July is the month where I have met and listened to authors galore!
At the beginning of the month, I met three authors whose books I have never read. Some might call that shameful, that I would go and listen to someone speak about something I knew nothing about, others might call it brave, I call it broadening my horizons, expanding my book shelves and shrinking my purse!
So who were they?
Marika Cobbold – Born in Sweden and now living in London. Marika has ‘established a reputation for astute and acerbic romances’ (The Independent). Her latest, ‘Drowning Rose’, is about the terrible shadows cast by grief and guilt.
Marika was a delight. I loved listening to her talk and could have listened for a lot longer than the allotted hour. She took us through her new novel Drowning Rose, the book which does not seem to fit into a particular genre. (I have to confess to liking books that do that – I see it as a test for booksellers and the ilk) It was interesting to hear especially about the large influence that supermarkets have on books! Who would have thought, that they would be the ones pulling at the publishing world and dictating what was required.
I certainly cannot wait to read this book, and even started it whilst waiting for Marika herself.
Her background was fascinating and I was most interested in hearing what books she liked to read especially the fact that she read the Swedish translation of P.G. Wodehouse and could also remember it quite clearly! My question, to her – was it as funny and even when you read it in English? The answer – yes! Interesting to also learn about the business of translated fiction, and what can be lost in translation. Much it seems.
Thank you Marika for personally signing my book and making it unique.
Tom Campbell – Tom is the former cultural strategy manager to the Mayor of London. His highly entertaining first novel, ‘Fold’ is about five men who meet every month for a game of poker.
What a difference in style with this author. Tom read out some passages of his book, and what was read out reminded me of the Tony Parsons and Nick Hornby books I have read. The male perspective of what makes males not very nice characters. Although I think perhaps he might be too harsh.
Tom has explored the way men behave when they get together in almost pack form as wolves. Women seem to form roles, they can chat and have no issue and time passes. Men have to have a common purpose, in this case Poker, and the one upmanship that arrives, who has the better job, house, woman etc.
Questions from the audience I thought were interesting – why poker, why not something else? Many other activities gather men in a group. Can you play poker, and did it help with the book? The book was written in the slack time when there was a restructure at the Mayor’s office in London. Are we having to wait for another slack period before the next novel? (My question!) (No – his answer). Only one question about his time with the Mayor of London – was Boris a buffoon or really quite clever? Answer – if he was interested, he was interested, if he wasn’t well……
Read about Tom here in this article.
Vanessa Gebbie – Prize winning short story write. Her debut novel “The Cowards Tale” is set in a Welsh mining village, haunted for generations by a local pit disaster.
Vanessa is a writer, whether it is a few lines, short stories or a novel. Words are her business. This novel took a long time to write, in between her teaching, her short stories, judging and being Vanessa.
Vanessa read a very moving piece from her novel and having not read it, I was certainly moved to want to read it even more. She has drawn on her past, her childhood visits to her grandparents in Wales to bring to life something quite extraordinary. Memories are often made of food – and this talk from Vanessa was such. The Sandwich Spread sandwiches, jelly, tinned fruit and evaporated milk.
A new memory here, as to accompany Vanessa was a WI tea with a very Welsh theme; bara brith and Welsh cakes as well as sandwiches with the crusts cut off, and glorious cups of tea in WI cups and saucers. I wish I had taken a picture of the cups as alas I cannot find any online. The bara brith was just moorish and I am desperate to make my own, with butter spread on it as well. Read about Vanessa’s take on it here.
Vanessa has also sparked an interest in short stories more, something which for some reason I have not avoided but never ventured into before.
What a wonderful way to spend a Saturday afternoon with these three authors. Where was I – The West Meon Festival of Books. This is a three day festival held in the main at West Meon Church and the Village Hall. I have never been before but had seen advertisements about it and as West Meon is only about a 30 minute drive from me through beautiful countryside it was well worth the journey. I had also been tipped off about the WI tea as a must see – which was the catalyst for going really.
What a wonderful place, the church is to hold such an event. Beautiful wooden pews, with doors on the end, and little heaters inside each one. Needed on this particular weekend due to the rather inclement weather we have been having. The journey was rather interesting on the way there and back, and thank goodness for quiet country roads as I was invariably driving on the wrong side due to the depth of the puddles caused by the torrential rain.
The weather would have made it a much better day for many I feel. Not least the poor woman in the church doorway making sure you had paid etc.
The numbers were very small and an interesting range of ages in the audience. I am always fascinated by why they are there and what is their story as you never know the full picture. Something which Marika Cobbold touched on when she was talking about her writing, we never know the full story – books can give us that, the author can tell us everything.
The festival is run in conjunction and with the help of One Tree Books of Petersfield. One of the very few independent book shops in my local area. It is in its 3rd year, and I hope will continue next because I certainly want to go again, and learn about new authors, new books and perhaps some ones I already know about too!