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12 Books in 12 Months

writing books and blogging about it

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Storytelling and Smiles – an interview with Electric Tales

Electric Tales: March Edition
Sian at March's Electric Tales © Chris Scott

There’s always a lot of literary activity happening in Edinburgh – just look at UNESCO’s What’s On page if you don’t believe me – but there’s nothing quite like Electric Tales, returning to The Stand once again tomorrow night.  I spoke to comedian, writer and ET founder Sian Bevan to find out more.

Continue reading “Storytelling and Smiles – an interview with Electric Tales”

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.

Continue reading “Literary Death Match Edinburgh”

Book Bloggers Unite

Do you like books?  Do you like blogging?  Then why not come to a book blogger meet up as part of the Edinburgh book festival?  Bethany Anderson is here to tell us more…

As Scots, we’re used to being left out. America has it all, and England (or London, anyway) has quite a few. But book blogger events in Scotland? Naw.

Scotland may only be wee, and OK there aren’t millions of us, but that’s no reason that we shouldn’t do something. Since no one else was, I have taken it upon myself to gather together some bookish types in Scotland.

What better place and time than the Edinburgh International Book Festival? On Thursday August 18th, book bloggers are invited to meet just outside Charlotte Square Gardens at 7.30pm (if we meet outside the entrance then we won’t be in everyone’s way).

The idea is to get to know each other – where do you blog? Why? Let’s share hilarious blogger anecdotes – like that one time you read that crap book, or the one time when someone spammed your blog, or that one time (or several) where you got drunk and did x, y, or z. I believe this is also known as socialising.

We can meet, grab a drink, meander round the gardens and pester some fellow bookish buddies. Then, at 9, if the feeling takes us, we can take a peek at the Unbound event or go for a drink elsewhere – whatever out blogger hearts want!

Hopefully, some fun times will be had and some friendships made. At least everyone should have a new blog to look at! Who knows? Maybe we’ll bump into each other more often during the festival!

Bethany Anderson is a writer who blogs about books at http://subtlemelodrama.blogspot.com.  She tweets as @subtlemelodrama.

Mister Grumpy

My last email from Andrew of Far too Snug and Twitter fame.  You may remember the other day we spoke of what book shops do with genre fiction and where I would like to be shelved if I was a published author.

I think when you are editing the 12 books you should insert a recurring character. I always meant to do that with a guy called ‘Mister Grumpy’ but I’ve never quite got round to it. This is mainly because when you are trying to sell an individual story to lots of different magazines it doesn’t really make any sense to have a character whose presence is explained in another story.

I think most people write based on an initial idea that develops and snowballs. It isn’t a conscious effort on most people’s parts to think ‘Today I will write a space opera’. However your interests will certainly shape the kind of ideas you have. In your case you have had to do research into the genres you haven’t been as familiar with as others, yes?

Do you feel that writing lots of different genres will actually sharpen your voice, as you will have to find your way of writing each one?

Maybe when you’re published you find yourself having to write a certain way. Madeleine Wickham wrote her  books before finding success with the Shopaholic series under the Sophie Kinsella pen-name, but the latter’s success allowed her to return to her initial interest in writing more Wodehouse-esque novels (which, incidentally, got described as ‘Literary Fiction’ on World Book Night. They seem more like comedies based on the descriptions though).

For example, I have recently read The City and The City by China Mieville and The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall. Mieville’s previous books have been fantasy/steampunk, so City… was shelved in that section. Raw Shark… was Hall’s first book, and is shelved in Fiction, but there’s certainly overlap between the two to my mind involving conceptual space and the human mind’s compartmentalising of things. Either could be shelved in the other’s section.

Both are very good, by the by.

With that in mind, would you rather be a popular fantasy author who moved into other territories but still got shelved in the same place, or a critically acclaimed Fiction author who dabbles in other genres?


I think that writing in different genres will challenge me and develop my voice in other ways, yes.  I hope it does, anyway.  And of course the more research I do the more likely that is to happen, because reading other books in the genre gives you an understanding of what works, what doesn’t; what has already been done to death and what might benefit from a different spin being put on it.  The main thing that’s come out of this so far is that I need to spend more time reading and absorbing other people’s stories – I perhaps don’t yet know enough to be as clever about things as Dianna Wynne Jones or Neil Gaiman, but I’ll get there!

I think I’d rather be popular than critically acclaimed, to be honest.  I would like to think people were reading my books because they enjoyed them, rather than because they’d been told by a panel of self appointed experts that it was clever or deep.

I don’t think I’m in too much danger of being critically acclaimed though, because my sense of humour comes through in everything I write and unfortunately I do tend towards the silly.  I would edit things out that looked in danger of becoming too serious or po-faced.  That isn’t to say that I don’t write well or have interesting ideas… but I’d rather be Pratchett than Tolkein.  Although if I come out with anything as good as China Mieville does I’ll be insufferably smug.

I do sort of think I’d get annoyed if I got pigeon holed in one genre, but there again it would depend on what that genre was.  I can’t envision writing the same character for 30 crime books, like Ian Rankin or MC Beaton – but if I was writing fantasy, the nature of the genre might well involve overlapping without having to focus on the same protagonist every time.

Freedom to write and do different things is always nice, because if you open yourself up to new experiences it can give you other viewpoints and ideas that work quite well in separate contexts.  As well as writing fiction I do local news journalism, cultural comment and reviews, and the odd comic or illustration; then when I return to 12 books I’ve got different ideas and perspectives to filter in there on top of specific genre research.  However, if I had a character like Harry Potter or Rebus that people really loved and wanted to hear more about, I can’t imagine that I would say no!

In summary – I would like to be popular and able to dabble in a few different genres, but my main hope is that people enjoy reading what I write.  Preferably enough that I can make a living out of it, one day…

The Social Network

Yesterday I dedicated a not inconsiderable amount of time to attempting to get the 12 Books in 12 Months Facebook page more ‘likes’ – 100 by 10pm, as a matter of fact.  I failed.

However, some nice people did help out, and I think you should check out their work to help me say thanks.

Props to my lovely retweeters:

– Kirsty Wilkinson is an Edinburgh-based genealogist.  She runs her own business called My Ain Folk, and if you are looking to find out about your family tree, she can almost certainly help.  Her blog, The Professional Descendant, covers all kinds of information about genealogy and family history, and of course you can also follow her on twitter.

– Emma Livingstone is studying for an MA in publishing at the University of the Arts in London.  She blogs about publishing, arts, music and culture here, and you can also follow her on twitter.  And if you’re good, maybe one day she’ll help you get your book published…

– Sam Kurd is a writer and philosopher who reviews sci-fi and fantasy games, books and telly for places like Den of Geek, Sci-Fi Heaven and  Cirque Des Geeks.  He has also recently started work on a film script.  Follow him on the twitter too.

And thanks to the people who helped me get from 85 to a more respectable 97 – Rab, Ian, Rachel, Juliet (aka The Crafty Green Poet), Bob, Alastair (overlord of STV Local North Edinburgh and Greener Leith), Emily (Jewellery Designer), Caro, Ellen (St Andrews Uni DoSDA contender 2011/12) and Cougar.  If any of you want any links publicizing, let me know!

I appreciate that Facebook is deeply annoying in a lot of respects, but social networking feels like a pretty crucial part of getting this project into the public domain and that makes it a necessary evil.  So please keep liking the 12 Books page and spreading the word through the power of stalkerfeed!  Books 4-12 will thank you!

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