Essence of the North

What is the “Essence of the North?”
Curlew
That is what is being asked by The Northerner Blog in the Guardian today. They are asking for contributors to post an image that captures the essence of the North.

Whose North? There is always the chocolate box image of Dales and Moors, unbroken wilderness, apart from James Herriot careening across them in his old car. Hills and lakes, unspoilt beaches and little stone villages shimmering in the sunset.

Alleys

There is the Christian North, the North of Cathedrals, Saints and Holy Islands. Pilgrimages across the land, fleeing from Viking pillagers, writing works of illuminated art and deciding the way forward for the catholic church.

Or there is the smashed North, the North of Thatcher’s cruelty and industrial decline. A once proud heritage of steel and chemical works, pit villages, ship building and union activity. The Jarrow marchers and Quaker sensibilities. The first locomotives and the crucible of Britain’s industrial revolution.

Book of Kells

The North I know is an area where people live in great diversity and try to get on with their lives, but has time to commission some of the best public art in the country and has made a feature of regeneration through art projects such as The Sage, The Baltic, Temenos, Hepworth Gallery and The Angel of the North. This large scale development mixes well with the industrial heritage of the area and sits well, all of the above is the North I know and to try and distill an essence is not really needed, just celebrate it all, in images, words and imagination.

originally published 9/7/12


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Drew Gummerson – Q&A

Drew Gummerson

Drew Gummerson

Lambda Award finalist. Writer of The Lodger, Me and Mickie James, Seven Nights at the Flamingo Hotel. Kuper’s Tube coming Nov 22
Drew can be found at:
Twitter: @drewgum
Linktree: https://linktr.ee/drewgum

Tell me what inspired you to write your debut novel?

My debut, The Lodger, was written twenty years ago. I’d always wanted to write from being a kid. I’d been living in Australia, had spent a lot of time looking after my boyfriend’s nephew. Then I came home, saw a headline in a national newspaper saying how it was disgusting gay people should be allowed to adopt. That was the inspiration for The Lodger. Apart from being a murder mystery it’s about an alternative family unit.

What came first the characters or the world?

Always the characters. I’m terrible at plots. My last book, Seven Nights at the Flamingo Hotel, started literally with me writing a sentence about a hotel dishwasher waking up in his room. I had no idea what was going to happen next.

How hard was it to get published?

I’ve had three books with three different publishers. The first and latest with small indie publishers. The second was with a big publisher. I had an agent at the time. I’ve written a chapbook You: From Pissed to Publication. My publishing journey is in there sort of.

How long did it take to write?

The Lodger three months. Everything else, years. These days I tend to write little bits, piece them together, spend months and months editing. It’s like I’m writing and rewriting sketches.

Do you have a writing playlist? If so do you want to share it?

I tend to listen to vinyl before I write. If you follow me on Twitter I often post my morning listen.

How many publishers turned you down?

I’ve been turned down by all of them and none of them. With Me and Mickie James, when I had an agent, the rejections were much nicer. Publishers telling me I would have a great career and so on. But not with them…

Seven Nights at the Flamingo Hotel was turned down by no one. Bearded Badger, who I sent it to first, took it on.

What kind of reactions have you had to your book?

Flamingo Hotel has had the best reaction by far. Writers I admire have said nice things about it. Although a lot of people have said how rude it is. That surprised me…

What’s the favourite reaction you’ve had to your book?

I don’t have a favourite one. I think once your book’s public you just have to grin and bear it, whatever people say. You can’t judge their reaction.

What can you tell us about your next book?

Ah. Kuper’s Tube is out November 2022, with Bearded Badger. It’s set in a video postcard shop in a rundown seaside resort. If you want pizzazz, they’ve got pizzazz!

Do you take notice of online reviews?

For sure! They’re the only reviews I get. I don’t know how you wouldn’t.

Would you ever consider writing outside your current genre?

Yes. I want to write Mills and Boon books. I got all the bumpf from them years ago, how long they should be, what needed to happen when. I need to do it.

What did you do before (or still do) you became a writer?

I’ve always had a full time job…

Which author inspire you?

I have loads. Raymond Carver, George Saunders, Rupert Thomson, Alice Munro, Willy Vlautin, Emmanuel Bove. I’ve written a short story collection. I wrote it after reading Camilla Grudova’s The Doll’s Alphabet. I thought, I want to do something like that.

Seven Nights at the Flamingo Hotel

Seven Nights at the Flamingo Hotel

Which genres do you read yourself?

My reading these days is dominated by what small indie presses are putting out. There’s so much good stuff away from the mainstream.

What is your biggest motivator?

What Will Self said. I have a Sgt Major in my head telling me to crack on. I both love and hate him.

What will always distract you?

My two dogs, Walter and Fergus.

How much (if any) say do you have in your book covers?

With Bearded Badger we had a discussion around its mood ie seedy rundown hotel for Flamingo Hotel. The designer did 3 or 4 mock ups and we decided together on our favourite.

Were you a big reader as a child?

Massive. I was always reading.

What were your favourite childhood books?

Wishing Chair and Faraway Tree books by Enid Blyton. Then I loved Robert Westall. The Machine Gunners, Fathom Five.

Do you have a favourite bookshop? If so, which?

I loved Bearded Badger Books in Belper. It was indie heaven but sadly it is now closed.

What books can you not resist buying?

I tend to be loyal to small presses. So I buy their books without thinking. It’s about trust.

Do you have any rituals when writing?

I write on my phone. Is that a ritual? I only write in the morning. Sat at the kitchen table.

How many books are in your own physical TBR pile?

Haha. Don’t ask that! There are dozens.

What is your current or latest read?

I’ve just read The Children of Paradise, Camilla Grudova and now started Boulder by Eva Balthasar (trns Julia Sanches).

Any books that you’re looking forward to in the next 12 months?

One of my fellow writers at AbcTales.com, Peter Bennett has a book coming out later in the year, Liberties. I was lucky enough to get an ARC of Guy Ware’s The Peckham Experiment. It’s brilliant. Nicola Ashbrook’s The Art of Escapology is out imminently with Bearded Badger. And then George Saunders has a new collection out soon. And Will Wiles’ The Last Blade Priest is also due very soon.

Any plans or projects in the near future you can tell us about?

Kuper’s Tube. Out in November. You stayed at Flamingo Hotel. Now it’s time to take a trip to Kuper’s Tube. Where all you video postcard dreams may come true.

Any events in the near future?

I’m rarely seen in public.

And finally, what inspired you to write the genre you do?

I’m worried I’m dull. Well I am. So when I’m writing I throw in all the gags that escape me in real life.


If you want to help and support this blog you could become a Patreon which would help pay for my hosting, domain names, streaming services, and the occasional bag of popcorn to eat while watching films.

If you can’t support with a monthly subscription a tip at my Ko-Fi is always appreciated, as is buying things from my Ko-Fi Shop.

You can always email me on contact@bigbeardedbookseller.com with any suggestions.

Cyanotype

Cyanotype

Cyanotype

I’ve been thinking about this process for a while as it seemed more straightforward than silver-based development at home and possibly I would be able to use the loft as an area to process the chemicals and the paper as it doesn’t need the absolutes of darkness that silver-based photography requires.

The other factor is that all it needs is tap water to fix the process once the paper has been exposed to sunlight, rather than the different trays of chemicals and fixes of traditional silver-based photography.

So I’m going to be ordering some chemicals from Silverprint once the loft has been cleared and sorted 🙂

originally posted 07/07/12

*update* we now have a shed not a loft, but it still needs cleaned out though I do have some chemicals and have dabbled further


If you want to help and support this blog you could become a Patreon which would help pay for my hosting, domain names, streaming services, and the occasional bag of popcorn to eat while watching films.

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Anne Goodwin – Q&A

Anne Goodwin

Anne Goodwin

Anne Goodwin writes entertaining fiction about identity, mental health and social justice. She is the author of three novels and a short story collection published by small independent press, Inspired Quill. Her debut novel, Sugar and Snails, was shortlisted for the 2016 Polari First Book Prize. Her latest novel, Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home, is inspired by her previous incarnation as a clinical psychologist in a long-stay psychiatric hospital. Subscribers to her newsletter can download a free e- book of prize-winning short stories.

Anne can be found at:
Website: annegoodwin.weebly.com
Twitter: @Annecdotist
TikTok: @annegoodwinauthor
Books, Newsletter and Social Media: https://linktr.ee/annecdotist
Short Story E-Book Free for Newsletter Subscribers: https://bit.ly/daughtershorts

Tell me what inspired you to write your novel?

My debut novel, Sugar and Snails, emerged via my musings on adolescence, discovering an administrative error in a passport I’d used for years and a newspaper report of an eminent professional who had died from anorexia nervosa without any of her friends or colleagues knowing she was ill. I began writing my latest novel, Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home, because, although I’d read several excellent novels set in long-stay psychiatric hospitals, none accurately portrayed the closures of the late 1980s and 1990s.

What came first the characters or the world?

To me, setting is secondary to character, but inviting my characters into places familiar to me helped them come alive.

How hard was it to get your first (debut) book published?

It was tough: firstly getting it to publication standard and then finding a publisher to take it on.

How long did it take to write?

My first two novels took seven years from inception to publication, although those years did overlap. The third took six years, so I must be getting faster!

How many publishers turned you down?

I haven’t kept count but, if they hadn’t turned me down, I wouldn’t have found such a lovely home for my fiction with Inspired Quill.

What kind of reactions have you had to your books?

Even though my publisher loved my debut novel, I expected a lukewarm reaction from readers given that other publishers had turned it down. So I was surprised by the overwhelmingly enthusiastic response. My second novel, Underneath, is more of a Goldilocks book with some readers finding it too gruesome, others too tame, while for some it’s just right. With my third novel, Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home, I was worried the humour might detract from the poignancy of the story but fortunately that hasn’t been the case.

Do you take notice of online reviews?

I do, both to learn how I can do better and to bask in the praise when I’m feeling down. For example, this from a recent review of Sugar and Snails: “This is one of those books that everyone should read at some point throughout their life. Beautifully written, emotive, powerful & will stay with you long after reading.” Stacey Hammond

Anne's Books

Anne’s Books

What’s the favourite reaction you’ve had to your book?

With both Sugar and Snails and Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home, I’ve been especially moved by endorsements from people with direct personal experience of the issues portrayed. Matilda Windsor is potentially a painful read for people who have seen family members institutionalised or been admitted themselves, yet they have given it their approval. In the words of a former patient:

“All who work in mental health and people who were inpatients in the Asylum should read this.”

What can you tell us about your next book?

I wrote Matilda Windsor as a stand-alone novel, but have been unable to let my character go. I’ll be self-publishing a prequel novella, The Cloffocks, in the next few months and I’ve also written a sequel about a care home resident with delusions of grandeur who discovers she is responsible for the transatlantic slave trade.

Would you ever consider writing outside your current genre?

My genre – literary/book group fiction – is broad enough to keep me going for a couple more decades, but never say never.

What did you do before (or still do) you became a writer?

I was a clinical psychologist in NHS mental health services for twenty-five years and am now retired.

Which author(s) inspire you?

My favourite authors include Alison Moore, Ann Patchett, Christine Dwyer Hickey, Colson Whitehead, Deborah Levy, Georgina Harding, Hilary Mantel, Jane Harper, John Boyne, Kate Atkinson, Lissa Evans, Maggie O’Farrell, Margaret Atwood, Nick Hornby, Patrick Gale, Richard Flanagan, Sarah Moss, and Tim Winton. (Not many then!)

I return to these authors because they know how to craft a story and have a wonderful way with words. Another draw is their honest portrayal of the dark side of the human condition without being overly bleak.

What is your biggest motivator?

The noise in my head of characters clamouring to be heard.

What will always distract you?

Noises outside, jobs to do in the garden and TikTok.

Do you have a favourite bookshop? If so, which?

Five Leaves in Nottingham.


If you want to help and support this blog you could become a Patreon which would help pay for my hosting, domain names, streaming services, and the occasional bag of popcorn to eat while watching films.

If you can’t support with a monthly subscription a tip at my Ko-Fi is always appreciated, as is buying things from my Ko-Fi Shop.

You can always email me on contact@bigbeardedbookseller.com with any suggestions.