Tuesday, 20 November 2012 16:30

The Next Big Thing

Ok: so I’ve done some guest blogs - for the fabulous Mslexia magazine (http://www.mslexia.co.uk ) amongst others. But I am new to personal blogging. So when the wonderful Michelle Green http://www.michellegreen.co.uk asked me to pick up the baton for The Next Big Thing, I thought, no time like the present to get started.

So here goes - answering questions on my forthcoming debut novel The Palace of Curiosities.


I will then tag five more writers who'll tell you about their 'next big thing' next Wednesday.


Where did the idea come from for the book?

The Palace of Curiosities is set in a Victorian sideshow. One of the main narrators is Eve, a woman entirely covered in hair. Abel, the other narrator, is also profoundly ‘different’ – but his difference is not obvious at the beginning. I’ve always been interested in people who don’t fit. What happens when they try. What happens when they don’t. I’m also fascinated by people who think they are ‘normal’, and what that whole concept of ‘normal’ is actually about. I guess this is the engine that drives a lot of my writing.


What genre does your book fall under?

It could fall under one of many headings – or none. I’m not a genre writer. Yes, it’s set in the 1850s, but I am not a ‘historical’ writer. It has murders – but it’s not a crime novel. It has some unconventional sex – but it’s not a bodice-ripper. And so on. It’s been picked up by the commercial fiction arm of HarperCollins, yet they are launching it as part of their ‘literary collection’. So, go figure.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
I’m not in the least bit interested in ‘names’. I’d like folk who can act rather than simply pout at the camera or are This Year’s Thing. Neither do I want Tim Burton or Terry Gilliam anywhere near it. Yes, I am smiling as I type this.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
The Palace of Curiosities is told through the eyes of Eve, the Lion-Faced Girl and interwoven with the story of Abel, the Flayed Man - both freaks of nature, both searching for escape. It explores life on the fringes of society and traces their struggle for self-discovery on the boundaries of what is perceived as human.


Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I’ll say right now that this whole experience is a dream come true. I am pinching myself on a regular basis. I have a gorgeous agent, Charlotte Robertson of Aitken Alexander Associates, and my publisher is the lovely Katie Espiner at HarperCollins. It’s out in March 2013. To say I am happy is the understatement of this or any other century.


How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

Where do I begin? I’d been with a previous agent for twelve years, and had given him four novels. But however hard I tried (and did I try), however hard I worked on editorial suggestions, nothing seemed good enough to get through the door of a publisher. So – I’d pretty much given up. I decided, as a final fling, to enter this novel (and another of the four – but that’s another story) into the Mslexia Novel Competition 2011. It ruddy well won the darn thing, and the other novel was a runner-up. Great googly moogly.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Abel is a character who has been ‘with’ me for years. I tried to write his story in a previous novel (one that is firmly under the bed with no prospect of it ever being taken out) and couldn’t get it right. So, I started afresh. The inspiration I needed was reading about how ‘freaks’ were exhibited in the nineteenth century, in particular the story of hairy woman Julia Pastrana (billed as ‘The Ugliest Woman in the World’). She was touted round the USA by an unscrupulous showman – when she died he had her stuffed so she could continue to earn him money. Good grief.

What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?
There is love, jealousy, violence, betrayal, secrets, lies, odd sex (as well as a bit of the ordinary), belly-dancing - and a lion who gets his revenge.


My five writers for next Wednesday are:
To be announced...