Costa Book Awards 2017 Shortlist (Novel category)

22 Nov 2017

Judging the Costa Book Awards has been a demanding, exciting and at times slightly nerve-wracking experience. I’m delighted to have played a part in shortlisting these four wonderful novels (see dog-eared, coffee stained books in picture below) and finally to be able to press them into peoples’ hands.

Here’s a bit about each one, and why we chose them from 170 entries

 

Shortlist for the 2017 Costa Novel Award

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Judges

Lucy Atkins                   Author and Critic

Freya North                   Author

Wayne Winstone           Owner, Winstone’s Bookshops

 

Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor (4th Estate)

Why we loved it: ‘An extraordinary novel – poetic, haunting and hypnotic’.

A teenage girl has gone missing in the English hills, police set up roadblocks and a crowd of reporters descends on the village. But life must go on   – cows are milked, fences repaired, stone cut, pints poured and these timeless rhythms become a force far greater than any isolated tragedy.

Under a Pole Star by Stef Penney (Quercus)

Why we loved it: ‘A novel of huge scope with a tremendous sense of period and place.’

Flora Mackie is twelve when she first crosses the Arctic Circle on her father’s whaling ship. Now she’s returning to the frozen seas as the head of her own expedition. In this remote frozen land she encounters Jakob de Beyn, raised in Manhattan, and part of a rival expedition. What follows is a powerful love story but also an exploration of science, geography, feminism and humanity.

Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie (Bloomsbury Circus)

Why we loved it:  ‘A brave and important book that explores themes that feel both urgent and timeless.’

Isma worries about Aneeka, her beautiful, headstrong sister, and their brother, Parvaiz, who’s disappeared to follow the dark legacy of the jihadist father he never knew.  When Aneeka becomes involved with Eamonn the charming son of a powerful British Muslim politician the two families’ fates are devastatingly entwined. A forceful retelling of the ancient story of Antigone. 

Tin Man by Sarah Winman (Tinder Press)

Why we loved it:  ‘A tender and deeply moving exploration of love and grief written with deceptive simplicity.’

Two Oxford city boys, Ellis and Michael, are inseparable in adolescence but when they become men life takes them in different directions. Ellis works at the Cowley car plant, smoothing out dents; Michael heads to London. Then Ellis falls in love with Annie, and for a while, the old friends are brought back together again.

Sarah Winman grew up in Essex and now lives in London.  She attended the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art and was an actor for 30 years in theatre, TV and film. She has written three novels including When God Was a Rabbit.

 

 

On Reading: Books that catch your imagination

15 Nov 2017

THE READING LISTSI was interviewed recently by The Reading Lists, a great book blog for anyone who’s curious about what other people like to read. Click this link for a snapshot of my reading habits  The Reading Lists Lucy Atkins

 

 

Judging the Costa Book Awards

8 Nov 2017

costa book awards logoSince May this year I have been reading novels for the Costa Book Awards. I’m judging the ‘Novel’ category so there are authors whose work I’ve read before, but also quite a few who are new to me – and some authors I’ve always meant to read and haven’t, until now. It has been an eye-opening experience. One thing that’s struck me is the large number of historical novels (and a few futuristic ones too, it has to be said). Is this always the case? It’s not something you tend to notice unless you have a stack of fifty books to read on your office floor. The better historical novels, I’ve noticed, are less about escaping into the past, and more about reframing the uncertainties and horrors of what’s happening in the world today. Let’s just say I’ve read more than one reworking of a Greek tragedy.

This week is the most exciting bit. I’m just finishing reading the other judges’ selections (my two fellow judges chose three books each). This Friday we’ll meet in London to discuss those, along with my own selections. It’s going to be a delight to finally meet the other judges and discuss these books – and to choose a final shortlist from them. I’ll report back soon.

Guildford Book Festival Readers’ Day

8 Sep 2017

Guildford Readers' DAy imageI’ll be appearing at Guildford Book Festival on Saturday 14th October, for ‘Readers’ Day’, alongside authors Rachel Joyce, Polly Clark, Fiona Barton, Veronica Henry and Penny Vincenzi, and chaired by novelist Fanny Blake.

Here’s the Festival’s description of what’s in store:

If you are an avid reader of fiction what better way to spend the day than in the company of some of Britain’s best-loved authors sharing their stories, their experiences and their inspirations, and all under one roof.

Hosted by Fanny Blake*, Books Editor of Woman & Home magazine, and a former publisher and author of more than a dozen fiction and non-fiction books, this interactive and enjoyable day for book lovers has been a popular feature of the Festival for many years. Early booking is essential for this event.

The event will take place in the Festival Marquee with lunch served in the cafe/bar area by WeFiFo chef. 

More information about this or the rest of the festival click here: Guildford Book Festival Readers’ Day

 

Thriller Queens in the Library

6 Sep 2017

 

 

 

Hillingdon Libraries event

Come to Hillingdon to talk to me, Sabine Durrant and Colette MacBeth about dark things.

27th September at 7.30pm

 

Cheltenham Literature Festival

6 Sep 2017

On 15th October, I’ll be at Cheltenham Literature Festival, interviewing author Sarah Moss, about her latest novel The Tidal Zone, and also crime author Minette Walters, who’s most recent book is The Last Hours. Tickets are on sale here:  Buy Tickets for Cheltenham Lit Fest

 

How to Write a Novel (Psychologies Magazine Column)

31 Aug 2017

 

 

goldsboro window

Click on the links below to read my first six Psychologies Magazine ‘How to Write a Novel’ columns. They are short and basic but maybe they’ll give you a few ideas:

Month 1: How to Write a Novel

Month 2: Don’t Lose the Plot 

Month 3 Make Time to Write 

Month 4 Looking for Trouble

Month 5: How to Cut 

Month 6: Tricks of the Trade

 

 

 

 

 

Wantage Literary Festival

31 Aug 2017

Come and talk to me about writing! Screen Shot 2017-08-31 at 19.08.44

I’ll be at the Wantage Betjeman Literary Festival on 22 October, 2017 talking about the Night Visitor as well as how to write a thriller, how to get your book published. Come and ask me lots of questions about your writing and mine.  Buy a ticket here Wantage Tickets

 

Inspiration for the Victorian Gothic manor in The Night Visitor

11 Aug 2017

Spooks, memories and visitors

Henry Fuseli - The Nightmare

When I was a teenager, growing up in a village near Lewes in East Sussex, I had a friend whose house was very different from everyone else’s. For a start, it had about five times as many bedrooms. It also had tall iron gates, a long, tree lined driveway and a haunted Minstrel’s Gallery. This place – which I now know to be a Victorian Gothic Manor – looked very grand on the outside. It had tall grey flint walls and grand, mullioned windows, but the inside told a different story. The house was in coming undone.

My friend’s family was not landed gentry, far from it. Her father, a drinker, keen on the races, had won the house some time in the 1970s in a bet. It was crumbling and damp, with rattling casement windows and no central heating. There was no money to fix anything. I got the sense that nobody really cared because the family was breaking down. The house was not just physically gloomy, but unhappy and troubled in a more profound, less tangible way. And I felt, instinctively, that it was not just the container of the family’s sorrows, but – somehow, inexplicably – feeding them.

I would go there from time to time during the secondary school years. I’d marvel at the grandeur of those iron gates and that long driveway; we’d climb the sweeping staircase to what is, in my memory, an endless procession of dark and musty rooms with plasterwork damp to the touch, old quilts, a pervading chill and flitting shadows. It was thrilling for a teenager. I remember one party – twenty drunk fourteen year olds screaming across the unkempt lawns, only to end up crammed into the (surprisingly tiny) kitchen, too spooked to venture further into the house.

My friend, a tall, loyal, bright girl with a hint of wildness behind the eyes, confided to me once that she sometimes had a ‘visitor’ in the middle of the night. She would wake in the small hours to find a shrouded and malevolent old lady sitting on her, pinning her to the mattress. She was paralyzed when this happened, she said, unable to even cry out for help. This terrifying apparition, she was convinced, meant to choke her.

The friend and I lost touch when I went off to university. Her life, I heard, did not unfold as happily as mine, she has had troubles. Her family broke up and the Manor was sold. But thirty years on, I found it again, in my imagination, a huge, neglected flinty beast set in an idyllic spot beneath the South Downs, a stone’s throw from the spot where Virginia Woolf drowned herself. The Manor – which I called Ileford –  became a key setting in my novel, the symbol of how the most grand and imposing façade can conceal rotten secrets. My friend’s ‘night visitor’ came to life again too. But that’s another story.

I still long for the Sussex countryside – the chalk paths up to the South Downs, pheasants panicking across country lanes in the early morning mist, and my hometown, Lewes, slotted in the cleft of the hills. I live in Oxford, now, and people tell me I’m lucky to be here but I still long to move ‘home’. I did go back to the Manor while researching my novel. I went up to the iron gates, held them and peeked through but I could see very little. I thought about going up the drive, knocking on the door and introducing myself, trying to explain who I was, what I was doing. In the end, I didn’t dare.

 

The Night Visitor launch photos

8 Jun 2017

with beetlesBook Launch night visitor launch crowd night visitor launch crowd 2 night visitor launch noodles 2 night visitor launch signing night visitor launch ted and prosecco night visitor launch with Helen nightvisitor cupcakes There were two parties to launch The Night Visitor. One in Blackwell’s Oxford, and another just a week later in Goldsboro Books, London. Night Visitor_launch invite_LondonIMG_1867 IMG_1848
IMG_1845 Quercus editor Stef Bierwerth
IMG_1844goldsboro cupcakes

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