Tag Archives: novel

I’mHappyNow.com

imhappynow

This week Selfpublishbooks.ie sat down with Diarmuid Hudner, author of Imhappynow.com, a story of three young people who come together to overcome being bullied through the website of the same name, a site free to access here. I asked Diarmuid if he has always been writing:

“I have been writing since I was very young. I used to write poetry for a local newspaper from around the age of 15. I wanted to study English at University but at that time in Ireland it was very difficult to find any job and I ended up studying business and going abroad afterwards. I have always regretted it because it took me nearly 15 years to get back to doing what I always knew I should be doing. But I kept my hand in by writing articles for financial magazines like Investment Week and Money Marketing.”

Imhappynow.com is a huge success, as signified by Diarmuid’s upcoming radio interviews and global audience. I asked him to give a brief introduction to the book. How long was it in the works? How did it begin?

“This book is a very different move for me,” Diarmuid says, “I had just finished another book called When Leaves are Falling, which was a historical fiction novel and was already half way through a World War I book when the idea for this one came into my head. I couldn’t seem to get rid of it so I stopped what I was at and started ImHappyNow.com. I had it sitting on the shelf for a year before I decided I better start doing something about it.

“I must have been born old because I love all the historical fiction classics like Jane Austen’s books,” he says, “I find them very romantic and chivalrous. I’d live back in that time if I could!! Probably though the book that made me decide to be a writer was F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. It was able to capture the whole era of the “roaring twenties” and I loved some of the lines he had: ‘When he kissed this girl he knew his mind would never romp again like the mind of God.’ Nobody writes like that anymore.”

It seems Diarmuid has always loved writing: “For some reason it always put me at ease,” he says, “I’m a bit of a loner too so it suits my disposition!! I tend to actually write poetry for “kicks” but would never consider myself a poet. I started actually by writing a screenplay as I never thought I’d have the patience to write a novel but once I started it came naturally enough. Fear is the biggest thing that holds us back I think. Sometimes you have to just jump and hope you remembered to bring a parachute!”

I asked Diamuid what he enjoyed writing the most in Imhappynow.com and why: “I enjoyed the self reflection that was needed in order to write this type of book which was difficult in its own way. I had to question myself alot about how I was living my life and the level of happiness I had or hoped to have. It deals with some very raw issues such as bullying, alcoholism, suicide and self harming so it was traumatic in its own way. It’s actually a very simple message that you and only you are in charge of your own happiness.

“Meeting people with very different kinds of problems from self harmers to those who had attempted suicide was also a great learning curve for me and the realisation that fundamentally we all think the same and are searching for the same thing. Probably the biggest plus of the whole experience was to actually make the fiction book a reality by developing a website called Imhappynow.com to offer hope to anyone who is finding things a little difficult by seeing that they are not alone.”

Diarmuid explained that he had to carefully search the market before choosing self-publishing:

“I was Chairman of the Doneraile Literary & Arts Festival and I was running some workshops and began talking to more and more people who had gone down the self-publishing route. I have learned from my days in business that the market always decides and self-publishing has arisen from the traditional publishing world becoming a very closed sector. I looked at the statistics and weighed everything up before I decided to go down this route. It was daunting as I had two offers from publishers to publish my book but decided to self publish anyway as I felt I was more in control. Twenty percent of the top ten bestsellers last year were self published so it has established itself in its own right.

“It was daunting at first but I took very much a business approach to it. I researched the companies who were in the industry, got quotes and examples of their work etc. It is important to keep in mind that they are not editors or marketers of your book. That is up to you so you really have to work out whether you want to make your book commercial or not. If so then you have to figure out the process of achieving that. I think you get what you put into it but if the desire is there then help seems to appear.”

I asked Diarmuid how he found the finished product from Selfpublishbooks.ie – was it as he had imagined?

“I was hugely impressed by Selfpublishbooks.ie and the lady, Sharon, that I was dealing with there. She was very efficient, helpful, informative and professional. She must also be very patient as I can be a bit of a pain to deal with I’d say!! The graphic designer, Shelley O’Reilly, was excellent too in taking the concept of my book and making it a reality. Overall I would highly recommend Selfpublishing.ie and will be back to them with my second book.”

What’s next for Diarmuid? “Well I’m developing the website imhappynow.com which goes in tandem with this book at the moment so that’s keeping me busy. I have another book finished, When Leaves are Falling, which is more of a Jane Austen-type book and more natural to my writing style I think. I half to begin the painful job of editing that which is a “cobweb growing over face” experience but it has to be done. I have to finish the World War I book and then I might do a follow up to this one so no holidays again for me this year!”

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My Watchmaker’s Time by Joe Clarke

Watchmakers Time A5 CoverHR

Joe Clarke’s first novel, Mirrors Don’t Tell Lies, was almost 6 years in the making having undergone a series of rewrites in the process. His latest publication, My Watchmaker’s Time, followed along in a similar vein although taking a year or so less to complete. This week I had a quick chat with Joe about his new novel from Selfpublishbooks.ie.

“Once finished I had no real ambition to publish either works but subsequently gave in to family promptings,” Joe said, “I felt, at the time, that something as beautiful as the written word, especially in book form, was a fitting legacy and I am very proud of what I have achieved thus far.”

Following on and prior to his early retirement Joe also dabbled with poetry, writing scores of poems along the way.
“I love the simplicity of telling complexed stories in just a few rhyming verses,” Joe admits, “Occasionally I target the humour of topically funny stories via my email inbox or headline banners and make them real. I believe that poetry is as complicated or as simple as the writer cares to make it. I have written poems about life, death, love and hate with more than a sprinkling of adventure thrown in. When I eventually reach the milestone of having written 250 poems I will then seriously consider publishing them in their entirety. Prose versus Poetry is such a tight call for me simply because both play such a huge part in my life. I’d say the one starting with the letter ‘P’ wins hands down.”

 

What was it in this second novel that kept him engaged? “I really enjoyed writing My Watchmaker’s Time as it gave me the opportunity to think outside the box, steering away from the conventional,” he maintains, “The novel is made up of a series of short stories spanning centuries. It revolves around the life of Bryan Barnett, a pretty regular type of guy, who must seek his redemption through a series of tasks set up by a Higher Power. My favourite chapter tells the tale of Abe and Lucy, a pair of young ambitious hopefuls, during the great ‘Californian Gold Rush’ of 1849. Their original naivety in searching for gold saw them swiftly change direction when they accidentally struck rich. Setting up a series of hardware stores throughout the States brought more wealth than they at first had imagined. It’s a gripping story of rags to riches that more than just pulls at the heart strings. Really one to enjoy!”

 

How does My Watchmaker’s Time compare to Mirrors Don’t Tell Lies? Joe pauses on this. “To stand back and compare both books is very difficult to do, given their diversity. Aesthetically, both compare equally well although I will always have a special fondness for my first book, which is understandable, I suppose. I would like to once again thank Selfpublishbooks.ie for making my words come to life in the form of an exquisite book. Special thanks go to Shelley O’Reilly for the fantastic work done in producing such a stunning cover. Huge thanks also to my wife Terry for her support throughout. Without all of your help it would be but just a dream.”

 

So what’s next for Joe? “I am currently working on my third novel, The Case of the Missing Letter, a detective story with many twists and turns. It’s shaping very good at the moment but is still someway from completion. When inspiration isn’t there, you know, it just isn’t there and right now I am in that place, time for golf? I have no doubt that a few weeks away from the computer and on the golf course will do the trick, yet again. Funny old game this writing!”

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Don’t judge The Bell Jar by its cover

Faber’s new cover for The Bell Jar may be garish, but if it finds a new audience for Sylvia Plath’s novel then who cares?


This post is reblogged in full from The Guardian website and is written by Sam Jordison.

It may have first come out 50 years ago, but The Bell Jar still causes controversy. The anniversary has seen all the old arguments and enmities boiling over again, but this book strikes such a nerve that even a new cover can start a row.

Writing on the LRB blog, Fatema Ahmed pours scorn on Faber’s “silly” 50th anniversary edition, calling it a woefully inappropriate attempt to rebrand the book as chick lit. She quotes the always reliable Twitter feed from Melville House asking: “How is this cover anything but a ‘fuck you’ to women everywhere?” and Andy Pressman, a graphic designer, who derided the new cover as “awesomelycomicallyhistorically inapprop” and said: “And by ‘historically’ I mean ‘incorrect on a scale of which we have few historical precedents’, not ‘That typeface didn’t exist in that era’.”

There is a strong argument against the new design. Ahmed says:

 

“The anniversary edition fits into the depressing trend for treating fiction by women as a genre, which no man could be expected to read and which women will only know is meant for them if they can see a woman on the cover.”

 

I can see where she’s coming from. That is indeed a depressing trend. And the cover does indeed look a bit like those other garish covers that supposedly only appeal to women. While I’m notching up the negatives, there’s also the simple fact that the original cover by Shirley Tucker is a thing of great beauty: a timeless classic that is to the new cover as a single-malt is to tar water.

But, here’s the thing. This latest edition has sold truckloads. The official figures aren’t out yet, but Faber have assured me it’s doing the business. There’s no evidence that this cover has ostracised a potential part of its audience, but there is already some that it has helped the book reach a new generation of readers.

Okay, this is an inexact science, and perhaps those sales should be attributed as much to the 50th anniversary publicity and renewed interest in the author as they are to that garish red cover. But the fact remains that the book is selling – and quite possibly reaching a new audience, as Faber claim is their exact intention. Hannah Griffiths, publisher of paperbacks at Faber, says they were aiming for a more “welcoming package” in the belief that “there is a reader for this novel who could enjoy its brilliance without knowing anything about the poetry, or the broader context of Plath’s work”.

Of course, as soon as anyone picks it up, breaks the spine and reads that first sentence they’ll know they’re in for something different. “It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.” Hardly Sophie Kinsella, is it? I even quite like the idea of someone mistaking the book for a sexy summer beach read and falling headlong into Esther Greenwood’s cruel world.

What’s more, those actually reading the novel – rather than judging the cover – may even see something in that blood red, in the queasy glamour of the 50s model checking her makeup, in the serious face in the mirror. It certainly conjures up a time and place, a sense of nausea and introspection. The novel’s Esther Greenwood would probably mock the new design mercilessly, but that too seems appropriate. Perhaps it’s right that she is at odds with the world in which she finds herself and the way she is presented? Perhaps this new cover isn’t quite so silly after all?

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Interview: Olwyn Hughes, Sylvia Plath’s literary executor

Ted Hughes’s sister tells Sam Jordison how misrepresented she feels the story of her sister-in-law’s death has been


The following post is reblogged entirely from the Guardian online.

I spoke to a number of Plath biographers and friends after speaking to Elizabeth Sigmund (including Al Alvarez, Carl Rollyson and Ronald Hyme). They confirmed the substance of what she said – in particular, that Plath had not wanted The Bell Jar to go out under her own name while her mother was still alive. Elizabeth also produced a scan of the letter from Charles Monteith explaining that Faber was unaware that those were Sylvia’s wishes.

However, since it was almost 50 years after the event, and Faber were consequently unable to supply any further information, it became clear that the only person who really knew about the omission of the dedication to Elizabeth and her husband from the 1966 edition was Olwyn Hughes. Fortunately, she agreed to speak to me and set down her side of the story.

The following conversation comes verbatim, from my notes. I would just like to add that in spite of the force of many of her words, that Olwyn seemed good-humoured and peculiarly charming. It might help if you imagine the following spoken in a warm Yorkshire accent:

I want to ask about the name change on The Bell Jar?
She [Plath] was very worried about it because she thought it was going to upset her mother. It was a nightmare for her, actually. She got quite paranoid about it towards the end. And then she was disappointed when it came out and it didn’t have a very good press.

Sorry, I meant the decision to actually use her name?
The decision to use her name was taken after her death, when everybody really seemed to know it was by her. Her friends all knew. There seemed no point in not publishing under her own name.

I’ve been speaking to Elizabeth Sigmund …
Oh God, have you? I mean gabble, gabble, gabble, gabble … Has she some new stories for you?

She was telling me about the dedication.
She [Plath] dedicated it to Elizabeth and her husband, because she didn’t want the London lot to know – you know, her real friends. She didn’t know Elizabeth very well, you know. Although according to Elizabeth … Anyway, we’ve had enough of Elizabeth … [Goes on to suggest that Elizabeth Sigmund’s accounts of events were not always reliable.] What has she told you?

She was saying she was left off the 1966 edition …
Oh yes, that was a Faber error. She thought that was a terrible plot of Ted’s. I don’t know what that was about. It was just Faber left it off. These things happen in publishing.

She also said that she was sure that Sylvia Plath never wanted it published under her own name.
Well, yes. She didn’t want to upset her mother. What it tells, The Bell Jar, is a watered down version of her own breakdown. And that was also very painful to her – quite apart from the fact that there’s a passage in the book that’s rather unpleasant for her mother to read, about the mother’s snoring or something. Sylvia got very het up about the book because I think it was so self-revelatory. In a way she liked that – and in a way she didn’t.

That’s certainly what I think happened with Ariel – her whole trauma, her father’s death upsurged. I think writing The Bell Jar provoked that … And all that traumatic material that came up in Ariel. I think it caused her a lot of aggro. She was a very agonised lady. She had to battle to live every day – as you might glean from The Bell Jar. When I read it after she died, I just wept.

But people don’t realise. They didn’t then, even. She didn’t always show how troubled she was – but she had no inner calm at all. The Bell Jar deals with the beginnings of the trouble. Then she spent the rest of her life dreading its return.

Oh God.

The nonsense that has continued to be written about the story is shocking to me. Sylvia wasn’t the innocent victim, or half so helpless as she’s been made out to be. You just have to look at some of her poetry. She was just nasty in the last poem about her husband and father [“Daddy”]. She was vicious and I think a bit crazy. I watched her going through her torment and it was agony. But Ted was so taken with her. I don’t know why. I don’t know how she did it … Especially because I don’t think that she could control the negativity in herself. You’ve got to remember the venom that Sylvia dished out.

I don’t think anyone has taken into account how injurious the rubbish that’s been written about her has been. What the feminists don’t take into account was how much psychological trouble she was in. She was a very difficult woman with a very difficult personality. She was horribly unjust both to her mother and to Ted. And I’m sick of reading that he left her for Assia – that’s all you get whenever his name is mentioned. Assia. But Ted didn’t walk out.

It was actually a friend of Assia’s who told Sylvia. She rang her up and thought maybe she was helping her, or wanted to warn her, or something, I don’t know. But this person had no idea how on edge Sylvia was. That she wouldn’t be able to cope with this information. And so when Ted next went down [to their house in Devon] she was in a rage and threw him out.

I wish the newspapers would get it right. He didn’t even know that Sylvia would find out about Assia. He’d done everything he could to be very discreet. It was just one of those things … And of course Sylvia, when she did hear about it, it reminded her of all her terrors about abandonment and everything else. She wouldn’t listen to anything but separation and divorce. But he didn’t leave her for Assia. That’s just not true. He was actually staying on friends’ floors in London until he got a little place by himself. He certainly wasn’t living with Assia.

Oh and she took all the money out of their bank account. She was a monster actually.

So what about changing the byline. How was that decision taken?
What people want after they’re dead. That just goes. And nobody was going to be able to keep the secret about who wrote the book for decades. Besides it was a very good little novel.

She was disappointed when she was alive – she was worried about the Jennifer Dawson’s novel The Ha-Ha – which was similar and got a lot more attention at the time. She hadn’t the calm in her necessary to cope with it.

There was all that martyr talk, even after Ted’s death … in America there were a couple of biographies that were terribly bad. They didn’t take account of the fact that Ted had nursed the bloody woman for seven years. The patience that he had with her!

Of course, I didn’t quite understand or realise that she was quite sick. We didn’t know as much about psychology in those days. But let me tell you about one thing. Ted was meeting an old teacher once – and she just ran off. He had to run out onto the moors after her. She did that in front of his old teacher. Can you imagine? And he lived with it.

And when you read her journals – there were some very dark things in there … And there was a furore when they first came out that they were cut. And a few things were taken out – mainly at the request of her mother, but otherwise he did nothing. But there was this great furore and suggestion that there was an attempt to hide things. But what were the secrets?

Of course, nobody actually read the journals! They were too busy focusing on what they thought wasn’t there. And if they did read it properly they’d have found a very damaged girl. A very mixed-up girl. You just had to look at the dreams she described. Her dreams were bad enough to spoil your own.

I understood then how powerful a grouping the feminists can be. And how it still goes on. This crap. No matter what goes on, you can’t counter it. They just lie, and if they find themselves in the wrong, they just ignore it.

I’m collecting all the press I’ve got and giving it to Pembroke College. There was one thing, by someone from the Guardian that I found really upsetting … Katherine … I can’t remember her name. All that martyr stuff. It was just a few days after Ted died that it came out and I thought aren’t The Guardian ashamed of themselves? [We’re unable to pin down the piece to which she’s referring. There’s an article by Katharine Viner on the Plath diaries from 2000, but this was 18 months after Hughes’ death.]

I don’t have any time for them, really the press. I don’t normally talk to journalists.

I must be very fortunate …
Hmm. Well. I wish you’d print what I actually say. You know I would love to talk to some journalist and they could take me seriously – and actually put down what I say. That would be the first time.

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Man Booker Shortlist Announced!


On July 26th, this blog announced the Man Booker Longlist titles, and today, we have the shortlist.

The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng (Myrmidon)
 set in post-second world war Malaya.

Swimming Home by Deborah Levy (And Other Stories)
– in which a young woman entangles herself in the life of an English poet and his family in the south of France.

Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel (Fourth Estate)
– sequel to Man Booker prize-winning Wolf Hall.

The Lighthouse by Alison Moore (Salt)
– a man trying to find himself on a walking holiday.

Umbrella by Will Self (Bloomsbury)
– the story of a victim of the sleeping sickness epidemic at the end of the first world war.

Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil (Faber & Faber)
–  set amongst the opium dens of 1970s Mumbai.

Click here to view the shortlist in pictures.

According to the Guardian, “After last year’s controversial focus on ‘readability’, the judges for this year’s Man Booker prize have concentrated on the ‘pure power of prose’ to pick a confident, eclectic shortlist of titles.”

As reported in the Independent, one of the books on the shortlist, Swimming Home by Deborah Levy, was rejected by traditional publishers and only hit the shelves thanks to a publisher which relies on subscriptions from readers.

Chair of the judges, Sir Peter Stothard, editor of the Times Literary Supplement, said: “We loved the shock of language shown in so many different ways and were exhilarated by the vigour and vividly defined values in the six books that we chose – and in the visible confidence of the novel’s place in forming our words and ideas. We were considering all the time novels, not novelists, texts not reputations. We read and we reread. It was the power and depth of prose that settled most of the judges’ debates. […] Without the renewal of English the novel does nothing very much.”

The winner will be revealed at a ceremony at London’s Guildhall on 16th October. The winner will receive a £50,000 prize, in addition to the £2,500 awarded to all shortlisted writers and, importantly, a huge boost in sales for their work. Last year’s winner, The Sense Of An Ending by Julian Barnes, has sold more than 300,000 print editions in the UK.

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Changing Times: Penguin’s profits drop, The Writer is on hiatus & Classics are rewritten

After 125 years, The Writer magazine will cease printing.

Editor Jeff Reich sent an email to his subscribers on Thursday to break the news:“I’m sorry to announce that The Writer magazine will go on hiatus after the October 2012 issue, which is in production now. Kalmbach Publishing Co., which owns The Writer, is currently looking for a buyer for the magazine, and our hope is that The Writer will re-emerge under the careful stewardship of a new owner.”

The Writer magazine was founded in 1887 by Boston Globe reporters Robert Luce and William H. Hills who outlined nine goals for the magazine, including, notably: “To collect and publish the experiences, experiments and observations of literary people, for the benefit of all writers.”

The magazine’s website is still up and running with its huge resources of writing aids, such as writing prompts, tips on getting published,  advice for the many common stumbling blocks of bad writing, and support in not losing hope.

More financial difficulties were met by Penguin in the first half of this year, as reported by the Bookseller. The company is down 4% compared to its sales from the same period last year; however, its e-book revenues are up 33% and now represent almost 20% of its total revenues.

The online magazine GalleyCat maintains that this drop in sales is due to the overwhelming success of Vintage Books’ Fifty Shades of Grey and Scholastic Press’ The Hunger Games.

Looking to the next six months, Pearson, the new parent of Penguin Books, said: “We expect Penguin’s publishing and its competitive performance to be stronger in the second half of the year, and we expect the structural change to continue.” It also said that over the next six months, Penguin will “continue to take action to adapt to the rapidly-changing industry environment”, and will over that period be expensing integration costs associated with its acquisition of Author Solutions. (For more information on that controversial business move, click here).

(Illustration by Dale Stephanos)

It may be a sign of the times, and needless to say, the influence of E.L. James, that even the Classics are getting rewritten for commercial benefit. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet, Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (both with gay themes) and Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey inaugurate the series, titled “Clandestine Classics.” For more, see here.

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What We’re Reading This Week… Invisible Cities

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Memory’s images, once they are fixed in words, are erased,” Polo said. “Perhaps I am afraid of losing Venice all at once, if I speak of it. Or perhaps, speaking of other cities, I have already lost it, little by little.”

Invisible Cities is a novel in which a fictionalised Marco Polo outlines to the Great Kublai Khan all of the cities he has ever seen. The book is a short one, split up into two- and three-page chapters, in which Marco Polo describes a city as he experienced it. Most cities are fictional, but some may be real. So, for example, a place like Beersheba, a city in Israel, Polo describes the handed-down belief that, “suspended in the heavens, there exists another Beersheba, where the city’s most elevated virtues and sentiments are poised, and that if the terrestrial Beersheba will take the celestial one as its model the two cities will become one.”

As you can probably tell already, a lot of the subjects in this book operate on metaphor and symbolism. The strength of the story lies in the interludes that occur between Polo’s descriptions — the italicised entries in which the narrator recounts the intimate discussions between Polo and the Khan that deal with Polo’s travels. For example,

Kublai: To me this conjecture does not seem to suit our purposes. Without them we could never remain here swaying, cocooned in our hammocks.
Polo: Then the hypothesis must be rejected. So the other hypothesis is true: they exist and we do not.
Kublai: But we have proved that if we were here, we would not be.
Polo: And here, in fact, we are.

This book, as described by a friend of ours who read it, is “like eating candy” — each chapter is a short, sweet journey into another world, and all the journeys when read at once tend to blend into each other.

Invisible Cities has been lauded as “an exquisite work” — Gore Vidal, in the New York Review of Books, described it as “perhaps the most beautiful work … the artist seems to have made peace with the tension between man’s ideas of the many and of the one.”

Perhaps the best thing to do with a novel like this is to curl up with it on a rainy day and transport yourself to places you have always wanted to see, and fictional places that could not exist anywhere but in a good book.

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