Saturday, 24 September 2016

Book Review - Underground Airlines by Ben H Winters

Underground AirlinesUnderground Airlines by Ben H. Winters
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this fast paced, well written book by Ben H Winters. As the first of his I've read I will certainly be looking into other work by him. The dystopian world he creates in which slavery is still in existence is so skilfully crafted you could almost imagine it to be true. Winters shows great imagination and a flair for imagery, scene setting and character development.
At first I found it a hard novel to get into but that might be because it is not the kind of novel I usually go for. I think if you like crime or thrillers or psychological dramas, then you won't be disappointed in this one.
You might ask, then, why I didn't give this a full five stars. It was simply because I seemed to become aware in shift in the voice of the narrator. I'm not sure if this was intended or just imagined by me, but I wasn't convinced at the start of part two if I was following the exact same protagonist I'd set out with at the start of the novel.
That said, I'm sure this will be a winner with many readers. I recommend it.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

The SI Leeds Literary Prize - Shortlisted!

While casually doing a send and receive of my emails, and chatting on the phone, I discovered that I was on the shortlist for the SI Leeds Literary Prize!

Well the conversation I was having fell by the wayside; I was hyperventilating, having trouble with my speech and getting blurred vision. I had to hang up. I read the email over and over - I'd read it right. For the first time ever, I was on a shortlist.

The email came on a Saturday and on the following Monday I was due to join the rest of the other five shortlisted writers for an author Q&A and reading at Rich Mix Cultural Foundation! I was so nervous on the Monday the only meal I had was breakfast and for someone who gets hungry and eats every few hours, that's a big deal.

The other five people on the shortlist were fabulous writers and the work they produced sounded exceptionally good. I'd love to read them all one day.

Writers to watch out for!

This is the shortlist. (The first on the list is about to be published so look out for it!)

Dark Chapter – Winnie Li
Deadly Sacrifice – Stella Akinade – Ahmadou
Marmite and Mango Chutney – Amita Murray
Our Staggering Minds – Harkiran Dhindsa
Recognising Strangers – Jamilah Ahmed
When Skies Are Grey – Fran Clark

Image result for main space rich mix cultural foundation
Our readings and Q&A took place in The Main Space at Rich Mix

The SI Leeds Literary Prize

The SI Leeds Literary Prize is the prize for unpublished fiction by Black and Asian women resident in the UK aged 18 years and over.  Everything about the SI Leeds Literary Prize aims to act as a loudspeaker for Black and Asian women’s voices, enabling fresh and original literary voices from a group disproportionately under-represented in mainstream literary culture to reach new audiences.

We will be at another event at Southbank on 9th October as part of the London Literature Festival  

And the actual 2016 Prize Award Event is at Ilkley Literature Festival on Wednesday 12 October at 7.30pm

Can't wait.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

My #Writing Plans

Writing a novel is hard. Trust me on that. All those weeks and months of writing and re-writing is enough to turn anyone ga-ga. And not necessarily in a good way - because I'm assuming there is such a thing as "good" ga-ga.

So anyway, I'm well on my way with writing projects under my pseudonym but I haven't yet made plans to write my next novel as me quite yet. That might be because the ink hasn't quite dried on When Skies Are Grey and I have yet to start the daunting task of finding an agent or publisher or deciding about self publishing for this one.

But it got me thinking about what goes in to writing a novel and how I need to get my mind going when an idea finally comes.

A Sense of Purpose
I had very definite ideas about what I wanted to say in both Holding Paradise and When Skies Are Grey. They were both set in more or less the same era and I wanted to go down a path in recent history that, although taken many times, gave meaning to the things I learned about those days and stayed with me from childhood.
So in the same way, I need to think about what my goals are for my next book, what I want to achieve, what message I want to put across and how I want my reader to feel after reading my novel.

My Leading Player
For both of my last novels my main protagonist was female. I have to decide if I want to do that again this time. As a woman I assume I will give a female character depth and greater appeal. But having said that I have written in the voice of men too and it is something I could explore to a greater extent. (I'm reading a book in which a white man narrates as a if he were black and I'm totally convinced).
Most importantly my protagonist must have purpose, they must have desires or goals and something about their character must drive them to do the things they do. What will my protagonist learn by the end of the book, if anything, and how will they change? So much to consider.

Plotting a Path
Whatever my story is and whoever my characters, I have to make sure everything hangs together with a good plot. I know I'll need to think up some top notch conflicts for my protagonist and the odd obstacle to prevent them from reaching their goals easily. All of this should bring life to my character and move the story along.

Dear Reader
Most of all I want to make my reader happy. After although we write the books we want to read, we love for others to read and enjoy our book, so I'm going to think hard about my cast of characters; make them jump off the page if I can.

If I can do all that I might just have a good novel up my sleeve and have a fantastic time writing it ... until the re-writes of course!

What's your writing process when writing a novel?