Location Blues

So, it’s raining, there are flood warnings, and there’s also a drought warning. And people think I’m contrary? Anyway, to cut a long thought short, it’s got me mulling over where I want to be right now, instead of sitting at my desk staring out at a violet and charcoal bulge of cloud looming in from the west, ready to burst over the Euston Rd.

I’ve always loved books that transport me to places: the fecund, tropical island of Dominica in Jean Rhys’s THE WIDE SARGASSO SEA, the vast white space of snow and ice in Jenny Diski’s SKATING TO ANTARTICA, the spice infused smells and sounds of fans whirring in the India of Paul Scott’s THE RAJ QUARTET or the sweltering heat of that infamous Long Island summer sojourn in F Scott Fitzgerald’s THE GREAT GATSBY.Of the books that we publish here at Headline, there are many that will carry you gently to another place, and Andrea Levy’s SMALL ISLAND bundles both the sun-drenched Caribbean and grimy 1950s London in one volume.  This year, we’ve had Eowyn Ivey taking us to a magical Alaskan landscape in THE SNOW CHILD, Roopa Farooki jet-hopping from Lahore, Hong Kong, Paris and Biarritz in THE FLYING MAN, Emylia Hall returning to an idyllic Hungarian summer in THE BOOK OF SUMMERS and Victoria Hislop luring us to the hidden backstreets ofT hessaloniki in THE THREAD. Forthcoming, let me tempt you with the vast plains of the Karoo desert in Barbara Mutch’s THE HOUSEMAID’S DAUGHTER, the secrets hiding in the beautiful yet forbidding hills of the Appalachians in Julia Keller’s A KILLING IN THE HILLS or a delicious campari and lemon infused Sicilian escape in Nicola Doherty’s THE OUT OF OFFICE GIRL.

That’s enough, I’m feeling refreshed. Back to the desk. Work to be done. But before I go, let me invite you to post or comment with your favourite book locations…

Nicola Doherty takes us to Italy's sun-drenched, seductive Sicily in THE OUT OF OFFICE GIRL

  

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by Imogen Taylor, Editorial

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Julia and the Book Factory

A few weeks ago I went with Sam Eades, my lovely publicist at Headline, to Clays printers in Bungay, to see Every Vow You Break roll off the presses. I had been told by David Headley at Goldsboro Books and S J Watson that it was an astounding day out (‘like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for book nerds’), and that the sandwiches were very good. They were right on all counts.

Julia with Sam Eades from Headline’s Publicity department

After those remarkable sandwiches at Cambridge House, a beautiful Georgian building where the company started and which they now use for hospitality, We were shown around the massive factory by the lovely Vicky Ellis and Phil and Steve, having a peek at every single part of the process.

Standing in the middle of a factory full of conveyor belts piled up with my new novel has to be one of the top experiences of my life. If I say how close I was to wanting to breast feed my warm, fresh, book, you’ll understand where it ranks for me. Unlike when they were printing the first editions of Harry Potter, when even mobile phones were confiscated at reception, they now allow cameras in, so here are some photos.

So hard hats and hi-viz jackets off to all at Clays, and thank you for a day I will always remember. 

Julia holding a copy of EVERY VOW YOU BREAK, fresh off the press

Published by Julia Crouch, author of EVERY VOW YOU BREAK and CUCKOO (originally published on www.juliacrouch.co.uk)

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Brett’s Bonkers Bangor Blog

It IS March, isn’t it? I mean, phew! This is bonkers weather. A while back, when I was invited to visit Bangor, North Wales in March (for The Hay Festival Scribblers’ Tour), I started planning my wardrobe. What should I wear to deliver writing workshops to around 400 Year 7s in a chilly Welsh University? Woolly tights? Cardigans? Scarf? Puffa jacket?

Turns out I could have packed sundresses, flip-flops and my bikini. Luckily, I didn’t! And actually, a bikini might not have been the most suitable attire. It might have caused a bit of a stir. You know, standing on a stage in a massive lecture theatre in front of all those pupils in a turquoise bra and sarong. No. I’m kind of glad I didn’t and the Year 7s were spared that particular spectacle.

But last Monday did feel a lot like the summer holidays, didn’t it? The Year 7s though so too. As soon as they arrived they were fizzing and buzzing with ‘day-off-school’ excitement. And they were still buzzing and creative at the end of the day, after listening to and being set tasks by three authors, which was pretty impressive.

Don’t take this the wrong way, but Welsh teens appear to be amazing liars. I don’t mean they are devious criminals (though I can’t vouch for all of them!), I just mean they were completely brilliant at making stuff up in my workshop. In honour of Verity Fibbs (my latest character), I asked them to write about what they had done that day but without telling the truth. Not once. In fact, they had to get as far away from the truth as possible. Several asserted that they had arrived by stretch limo or helicopter, a few had seen aliens and celebrities doing very weird stuff en route, and a one boy had sprouted wings and flown to the venue. Bonkers and brilliant!

It was an awesome day. I had such a good time, especially meeting the two other authors: multi-award-winning Jenny Valentine and the legendary Melvin Burgess. It was wonderful to chat with them (over breakfast and between workshops) about publishers, editors, the writing process and current projects. All well worth the five-hour train journey there and back!

Posted by Cathy Brett, author of VERITY FIBBS, EMBER FURY and SCARLETT DEDD, March 2012

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My First Headline Conference

This year, Headline’s annual sales conference was held at 195 Piccadilly, the venue which hosts the BAFTAs. Therefore, the stage was set for a night of glamour, cocktails and emotional speeches. Whilst backless sequinned dresses were thin on the ground, and the speeches were about the world of publishing rather than teary acceptances of awards, there was nevertheless a strong sense of glamour and excitement as the entire Headline staff donned their gladrags and mingled with authors and retailers alike. As a relative newcomer to the Headline fold (new enough for this conference to be my first), I tried to maintain a nonchalant air of cool as if I’d been to  a million conferences before (this cool was later punctured by involuntary squealing on my part when the canapés were handed round – ‘mini burgers!’ – ‘mini fish and chips!’ – ‘mini macaroons!’ etc).

After some mingling, chatting and mutual complimenting on various outfits, we were ushered upstairs for the presentation into a cinema more spacious and comfortable than many a local Odeon, with popcorn and a bottle of water to help recreate the genuine cinema experience. The presentation kicked off with a speech from our MD, Jane Morpeth, wherein she recapped Headline’s successes and bestsellers of 2011 and outlined our plans for an even bigger and better 2012. Then followed talks from several of the Headline Editorial department’s brightest and best, who delivered speeches on genres including sci-fi and fantasy, women’s fiction, crime and thriller and so on, summarising how these genres have performed over the last year, and how Headline will be doing its usual thing (sourcing new talent… publishing exciting original stories…  cornering new areas of the market… oh, you know the sort).

The speeches were followed by a mix of book trailers and video clips of Headline members of staff speaking about their favourite books. First up was crime and thriller: to my horror, I found the video clip of me speaking about Karen Rose’s NO ONE LEFT TO TELL (which is an excellent thriller, if you haven’t yet read it) was the FIRST video to be shown. Aghast, I watched as my face loomed large from the cinema screen. Unable to focus on what it was that my screen-self was saying about Karen Rose, all I could think was, ‘Is my nose really that big?!’ and ‘My God… my voice sounds like that of a nasal seven year old, and now I must NEVER SPEAK AGAIN.’ Once this horror was over and the colleague sitting next to me had kindly patted my arm to help me through the trauma, I could settle back and enjoy the range of trailers, all created by the brilliant and talented Beau Merchant from Headline’s marketing department. Amongst my favourites were the beautiful and tear-jerking trailers for THE BOOK OF SUMMERS by Emylia Hall (starring our publicity department’s very own Veronique Norton) and THE SNOW CHILD by Eowyn Ivey ; the dramatic guitar-and-drums trailer for THE 500 by Matthew Quirk which is reminiscent of the trailer for a Hollywood action film; the stirring and super-atmospheric flame-doused trailer for THE GODS OF GOTHAM by Lyndsay Faye (suitably accompanied by a dramatic Irish jig) and the Gladiator-esque trailer for Simon Scarrow’s PRAETORIAN which put me in mind of Roman battles and toga-wearing men duelling to the death. Other Headline colleagues popped up on screen having been filmed in a variety of weird and wonderful locations: on a pedalo in the park (discussing THE BOOK OF SUMMERS); speaking from behind a false set of prison bars (talking about Jason Dean’s THE WRONG MAN).

Once the presentation was over, it was back to the reception room to welcome six Headline authors who were making guest appearances at the conference. These were the lovely, smiley Emylia Hall, the legendary Phil Tufnell (author of TUFFERS’ CRICKET TALES) the fabulous Baker Brothers themselves, Tom and Henry Herbert (TV chefs and authors of THE FABULOUS BAKER BROTHERS, renowned for their handy baking skills and their not-completely-hideous appearances), the whip-smart and very funny Lyndsay Faye, queen of pacy, sizzling women’s fiction Tasmina Perry (author of PRIVATE LIVES) and an author who thinks outside the box, Andrew Zolli – set to become the new Malcolm Gladwell with his big-ideas book RESILIENCE.

As the canapés were slowly whittled away and the crowd thinned out once midnight (and therefore the last tube home) had come and gone, I had the pleasure of chatting with several of our authors. To my delight, Emylia Hall gave me a hug (the highlight of my evening). Lyndsay Faye spoke engagingly and knowledgeably about anything from New York in the 1840s to the Gold Rush, and Tom Herbert of the Baker Brothers demonstrated an artistic streak (in addition to his chef-ing abilities) by drawing pictures in Sharpie pen on the arms of willing Headline staff members: (A warning: a Sharpie tattoo can take a few scrub-sessions to truly wash off. I still had the outline of my ‘bandit with woman’ tattoo just visible on my upper arm several days later…).

Tom Herbert artfully tattooing Sarah Maltby from Headline's Marketing department.

Meanwhile, his brother Henry chatted with some Headliners.

Henry Herbert with Lynsey Sutherland from Headline's Marketing department.

At last, in the wee hours of the morning, a thoroughly conferenced-out set of Headline staff and authors agreed that it had been a fantastic night, and, laden with Headline bags filled with books, headed home.

 

Posted by Emily Kitchin, Editorial
@EmilyKitchin

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The Orange Prize Longlist

This morning we were thrilled to wake up to the news that Headline author Roopa Farooki has made it onto the 2012 Orange Prize longlist with her incredible book, THE FLYING MAN. Congratulations, Roopa!

It’s a sublime novel that’s affecting, evocative and, at times, very funny. Here’s a bit more about it:

Meet Maqil – also known as Mike, Mehmet, Mikhail and Miguel – a chancer and charlatan. A criminally clever man who tells a good tale, trading on his charm and good looks, reinventing himself with a new identity and nationality in each successive country he makes his home, abandoning wives and children and careers in the process. He’s a compulsive gambler – driven to lose at least as much as he gains, in games of chance, and in life. A damaged man in search of himself. From the day he was delivered in Lahore, Pakistan, alongside his stillborn twin, he proved he was a born survivor. He has been a master of flying escapes, from Cairo to Paris, from London to Hong Kong, humbled by love, outliving his peers, and ending up old and alone in a budget hotel in Biarritz some eighty years later. His chequered history is catching up with him: his tracks have been uncovered and his latest wife, his children, his creditors and former business associates, all want to pin him down. But even at the end, Maqil just can’t resist trying it on; he’s still playing his game, and the game won’t be over until it’s been won.

We shall all be keeping our fingers crossed for when the shortlist is announced on 17th April. In the meantime, check out the full longlist, in all its glory, here: http://www.orangeprize.co.uk/prize.html.  Who gets your vote?

Posted by Leah Woodburn, Editorial

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Anyone for a Scotch Egg? A lesson in baking with the Fabulous Baker Brothers

I’m a baking addict. OK, there – I’ve said it.

Though I know I’m not alone. Not only do I happily share an office at Headline with many enthusiastic bakers, the country has truly embraced baking as an art form in recent years thanks to the success of TV shows such as Ace of Cakes – the behind-the-scenes documentary about Duff Goldman and his incredible cake business in Baltimore – and of course The Great British Bake Off (who could forget that squirrel, propelled to Twitter stardom by Caitlin Moran?).

Perfect timing then for the arrival of The Fabulous Baker Brothers onto the foodie scene. Tom Herbert is a fifth-generation master baker, and his younger brother Henry is a celebrated chef and butcher. With their Hobbs House family bakery and butchers, in the picturesque Cotswolds village of Chipping Sodbury, the brothers are no strangers to hard work and the nitty-gritty of producing brilliant food using local ingredients. Their debut series on channel 4 this January was an unrivalled success, with #fabulousbakerbrothers becoming a UK trending topic on Twitter during the first episode (did someone say ‘attractive men making delicious food’?).

I’m not even going to try and be cool then about how excited I was when I found out we would be publishing the boys’ first cookbook. Bread is not exactly my forte (much as I hate to admit it) and so  when the books arrived I set  myself a challenge of creating my first truly successful loaf. My starting point? Page 50: the original recipe for White Tin Loaf. I’d never really cared much for kneading technique – how hard can it be? – but with Tom’s tips explaining    what to do I soon (well, after 15 solid minutes of proper kneading  and very tired arms) I had a beautifully-smooth ball of dough. First time result! It also looked just like a real artisan loaf when it came  out of the oven.

Inspired by this I took the challenge to the next level… Quick Fish Curry and Chapattis? Scrummy. Scotch Eggs, with runny yolks  thanks to Henry’s helping hand after a day spent filming with him at Hobbs House? Divine. With confidence riding high I even ventured towards my favourite thing to eat: Chelsea Buns. Almost perfect – I could have put in some more fruit, my own fault – and so much more tasty for being homemade.

Granted, five recipes in a single weekend is probably pushing the boundaries of most people’s normal, but then I did make my decision as to whether to buy a house based on the presence of a baking cupboard on rails… This aside, however, the Fabulous Baker Brothers have unlocked a whole world of cookery for me with their book, from brioche to beef stew, lardy cake to cassoulet, with a host of amazing bread and meat recipes in between I guarantee your kitchen will never be dull again. Cupcakes? So last season…

Posted by Vicky Cowell, Marketing

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(Book) Love is in the Air

Valentine’s Day is a funny thing. It’s a bit like New Year’s Eve – you have the sense that everyone else is doing something more glamorous and exciting than you, and an atmosphere of slight panic and dread can prevail over the whole affair. Like many, I’m a total sucker for all things Valentine’s – gaudy red roses outside the tube station, the red-and-pink abandon of Paperchase windows, those little foil-wrapped chocolate hearts that always taste slightly off… The problem is, the day doesn’t always deliver on its promise. Your partner forgets. The card is unmistakably the work of a well-meaning friend – or worse, your mum. The restaurant is fully booked. You got dumped – via Twitter – the previous afternoon.

So why not, this February 14th, focus on a love that’s reliable, eternal and unfailingly passionate? That’s right – I’m talking about books. For as someone once said, book lovers never go to bed alone…

And when you’re in love, it’s hard not to talk about it, with your friends, family, even perfect strangers. That’s just what some Headliners are going to do here – sharing with you their Valentine’s reads. The blog equivalent, if you like, of shouting it from the rooftops.

The Maple Stories by John Updike
For many who read John Updike’s brilliant The Maples Stories, they may not seem to be synonymous with the usual themes of Valentine’s Day. Updike’s vivid prose brings to life the intricacies of relationships, their delights as well as imperfections. His descriptions of the most mundane looks or gestures are visceral and steeped in meaning. The marriage of Richard and Joan Maple is riddled with jealousy and deceit and they’re constantly at each others throats. Their relationship is far from flawless but their love is undeniably real. There’s a perpetual tie of appreciation that binds them – despite the numerous debauched affairs and heated arguments. Love conquers all.
Veronique Norton, Publicity
@veronorton

Cross Stitch by Diana Galbadon
Cross Stitch is one of my all-time favourite books. As an avid reader of romantic fiction I like nothing better than to be swept away by a tale of passion and Cross Stitch is the perfect romantic epic. At the beginning of the novel Claire Randall walks through a stone circle in the Highlands and finds she has travelled back in time to 1743, into the arms of Jamie Fraser, a gallant and courageous warrior (lucky her!). What follows is an incredible love story, played out against a backdrop of violence, danger and superstition in Jacobite Scotland. It’s an unforgettable, irresistible read. After all, what could be more romantic than travelling through time to be with the one you love?
Kate Byrne, Editorial
@kbyrne_reader

Katherine by Anya Seton
For pure, indulgent romance it has to be Anya Seton’s Katherine. Seton transports the reader to the sparkling Plantagenet court and follows the life-long affair between John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford, with enough history to stop it becoming completely soppy. Alternatively, if I’m sick of all the teddies and hearts and roses at the supermarket checkout, I’ll rebel by reading something totally un-pink – this year I’m thinking maybe Chavs by Owen Jones.
Laura Esslemont, Production
@essyreader

The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy
On the face of it, a Thomas Hardy novel might not be an absolute banker of a gift for someone on Valentine’s Day. In some ways they’d probably be quite within their rights to dump you on the spot, dropping the book on your toes as they leave. In fact, after 350 pages of eye-wateringly small text, the most dramatic thing that happens is an old woman getting bitten by a small snake. But (as beardy lecturers told me, so it must be true), it is an absolute simmering cauldron of illicit affairs, dramatic twists of fate, undelivered letters, dropped-and-picked-up gloves and conventions-of-society-getting-in-the-way-of-love. And hardly any hyphens. 
Richard Roper, Editorial
@richardroper

The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
My perfect, if bittersweet, Valentine’s Day read has to be The Time Traveller’s Wife, which is about the strange and extraordinary relationship between Henry and Clare. The story jumps backwards and forwards in time throughout and you follow every twist and turn in their lives. It’s a book about intense love, but also about the imperfections of love. Henry and Clare are easy to identify with and you feel their passions and emotions to the very last page.
Sarah Badhan, Production

The Last Summer by Judith Kinghorn
In my opinion, Valentine’s Day is all about The Back-up Plan. My hope is that I will be in a mood where I can appreciate the beauty of a book like Judith Kinghorn’s The Last Summer. It’s full of unrequited love, men in uniform and events that take you through an enjoyable whirlwind of emotions. However, if all I get is a rich tea biscuit from my own secret stash, I’m going to opt for something that is less likely to make me spontaneously burst into tears. Something like Jo Nesbo’s The Snowman. Not a typical Valentine’s Day read, but a book to make you glad you aren’t dating anyone, at least not anyone who might turn out to be a psycho-maniac killer.
Holly McCulloch, Editorial
@hollymcculloch

 

Lucy Foley, Editorial
@lucyfoleytweets

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A Superhero Walks into a Bar…

It’s not every Saturday night that you find yourself eating chips in a dark room, surrounded by people dressed as superheroes and stormtroopers, pretending that you know the words in a mass sing-a-long to an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It was, in a word, surreal.

With our new genre list building, on a freezing Friday morning publicist Ben Willis and I packed our bags, left the Headline office on Euston Road and headed to North Wales for must be the UK’s geekiest convention: the SFX Weekender. The journey was suitably epic – think Lord of the Rings, but with a derailed train instead of a dark lord – but the time passed quickly thanks to some excellent company, courtesy of the editors from Gollancz and American author Sam Sykes (whose books are now most definitely on my ‘to read’ list). Almost seven hours after leaving King’s Cross we arrived under a darkening sky at the gates of the Pontin’s holiday camp in Prestatyn. Not the most promising start to a weekend away, I’ll grant you, but we steeled ourselves and stepped inside…

Once we had checked in we headed to the one place we knew we’d find some fellow publishers: the bar. Sure enough there they were and, after a swift drink, we headed over to the Kitschie Award ceremony, which shone a light on some very deserving talent.

Friday culminated with a party organised by Tor, Macmillan’s SF imprint. It’s a bit of a blur to be honest, but I remember a glorious victory, followed by a crushing defeat, in a doubles pool tournament played out on a rather wonky table; a conversation with the guys from Fantasy Faction; drinking Japanese whisky with Jon Courtenay Grimwood; Joe Abercrombie trying to distribute pizza to a baying crowd; and being sent on a mission to find beer by Peter F. Hamilton. It was a brilliant evening. I met old friends, made new ones, and shamelessly cornered some of my favourite authors and, I fear, bored them half to death with questions they must have been asked a thousand times.

Ben with a new friend

The next day, any trace of a hangover was blown away by some excellent panels on world building, space opera and urban fantasy, which were universally well-attended. Fellow Hachette imprints Orbit and Gollancz organised another party that evening, and what felt like a thousand people crammed into a chalet and tucked into a Chinese takeaway. I found myself jostling for space with a bit of a hero of mine, the author Alistair Reynolds, and we had a conversation about the future of science fiction. Ben and I left the party just in time to catch the beginning of the SFX Awards, and were very glad we did, as the first award of the night – for ‘screenwriting excellence’ – went to a Headline author: the obscenely talented Neil Gaiman. He was at home in the US and unable to pick up the award in person, but provided a fantastic acceptance speech on video (which you can see here).

Looking around the cavernous main hall later that night, as hoards of costumed figures jumped around to a DJ set from Craig Charles of Robot Wars and Red Dwarf fame, I couldn’t help but smile. Sci-fi might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but can you image any other convention where bestselling authors not only sign books for their fans, but also trade dance moves with them? I scuttled off to bed shamefully early, but I heard tales of Joe Abercrombie and China Miéville tearing up the dance floor until the early hours with a giant robot and the Stay Puft MarshmallowMan.

There were around 4,000 die-hard fans at the SFX Weekender this year. Of course they weren’t all there for the authors – you should have seen the queue for Brian Blessed’s autograph – nor do they represent the average SFF book buyer, but I had a blast hanging out with them. I admit I felt like a bit of an outsider initially, but then it struck me: this is a festival of outsiders, a celebration of otherness – with such an eclectic mixture of people that it’s hard to imagine that anyone could have felt out of place.

I’m already looking forward to next year. Now if only I could decide which Star Wars character to go as…

Posted by John Wordsworth, Editorial

On Twitter:
Headline: @headlinepg
SFX: @SFXmagazine
Neil Gaiman: @neilhimself
John Wordsworth: @theworrierpoet
Ben Willis: @BenWillisUK

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Waterstones 11

Last year, the prophets of Brentford gazed into their crystal balls and selected eleven debut novelists for their inaugural Waterstones 11 list, a list which champions debut authors who are expected to make an impact over the next twelve months.  It proved to be an inspired selection, including the Man Booker-shortlisted Pigeon English and Orange Prize winner The Tiger’s Wife.  Headline’s When God Was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman made up the literary football team, and subsequently scored huge commercial success, winning a Galaxy Book Award and even making the bedside table of the Duchess of Cambridge.

Last week, the Waterstones 11 list for 2012 was unveiled at a swanky bash at their flagship Piccadilly store.  Publishers, booksellers, journalists and authors galore turned out to celebrate the line-up which includes Headline’s own Eowyn Ivey, author of The Snow Child.

Eowyn Ivey

As Eowyn was sunning herself in New Orleans at the Winter Institute bookseller conference, a group from Headline took on the onerous task of sipping champagne, and toasting (repeatedly) to the success of this year’s list.  After an inspiring speech from James Daunt, Managing Director of Waterstones, we mingled with the literary crowd which included a number of the Waterstones 11 authors.

Eowyn was thrilled to make the list, keeping fine company alongside the likes of Charlotte Rogan’s The Lifeboat and Rachel Joyce’s The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry – both debuts I have read and adored.  As well as the fantastic atmosphere (well done team Riot Communications), a number of partygoers had already read The Snow Child, and seemed to have fallen under its spell.

Below is the full line-up. A list of eleven prizewinners and bestsellers, perhaps?

The Waterstones 11

Jenni Fagan – The Panopticon

Patrick Flanery – Absolution

Frances Greenslade – Shelter

Chad Harbach – The Art of Fielding

Eowyn Ivey – The Snow Child

Rachel Joyce – The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

Grace McCleen – The Land of Decoration

Anna Raverat – Signs of Life

Charlotte Rogan – The Lifeboat

Karen Thompson Walker – The Age of Miracles

Will Wiles – Care of Wooden Floors

Find out more about each of the Waterstones 11 titles here: http://waterstones.com/waterstonesweb/pages/waterstones-eleven/2272/

Posted by Sam Eades, Publicity

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A Night Less Ordinary

I went to a do at Soho House this week (and lost any cool factor I might have tried to fake by failing to find the entrance). No, it wasn’t the launch of a new vodka, or a pre-Fashion Week party. It was a book swap.

Admittedly it didn’t have much in common with the book swaps of my experience, in village halls or at school fetes. These events are the brainchild of a new literary project/journal, Tale of Three Cities, and, as befitting a name stocked in the très cool Colette store in Paris, the evening looked at first like a study in ‘geek chic’. There was a cocktail called Huckleberry Gin and great music and plenty of thick-framed vintage specs and ironic knits on show. But, all that besides, it was really just a gathering of people who love books, who wanted to spend the night talking about them, sharing them, and ultimately, to leave with an exciting new read.

The premise of the evening was a fantastic ice-breaker. I went with a friend, but once we were inside we didn’t see each other until it was time to try and catch the last tube home. We were too busy chatting with complete strangers about books.

The swap itself must be handled delicately. I brought When God Was a Rabbit with me, in case there were any uninitiated in its wonders. I could tell that the first person I talked to was pretty keen on my book – but first I needed to find a way of reading the back of hers without giving her false hope.

You also have to avoid the “oversell”, so I placed mine on the bar and watched from a safe distance, leaving it there for punters to admire undisturbed before sidling over when they picked it up and giving my recommendation. Creepy, but it worked – I didn’t manage to hang onto it for very long.

I walked away with a wonderfully antique edition of Don’t Look Now and other stories by Daphne du Maurier, though I made the mistake of starting the titular story before I went to bed (for anyone who hasn’t read it, it’s every bit as creepy as Nicolas Roeg’s film adaptation).

I can’t imagine a better activity for a Monday night – any night, in fact. I suspect that by the end of 2012 my bookshelves will be completely refurnished – an exciting, if somewhat nerve-wracking prospect.

Posted by Lucy Foley, Editorial

Twitter: @lucyfoleytweets

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