Welcome to The Nut Press, Rachel! Thanks very much for stopping by on your blog tour for Storm’s Heart, which the squirrels and I really enjoyed. It’s a fab modern romance with lots of heat and passion, appealing characters and a lush setting.
All I’ve been thinking about for the past couple of weeks is the rewrites on my work novel, Love & Freedom, which comes out on 1 June 2011. Rewrites, rewrites, rewrites, REWRITES.
Rewrites or editing or polishing or revisions – they come under several titles but they’re an inevitable part of a writer’s life. As soon as your work comes under the scrutiny of a fresh pair of eyes, every scamped piece of research, saggy bit, hole in the plot or break in the continuity might as well be highlighted in neon pink. To the fresh pair of eyes, that is, not to you – or you’d put it right before you sent it in.
My dear Lady Kathryn of the Nutstrewn Neighbourhoods and Squirrel Lands, it’s wonderful to be guest blogging here at The Nut Press about my forthcoming release, The Untied Kingdom. Shamefully, I have just realised that the book contains absolutely no squirrels whatsoever, but just in case you think I’m being anti-squirrel, I will add that apart from the occasional horse, there aren’t any other animals either. Well, not unless you count the snakelike villain or the doglike devotion of the hero’s sidekick.
Hello Kath and Squizzey, thank you so much for letting me be a guest here on your lovely blog!
For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Christina Courtenay, and I write historical novels with a hint (sometimes more!) of the Far East. As my second novel The Scarlet Kimono is going to be published soon, I’m following in the footsteps of my fellow Choc Lit-eer, Jane Lovering, by going on a blog tour, which is very exciting. And it starts right here!
In 2010, I added to my world of books by building Twitter Towers* and here they are in all their glory. Unsurprisingly, Twitter Towers are made up of the books that I heard about through the social networking site. I know, I know. You don’t have to look at me like that… Even with my prodigious level of book-squirreldom, I was a little taken aback at just how many books I managed to accumulate in one year!
A very Happy New Year to everyone at the Nut Press from me! My name’s Jane Lovering (yes, honestly, that’s my real name, so I couldn’t write any thing but romantic comedy, could I?) and the resident squirrels have very kindly agreed to host me here today so that I can tell you all about my new book Please Don’t Stop the Music.
This time last year when I was still flailing around trying to figure out how Twitter worked, one of the first authors I started following was Miranda Dickinson. Her debut novel, Fairytale of New York, had just been published. For an aspiring author, it was fantastic to follow someone whose dream of publication had so recently come true and who was excited enough about that, let alone people’s positive reaction to her book and how incredibly well it was doing. (It was a Sunday Times Top Ten Bestseller and shortlisted for the RNA Romantic Novel of the Year Award 2010.)
I am thrilled to welcome D.J. Kirkby to The Nut Press today. D.J. is here as part of a blog tour to promote her debut novel Without Alice.
I was lucky enough to meet D.J. Kirkby at a book launch* in May. Since then, I’ve read D.J.’s first book, From Zaftig to Aspie, which is an incredible sensory memoir filled with beautiful descriptions from her extraordinary childhood. We’ll be meeting again at the beginning of October for another book launch in London and this time it’s for her debut novel, Without Alice.
Before I even held a copy of the book in my hand, I wondered who the Alice of the title was and who the someone was that couldn’t be without her and why?
There’s an attractive but wistful-looking young man being hugged by a woman on the book’s cover. So… is the woman on the cover Alice or is he holding someone else while thinking about Alice? Here’s what the blurb has to say on the back of the book:
Have you ever had a secret? One so important that it feels as if it will tear you in two? Stephen’s got one. He’s also got a great job, beautiful wife and an adorable son. Outwardly his life seems perfect but it means nothing without Alice. Read Without Alice and meet a man who you will love to hate until you learn to love him.
Okay, so this establishes that it’s Stephen who can’t manage without Alice but it’s not giving much else away, is it? Especially not about who Alice is or why she’s so important to him. I absolutely had to know the answers but, when I started reading, it quickly became apparent that D.J. Kirkby wasn’t about to tell me anytime soon.
The book starts with a prologue set in July 1977: three seemingly unconnected couples, one of them pregnant; one giving birth and the other ‘enjoying’ early parenthood. After reading it, I just had more questions: who are they? and what do they and their individual stories have to do with each other (if anything)?
Chapter One opens with a birth. Now I had another question: why do people write such graphic birth scenes? (No, I am not a mother. Yes, I am a complete wuss.)
Within a very few pages, I put my initial queasiness and outstanding questions to one side. I was hooked, caught up in people’s lives and sucked into their story, as if I were in the same room and living through it with them in real time. D.J. Kirkby’s writing is extraordinary and dazzling. She works on every one of your senses: the world she creates feels so real that the characters are more like people you know whom you’re eavesdropping.
D.J. does something remarkable in this, her debut novel. She makes her main character intensely unlikeable and sustains this for half the book. That’s difficult for a reader to cope with and potentially disastrous in the hands of the wrong author. But D.J. has a light touch and handles it deftly. I knew from the blurb that I wasn’t supposed to like Stephen initially (“meet a man who you will love to hate until…”) but I was surprised at how strongly I raged against him throughout Part One. But I didn’t throw the book at the wall or stop reading because, not only did I still want to know who Alice was and why she mattered so much to him, but I also had to know why he was behaving in this way to people I liked and sympathised with. There seemed no good reason for it.
D.J. drops the reader hints and clues along the way but she doesn’t fully explain Stephen or his behaviour until Part Two. I had my theories as to what was behind it all and an idea as to who Alice was but I couldn’t put the book down until I had the answers. Then I had to keep reading to find out if and how it would all be resolved.
Without Alice looks at the important relationships in our lives and raises questions about duty, loyalty and love within those same relationships. But, perhaps most interesting of all for this reader, the book forces you to look at how quickly and easily you can form an opinion or reach a conclusion about someone, not knowing all there is to know about them, only to have to later reassess it when you have more information available to you.
Without Alice is an incredibly accomplished debut novel. It’s a story with many strands to it but somehow D.J.Kirkby threads them all seamlessly together to create an enthralling and credible whole. It is a harrowing story, beautifully told, and one which shows the redemptive power of love. She is a gifted storyteller, an exciting writer to watch, and I can’t wait to read what she does next.
I have one copy of the book to give away (UK only). Just leave a ‘Pick Me’ comment below by Friday, 3rd September 2010. You can find details of more competitions to win a copy of Without Alice (one of which ends today and another tomorrow) here.
Without Alice is published by Punked Books and is available exclusively from the Punked Books’ website before it goes on general sale on 4th October 2010, although you can also now buy it from amazon.co.uk. Watch the promotional video for Without Alice or join in the discussion on the Without Alice Facebook page. If you would like to know more about the author, D.J.Kirkby has a Website, and a Blog. You can also Follow D.J. Kirkby on Twitter.
The Nut Press is at the Guardian Hay Festival this weekend and, hopefully, it will look pretty much like it does in the picture while I’m there.
Today’s guest is the very lovely Keris Stainton whose debut YA novel Della Says: OMG! was published earlier this month. You can read my review here. Keris is currently on a Blog Tour to raise awareness of Della Says: OMG! and she was kind enough to answer my questions about the book and writing, including NaNoWriMo.