Show 044: August 2011

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August is always a slightly emptier month for me, though there are several events to mention. On the 21st I’m hosting a poetry writing day at Hebden Bridge Library , one of the Calderdale Writers’ Roadshows, and running a workshop on sonnet writing.

And on the 27th I’m at Rochdale Library running a workshop with Rochdale Writers and launching the Co-operative Prose competition, ‘with one accord’

Further ahead in September from the 2nd to 4th I’m at the NAWG [National Association of Writing Groups] conference in Nottingham, which is a residential weekend devoted to workshops and tutoring on a variety of writing styles and genres.

Book review

The Sunday Philosophy Club by Alexander McCall Smith

The Sunday Phiosophy Club
The Sunday Philosophy Club is first of a series of novels by Alexander McCall Smith, based in Edinburgh around the character of Isabel Dalhousie. McCall Smith a former professor of Medical Law, seems to manage to write a book about every six months.

We know him from his No. I Detective Agency novels, here he has moved from Botswana to describe an Edinburgh mostly hidden behind Georgian facades. Nothing much happens in his books, and this book is no exception. But it’s the situation and characters that we love. Isabel is at a concert in the Usher Hall when she sees someone falling to their death from a balcony and she knows that he’s been pushed. The beat of the novel is her search for the truth. The novel is full of lovable and interesting characters; there is Isabel’s niece Cat who runs a café, Jamie, Cat’s ex, who Isabel is very attracted to, and Grace, the dour and very funny housekeeper.

In McCall Smith’s books there is always a moral dilemma involving characters we wish were our friends.


Here follows an edited extract from an interview with women’s fiction author Adele Parks

I had a grown up job looking after the advertising for a management consultancy I was always whizzing around the world on a plane, and I had this long held secret ambition to write a book. I found a great escape in my novel writing. It also coincided with a sad time in my life when we lost a lot of family, and it was a wake up call to really get going on things I had always wanted to do.

Playing Away’ was written as a reaction to Bridget Jones’ Diary, which I adored, I thought of that audience as my audience, but I didn’t want to write about a single heroine. So I turned it on its head and wrote about a hard to like married woman, with itchy feet. It had elements that I knew would appeal to the same kind of audience as Bridget Jones.

I don’t know ho I manage a book a year. At first it felt like a job that I do, but this years been trickier where I’ve released a hardback and a paperback, and I‘ve also been on the jury for the Costa Book Award where I read 68 books in a row. I thought it was the best job ever, and then the books arrived. It was hugely overwhelming and I felt the responsibility of judging other writers’ works. It was great fun but like doing my degree all over again.

I write every day, I’m very disciplined. You can’t write eleven books in eleven years without being disciplined. I work to a word count every day otherwise things can slip. I mustn’t grumble because I’ve always wanted to be a writer, but there are books I love writing and hold very dear, and yet sometimes the books that are the biggest struggle to write can be the biggest success. I try not to set them all in the same place and to write about different issues. I’ve written about bigamy, reality TV and all sorts of themes. I sit down with a theme and try and set in different places from Whitby, to LA, to Italy and Blackpool..

I have gorgeous fans, and because I write contemporary romance with attitude, people feel that they have a connection with me. Fans pay the ultimate compliment by coming to see me up and down the country. I’ll be travelling all a round the North on a tour very soon, and meeting real people is a genuine pleasure.

Last Night’ came out in June, its about two girls who’ve been best friends since they were eight. I’ve wanted to write about women’s friendship for a long time. It’s wonderful and supportive, you’d walk over hot coals for them, but when it goes wrong…….

Pip and Stephanie have been friends for ever but in the week of action that the book takes place in their different lives flip, and things go up for Pip just as they start crashing for Stephanie.. Their friendships morphs in one week and we don’t know how it will survive.

There are loads of books that I admire. Within the genre I’m writing in it’s impossible not to acknowledge Jane Austen for her intelligence and her wit, she was the first to give the small concerns of our domestic life a platform. I love Evelyn Waugh’s ‘Vile Bodies’. He trusted in the reader’s intelligence to make connections, which I hope I do in my writing.

Poem of the Month

I’ve been thinking about the past recently, since an old university friend contacted me and uploaded some old photographs of me and friends onto Facebook. This is a poem about the flower shop I remember from my earliest time in Leeds and the woman who owned it. It’s called memorial.