What’s the best thing about being published? Well, there’s the moment when the author’s copies arrive in a big cardboard box – that’s quite exciting. For me, though, nothing beats shutting down the laptop and getting out and about, meeting booksellers and readers, so I’ve been doing a lot of public events: readings, signings – that sort of thing. And rather than hit the road alone, I decided to collaborate with other writers. And so can I set The Iron Bird to one side and give a shout out to some of the wonderful writers I’ve had the privilege of working with over recent months? And of course, introduce their books.
In alphabetical order…
1. Stephanie Bretherton
Bone Lines (2018)
Stephanie and I have done a couple of events together this spring: an evening about alternative approaches to history at a great independent bookshop in Bristol, and an event focusing on imagination, myth and memory at Waterstones, Exeter. Despite a strong connection to the South West, she is based in London.
Drawn to what connects rather than separates, Stephanie is intrigued by the space between absolutes and opposites, between science and spirituality, nature and culture. Not surprisingly, then, her debut novel, Bone Lines – a story about two women separated by some 74,000 years – explores these themes. In some respects, it reminded me of Sapiens: a Brief History of Humankind. In fact, perhaps its greatest achievement is the sense it evokes of the emergence of our species.
2. Lindsay Clarke
Green Man Dreaming (2018)
It was a great honour to share the spotlight at Waterstones with Lindsay Clarke – “one of our finest living novelists” (London Magazine). Our paths crossed over a decade ago when he tutored a course I attended at the Arvon Foundation, and over the years, his ongoing support and encouragement had a huge influence on the final shape of The Iron Bird.
Since the publication of his prize-winning novel, The Chymical Wedding, in the late 1980s, the transformative power of the imagination and the enduring presence of myth have been central to Lindsay’s work. His latest book, Green Man Dreaming, explores the evolution of these ideas. This inspirational collection of essays, talks and personal reflections is one of those books that linger in the subconscious long after it has been closed – a book to return to again and again.
3. Stevyn Colgan
The Diabolical Club (2019)
Former QI scriptwriter, expat Cornishman and flâneur, Stevyn is the author of eight books and a popular speaker at festivals such as Latitude and Hay. We last worked together at the Bristol Festival of Literature where seven authors – all published by Unbound – put together a masterclass at the Arnolfini.
His latest novel, The Diabolical Club – a stand-alone sequel to his 2018 comedy murder mystery, A Murder to Die For – is out in the summer. As Sandi Toksvig once said, “only the British can mix humour and homicide so charmingly.”
4. Ashley Hickson-Lovence
The 392 (2019)
Back in March, I took part in the Brixton Book Jam – a quarterly literary event that aims to curate the best South London writing. Ashley was one of several writers who joined me on the stage of The Hootananny, and I just love the concept of his book: a novel set on a London bus travelling from Hoxton to Highbury Corner. Recommended.
5. Lucy-Anne Holmes
Don’t Hold My Head Down (2019)
When the award-winning rom com writer and No More Page 3 campaigner, Lucy-Anne Holmes, and I realised that our books were scheduled to be published on the same day we decided to team up and take them on the road together. Of course, in some respects, it’s an unusual mix: a novel about Margaret Thatcher and a memoir about finding feminism through sex. Surprisingly, though, there’s a significant crossover between our books – and sex and politics is a great combination.
Over the spring, then, there have been evenings of Sex & Politics at Blackwell’s (Oxford), Foyles (Bristol), Housmans Bookshop (London) and Waterstones (Nottingham). It’s been a huge amount of fun. Next up: Waterstones (Brighton) on 24 September – tickets available here.
And Lucy’s memoir? Well, here are some reviews…
Unflinchingly confronts the reality of women’s complex sexual lives without patronising or preaching, and best of all it will make you laugh yourself silly at the same time!
As a repressed Catholic and humourless feminist I won’t be reading this filthy book. Even the cover with all sex stuff written all over it makes me feel physically sick. I wouldn’t even read a book about my own sex life for Christ’s sake. I don’t even want it in the house. I’ve put it under a pot at the bottom of the garden.’
6. Alice Jolly
Mary Ann Sate, Imbecile (2018)
I was over the moon when Alice agreed to join Stephanie and I for an evening at Max Minerva’s Marvellous Books discussing alternative approaches to history.
Set in the late nineteenth century, her third novel, Mary Ann Sate, Imbecile, brings to life a period of rapid social change, recreating history from a woman’s perspective, and giving poetic voice to the silenced women of the past. It has been shortlisted for the Rathbone Folio Prize.
7. Mary Monro
Stranger in my Heart (2018)
Shortly before The Iron Bird was published I was invited to give a talk to the Society of Authors – a daunting prospect and so I was delighted when Mary Monro, whose memoir is also published by Unbound, offered to come along and help me field questions from the audience.
Mary’s father fought at the battle of Hong Kong in 1941, and was taken prisoner by the Japanese. He escaped in 1942 and made his way across 1200 miles of inhospitable country to reach the Chinese capital. Retracing his journey, Mary achieves a deeper understanding, not just of the stranger she called ‘Dad’, but also of herself. The book has a forward by HRH The Princess Royal.
a selection of tweets about the events.
Last night @blackwelloxford was so much fun and such a delight to meet two incredibly gifted, lovely authors. Thank you so much @LucyAnneHolmes and @robertwoodshaw for a really entertaining evening of #sexandpolitics @unbounders and thanks to all who came pic.twitter.com/wPvIeiNdcK— James Orton (@philoxophy) March 2, 2019
Had a brilliant evening @BrixtonBookJam😎Great to hear fellow writers’ work (esp. The 392 by @AHicksonLovence In The Wake by @helentrevorrow and The Iron Bird by @robertwoodshaw (amazing perfs all). My thanks to @badzelda her lovely mum, the lighting guy + cracking compere Stevie pic.twitter.com/Gode6qQqiH— Jennie Ensor (@Jennie_Ensor) March 5, 2019