Monday, 28 March 2016

An Unexpected Message

My book, Broken Faces, now has 11 reviews on and all of them 5 stars - I'm delighted to say - saying things like 'spectacularly powerful', 'As soon as I started it I could not put it down', 'I have not read anything quite like it before,' 'I would recommend this novel to anyone looking for an historical read where romance and history are nicely combined.' 'The author introduces the wonderfully rich language of the First World War', and so on. It was runner up in a novel writing competition, it's only £1.66 on Amazon..., so why does nobody want to buy it?

I recently posted about William Kearsey, a handsome young Australian soldier - who inspired my character Freddie Chevalier -  who went as far as having corrective eye surgery so that he could fight for his country only for him to receive life-changing injuries to his face. Here's the post. A woman named Kerry came across my post who'd not only done her PHD on William Kearsey - and others like him - and is the curator of an exhibition in New Zealand WW1: Love and Sorrow, but has also got to know his family well. She told me she was going to read my book. Cue panic! 

I was massively relieved, and a little overwhelmed, when she contacted me again shortly afterwards to say: 'I have finished Broken Faces - and I'm lost for words.  It is a wonderful, wonderful novel, and I couldn't help but imagine William as I was reading it.  You did an incredible job of capturing the emotional struggle these men, and those around them, went through.' 

Needless to say it was a little surreal reading those words from someone who'll know more about this man than I could ever hope to do. To know that she knew him so well and couldn't help imaging him as she was reading it is massive praise indeed! Praise for which I'm hugely grateful!

Much to my sadness though, after initial reasonable sales no one seems to be interested in buying Broken Faces and I admit I was losing my confidence... However when I received that lovely email telling me how much Kerry had loved my book, I decided that if nothing else, through her I've now been able to send a message to William Kearsey's family almost 100 years after his terrible injuries to let them know that across the world their father/grandfather's story still resonates with people they'll probably never meet. That and the joy that I experienced researching and writing this book should really be enough for me. Shouldn't it?

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Words, Words, Words

Last night I attended a drinks party and preview of an exhibition in the Story of Jersey Gallery at the Jersey Museum for a project developed in partnership with the Jersey Festival of Words, 'Words, Words, Words'. (Here's a scary picture of me standing next to my piece for the project).

Twenty-five local writers - authors, poets, playwrights and journalists - were given a random exhibit with the challenge of writing a 60 word label. My object was a flattened musket ball that had been shot into the shoulder of a Mrs Fiott when she looked out of her window to see what was going on during the Battle of Jersey on 6 January 1781. My story is called, The Keepsake and it was exciting to see it printed up and standing next to the objects that I'd been sent to write about (the musket ball and a small painted miniature of Mrs Fiott).

The labels are on display  at the Jersey Museum from Saturday 12 March and the project is well worth visiting. In fact the museum is a 'must see' if you live on the island, or visit here. I've eaten lunch at the brilliant brasserie there and had drinks, I've also attended talks with the Jersey Writers in rooms at the museum but I haven't taken the time to look around the fascinating history of this island for far too long. 

It was a wonderful evening and I'm delighted to have been asked to take part.

Friday, 4 March 2016

Researching Books

Researching a book is always fun because you're learning more about a topic in which you're interested. For Broken Faces I spent a week in Paris staying in my aunt's flat. We found the building where the studio was situated where Anna Coleman Ladd and other artisans made masks for the damaged faces of the young soldiers. Here's a picture of the stairs that those men would have made their way up towards the sunlit studio. No doubt nervous to, a) show their face to someone they didn't know, and b) have to endure the sometimes suffocating feeling that came with having your face covered in plaster of Paris while a mould was taken.

Another place that fascinated me was Père Lachaise Cemetery where many famous people are buried from Oscar Wilde, Maria Callas, Edith Piaf, Marcel Proust and of course to, Jim Morrison from The Doors. The atmosphere of this cemetary is all encompassing. The heavy sadness brought about by the detail of the personal monuments that families built to remember their loved ones is unmistakeable. It's almost like visiting a scene from a film but one that envelopes you and takes your mind off in various tangents. As you meander down the cobbled walkways between the graves and come across
spectacles such as Oscar Wilde's lipstick covered tomb, which has been cleaned up since I visited, to Jim Morrison's small and unremarkable grave where on a nearby tree someone has written in marker pen, 'Show me the way to the next whisky bar', to graves where the abject heartbreak of those left behind is clearly evident, one with a zeppelin depicted across the top of the gravestone making you presume that the corpse enclosed in this grave was either a pilot of one of these aircrafts or killed by one. Whatever scenarios this peaceful and unique place conjours up for the visitor it is definitely somewhere I'd like to go to again.