What Are You Reading?

Most of these books I heard about through reviews in the press or from recommendations on Twitter. A few I found while browsing the shelves in my local library. One of the pleasures of reading is entering new worlds and finding new voices. All these novels gave me that buzz. Happy reading.

Life! Death! Prizes! by Stephen May

The Dark Circle by Linda Grant

Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough

The Ship by Antonia Honeywell

We Are Now Beginning Our Descent by James Meek

The Tidal Zone by Sarah Moss

Good Me Bad Me by Ali Land

Calling Major Tom by David Barnett

The Illuminations by Andrew O’Hagan

Barkskins by Annie Proulx

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

I’m Reading…

It’s World Book Day today so a good time to spread the word about some books I’ve enjoyed (not that I need an excuse). Enjoy!

The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

Quieter Than Killing by Sarah Hilary

Redemption Road by John Hart

Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay Behind by Elena Ferrante

A God in Every Stone by Kamila Shamsie

The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

Believe No One by A.D. Garrett

The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan

Under The Harrow by Flynn Berry

The Silence Between Breaths

The first question people ask me when they hear about this book is not what the story is, or how it’s selling, or if it’s a crime novel but whether the title is a quote from something. It isn’t, to the best of my knowledge, but it does have that sort of ring. You can imagine it in a Shakespearean speech or a classic poem. It took months to find it. While writing the novel I’d used a working title that was way too cheesy (nope, not saying). Then I spent weeks exchanging emails with my publishers, even during my holiday on Kefalonia, chewing over possibilities. Long lists were compiled and considered. The book tells the story of a group of strangers on a train from Manchester to London who are caught up in a devastating event. Some proposed titles reflected the randomness of such tragedy: A Day Like Any Other, Out Of A Clear Blue Sky; others aimed to capture the characters’ response to sudden violence: You Can’t Kill The Spirit, The Kindness of Strangers; but nothing had the emotional resonance we were after. The Silence Between Breaths appears on the last list I submitted, along with other suggestions none of which had half the impact. I love how it echoes moments of the story, mirrors both the tension and the rupture that tears lives apart but also the contemplation that comes with such an experience. It’s an intriguing phrase and calls up a physical response in the reader. It’s perfect. And how I dreamt it up remains a mystery.

 

 

 

Something New to Read

New year and some new book suggestions for you. I read these over the last few weeks of 2016 and they all gave me immense pleasure. Hope you find something you’ll enjoy too.

The Trespasser by Tana French

Our Souls At Night by Kent Haruf

This Must Be The Place by Maggie O’Farrell

Streets of Darkness by AA Dhand

We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas

The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson

Days Without End by Sebastian Barry

To The Island by Megan Delahunt

Dodgers by Bill Beverly

Books Books Books

Here are some more titles that I’ve really enjoyed for your delectation…

Ruby by Cynthia Bond

The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley

The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante

Sirens by Joseph Knox

The Rules of Backyard Cricket by Jock Serong

The Museum of You by Carys Bray

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

The Wolf Road by Beth Lewis

Date With Death by Julia Chapman

While My Eyes Were Closed by Linda Green

Have You Read…

The nights are drawing in. Time to curl up with a good book (well, when isn’t it?) Here are some I’ve really enjoyed, hope you find something you like.

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

In Her Wake by Amanda Jennings

Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson

The Woman Who Ran by Sam Baker

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

Nightblind by Ragnar Jonasson

Cities of the Plain by Cormac McCarthy

Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin

King Crow by Michael Stewart

Black Water by Louise Doughty

The Silence Between Breaths

A group of strangers take seats in the same carriage on a train journey from Manchester Piccadilly to London Euston not knowing that their day will turn out to be a day unlike any other. A day of terror and the fight for survival, of horror and humanity. When I was developing the story, I knew I wanted to tell it from several different and increasingly connected viewpoints. As the journey progresses the characters become familiar with their fellow passengers, form opinions about them, strike up conversations and this lays the ground for the traumatic events that follow. I had used several narrators in some of my previous novels – usually three or four – but this time it was going to be nine. Yes, nine. That’s a lot of different voices to convey and it would be a challenge to make it work so the reader didn’t lose track and muddle them up, or want to skip over some of the sections.  Before starting writing, I spent several weeks working solely on the characters. I aimed for a diverse range of people, different ages and ethnicities, with varying roles and responsibilities, but they had to be more than stereotypes or ciphers, they needed to have some depth, to have quirks and flaws, foibles and secret dreams. It was up to me to know what they looked like on the outside (that meant browsing lots of images online to ‘cast’ the parts and printing off photographs) and what was going on inside their heads. Building, or uncovering, character is a process with all my writing but I suppose in this case there were a lot more people to create. Once that was done as thoroughly as possible, I could start writing and planning how the different stories would interweave though at that stage I didn’t know the fate of all the characters – that became clearer as the novel progressed, growing out of the writing. The nature of the story meant that not everyone would survive and choosing who did and didn’t was not easy but made sense within the logic of the story.

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