I meant to use my next blog to cover a few hints on Finding Your Voice but the short list for the Shorter Romantic Novel Award elbowed it out of the way. (In case you didn’t know, the Romantic Novelists’ Association announced the short list for their suite of awards for romantic fiction last Monday.) For Libertà Books are sponsoring that award again this year.
As you may imagine, the whole hive are proud enthusiasts for the genre, both as writers and readers. So many, many congratulations to our short listers.
The Libertà Books Shorter Romantic Novel Award
A Will, a Wish and a Wedding, Kate Hardy, Mills & Boon True Love The Warrior Knight and the Widow, Ella Matthews, Mills & Boon Historical The Day That Changed Everything, Catherine Miller, Bookouture Second Chance for the Single Mum, Sophie Pembroke, Mills & Boon True Love The Return of the Disappearing Duke, Lara Temple, Mills & Boon Historical Cinderella and the Surgeon, Scarlet Wilson, Mills & Boon Medical Continue reading →
Reader work is a new concept for me. Reading, especially with Companion Cat purring beside me, has always been my purest pleasure.
Fact, fiction, annual financial statements, cornflake packets, I read them all. And I revelled in the otherwhere of the printed word, quite apart from whatever I learned from the text in question.
During lockdown, I have been reading even more than I usually do. Some old friends, for the dark times. Right Ho, Jeeves never lets me down. Nor does Sylvester. Or Wyrd Sisters, Fire and Hemlock, Persuasion…
But also new voices. Recommendations, serendipitous discoveries, long postponed titles from TBR pile, curiosities. All were interesting, many fitted my mood or preoccupations of the time. A few were utterly fabulous and I binge read everything else the author had written.
But what surprised me was that reading a new book tired me. Especially the ones that I really loved. Nearly as much as writing the damn stuff.
Reader Work – Co-Creation?
Think about it. Reading a new book is nearly as tiring as writing a new book? Continue reading →
This month I’ve been thinking about reading romance. Who does it? Why? When? And, well, what qualifies as romance? Troilus and Criseyde? Jane Eyre ? Anna Karenina? These Old Shades? Gaudy Night? Bridget Jones? Vikram Seth’s An Equal Music?
I’ve read them all and I’d say “yes but” to all of them. Many people, maybe most, would disagree with me on at least one.
On 3rd February the UK’s Romantic Novelists’ Association published its short list for this year’s awards. It’s the RNA”s 60th anniversary and this year there are nine categories.
My seven stories above would each fall into at least one of them.
Love is in the Air
And then there was St Valentine’s Day last Friday. That always brings out a flurry of saccharine fluff, embarrassing stunts and grimmish think pieces in the media.
Commercialism – shock, horror! Unrealistic emotional expectations from reading romance – fie, sir, write me a sonnet or leave at once! Head for the pub, lads, and fast. Continue reading →
The BBC’s recent 100 Books that Shaped our Worldhas started me thinking about comfort reads. What are they? When do we want them? Maybe even need them, indeed. What do they do for us? And how do we find them in the first place?
And is comfort reading a Bad Thing?
Escapism, after all, has got a bad press ever since the word was first coined, apparently in thirties USA i.e. at the height of the Depression. The Oxford English Dictionary defines escapism as “the tendency to seek distraction and relief from unpleasant realities, especially by seeking entertainment or engaging in fantasy.”
This month, rather to my surprise, I have found myself thinking a lot about romantic fiction and where it sits in readers’ lives. I write it, read it and love it, as regular readers of this blog will know. And there are some times in my life when nothing else will do. Not every romantic novel, of course. Maybe Persuasion. Or Sylvester. Perhaps The Morning Gift. Or…
Many readers would say that Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird was a book that changed the way they thought about the racial divide in the USA. Many more were brought to the issues via the film of the same name, starring Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch.
The recent publication of Harper Lee’s earlier book Go Set A Watchman received very mixed reviews: some questioned whether the book should have been published at all, given its history; others were shocked by the racism and bigotry of Watchman’s Atticus. Interestingly, Ursula K Le Guin wrote that Watchman, “for all its faults and omissions, asks some of the hard questions To Kill A Mockingbird evades”. Which brings us neatly to…
Kingsblood Royal — tackling the Mockingbird theme, but better?
Our latest Love Letter to a Favourite Novel is about Kingsblood Royal, a book many of us will never have heard of, by Sinclair Lewis — an American author some readers will not have heard of, either, even though he was awarded the Nobel prize for literature (and wrote Elmer Gantry).
Peter, our passionate reader advocate, believes that Kingsblood Royal is “a much more powerful analysis of American racism than To Kill A Mockingbird“. Reading Lewis’s novel, Peter adds, made him feel “uncomfortable in a way that Harper Lee never quite managed”.
Peter doesn’t argue that Kingsblood Royal should replace To Kill A Mockingbird in our schools but he does make a forceful argument that Lewis’s book should be better known.
Hive members are convinced. Do read Peter’s Love Letter and see if you are, too.
How many of us owe a lifelong love of a particular author to serendipity?
The kind of happy accident — in a bookshop, or a book sale, or perhaps even a hotel bedroom — when we pick up an author we haven’t heard of and start to read.
And ten minutes, or ten pages, later, we have the key to a whole new world and we are well and truly hooked.
New Love Letter to a Favourite Novel
Today’s new Love Letter is from a male reader (small fanfare of trumpet here for sex equality in reading!). David describes the effect of just such an unexpected discovery — a hitherto unknown writer who has since become a must-buy for him and an essential part of his reading landscape.
Just the thing to warm the cockles of every writer’s heart.
Back in the early 60s, theatrical criticism in Britain threw up its hands and resorted to love letters instead. The cause was Vanessa Redgrave starring in As You Like It, directed by Michael Elliot. She was 24 years old and luminous, with a voice that still pushes all those emotional buttons in the weekly Voice-Over to Call The Midwife.
Bernard Levin, a notoriously astringent theatre critic, wrote “If the word enchantment has any meaning, it is here,” and fell in love with her. Fifty-four years later, Michael Billington was still rhapsodizing about the performance in The Guardian.
The Award-Winning, Five-Star, Chart-Topper Delusion
In spite of his rhapsodies, however, Billington, a professional to his fingertips, couldn’t quite resist calling it “her gold standard Rosalind”. As if there were some sort of industry blueprint.
Amazon, with a star-rating system based on hotel comparator techniques, seems to be doing something similar. So do the bestseller charts. But, as (best seller) Patricia McLinn recently pointed out, sadly they can be manipulated, so they are not statistically reliable.
Sharing a Magical Journey
When someone recommends a book to me, what I remember is how they felt about it, not their measured assessment of the style, theme and content. I certainly don’t care if, after they’ve finished, they’d give the book ten out of ten or a patronising seven and a half for effort.
I want to know what it was like to go through the door into the world of that book.