Monday, August 21, 2017

Favourite Historical Fiction of 2016 for Young Readers

This article is from the Irish Times last December but I neglected to post it so here we go. Last December the newspaper's were full of lists of best books of the year but they were for the most part all about books for adults. I was kindly asked my author friend E. R. Murray to contribute some thoughts on my favourite children's books from 2016 as were a variety of children's authors and booksellers. Of course being me I focused on the books that presented history to children, because obviously history is my thing. You can see the article in full at the link down below. Here however is my contribution. 

Lisa Redmond
For younger readers The Moon Spun Round is a collection of Yeats poetry, folktales and childhood writing stunningly illustrated by Shona Shirley MacDonald and collected by Noreen Doody while Kate Pankhurst’s Fantastically Great Women who Changed the World is fabulous fun and full of facts, a great introduction to women in history. Fans of history aged 9 and upwards will adore the moving and wonderfully written Kings of the Boyne by Nicola Pierce and Arrivals by Brian Gallagher about Irish emigrants in Canada may be his best book yet while Caroline Busher’s debut The Ghosts of Magnificent Children is an assured blend of history and the gothic.
Young adult fantasy fans should track down Emily June Street’s The Velocipede Races, a steampunk adventure set in an alternate 19th century, and Passenger by Alexandra Bracken, a time travel fantasy, while Catherine Johnson’s Blade and Bone pits a young black doctor against racial prejudice and the danger of the French Revolution.
Lisa Redmond is senior bookseller at Waterstone’s

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Falling Creatures by Katherine Stansfield

When Shilly is taken to the hiring fair at All Drunkard and signed away by her father, she never expects to find love, but once she meets Charlotte Dymond she knows they have a special bond. Hired together by the gruff Mrs. Peter, they travel to Penhale Farm, where Shilly follows besotted in Charlotte’s footsteps as Charlotte teaches her about magic and superstition. Charlotte seems to attract attention wherever she goes and has a number of admirers in the locality, so Shilly can’t be sure who is the lucky recipient of Charlotte’s affection, but when Charlotte is found dead in suspicious circumstances, the locals have only one suspect in mind: Matthew Weeks, another hired hand on the farm. Shilly, however is not convinced and along with a newspaperman from London, a Mr. Williams, she is determined to find answers. It seems that at every turn they are met by lies and deception in this windswept lonely corner of Cornwall, and everyone has secrets including Mr. Williams and Shilly herself.
This is a masterful, mesmerising and haunting mystery full of gothic atmosphere and hints of the strange and supernatural. Based on a real murder mystery from the mid-19th century, Falling Creatures is a clever, heartfelt and very well-written story with a powerful narrative voice ideal for anyone who enjoyed Sophia Tobin’s The Vanishing, Andrew Hughes The Coroner’s Daughter and Anna Mazzola’s The Unseeing.

This review originally published in HNR Issue 81 (August 2017) see it online HERE

The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O.

The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. by Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland combines historical fiction, science fiction and a touch of magic

Renowned speculative fiction author Neal Stephenson and acclaimed historical fiction author Nicole Galland have collaborated on an intriguing project combining science fiction, historical fiction and a touch of magic. The result is The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O., a wickedly funny novel about the endless possibilities of time travel. The achievement is no mean feat when the authors have had to combine not just ideas but genres. However it seems that for them the desire to tell a great story outside of any thought of genre made the collaborative process a great deal easier.
“Happily we were generally always on the same page about what made a good story and how best to tell it,” Stephenson and Galland reported. “We’ve found it to be a pretty natural marriage of minds, since the story itself is a merging of scientific speculation and various historical periods. When we were on a book tour we joked about inventing anecdotes of conflict or tribulation just so we’d have something interesting to say about our process. It was really pretty organic and we both enjoyed it.”
It certainly seems that the authors had a great deal of fun with the book. They have used a variety of narrative techniques in the novel in order to capture the voices of a number of narrators from different time periods and with differing personalities; these include letters, diaries, emails, circulars and even at one point epic poetry. I asked them why they chose this format. “Several reasons. It lets us short-cut through what would feel like a lot of exposition. We’re following the show-don’t-tell rule. Also, the medium is sometimes literally the message. Instead of (for example) lengthy descriptions of the bloated bureaucracy that develops in the contemporary setting, you see examples of that bureaucracy – emails, after-action reports, personnel files, PowerPoint presentation. It’s the equivalent of a film cross-fade. Also, it was fun.”
The central premise of the book is that magic and science are opposing forces and so cannot coexist. The authors chose 1851, the year of the Great Exhibition, as the date when magic faded from existence; this is established through the research carried out by the main characters. I asked the authors why they felt this particular date was so significant. “The Great Exhibition of 1851 displayed, in one concentrated bit of space-time, the world’s greatest technological and scientific advancements – and therefore it makes sense that it would have an exponentially dampening (i.e. snuffing) effect on magic.”
This is a big book and the authors have put a lot of effort into creating numerous characters, government departments and the thoroughly realised historical eras that the various time-travelling characters visit. These visits gave the authors ample opportunity for culture clashes leading to misunderstandings, danger and even changing the course of history. Because the possibilities for adventure are really limitless with time travel I was keen to learn of any planned sequels and spin-offs. “If you’re asking about a full-length novel sequel, watch this space.” However if you have already read the book and can’t wait for the sequel you will be happy to learn that the authors have created an online hub. “There are already a few online historical “equels” to D.O.D.O. (not a sequel or a prequel, but stories that take place “off-screen” during the five-year span of D.O.D.O.), and these can be found at the URL They are written by other writers but we’ve vetted them and like them a lot.”

This article originally appeared on The Historical Novel Society Website. You can read the original here.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Lawless and the House of Electricity Blog Tour Guest post from William Sutton.

I am delighted to be involved in the blog tour for the latest instalment in the Campbell Lawless series of crime thrillers set in mid Victorian London, perfect reading for the Madwoman in the Attic. Thanks so much to William for the guest post he has provided here about Victorian advertising and to Lydia Gittins at Titan for sending me a copy of the book.

Lawless & the House of Electricity by William Sutton, third in his series of Lawless mysteries exploring the darker sides of Victorian London, is published by Titan Books, and features a mad woman in the attic, whose symptoms are all too Victorian.

Victorian advertisements beguile me. They speak volumes of the age, of its anxieties and its swindlers. Dr Batty’s Asthma Cigarettes For the temporary relief of paroxysms Not recommended for children under 6

You couldn’t make this stuff up. Well, you could, but the real examples are better. (View more on Pinterest.)
With all our vitamins, homeopathics and aromatherapies, you might think this is the age of dodgy medications, but you wouldn’t believe the things Victorians tried. In writing Lawless & the House of Electricity, I returned over and again to advertisements and other picture inspirations for two strands of the book: terrorism and illness.

A wonderful range of ailments is purportedly cured by Dr Williams’ Pink Pills for Pale People: “paralysis, locomotor ataxia, anaemia, weakness, scrofula, sundry ailments”. From this I derived diagnoses, more and less reasonable, for Lady Elodie, the mysterious absentee at Roxbury House.

Arsenical Soap was used to treat “disfigurements: blotches, blemishes, freckles, pimples and pustulance”. The fact that it was poisonous caused problems, and suspicious deaths accelerated through the mid-century. The Arsenic Act of 1851 did not stop the panic over poisonings, as seen in ITV’s drama Dark Angel.

I recommend you read further in Kathryn Harkup’s A is for Arsenic, which gives encyclopaedic detail on the myriad ways you may poison your loved ones (or your characters).

DIABOLICAL DIAGNOSES I got so inspired by all this, I wrote a ditty about it for the Writing Edward King project (hear it on Soundcloud), characterising the wild range of diseases that sent people to those daunting and magnificent asylums that sprung up around the country after the Asylums Act.

I’ll admit that scrofula and pustulance aren’t too common today (at least in Europe, though Dickensian concerns are often still operative in the wider world). But researching hysteria in Asti Hustvedt’s excellent Medical Muses: Hysteria in Nineteenth-Century Paris made me think twice before mocking Victorian medicine.
We may laugh at “strolling congestion, drawing room anguish, dissipation of nerves and imaginary female trouble” (genuine contributory factors cited upon commitment to a Victorian asylum). But if we mock Victorian diagnoses, what will today’s diagnoses look like in future?

Jon Ronson’s The Psychopath Test explodes the alarmingly arbitrary origins of today’s diagnostic criteria (psychologists using DSM, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). Perhaps we should think how today’s diagnoses will be laughed at in the future.
I resisted classifying Lady’s Elodie’s disease by modern criteria (depression, epileptic absences, fugues). It has more in common with the encephalitis lethargica of Oliver Sacks’ Awakenings and the catalepsy-lethargy-somnambulism of Charcot’s hysterics in the Saltpêtrière Hospital of Paris.
The pictures remind us that the past was once the present: laugh if you dare, but you will be laughed at in turn one day.

Follow these stars of Twitter and the blogosphere and the world of Victorian pics will open up: 1. My pictorial inspirations on Pinterest 2. British Library’s Open Source archive 3. Whores of Yore (Kate Lister @WhoresofYore). See especially her Word of the Day and Historical Hotties 4. Victorian London (Lee Jackson @VictorianLondon) 5. Wayward Women (Lucy Williams @19thC_Offender

Electric Blog Tour Day 1 (Tags: writing, Vic Pics, diagnoses, ads, inspiration, asylum, madness) 

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Blog Tour Warning

Just a note to say that on Monday I will be kicking off the Blog Tour for Lawless and The House of Electricity. This is the third instalment of the Lawless series by William Sutton. If you aren't already aware they are a superb series of crime novels featuring Sergeant Campbell Lawless; a Scottish born policeman based in the Victorian East End. All the stops on the blog tour are listed above. Check out more about the books and the author here.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Madwoman in the Attic #8 Anne Burke

Anne Burke was an Irish writer of Gothic novels. She was one of the first women to write in the Gothic genre. Anne Burke was a governess who after she was left widowed with a young son turned to writing to earn money, although she applied on several occasions to the Royal Literary Fund for relief. Anne Burke's books inspired Anne Radcliffe who was one of the most successful of the Gothic novelists. Anne Burke is considered to be part of the group of key Irish authors who popularised and developed the Gothic style of writing in the late Eighteenth Century and afterwards including Regina Maria Roche and Sydney Owenson
List of works
Ela or The Delusions of the Heart 1787
Emilia de St Aubigne 1788
Adela Northington 1796
The Sorrows of Edith 1796
Elliott or Vicissitudes of Early Life 1800
The Secret Of the Cavern 1805

Madwoman in the Attic #7 Elizabeth Dorothea Cobbe

Elizabeth Lady Tuite was born in Dublin in 1764, the daughter of Colonel Thomas Cobbe and Lady Eliza Beresford. She married Sir Henry Tuite the 8th Baronet in November 1784. She was a poet and a writer for children. She was the great aunt of Frances Power Cobbe and was said to have been a great influence on her. Lady Tuite's husband died in 1805 and she spent much of the rest of her life living in Bath. Lady Tuite's poetry was considered to be in the romantic style. She was one of the set who attended the literary salon of Elizabeth Rawdon; Countess of Moira who was also a relative. Her poetry was included in an anthology "What Sappho would have Said " by Emma Donoghue. She died in 1850.
Further information can be found in A Dictionary of British and American Women Writers 1660-1800 by Janet Todd and The Cambridge Companion to women's Writing in the Romantic Period by Devoney Looser. 

Monday, July 24, 2017

The Last Lost Girl by Maria Hoey

This is a debut novel published by Poolbeg under their new Poolbeg Crimson imprint which offers 'Fiction with an edge'.  This is the story of Jacqueline Brennan. Set in two time periods; the long hot summer of 1976 when Jacqueline's sister Lily disappeared and years later when Jacqueline returns to her home at Blackberry Lane to look after her aging father. We learn that Jacqueline is the youngest child, the misfit, the loner. Lily was the beauty queen, while middle sister Gayle was the homemaker, the peacemaker. Jacqueline's family have never been able to shake off the sadness, the mystery surrounding the unexplained disappearance of Lily and one by one they had scattered, all except for her Dad who had remained in the family home, stagnant. When Jacqueline returns it as though time has stood still. In 1976 Jacqueline had tagged along after her older, glamorous sister, never quite accepted, a nuisance. Lily had been seeing a boy who worked at the carnival and he had been questioned by police but no-one was ever arrested and Lily's body was never found so Jacqueline has always harboured the hope that her sister simply ran away that she is out there somewhere, waiting to be found. An old postcard of an English seaside town gives Jacqueline a clue about where to start her search but Jacqueline learns as much about herself and her place in the world as she does about her missing sister. This is a beautifully written book about family, secrets and growing up. It's a thriller but it's also very much a family story. Excellent writing. I found it unputdownable.

Thanks very much to Poolbeg for a copy. The Last Lost Girl is out now in paperback. 

The Upstairs Room by Kate Murray-Browne Blog Tour; The Books That Made Me

A gothic and chilling debut from Kate Murray-Browne about a young family; Eleanor, Richard and their two young daughters who have just moved into what should be their dream home in Litchfield Road. Stretched to the limit, the renovations have to wait and they decide to get a lodger in to rent the basement, so they can afford the repayments. Eleanor feels the strange atmosphere almost immediately and begins to suffer with chronic headaches and vomiting. Richard is also affected but he is channeling his unhappiness into a Masters Degree that he hopes will change his life, his career and help him find that spark that his current role as a solicitor doesn't give him. The lodger Zoe has quit her job to work in an art shop and left her long term boyfriend. She is hoping to write, or draw or something. She too is seeking change. The Upstairs Room is left empty. It's walls covered in scrawls and pictures from the little girl who lived there before. Eleanor asks the neighbours and they tell her there was an accident, something bad happened in that house. As Eleanor becomes increasingly ill and starts to see her older daughter's behaviour changing she knows she must do something. This is a dark and clever book which uses the tropes of the ghost story to examine the anxieties of three people worried about the cost of housing, about being trapped by marriage, by jobs, by reponsibilities. This book will be published by Picador on July 27th in e-book and hardback. Thanks to Don Shanahan for an e-ARC.

I asked the author to take part in my Books that Made Me Series and here are Kate's choices.

The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James – I first read this when I was seventeen, which is maybe why James’s young heroine ‘affronting her destiny’ appealed to me so much. But it stayed with me, and the ideas about choice, limitation and thwarted desire (not to mention the potential disaster of marriage proposals) all found their way into my first novel, The Upstairs Room.

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters – I read this on holiday in Mallorca, basically the least spooky setting ever, and I was still terrified. I remember feeling very sad finishing it because I thought it was one of the best books I’d ever read, but there was no way I could read it again as it was so frightening. I have braved it since (during daylight hours) and found the evocation of the house and its inhabitants just as compelling and poignant, marvelling at how skilfully Waters manages the ambiguity of the haunting.

Things I Don’t Want to Know by Deborah Levy – there are lots of wonderful things about this autobiographical essay, but the thing that stands out for me is the way Levy writes about motherhood – I thought about it a lot when writing about Eleanor, one of my protagonist’s, experience of motherhood. I’m incredibly excited about the forthcoming sequel, The Cost of Living (and I half-wanted to steal the title for The Upstairs Room).

The Blog Tour continues see banner for details

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Even more Jane Austen

There are a lot of articles on the web today about Jane Austen, an awful lot so I thought I would curate some of the more interesting ones for you. I am collecting these various strands together as much for myself as anything else since I am working on an article on Jane Austen and her literary legacy.

Irish Times: Writers on Jane Austen

The Guardian Podcast on Jane Austen with Sara Pascoe and Lucy Worsley

BBC Culture on Jane Austen's final unfinished novel Sanditon

The Guardian asked writers to discuss their favourite Austen novel

and so did The History Girls blog

Lit Hub article on Austen as a political symbol

Finally my friend Meabh wrote a lovely piece on the Jane Austen event we attended last Sunday. There's pictures.

Jane Austen 200

Today is the two hundredth anniversary of the death of Jane Austen and I couldn't let the day go unmarked. I attended a celebration of all things Jane, her life her works and the music, songs, dancing and costumes of the era with a group of fellow Janeites last Sunday. It was great fun and thanks so much to Aislinn Ní Uallacháin of Jane Austen Ireland for organising such a great event. You can like the Jane Austen Ireland page on facebook at the link below and see some photos from the event.

To celebrate the anniversary Rose Servitova author of The Longbourn Letters is running a special offer and the kindle edition of her book is now free for a limited time at the amazon links below.

UK and Ireland                                 USA

Monday, July 17, 2017

Corpselight by Angela Slatter Blog Tour

I am delighted to be involved in the blog tour for Corpselight by Angela Slatter which is the second volume in the Verity Fassbinder series. If you haven't already read the first book Vigil then get it and read it now, for your own good. This is a gritty urban fantasy set in Brisbane featuring Verity a half Normal, half Weyrd so she has a foot in each world but since she works for the Weyrd council she spends a lot of time dealing with Weyrd and weird stuff. Working for the Weyrd council is a bit like working for the city council only more dangerous and with greater probability of encountering tails and fangs. Verity is tough, brave, super strong, pigheaded, cynical, smart thinking and soft hearted. Imagine Phyrne Fisher transplanted to modern day Brisbane and clothed in doc martens, jeans and leather jacket except on top of all that, in this instalment Verity is also heavily pregnant. As Verity investigates mysterious drownings across the city and does some snooping for an insurance company she is targeted by some muderous kitsune and goes into early labour, luckily she is rescued by a mystery woman, who it turns out has a past very much entangled with Verity's. The storytelling is top notch; it's fast paced, wickedly funny and delightfully dark and the plot is never rushed, even though there is a huge amount of story and information conveyed. Each character is properly fleshed out and well rounded and there are twists that you just won't see coming. This is a perfect read for fans of Rivers of London or the Dresden Files or for any reader that likes their comedy razor sharp and their heroines daring, caring and devil may care.
The book is being launched in the UK/Ireland  and Australia simultaneously so the blog tour is international which is really exciting and includes many bloggers who took part in the blog tour for Vigil last year, because Angela Slatter is the kind of author that inspires fandom. Details of the rest of the blog tour are below, just click to enlarge and you can read my review of Vigil HERE

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Vanishing of Audrey Wilde Blog Tour

I am delighted to be kicking off the blog tour for The Vanishing of Audrey Wilde. The second novel from Eve Chase is another page turning gothic thriller that you won't be able to put down. There are shades of Daphne du Maurier in the themes explored here and I gobbled it up in a couple of sittings. This is a dual time novel focusing on contemporary protagonist Jessie who is desperate to leave London behind and give her family a new start. She sets her sights on Applecote Manor a beautiful house in need of love and attention in rural Wiltshire. Jessie is mum to toddler Romy, wife to Will and step-mum to teenager Bella, but she feels overshadowed by the ghost of Will's first wife Mandy and Bella seems determined to remind her of her loss everyday. Jessie hopes that escaping London can bring her closer to her prickly step-daughter. But there are shadows and secrets at Applecote too, the locals are reluctant to talk about it but there are rumours of the tragic disappearance of a child. The other strand of the story is that of the Wilde sisters in the 1950s. When their mum takes a job abroad they too leave London for Applecote. They are to spend the summer with their aunt and uncle who have become virtual recluses since the disappearance of their daughter Audrey. As the summer unfolds for Margot Wilde and the winter draws in for Jessie each of them begins to explore the story of the vanishing girl. This is a wonderful story, gothic, dark and yet full of hope and light. Beautiful storytelling, perfect for fans of Kate Morton and Katherine Webb.

The Vanishing of Audrey Wilde is published by Michael Joseph, in the UK and Ireland 13th July. Thanks so much to Gaby Young for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.

I asked the author to tell me about some of her favourite gothic novels and here's what she told me.

Gothic fiction – Eve Chase
The Vanishing of Audrey Wilde is published by Michael Joseph, 13 July.

The Monkey’s Paw by WW Jacobs was the first gothic story I remember reading, or quite possibly hearing – it’s embedded in that bit of childhood where books and stories spoken aloud are interchangeable, as vividly alive as an imaginary friend. (Children are naturally gothic creatures!) It’s about being granted three wishes and, of course, each wish having a terrible consequence. I was chilled and delighted by it: fear feels damn good when you experience it vicariously, tucked up safely in bed. I still think about that short story’s premise; the ultimate be careful what you wish for. Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray is another creepy story that’s stayed with me all these years. Not only because I’m a huge fan of the dazzling Wilde and will happily read anything he’s written, or because it works on many different levels – satire, gothic tale, a dilemma of deviance – but mostly because it’s an unbelievably cracking story. It is still modern. It still speaks to us. After all, who wouldn’t be tempted to sell at least some of their soul for everlasting youth and beauty? You wouldn’t? Really? Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca is also powerfully universal – the story of a second wife, haunted by the presence of the first - despite its Cornish setting and Maurier’s unique narrative voice. It’s inspired many other novels and writers, myself included, but has never been bettered. While we’re on the subject of mysterious terrible others, creaking houses and forbidden erotic thrills, I’ll confide that my teenage self (still alive and kicking, although my face, unlike Dorian’s, is now inhabiting a more distant decade) also has a soft dark spot for the novels of Virginia Andrews. The best one is Flowers In the Attic, a thrilling yarn of wicked mothers, grand estates and – oh joy! – incest. I tried to read it again recently but couldn’t – it felt like reading a diary of my own teenage years, something private, cringe-worthy and infinitely precious. Great gothic stories knit their narratives into your own life. And they make very reliable imaginary friends.

Copyright Eve Chase 2017
The blog tour continues for the rest of the week, details below.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Celebrating 200 years of Jane Austen

The 18th July this year will be the two hundredth anniversary of the death of a literary icon. Creator of some of the most memorable characters in English fiction, Jane Austen was a master storyteller. There will be celebrations among Janeites all year and all over the world but this weekend sees a celebration commence closer to home, in Limerick in Ireland which will continue until December. I am including the full press release below.



July 16th Austen Afternoon Tea & Talks at No. 1 Perry Square sold out. This event included an introduction to the select teas for the event provided by local tea-merchants, Cahills of Limerick. Serving of Afternoon Tea delights. Historian, Sharon Slater, gives a talk 'Tom LeFroy - Jane's Limerick Beau'."A few words about tea from Emma's friend, Miss Bates of Hampstead" performed by Vanessa Hyde. Presentation and talk from Sinead Ryan Coughlan of the Irish Historical Costumers on Regency Fashion (with model, Sinead Finegan). Melissa Shiels will sing two Irish airs that were found amongst Jane Austen’s music collection.

Other events include;
Culture Night, September 22nd(8pm) at Friarsgate Theatre, Kilmallock, Co. Limerick – a free workshop Historical Costumer & Workshop Presenter, Melissa Shiels, will give a very entertaining and informative talk entitle “Georgian Clothing, Customs and Material Culture”. Melissa will have many examples and recreations at hand for what promises to be a great evening.
September 23rd (2pm) at No.1 Pery Square – Austen Afternoon Tea & Talks – Speakers include editor & journalist, Tim Bullamore on “The Joy of Jane”, Kim Arnold presents a talk “Obstinate Headstrong Girl!: Maxims & Manners in the novels of Jane Austen” and we will have a presentation of men's fashion in the late 18th and early 19th century by the Irish Historical Costumers all accompanied by delicious afternoon tea treats and an occasional song. Attendees will also receive a customised keepsake.
October 5th sees two events facilitated by world-renowned period costume designer and Limerick woman, Eimer Ni Mhaoldomhnaigh. Eimer worked as costume designer for “Becoming Jane”, “Love & Friendship”, “Brideshead Revisited” and “The Wind that Shakes the Barley” amongst many others. Eimer will visit her former college, The Limerick School of Art & Design, to present an informative talk to students on working in theatre and film. That evening, at a public event, Eimer is guest at “An Evening with Eimer Ni Mhaoldomhnaigh” at the intimate drawing rooms of No. 1 Pery Square (7pm). Here she will have some of the costumes from “Love & Friendship” and partake of a Q&A session.
October 23rd 7.30pm– Oscar-nominated movie director and screenwriter, Whit Stillman will join us for a screening of Austen adaptation, the comedy “Love & Friendship” at the University Concert Hall, Limerick. Niall MacMonagle will host a Q&A session with Whit Stillman directly after the screening.
November 3rd (Friarsgate Theatre, Kilmallock) & November 9th (Belltable, Limerick) host New Zealand woman Penny Ashton’s world tour of “Promise & Promiscuity” in a humourous show as she tackles all of Austen's characters with song, dance and appalling cross-stitching. 
Other events include;
  • a talk by Sandra Lefroy on family connections to Austen and William Wordsworth hosted by the Limerick Chapter of the Irish Georgian Society.
  • a collaboration between Sound Heritage Ireland and the Irish World Academy of Music & Dance which will see a musical event of the era re-enacted in a Georgian setting.
For further details please check out our facebook page where links to events/tickets/websites will be available once finalised.

The curator of Jane Austen 200 is Rose Servitova the author of the Longbourn Letters and I asked Rose to tell me about why Jane Austen is such a big influence, why she decided to write a Pride and Prejudice inspired novel and why she felt that Limerick was the perfect place to celebrate 20o years of Jane. This is what she said.

How Jane Austen Inspired Me?
It was at my grandmother’s house on the foothills of the Ox Mountains in Sligo, during summer holidays, that I discovered my love of reading and there, I found all the classics including the works of Jane Austen. I fell in love with her writing and it has stayed with me since. For years, Pride & Prejudice was my comfort blanket - the book I went back to time and again whenever my life sucked for some reason or other. It was like being held, rocked and soothed. The familiar never bored me instead I sought it out whenever the bottom was falling out of my world and it held me together.
For at least ten years, the idea of writing some kind of tribute to Pride & Prejudice had crossed my mind but I had absolutely no idea what to write. Occasionally, Mr Collin’s diary sprung to mind and when I eventually sat down last year and commenced writing, I knew immediately that it would be disastrous. How could anyone read more than a few pages of his self-importance, deluded gibberish? Instantly, the solution came to me in the form of my other favourite character, Mr Bennet. Four letters existed between these two men in Pride & Prejudice so I would merely have to fill in the gaps and continue until it reached a natural conclusion. They contrasted with each other perfectly and gave me the opportunity to write some great dialogue and witty interaction. That is how The Longbourn Letters came about.  I laughed so much when writing it and I hoped that others would too. Because I love Austen so much and find her minor characters so brilliantly drawn, there was no need for me to go off-track but to stay loyal to her portrayal and hopefully add a bit more detail. Her clever, witty dialogue has influenced my writing greatly – it is what I seek out in other novels and hope to emulate in my own.

How I got involved in Jane Austen 200 – Limerick
Before The Longbourn Letters was published, I began connecting with Jane Austen fans and groups all over the world. I was amazed to see how many were organising celebrations for her bicentenary and, in particular, I was amazed that cities that did not exist 200 years ago were having dances, plays, talks etc… I thought ‘well done, guys’. I always felt that Limerick was a perfect spot to host a Georgian festival as we have the largest Georgian quarter outside of Dublin but when I looked into the Jane Austen angle, I found that we also had many connections with the author. As a qualified event manager and without wanting the bicentenary to pass unacknowledged, I decided to organise an afternoon tea and talks event to mark the occasion. A number of weeks later, I found myself curating a whole series of events running from July to December that include theatre, fashion, music, dance, literature, screen, talks/workshops and tea!! It’s great to see that other parts of the country are doing likewise with events  being held in Dublin, Cork and elsewhere.

Rose's book continues the story of the Bennets of Longbourn and Mr and Mrs Collins of Rosings through the letters between the two cousins; the taciturn Mr Bennet and the silly Mr Collins. It is a fitting and joyful response to the original. The perfect book to read this weekend as we celebrate Jane Austen and her legacy.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Blog tour alert

I am delighted to be kicking off the Blog tour for Eve Chase's new book The Vanishing of Audrey Wilde, check out the details below and watch this space on Thursday.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

The Irish Women writing YA Fiction and Making it their own

I wrote a piece which Children's Books Ireland kindly featured on their website, on the fantastic Irish Women who are writing Young Adult fiction. And as Louise O'Neill moves to riverrun the new upmarket crime imprint of Quercus Publishing, I mused who might take her place on the awards and bestseller lists. There is certainly no shortage of talented women to add to your reading lists. This article has been shared quite a bit on facebook and twitter so I  am delighted if it spreads the word. You can see it at the link below.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Lisa's Links, Lists and Inspiration

This is one of those blog posts in which I take to the internet to tell you about other people's great posts on other parts of the internet or to put it another way; here are some articles that I really enjoyed and I wish I'd written them. Anyway I'm currently attempting to edit an article I've written, editing the outline for my novel, working on the second draft of my novel, reading an imaginative time travel fantasy about magic and science. The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. and organising my daughter's birthday sleepover. So what better time to write a blog post?

Earlier this week I shared M. L. Rio's Books that Made Me so below is a link to a guest post that she wrote for the Waterstones blog (which I also occasionally write for by the way) in which the author writes about some of her favourite Shakespeare inspired novels.

If you haven't already done so you should check out today's Google doodle which features Victor Hugo. On this day in 1862 he published the final chapter of Les Misérables  learn more about the man and his work here

If like me you love reading books about books and books about readers then you will love this list from Off the Shelf which will give you another thirteen books to add to your wishlists and TBR piles.

If you are contemplating doing Camp Nanowrimo you can sign up on the site below but even if you aren't taking part you can read words of wisdom and encouragement from a whole host of great writers by checking out the author pep talks at the link below.

With a new version  of  My Cousin Rachel  just hitting our cinema screens there has never been a better time to re-read Daphne du Maurier's classic gothic masterpiece. Julie Myerson reviews both

I can never resist anything about the Brontës so the following two articles immediately drew my attention one is about the wonderfully successful Bradford Literature Festival and the other is about the influence of Branwell on his sisters' creative lives.

Finally some writing inspiration for the weekend I subscribe to the newsletter of the wonderful Nephele Tempest, who is an agent at The Knight Agency and every Friday she shares some writing inspiration so here are two of the articles she shared that I felt really spoke to the struggling writer in me.

Happy Reading and Happy Writing until next time.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Books that Made Me M.L. Rio

Today I welcome M. L. Rio to the blog to tell us all about some of her favourite books in this week's edition of The Books That Made Me.

The first book I have distinct memories of is The Hobbit. My mother read it out loud to me and my brother when we were too young to read it ourselves. It was what we did after dinner instead of having dessert, and we looked forward to it the same way other kids probably looked forward to ice cream or Oreos. I still have a soft spot for Tolkien, because he was the first author who really captured my imagination and invited me into a new world. Middle Earth, with all its mythology and all its tangible detail, was where I lived and got lost in the long afternoons of elementary and middle school. Sometimes I still go back to visit.
Around the same time I embarked on The Lord of the Rings on my own, I discovered Shakespeare in my parents’ library. The first play I read was The Comedy of Errors, and though it’s not the best play, I immediately wanted more. I tore through the Complete Works, and by the time I turned thirteen I had read every play and every poem, most more than once. A year later I appeared in my first Shakespeare play—I was Feste in Twelfth Night—which only fueled the fire of Bardolatry. I was captivated by the language. It’s so rich and complex that ten years later I still discover new things hidden between the lines every day. You might say Shakespeare is my muse. His works have not only been the focus of my graduate degree but the inspiration for my first novel, If We Were Villains (which takes its title from my favorite play, King Lear). Miraculously, I’m not any less in love with Shakespeare now than I was when I read him for the first time.
Like Shakespeare, John Knowles had a significant impact on my reading and writing habits. I first read A Separate Peace in a sixth grade English class (I was eleven), and then proceeded to re-read it almost every year that came after. It was my first campus novel, my first war novel (in a way), and the first novel that really upset me. Up until then, I hadn’t realized that fiction could be so unfair. I had grown accustomed to happy endings and moral absolutes and Knowles ripped the rug out from under me. It is a brutally beautiful book, and it will always have a place on my shelf, wherever in the world I may be.

M.L. Rio is the author of the phenomenal thriller that everyone is talking about this summer If We Were Villains, it's been compared to Donna Tartt's The Secret History and has won widespread critical and popular acclaim. Available now from Titan Books (UK).

Monday, June 12, 2017

Widdershins Blog Tour The Books That Made Me

As part of the Blog Tour to celebrate the release of Helen Steadman's first novel I asked Helen to tell me about some of her favourite books as part of my new series The Books that Made Me. Helen responded with three of her favourites from her teenage years and insists that she must have been a contrary young reader as they are rather surprising choices for a writer of historical fiction, nonetheless as the wonderful Meg Ryan said in You've Got Mail "When you read a book as a child, it becomes a part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your whole life does" So on with the books.

The Books Made Me: Helen Steadman The Teenage Years

1984 by George Orwell
‘Nothing was your own except the few cubic centimetres inside your skull.’
This was the most striking book I had ever read, and I don’t think any other book has ever had the same effect on me since. It was the first time I’d read a book underpinned by such enormous ideas. Sinister concepts like thoughtcrime and newspeak were terrifying, as was the totalitarian setting. This book made me think about the world in a different way. It should be compulsory reading for everyone.
Mort by Terry Pratchett
‘Alligator sandwich,’ he said. ‘And make it sna—’
One Saturday afternoon, I found a Discworld book lying in a puddle of beer in the Haymarket, a much-missed Newcastle watering hole. I was a bit bored, and it didn’t seem appropriate to whip out my knitting, so I read the book. It was hilarious and I was immediately hooked on Terry Pratchett. Of all his books, I have a soft spot for Mort, because I love Death as a sandwich artist. Finally, I owe Terry Pratchett because it was in his Discworld books that I first heard the word ‘widdershins’.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
‘Man, when you lose your laugh, you lose your footing.’
This book broke my heart when I first read it because it was so shocking that people should suffer like this, and it was my first real inkling of there being such a thing as mental illness. Beyond the shocking and upsetting subject matter, though, was Kesey’s writing. It was unlike anything I’d ever read previously, making me feel as though I was inside the head of someone mentally ill. He also captured language perfectly, so it felt very real and immediate.

In case you missed my review of Helen's outstanding book you can find it HERE

Thanks so much to Helen for taking part in The Books That Made Me 
Helen's book is published by Impress Books and thanks to Natalie for an early reading copy
The blog tour continues details below.