Sunday, 28 February 2010

Thaw Blogsplash

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.

Continue reading tomorrow here...

Or buy the complete novel right now, right here (-:

Saturday, 27 February 2010

I will Never, Ever Cease to feel Excited at the Sight of My Book on a Shop Shelf

I went into Waterstones in Nottingham yesterday, and there it was.

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

3 More Brilliant Book Things

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

Feel the Fear – And Bumble Recklessly Onwards Nonetheless

It’s brilliant being published – but it’s also a little bit scary. Don’t get me wrong - every nanosecond of that scariness is more than worth it, but (if you’re a bit of a blundering scatter-head like me) it can also be sort of . . . challenging.

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


"I feel strange after writing today. Like I have a blackbird in my stomach."
(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.

Last year, I interviewed Fiona after reading her assured and sensitive debut, ‘The Letters’. There was a delicious ease to reading that novel, a pleasure that I compared to sinking into a warm bath – although similarly lifted and illuminated throughout by Fiona’s deft, poetic voice, ‘Thaw’ is very different.

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.

"She is all curve and smooth skin. She looks like a seed or a bulb; if you planted her in dark compost and waited patiently, she'd burst into flower."
('Thaw, p.42)

Fiona is celebrating 'Thaw's publication with a unique, literary, internet experiment. From March 1st, she will be blogging the entire novel, for free, here!*

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 ...

*though I personally think it would be better not to wait. You can buy this beautiful book right now.