A Trio of Book Launches

 

It’s been an exciting summer and early autumn for Honno, the Welsh women’s press.

I’ve been to three Honno book launches – four, if I count my own launch for Not Thomas back in June.

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Helen with Judith Barrow

The first was in July for Helen Lewis’s The House with Old Furniture

It’s a contemporary ghost story set in Pembrokeshire, where Helen and her family live. As well as being a very atmospheric otherworldly story, it’s also a very perceptive novel about grief and what it can do to families, especially children. It’s Helen’s debut novel and I thoroughly recommend it.

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Judith with Christoph Fischer of Llandeilo – and me too

The second book launch, the following month, was for Judith Barrow’s fourth in her family saga series. It’s called A Hundred Tiny Threads .

The novel tells the background to some of the characters in Judith’s other books, so is an ideal introduction to the series, as well as a revelationary read for those who have read the first three. I’m reading A Hundred Tiny Threads at the moment, and I’m thoroughly enjoying losing myself in Judith’s wonderful storytelling. I just know I’ll have to re-read Pattern of Shadows when I’ve finished to remind myself what happened next; and then Changing Patterns and Living in the Shadows

So many books, so little time!

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Carol and me

And the final launch in this Honno trio was one I attended just last week. It was for Carol Lovekin’s second novel, Snow Sisters.

It was held in Lampeter, at the Old Hall of the university. Carol read a spellbinding chapter from her new novel, which has all the hallmarks of being as brillaint as her debut, Ghostbird. I’m really looking forward to reading the magically beautiful Snow Sisters –  preferably in front of a log fire on a snowy evening, although I very much doubt I’ll be able to hold out until the weather turns that cold!

So that’s my Honno book launch round-up.

To all authors everywhere about to launch a new book, may your launch be full of friends, family and smiling faces (and maybe some cupcakes – I’m thinking of you, Dyane Harwood!).

Most of all, relax and enjoy!

Sara x

 

Sara’s debut novel ‘Not Thomas’ – a story of child neglect, love and hope, shown through the eyes of five-year-old Tomos – is published by Honno Press in paperback and as an e-book, and is available to buy direct from the publisher, from Amazon and from all good bookshops.

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Not Thomas Brook Cottage Books Blog Tour

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This week is a very exciting one for me as my debut novel for adults, Not Thomas, goes on blog tour with Brook Cottage Books. I’ve never had a blog tour before and so needed to have the whole thing explained to me very carefully and slowly by Helena who’s responsible for marketing at Honno, my publishers. I think I’ve got my head around it now.

For the whole of the week, book bloggers will be promoting and reviewing ‘Not Thomas’ on their own websites, and also posting on twitter and Facebook – all co-ordinated by the wonderful Brook Cottage Books. There’s also an interview and competition to win copies of Not Thomas hosted by Boon’s Bookcase.

Today I’m going to feature here on my website the review by BeingAnne.

Not only did Anne write a review that made me cry – in the best way possible – she also nominated ‘Not Thomas’ for the Guardian’s ‘Not the Booker‘ prize. I’ve followed that award with interest for a number of years now, and to think that my little novel will be on the longlist come next Monday (provided it meets all the requirements) has absolutely made my week! So a huge thank you to Anne for taking the time and trouble to nominate Not Thomas, and for believing it worthy.

Here’s Anne’s review:

“Every so often, a book comes along – without any great fanfare – that makes me want to shout about it from the rooftops. Not Thomas by Sara Gethin – published by the consistently excellent Honno Press on 15th June – is one of the most stunning books I’ve read this year. As I finished reading, I immediately nominated it for the Guardian Not The Booker prize – if there is any justice in this world (and I do hope there will be) this book should be on mainstream prize shortlists everywhere. I’m just so thankful that Sara chose a blog tour with Brook Cottage Books to help bring it to people’s wider attention. Had she not, it might have passed me by entirely… and what a loss that would have been.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a big fan of reading about the ugliness of this world, drug culture, violence, neglect – but that’s the world you’ll find in this book, and I couldn’t tear my eyes away. And if you’d told me that I’d sit, totally rapt, reading a book written in the voice of a five year old child, seeing that dreadful world through his eyes and from his unique perspective – well, I really wouldn’t have believed you.
I could do with a thesaurus to come up with some new adjectives – the best ones have all been used. Let’s try powerful, moving, heart-wrenching, poignant, shocking, emotional, enthralling, and maybe a bit exhausting – but let’s not forget uplifting, life-affirming, and sometimes wonderfully funny too. The impact of this book was exceptional. Tomos’ voice is absolutely authentic and compelling: you find yourself smiling at the way he expresses himself, immediately before being in tears at some new piece of cruelty that he dismisses as the norm. The detail of his world becomes part of yours – the borrowed coat, the damaged truck, the coin, the black chair – and long after finishing reading, those small details will stay with you.
Standing back from the story and its content a little, the mechanics of story-telling are superbly handled – overheard adult conversations, not always fully understood by Tomos, move it cleverly forward and disentangle the threads around past history and the adult relationships. The story itself is strong, with real narrative drive and unexpected twists and turns – much more than an unflinching view of a suffering child.
There’s a whole range of humanity in this book – exceptional generosity, love and kindness sitting alongside ignorance, cruelty and neglect. And you’re left with that aching feeling that someone should have seen what was happening and intervened more forcibly – and then wondering how many other children might be suffering in a similar way.
The author, in one of her blog posts, says of the reader: I hope… their mouths will have smiled, as Tomos might say, even if their eyes have cried. That summed this wonderful book up absolutely perfectly for me. A unique and unforgettable experience – and one I’d urge everyone not to miss.”

Thanks to Anne for her wonderful review. You may like to check out all her other reviews on her website Being Anne. And here’s the link again for Brook Cottage Tours – where there are opportunities to become involved with book blogging, if you love reading. And why not enter the Not Thomas Giveaway with Boon’s Bookcase?

More posts from the blog tour to come, and I’ll keep this site updated about the Guardian’s Not the Booker prize too.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this. Let me know what you think.

Love, Sara x

 

Sara’s debut novel Not Thomas is published by Honno Press in paperback and as an e-book, and is available to buy on Amazon.

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Sending a new novel out into the World

Being a writer is the perfect occupation for a person like me.

I’m someone who likes their own space and enjoys their own company, someone who lives more in their head than in the outside world. Sitting at a desk – or more often than not, before my laptop at the kitchen table – is my natural environment.

But two weeks ago, I was dragged out of my comfort zone, forced to make myself reasonably presentable and put centre stage in front of a room full of people.

Why?

Because I had a new book to send out into the big, wide world.

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I needed a pre-publication book launch for Not Thomas – pre-publication because it’s not officially out until the middle of July.

And who exactly was forcing me? Well – me, myself, I, if I’m honest. My bossy self.  I knew I had to get my new book out into the world, and there was only one sure way to do it. (I’m good at pushing myself to do things I’d rather not. As an essentially shy person, I’ve had a lot of practice.)

So how did it feel, being out of my comfort zone?

Well, I knew having the centre of attention focused on me for a whole afternoon would be a tall order. And so when an organiser of another event offered to include me in theirs, I jumped at the chance. It was the perfect solution for me.

Early copies of Not Thomas were launched as part of Spoken Word Saturday, a fabulous event that happens in Llanelli’s Ffwrnes Theatre every second Sat. And I was so grateful to Eleanor Shaw, the organiser, for suggesting it and bringing it all together.

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Eleanor was on holiday that weekend, so her friend & colleague, David Pitt, hosted the event. He was brilliant and I felt I could relax knowing everything was well organised and running to plan. (This photo captures the moment we heard that the last of our participants was about to walk through the door!)

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We had music from the wonderful Liz Crippin, poems and stories from Richard Foreman and Rhoda Thomas, plus readings from my writing circle friends, Mari Dafis and David Wallington.

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Then it was time for cake – yay! – and more cake, and tea all round.

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After refreshments, Jon Gower, well-loved Welsh author and broadcaster who’d written a cover endorsement for Not Thomas, introduced my novel. He did the book proud – he even mentioned Dickens’ Little Nell and my Tomos in the same sentence! (My parents are already treasuring that gem.)

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Caroline Oakley, my editor, gave an overview of the work Honno does, and most interestingly for the writers in the room, what she was hoping someone would submit in the future.

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And then it was my turn.

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I was pretty nervous but by that time, everything had gone so well that I had relaxed quite a bit. Still, I was glad I’d written down what I wanted to say – my brain had totally deserted me.

I thanked people, then read a section of Not Thomas (the part about the Christmas concert where Tomos is singing the solo and trying to find his mum in the crowd). I was delighted with how the extract was received – when you’re reading the words of a five-year-old boy, you don’t know if it sounds right or just weird. But the audience’s reaction was lovely.

To look out and see the sixty or so faces watching and listening intently, and to see all those early copies of Not Thomas sitting on people’s tables was just amazing. The audience was full of friends too, which was so lovely to see.

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So would I do it all again? Absolutely!

But for now, it’s back to the kitchen table to work away at what will hopefully become the next book…

A very big THANK YOU / DIOLCH YN FAWR to Eleanor Shaw, David Pitt, Spoken Word Saturday, Ffwrnes Theatre Llanelli & the staff there, Rhoda Thomas, Mari Dafis, Richard Foreman, David Wallington, Jon Gower and Caroline Oakley. And to everyone who came along and supported me – you are all wonderful!

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Sara’s debut novel Not Thomas is published by Honno Press in paperback and on Kindle and is available now on Amazon.

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Proofs & Launches

So I’ve sent the proofs of ‘Not Thomas’ back to my publisher and that’s all my input for my first (& hopefully not my last) novel for adults done. For the last week and a half, I’ve been reading those proofs very carefully – for ‘reading’ read ‘rereading and rereading and rereading’ (and I could probably add on a few more too). I was determined to be thorough as I knew this was my very last chance to change anything that wasn’t quite right. I knew it wasn’t possible to make big alterations at this late stage, so I thank my lucky stars I didn’t come across anything major I felt needed changing.20170402_151043

But something did surprise me – surprise isn’t quite the right word, shock is probably much more accurate. While I was reading through the proofs for what I expected to be the last time, I came across a description of a man called Fly. He’s definitely a horrible character, someone who bangs on the doors and scares Tomos. Fly has a web tattoo on his face, so Tomos calls him ‘the man with the web tattoo’. Nice & easy – hard to get wrong, or so you’d think.

And yet, after reading the book so many times, I spotted a place where Tomos calls Fly ‘the man with the spider tattoo’. I came out in a cold sweat. I’ve been working on this novel for a long time (a ridiculously long time in fact) and I probably wrote that scene at least four years ago. So I would guess I’ve read that description over a hundred times. And every time I must have read ‘web’ not ‘spider’. Scary. Thanks be to St Anthony for Word’s ‘search & find’ tool. I searched and was very relieved to find no other spiders lurking. But by now my confidence in my own ability to spot obvious mistakes was thoroughly shaken. What if there were other things I’d missed? So I started at the top again – reread, reread, reread.

Finally, I posted the proofs back to Honno along with my notes, and I was extremely relieved, a few days later, when my editor confirmed she’d changed that one ‘spider’ to ‘web’. Of course, there were plenty of other typos that needed changing, but none of them bothered me as much as that spider.not-thomas-front-cover-for-ai-1-12-16

And that’s all the checking and changing done, as far as I’m concerned anyway. The next time I see ‘Not Thomas’ it’ll be as an actual book. That feels exciting and a bit nerve-racking too. But it’s very comforting to have had some lovely comments back from the authors who’ve been reading the manuscript. ‘Heart-wrenching’ & ‘an affirmation of the human spirit’ are quotes I’m particularly pleased with. And all the readers so far have called it an ‘emotional read’. I’m delighted with that. It means, for those readers at least, I’ve achieved my goal.

 

As a distraction from all that proofreading, I went to not one but two book launches. The first was for Helen Flook’s wonderful new picture book, ‘The Great Dinosaur Hunt’. The launch was in Cardiff Museum, where the opening of her book is set. Helen illustrated my first two children’s books and although we’ve exchanged emails over the last few years, we’d never met. So it was really lovely to finally put a face to the name, to chat and to thank her, in person, for designing the cover of ‘Welsh Cakes and Custard’. I loved it from the very first time I saw it, and so many people have commented on how eye-catching it is. Covers are so very important, and Helen did a brilliant job.20170405_124448 (1)

The second book launch was for Eloise Williams’ gorgeous new children’s novel, Gaslight. That was in Carmarthen’s Waterstones – with wine and nibbles. And yes, cake too! (I have a thing about cake at book launches – see my earlier blog!) Eloise, who along with writing also acts, got us all involved in reading from her novel. It was great fun and a lovely afternoon. I was especially pleased to meet Janet and Penny again. They’re the force behind the excellent Firefly Press which publishes Eloise’s books. I’m looking forward to reading my signed copy very soon.20170408_150716.jpg

And from Carmarthen I dashed the 20 miles or so to Llanelli, and storytelling at Spoken Word Saturday in a very atmospheric converted chapel. I caught the second half and was just in time to hear my very own book launch being announced for the afternoon of June 10th at the Spoken Word event.20170408_171023

So what with that announcement, and having sent off the proofs, ‘Not Thomas’ seems very real now. Like I said, it’s exciting and a bit scary – my first (& hopefully not my last!) novel for adults is almost ready for the big, wide world (well, Wales at least!).

What’s your favourite sort of book launch?

Been to any interesting ones lately?

Or have you had any shocks when you were proofreading?
My debut novel Not Thomas is published by Honno Press and is available to pre-order now on Amazon.

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To launch or not to launch, and what makes a good book launch anyway?

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Well, what does make a good book launch? It’s a question I’ve thought about a lot lately. Some would say the answer is complimentary wine – they’re the people who see the word ‘refreshments’ on the invite and hope it’s not referring to a nice cup of tea. Others would say cake. I most definitely fall into the cake camp. There is no event, bookish or otherwise, that I believe can’t be improved by a hefty slice of Victoria sponge. But I had to admit my theory could be wrong when I attended an amazing book launch the other evening – where there was not a cake crumb in sight.

It was a launch by award-winning Irish writer, Jane Mitchell, hosted at the Irish Writers’ Centre, an atmospheric and historic town house in the heart of Dublin. I was excited to find details of the event on-line, and delighted that it was open to all. I’d been disappointed that I was missing the book launch of Jan Newton for her novel, ‘Remember No More’, while I was away in Ireland. But if I couldn’t support a fellow Honno author on her launch night, then I could support an Irish writer. I saw from Facebook that Jan’s night had gone well and, as it turned out, there were plenty of people supporting Jane’s book too.

My thoughts have been turning (and returning) to launches recently as I’m planning to hold my own for ‘Not Thomas’ in a couple of months. And while I’ve been planning the event, I’ve occasionally had the scandalous thought that maybe I don’t need a launch at all. Perhaps I can smuggle my new book out into the world without having to stand up and talk in front of people? Cowardly, I know, and pointless too. Surely the whole aim is to get as many readers as possible to notice a new offering. So I give myself a shake and remind myself that the answer to the question ‘to launch or not to launch?’ is a resounding ‘to launch’.

And I have launched books before. This, however, will be my first for a novel intended for adults. In the past, when my children’s books have been published, I’ve gone along to the lovely primary school in Kidwelly, the one where I taught and where my children were pupils, and I’ve celebrated the day with them. The local paper usually covers the event and the children always provide plenty of enthusiasm. And the best thing, of course, is that I never need worry no one will turn up. There’s a captive audience – guaranteed. My next book launch will be different, though. I won’t be skipping around in a comedy hat (thank goodness I’m spared that in front of other adults!). But I won’t have a captive audience either. It’s the kind of thought that keeps me awake at night.

So it was refreshing to hear Jane Mitchell, when she took to the podium at her packed Dublin launch, admit she’d been worried that no one would turn up. Even very experienced authors like her have their doubts and I, for one, appreciated her honesty.

20170315_202319But there was never any real doubt her launch would be well supported. She has written a breath-taking book and it’s already had wonderful reviews. ‘A Dangerous Crossing’ is the story of a thirteen-year-old boy fleeing from the war in Syria. It’s extremely well researched fiction that paints a true picture of the dangers child refugees face. And it is beautifully written. The subject and style make it very difficult to put down, and while it’s described as a children’s novel, it’s a wonderful read for adults too. I’ve almost reached the end of my signed copy and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

I love hearing publishers talk about why they publish the books they do and it was interesting to hear Jane’s publisher explain how ‘A Dangerous Crossing’ came about. Little Island is a small, Irish-based press that’s interested in publishing books that give children a world view. They felt there was a need for a book for children about child refugees, so they approached Jane, who they knew from her award-winning fiction for older children and young adults. She was instantly drawn to the idea of writing a story of a child refugee and didn’t hesitate in accepting the commission.

Interesting, too, was the way editor, Siobhan Parkinson, described working with the author. Jane, she said, was professional, dependable, always met deadlines and took on board constructive criticism with good grace. I was busy making mental notes. It’s pretty obvious, I know, but sometimes it’s easy to forget the basics, and here was an experienced editor reminding everyone of good practice.

While the author and editor were both very engaging speakers, the highlight of the evening was definitely their guest speaker. As ‘A Dangerous Crossing’ was going to press, Little Island approached Amnesty International to ask if they might be interested in reading the novel. They were. Not only did they read it but they were more than happy to endorse it too. They also gave the publisher permission to use Amnesty’s logo on the book’s cover. And at the launch, the Executive Director of the Irish branch of Amnesty, Colm O’Gorman, gave a heartfelt speech. His description of the refugee camps he’s visited and the terrifying journeys Syrians – often lone children – are forced to make to find safety was heart-breaking. And so was his view of how little we in more privileged countries are doing to help.

All in all, it was a remarkable book launch for a remarkable book. And yes, as well as the amazing speakers, the fantastic venue and a supportive crowd, there was also complimentary wine – quite a lot of it too (well, it was Dublin during St Patrick’s week). And perhaps that’s everything you need for a great book launch. Perhaps that’s enough. Maybe… whisper it… just maybe you don’t need cake after all.

Here’s where you can find Jane’s new novel:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Dangerous-Crossing-TBC-Jane-Mitchell/dp/1910411582