five Leaves Press. The other four are my Mangel series, which AmazonEncore are doing. I had some problems placing the fourth one with the original publisher, Serpent's Tail, and AmazonEncore stepped in to do it. When I mentioned that the first three were just out of print, they took those too. The idea is to publish one per month in the lead-up to the new one, which is called One Dead Hen and is out in August.

Q:) I love the covers. Did you have any part in choosing them?

They have been very fair about letting the author have an input, but I generally give abstract suggestions and let the designer get on with it. It's their job, isn't it? If I were a visuals man it might be different, but I'm not. Saying that, I didn't like a couple of ones they came up with and they were happy to go back to the drawing board. This is not the case with all publishers.

Q:) On your website you mentioned under the entry dated 21st April that "I've always advocated writing on the fly without an outline." Should I deduce from that that you won't be planning every minute of your attendance at BEA either? What are you hoping to get out of it while you're there?

I plan to get to the airport on time - that's about it. I don't know what to expect so we'll see how it goes. Saying that, I will have a look and see if there is anyone interesting I should seek out. Obviously there will be loads. Maybe I should just do no planning at all. Yes.

Q:) What do you hope to get from it?

Convince a couple of people that my books are worth a read, I guess. And pick up some books by others, I hope. And have a good time. It's books! I also want to try out my American accent and fool a couple of people. It's really good, I swear. Even better than Hugh Grant in Mickey Blue Eyes.

Q:) Any plans to step outside BEA and visit somewhere you've always longed to visit in New York while you're there?

I've always wanted to visit the swamps. Is that near New York? Seriously, I am really looking forward to getting a feel for the place. Statue of Liberty, Times Square... whatever - I think it'll be nice to just stand in the street and take in the traffic. I also want to check out a couple of the bookstores they have out there. Rock 'n roll lifestyle!

Q:) Any other events coming up where people might catch you reading or talking about your books?

There is one at Waterstones One in Liverpool on May 19th that promises to be cool. I will be alongside John Connolly and Steve Mosby and we will be talking about crime and horror and where they meet. The event is called, ominously, The Killer Inside You. Also my home town of Worcester is doing a lit fest this year and I will be at the local library on June 22nd. All this stuff is on my website, in case anyone is interested.

Q:) Where can people find you online? Do you have Facebook and Twitter accounts or a blog?

I have all those things! Here we go:

I can't say I am checking these all the time but hey, at some point I have to write.

Helen, thanks again for the interview!

Thanks, Charlie. See you in New York.