Thursday 30 November 2017

When Rainbows Cry by Rae Stoltenkamp

Review by Greenacre Writer Vasundra Jackison

This is a sequel to Rae Stoltenkamp’s science fiction novel Where Rainbows Hide. Set in the domed world of the future, the story time-travels through the centuries, taking the reader on a fascinating journey full of imagination.
Communication Officer Marco Zeppo arrives home to find his beloved wife missing, leaving a letter which Marco mysteriously incinerates. Surprisingly, he does not show any concern. He simply packed a bag and booked a one-way trip to Mars.
The main protagonist is teenager Petra Sucker. She is passionate about all things “retro” and regularly slips away to the History Museum where she can see, feel and touch life as it used to be long before they all lived inside the Dome.
Ever since she was very little Petra had always looked on the building as a friend as it housed so many things dear to her heart and interests.
There she finds herself entangled in a mystery that involves past and future lives. Despite all the trouble she gets into, she allows herself to step into this secret and tantalising world. Marco and his missing wife are central to this mystery which needs to be solved. 
The world in the future has many exciting technological advances such as superfood which can be downed in a shot, pinapple protein which can incinerate someone’s gel-tab, banana leaf shaped hands with flexible digits, and robo-guard sensor patrols.
Young readers will enjoy descriptions of hi-tech gadgets and telepathic links to one another’s thoughts. The language of the future is also captivating with words such as vid-calls, holos, and Mars blue. The dialogue is extremely good with current and future words inter-twined to make the speech very realistic.
What the dome’s going on here?
There are also many elements that will fire the imagination of adult readers too, such as the regular alerts that are flashed via official news channels and also the Pirate news.
Bing bong bing: Keep your regulation respirator to hand at all times.
Pirate news: 40 seconds of the truth on the hour every hour.
This is a book that will arouse your curiosity because it takes you into a future with exciting possibilities. It is written in clear and simple language. Each chapter ends with a tantalising hook that will ensure you read on. This is an enjoyable, futuristic sci-fi mystery that you will want to solve with the charming and delightful characters in the book.

Thank you to Rae for the review copy.
Follow Rae on Twitter: @raedenewrites

Wednesday 22 November 2017

A Conversation with Rosie Fiore

Rosie Fiore was born and grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa. She studied drama at the University of the Witwatersrand and has worked as a writer for theatre, television, magazines, advertising, comedy and the corporate market. She has lived in London since 2000.

Rosie has published several novels to critical acclaim: This Year's Black (Struik 2004), Lame Angel (Struik 2006), Babies in Waiting (Quercus 2012) and Wonder Women (Quercus 2013).  Isabella was published in August 2016 by Allen & Unwin.

What She Left was also published by Allen & Unwin in August 2017. 

Helen Cooper has a charmed life. She's beautiful, accomplished, organised - the star parent at the school. Until she disappears.

But Helen wasn't abducted or murdered. She's chosen to walk away, abandoning her family, husband Sam, and her home.

Where has Helen gone, and why? What has driven her from her seemingly perfect life? What is she looking for? Sam is tormented by these questions, and gradually begins to lose his grip on work and his family life.

He sees Helen everywhere in the faces of strangers. He's losing control.

But then one day, it really is Helen's face he sees...

We thank Rosie for taking part in our Conversation and wish her lots of success with What She Left and also with her forthcoming novel, The After Wife, written as Cass Hunter which is due for release in March 2018.

Tell us of your journey as a writer

I’ve worked as a jobbing writer, first in theatre, then in TV and as a copywriter and journalist, for more than 25 years. I’ve been plugging away, writing novels in my ‘spare’ (ha ha) time for many years. I am definitely not one of those shiny, ‘snapped up and turned into a bestselling celebrity’ stories… I was lucky to get a small publishing deal in my native South Africa for my first book, This Year’s Black in 2003, but it took another four years to get an agent, and nine years and four books to get a UK publishing deal. It’s taken me fifteen years and nine books to be able to give up my day job (I work in marketing in a university), and become a full-time novelist. I start in January!

How do you see your role as a writer and what do you like most about it?

There is simply no greater joy. Imagine the pleasure and anticipation you feel when you’re reading a ripping, thrilling story. You pause and wonder, “What will happen next?” and your brain fills with ideas and questions. Being a writer is like this, but infinitely better, because you get to decide, and answer the questions. It feels like the ultimate freedom, with the biggest canvas in the world.

Have you ever created a character who you dislike but find yourself empathising with?

Sam Cooper, the main male character in What She Left was a difficult and complicated man to write. He’s a widower with two small children, and now his ex-wife has disappeared. Very quickly, we find she’s gone willingly. I wanted readers to feel sympathy for Sam (as they should, he’s had an awful time of it), but also to show the diverse and subtle ways in which people can be ‘takers’, using other people for their own needs. He’s appealing on the surface, but I wanted readers to develop a creeping sense of unease about him. Responses to him have been very varied… some people like him, some wanted to stop reading they hated him so much. I’m on the fence… he is very handsome, after all…

What has been your experience of writing about diverse characters?

I live in London, and that’s where my books are set, by and large. I love this city with all my heart… the enormous diversity in every neighbourhood, tube carriage and high street delights me. Londoners, mostly leave each other alone or absorb and enjoy the diverse cultures around them. I hope that my books reflect some of that… a place of acceptance and openness.

I feel a responsibility to tell stories that express the things that are most important to me. I am a feminist, and so I always try to write female characters who are as complex, competent and diverse as the women I know. I also resist writing cardboard cut-out male characters (you know the romantic fiction trope of ‘this is the bad one she learns from, this is the good one she ends up with). I make a real effort to include more women as minor characters: it seems a small thing, but in a sequence in my most recent book, the main character’s mother ends up in hospital, and he encounters the emergency services. The paramedic, the police officer and the doctor he encountered were all female, which, in the real world, is as likely as the opposite. However it’s easy to default thoughtlessly to the male in writing.

Who is your favourite literary character from childhood and why?

Oooh, that’s a hard one. From my teenage years, Holden Caulfield from Catcher in the Rye. The book spoke to me so powerfully when I was 16 – his dry, thoughtful assessment of those around him still stay with me. All these years later, I still remember the wonderful quote about his old teacher:

“After I shut the door and started back to the living room, he yelled something at me, but I couldn't exactly hear him. I'm pretty sure he yelled "Good luck!" at me, I hope to hell not. I'd never yell "Good luck!" at anybody. It sounds terrible, when you think about it.

If you could be transported instantly, anywhere in the world, where would you most like to spend your time writing? And why?

On this grey November day, I think I might go for a five-star hotel in the Maldives! In all seriousness though, many years ago I spent Christmas in a beautiful cottage in Mousehole in Cornwall. The kitchen window looked out over the sea, with St Michael’s Mount in the distance. I have always dreamed of being able to sit at that kitchen table, looking out over the changing sea and writing.

What is the one book you wish you had written?

My new author crush is Elizabeth Strout. I am working my way through her books, but her first novel, Amy & Isabelle, is one of the most complex and finely-wrought pictures of a mother-and-daughter relationship I’ve ever seen. Also, pretty much anything by Margaret Atwood, obviously!

What advice do you have for would be novelists/writers?

Creative writing professor and novelist Colum McCann wrote a simply brilliant article in the Guardian about writing. Nothing I say will equal his salty and practical advice.

“You have to put in the time. If you are not there, the words will not appear. Simple as that.

A writer is not someone who thinks obsessively about writing, or talks about it, or plans it, or dissects it, or even reveres it: a writer is the one who puts his arse in the chair when the last thing he wants to do is have his arse in the chair.

Good writing will knock the living daylights out of you. Very few people talk about it, but writers have to have the stamina of world-class athletes. The exhaustion of sitting in the one place. The errors. The retrieval. The mental taxation. The dropping of the bucket down into the near-empty well over and over again. …."

“Just keep your arse in the chair. Arse in the chair. Arse in the chair.

Stare the blank page down.”

What are you currently working on? What can we look forward to reading?

What She Left came out this year, and it’s getting some good reviews and causing some debate, which was my hope!

March next year sees the release of The After Wife, which I have written under a pseudonym, as Cass Hunter, for Trapeze. This promises to be my biggest commercial book yet, and we have sold rights in seven countries across the world, along with an option for a film in China. It tells the story of Rachel, a brilliant robotics scientist, who dies suddenly. It transpires that she has spent the last few years building a humanoid robot, which is her double. It is her final wish that the robot goes to live with her bereaved husband and daughter.

I absolutely loved writing this book – the research into robotics and human-robot interaction was fascinating, but ultimately it’s a love story – it’s about coming to terms with bereavement, and about what makes us human. I am working on a couple of near-future speculative fiction ideas as follow-ups to The After Wife, as well as a play. Now I am going to write full-time I hope to write two books and a play a year. 

You can follow Rosie on Twitter: @rosiefiore

Thursday 16 November 2017

A Conversation With Leone Ross

Leone Ross is a novelist, short story writer, editor, journalist and academic. She was born in England and grew up in Jamaica. Her first novel, All The Blood Is Red was long-listed for the Orange Prize, her second novel, Orange Laughter was chosen as a BBC Radio 4’s Women’s Hour Watershed Fiction favourite. In 2015, Leone was one of three judges for the Manchester Prize for Fiction. She is presently judging the 2017 Spread The Word London Short Story Prize.

Come Let Us Sing Anyway is Ross’s new short story collection. From headless schoolgirls, to talking food and threesomes, pretty much anything can happen in these witty, weird and wonderful short stories by Leone Ross.

The finely controlled pacing yields an emotional clout as chilling as the times it evokes. Literate and accomplished.” - Publishers Weekly

Ranging from flash fiction to intense psychological drama, magical realism, horror and erotica, these strange, clever, frank and sometimes very funny stories have a serious side too. Carefully crafted over 15 years, they explore unbounded sexualities, a vision of the fluidity of the person, and politics – from the deaths of black people at the hands of the police, to the deep shifts that signal the subtle changes in the nature of capitalism and much more. These stories may sometimes tickle, sometimes shock; but will always engage both the intellect and the heart.

Tell us of your journey as a writer.

In my twenties when I published my first novel, All The Blood Is Red, I felt an unsurprising duty to write realism: a passionate need to speak of race, injustice and gender dynamics. These days, I express myself in a rather more abstract, mischievous, rebellious ways via magic realism, erotica and horror. I’ll never stop being a political animal - this is just another tradition of illuminating complex emotions and social inequality.

How do you see your role as a writer and what do you like most about it?

My role is to write good sentences, one by one. I like to make people feel. I think of my approach as liquid: I write literally and figuratively about blood, sweat, tears and cum. 

Have you ever created a character who you dislike but find yourself empathising with?

I love them all, especially when they misbehave. I call it the ‘Shrink, Sadist, Parent, God’ approach to characterisation: I work to understand them (for substance) I get them into trouble (for narrative tension), I forgive them (because I have known them since they were small) and I try not to let them run out of control (because I have the overview on the whole work). 

What has been your experience of writing about diverse characters?

I'm not sure what this means. I think black and female and disabled and LGBT characters should just be 'characters' and they are mine. Perhaps I should ‘diversify’ by writing more white straight men. 

If you could be transported instantly, anywhere in the world, where would you most like to spend your time writing? And why?

A certain poolside in Jamaica. There's an almond tree there that knows me. 

What is the one book you wish you had written?

The next one. A writer might resist writing, but she always wants to ‘have written’. Barring that, Geek Love by Katharine Dunn.

What advice do you have for would be novelists/writers?

Read —and master grammar and punctuation, you lazy sods. I mean that gently but firmly. Writing is communication, not masturbation. Grammar helps you be clear. This isn’t elitism or snobbery — slang and patois have grammar too. I get really impatient with wannabes who think they can get away from this requirement.

What are you currently working on? What can we look forward to reading?

A novel, next, after this year’s very well received collection of short stories, Come Let Us Sing Anyway. I've been working on this damned third novel for 12 years and it's time for it to be born. This One Sky Day tells the tale of a single day, of a man and a woman crossing an island. He's fighting an addiction to hallucinogenic moths. She is hunting for her husband's pregnant mistress. You can actually read the first two chapters in the Winter issue of Wasafiri magazine.
There are two other books working their way through me as well: a second collection of short stories based on my online dating life and a futuristic novel with a premise I can't yet reveal. 

Who is your favourite literary character from childhood and why?

It's nonfiction, but I'd go for Gerald Durrell in all his My Family And Other Animals series of books set in the Greek islands. I once wanted to be a vet and his life of sunning himself, looking at small creatures and dealing with island eccentricity felt very familiar when I was a kid.

Come Let Us Sing Anyway is Published by Peepal Tree Press

Follow Leone on Twitter: @leoneross