Friday, 24 May 2013

Win SIGNED copies of three amazing novels

Following on from their Twisted Tales of Cannibalism event in April, Hic Dragones has SIGNED copies of three fantastic novels to give away. Enter via Rafflecopter at the end of this post (international entry welcome).

Blonde on a Stick, by Conrad Williams
An extraordinary killer, the Four-Year-Old, has arrived in London, and is hell-bent on destruction. No sooner has PI Joel Sorrell been approached by the mysterious Kara Geenan, who is desperate to find her missing brother, than an attempt is made on his life. When Kara vanishes too, it becomes clear that this is no routine job. Something is casting a long, long shadow over the case, and Joel must travel north, to a past he was desperate to forget, in order to find out the truth. As those close to Joel are sucked into his nightmare, he knows he must track down the killer fast if he is to halt a grisly master plan - even if it means sacrificing his own life.

The Cannibal Spirit, by Harry Whitehead
George Hunt has a white father and a native mother. A shaman and chieftain among his people, the Kwagiulth, helplessly he has watched them die-from disease, warfare, alcohol, despair-as their world is besieged by the arrival of the twentieth century and the encroachments of the young country called Canada. Yet he is also an assistant to the famed anthropologist Franz Boas, and a collector of native artefacts for the white man's museums. He inhabits both worlds, looking in and looking out, at peace in neither. A bear of a man, he is imposing in body and intellect, yet prone to fits of wild rage. When his son dies of tuberculosis, and he insists on performing the funeral rites of his mother's people, George provokes the fury of the missionaries and the Indian Agents, and sets in motion a chain of events that forces him to defend what is most important to him; not only with blade and rifle in the remote fastness of the northern British Colombia coast, but also with his wits and precarious dignity in a Vancouver courtroom. Masterful, unforgettable, and utterly gripping, The Cannibal Spirit broods with nostalgia for a passing world and pounds with relentless tension. Based on the life of the real historical figure George Hunt, this astonishing evocation of the fog-wrapped forests of the northwest coast, and the heedless bustle of the arrival of modernity in the midst of an older, beleaguered way of life, tells the story of the grappling of two civilizations in the life of one man.

Habit, by Stephen McGeagh
Manchester, the present. Michael divides his time between the job centre and the pub. A chance meeting with Lee, an introduction to her ‘Uncle’ Ian, and a heavy night on the lash lead to a job working the door at a Northern Quarter massage parlour. After witnessing the violent death of one of the ‘punts’, Michael experiences blood-drenched flashbacks and feels himself being sucked into a twilight world that he doesn’t understand but that is irresistibly attractive. When he eventually finds out what goes on in the room below 7th Heaven, Michael’s life will never be the same again. Think Bret Easton Ellis. On a writing break in the north of England. And all he packed was Fight Club and some early Stephen King novels. Stephen McGeagh’s powerful debut will stay with you for a long time.

Enter the giveaway now...

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Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Interview with Rosie Garland

Today's post is an interview with novelist, poet, singer and performer, Rosie Garland. Rosie has enjoyed an eclectic career, ranging from singing in post-punk gothic band The March Violets, through touring with the Subversive Stitch exhibition in the 90s to her alter-ego Rosie Lugosi the Vampire Queen, cabaret chanteuse and mistress of ceremonies. She has published five solo collections of poetry and her award-winning short stories, poems and essays have appeared in a number of anthologies and collections. She is winner of the DaDa Award for Performance Artist of the Year and a Poetry Award from the People's Café, New York. She also won the Mslexia Novel competition in 2012 and her debut novel The Palace of Curiosities was released in March 2013 by HarperCollins.

I first met Rosie when we were both involved with Commonword, in Manchester, and our work was included in the
Transparency poetry anthology. We also worked together on the Hic Dragones Wolf-Girls anthology, which included Rosie's short story 'Cut and Paste'. Recently, Rosie wrote a guest post for a short blog series on women and body hair that I hosted on this site.

Today though, I want to find out more about Rosie's award-winning debut novel,
The Palace of Curiosities.

She-Wolf: Hi Rosie - welcome back to the She-Wolf blog. Shall we start with a brief introduction? Why don't you tell us a bit about yourself?

Rosie Garland: I'll try to keep this brief! As it says on my book blurb, I have always been a cuckoo in the nest. I've been writing and performing for as long as I can remember – I've recently found a stash of miniature books I wrote for my dolls, and an early performance memory is playing an Elf Queen in school at the age of five. I sing as well – whether that's in post-punk gothic band The March Violets or alternative cabaret character Rosie Lugosi. I've published five solo collections of poetry and my award-winning short stories, poems and essays have been widely anthologized.

SW: Life sounds pretty exciting, then!

RG: Life has been particularly exciting since I won the inaugural Mslexia Novel Competition in 2012. As a result, my debut novel The Palace of Curiosities was published in March 2013 by HarperCollins. And in 2010 I was given the all-clear from throat cancer. So all in all I feel like the luckiest girl in the world.

SW: Let's talk about The Palace of Curiosities, what's the book about?

RG: The Palace of Curiosities is set in early Victorian London. It is about what it’s like to live on the boundaries of what is perceived as human, the struggle to remember and hang onto who and what we are, and just how important that is. It is told through the eyes of Eve, the Lion-Faced Girl and is interwoven with the story of Abel, who is also an outsider – just not in such an obvious way. But both of them are freaks of nature, and both are searching for escape. The novel explores life on the fringes of society, what it means to be different, and traces their struggle for self-discovery on the boundaries of what is perceived as human.

SW: Where did the idea come from? Were there any particular sources of inspiration?

RG: I was inspired by the life and struggles of Julia Pastrana, a nineteenth century Mexican woman completely covered with thick hair. However, The Palace of Curiosities isn't a re-telling of her story. I wanted to create new characters, and the result was Eve, the Lion-Faced Girl and Abel, the mysterious Flayed Man. It's set in an early Victorian sideshow, but unlike a number of other circus novels (like Angela Carter's Nights at the Circus and Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus) I wanted the 'freaks' to speak for themselves. They tell their own story – it felt very important that they spoke in first person rather than having someone else speak for them.

SW: Did you do much historical research?

RG: The question of research is one that could be discussed for hours, and each writer would have a different approach! It's true that I am fascinated by history, and read a lot of non-fiction for pleasure. However, I am very careful not to fall into the trap of letting research dominate. That way I'd not get any writing done...

SW: Between The Palace of Curiosities, your story in Wolf-Girls and your guest post on this blog, I'm noticing a bit of a theme... what is it that fascinates you about hairy girls?

RG: Women's relationship with their hair is particularly fraught – we mustn't have too much, and we sure as hell shouldn't have too little. I discovered this when I was diagnosed with throat cancer whilst working on the first draft of the novel. I lost all of my hair, and lived the reality of female baldness, which I discovered was just as laden with judgments about what is acceptable and what is 'freakish'.

SW: Did that have an impact on the creation of your protagonist, Eve?

RG: This informed and influenced the creation of Eve. I took the concept of female hairiness to its logical extreme. Eve has hypertrichosis, a condition where the entire body is covered in a thick mat of hair. Her 'difference' is overwhelmingly visible, yet she is determined to get by on her own terms. She does not shave herself to pass for human. She fends off exploitation, discovers fulfilment, self-expression and self-reliance. I've been told that Eve's hairiness can be seen as an interesting analogy for being queer in a heteronormative world. I'm happy if she makes one person think about what it means to be female and have body hair.

SW: The Palace of Curiosities is certainly making its mark - top of the Waterstone's hardback fiction chart and nominated for the 2013 Desmond Elliott prize in its first couple of months - but could you tell me a bit about the book's 'birth'? How did it get from idea to the top of Waterstone’s charts? Was it an easy journey?

RG: How long have you got? I'll give the short version of what has been a very long journey. I'd been with an agency for twelve years, and had given them four novels. But however hard I tried (and did I try), however hard I worked on editorial suggestions, nothing seemed good enough. Twelve years of can-you-make-it-more? can-you-make-it-less? No one could accuse me of not trying.

SW: That sounds pretty dispiriting - you must've felt like giving up at times.

RG: I had pretty much given up on the idea of writing fiction. My agent had stopped replying to my emails and my confidence was shot. I realized that if I was going to get anywhere it would be under my own steam. So I entered the Mslexia Novel Competition. And won it. That was the turning point. It boosted my confidence as a writer more than I can describe. It's taken twelve years to get to this point – a bumpy and at times demoralizing ride, with a lot of rejections.

SW: But an amazing result, after all that?

RG: This news is, quite simply, breathtaking. I'm still pinching myself to check it isn't a dream.

SW: You're known for many things (music, poetry, performance, short stories, essays... the list really does go on...), what made you decide to make the move to novelist?

RG: It wasn't something I consciously sat down and decided to do. When I'm asked 'how long have you been writing?' the answer is 'always'. I wrote my first novel when I was aged nine. It was a thrilling adventure involving super-heroines battling sharks and other dangers. With pictures.

SW: Do you find novel-writing different to other forms of writing?

RG: It's very different to writing poetry. An easy answer would be to compare a novel to a marathon and a poem to a 100 metre sprint – but that's not quite it. Sure, a novel takes far longer to write (unless you are a very slow poem writer indeed). The only way I can describe it is that it feels like I use different parts of my brain when writing poetry and fiction.

SW: I'm interested to know what sort of things you like to read. You mentioned reading non-fiction for pleasure, but do you have any favourite fiction writers?

RG: I'm an avid reader of non-fiction, especially the history of medicine. But I have very eclectic tastes – maybe it's easiest if I say what is currently on my bedside table: Tove Jansson's Tales from Moominvalley, a History of Ossuaries, Sarah Hymas's poetry collection Host, Ivor Brown's Chosen Words, Aesop’s Fables, and The Friday Gospels by Jenn Ashworth.

SW: Quite the eclectic collection! So... what's next from Rosie Garland? Can we look forward to another novel?

RG: Most definitely! I don't just have any old novel deal with HarperCollins, it's a two-book deal. I am currently very busy on the second. Don't want to say too much about its themes yet, but it will involve people who don't fit. As I've said elsewhere, I'm interested in characters who won't (or can't) squeeze into the one-size-fits-all templates they have been provided, and the friction that occurs when they try.

SW: Cool - I'll look forward to finding out more in due course. Thanks for talking to me today, Rosie. Before you go, I'd be mad not to ask one final question (even if it is a bit of cliché... do you have any advice for aspiring novelists?

RG: Don’t give up. If you are determined to be a novelist – do it. Practise your craft. Find ways to nourish and support yourself. Don’t just accept feedback - seek it out and use it. In addition – when faced with a decision, I have this question I ask myself. How long will I be dead? It helps get me off my arse. Cancer sure put things in startlingly clear perspective. There's nothing like getting a glimpse of your sell-by date to provide a boot up the backside. Don't put it off. Write that poem, that novel, that opera, that play. Do it now.

The Palace of Curiosities by Rosie Garland is published by HarperCollins and available now from all good bookshops.

Monday, 6 May 2013

Contributors Wanted for Two Academic Collections

So, some of you may have seen Twitter. Two contributors have recently withdrawn from a collection I'm putting together, and I thought I'd put out a more general request to make contact with interested writers. I would appreciate it if people could pass this information on to colleagues who might be interested/available to contribute to the collections.

A couple of things to mention: these are academic collections, and I am looking to hear from people whose research interests mesh with the collections' focus. The collections are at the proposal stage, and will be pitched to an established UK academic publisher once the contents are finalized (details to follow). The majority of the collections' contents are already finalized, so it may be that I already have a chapter on your proposed subject. If you have any questions, it's best just to get in touch with me.

Afterlife of Alice edited collection

A collection of essays exploring interpretations and adaptations of Lewis Carroll's Alice novels. This collection is inspired by the Hic Dragones Afterlife of Alice conference, which ran in December 2011. 

What I'm looking for: essays on adaptations, interpretations or the use of elements from Carroll's novels in 'popular' or 'high' culture. For instance, John Logan's Peter and Alice, psychedelic Alices, Alice merchandise and collectibles, Fifty Shades of Alice in Wonderland, fan fic, non-Anglophone Alices (except Japanese).
What I'm not looking for: essays on Carroll's novels or translations, essays on adaptation theory (though more than happy for essays to use this as a framework), essays on Charles Dodgson and Alice Liddell, essays on Gothic subcultures and fashions, essays on Disney.
Timescale: I'll need an abstract of 300-500 words ASAP, and then deadline for full chapter (7000 words) can be negotiated.

Afterlife of Dorothy edited collection

A collection of essays exploring interpretations and adaptations of L. Frank Baum's Oz novels. This collection is inspired by the Hic Dragones Afterlife of Dorothy conference, which ran in February 2013.

What I'm looking for: essays on adaptations, interpretations, revisions or the use of elements from Baum's novels in 'popular' or 'high' culture. For instance, The Wiz (I would really like a chapter on this!) , fan fic, graphic novels, non-Anglophone Dorothys.
What I'm not looking for: essays on Baum's novels, essays on the MGM film adaptation, essays on Gregory Maguire's Wicked novels and the musical adaptation, essays on Return to Oz or Oz: The Great and Powerful.
Timescale: I'll need an abstract of 300-500 words ASAP, and then deadline for full chapter (7000 words) can be negotiated.

If you're interested in contributing to either collection, please email me (Hannah Priest) in the first instance. Just introduce yourself, give me an idea of your research background/interests and let me know what your proposed chapter would focus on. We can take it from there.