Thursday, 30 December 2010
Thursday, 23 December 2010
Your breath hitches with the air sliced thin inside your throat. Air that feels polished-clean. Shockingly pure. You blink up at the blue jigsaw pieces carved between the trees.
The snow makes everything beautiful.
The branches glitter, jaggedly defined. Road, gutter, pavement, park – they’re all the same this morning. All of them sparkling. Smothered.
You lick your chapped lips. You swallow. And you remember how the sky used to taste when you were little, when you stepped off the bus into the twilight on your way home from school. You remember the deepening shadows and the gold at the windows, and even the creak of your footfalls feels just right. Gorgeous and secretive, but with those cut-glass edges…
Except today, hidden at the heart of it all, there is your phone.
Clenched inside your pocket, between your fingerless gloves and the silky lining, it’s the only warm thing about you. A single strange defence against all the white and splintered silver. Against that sheer, sharp, threaded blue.
The phone’s warmth remains tiny beside the dazzle. And yet it keeps you walking, and it keeps you smiling. Shimmering back at the eye-bright day.
Especially as now, it begins to ring.
Vibrating against your marching thigh, your bitten nails. You dab your thumb to the screen as you lift it slowly, as if casually, to your icy face. But your smile gives you away. It’s already widening, opening. Anticipating that rich, hushed voice, pushing softly through the cold.
Friday, 17 December 2010
The East Midlands Book Award 2010 nominations have been announced!
Scroll down the titles and what's that...
Surely, it couldn't be The Dawning?!?!?
How amazing is that!?!
Not that I've got a hope in hell of coming anywhere remotely close to the shortlist, but how exciting-wonderful just to see it there, amidst all those brilliant writers, those excellent works.
There's so much there that I've been wanting to read, along with several books that I've raved about already this year - Jon McGregor's haunting, revelatory Even the Dogs, Maria Allen's evocative historical emotional suspense, Before the Earthquake, Nigel Pickard's humorous, compassionate and unflinching novel of life and education, Attention Deficit...
I feel incredibly lucky for The Dawning to be slotted in between such stunning stories, such groundbreaking authors. And very, very fortunate to live in a region that produces, and now celebrates, such diverse, exciting writing.
Thank you EMBA. Thank you Weathervane.
Sunday, 12 December 2010
I'm a bit excited.
I found Byrne's debut novel surprising, intriguing and a little bit bonkers (in a good way). But if you'd like to know why, you'll have to check out the view from here.
If you haven't yet come across this gorgeous and innovative literary magazine, you should definitely investgate further in any case. Intelligent, inspiring and beautiful to boot, tvfh offers interviews, reviews, comment, fiction and poetry. I feel very lucky to have joined the crew.
Wednesday, 1 December 2010
She brings with her warmth and a cool, bright perfume, a delicate, lime-tinged scent. He feels the pull of her, the gentle glow of her – but he waits until she is standing right beside him before he turns to her directly. A part of him resists being drawn away from the tall French windows. Like a child, he has been captivated, mesmerised, by the falling snow.
It is coming down more heavily now, turning and colliding in thick, wet, playful clumps, alternately highlighting and then hiding the trees in Barbara’s garden, outlining the slightly disconcerting silhouette of a statue rising from the centre of her large stone pond. Except that the pond is invisible now, as the statue is faceless, eyeless, almost mythically blind. Philip appreciates this; he likes how the snow brings an uncertainty to things. A mystery and magic – and yet the way that it whips and gathers is very tangible too, reminding him of cake mix, a pale, creamy blend of butter and sugar in a bowl. Forbidden and delicious and irresistible. As he watches it whirl, he remembers the sharp childhood satisfaction of dipping a grubby, reckless finger – the anticipation of a sweetness that makes him shiver, as though with cold.
"Here, Philip," Barbara murmurs, lifting a champagne flute. "For you."
Except the glass seems filled not with liquid, but with a lemony light, and behind it, Barbara’s shimmering too. Her dress is very pale, although not quite white. It glimmers silver as she moves. A long, strapless garment, possibly silk. It fits her narrow body closely. Catching him looking, she hooks his gaze back in with hers, and reels it up towards her sculpted face. She smiles and lifts one eyebrow and, as if from a great distance, he hears his own unembarrassed laugh.
The snow, this house – the smell and shine of her: there is a satiny, dreaming quality to it all …
Extracted from The Dawning
(Available now!! And just what you’re after! An unsettling festive read!)
Wednesday, 24 November 2010
Friday, 19 November 2010
Sitting at the very front, there’s an elderly couple on the left, while on the right, a young mum and her son dip and sway with the pattering night.
Hastily, the toddler returns to his earnest driving, his invisible wheel clenched tightly between woollen paws, his gone-bedtime eyes intense. It’s a good job he knows where you’re going, since no one else can see anything. Every single window is cottoned with condensation. You smell wet wool and cigarette ends. The secret leaves and mud patterns gridded to damp boots.
The middle seats are occupied by Girls Going Out. Insect eyelashes and hair straightened to the fluidity of tarmac – brittle blond, brunette and a combination of the two, carefully arranged stripes of oak and gold. Frosted lips all round. But these girls aren’t raucous, or giggling, as you might have expected. They’re not even whispering. Texting …
At the very back, one man, alone.
You take the seat behind the girls, but more because you’re afraid of skidding or stumbling than anything else. You haven’t realised, yet.
It doesn’t take long though, before you hear him. The way he’s drumming his heels against the floor, the thud of it an irregular heartbeat, almost exquisitely out of time with the engine’s wheezing, with the rain’s hiss and spatter. And when he speaks you realise that he’s probably been talking for some time. You’ve interrupted.
"I’m telling myself I’m a fucking idiot," he says.
And you turn, of course you do, along with everyone else. And yes, he’s definitely on his own. And no, he isn’t on a mobile.
He isn’t even old, or grubby-looking. But there’s the hollow volume of his voice. That shuffle-stamping. Thud ... Thud-thud, thud –
The girls’ eyes flash back at you. The old woman shakes her head.
But he continues:
"I’m telling myself not to think these things."
And his words seem so deliberate, it’s almost funny; they’re so painstakingly enunciated –
You realise that the folds of your umbrella are soaking a patch of darkness into the empty space at your side. And you know you ought to place it on the grey-glistening floor, but you don’t. Not yet. Because at the moment, you’re not moving. You’re listening.
"Just because these people," the man says. "These people –"
And now no one’s looking back there anymore. Everyone’s attention is singularly focused on those wide front windows, on the nothingness there, and a child humming. Driving with blind confidence into an expanse of clouded white.
Wednesday, 17 November 2010
Because she wasn’t young. Because the colour had slipped from her hair, and yet it was her hair that caught me, tugging at the edge of my vision so that, again and again, I found myself glancing up from my novel, my notebook. Shifting in my seat.
Hair that clouded past her pale, lined throat, misting where it touched her shoulders. And when she bowed, brushing her lapels, I saw how thick it lay against her crown.
I thought of down then, and purity.
Plump new pillows in a hushed hotel room. The untouchable place where a swan’s wings meet, tucked against its back.
No wonder I kept looking.
There was the smooth, lifted line of her jaw. Her elegant shoulders and long lean torso, acknowledged but discreet beneath her coat. She was all poise and posture and pleasing angles. I pictured her spine falling with the fluid certainty of a Jacob’s Ladder; she seemed so contained. Complete.
I slumped, a sack. My fingers fumbled with my fraying pages. My pen lid dropped anyway, skittering too loudly towards the aisle.
Her hands had come to a careful rest across her lap. Perhaps, after all, the most beautiful part of her. Those tapered fingers and pearly nails, a single ring. Skin so thin it made me wince. The veins beneath so delicate, frail threads winding towards neat knuckles, a spreading, silken blue …
It took me a moment to dare an "Excuse me". To reach across.
She drew her knees high as I leant past. Her coat whispered. Sharp folds with something softer underneath, and a whiff of rose water, and talcum powder. The scent of baths from long ago.
But beneath her trailing hem, her feet –
Without shoes or stockings, without socks. They were small enough, streaked and smudged enough, to have belonged to a young girl. If it wasn’t for their pallor, and the tiny cuts.
Her stripped heels and toes remained almost as elegant as her finely strung hands. One ankle bound with a plastic tag.
And in the moment before I sat back up, abandoning my pen lid where it had dropped, I recalled the commotion back at the station.
The ambulance parked in the damp outside, doors wide. Police and rail staff converging on the platform, radios buzzing. Yellow jackets against the grey …
And when, drawing breath, I straightened, she was staring at me. Eyes lit with mischief. She raised one finger to her lovely mouth.
"Hush," she said.
At least, I thought she said.
Before she looked beyond me to the window. To the black rain, black glass. Another carriage rumbling past.
Monday, 11 October 2010
And it isn’t winter yet, but only autumn. "My favourite time of year," he tells her. The trees are full of autumn. They’re brown and yellow and rust-coloured, a waxy lipstick-red. One of the tallest is even a glorious deep purple. Nicola has been watching that one for a while, watching it grow larger up ahead. She’s longing to reach it. She wants to touch those purple leaves; she’d like to sniff them. If Dad isn’t looking, she might even slide one across her tongue . . .
Biting back a secret smile, she turns her head this way and then that, taking in the clean, crisp sky and the dewy grass, the mushrooms that sprout among the tree roots in a spongy, spreading rash. There are conkers everywhere. They litter the path like fat Maltesers, but Nicola isn’t collecting them, not today. She feels one roll beneath the sole of her boot and her smile grows. The conker’s too hard to crunch down on, but nonetheless the roll itself is satisfying. She steps sideways to make it happen again, but Dad snatches up her hand, and the air stirs and thickens all around them.
It’s smoky, this autumn air, full of the promise of Halloween and Bonfire Night. It makes Nicola think of wet socks and coming home, of potatoes and foil blackening together amidst white, untouchable coals . . . But then Dad pulls her closer still and the smokiness gives way to the familiar scent of his creaking leather jacket. Briefly, she nuzzles her face into his side. He smells sweet and musty, like the inside of the car.
As soon as they reach the purple tree, he’ll swing her up into the branches. Nicola knows that it will happen without her even having to ask. "There you go, Princess," he’ll say, his face big and pink and beaming, and as he lifts her, she’ll reach down with her small, stubby hands. She will run her fingers over his wiry head and watch the ripple of his thick brown curls. Then she’ll look past him to admire her own feet, kicking back and forth through empty space.
He won’t be able to reach high enough to ruffle her hair in return, but his grin will somehow spread even wider, splitting his beard, and: "On top of the world, kid," he’ll say in one of his silly T.V. voices. Then it will be Nicola’s turn to laugh.
Time will pass up in that tree. The bubbles of sunshine between the leaves will slowly stretch and burst and turn a deeper shade of orange, but he won’t make her go home. She’ll cut him off before he can suggest it: "Please, Dad, not just yet . . ."
And he will nod, his big face flushed with the early sunset. He’ll go on holding her safe and steady among the swaying, purple branches until eventually Nicola will feel as if she’s floating. Fluttering. On top of the world. She’ll never have been as high before, never so knowingly happy.
(extracted from The Dawning)
Sunday, 3 October 2010
She came to see it very clearly.
An old, wooden canoe with cracked, warped boards, its paintwork weathered grey. The sort of given-up boat that’s sometimes transformed into a tourist sign, stabbed vertically into the ground before a row of cabins, a forest campsite. Once it might have been daubed with words, ‘River View’, or ‘Hiawatha’s Retreat’. Some such brochure-shit.
It wasn’t a canoe anybody would ever actually use. You couldn’t even bob in the shallows with it, let alone negotiate rapids or glide between dragonflies and lush green banks. Undoubtedly, it leaked.
And what use was that, a canoe like that, inside her?
She could feel it all too keenly.
Her flesh, her skin, draped awkwardly around it, like wet clothes heaped across a cheap hanger. Her stomach was crushed thin beneath it, and she had no idea how her ribcage managed. And yet it was such a waste of space, that canoe. While it’s oar-less heart remained stubbornly, greedily empty, filled with nothing but aching, sour air, she had to struggle to live around its edges. Some nights, in bed, when he was there, or not there, beside her, it made it difficult to breathe.
The only time she’d ever experienced anything remotely similar was after her mother had died. Remembering this, she wondered if the feeling wasn’t canoe-shaped after all, but more like a coffin? Except how did that help? How did that make anything easier? The idea of hauling a coffin about, of it rearranging your insides?
And even after he’d finally left the house for good, the feeling didn’t go.
She couldn’t escape it and there came a point when she feared she might start telling people, as if she couldn’t help it. Running into friends or colleagues, or even the familiar strangers at the station each morning, she became filled with the urge to reach out, to pluck at a sleeve or a hesitant hand –
“There’s a canoe,” she might tell them. Hissing: “A fucking canoe, inside me.”
Except it was far too easy to imagine how their lips might twitch or their eyebrows jump. The whole aghast or overly polite way they’d probably nod back at her. As if they hadn’t even heard of a canoe before. As if she was the type of woman to go mad.
Friday, 17 September 2010
At the end of the summer, I returned to this fab review (thank you Pam Mc at guide2nottingham for allowing me to tug your 'emotions through a wringer' (-:), and I also met a brilliant North London bookgroup who had chosen The Dawning as an August read. It was such an interesting and enjoyable evening.
It was a proper dark-and-stormy night. The conservatory roof was ink-black and shuddering with rain and as we ate and drank and chatted beneath it, it struck me all over again how a novel stops belonging to an author once it slips off into the world - how it slides and shifts, becoming so many different stories. Stories as diverse and unique as their individual readers.
I loved having that reminder; it's such a frightening and wonderful thing. And I was also blown away by how the novel's characters felt as real as the brilliant people discussing them.
Alongside my lovely publisher and fellow Weathervane Press authors, I'll be chatting books (again!) at Nottingham Writers Club on October 6th, as part of the Weathervane Vocal Books Tour.
Towards the end of the month, I'm looking forward to learning more at Jon McGregor's editing workshop at Nottingham Contemporary.
And I'm really ridiculously excited about running away all over again too. Especially about staying in a Cube.
Sunday, 12 September 2010
Could you please tell me a little about the book, and how you came to write it? What makes ‘The Terrible Twos’ different from other parent guides?
S: I really enjoy both but the process is very different. For me, writing fiction is more organic and fluid. I start with a burning idea and character(s) that I feel I just have to write about and I go with the flow. With non-fiction, the contents have to be more mapped out at the start, especially if commissioned in advance. But I was surprised to discover that the writing can still take unexpected turns.
S: (Blushing...) Thank you, Megan. With both my novels, I wrote them without a publisher in mind. I wrote them for myself, focusing on the integrity of the characters and the story and only when they were finished, redrafted and edited several times did I start to think about finding a suitable publisher.
With 'The Terrible Twos', I sent a proposal (synopsis, contents, sample chapter) to the publisher and was commissioned on the basis of that. It was exciting to have a publisher on board at the outset but a little scary to see the book available to pre-order on Amazon before I'd actually finished writing it!!!
It wasn't the first proposal I sent them but it's obviously less time consuming to work up proposals and have them 'rejected' than write entire books! I have (coughs) several novels that never made it to publication.
Along with being an incredible writer (of parenting guides, education resources, journalistic articles, interviews and reviews, of novels, short stories and poetry …) you’re also a tutor and a mother – do you ever sleep?
What’s next for you, Shanta?
S: Well, Need2Know have commissioned me to write a second book, 'Baby's First Year: A Parent's Guide', which will be published in 2011. So I'm just starting to gather material for that. If anyone reading this has a baby and wants to be included in the book, please do get in touch via my website (www.shantaeverington.co.uk)!
Tuesday, 31 August 2010
Sunday, 8 August 2010
Cotton-fluff, you tell me and sweep one arm towards the trees, as if those rippling shadows and foaming leaves could explain anything clearly. I turn back slowly, through the soft.
The afternoon hugs us, closer than our skin. The sky melts into your face and I smell the grey sludge of my old sun-screen, and cooking metal, from the fence ribs and the tracks.
Fairies, I insist.
And though you join me, you remain begrudging, at first.
Except there are so many, it's dizzying, giggling. Irrisistible. And they're easy to catch. Wilting to white spiders in our hands.
Soon we're both leaping and laughing, wishing relentlessly. Clapping each time we flick them free. You're with me now, completely -
After all, there's a lot to wish for. A blizzard of dreams burn bright between my sticky lashes. There's hope in your high-pitched, hitching breath.
The train's not here yet, but the air thrums. Secrets spiral, rising, blurring with the whir of a swallow's wing.
Wednesday, 4 August 2010
Forgetting Zoe by Ray Robinson - completely stunning, beautiful and brutal, this utterly blew me away
Train by Pete Dexter - further intriguing and complex Americana, not quite as good as his glorious and devastating Paris Trout, but almost
Like Bees to Honey by the lovely Caroline Smailes - everything I was hoping for, and more. Loss, redemption and Jesus at the bar. Take it away with you, or curl up at home. You'll love it however
Bury Me Deep - more sheer Megan Abbot goodness, this time noir in elegant thirties shades
Not So Perfect - Mr Perring provides some surreal and superb snapshots of the way we are or might be in these perfectly proportioned short short stories
A Fair Maiden - another twisted fable from the indomitable Ms Oates, Joyce Carol I will love you forever
Wednesday, 14 July 2010
For a limited period, you can pick up any Weathervane title (including The Dawning) at half-price - that's just £3.99 - and with FREE P&P too!
Just what are you waiting for?!?
oh - here's a bookshop link
Saturday, 10 July 2010
Thursday, 1 July 2010
At least she appeared to be watching it. The room was so dimmed it was difficult to tell. The French windows often stood wide open, but she kept the curtains closed. The garden’s heat and buzzing drifted in, in small, squeezed pieces, although now and then, the lined hems quivered with a more persistent, fruit-tinged breeze.
And from the television, that very English murmur:
"Fifteen – Love"
Before the furred, steady thud of the ball resumed. On and on, like a heartbeat. Back and forth, like breath.
My mother watched the screen and I watched her. I’d never seen her looking quite so blank, or pale, or still. Not in the flesh, anyway. She looked like an old photograph of herself, perhaps one of the perfume campaign shots, when they had swathed her in silk, behind a misted lens. She looked just as dreamy and beautiful, and as unnervingly unreal . . . When the telephone rang she hardly stirred. She’d glance up, but that was all, or shift to rearrange the cushions at her neck, but she wouldn’t rise. She never answered.
While it trilled though, she sometimes smiled in my general direction and once or twice, she raised her glass to me. She winked.
Or seemed to wink. Through those blowsy shadows, that uncertain light.
And I do remember crossing the room. Not to answer any call either, but to sit on the rug beside her. Beside her glass, filled with gin and tonic and shifting ice. And I remember how meticulous her movements were when she lifted her drink over my head. I remember that hiss and icy tinkle, while the ball-girls ducked and ran in circles, then fell hastily back into place.
(from The Lives of Ghosts)
Wednesday, 23 June 2010
I'll be reading and chatting this Saturday morning at Lowdham Book Festival, alongside the splendid and talented Nigel Pickard and Ian Collinson.
Come along! You know you want to
Saturday, 12 June 2010
Through the window, there was rain, cars, a smear of trees. Each wet day the patterns are almost the same, grey and green, dissolving. And watching the pavement melt into the leaves, I felt that pinch, that small longing, like I always do.
Your perfume found me first. A smoky-brown scent, patchouli hints, resurrecting memories of park benches and my own growing up, of shop-brand cola, generously spiked. Nonetheless, for a moment still, I kept my forehead to the glass.
It was the sound of you that made me turn. From across the aisle, you jangled. And then you sparkled, and I wondered.
I studied your earrings first. A matching, flamboyant pair. Dangling loops of shivering gold, with wooden animals attached. Camels or llamas, maybe cats. Souvenirs, I thought, from somewhere exotic, Morocco or Kenya or further East. Those earrings spoke of holidays, of escape, or perhaps merely of hoping. A desire to be gone.
There was a single metal ear-cuff too, on your left side, clipped higher, catching stray hair. That might have been when I thought of ballpoint pens. Of pinning you in place.
There were two strings around your neck. The first a set of love-beads, multi-coloured seeds that drip-drip-dripped between your woollen breasts, bright as the candy necklaces we’d fight over as little girls. Pinging elastic in search of treasure, chasing summer flavours, pastel dust.
The second string was tighter. A black leather lace, suggestive of a noose, or dog-tags. Maybe even a lead. Perhaps a gift – did he like to see it there? There was a pendant attached, stone-like, bone-like; I couldn’t read the words it bore (if words they were), but its shadow was distinct. A second secret message smudged red against your skin.
In your lap, your folded fingers. Your hands revealed a single ring, and the space where one once was.
The ring was gold, with a green stone, shining with a broken, antique light. An heirloom, surely, passed down from some austere aunt, or a shadowy grandma . . . Unless it had simply belonged to your mother? I wondered how frequently you felt its weight. How much you might still miss her.
And that paler strip of skin on the third finger of your left hand; it betrayed you so that I hardly needed to guess. Except – instead of looking stripped bare, that fine line glowed, a milky glimmer. It looked younger than the rest of you. A thread of newborn flesh.
You lifted that hand then, to the pole. Already, it was your stop.
The bus bell buzzed, but I hardly heard it. I was distracted, freshly captivated, charmed by the charms about your wrist, those tiny, flickering trinkets. I wasn’t close enough to see them; nonetheless, I did my best. I pictured a silver figure and a glinting guppy, a perfect doll’s house clock. You chimed – jangling once more – as you heaved yourself upright.
I could have cried out as you rose; your bracelet sang, but you only sighed. And you remained mostly faceless, shapeless; I’d hardly started – I didn’t want to let you go.
Monday, 7 June 2010
Although LeftLion were kind enough to feature the novel previously on a podcast, I didn't expect to come across the review and I was deeply chuffed. LeftLion is amazing - funny and insightful and truly unique.
And while The Dawning perhaps proved a little 'ominous' for reviewer Robin Lewis with its 'general air of creeping disaster', apparently 'Taylor has crafted an involving picture of a family in a tailspin'
(well done Taylor!)
If you're not lucky enough to live in Nottingham, I believe you can download the complete, free magazine from their website. Not only do Leftlion provide reviews, great comment, brilliant interviews and top listings, they also publish quite possibly the best star-signs in the Universe.
(ie; 'Capricorn - If you want to keep a cool house this summer then buy a beagle and train it to smoke. Surveys have suggested that a smoking beagle is the coolest house pet you can possibly have, ranking above a juggling monkey and a cat in a jumpsuit. Do not put the beagle in a jumpsuit.')
Monday, 24 May 2010
Weathervane Press are delighted to announce they will be hosting an event at the excellent Lowdham Book Festival final Saturday on June 26th.
We will be launching the Weathervane Live Vocal Books Tour at this event, which takes place at 10.30 am in the Lit & Phil Tent behind the Village Hall. There will also be readings by Megan Taylor from her thriller 'The Dawning' published in January and Nigel Pickard from 'Attention Deficit' published in March. All Weathervane books will be on sale at the event and throughout the day from our own stall at the Book Fair also in Lowdham Village Hall. The event is free - no ticket required.
Full details of the Lowdham Book Festival programme can be found at http://www.lowdhambookfestival.co.uk/
Come along! Say hello! You know you want to!
Thursday, 20 May 2010
It's a total pleasure today to host Chapter 13 of Like Bees to Honey, the stunning new novel by the wonderful Caroline Smailes
In the run-up to next week's publication, the whole story is buzzing from blog to blog - just click the cover to delve in.
The next installment will be available from Bubblecow
You really should - Caroline's audacious writing is always beautiful, heart-breaking, shiveringly good.
Tuesday, 11 May 2010
A while ago, when I first began bumbling about amidst this strange/ bewildering/ beguiling bloggy-internet-land, Eli got in touch via my original MySpace to let me know she'd enjoyed How We Were Lost.
I was over the moon, especially when I discovered what a talented woman Eli is (she's a truly fine photographer and a poet too!! Her first collection, 'i scrubs' has just been released - please do check it out).
Now, as I continue to go on bumbling, Eli's blown me away all over again with this very kind review of The Dawning.
Thank you tons Eli - it means a lot xx
Wednesday, 5 May 2010
Joining the queue, she wonders whether she’ll be late for work. She isn’t as anxious as she might be; she’s frequently late for things. The package in her hands, for example, ought to have been sent three weeks ago. She’s tried very hard not to worry about that either. Her arm aches.
The queue is mostly made up of much older, murmuring women, some of whom are wearing hats. They shuffle past penny sweets and chocolate bars, row after row of glimmering foil.
The whole post office feels like it has been sent to the woman directly from her childhood. As does the brown paper of her parcel. She dips her face when the queue moves on. Such a satisfying smell.
The package is so neatly wrapped too. And painstakingly labelled. Her handwriting doesn’t slant or wobble or shrink away. There are no fingerprints smearing those hospital-corners, no stray hairs caught, incriminating, beneath the tape. She has taken such care; it’s not like her.
She’s the kind of woman who sheds and drops and forgets things, a woman who doesn’t ever quite manage to speak up when she should, who blurts the wrong words when she shouldn’t. And she’s always late. When she finally reaches the counter and the parcel is taken from her, as if it’s nothing, she remembers these facts about herself. She remembers them acutely.
Shit, she thinks, feeling the empty air throb between her empty hands. What have I done?
But in the next moment she’s dropped to her knees, she’s laughing and apologising. Scrabbling for silver as the coins go raining from her purse.
Saturday, 1 May 2010
Saturday, 24 April 2010
I love you words
I hate you words
But where’s the time?
Where’s the coffee?
Have I forgotten to get my characters dressed (again)?
Am I late picking my daughter up from school (again)?
Don’t drink that wine …
Drink the wine!
Walk and think and walk and walk
This novel is amazing
This novel’s a disaster.
This novel. This novel. This novel. This novel. This novel. This novel. This novel. This novel. This novel. This novel. This novel. This novel. This novel.
*I’m aware I may be flogging the whole ‘On Writing’ title variations. But currently there are other words to think about, so I’ll just blame Stephen King. In general.
Wednesday, 14 April 2010
In conversation with the incredibly insightful and patient James Walker, I'm in between two completely fascinating Proper Writers, Paul Reaney ('Shoot'! 'Family Guy'! '24'!) and Rod Madocks ('No Way to Say Goodbye')
The podcast is now available right here.
(apologies for any ums and errs and giggling involved. I could blame it on the fact the interview took place on the Monday after the weekend of both The Dawning's release and my birthday and I may have been feeling a little, um, sketchy - except that it might feel familiar if you've ever heard me read before ...)
Friday, 9 April 2010
I'm honoured to have been interviewed by the incredibly talented Annie Clarkson - and what a challenging and enjoyable interview it was too. She really made me think about my writing
Annie also posted a very kind review
Thank you tons Annie
Thank you Bookmunch
Wednesday, 7 April 2010
My wonderful publisher, Weathervane Press, have just launched an exciting initiative, the Vocal Books Tour, a scheme designed to bring writers and readers in the East Midlands together.
Here’s how Weathervane Press describe it –
Vocal Books Tour from Weathervane Live.
Weathervane Live, a group of five Nottingham based authors whose dynamic character-driven novels have all been published by Weathervane Press in the last twelve months, feel it is time to ‘make some noise’ and get out on the road.
If you run or belong to a library group, book club or literary cluster of any description and would like a couple of us to read from and talk about our work at one of your meetings, please email us at:
So, if you're interested or would like further information, please don't hesitate to get in touch.
I think it's going to be fun (-:
Tuesday, 30 March 2010
Before The Earthquake by Maria Allen
Breathtakingly evocative and hugely enjoyable, 'Before the Earthquake' takes place in rural Italy at the turn of the century and follows 15 year old Concetta's search for lost memories - her emotional journey is as finely wrought as the book’s unique setting. A stunning debut.
Attention Deficit by Nigel Pickard
By turns, funny, heart-wrenching and hard-hitting. A tale of life and education told in parallel through the compelling and distinctive voices of incorrigible teacher, Harry, and disruptive pupil, Lewis, as they each stumble towards crisis. I was swept along. A completely cracking read.
After You’d Gone by Maggie O'Farrell
This novel was recommended to me during a discussion about writing flashbacks. Somehow I’d never read O’Farrell before and I’m very pleased I finally have. This story expertly weaves together different threads and her work generally seems to be all about secrets (which is perhaps my very favourite subject too). I’ll definitely be catching up with more.
Little Bird of Heaven by Joyce Carol Oates
I love Joyce Carol Oates. I love her unstoppable energy and her courage. I love her true and twisted vision of how we are and how we might be, and the strange, dark, rhythmic poetry of her prose. Basically, I just love her.
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
What can I say this book that hasn’t already been said? Quite frankly, nothing. Except that for me, it's perhaps even better second time round (I first read it 20 years ago – 20!!! How did that even happen?)
I’ve also been reading (and chatting about) my own novel too. This month, ‘The Dawning’ was featured at a lovely evening reading event at the gorgeous and truly pioneering independent bookshop, The Bookcase, in Lowdham and also at the Independent Press Fair at De Montfort University. (Thank you The Bookcase for lovely wine and nibbles and lovely people. Thank you States of Independence for such an incredibly inspiring day).
P.S. You may be relieved, or completely un-bothered, to hear that I’ve now allowed myself to start (re)writing again. It’s driving me crazy. I’m loving it. Thus the usual insane balance of my universe has been restored.
Monday, 22 March 2010
I’m attempting to gain some space so that when I return to take another long, hard look over the latest draft of my third novel, The Lives of Ghosts, I’ll be more likely to see it as a reader might. That’s the idea anyway.
In the meantime, I’m not letting myself anywhere near brand-spanking-new novel 4 either (despite its muttering) and I’m not even allowed to approach that dusty file of half-baked, half-finished short stories either.
There have been lots of fabulous happenings to keep me busy*, but mostly I’ve been trying to focus on just reading.
And I love reading. It's the most important thing - without reading, why would I write? And many of the books I’ve been reading have been brilliant*. But at the moment, it’s not enough. I’m still waking early, but instead of stumbling, zombie-style, for the coffee pot and a notebook or my laptop, I’m simply lying there, amidst the flotsam, thinking strange things or the same things, over and over again, around and back.
I miss my secret dark mornings twitching with words (even when the words were wrong). And I miss that feeling of dropping right off the edge, into a story. Those melting moments when the story becomes more real than anything else. I’m also even missing fiddling with a single sentence for twenty minutes before deleting it altogether in a huff.
I may have already cheated a little too. My brief notes scribbled on the bus (quick - while I remember!) sort of . . .grew. As did a letter to an old friend until it wasn’t really anything about us anymore.
And I seem to be blogging (/blithering) more than usual too*. Apologies for that.
My husband thinks that writing provides an outlet for me, especially for any weirdness, or sadness. He reckons it’s what keeps me (relatively) sane. Right now, he’d better watch out in case he’s right.
*details to follow in yet another post – I bet you can’t wait!
Friday, 19 March 2010
Page-turner set in the Peak District
The Dawning, Megan Taylor, Weathervane Press, £7.99
On a momentous New Year's Eve amidst the backdrop of the Peak District, the seemingly ideal Haywood family unravels in this tense second novel by Nottingham author Megan Taylor. The characters are all intelligently formed, with mum Stella the stand-out personality. And whilst some scenes are uncomfortable to read, there is a deliciously realistic atmosphere plus some clever plot devices.
- Oonagh Robinson
It's brilliant to see it in the paper (- and with Rose Tremain reviewed next door!)
A lucky week this week, for sure (-:
Thursday, 18 March 2010
'Taylor writes like a modern D H Lawrence. The quality of her rich and poetic prose wraps you round like a fur coat on a winter’s night . . . read slowly to savour it.'
Enormous thanks to the incredibly talented, indomitable and very generous Anne Brooke. What a wonderful surprise this was to wake up to :-D
Monday, 15 March 2010
Clephan Building, De Montfort University, Oxford Street, Leicester
10.30am – 4.30pm, Saturday 20th March.
Stalls from dozens of independent publishers.
Workshops, readings and book launches.
Independent presses from across the region (and some from around the country) will be on site, together with many regional writers whose work is published by large and small independent publishers. Join us for an hour or two or the whole day.
Open to all and free of charge.
How can you resist?
A brilliant, buzzy event, with bucket-loads of inspiration and imagination for every kind of book lover. There will be poetry and crime fiction, novel and magazine launches, industry insights, short stories and so much more ...
And I'll be reading in the afternoon too (but please don't let that put you off - in fact, come and say hello)
For further information visit http://www.statesofindependence.co.uk/
Tuesday, 9 March 2010
Moving away with hardly any money and no guarantees and small children to re-settle wasn’t easy, but I soon started to discover brilliant Nottingham things (wonderful countryside nearby, some excellent eating, music, cracking cocktails, lovely people …). And I had no idea that books would become such a part of my life here too.
Before I moved to Nottingham, I wasn’t published. Although I’d always loved writing and becoming an author was a long-term daydream, I had never considered studying creative writing and I rarely shared my stories. Firstly, living in Nottingham gave me the space to start taking my writing more seriously. And later on, it offered me support.
Nottingham Writers’ Studio has been inspirational, presenting many opportunities, along with introductions to a varied and vibrant range of writing people from poets to journalists, playwrights to publishers (including my wonderful second publisher, Weathervane Press). There really is an awful lot of fabulous writing business going on in this town. And the fiction produced here is amazing.
I’ve just finished reading Maria Allen’s hugely enjoyable and evocative debut Before the Earthquake. Just before that, I was blown away by Jon McGregor’s third masterpiece, Even the Dogs - and before that, I was enormously moved by Frances Thimann’s haunting collection Cello and Other Stories. Over the next month, I’m looking forward to reading Nigel Pickard’s Attention Deficit and Roberta Dewa’s Holding Stones. And last Saturday, while attending the East Midlands Writing Industries Conference, the supremely talented Nicola Monaghan (acclaimed author of The Killing Jar, Starfishing and The Okinawa Dragon) came over to ask me to sign her copy of The Dawning! I already knew how lovely and supportive Nicola was from reading with her last year – nonetheless, I was dead chuffed. And very pleased, and very grateful, to be writing in Nottingham too.
Sunday, 7 March 2010
Thank you Fiona!!
Sunday, 28 February 2010
Ruth's diary is the new novel by Fiona Robyn, called Thaw. She has decided to blog the novel in its entirety over the next few months, so you can read it for free.
Ruth's first entry is below, and you can continue reading tomorrow here.
These hands are ninety-three years old. They belong to Charlotte Marie Bradley Miller. She was so frail that her grand-daughter had to carry her onto the set to take this photo. It’s a close-up. Her emaciated arms emerge from the top corners of the photo and the background is black, maybe velvet, as if we’re being protected from seeing the strings. One wrist rests on the other, and her fingers hang loose, close together, a pair of folded wings. And you can see her insides.
The bones of her knuckles bulge out of the skin, which sags like plastic that has melted in the sun and is dripping off her, wrinkling and folding. Her veins look as though they’re stuck to the outside of her hands. They’re a colour that’s difficult to describe: blue, but also silver, green; her blood runs through them, close to the surface. The book says she died shortly after they took this picture. Did she even get to see it? Maybe it was the last beautiful thing she left in the world.
I’m trying to decide whether or not I want to carry on living. I’m giving myself three months of this journal to decide. You might think that sounds melodramatic, but I don’t think I’m alone in wondering whether it’s all worth it. I’ve seen the look in people’s eyes. Stiff suits travelling to work, morning after morning, on the cramped and humid tube. Tarted-up girls and gangs of boys reeking of aftershave, reeling on the pavements on a Friday night, trying to mop up the dreariness of their week with one desperate, fake-happy night. I’ve heard the weary grief in my dad’s voice.
So where do I start with all this? What do you want to know about me? I’m Ruth White, thirty-two years old, going on a hundred. I live alone with no boyfriend and no cat in a tiny flat in central London. In fact, I had a non-relationship with a man at work, Dan, for seven years. I’m sitting in my bedroom-cum-living room right now, looking up every so often at the thin rain slanting across a flat grey sky. I work in a city hospital lab as a microbiologist. My dad is an accountant and lives with his sensible second wife Julie, in a sensible second home. Mother finished dying when I was fourteen, three years after her first diagnosis. What else? What else is there?
Charlotte Marie Bradley Miller. I looked at her hands for twelve minutes. It was odd describing what I was seeing in words. Usually the picture just sits inside my head and I swish it around like tasting wine. I have huge books all over my flat; books you have to take in both hands to lift. I’ve had the photo habit for years. Mother bought me my first book, black and white landscapes by Ansel Adams. When she got really ill, I used to take it to bed with me and look at it for hours, concentrating on the huge trees, the still water, the never-ending skies. I suppose it helped me think about something other than what was happening. I learned to focus on one photo at a time rather than flicking from scene to scene in search of something to hold me. If I concentrate, then everything stands still. Although I use them to escape the world, I also think they bring me closer to it. I’ve still got that book. When I take it out, I handle the pages as though they might flake into dust.
Mother used to write a journal. When I was small, I sat by her bed in the early mornings on a hard chair and looked at her face as her pen spat out sentences in short bursts. I imagined what she might have been writing about; princesses dressed in star-patterned silk, talking horses, adventures with pirates. More likely she was writing about what she was going to cook for dinner and how irritating Dad’s snoring was.
I’ve always wanted to write my own journal, and this is my chance. Maybe my last chance. The idea is that every night for three months, I’ll take one of these heavy sheets of pure white paper, rough under my fingertips, and fill it up on both sides. If my suicide note is nearly a hundred pages long, then no-one can accuse me of not thinking it through. No-one can say; ‘It makes no sense; she was a polite, cheerful girl, had everything to live for’, before adding that I did keep myself to myself. It’ll all be here. I’m using a silver fountain pen with purple ink. A bit flamboyant for me, I know. I need these idiosyncratic rituals; they hold things in place. Like the way I make tea, squeezing the tea-bag three times, the exact amount of milk, seven stirs. My writing is small and neat; I’m striping the paper. I’m near the bottom of the page now. Only ninety-one more days to go before I’m allowed to make my decision. That’s it for today. It’s begun.
Saturday, 27 February 2010
Small, but perfectly formed.
I will never, ever cease to feel excited at the sight of my book on a shop shelf. It's what I used to dream about when I was little. It's what I frequently still dream about now that I'm big.
I'm very, very, very, very, very, very happy.
(now somebody just has to buy it, so that they'll order in some more ...)
Tuesday, 16 February 2010
A very kind review of 'The Dawning' at the unique and fabulous Literary to Sensory blog site
An invitation to read and chat about 'The Dawning' at the amazing Independent Press Day at De Montfort University, Saturday 2oth March.
(There will be so much buzzy independent stuff going down here - stalls, launches, talks - and it's all free and open to EVERYONE. You should really come along)
3. An interview with the esteemed Ms Shanta Everington over at the innovative, incredible View From Here
just a little bit EXCITED!!!
Saturday, 6 February 2010
For a long time, reading my work before an audience made me milky-kneed. It’s not quite so difficult anymore. I’ll never be a performer, but now that I’ve finally understood that it’s about connecting with people rather than scrutinising my own unliterary accent, or my wobbly tone, or my hair, or my lipstick (or whatever) it’s definitely easier (and sometimes I actually, secretly, rather like it).
But then this week, I was invited to my local BBC Radio station to talk about ‘The Dawning’. My publisher happened to meet John Holmes, and then happened to foist (I’m sure in a very friendly way) a copy of my book on him. John liked it, and invited me on his show. I was completely honoured. And utterly terrified.
But John was lovely. And so were so many supportive friends in the nervy run-up.
I gabbled – it passed in a blur. And you can Listen Again here for the next seven days (apparently I’m on 47 minutes in), if you should so wish. I’m not sure if I will, but you can because I’m feeling brave. And hugely grateful (I really can’t tell you how much that support has meant). And very, very lucky.
Tuesday, 2 February 2010
(p21, 'Thaw' by Fiona Robyn)
A vivid and delicious lyricism runs throughout Fiona Robyn’s compassionate and compelling third novel, ‘Thaw’.
‘Thaw’ tells the story of thirty-two year old Ruth, who ‘doesn’t know if she wants to be thirty-three’. Her life is meticulously ordered, her relationships painstakingly detached – her loneliness devastating. ‘Thaw’ is Ruth’s journal, covering three months, as she decides whether or not she will take her own life.
Describing deep-seated loss and self-destruction, it is a necessarily darker, spikier read, and yet the pacing of its diary structure makes it difficult to put down. Most of all, there is an authenticity about Ruth and her struggles that cries out for understanding, reaching far beyond the novel’s pages.
It is this sense of empathy, combined with the beauty of Fiona’s prose, which makes ‘Thaw’ such a valuable and unforgettable book.
In order to spread the word, she's beginning with a Blogsplash and she needs as many bloggers as possible to get involved. If you'd be willing to host the first page of the fantastic 'Thaw' on your blog on March 1st, please do get in touch ...
Thursday, 28 January 2010
Sprained an arm after slipping in the ice
Stared in awe at a box of shiny new books
Danced around my living room
Jumped up and down a bit
Read to a packed room of lovely, supportive folk at NWS
Posted books out in neat, brown packages
Confiscated a book from my eight year old daughter
Taken the very same book out for cocktails
And one day, into work (and then felt suddenly too shy to mention it)
I have also
Grazed a knee for no good reason whatsoever
Been recorded for three separate podcasts
Interviewed on two brilliant blogs (thank you Caroline and Nik)
Written a ridiculous amount of emails
And barely any fiction
Been spoilt rotten
Had loads of fun
And slept (a bit)
I have felt -
Excited, delighted, panicked, unreal, exhausted, rejuvenated, overwhelmed, unstoppable, tipsy, terrified, grateful, lucky, happy, happy. Happy.
Saturday, 23 January 2010
Thursday, 21 January 2010
Saturday, 16 January 2010
Friday, 15 January 2010
Megan Taylor's terrific second novel 'The Dawning' is published by Weathervane Press on January 23rd, but there's no need to wait - you can order from the Book Shop at www.weathervanepress.co.uk and get free uk delivery right now.
'The Dawning' is a tense domestic thriller set in a wintry Peak District on New Year's Eve - a time for celebration, but for each member of the fragmenting Haywood family this night could mark the end. 'The Dawning' explores the danger that can arise even at the heart of a family, over the course of one dark night.
Megan will read from and talk about 'The Dawning' to members of Nottingham Writers' Studio on January 21st. For more details and information on NWS see www.nottinghamwritersstudio.co.uk
Saturday, 9 January 2010
There are only two weeks to go until ‘The Dawning’ is released!
I can’t believe it will be happening so soon, although (before the workshops and the revising, the submitting and the waiting) the ideas behind my new novel actually arrived almost three years ago . . .
(I think it might be flashback time - imagine several atmospheric piano notes and perhaps the edges of your screen rippling into dreamy soft-focus)
‘The Dawning’ began in the car with my family, driving back from a day out in the Peak District. It had been a good day, as they still are, although we’d been walking through woodland instead of along one of the Edges as we often did, back then. My daughter, who was five at the time, had been happy hunting for fairies and the freakiest looking mushrooms. My son had, as usual, fallen ‘accidentally’ into a stream. Their dad was at the wheel and I was half-dozing, tired and happy, full of a pub roast and two large, leisurely glasses of dry white wine. Along with the sounds of the kids chatting in the back and the tarmac murmuring beneath us, Regina Spektor was singing from the stereo in her dark and joyful, playful way.
It was getting late. Outside, beyond the road and fields, the trees were black against the sky. I closed my eyes, thinking vaguely about the day we’d had and how I’d come to love the Peak District, and about going home, all sorts of home . . . I thought about our move to Nottingham, and the old London flat I’d left behind . . .
And then, as if out of nowhere, I was picturing a large, stone house with long, gold windows. I saw a back door opening, releasing more gold light and a figure emerging - a small, shadowed figure in a hood. He stood for a moment on the sloping step, gazing out into the dusk.
That image, that boy, would stay with me, although I was already drifting, resurfacing, and thinking simply about twilight – about the day folding in and the night rising. About that feeling that you get sometimes, of going under . . . I thought about one, long night in the middle of winter. A night of secrets, and of endings. I thought about New Year’s Eve.
I opened my eyes, suddenly excited. And all over again, I saw the beauty of those trees.
Far too early the next morning, I crept out of bed while the rest of the house went on sleeping. Throughout the night I’d been unable to shake free those images. It was still dark outside when I started to write what was to become my second novel, ‘The Dawning.’