Many authors struggle with the task of summarising a book-length project, whether it’s the one-page synopsis we need for submissions, the 10-second elevator pitch ready for the dreaded what’s-it-about question or the blurb to entice browsers at bookstores or online. How do you condense the twists and turns of a 300-page novel into such a small space? How do you tease out the key elements when you’ve lived with those characters for years? Sometimes, it’s impossible to see the wood for the trees.
Another pair of eyes can provide the necessary distance; likewise the passage of time. Almost four years on from the publication of my debut novel, Sugar and Snails, I’ve agreed with my publisher the blurb we worked so hard to perfect could be sharper. To get it right, we need your help.
Oh dear! As a Ranger in the Peak District, albeit only as a volunteer on alternate Sundays, I carry a sense of responsibility for the safety of visitors to the National Park. So it’s rather disconcerting to read about two teenage girls, on holiday from London, going missing there in a matter of weeks. Fortunately, both were characters in novels, and both providing the foundation for an engrossing story about the repercussions: the first for the residents of a fictional Derbyshire village; the second for the family of the girl who is found after four agonising days.
As 2018 started a few hours earlier in Australia than in the UK, it’s fitting that I should begin my reading year there. Or it could be the coincidence of kindly publicists sending me advance copies of two Australian novels published in the UK this month. The first namechecks various Sydney suburbs, while the second begins near Melbourne before circumnavigating the country. The first contemporary, the second set in the 1950s, they explore the socio-politics of Australian identities and their links to migration and colonialism.
Has my country always been this conflicted, or is the second decade of the twenty-first century a particularly sour time for England? Can fiction help us understand our current disaffected state? If so, these two very different novels – the first a gentle exploration of fear of difference among the largely white population; the second addressing the attractions of Islamic State to young people of South Asian descent, and its more violent repercussions – might help.
For Valentine’s Day, I’m reviving a post that appeared in October 2015 on the Reading Writers website, which is now defunct.
finding truth through fiction
Annecdotal is where real life brushes up against the fictional.
Annecdotist is the blogging persona of Anne Goodwin:
slug-slayer, tramper of moors,
author of two novels.
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