Yesterday, I placed here a post that I’d taken from the Mandrill Press blog. Here’s another. I do get asked from time to time how I came to be mixed up with my two Mandrill Press co-authors. I’ve even been accused of being Kat Carlton and Suzie Hopkins in disguise — a suggestion I take exception to. This post attempted to explain to Mandrill Press subscribers the (wide) differences between the three of us.
Mandrill Press: Three Very Different Writers
What to expect from the three Mandrill Press authors
Our regular readers know this, but there has been a significant influx of new subscribers to the site over the past few days and – given the very different writing styles and worldviews of the three Mandrill Press authors – it’s probably a good idea to set out for the new subscribers exactly what they can expect to see here.
My name is John Lynch, I’m (with Suzie Hopkins) one of the two founders of Mandrill Press, and I handle all of the admin for the three of us so the chances are that you will hear from me more often than from anyone else. I write contemporary fiction and historical fiction as well as non-fiction and working as a writer for hire. You’ll find a description of my currently published books here. Of the three of us, I like to feel that I’m least likely to cause offence because I don’t write what the others call “erotica”.
Suzie Hopkins is Canadian but currently lives in Abu Dhabi where she is a Marketing Manager. You can find details of her published books here. I mentioned erotica earlier; some of Suzie’s books are quite frankly and straightforwardly rude (The Binding and The Transformation of David) while the best way to describe a book like Lovers in Their Fashion is to say that it’s a strong contemporary romance that does not shrink from describing its characters’ sexual doings. In detail. Oh!
I suppose, if I’m honest, that to tell you about Kat Carlton (and that could, perhaps, be rewritten as “to warn you about Kat Carlton”) is the reason for this post. Kat writes what she calls Erotic Christian Romance (see her books here) and her work is explicit. If seeing the word “Christian” makes you think, “Oh, well, if it’s Christian it can’t be too filthy”, you had better read what Kat says here. And here. As well as love between man and woman, Kat specialises in LGBT and M/M – that is, love – physical love – between two men. If this is not for you, I suggest you stick to the other two.
There you are. You have been warned. Now I’ll stand back and just say, take a look at the books. See what we have that you might like.
A Just and Upright Man is a crime and romance novel set in the northeast of England in the 1760s. I’m in the process of recording the audiobook version and you can listen to Chapter 2 here.
That’s my voice you’re listening to; the reason I chose to record my own book is that I was brought up in the northeast of England, so I know the accent is authentic 🙂
Strange events in ordinary lives
I bought this book on a whim at the Hawkesbury Upton pop-up literary festival and I was glad I did. I have always loved the short story form – not everyone does and if you’re one of those who don’t this may not be for you but if you like short stories you should enjoy this collection. Ellie Stevenson writes about real people from the inside – which, considering the surreal nature of the characters’ experiences, is an achievement. The stories are varied and entertaining and offer an insight into the odd ways apparently normal people behave, with some very strange occurrences in ordinary lives. One is left at the end with the feeling that the author’s head must be an interesting place to inhabit.
I first heard of Maud Gonne in 1960 when I was 17. She seemed like someone from the far past and I’m astonished now to realise that at that time she had been dead for only seven years. The introduction came from Charlie Richardson, one of my A level English teachers, who told the class that she was the muse of WB Yeats with whose poetry I had just fallen in love (an infatuation that continues to this day). He also told us that: she had refused several marriage proposals from Yeats; that he had also been turned down by her daughter Iseult; and that we should all be grateful to Maud and her daughter because without this unrequited love Yeats’s poetry would never have reached the heights it did. He did not tell us: that Maud married a right-wing French politician; that the son she bore him died; that she then made her husband (from whom she had been estranged since the death of the child) make love to her by candlelight on a freezing cold night in the funeral vault where their son lay buried so that the dead child’s soul would migrate into the child she would conceive there; or that most of us, on meeting her, would have decided that she was as mad as a hatter. In Her Secret Rose, Orna Ross fills in these gaps to great effect.
The title of the book comes from Yeats’s collection of short stories, The Secret Rose, which in this edition is bound with Ross’s story. What I admire about Ross’s work (I have previously given a good review to her novel Blue Mercy) is her ability to put you into the minds of her characters so that you feel as well as see – you have the why as well as the what – and to structure a book in the best way to bring out what she wants to say. In this case, we watch proceedings through the eyes of a female Irish domestic servant who sees people (and especially Gonne, Yeats and the French politician, Millevoye) with a clarity and at the same time a lack of judgmental bias possibly not available to people of her own class.
At the end of the book, did I feel any deeper understanding of Yeats’s poetry? No, probably not. But I had had an exhilarating read. An excellent book by a writer of the first rank. I recommend it strongly.
See more reviews of other people’s books here
JJ Marsh is a great writer (see the Beatrice Stubbs books) and a hell of a critic.
I’ve now destroyed three Kindles by flinging them at the wall. Number of paperbacks taken to recycling – three bags full. I am so tired and weary of reading half-baked bollocks, I want to give up my treasured pleasure of literature and watch Blackadder repeats.
No, you beard-strokers and bespectacled nodders, this is not the ‘Great Unwashed Tsunami’ of self-publishing. It’s far too many shite books by authors whose gaze rests otherwhere than on their readers. It’s self-indulgent crap and it comes from every kind of publishing arsehole.
This week I hurled a Booker Prize nominee out the window. Gave up on a small press manuscript. Spent three hours trying to refine a critique which should simply read: Don’t.
From a reviewer’s perspective, here are the Golden Bloody Rules.
- Stand in your readers’ shoes. We don’t know your characters or storyworld as well as you do. Tread that fine line…
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I am not someone who likes to get up people’s noses. Left to myself, I’d prefer not to upset anyone. Sadly, that isn’t possible. The title of Zappa’s Mam’s a Slapper comes from a passage in the book – this passage (from the beginning of Chapter 8): I chose the name Billy when I was eleven. It was 1999, I’d had eleven years of answering to the one my stupid mother gave me and I wasn’t going to do it any more. You can imagine the stuff I got. “Zappa’s on the crapper.” “Zappa’s mam’s a slapper.” You can probably make your own up and I’m telling you, I’ll have heard it. Zappa McErlane. I ask you. People home in on stupid names. People in authority. Every time I changed class or we got a new teacher I could see her eye going down the register and she’d be thinking, “Oh, yes. Zappa. He’ll be the one. I’ll have trouble with him.” And if they think they will, they do.
That’s how the book got its title – but a woman told me she wouldn’t read a book with the word “slapper” in the title, and nor would a lot of other women. Well, I hope you can see from the passage above that my use of the word was not meant to be demeaning to women. What’s more, everyone connected with the book so far – three editors and an agent – has been female and not one of them has been upset by the word. And, while I don’t seek to offend, I like the title and I’m not going to change it.
It isn’t only the title, though. You can read the whole of Chapter one here, but this is how it begins:
All I’d said was, I wouldn’t mind seeing her in her knickers. I wouldn’t have thought, being honest, that that merited a showdown with her brothers.
I tried to explain. She’s a bit on the chubby side, Kathleen, which I like. Not a grotesque fatty; just a bit of a plumper. Real fatties, I don’t care for. I’ve got a pic I took of a thumper sitting on one chair when three would not have been too many. I took it from behind, which is the only way you could really bring yourself to look at her. Great blue denim bulges hanging down on each side. You’d wonder how anyone could let herself get like that. Jessica made me leave that one out of the exhibition. ‘It’s an interesting eye you have, Billy,’ she said, ‘but it wouldn’t please everyone.’
I said, ‘That’s not what the instructor told us in Young Offenders. He said you should nurture your own unique vision.’
Jessica’s eye twitched. She didn’t like being argued with, and she had this ambivalence towards my time inside—it was what made me a celeb but she said it was her job to publicise it and not mine. Which is all very well, but if I hadn’t been in Young Offenders I’d never have got into taking pics. They’d run this course on digital photography (and how stupid is that? To do digital photography you need a digital camera and how did anyone think a Young Offender was going to get one of those once he was back on the street?) and I’d signed up to deal with the tension of not knowing whether I’d get out. I’d loved it.
No, with Kathleen I’d pictured her sitting on a bed in nothing but a pair of those knickers Marks & Sparks had in their adverts when they were going after the smart young people who wouldn’t be seen dead in Marks, you might as well ask them to shop in Milletts. Everyone remembers those knickers. Every man, anyway. Lot of lezzies, too, I should think. The ones coming a couple of inches down the leg and cut square. Nice patterns, interesting colours and a dark edge to waist and leg. And the models they used hadn’t exactly been short-changed in the upper body department.
Lovely. Kathleen would be sitting on the bed in these and nothing else, one leg pointing straight out in front and the other drawn up under her, arms crossed at the elbow and hands clasped so that you saw nothing more revealing than a bit of flesh squeezed each side of the arms. And she’d be looking straight at the camera and smiling. That’s one of the things I liked about Kathleen—that she was always smiling. That and not being skinny. She had a lovely smile, Kathleen.
Jessica said I had a fantastic eye for a pic, “a real intuitive grasp for composition,” which was exactly what the instructor at Young Offenders had said. And that’s all it was.
But I’d said it out loud and some mischief-making twat had told Kathleen’s brothers and they were offended. Or pretended they were.
So there you are. I’ve probably outraged fat people, thin people, lesbians and who knows who else? Maybe people who don’t smile. But it can’t be helped. It seems to me that a willingness – in fact, an active desire – to be offended has become part of our culture; people go looking for things to complain about. And what I had to decide was: am I going to write what I want to write in the way I want to write it? Or should I tailor my writing to make sure I don’t offend anyone? I think there’s only one answer to that question. It will probably lead to a lot of one and two star reviews from people who want to take revenge for what they see as a slight, but I have to let Billy tell his story his way.
‘A very enjoyable read. The plot is superb and the writing is lively.’ Male reader, aged 43
‘The criminal element of the book, mostly set in Newcastle, is very well described. I liked how the character developed and the ending was satisfying. Billy is a wonderful character to follow, from his life as a kid to life in prison. Often, it’s rather shocking but the author keeps the reader with him till the bitter end. Fantastic cover too.’ Female reader, aged 28
‘Very, very different to A Just and Upright Man. I loved every page of this novel. The pacing is perfect and the message the book sends out is strong and relevant. Although it should be a sad book, it wasn’t; there was a lot of hope in there too. A big publisher needs to sign up this author soon.’ Female reader, aged 47
‘It’s always fun to find a book by an author who knows his readers and what they want.’ Male reader, aged 24
Writing Style 10/10
Of the 32 readers:
31 would read another book by this author.
28 thought the cover was good or excellent.
20 felt the best part was the writing style.
‘A powerful, unrelenting page-turner. Highly recommended.’ The Wishing Shelf Awards
Nicked this off the Mandrill Press blog. (Well, why not? I wrote it).