Last Friday evening, 4th July, I was lucky enough to be on the guest list for Headline’s launch event for Deborah Harkness’ latest release, The Book of Life. Having read, reviewed and enjoyed the previous two instalments in the Book of Souls trilogy (A Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night), I was keen to expand on the interview I did with Deborah back in 2011 just as her first novel was about to be released. While I have seen many writers I admire at literature festivals, it is not often that I get chance to properly meet them and this evening was a fantastic chance to do just that.
From the former head of Karachi’s CID comes a bone chilling debut crime fiction about Karachi’s criminal underground, The Prisoner. This interview was conducted by email specially for Curious Book Fans.
CBF: What made you decide to write this novel?
Omar Shahid Hamid: My wife. Some years ago, I was reading a book and complaining about the way it was written, and my wife, tired by my ranting, said, “if you think you have more interesting stories to tell, why don’t you get off your ass and write a book?” and so I ended up doing so. I always thought the police department had amazing stories, that were buried beneath the surface, but no one from within the police was ever likely to tell those stories and no outsider would ever be privy into that world.
Guest post by author Mark Roberts who was born and raised in Liverpool and was educated at St. Francis Xavier’s College. He was a mainstream teacher for twenty years and for the last ten years has worked as a special school teacher. He received a Manchester Evening News Theatre Award for best new play of the year. What She Saw is the second novel in the DCI Rosen series after the acclaimed debut, The Sixth Soul.
When I started writing The Sixth Soul, the first Rosen novel, I wanted to create a sympathetic character in DCI Rosen and build his Murder Investigation Team, with diverse, recurring characters who I could grow and develop as the stories progressed. I didn’t want to create another detective as victim with alcohol/gambling problems, broken marriages/alienated children, a terrible burden because of the death of a police colleague through something he had got wrong or had failed to do.
I’m imagining the kind of holiday that involves long hours in a hammock with a glass of something cold – or possibly by the log fire in a Scottish glen – rather than one of the wholesome variety that involve blisters forming under the walking boots, the husband peering at the map, and teenagers asking why are we here, and please can we go somewhere sensible next year?
So – what books would I pack for the hammock or hearth? Well, let’s start with something to bring on that languorous holiday feeling. Joanna Trollope’s recent Daughters-in-Law, for example. Atmospherically set under the vast skies of Suffolk, the novel explores family tensions – something Trollope does so incisively. A controlling matriarch struggles to let go of her sons, while her three daughters-in-law each in their own way fight back. The result? Chaos.
I have a pile of books on the table by my bed, R2R, Ready To Read, and when I go on holiday I pick them up and fling them into the nearest suitcase. Even if I take my Kindle with its library on board, there is still the instinctive urge to gather up those bedside books and take them with me.
Coming to England this time, my R2R books included Another Country by Nicholas Rothwell, a story of his desert journeys in Northern and Central Australia and his encounters with mystics, explorers and healers. The book is peopled with eccentrics and includes detailed information on Aboriginal art and artists. I’ve also included witty and insightful Sane New World by Ruby Wax in which she describes returning to University in order to re-educate herself about the depressive illness from which she has suffered all her life.
Curious Book Fans member koshkha loved Shaheen Ashraf-Ahmed’s two short stories The Dust Beneath her Feet and A Change in the Weather and wanted to know more. She spoke with the author of these stories and her latest novel, ‘A Deconstructed Heart’ to find out more about the author’s inspiration and influences.
CBF: The Dust Beneath her Feet and A Change in the Weather are both part of the ‘Purana Qila’ series of short stories. I couldn’t see how the two stories were linked – did I miss something or will it take more stories for a pattern to become clearer?
Shaheen Ashraf-Ahmed: I wanted each story to be complete in itself, but draw upon some of the same characters. The two stories are connected by physical location: they both revolve around Purana Qila, which means old fort.
There’s a corny old saying ‘When life gives you lemons, make lemonade’ and equally, when life throws a terminal disease at someone you love, there’s a lot to be gained by turning the experience into a very personal and heart-felt book about the power and positivity that can be found in the last years and months of life. When Will Schwalbe’s mother drew the evil ‘joker’ in life’s pack of cards and was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer, he and his mother took solace in reading and used books to help them express feelings that were sometimes too raw to approach head on. That book is The End of Your Life Book Club – a club that none of us will want to join but from which all of us can learn a lot about the power of the human spirit. Curiousbookfans spoke to Will to find out more.
Few things can be more exciting than finding a great new writer and then realising that he’s not new at all and there are nearly a score of other books for you to track down and read. Timeri N. Murari is an Indian-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada, USA and UK as a journalist, novelist, film producer, playwright and stage director. He’s written for children, young adults, and adults tapping into genres across the spectrum of fiction, fantasy and non-fiction. So how come most of us have never heard of him? Read our Q&A to find out more about Murari and his latest book – The Taliban Cricket Club – then head over to the forum to find out how you can win a copy.
CBF:How did you learn about the Taliban’s interest in using cricket for propaganda purpose and could you tell us about how the seed of an idea grew into The Taliban Cricket Club?
Charley Boorman is an actor, traveller and biker. In 2004 he travelled round the world on motorbikes with best friend Ewan McGregor. He entered the most dangerous race on earth, the Dakar Rally, in 2006, and reunited with Ewan in 2007 for Long Way Down, riding through Africa. Charley then went on to travel from Ireland to Sydney in By Any Means, and from Sydney to Tokyo in Right to the Edge. Now he’s back with a brand new adventure – this time all in one country, in Extreme Frontiers: Racing Across Canada. Extreme Frontiers: Racing Across Canada From Newfoundland to the Rockies is now available on book and DVD at Amazon.
CBF: Charley, thank you very much for taking the time to talk to Curious Book Fans, we’re big fans of yours. Tell us a little bit about Extreme Frontiers – how did the idea come about and why did you choose Canada?
Charley Boorman: Ewan and I had gone through many different countries together including Canada. We travelled through the Rockies but there was a big fire so we didn’t actually get to see them due to the smoke!
Eva Stachniak brings us an exciting novel, The Winter Palace, about Catherine The Great’s early days and improbable rise to power as seen through the ever-watchful eyes of an all-but-invisible servant close to the throne. Eva was born in Wroclaw, Poland, and came to Canada in 1981. She has been a radio broadcaster and college English and Humanities lecturer. Her debut novel, Necessary Lies, won the Amazon.com/Books in Canada First Novel Award, and her second novel, Garden of Venus, has been translated into seven languages. Her third novel, The Winter Palace, has been published in Canada (Doubleday), US (Bantam) and the UK (Transworld). She lives in Toronto, where she is working on her second historical novel about Catherine the Great, The Empire of the Night. Curious Book Fans want to thank Eva for sharing some insight into the research she did for The Winter Palace.
Smallpox had been one of Catherine the Great’s greatest fears. When she arrived in Russia at 14, a fiancée to the Grand Duke Peter, the disease almost destroyed her future. The Grand Duke contracted smallpox and, even though he eventually recovered, it disfigured his body and made him even more awkward and insecure than he had been before. In the dark, long weeks when Peter’s life hung in the balance, Catherine knew that had he died, she would have been sent back to Zerbst without much ceremony.
Curious Book Fans are grateful to author Martin Pevsner for revealing to our readers the creative process and the background of his second novel The Red Ants.
This last twelve months have been a time of great change for me. After fourteen years teaching English language at a local further education college in Oxford, mainly to asylum seekers and refugees, I quit my job. I found a new one a few weeks later. For the first time since graduating over twenty-five years ago I have found employment in a non-teaching capacity. It feels very liberating.
Equally exciting, I had my first book published this time last year, a novel called Divinity Road (Signal Books), set mainly in Oxford and Africa, that sought to describe the vulnerability of life as an asylum seeker (see review here). Needless to say much of the inspiration for the novel came from my relationships with students over the years.
©Martin Pevsner 2011
You wake though you can’t remember sleeping, one moment you’re hunched between lawnmower and wheelbarrow, sideways prone on damp shed floor, strands of dried grass clinging to your cheek, shivering cold in midnight hour. Then next you’re jerked alive, scrabbling to your feet, peering through smeary window at the pale dawn.
Someone’s lying in the garden no more than ten feet away. You peer more closely. The back is to you but the shape looks female. You are pretty sure she wasn’t there last night. You wonder if she could be asleep, imagine her stirring, sitting up, yawning. But you know it’s unlikely.
You stand for a few moments, your ear tuning in for sounds. At your feet lies the canvas bag filled with ipod and penknife, a few scrabbled clothes, your phone and the trumpet. You stand stock still straining to hear but the silence is eerie, no more screams of the hunted, no more back-and-forth calls of the huntsmen.