Rebel with a Cause

Poetry and medicine intersect in Jane Davis’s latest novel, My Counterfeit Self. I’m delighted to welcome Jane back to my blog on publication day.

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The main protagonist is Lucy Forrester, a political poet and activist. Anti-establishment all her life, she’s now horrified to find herself on the New Year’s Honours list. Her inclination is to turn it down. But what if it’s an opportunity…

When researching a cause for her rebel, author Jane Davis followed a thread from the first CND march from Trafalgar Square to Aldermaston, to the plight of Britain’s forgotten Atomic Veterans. Here is what she discovered.

“It is 1958, six years after American scientists disbanded the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission in Hiroshima, having completed their data-gathering on radiation sickness. It is a supposed time of peace. Imagine you are eighteen years old, shipped to Christmas Island on National Service. It is the furthest you have ever strayed from home.

Your job? To stand on an idyllic white sandy beach and observe as scientists detonate nuclear bombs in the Central Pacific. When the signal is given, you must turn away from the blast and cover your eyes with your hands. There is no protective clothing. As the flash goes off, you can see your veins, your skin tissue, your bones, and through it all, diamond white, a second sun. Searing heat builds inside, until you imagine that there is only one way it can end.

Around 22,000 servicemen were ordered to stand and observe. Some suffered radiation sickness immediately, and some died. For others, symptoms followed patterns seen in Hiroshima. They lost their appetites, ran high fevers, and their hair fell out in clumps. Some appeared well for decades before developing cancers and other rare diseases.

It was only over time, as dots were joined, that some veterans became convinced their illnesses and disabilities were caused by nuclear radiation. Their bid to be recognised by the European Court of Human Rights was denied in 1998, which said it had no jurisdiction in the case. Largely ignored, and dwindling in number, the veterans referred to themselves as ‘ghosts’.

Then, in 1999, researcher Sue Rabbitt Roff at the University of Dundee tracked down and surveyed 2,500 veterans and their children, reporting unusually high rates of infertility and birth defects. This was the trigger. The columnist Richard Stott (1943 – 2007) of the Sunday Mirror then launched his Justice for Nuke Vets campaign.

If I saw this reported in the news, I’m ashamed to say that I have no recollection of it. There were always more attention-grabbing headlines. But when researching my novel, it was obvious to me that this is a cause Lucy Forrester would have thrown herself behind.

The British government continued to insist on more proof. It wasn’t until 2007 that two scientific studies demonstrated clear links. They also estimated that genetic birth defects would last for 20 generations – in other words, 500 years.

As a result, 700 New Zealand and UK veterans launched a class action lawsuit against the British government claiming NZ $36 million in damages. But it had all happened 50 years ago. The Ministry of Defence countered with a statute of limitations defence.

Following a parliamentary inquiry in early 2008, the government agreed to fund new studies into veterans’ health, and to pay interim compensation of £4,000 each.

By the time I completed my research, the government had set aside £25million (£5million a year over five years) for an Aged Veterans’ Fund. But this wasn’t only for the surviving Atomic Veterans. Approximately two million veterans were qualified to apply. In addition to applications from individuals, the British Veterans’ Association (BNTVA), the premier charity representing those who have worked alongside radioactive material for the benefit of the nation, can apply for funding for projects such as respite care or counselling. Whilst any such services may benefit the families of the Atomic Veterans, once the remaining veterans die, all funding will cease. Without an admission of negligence from the MoD, there will be no help for the 20 generations.

Many Atomic Veterans are proud to have served their country. However, given that the risks of exposure to radiation were either known or reasonably foreseeable, they had every right to expect their government to take care of them if things went wrong. They couldn’t have imagined that the British government would introduce a higher burden of proof than other governments, so that their American counterparts received compensation while they did not. It should not be left to the Prime Minister of Fiji to step in and award each surviving veteran three thousand pounds, saying, ‘Fiji is not prepared to wait for Britain to do the right thing’.

With Trident firmly back in the headlines, I hope that it will rise to the surface once more.”

You can find out more about the Atomic Veterans or make a donation here

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Jane Davis is the author of seven novels. Her debut, Half-truths and White Lies, won the Daily Mail First Novel Award, and The Bookseller featured her in their ‘One to Watch’ section. Six further novels have earned her a loyal fan base and wide-spread praise. Her 2016 novel, An Unknown Woman, won Writing Magazine’s Self-Published Book of the Year Award. Compulsion Reads describe her as ‘a phenomenal writer whose ability to create well-rounded characters that are easy to relate to feels effortless.’ Her favourite description of fiction is ‘made-up truth’.

When Jane is not writing, you may spot her disappearing up the side of a mountain with a camera in hand.

You can also find Jane Davis on Facebook, on Twitter, on Google Plus, on Pinterest, and on Goodreads, as well as on her Amazon author page

Anyone who signs up to Jane’s newsletter receives a free copy of her novel, I Stopped Time. Jane promises not to bombard subscribers with junk. She only issues a newsletter when she has something genuinely newsworthy to report.

My Counterfeit Self is published October 1, 2016, and available in paperback and ebook formats.

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‘Who’d Have Thought It?’

My posts normally have less ambiguous titles, but today’s contribution is from my fellow author and journalist Christine Webber whose forthcoming novel is called exactly that, and, as you’ll see, the name is just right. Over to Christine.

After 30 years of being conventionally published, Who’d Have Thought It? is my first independent venture. The novel sees my return to fiction after 29 years (doesn’t time fly!) of penning self-help books.
A lot of the knowledge I’ve acquired as a health writer, and as a psychotherapist, has crept into these pages. I’ve had tremendous fun fictionalising situations that I see all around me.
But my main reason for writing this book is that I find mid-life much busier and more unsettled than I had anticipated. Most people I speak to – who are also of ‘a certain age’ – say the same thing.  That sentiment underpins the story of Who’d Have Thought It?  
Here’s a brief extract from a chapter well into the novel, when my main character, Annie, has been persuaded by her best friend Janey to try internet dating.

FreeImages.com/Doru Lupeanu

She pushed open the door of the all-day bar and saw him immediately. As he had promised, he was sitting near the mock fire in the middle of the room. He had highly-polished shoes, a blazer and a cravat. A cravat! Dear God, she thought, I didn’t know you could still buy those.  

His eyes lit up when he saw her. He jumped up and lurched forwards, apparently eager to plant a kiss on her cheek. Quickly, she held out a hand to be shaken.

‘I think,’ he said. ‘Not that I’m used to this kind thing, but the form is that, on a first meeting, each participant gets his or her own refreshment.’

‘Fine by me,’ she smiled.

As she waited for the noisy coffee machine to steam her milk to a high enough temperature, Annie was able to view Roger in a mirror above the bar. He was about sixty. Dapper. A little tubby. Not overly tall. Perfectly respectable-looking – but her heart was not in this outing, and she wondered how soon she might decently leave without seeming rude.

‘Ah, not a drinker, then,’ he said with evident disappointment as she returned, carrying her cappuccino.

‘Bit early for me,’ she murmured. 

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He raised his eyebrows. ‘Ah well, once you retire, there seems no reason not to drink whenever you want to. And the excellent thing here is that mid-afternoon, you get a deal – steak and kidney pie and a pint. Had my grub earlier. Very fine!’

She stirred her coffee, stifling an urge to giggle.

‘And they do two-for-one meals on Monday, which is really top value. You couldn’t get a better meal anywhere. And, if I say so myself, I do travel a lot, so I know what I’m talking about.’ He paused to take a deep gulp of his ale.

‘Last month, for example, I accompanied a young lady to the continent for a long weekend. Very luckily, I got a cut-price deal on the overnight ferry crossing. And if you make sure you’re one of the first on board, you can get good reclining seats so you don’t need a cabin. Of course, with the ferries taking care of two nights, you only need to shell out for one night in a hotel. And I found a pretty decent B and B …’

‘And are you still seeing that “young lady”?’ Annie asked innocently.

He took a swig of beer. ‘No! She rang me after we returned to say she’d gone back to her husband. I was bloody annoyed because I had rather pushed the boat out on her account.’

‘That would be the ferry boat, would it?’ Annie murmured, gazing at her rapidly disappearing coffee. ‘Yes, I suppose some women can be awfully ungrateful.’

‘You can say that again,’ he remarked before he launched into a story about another young lady who had let him down.

Surreptitiously, she glanced at her watch. Janey had said she might ring to see if she was coping. 

Fortunately, a couple of minutes later, her friend obliged.

 ‘So sorry,’ she explained to Roger, ‘I have to get this…’ Then ignoring Janey’s whispered question about how things were going, she spoke loudly into the phone: ‘Darling … Oh no! No, of course. I’ll come right away…’

‘Trouble?’ Roger’s brown eyes – which had, up until now, twinkled with a benign expression – gazed somewhat angrily at her.

‘I’m afraid so. My daughter’s having a crisis at the moment. And I have to go. That’s what mums are for.’ She stood up. ‘I would thank you for the coffee, but since I bought my own I won’t bother. Good bye.’

He harrumphed: ‘Well, I must say … Still, maybe another time.’

She was halfway to the door. ‘Probably not,’ she said over her shoulder.

Who'd Have Thought It?

Who’d Have Thought It? is out on June 10 in paperback and as an ebook.

Just How Fictional is Fiction?

There’s a socking great disclaimer at the front of my novels.

“This is a work of fiction. All characters and events in this work, other than those clearly in the public domain, are entirely fictitious. Any resemblance to any persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.”

The real bits should be obvious. All you have to do is check out Marylebone, or amble down Hampstead High Street.

Hampstead Butcher & Providore

I’ve made up almost all the rest. Not that readers believe authors’ protestations.

Friends and family are apt to dissect published novels with an eye on ‘real life’. Even Ian Fleming, I’m told, suffered from this problem. People don’t just ask “Am I in it?” They go straight for “Which character am I?” I have half a dozen friends who believe they’re the single mother from One Night at the Jacaranda, and one who still thinks she’s the femme fatale.

Waitrose Marylebone

“I’m Geoff,” insists my husband Jeremy. He has no discernible similarities with the doctor in my novels, though someone did once call him Geoffrey by mistake at a party.

Of course authors draw on reality when inventing their stories. Jane Davis says her favourite description of fiction is ‘made-up truth’. Her next book My Counterfeit Self was inspired by the plight of UK atomic war veterans. She even mentions many of them by name, but her book is still made up, and all the better for it, in my opinion.

Finnish author Helena Halme also uses the truth as a springboard for fiction. Her romantic series The Englishman is based on her own life story of meeting her Navy husband and moving to the UK. The prequel The Finnish Girl is now out, but, like the others in the series, reality has been fictionalized to provide the right pace and tension for a novel.

The Finnish Girl by Helena Halme

Fiction certainly benefits from an injection of fact. That’s what makes it relatable. I lost all faith in a story where the NHS doctor ‘worked shifts’. In those days, hospital doctors often worked a one-in-two rota. Going to work on Friday morning and not leaving till Monday evening was called many things, but a ‘shift’ it was not.

(I can’t help thinking a lot of non-fiction could do with a few facts too. Books on curing cancer with carrots really should move to the fantasy shelves, but that’s another story.)

A novelist invents stuff, but it needs to be right. While I can’t define ‘right’, I had to make that call with the image on the front of my forthcoming novel Hampstead Fever.  Cover designer Jessica Bell suggested adding a little red boat to the pond. The flash of red on the water seemed a delightful counterpoint to the red hat and red lipstick. But the pond in question is Hampstead Heath’s Number One Pond. Luckily one my sons, a local councillor, knows all about Hampstead’s ponds. As he explained, only the Model Boating Pond is a model boating pond. Cute as it was, my little boat had to be hauled out of the water.

Hampstead Fever

Being right is more about authenticity than fact. Being authentic, or so the Oxford dictionary puts it, includes

“Made or done in the traditional or original way, or in a way that faithfully resembles an original.”

Ain’t that the truth?

No Living Persons Were Harmed in the Writing of this Novel

Or were they?Jane Davis

You know that text at the beginning of every novel? The bit that reads, This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously? Let’s explore that. 

Here’s fellow author Jane Davis, whose novel An Unchoreographed Life is one of the seven in Outside the Box: Women Writing Women. As an avid student of human life, I’m often tempted to slip real  people into fiction. Jane Davis sounds warning bells. 

Pitfalls of Writing Fact-based Fiction

I hold up my hands. I am guilty of being a scavenger of facts. There is nothing more flattering than when, after reading one of my books, people tell me their extraordinary stories and say, ‘I’d like you to write about it’. As with An Unknown Woman, sometimes I borrow elements from personal accounts, a snap-shot here, an emotion there, a potent and heart-felt line, but never the whole.

Any author who wants to stay out of court should consider two main areas of the law.

Jane Davis at workLibel

Libel is a false statement presented as fact of and concerning a person that causes damage to their reputation. Unfortunately, pointing out that yours is a work of fiction may not be enough to protect you.

John Green added an ‘author’s note’ at the front of A Fault in Our Stars: “This book is a work of fiction. I made it up. Neither novels or their readers benefit from attempts to divine whether any facts hide inside a story. Such efforts attack the very idea that made-up stories can matter, which is sort of the foundational assumption of our species. I appreciate your cooperation in this matter.”

But not even this carefully-crafted statement would protect Green were a court to find that he had:

  • Included detail about a living person which enabled people who knew that person to recognise him or her, and
  • People who read what he had written about that person believed it to be true
  • The person suffered damage to reputation as a result

In 2009, a plaintiff was awarded $100,000 by a US court for a fictional portrayal that was recognisably her. The ‘Red Hat Club’ presented the plaintiff as a sexually promiscuous alcoholic. 

But even a case that doesn’t reach court can be hugely damaging, as author Amanda Craig discovered. In the mid-nineties, the publisher who had commissioned Vicious Circle – a satire that had been four years in the writing – pulled the plug. An ex-boyfriend Craig hadn’t seen for fifteen years (then a literary critic) had claimed that one of the book’s characters was based on him. All parties breathed a sigh of relief when the libel specialist consulted concluded that only ‘a lunatic’ would claim to be the character. But, when proofs were circulated, the ex-boyfriend sent the publisher a list of the similarities between him and the character, down to a pair of shoes he used to wear. Craig’s character was based on a number of men, one of whom was the ex-boyfriend. I am sympathetic. It is impossible to avoid writing what you know. A borrowed facial expression here, a quotation there. Dumped by her publisher, Craig again took legal advice, which thankfully only involved a handful of minor changes. A new deal negotiated and the novel was published, but for some time Craig lived with the worry that she might be sued.

The Right to Privacy Quote from Khaled Hosseini

So, you avoid falling into the trap of writing something potentially libellous by researching your subject thoroughly and only including events that you know to be true. You’re protected, right? Wrong.

Maria Bento Fernandes has been ordered to pay EUR 53,000 to her husband’s family (including her mother-in-law), after she revealed intimate details about their family life in her novel The Palace of Flies, published under a pen-name. When she appealed to the European Court of Human Rights on the grounds that hers was a work of fiction, they disagreed. A number of characters in her book were ‘exact replicas’ of her in-laws. However, rather than uphold the original decision, they ruled that the award should stand as the author had ‘failed to respect her in-laws’ right to a private life’. Christmas at the Fernandes will never be the same again.

A case reported on recently provides an interesting approach to counter-suing. Dr Brooke Magnanti published a blog about her life as a call-girl under the name Belle de Jour. At the time, she had a boyfriend who she referred to only as ‘The Boy’. But when the identity of Belle de Jour became well-known, her ex-boyfriend took her to court, claiming that his identity had also been exposed, that his privacy was breached and his reputation damaged. He also claimed that the book was based on fantasy and that Dr Magnanti had never really worked as a prostitute. And how does she react? It is reported that her defence team will counter-sue on the grounds that ‘The Boy’ has damaged her reputation by casting doubt on her life as a sex-worker.   

“But it’s MY story to tell”

Jane Davis in DorsetThat may well be true, but few of us live in isolation.

When I saw Esther Freud speaking about her autobiographic novel Hideous Kinky a few years ago, she admitted that she’d been surprised by her sister’s hurt reaction to some sections of the book, which she had felt to be about their relationship with their mother.

I have a sister who is less than a year older than me. As I know from her accounts of events from our childhood, my experiences were totally different. She disputes my versions. I believe each of us has our own truth. Memory is both subjective and can be affected by things that happen in between. As J M Coetzee is quoted as saying: “How can one even vouch for the truth of memories that are shared with no one else? 

Hilary Mantel said of telling her mother that she had written her memoir, Giving Up the Ghost: “What she heard was `I’ve written a book about you’”.

So if you must borrow from life, please be nice.

An Unknown Woman by Jane Davis

About Jane

Jane Davis lives in Carshalton, Surrey with her Formula 1 obsessed, star-gazing, beer-brewing partner, surrounded by growing piles of paperbacks, CDs and general chaos.  She spent her twenties and the first part of her thirties chasing promotions at work, but when she achieved what she’d set out to do, she discovered that it wasn’t what she had wanted after all. In search of a creative outlet, Jane turned to writing fiction. She cites the disciplines learnt in the business world as what helps her finish her first 120,000-word novel.

Her first, Half-truths and White Lies, won the Daily Mail First Novel Award and was described by Joanne Harris as ‘A story of secrets, lies, grief and, ultimately, redemption, charmingly handled by this very promising new writer.’ She was hailed by The Bookseller as ‘One to Watch.’ Five self-published novels have followed: I Stopped Time, These Fragile Things, A Funeral for an Owl, An Unchoreographed Life and now her latest release, An Unknown Woman. Jane’s favourite description of fiction is that it is ‘made-up truth.’

You can get that latest novel An Unknown Woman on Amazon by clicking right here.

Here is Jane’s website. She’s also on FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest.

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, do you put real ppl into your novels? Good advice from

Six Lessons from the Eye Clinic

Today Sanjay takes his mother to her hospital appointment.

He’s a nice young man, a character from my novel One Night at the Jacaranda. Although I made Sanjay up, maybe you know someone like him?

He and his mother walk past a sign warning of the symptoms of Ebola.

Not surprising the font on the sign is massive. This is the eye clinic.

1138666_78954230 medical eye

The morning is a learning curve. They arrive at 9.30am to find there are over 40 patients there already.

Beta, I should have brought chair from home,” says Mrs Shah. Here comes Lesson One: in addition to bringing glasses (including bifocals), appointment letters, and any medication they are taking, in original containers, patients should bring something to sit on.

The only empty seat belongs to a man who’s just gone to the loo, which doesn’t flush, as he explains to all and sundry on returning to waiting-room.

A poster on the wall advises patients that clinic visits can take up to four hours. The notice on a board by the receptionist says the clinic is running 90 minutes late. Sanjay isn’t sure if this time should be added to the four hours, or whether it is already part of it. Nobody knows. Lesson Two: don’t ask stuff. Just accept it may take some time.

They stand in the corridor for a while.  A nurse emerges from somewhere and calls out, “Philip Nutmeg” or something similar. When Mr Nutmeg fails to respond, she says it again, looking meaningfully at Mrs Shah. Sanjay says helpfully, “She’s not Philip Nutmeg.”

The nurse glares at him.

Frame on eye chart

Eventually Sanjay’s mother is summoned into a little room to have her vision tested by another nurse, and to learn Lesson Three: computerised medical records do not necessarily contain any medical records. The entire hospital went computerised two months ago, this nurse says, but there are no clinical data on them. So Mrs Shah gets to recite her entire medical history. She looks over the nurse’s shoulder to make sure she writes everything down.

When they come out again, a cleaner in a hijab is here to deal with the loo. And Philip Nutmeg still hasn’t shown.

Lesson Four: nobody gives old people a seat, not even when they are rubbing their knee and looking around hopefully.  It shocks Sanjay that not one person has stood up for his poor old mother.  He considers ejecting someone forcibly, but then his mum isn’t as old or as poor as some of the others.

In the corridor there are two wheelchairs blocking doorways. In one, a woman with one leg. In the other, a man (or possibly a woman). This person has two legs, but Sanjay is not sure about the face because it’s covered with a blanket.

There’s also an old man pushing out some zeds and a younger man who reeks of alcohol. It is 10.45am.

Sanjay notices a woman with a pinched face and a jute bag bearing the name of a firm of solicitors. The doctors will love that, thinks Sanjay.

One of the doctors appears now to find out what’s wrong with the man with the blanket on his head. He insists there’s nothing wrong, but the light hurts his eyes.

Lesson Five, thinks Sanjay: bring dark glasses to the eye clinic because the lights can become unbearable once you’ve got dilating drops in your eyes. Now the man in the wheelchair is mighty pissed off because the doctor has asked him not to cover his head with the blanket. “It scares us, you see. We think something‘s wrong.”

Sanjay’s not so sure. He reckons you could die in the clinic and not be noticed.

The crowd eventually thins out and they get somewhere to sit.  Sanjay’s stomach is rumbling, and so is his mum’s. Lesson Six: bring something to eat.

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By the time they’ve been there three and three-quarter hours, Sanjay’s mother has had her visual fields tested and her corneal thickness measured, and her pupils look as wide as a dead cat’s. She’s also gone into the inner sanctum, where the consultant sits at a desk in front of a large cutaway diagram of an eye. This is worrying. Shouldn’t the doctor know what eyes looks like by now?

The medical verdict is not too bad. Mrs Shah’s eye pressure is fine today, and her cataracts don’t need doing yet.

Unlike a patient leaning on the front desk. There’s only one receptionist left, and this patient is pleading with her to expedite his cataract surgery because it’s very urgent. Unfortunately, the receptionist tells him he’s only on the routine waiting list.

By the time Sanjay and his mother leave, there’s just one man left in the waiting-room. Maybe it’s Philip Nutmeg.

1221586_15421511 nice eye

Are You Ready to Venture Outside the Box?

Meet a cast of characters you’ll never forget:

A woman accused of killing her tyrannical father.

A young woman fleeing from the shadow of her infamous mother.

A bereaved biographer who goes to war-ravaged Croatia to research the life of a celebrity artist.

A gifted musician forced by injury to stop playing the piano.

A prima ballerina who turns to prostitution to support her daughter.

A journalist who must choose between an easy life and a bumpy road that could lead to happiness.

The wife of a drug lord who tries to relinquish her lust for blood to raise a respectable son.

And here’s the best bit: you can get to know them all without leaving your warm and cosy home.

Apologies for the advert. I don’t normally have a whole post about a book, but I can’t resist because I’m so proud to be part of this project. In fact, grinning from ear to ear.  Women-Writing-Women-Box-Set-Cover_finalJPEG (1)Besides, it’s much more than one book. Outside the Box: Women Writing Women brings all these unlikely heroines together in a limited edition box-set of seven novels. It’ll be published in e-book format on February 20 and available for just 90 days.

Why mention it today? Because you can pre-order it from Amazon now (other outlets to follow).

Some have seen the anthology already. Dan Holloway, columnist for the Guardian books pages and publisher, says

The authors of these books are at the forefront of a strong cohort of ground-breaking, boundary-pushing women writing and self-publishing literary fiction. I cannot recommend this collection highly enough.”

The project is the brain-child of Jessica Bell, Australian novelist, singer/songwriter and Publishing Editor of Vine Leaves Literary Journal. There’s no one genre in this set. Each full-length book is a page-turner. 

Blue Mercy by Orna Ross

OrnaWill you identify with mother or with daughter? When Mercy Mulcahy was 40 years old, she was accused of killing her tyrannical father. Now, at the end of her life, she has written a book about what really happened that fateful night of Christmas Eve 1989 – and she desperately needs her daughter to read it.

Orna Ross is founder-director of The Alliance of Independent Authors. The Bookseller calls her one of the 100 most influential people in publishing.

Crazy for Trying by Joni Rodgers

joniIn 1970s Montana, a female voice on the radio is unheard of, but seeking to escape the shadow of her infamous mother – a radical lesbian poet who is larger than life, even in death – bookish Tulsa Bitters heads west, determined to reinvent herself as a late-night DJ.

Joni Rodgers lives in Houston, Texas and is the New York Times bestselling author/co-author of over a dozen books, including book club favourite Bald in the Land of Big Hair.

My Memories of a Future Life by Roz Morris

RozIf you were somebody’s past life, what echoes would you leave in their soul? Could they be the answers you need now? When concert pianist Carol is forced by injury to stop playing, she fears her life may be over. Enter her soul-mate Andreq. Is he her future incarnation or a psychological figment? And can he help her discover how to live now?

As a ghost-writer, Roz Morris sold over four million books writing the novels of other people. She is a writers’ mentor and a radio show host, and teaches writing masterclasses for The Guardian newspaper.

The Centauress by Kathleen Jones

KathleenBereaved biographer Alex Forbes goes to war-ravaged Croatia to research the life of celebrity artist Zenobia de Braganza and finds herself at the centre of a family conflict over a disputed inheritance. She discovers a mutilated photograph, stolen letters and a story of indeterminate gender, passion and betrayal. But can she believe what she is being told?

Kathleen Jones is a Royal Literary Fund Fellow. She is best known for her award-winning biographies, and has also written extensively for the BBC.

An Unchoreographed Life by Jane Davis

JaneBallerina Alison Brabbage turns to prostitution when pregnancy and motherhood forced her into retirement. Struggling from day-to-day, the ultimatums she sets herself slip by. But there is one time-bomb she can’t ignore. Her daughter Belinda is growing up. Soon she will be able to work out who Alison is – and what she does for a living.

Jane Davis won the Daily Mail Award for her first novel, which secured her a publishing contract. She has now gone on to self-publish four other novels and isn’t afraid to tackle the trickiest subjects.

White Lady by Jessica Bell

JessicaSonia Shâd, the wife of Melbourne’s leading drug lord, yearns for sharp objects and blood. But now that she’s separated from her husband and rehabilitating herself as a “normal” mother and mathematics teacher, it’s time to stop dreaming about slicing people’s throats and raise a respectable son. Easier said than done. Especially when she discovers her husband is back in town.

Jessica Bell is an Australian novelist, poet, singer/ songwriter /guitarist who lives in Athens, Greece. She is Publishing Editor of Vine Leaves Literary Journal and author of the bestselling Writing in a Nutshell series. 

One Night at the Jacaranda by Carol Cooper

Carol CooperOn a hope-fuelled night in London, lives intersect as a motley group of singletons meet in their quest for someone special. Undercover journalist Harriet is after a by-line, not a boyfriend, but soon she has to choose between the comfortable life she knows and a bumpy road that might lead to happiness.  

Me, you already know. I’ve only produced this one novel so far, so I’m honoured to have it included in such stellar company.

There’s more about the books, the authors, and the swag on Outside the Box: Women Writing Women.

Happy reading!

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Related post :

Self-Published Authors, eh? What Are They LIKE?

Easy tweet:

“7 genre-busting ‪#‎novels in a limited edition box-set OUTSIDE THE BOX. Avail just 90 days! http://goo.gl/D1fyqW #WomenWritingWomen”

 

Some of my Favourite People are Books (part two)

It’s usual for a list of great novels to include

  • an inscrutable foreign masterpiece from the present-day
  • one Jane Austen title (choice depends on intellectual criteria, such as which film hero was most fanciable)
  • an angst novel (Philip Roth often fits the bill)
  • To Kill a Mockingbird
  • Catch-22
  • and *drum roll* Anna Karenina.

bookshelf

Maybe you’re waiting with bated breath for Rosamund Bartlett’s new translation? Her Anna Karenina, due to be published in August, is already ranked about two millionth on Amazon (how does that happen? Tolstoy pulling rank again?).

Sorry to disappoint, but my choice of Russian blockbuster is by Boris Pasternak. When I first read it, I was neither a medic nor a writer, whereas Yuri Zhivago was both.

It snowed and snowed, the whole world over,

Snow swept the world from end to end.

A candle burned on the table;

A candle burned.

I loved Doctor Zhivago for its action, its setting, its characters, its lyricism (and Omar Sharif). I even studied Russian and tried to write poetry. Then I figured out the real lesson: to avoid becoming as self-absorbed as Pasternak’s hero. Also, not to turn into a bloke, especially not one with a frosted tache and a balalaika.

Dr Zhivago

Catch-22 may not be on this list, but I treasure another novel that gave rise to a very current phrase. Yes, the past is a foreign country in L P Hartley’s The Go-Between. Twelve-year old Leo figures out the facts of life. He also figures he’s being used.

“Well,” he said, “let’s make a bargain. I’ll tell you all about spooning, but on one condition.”

I knew what he was going to say, but for form’s sake I asked: “What is it?”

“That you’ll go on being our postman.”

While the lad was naïve by today’s standards, the book is still fresh for 1953 and nicely captures Leo’s post-traumatic stress. By comparison The Shrimp and the Anemone is rather dull. Which is to say that I don’t recall any spooning.

My choice of modern foreign masterpiece is the perfectly scrutable The Yacoubian Building. If you haven’t read it, it’s a lively ensemble novel peopled by a doorman, his family, a gay newspaper editor, Islamists, and the other motley inhabitants of the building on Suleiman Basha Street. Here’s a passage about the womanizing aristo Zaki Bey.

From Lady Kamla (she of the inexorable appetite) he learned how to start and when to desist and how to ask for the most abandoned sexual positions in extremely refined French. Zaki Bey has also slept with women of all classes – oriental dancers, foreigners, society ladies and the wives of the eminent and distinguished, university and secondary school students, even fallen women, peasant women, and housemaids. Every one had her special flavor, and he would often laughingly compare the bedding of Lady Kamla with its rules of protocol and that of the beggar woman he picked up one night when drunk in his Buick and took back to his apartment in Baehler Passage, and who he discovered, when he went into the bathroom with her to wash her body himself, to be so poor that she made her underwear out of empty cement sacks. *

The story may seem a bit ‘told’ for some, but that’s probably the nature of Arabic literature. The book has special resonance for me as I’ve lived in Cairo, although Al-Aswany doesn’t describe anything as atmospheric as my first terrifying day at school when I screamed so much that I threw up onto the teacher’s shoes.

For a tale that moves at breakneck speed and grips like a novice on a rearing stallion, look no further than Dick Francis. Low-brow? Maybe. Formulaic? Sometimes. But brilliant all the same, right from the off. This is from For Kicks.

The Earl of October drove into my life in a pale blue Holden that had seen better days, and danger and death tagged along for the ride.

I’m not the only fan of his opening style. Here’s what writer and blogger Emma Darwin has to say in Straight proof: what any of us can learn from Dick Francis.

Dick Francis

After brooding Russians, a traumatized adolescence, Egyptian neighbours and skulduggery in the stables, what could I possibly have left out? Chick-lit, that’s what. If you’ve read Me Before You by JoJo Moyes, you’ll know that Will has a life-changing motorbike crash.

“So, Patrick,” Will said, perhaps sensing my discomfort. “Louisa tells me you’re a personal trainer. What does that involve?”

I so wished he hadn’t asked. Patrick launched into his sales spiel, all about personal motivation and how a fit body made for a healthy mind. Then he segued into his training schedule for the Xtreme Viking – the temperature of the North Sea, the body fat ratios needed for marathon running, the best times in each discipline. I normally tuned out at this point, but all I could think of now, with Will beside me, was how inappropriate it was.

 What have all these books got in common?

A cracking story. Lots of conflict. Great dialogue. Wit, of course. I’m pretty sure there’s something else too, but it’s hard to analyse when you’re in awe so I’m damned if I know. Ask me again when I’ve got more of my own books onto other people’s shelves of favourites.

 

 *I had to correct the grammar in the English translation by Humphrey Davies. Sloppy editing, HarperCollins.