I didn’t really have a post planned for today – it’s my preparation day for the weeks ahead – but I just had to tell you about the lovely evening I had last night at a couple of events that were part of the Ilkley Literature Festival Fringe. I’ve been rather badly organised this year and missed out on tickets for some of the “big names” I planned to see like Tracy Chevalier and Kay Mellor: but last night’s events were with authors I already “knew” through Book Connectors, their events were free and didn’t need tickets, and I’m so glad I went.
The first event was a celebration of women’s friendship in writing with Sue Featherstone and Susan Pape, the authors of A Falling Friend. Both ladies were warm and welcoming, taking their rather precarious places on the narrow stage, and the audience – surprisingly large given the torrential rain on leaving home and the conflicting demands of a Saturday night – eager and interested. After opening with some examples of female friendship in literature, both ladies spoke really engagingly about their first meeting as co-workers at Yorkshire Water, their returns to education and their earlier work together on the books on journalism and feature writing that remain core books on the subject.
The way they wrote A Falling Friend was fascinating – two distinct voices for their key characters of Teri and Lee, exchanging chapters by email, being sometimes surprised by the directions the story took despite the overall plan they’d started with. I was fascinated by their choice of publisher and how it came about – Lakewater Press are based in Australia, which could have proved difficult, but they’ve certainly done them proud in terms of support, and the rather lovely (and totally appropriate) cover. Their reading of a couple of passages – in the different voices of their characters – was excellent. But I think the real success of the evening was the way in which their friendship and enjoyment in working together was clear to everyone in every aside and exchange. When asked whether they would choose to write separately, Sue responded “why would we?’ – and I thought that was rather lovely. Well, unless Susan decides to write that biography of the Earl of Rochester, in which case she’s on her own!
There’s a sequel on its way, but A Falling Friend was published in April 2016 and is available in paperback and for kindle – the kindle version is just 99p until the end of today. Here’s the blurb:
After spending her twenties sailing the globe, making love on fine white sand, and thinking only of today, Teri Meyer returns to Yorkshire – and to studying. That’s when she discovers John Wilmot, the second Earl of Rochester, and poet of all things depraved. What she doesn’t realise is even beyond his grave, his influence over her is extraordinary. To hell with the consequences.
Having gone out on a limb to get old friend Teri a job at the university at which she teaches, it doesn’t take long for Lee Harper to recognise a pattern. Wherever Teri goes, whatever she does, every selfish choice she makes, it’s all setting her up for a nasty fall. But Teri’s not the sort to heed a warning, so Lee has no choice but to stand by and watch. And besides, she has her own life to straighten out.
A clever, raw and hilarious character-driven masterpiece that follows the lives of two friends with the same ambitions, but who have vastly different ways of achieving them.
Emerging from that event clutching the rather nice bottle of wine I’d won in the raffle (thanks ladies!), I was delighted to find the author leading the next event – Lyn Farrell, author of The Wacky Man – waiting in the lobby. There are some people you warm to immediately although you’ve never met face to face before – and Lyn was most definitely one of those people. The audience was small – small enough to sit in a circle of chairs, which was just the perfect way to run such an event.
Lyn was totally enchanting, and quite inspiring, as she talked with a gentle humour about the different phases in her life, and her new life of creativity and contentment. She was very moving as she spoke about the experiences that inspired her novel, the way her passion for reading gave her emotional support during her solitary years of recovery, her relationship with her therapist and the way her head was mended (with vinegar and brown paper…), and her return to education after working on factory assembly lines. We heard too about the many years spent writing and re-writing The Wacky Man, the difficulties in bringing it to publication when “what will sell” has such a narrow definition, and her total delight at her success in winning the Luke Bitmead award and publication with Legend Press. And her enthusiasm was wonderfully infectious as she talked about some of her more recent passions like learning Tibetan, playing the guitar and singing (but not at the same time), working on her allotment, and learning to drive.
Hearing Lyn talk was such a unique experience that I’m really struggling to do it justice – if you ever have the opportunity to spend time in her company, do grasp it. I think everyone present walked off into the night eager to read her book, and aware that we’d been privileged to meet a rather special lady.
My new shrink asks me, ‘What things do you remember about being very young?’ It’s like looking into a murky river, I say. Memories flash near the surface like fish coming up for flies. The past peeps out, startles me, and then is gone…
Amanda secludes herself in her bedroom, no longer willing to face the outside world. Gradually, she pieces together the story of her life: her brothers have had to abandon her, her mother scarcely talks to her, and the Wacky Man could return any day to burn the house down. Just like he promised.
As her family disintegrates, Amanda hopes for a better future, a way out from the violence and fear that has consumed her childhood. But can she cling to her sanity, before insanity itself is her only means of escape?
I must too pay tribute to the lovely team from the Ilkley Literary Festival organising the event and greeting the audience – they were really excellent. A lovely way to spend a Saturday night.