Authors In October – Girl’s Night In

October has been the month of authors for me – and I met another 4 on a miserable, windy and damp Thursday night at Portsmouth Central Library as part of the Portsmouth Book Festival 2012. The theme was ‘Girl’s Night In’. So what better way to fill it, than with four female authors, female readers (well done to the solitary male there!) and also some pampering as well, provided by a local college. My only disappoint was the state of the room we were in, it really needs a good paint and to be made a bit more welcoming, but I soon forgot about that once I was listening.

Before getting down to the Author panel you could have your ‘nails’ done for free. It would have been lovely, but when you swim as much as me, it hardly lasts at all, so I did not take up on this offer. However, many did. Perhaps next time?

So in this line up were Adele Parks and Emily Barr having both published 12 and 11 books respectively and Morgan McCarthy and Emylia Hall who are debut novelists. You could say a good mix and contrast of authors. One of the library staff (I did not catch her name) introduced all four authors and then had some various questions which sparked comments and discussion from all of them.

Adele Parks who was the most funny and delightful lady I have heard speak for a long time. Adele spent time in advertising (this seems to be a popular past life for authors?) before she finally got down and got one of her manuscripts published. She has been writing as a child charging her granddad 10 pence for her stories, so entrepreneurial at such an early age. It was a start that perhaps she needed and now she is a full-time author who produces a book a year. Apparently she can be a devil to live with once she is getting to the end of the writing process but she does enthuse about meeting all these lovely people – the readers!

What does Adele Parks read? Anything fiction but interestingly she is currently reading The Spy Who Loved: The secrets and lives of Christine Granville, Britain’s first special agent of WWII by Clare Mulley. A non fiction book, and one which inspired Vesper in Casino Royale. It sounds an interesting book. Adele also adopts the 100 page challenge, if a book does not capture you within the first 100 pages then put it down. Life is too short, and there are too many books out there. I have yet to try it and still I slave on.

Adele’s latest novel, Whatever It Takes is about Eloise who decides to uproot her family to go and live near her in-laws in Dartmouth, who she knows will make an extended family a pleasant thing. But what Eloise does not count on is her mother in law developing Alzheimer’s and suddenly being the one to hold it all together.

Emily Barr, looks to Adele Parks as her big sister. They share an agent as well as a publisher (all the authors have the same publisher – Headline) and Emily is one book behind in publishing terms. Emily started her life as a journalist and had a mad idea to go backpacking for a year and then send copy back to the newspaper as she went. They said yes and three weeks later she was off. Whilst she was gone, her childhood of writing and reading carried on and she found that by the time she got back, she had a novel and so made the decision for it to be published. And Backpack was born. And the books continued as does her own reading.

What does Emily Barr read? The latest book is Sue Townsend’s The Women who Went to Bed for a Year which I think was a secret dream for Emily. She may have to wait until the time is right though. A funny book which Emily would recommend.

Emily’s latest novel Stranded is a book where a group of people including Esther Lomax who is escaping from a broken marriage, are thrown together and end up visiting a small remote island and when their tour guide has to pop back to the mainland for something, they find he does not return.  As the days go by, has someone there actually instigated this abandonment?

Morgan McCarthy is a debut novelist, who went through some trying times to get published. In fact she came across a male agent who said that the book would never work as she wrote a male protagonist and that she was female. Ironically enough, it obviously has worked but Morgan McCarthy is a pseudonym. Another author who was scribbling since she was a child and decided that she would like to make it her living.

What does Morgan McCarthy Read? For pleasure Morgan likes to read anything by Michael Cunningham, especially The Hours and highly recommends them.

Morgan’s novel The Other Half of Me, sounds an interesting read, especially to me who has a great love of stories with big houses or estates in them. Jonathan and his sister Theo, are rattling around in a big house making their own adventures in their own world. Their mother an alcoholic takes no care of them. But then this force that is their grandmother arrives and with it secrets start to tumble out and make believe is no longer the world for these two children to live in.

And finally on the author panel we have Emylia Hall. Another debut novelist who also stems from the world of advertising. Someone needs to investigate why authors come from this background! She spent much time reading and writing as child and only when she spent two winters in the alps working in a chalet did she feel that maybe words were the way forward for her and it was time to realise that ambition. From that with some hard work and living on the bare minimum to achieve it; The Book of Summers was born!

What does Emylia Hall Read? She has picked up Terrace in the Sub by Cecil Roberts, and what has started as something lovely in the French Rivera has gone back to Nottingham all of sudden, in a jarring manner and Emylia is not sure if she can finish the book or not. It was here that Adele mentioned the “100 page” rule and it was something that Emylia was going to give thought to. Like me she always wants to see a book through to the end!

Emylia Hall’s debut novel The Book of Summers was reviewed on this blog back in August and I tentatively gave the link to the author through the medium of twitter, who loved my review. So it was great to be there and hear Emylia talk about it. I did buy the book again (my copy was a review copy) and asked for it to be signed, and mentioned that I followed her on twitter and she delightfully remembered my review and said she loved it and thank you very much!

And that is how the evening ended, with the opportunity to have any books signed by the authors. So armed with all mine; 4 – and apparently heavy book buyers are those who buy 4-5 a year! These people with these statistics have obviously never ventured into my flat or seen the many blogs that are written about books!

A great event and one I enjoyed immensely. Adele Parks spotted me beaming whilst sat in the front row and commented when she signed my book. And so I continue to beam…….


3 thoughts on “Authors In October – Girl’s Night In

  1. I would have enjoyed the opportunity to be there with you. 4-5 a year, what a joke, I have purchased that many in the last month!

  2. Ahem – I’ve purchased that many in the last two days. Portsmouth seems to be a Mecca for authors, lucky you.
    Yes there have always been lots of authors who had previous lives writing adverts. Dorothy Sayers, Salman Rushdie, Fay Weldon… to name a few.

  3. Lovely post, thoroughly enjoyed your evening vicariously, thanks for sharing your experiences with us. 4 to 5 books a year? Excuse me while I die laughing…

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