Novelists and creative writing tutors, Martine McDonagh and Stephen May, will discuss their latest novels and how they approach writing about family relationships at Novel Nights. With seven novels between them and years of experience of helping other writers with their work this event promises to be insightful and interesting.
Martine McDonagh‘s third novel, Narcissism for Beginners, was published in March 2017. Martine worked for 30 years as an artist manager in the music business (so knows a thing or two about narcissism) and devised and runs the MA Creative Writing & Publishing at West Dean College in Sussex. She has also worked as an editor, proofreader and script consultant. Martine grew up in Bristol and her second novel, After Phoenix, is set there.
Stephen May was born in 1964 and didn’t begin writing seriously until his 40s. His first novel TAG was longlisted for Wales Book of The Year and won the Media Wales Reader’s Prize. His second, Life! Death! Prizes! was shortlisted for the 2012 Costa Novel Award and The Guardian Not The Booker Prize. His third novel Wake Up Happy Every Day was published in 2014 and his latest Stronger Than Skin is published by Sandstone Press in March 2017. Stephen has worked as a storyliner for television soap opera, written two textbooks on creative writing and collaborates on performance pieces with theatre-makers, artists, film-makers, musicians and dancers.
The first part of the evening will consist of readings of novel extracts where writers are exploring family themes. If you want to be considered for a slot you’ll need to submit it for consideration. Good luck.
Tangent publish an eclectic mix of books on topics such as street art, Bristol, politics, poetry and fiction. Tangent also publishes short story anthologies including the Bristol Short Story Prize anthologies.
Kevlin Henney, Suzanne McConaghy and Gavin Watkins
Kevlin Henney writes shorts and flashes and drabbles of fiction, which have appeared online, on tree and on air. His stories have been published in places usual for fiction (such as Litro and Every Day Fiction) and less usual (such as Physics World and New Scientist), and have snuck into a number of anthologies, including We Can Improve You, Landmarks, North by Southwest and The Salt Anthology of New Writing. He (dis)organises the BristolFlash events for National Flash Fiction Day and is involved in the organisation of the Bristol Festival of Literature. Twitter @kevlinhenney
Suzanne McConaghy has had many educational resources published and won the publisher’s Diamond award for French and Spanish fiction in 2015 and their Outstanding Author Award 2016. She has now turned to fiction full-time. She has a middle-grade novel in English out to agents, is revising an adult thriller set in Colombia and has begun a dystopian story, working title ‘Takeover,’ from which tonight’s reading comes.
Gavin Watkins is a Bristol based writer, inventor, poet, engineer, artist, baker, runner and brewer of exotic wines. He is a member of the Bristol Writers Group, and a committee member of the Bristol Festival of Literature. He has had short stories published in local anthologies, and his own zines. His debut novel The Ultimate Career Move – a pop music conspiracy novel – is available from Tangent Books and Amazon. Twitter @g_watkinsauthor
This month the theme is all about love and writing romantic fiction. Guest author, Rosemary Dun ‘s debut novel The Trouble with Love was published last year by Sphere. Buy the book on Amazon (Currently just 99p). It’s getting 5 star reviews.
Set in Bristol, the novel’s heroine Polly has her own life set up thank you very much with her own business and house. She meets the lovely Spike aware that he’s emigrating to Australia. She hadn’t planned on falling in love or falling pregnant… Three years later, the single mum is dating again – she’s just found someone when Spike returns with a new girlfriend by his side …
Rosemary will be talking about
how she got published (and the prat falls along the way);
how it’s never too late to get that publishing deal;
whether the romantic comedy is a genre which has had its day, or is still very much alive & kicking?
Rosemary will also do a short reading from her debut novel The Trouble With Love, published by Little, Brown, followed by a Q&A.
During the first half of the evening, we will hear readings from Kate Dun, Chloe Turner, Judy Darley and Amy Morse
Kate Dunn: I’ve had five books published, written articles for magazines and contributed poetry to literary journals. I’ve also written travel articles for national newspapers including The Observer and The Daily Telegraph. You can find more information from my website www.katedunn.co.uk
Chloe Turner (@turnerpen2paper) is a writer from Gloucestershire, whose stories have been published in literary magazines including Hark, Kindred (US), Halo and The Woven Tale Press. InShort Publishing (Aus) released Long-gone Mary as an individual pocketbook in 2015, and Labour of Love was a For Books’ Sake Weekend Read earlier this year. Chloe is seeking representation for her first novel, What Has Fallen From Heaven.
Judy Darley is a fiction writer, poet and journalist whose work appears in magazines, anthologies and in her collection Remember Me To The Bees. She’s read stories on BBC radio, in cafés, caves, an artist’s studio and a disused church. Judy blogs at http://www.skylightrain.com./
Author and entrepreneur, Amy Morse, writes fiction as Amy C Fitzjohn. Harbouring dreams of being a writer since childhood, she published her first novel, The Bronze Box, in 2013. Since then she has written three further novels, and counting.
Celia has written nine novels and four non-fiction titles.
The latest, Wild Weekend explores the tensions in a Suffolk village in homage to Oliver Goldmsith’s She Stoops to Conquer. To explore suburban living, she created the community of Westwick and explored mid-life manners in Mr Fabulous And Friends, and the environmental implications of urbanisation in Getting Home.
She has often juxtaposed historical and contemporary settings, notably eighteenth century Spain in Sunset, pre-revolutionary St Petersburg in White Ice and Malaysia in the time of World War II in Pearls. F
Her non-fiction titles include two standard works on the art of writing: Arts Reviews (Kamera Books, 2008) and Bestseller (Fourth Estate, 1996.) Her most recent is Deep France (Pan, 2004) a journal of a year she spent writing in south-west France.
She has served on the management committee of The Society of Authors and judged national literary awards including the Betty Trask Award and the Macmillan Silver PEN Prize. A former media columnist, she contributes to The Times, BBC Radio 4 and other national and international media. ”
Writers who will share short extracts of their novels at Novel Nights.
Trevor Coombs graduated from the University of Bristol with a Diploma in Creative Writing, has completed four novels and written and performed a number of monologues. He likes playing with history, where he feels safe.
Katie Munnik is a Canadian writer living in Cardiff. Her prose, poetry and creative non-fiction has appeared in several magazines and anthologies, in newspapers across Canada and on CBC radio. She has recently completed fiction mentorship through the Humber School for Writers in Toronto, and is looking for a home for her first novel, Birthwood
For several years Ali Bacon has been on a mission to tell the story of Scottish artist and photographer David Octavius Hill. Last year she distilled the many thousands of words she had written into an hour’s worth of short stories to be read at a photography festival. She is now adding to these in the hope of completing the collection – and the story – some time soon.
“Lucienne Boyce has published two historical novels: To The Fair Land (SilverWood Books, 2012) andBloodie Bones: A Dan Foster Mystery (SilverWood Books, 2015). Bloodie Bones was winner of the Historical Novel Society Indie Award 2016, and was also a semi finalist for the M M Bennetts Award for Historical Fiction 2016. The Bristol Suffragettes (non fiction) was published in 2013. Lucienne is on the steering committee of the West of England and South Wales Women’s History Network, and is a presenter on BCfm Radio’s Silver Sound show. “
What I really love is working directly with the author and developing an idea to a full-fledged published book. It’s a wonderful feeling when you walk into a bookstore and see a book that you have had a hand in. Or seeing a stranger reading a book you worked on. There’s also a wonderful joy in seeing the progress of a title as the book develops from an idea or first draft to the finished product. Agents are there to help the writer; we’re the cheerleader, editor, helper, lawyer, bookseller, publicist, advisor for all things. And that close relationship can also lead to develop life-long friendships.
Q: What advice do you have for unpublished authors who want to find a literary agent?
When you spend months, years, decades writing your book, you should spend some time when looking for a literary agent. I receive too many ‘mass emails’ addressed to ‘Sir/Madam’ or ‘To Whom It May Concern’ – I even received a ‘Dead Mr. Agent’ once! This tells me that person just emailing every-single-email they can find. It’s best to research the agent, know what they work on, understand what they are looking for – and then if you think it’s a match, reach out using specifics. Tell me why you think I would work best for you. Agents receive hundreds of submissions a week – hundreds! There is no way we can read everything that comes in and do our day-to-day jobs. So if a manuscript comes to me and it is clear it’s a group-submission, it doesn’t go to the ‘to read’ pile.
We are all on-line and many agents participate at conferences, festivals, writing workshops etc. Most agents have profiles and biographies – so have a look at what we do (and who we represent) before sending your book out to us.
Still stuck? Have a look at the books that you think would sit happily next to yours. Most authors will thank their agents in the acknowledgements – that’s a good way to find out who is representing books that are similar to yours.
If that doesn’t work – attend festivals and conferences where you know agents are scheduled to talk or be on panels. There are some excellent festivals and conferences happening – as a writer, attend! At the very least, you’ll meet some wonderful people.
Q: Tell me three things you look for when you see a manuscript for the first time
I look for and read for (in order!)
Voice. Does the author’s voice on-the-page work and capture my interest. The twist of phrase, sentence structure, looking at things in a new way.
Pace. In any book – fiction to non-fiction – you want to read something that ‘keeps you turning the pages’. So pace is very important to me. I once spoke to someone who wanted to send me a script to look at and they said ‘it’s a little slow in the beginning, but really picks up around page 100.’
Story. The story! Try hard not to complicate things and include a huge cast of characters. Make sure everyone is there for a reason. If there are two characters in your book who are doing the same thing – and sound the same – then maybe those two people should be edited down to one. Make sure the story is exactly that – tell me a story. Keep that in mind as you write – ‘am I telling a story’ and you’ll find yourself self-editing, thereby quickening the pace and bringing your voice out even more.
Q: Is the book ‘concept’ as important as the quality of the writing when you are considering working with a writer?
For non-fiction, concept is key. And making sure that whatever your non-fiction concept is, you are the most qualified to tell it. For fiction, concept is certainly wonderful – but it is not the most important factor when I read. A ‘coming of age’ novel is certainly not a unique concept, but when told in the right voice with pace and story – then it can be quite special.
Q: Tell me about publishing trends at the moment
The trend is never pay attention to trends. Because once a trend hits, the market will be flooded with ‘like’ titles. If you are brave enough and fast enough to get into trend publishing, and make it work, then that’s a skill. At the end of the day, the best trend is a great book. So publishing needs to and has to always pay attention to the quality of the title – whether that’s a full-color fashion book or a debut novel. The trend that will never go away is quality.
In January Dr Mimi Thebo inspired our audience with her talk, Finding Your Voice. Mimi has had seven books published in the last ten years and lectures on the BA and MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University. Her latest work, DREAMING THE BEAR was published on the 1st February 2016 and is set in Yellowstone Park, aimed at young readers. She blogs on writing at My Glamorous Literary Life and her author site aimed at a young audience is http://www.mimithebo.net/
Tobias Jones joined us in February. Tobias is an author, broadcaster and Observer columnist and spoke about “Inventing your own Language – how to make-up new words and mine old ones”. He has published three novels and four works of non-fiction. He has been a columnist for the Observer and for Internazionale, and has made documentaries for the BBC and for RAI. His next book is set in 1549.
Writer and broadcaster Sanjida Kay discussed writing and psychological thrillers at Novel Nights in March. Her fifth novel, and her first thriller, Bone by Bone, was published by Corvus Books on 3rd March 2016.
Lucy Robinson is the best-selling author of four critically-acclaimed novels: The Day We Disappeared, The Unfinished Symphony of You and Me, A Passionate Love Affair with a Total Stranger and The Greatest Love Story of All Time, all of which are published by Penguin. Prior to writing Lucy worked in theatre production and then factual television, working on documentaries for all of the UK’s major broadcasters. Her writing career began when she started a blog for Marie Clare.
In May we had a panel discussion on marketing your books with three independently-published authors. Debbie Young is the author of warm, funny fiction and helpful, friendly non-fiction, including how-to books for self-published authors. She is the Commissioning Editor of the Alliance of Independent Authors‘ Advice Centre blog, a speaker on self-publishing and book marketing, and a regular panellist of BBC Radio Gloucestershire’s Book Club. She founded and directs the Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival (www.hulitfest.com) and runs author groups in Bristol and Cheltenham. She is never bored. www.authordebbieyoung.com Twitter:@DebbieYoungBN
Dan Jeffries was born with an incredibly rare vascular condition that left him blind in one eye from birth, ‘Me, Myself & Eye’ explores what it’s like living with one of the world’s rarest medical conditions — and then finding out you have another one. Set in Bristol, Dan recounts school, University, love, creativity and everything in-between. Always willing to embrace new technology, Dan’s story encourages the reader to use their mobile device whilst reading to view images, documents, video and more, all designed to enhance the reading experience. Published by Tangent Books, available as iBook, eBook and Audio Book coming soon.
Fraud, blackmail, murder and cocaine habits feature in Up In Smoke, After The Interview, and (most recently) The Bride’s Trail, published by Perfect City Press. She’s also contributed short stories to anthologies, like A Dark Imagined Bristol by the Bristol Fiction Writers’ Group. All books are available as paperbacks and e-books. Find out more at aaabbott.co.uk, read her blogs, and subscribe to her newsletter to receive a free e-book of short stories, which isn’t available anywhere else.”
Babs Horton is an award winning novelist. Her first book, A Jarful of Angels, ( Simon and Schuster, 2003) won the Pendleton May prize and was short-listed for the Authors’ Club ‘First novel’ award. Dandelion Soup was published in 2004,Wildcat Moon (2006.) Recipes for Cherubs (2009) and Holy Mackerel (2014). She was a contributor to Beryl Cook (UPP, 2009) and her short stories have appeared in magazines and anthologies worldwide.
Babs was born in Tredegar, South Wales, and brought up in London in a variety of pubs and attended seven different schools eventually moving to Plymouth where she graduated from the College of St Mark & St John. She was a teacher for many years, working with children with behaviour problems and for 10 years taught English in an adolescent unit for students with mental health problems and is a firm believer in the power of literature in soothing the troubled mind. She is an RLF fellow at the University of Plymouth, Learning Development Advisor and consultant fellow. She regularly visits schools, universities and libraries giving lively workshops on creative writing, literacy and essay writing. Last year she was involved in the Immersive Writing pilot scheme at the University of Plymouth.
Meet the amazing writers who share their work at Novel Nights, alongside our guest speakers. If you want to share your work get in touch.
Simon Tonkin, Bec Treveil, Ali Bacon, Mike Manson, Kate Simants, Caroline New, Alan Toyne, Paul Kirby, Kate Simants, Trevor Coombs, Claire Snook, Pete Sutton, Eugene Lambert, Fiona Longsdon, Mina Bancheva, Helen Abbott, Lily Forbes, Lesley Gillilan, Anne Corlett, Jim Broughton, Paul McIntyre, Jean Burnett, Ken Elkes, Joanne Sefton, Patrick Collins, Amy Wilson, Grace Palmer, Amna Khohker, Angus Bell
Kate Simants moved from London six years ago, but she still finds herself writing about the capital because it suits her style of bleak noir better than Keynsham. Her first novel The Blanks was inspired in part by her work as an undercover TV journalist. She’s now completing the first draft of her second novel, Lock Me In, which she will be reading from today.
Caroline New taught sociology at Bath Spa University until her retirement and since then has been learning the art of fiction writing, including through a Creative Writing Masters at Bath Spa, among the peacocks, but also through the necessary hard solitary slog. She has completed one novel and is happily writing another, set on a caravan site, about an eco-fascist regime post climate catastrophe. This is an extract from her debut novel, China’sDaughter, which is a coming of age story set among British Maoists in 1976.
Alan Toyne is zoo keeper at Bristol Zoo and a member of Bristol novelists writing group. He has had two short stories published and is a winner of the Guardian and BBC Radio 5 travel journalist of the year competition.
His current novel; Breaking Eden, is a multi-view point thriller set in a dilapidated creationist zoo in Cornwall. Breaking Eden is a tense, darkly comic and violent thriller that shines a light into the world of zoo keeping and the illegal animal trade. He is currently editing Urban Ape.
Maunagh Kelly is a painter living in Bristol. She was first published as a poet but some years ago defected to prose and the challenge that literary fiction presents. She has completed one novel, ‘The Perfect Shoes’, a story of love and obsession and, of course, shoes – and is now writing her second, ‘Number 61’, a young woman’s experiences living in a commune in the 1970s. She is a member of Bristol Novelists.
Trevor Coombs graduated from the University of Bristol Diploma in Creative Writing in 2003 with distinction, and has been writing historical novels and performance monologues ever since. The Diary of a Somerset Photographer is his third novel, his second to be set during the 1st World War. As the title suggests, it takes the form of a diary. He is currently finishing his fourth novel, The Impotent Voyeur, an extended monologue and stream of consciousness story, set in Argentina in 1970, but taking in large parts of the 20th century.
Claire Snook A former journalist now working in the digital world, Claire completed her MA in Creative Writing at Manchester University back in 2011. Her first novel, The Noh Mask, secured Claire a contract with the Darley Anderson Agency, but is yet to find a home. Heathlands is her current novel-in-progress.
Pete Sutton dreams up stories, many of which are about magpies. He’s had stuff published, online and in book form, and currently has a pile of words that one day may possibly be a novel. You can find him all over social media or worrying about events he’s organised at the Bristol Festival of Literature. On Twitter he’s @suttope and his Bristol Book Blog is here: http://brsbkblog.blogspot.co.uk/ He’s contributing editor of Far Horizons e-magazine which can be found here: http://info-far-horizons.wix.com/far-horizons-emag
Ali Bacon, author of A Kettle of Fish, A coming-of-age novel set in Scotland. Short stories i The Unchained Anthology, by Bristol Women Writers. Her first novel was shortlisted for the A&C Black First Novel Award 2007 and her second A Kettle of Fish was published in 2012 by Thornberry Publishing.
Mike Manson Bristol based writer and historian Mike Manson has recently returned from South America where he had been undertaking research for the novel he is currently writing – ‘Down in Demerara’. Venue Magazine said his most recent novel, Rules of the Road ‘… confirms Manson’s stature as a top drawer comic writer’. His first novel ‘Where’s My Money?’ (Tangent Books, 2008) was described by Arthur Smith as ‘full of brilliantly observed characters and consistently witty – and carries a poignant punch.’ Recently republished by Bristol Books, Riot! illuminates a darker moment in Bristol’s history. The book vividly recreates the dreadful sequence of events that led to the Bristol Bridge Massacre of 1793.
Bec Treveil has read twice at Novel Nights. Her novel is Encoded, an adventure for teenagers. Bec has just finished her MA in Writing for Young people at Bath and was awarded the Most promising writer by United Agents. Her manuscript is a supernatural/sci-fi adventure for teens.
Eugene Lambert Bath Spa Graduate MA “Writing for Young People”. His SF thriller, TheSign of One, was shortlisted for AM Heath’s Irish Children’s Prize, 2013. He is represented by Ben Illis at the BIA agency. Since we saw him at Novel Nights in 2014 he has got a three book deal.
Fiona Longsdon graduated from the Creative Writing MA at Bath Spa with a distinction last year and was short listed for the Janklow and Nesbit Bath Spa Prize. Her novel MotherLove centres around a fractured relationship between a mother, Oriel, and her daughter, Stella. Stella is made to believe that she’s responsible for her younger sister’s death, and the novel follows her search for redemption, and the discovery that she was lied to.
Simon Tonkin, is a member of Bristol Novelists Group. He was recently awarded the 80th poet by Liberty. Simon writes literary fiction and his novel The Writing Shed tells the story of a man obsessed with Dylan Thomas. He is currently working on this second novel.
Mina Bancheva was born in Bulgaria and emigrated to the UK in 1968. She lives in Bath where she works part-time as a psychotherapist. She completed the MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University in 2012, gaining a distinction. While on the course, she was short-listed for the Janklow and Nesbit Bath Spa Prize for her first novel Blue is the Colour of the Mountain.
Anne Corlett is a criminal lawyer who has completed two novels and is represented by the Richard Becklow agency. She has been on various competition longlists and shortlists, recently won the HE Bates prize and was place third in the Bristol short story prize. She is a student at Bath Spa on the MA.
Helen Abbott. Helen’s penname is AAAbott, deliberately gender neutral. After many years working for international companies, she writes about office life, spicing it up with murder, blackmail and fraud. Her last thriller was Up In Smoke. She’s reading from her new thriller, After The Interview, about the clash of big egos in IT. We’ve all had a really bad interview, but what happens when the tables are turned? In After The Interview, small mistakes have devastating consequences. Helen is an Indie author.
Jim Broughton Jim’s novel, ‘The Lazy Y’ is a novel about the cowboy code, set in the Wild West with the main narrator being Peaches. It also features Lucky, on account that he’s a woman.
Lesley Gilillan. On an MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa (which she passed with distinction), journalist Lesley Gilillan embarked on her first, as yet unfinished novel, Dark Side of the Moon. The novel is about growing up in two very different eras, a generation apart. Set in the 1970s, Linda Pink, a shy young student, joins a crowd of drug-fuelled, drop-outs hell bent on self-destruction – while, her mother, Dorothy, recalls painful memories of lost love, stolen youth and the tragedies of war.
Paul McIntyre is a member of Bristol Novelists and attended the University of Bristol Creative Writing Diploma. He is currently writing a thriller, The Blubber Bullet.
Jean Burnett’s novel ‘Servant of Darkness,‘ is a historical novel set in Renaissance Italy about the composer/murderer Gesualdo. Jean Burnett has worked as a journalist and advertising copywriter. She is a full time writer. Her novel Who Needs Mr Darcy? was published Little Brown. Jean is a member of Bristol Women Writers’ Group.
Ken ElkesKen is a travel writer and journalist who won the Fish Flash Fiction prize in 2013 and he’s also been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize.
Lily Forbesis a Retired paediatric nurse, a mother of 2 and grandmother of one. Her memoir, Under the Mango Tree, is based on the first 22 years of her life in Malaysia and India, and is about fulfilling her childhood dream of coming to the UK. Lily was a guest speaker at Novel Nights alongside Silverwood Books.
Patrick Collins is an Irish writer who has completed three novels.
Amy Wilson’s novel is Sherb and Manchego, a YA fantasy novel about one girl’s journey to restore sunlight and hope to a world lost to winter. Amy is a Bath Spa MA Graduate and former journalist
Grace Palmer Co-founder and organiser of Novel Nights. Grace’s first novel is The WishBone, which tells the story of a family in crisis. Grace works as a press officer and has a background in PR and marketing and a creative writing and english degree. From time to time she writes poetry and performs stand-up. She’s editing her novel and is looking to place it soon.
Amna Khokher Co-founder of Novel Nights. Writer and freelance editor. Bath Spa MA Graduate.