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12 Books in 12 Months

writing books and blogging about it

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alanbissett

Literary Death Match Edinburgh

A Literary Death Match is a wonderful thing.

For some reason I had assumed that everyone would have heard of it by now, but apparently not, so I shall explain.  Literary Death Match is an event where writers compete against one another for the adulation of their peers, or failing that the approval of a live audience and panel of judges.  Four writers read their stuff for up to seven minutes (any longer and they get shot) and are whittled down to two according to the criteria of literary merit, performance, and intangibles.  They then go head to head in a final round that doesn’t involve reading, but is in some way literary – for instance Tuesday’s champion was ultimately decided by spelling bee.

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The Great Kindle Challenge: Day 7

© John Gilchrist (http://www.flickr.com/photos/johngilchrist/)

For everyone in Scotland, this is one of those days where you want to be curled up in bed with a good book.  In Edinburgh a 60 second walk along Princes Street had me looking like a drowned rat earlier; the zoo and the castle  both closed early because of the weather; and according to twitter someone on Blackford Hill measured the wind travelling at 76 miles an hour.  Truly autumn is here – if by ‘autumn’ you mean minor apocalypse.

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End of Books: The Return

“I’ve got an idea for your blog,” Bob said mysteriously at the office tea point one morning, “but I won’t tell you about it now, I’ll speak to you later.”

Then he vanished into the mist like he’d never been there at all.  Being as how I’m not much of a pre-10am person this was a little befuddling.  Why was our office so misty, and on a sunny day?  Still, an hour or two of putting together resource packs sorted me right out.  By the time he reappeared to expound on his idea, I was alert as a tack.

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Smoke Heads and Pack Men

left: Alan Bissett, right: Doug Johnstone

I first came across Doug Johnstone and Alan Bissett when I worked in the library service.  I happened to start by reading second novels by both of them (The Ossians by Johnstone and The Incredible Adam Spark by Bissett), although this wasn’t deliberate and technically The Ossians was Johnstone’s first novel, it just came out second.

At the time I thought maybe I liked these books because I could relate to them; they were about things I recognized.  Johnstone’s book is about a band touring the edges of Scotland, which starts off in Edinburgh – I live in Edinburgh and all my flatmates are in bands.  Meanwhile Bissett’s is about a lad with learning difficulties living in small town Scotland – I grew up in small town Scotland worked for a while with kids who had learning difficulties.  Having read more of their stuff, though, I know I’d have enjoyed them even if they hadn’t happened to appeal so specifically to my experience.  This is because the quality of the writing is high, and because they are both doing something a bit different.

Rather than giving them an event each, the book festival decided to put the two men together last night to chat about their newest books, Smoke Heads (Johnstone) and Pack Men (Bissett).

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I Have Questions

Further to Monday’s shout out for guest bloggers, for the rest of this week I am answering the queries of Andrew Blair, an Edinburgh-based writer of comedy and other things.  You can see some of his work on this website, or follow him on Twitter @aagb1884.

Tuesday 26/4/11, 08:00

Ali,

I have been reading your blog sporadically. I have questions.

Number 1. You are writing in 12 different genres. This is not a question. What genres of books do you predominantly read and have you enjoyed the experience in researching others? That is a question.

Andrew

Tuesday 25/4/11, 13:01

Andrew,

I don’t really have a favourite genre, although I lean towards books with a sense of humour and quite like things with a fantastical element.  I also like a lot of YA and kids books, and Scottish fiction.

To give some examples: some of the best and funniest books I’ve ever read are the Mr Gum series by Andy Stanton, which I’d recommend to anyone (even though they’re really aimed at 8 year olds).  Meanwhile in fantastical terms, I go from the very dense prose of Isabel Allende to Neil Gaiman‘s Sandman graphic novels with a bit of future dystopia from Aldous Huxley or Margaret Atwood along the way.

In terms of YA, I’ve recently enjoyed stuff by Holly Black and Gemma Malley, as well as The Gates by John Connolly who started out writing adult crime novels.  You can read the first chapter on his website, and I think it’s awesome.

Great kids books I’ve read lately include The Girl Who Could Fly by Victoria Forrester and The Secret Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart.  I’d also recommend Steve Augarde‘s ‘Touchstone Trilogy’ which is suitable for 11+.  Good Scottish novels include The Ossians by Doug Johnstone and The Incredible Adam Spark by Alan Bissett, and anything by Muriel Spark…  Essentially I like to think I’ll give anything a go, and as such my ‘to-read’ list is very, very long.

In terms of research for 12 books, so far I have probably enjoyed the romance month the most because the genre is often unintentionally very funny.  It’s quite rare to find a romance book that is genuinely romantic, I think partly because a lot of authors tend to get caught up in sex scenes – one of the reasons why I decided to go for unrequited love, actually – and these are notoriously difficult to write well.

Ali

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