Friday, 9 December 2016

Revisiting the Triskele Lit Fest 5/5: Preserving the Unicorn

The last session of September's Triskele Lit Fest was the intriguingly-titled "Preserving the Unicorn," a conversation with literary authors and their editors, chaired by Catriona Troth.

Participants Sunny Singh, Alex Pheby and his editor Sam Jordison, and Rohan Quine and his editor Dan Holloway talked about their influences and inspirations, and the process of editing a literary novel.

A discussion that roams from Dante's Inferno to Freudian psychoanalysis, Martin Scorsese to Gustav Klimpt, A Clockwork Orange to Dick van Dyke (in the space of one sentence!), and Derrida to Salman Rushdie.

Watch the full panel here:

Part way through, Alex Pheby throws out a challenge to the audience. "No one ever comes back to me on this," he says. "I dunno," says the chair, "I know some of this lot." On the day, we ran out of time to follow through on this, but audience member, Orna Ross (who had been on the Hist Fic panel earlier in the day) did come back with the series of questions for Alex. We are hoping to persuade him to respond to those questions in Words with Jam in the New Year.

You can watch all the videos from TLF16 on our YouTube Channel.

Rohan Quine is a writer of literary fiction with a touch of magical realism and a dusting of horror, celebrating the beauty, darkness and mirth of this predicament called life, where we seem to have been dropped without sufficient consultation ahead of time.

Publications: The Imagination Thief (novel); The Platinum Raven, The Host in the Attic, Apricot Eyes, and Hallucination in Hong Kong (four novellas); and the upcoming Beasts of Electra Drive, now barrelling down the pipeline.

Rohan's editor, Dan Holloway is a poet, novelist, journalist, editor and performer. Dan loves the writing and research process but comes into his own when given a microphone. He is the rabble rouser in chief of The New Libertines, who have been touring the UK’s festivals and fringes since 2011. In 2010, he won the international spoken prose show Literary Death Match and competed at the 2016 UK National Poetry Slam Final at the Royal Albert Hall.

He also runs the editing and copywriting business Rogue Interrobang, working with academics and non-fiction writers.

Sunny Singh is an author and journalist. She also teaches creative writing at London Metropolitan University.

One unusual aspect to the development of her novel, Hotel Arcadia, was the role of Sunny’s Dutch translator in the editing process.

Sunny was born in India, and has lived in Pakistan, Spain, South Africa, Latin America and the US.

Alex Pheby was born in Essex, but moved to Worcester in his early childhood. He currently lives with his wife and two children in London, where he teaches at the University of Greenwich. Playthings was described as "simply a superb novel" in the Literary Review, "compelling" in the Guardian, glowingly reviewed throughout the UK press, and shortlisted for the 2016 Wellcome Prize.

Alex's Editor, Sam Jordison is a journalist, publisher and writer. He is the co-director of award-winning Galley Beggar Press. He writes for The Guardian and TLS. He is the author of several works of non-fiction, his latest is called Literary London and is co-written with Eloise Millar.

The panel was chaired by Catriona Troth, who is a member of the Triskele Books author collective and the author of two novels, Ghost Town and Gift of the Raven. She writes regularly for Words with Jam magazine, where she has particularly enjoyed interviewing authors like Sunny Singh, Leye Adenle,  Michelle Innis and Myles E Johnson.

Friday, 2 December 2016

Revisiting the Triskele Lit Fest 4/5: Historical Fiction Panel

The fourth of our five panels at the Triskele Lit Fest focused on Historical Fiction.

Our panelists' novels cover a huge spectrum, both geographically and chronologically - from 3rd Century Syria to early 20th Century Ireland, from the Partition of India to the Roman Empire re-imagined in the 1960s.

Here you can watch novelist Jane Davis talk to Orna Ross, Radhika Swarup, JD Smith and Alison Morton.

Next week: Preserving the Unicorn - literary authors and their editors.
And you can listen to our earlier panels (Sci Fi, Crime and Romance) on our YouTube channel.

Orna Ross writes novels, poems and the Go Creative! books and is Director of the Alliance of Independent Authors.

After the Rising and Before the Fall are the first two of a trilogy of novels set in Ireland during the early 20th Century.

Her Secret Rose is the first of her trilogy about the poet WB Yeats.

Alison Morton writes Roman-themed alternative history thrillers with strong heroines. Three of the series, Successio, Aurelia and Insurrectio, have been selected as Historical Novel Society’s Indie Editor’s Choices. Aurelia was a finalist for the prestigious HNS Indie Award for 2016. The first four books have been awarded the BRAG Medallion.

A ‘Roman nut’ since age 11, Alison has misspent decades of holidays clambering over Roman sites throughout Europe. She holds a MA History, blogs about Romans and administers the HNS Facebook group.

Jane is the author of the HNS Indie Award 2016 finalist Tristan and Iseult and The Overlord series, comprising The Rise of Zenobia, The Fate of an Emperor and The Better of Two Men. The Rebel Queen is due out in early 2017

She is a member of the Triskele Books collective, editor of the writers' ezine Words with JAM, and the readers' review site Bookmuse.

She is also an award-winning book cover designer.

And she loves cake. Just in case you were wondering.

Radhika Swarup spent a nomadic childhood in India, Italy, Qatar, Pakistan, Romania and England, which gave her a keen sense for the dispossessed. She read Economics at Cambridge, following which she worked in investment banking before turning to writing. 

She has written opinion pieces for Indian broadsheets and the Huffington Post as well as short stories for publications including the Edinburgh Review.
Where the River Parts is her first novel.

The Historical Fiction panel was chaired by author, Jane Davis. Jane is the author of six novels, including the historical novel, I Stopped Time. Her writing has been compared with Kate Atkinson and Maggie O'Farrell.

Friday, 25 November 2016

Revisiting the Triskele Lit Fest 3/5: Crime and Thrillers

The third panel at the Triskele Lit Fest on 17th December was Crime and Thrillers.

Here you can watch Ben Cameron in conversation with Kate Hamer, Adam Croft and Chris Longmuir. Ever heard of Grip Lit? Know what Devil's Porridge is? Find out here!

The conspicuous empty chair on the right belongs to Nigerian author, Leye Adenle, who at the last minute was prevented from joining us. Catriona Troth caught up with him a little later, and you can read her interview with him here.

Next week: Historical Fiction. And you can also watch our Sci Fi and Fantasy  and Romance panels.

Adam Croft is a British author, principally of crime fiction, best known for the Kempston Hardwick mysteries and Knight & Culverhouse thrillers as well as his 2015 worldwide bestselling psychological thriller, Her Last Tomorrow, which became one of the biggest selling books of the year with over 150,000 copies sold in the first five months.

His books have sold more than half a million copies around the world, and in 2016 he was featured by The Guardian as one of the biggest selling authors of the year, and regularly takes part in discussions and panels on publishing and the future of books.

Chris Longmuir is an award winning novelist. She is best known for her Dundee Crime Series, featuring DS Bill Murphy. Night Watcher, the first book in the series, won the SAW (Scottish Association of Writers) Pitlochry Award, and the sequel, Dead Wood, won the Dundee International Book Prize, as well as the Pitlochry Award. 

Kate Hamer grew up in Pembrokeshire. She did a Creative Writing MA at Aberystwyth University and the Curtis Brown Creative novel-writing course.
She won the Rhys Davies short story award in 2011 and her winning story was read out on Radio 4. She has recently been awarded a Literature Wales bursary. She lives in Cardiff with her husband and two children.
Her debut novel, The Girl in the Red Coat, was a Sunday Times top ten bestseller. Her second novel, The Doll Funeral is out in 2017. You can read our review of it on BookMuseUK.

The Crime and Thrillers panel was chaired by Ben Cameron. Ben is the Founder and Managing Director of Cameron Publicity and Marketing. He has over 20 years experience in book publishing, promotion and sales with both traditional publishers and self-published authors. Ben is also a well-regarded speaker and writer on publishing and contributes to The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook, Writing Magazine, The Huffington Post, The Self-publishing Magazine and others.

Friday, 18 November 2016

Revisiting the Triskele Lit Fest 2/5: Romance Panel

On the second panel from the Triskele Lit Fest 2016, four very different authors discussed Romance writing with Triskele Books member Liza Perrat. What classifies a book as 'Romance'? Can men write Romance, and what happens when they do? And what are the secrets of their writing craft?

Watch the whole panel here!

With Carol Cooper, Sareeta Domingo, Charlie Maclean and Isabel Wolff.*
(With apologies for the poor quality of sound for the questions from the audience)

This time next week: Crime and Thrillers. And you can watch our Sci Fi and Fantasy panel here.

Carol Cooper is a doctor, journalist, and novelist. She writes for The Sun newspaper and teaches medical students at Imperial College.
After a string of trade-published non-fiction books and an award-winning medical text, she chose self-publishing for her fiction debut Night at the Jacaranda. Her latest novel, Hampstead Fever, came out in June. Her novels are all about Londoners looking for love, and they’re laced with inside medical knowledge.

 Sareeta Domingo was born in Camberwell, South East London but spent her formative years in Bahrain, when her family moved there for her father's job. She currently works as a senior editor at a creative book packager by day, and squeezes writing into her mornings, evenings and weekends. She writes reviews of contemporary romance titles on her blog, The Palate Cleanser.
The Nearness of You is her debut novel.

Unforgettable, Charlie Maclean’s sparkling debut novel, is a captivating contemporary romance set in present-day London with an irresistible Sliding Doors concept. National press coverage, rave reviews and an award-shortlisted cover looks set to make it one of the breakout books of 2016. This literary-romantic drama is Charlie Maclean’s first full-length novel. He studied English Literature and Law before working in public relations and business. Charlie is currently writing the screenplay for Unforgettable and working on his next novel, another romance, this time set in the seaside city of Brighton and Hove.

Isabel Wolff is a former BBC radio reporter whose ten bestselling novels include Rescuing Rose, Behaving Badly, A Vintage Affair',and Ghostwritten, all published by HarperCollins. Isabel lives in London with her family.

The Romance Panel was chaired by Liza Perrat, A Triskele Books member, Liza grew up in Australia, where she worked as a nurse and midwife. She has now been living in France for 20 years, and writes historical novels set in France and Australia, and reviews books for Bookmuse.

(*With apologies for the poor quality of sound for the questions from the audience.)

Friday, 11 November 2016

Revisiting the Triskele Lit Fest (1/5): Sci Fi and Fantasy

On 17th September, 2016, the Triskele Lit Fest kicked off with five authors talking about Sci Fi and Fantasy. Chairman Jack Wedgbury explored their love for the genre, their inspirations, the secrets of their writing practices and more with Felicia Yap, CS Wilde, Jeff Norton, Eliza Green and Yen Ooi.

If you weren't able to join us on the day, here is your chance to watch the full panel!

Come back this time next week to see discussion with Romance authors Sareeta Domingo, Carol Cooper, Isabel Wolff and Charlie Maclean!

The Authors

C.S. Wilde wrote her first Fantasy novel when she was eight. That book was absolutely terrible, but her mother told her it was awesome, so she kept writing.
Now a grown-up (though many will beg to differ), C. S. Wilde writes about fantastic worlds, love stories larger than life and epic battles. She also, quite obviously, sucks at writing an author bio. She finds it awkward that she must write this in the third person and hopes you won’t notice.

Eliza Green tried her hand at fashion designing, massage, painting, and even ghost hunting, before finding her love of writing. After earning her degree in marketing, she went on to work in everything but marketing, but swears she uses it in everyday life, or so she tells her bank manager.
Born and raised in Dublin, Ireland, Eliza lives there with her sci-fi loving, evil genius boyfriend. When not working on her next amazing science fiction adventure, you can find her reading, indulging in new food at an amazing restaurant or simply singing along to something with a half decent beat.

Felicia Yap grew up in Kuala Lumpur. She read biochemistry at Imperial College London, followed by a doctorate in history (and a half-blue in competitive ballroom dancing) at Cambridge University. She has written for The Economist and the Business Times. She has also been a radioactive-cell biologist, a war historian, a Cambridge lecturer, a technology journalist, a theatre critic, a flea-market trader and a catwalk model.
Felicia lives in London and is a recent graduate of the Faber Academy's novel-writing programme. Her debut novel The Day After Tomorrow, a high-concept thriller, will be published by Headline in 2017.
Jeff Norton is an award-winning author, writer-producer, and founder of AWESOME. His books include the high-tech ‘MetaWars,’ the comedic ‘Memoirs of a Neurotic Zombie,’ and the best-selling ‘Princess Ponies.’ He is an Executive Producer on the hit pre-school show ‘Trucktown’ and has shows in development with DHX, Amazon, and Nickelodeon.
Previously, Jeff worked at Chorion Ltd where he acquired and developed new projects and ran the Enid Blyton literary estate. Before moving to the UK, he produced the award-winning ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ movie featuring William H. Macy and FrankieMuniz.

Yen Ooi is a reader and author, and a publishing consultant. She holds postgraduate degrees in English Literature and International Business. Having enjoyed a vibrant career in music touring, education, and management, Yen started writing in 2008. She has had various publications since then: a novel, Sun: Queens of Earth; a collection of short stories, poems and illustrations, A Suspicious Collection; and short stories and poems published in other collections. She hopes to explore further the role of fiction in understanding humanity, inspecting what it is that drives us forward in our lives.

Chair of the Panel

The Sci Fi panel was chaired by Jack Wedgbury of Troubador. Jack Wedgbury is a Production Controller for Matador. Jack graduated from De Montfort University in 2015 with a first class degree in Creative Writing and English Literature. He was awarded the Creative Writing Portfolio Prize for his final year project. In his spare time he enjoys reading, writing and travelling.

Friday, 4 November 2016

Winner of our Big 5 Competition!

We're super delighted and hugely excited to announce the winner of our Big 5 mentoring competition today!

Drumroll please ....

The winner is SOPHIE WELLSTOOD for her novel

Congratulations, Sophie! Sophie now gets to enjoy a whole year's mentoring with Triskele Books, starting with a full-on structural edit in the capable hands of Catriona Troth. We're excited to have Sophie on board and look forward to working with her on this project to see her book blossom and mature towards full publication.

Your first thoughts, Sophie?

"Competitions are an integral part of my work as a writer. They provide structure, deadlines, purpose, and disappointment. My focus for years has been short stories and poetry, and this year I finally made the longlist of the Bath Short Story Award, and cried. But I want to write novels too, and started drafting the seeds of this story five or six years ago. I finished it in its current form last year - six full re-writes, 30k words chopped. Another 30k added then chopped again, and so on. Then I began the grind of subbing to agents. How competitive is it out there? Unbelievable. Everyone who wants to write commercially knows how important it is get that one breakthrough, that one ‘yes’ that might get them a toehold into the mainstream. Winning this competition is a real validation that all those hundreds of hours obsessing over words, and that the special kind of madness writers have, to be honest, is worth it. I’m so, so happy - and relieved - that all my imaginary friends are at last going to be set out in the world. I hope people like them. There are many more to come. Thank you all so much. Sophie."

Chapter 1

Valentine’s day. A bitter, sunless day; the sort of London day when the sickly light does not change from dawn to dusk, a day when abandoned foil balloons float across sleet-sodden clouds, when collars are turned up and heads bent down, a day when even the pigeons shiver and shrug and retreat beneath railway arches and guttering. 

I stood in our hallway.

Chris held onto the front door, bare feet tippy-toeing on the tiles. ‘So look after yourself, yeah?’ she said. ‘Take care. I’m -’
‘Sorry, I know.’ I leaned in for a final kiss. She offered me her cheek. ‘The keys. Come on, I need the keys.’ She put her hand out. ‘Look. If it all goes tits up you can always - well, there’s the sofa - .’
‘Gosh, thanks.’
She put the keys in her back pocket, folded her arms. ‘Babe. You’ll be fine. All that cash - the world’s your oyster. The sky’s the limit.’ 

I heard a car horn, a couple of thuds of a bass line, a door slamming. I turned to see a bespectacled young woman opening the back of a jeep and lifting out a rucksack. Then a plant. Then a guitar. 

 ‘Perfect,’ I said. ‘Out with the old, in with the new.'

JUDGE'S REPORT by Sheila Bugler

(inc a mention of second place runner-up White Stock by Gill Thompson.)

Judging a writing competition is pleasure and stress in equal measures. Pleasure because it’s such a treat to read a range of good writing and discover new voices. Stress because how on earth do I choose just one winner?

I really enjoyed all the entries for the Big Five competition. The short-listed entries were really well-written and engaging. In each case, I genuinely wanted to read on and find out what happened next. Every story was unique and the mix of characters and settings kept me thoroughly entertained.

Choosing a winner is never easy. The final decision is always subjective and I hope everyone who made it this far in the competition remembers that. It is a real challenge to get the opening section of your novel just right - to find that fine balance between interesting characters and a plot that draws you in and makes you want to keep on reading. Every writer short-listed for this competition has found the right way to start their story. Every one of you should feel rightly proud of how well you have done this.

But, as always, there can be only one winner. I read each entry several times and made my choice on the simple basis of which one I enjoyed the most, which story and characters stayed with me the longest. In the end, that choice wasn’t too difficult. Although I genuinely enjoyed every piece of writing, the one that stood out for me – and, therefore, the winning entry - is The Sky is a Blue Bowl.

Written in the first person, the story centres on Blodwyn (Wyn) Parry-Jones. Wyn’s life is a mess. She’s lost her job, her girlfriend has just dumped her and ‘a glistening millionaire’ has taken over running the country. With nothing to lose, Wyn decides to leave her old life behind and fly to the other side of the world to visit Edith Flowers, an old friend of Wyn’s grandparents.

The contrast between Wyn’s old life in North London and this new world of hot summer grass, insects and bird song is vividly portrayed. Edith Flowers – a plain-speaking, booze-drinking, ‘silver-haired Amazon’ – is an utter delight. I wanted to be out there in New Zealand with these two marvellous women, drinking Edith’s wine, eating her food and watching the moths ‘batter themselves against the light.’

In short, I loved the opening pages of this novel. The writing is light and effortless. The characters are brimming with life; the description of place, the atmosphere that’s created and the smells and sounds and sights of New Zealand are all pitch-perfect. More than anything, the distinctive voice of Wyn Parry-Jones is a delight. I cannot wait to see the finished version of this novel and find out how Wyn’s and Edith’s stories play out.

Before finishing, I’d also like to mention White Stock, which was a very close second. The opening section begins with two (non-fiction) quotes from Gordon Brown and Kevin Rudd, both apologising for the devastating impact on the lives of children sent from the UK to Australia as part of the UK’s Child Migrant Programme. After that, the plot focuses on the lives of two characters: Molly and Kathleen. Molly and her son Jack are living in Croydon in 1940, their lives increasingly torn apart by the bombs falling over London and the south-east. We then meet Kathleen a year later in Perth, Western Australia. She is stuck in a loveless marriage and yearning for children she can’t have. This is a very strong novel and I hope to read it in full sometime very soon.

My heart-felt thanks to every short-listed writer for sharing your unique story with me. Writing a novel is a very difficult thing to do. It takes hard work, dedication and a lot of self-belief. Most of all, you need talent and this is something you all have. Please keep on writing and don’t give up until you get to where you deserve to be.

Friday, 28 October 2016

Triskele Author Feature - Liza Perrat

Once in a while, we like to remind ourselves of why we're an author collective. Five individuals in three countries bound by a love of writing. People often ask how it works, but rarely why.

Here's the first in our Author Feature series, on why we appreciate Liza Perrat.
Liza’s Bone Angel trilogy captures moments of upheaval in French history – the Revolution, the Nazi Occupation, the Black Death. But we view them through the lives of ordinary people – the people largely forgotten by the history books. - Catriona Troth

Jane Dixon Smith: As a huge fan of history, and a writer of historical fiction myself, I love getting lost in Liza's work. For me she invokes a real sense of era and I love how she's adapted to different centuries in her Bone Angel series, from a French village during the 1348 Black Plague, to the French Revolution and WW2 Nazi-occupied France. I found the descriptions and setting of Lucie-sur-Vionne particularly vivid and real; unsurprising as it is based on a real rural village, Oradour-sur-Glane. When you begin to flick back and forth between centuries, reading stories based in the same village, you suddenly realise just how much history these places have seen, and when you look at them through fresh eyes. They don't just hold a story they are most remembered for, but many other stories too. Liza's work really made me realise just how rich the past is. A great achievement.
What readers say about Spirit of Lost Angels:
“This was definitely a book that will leave you swirling with emotions ... I would definitely recommend the book as a suspenseful and historical tale of a women. Liza Perrat weaves a great story and if you are into historical fiction this a book just for you!”

“The character betrayals are very strong and realistic as are descriptions of the locations. A well-researched novel from this début author who writes in a way that will draw you in, especially if you are a fan of historical fiction.”

“The author has researched the period meticulously and effectively evokes the spirit of the age, whether she is writing about life in a French village or in the melting pot that was Paris in the revolutionary era. Liza Perrat is particularly strong when writing about the role and lot of women at the time. She also cleverly weaves well-known incidents, such as the diamond necklace affair or the storming of the Bastille, into Victoire’s story. This is a compelling and vivid story with strong characterisation, and I can recommend it highly to anyone who likes historical fiction.”

Gillian Hamer: Liza’s writing was one of the first historical fiction books that I remember reading in the online writing group where we met. I fell in love immediately with what was to become Spirit of Lost Angels, loving how she evoked the sense of time and place in her writing. Some aspects of the story echoed with what I was writing at the time, and I remember being so impressed by the ease she seemed to create her chosen world. She has a fluidity to her prose that is almost lyrical, especially in descriptions and sensory details. Her characters come to life, big and bold and ready to star in the production. I’ve learned a lot from reading Liza’s novels over the past decade about myself and my own writing – that in itself is an invaluable tool for a writer.

What readers say about Wolfsangel: “Liza Perrat's writing is full of passion and realism, the reader is drawn into the action and becomes part of the village from the opening chapters. The lead character; Celeste, has many difficult situations to deal with during the course of the story - her predicaments and her decisions are harrowing at times and leads the reader to consider how one decision can change the course of a life. Entwined into the story are true events, and it is this that adds authenticity and also the shock factor. The brutality of war, and of human behaviour is laid bare by the author who is not afraid to include the full horror of events that really happened.”

“Perrat draws the village characters deftly and highlights the high level of resourcefulness, inner strength, and sometimes lies, that were essential if you were to survive. It was a tension-loaded read. We know from education and reading other work that it was dangerous, often fatal, speaking and acting against the occupying forces; you had to be exceptional to attempt these. We have read stories of deportation and execution, so we know the worst that could have happen. Yet I was still on the edge of my seat reading Wolfsangel.”

JJ Marsh: It's no surprise we work so well as a team. We liked each other's writing long before we ever met. Liza's sensuous use of language has taught me a lot, and her emotional engagement with our work makes us focus on our strengths. If we under-use our talents, she gives us a swift kick. Her attention to detail shines in her own writing and she insists we do the same. I can point to lines, images, characters and scenes in my own books which owe their origin to Ms Perrat.

What readers say about Blood Rose Angel: “I can't begin to describe how much I enjoyed reading this novel. It caught my attention from the very first page and held me in its grip until the fabulous ending … If you like tales with strong, determined, and moral women at the helm, then this tale is sure to please. There is never a dull moment as the story unfolds and I can honestly say that it is unputdownable. This is a must read for those who love medieval historical fiction. You won't be disappointed.”

“What I like about this author’s writing style is the way in which she allows both characterisation and plot to have equal importance, with neither one attempting to outshine the other. The medieval setting comes gloriously alive, with all the sights, sounds and smells of the medieval world, and yes, also the petty indifferences, which are so reminiscent of this dangerous time. However, Blood Rose Angel is also inhabited by vibrant and memorable characters who take command of their story and as they leap fully formed onto the page, we are allowed a tantalising glimpse into the intricacies and sadness of their daily lives.”

“It’s beautifully written and the dialogue is a joy too, which is rare in historical fiction. But it’s definitely not all sunshine and the sweet scent of lavender and beeswax. It’s set during the Black Death and the medical passages are spot on (couldn’t resist the pun) as are the midwifery details … I won’t divulge the story any further. Suffice to say there are some harrowing scenes, though I’m glad to report that Perrat delivers a satisfying and uplifting ending. Now I’m definitely going to read her other books.”

Catriona Troth: One thing I have always loved about Liza’s writing is her capacity to evoke the way landscape changes with the seasons. Whether she is writing about rural France in the middle ages or present day Australia, her gift for observation and her ability to see the world with fresh eyes immerses us in time and place.

Find Liza online: