Retreat West are producing some really cracking looking books at the moment, and I’m really delighted to be joining the blog tour today for Separated From the Sea, the debut short story collection by Amanda Huggins, published in paperback on 29th May and also available for kindle. I’m rather sad I couldn’t fit this one into my reading list, but I’ll certainly look forward to catching up with it later. Well, just look – isn’t it one you’d rather like to read too?
Crossing oceans from Japan to New York and from England to Havana, these stories are filled with a sense of yearning, of loss, of not quite belonging, of not being sure that things are what you thought they were. They are stories imbued with pathos and irony, humour and hope. Evie meets a past love but he’s not the person she thinks he is; a visit to the most romantic city in the world reveals the truth about an affair; Satseko discovers an attentive neighbour is much more than that; Eleanor’s journey on the London Underground doesn’t take her where she thought it would.
It’s a real pleasure to welcome Amanda as my guest on Being Anne, with a post she’s called My Life in Books – well, with Anne of Random Things Tours away on holiday, what better opportunity to give it a try?!
The first book I loved – Enid Blyton’s Book of Brownies
My mother used to read this to me at bedtime when I was around three years’ old. I loved hearing the adventures of the mischievous Hop, Skip and Jump, and I asked for the Book of Brownies to be read to me over and over again. If my mother missed out even a single word, then I knew. She decided it would be better if I learned to read it myself, and I never looked back.
I continued to love Enid Blyton throughout my childhood and – predictably – one of my favourite characters was the bookish and awkward Lizzie in House at the Corner, who wrote stories in secret, and submitted them to magazines.
The first book that inspired me to write a book of my own – The Silver Brumby by Elyne Mitchell
This children’s book about Australian wild horses inspired me to write my first novel when I was around ten or eleven years’ old. I was obsessed by horses, and regularly went riding with my parents. However, the only horsey books I had read were those by British writers such as Ruby Ferguson and the Pullein-Thompson sisters. Elyne Mitchell’s stories were a world away from village gymkhanas; they were exciting, wild and dangerous. My own story was rather unimaginatively entitled ‘Silver’ and I wrote it in a red reporter’s notebook that I bought with my pocket money.
The first book that made me want to travel – My Family and other Animals by Gerald Durrell
We read this at school when I was twelve, and it made me yearn to travel to Corfu. I could smell the heady scent of the flowers, hear the relentless chatter of the cicadas, and see the fireflies lighting up the pine-scented night. I wanted to walk through shady olive groves, see shiny black beetles as fat as thumbs, and swim alongside sea cucumbers in clear turquoise waters. I was completely captivated by Durrell’s childhood, his eccentric family, and their strawberry-coloured villa. Two years later I travelled to Corfu with my parents and it was everything I’d hoped it would be. (Note: I really wanted to like the TV series, but sadly I had to stop watching it before it ruined everything I loved about the book)
The book I wish I’d written – The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
I love all his books, but this is my favourite. It is so beautifully written. A story of a life lost to duty; unsentimental and utterly heartbreaking. A masterpiece.
The books I read aside from novels and travel writing
I read a lot of short story collections – from Flannery O’Connor to K J Orr and Tessa Hadley, from Ernest Hemingway to Helen Simpson, Angela Readman and Miranda July – the list is endless!
I also enjoy reading music memoirs – Patti Smith is a fabulous writer, and I loved Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run and Viv Albertine’s Clothes, Clothes, Clothes, Music, Music, Music, Boys, Boys, Boys. I’ve just finished The Importance of Music to Girls by Lavinia Greenlaw, which brought back memories of my own mis-spent youth.
I love poetry too, and have a large collection of poetry collections and anthologies that I dip in and out of. I’ve just read Helen Dunmore’s posthumous collection, Inside the Wave, which is wonderful.
The book I didn’t finish
I can’t think of any books that I’ve abandoned recently, and I’ve forgotten about most of those half-finished books from the past. However one that does stick in my mind is Catch-22. I’m not alone either; it regularly appears on lists as the most often abandoned classic. I was only 17, maybe I should try again. Or maybe not…
The book I should have liked, but didn’t – To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
In theory I should love it, but…
What I’m reading right now
I’m a serious Japanophile, and I read a lot of Japanese literature, both classic and contemporary. I love Murakami’s short stories, Kazuo Ishiguro’s novels, and classics such as The Makioka Sisters by Tanizaki and Snow Country by Kawabata. But I also admire the work of many contemporary female Japanese writers such as Banana Yoshimoto, Yuko Tsushima, and Taeko Kono. Two favourites are the beautiful novel, The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa, and Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami.
I’m really looking forward to all the great books coming out this year by some of my favourite authors. There are posthumous short story collections from William Trevor and Helen Dunmore, a new novel from Alison Moore, short stories from A M Homes, and the last book in Rachel Cusk’s trilogy.
Thank you Mandy – quite a few in there I’d like to explore further! Wishing you every success with Separated From the Sea…
About the author
Mandy Huggins’s work has been published in anthologies, travel guides, text books, and literary magazines, as well as in The Guardian, The Telegraph, Reader’s Digest, Take a Break’s Fiction Feast, Traveller, Mslexia, Wanderlust, and Writers’ Forum. Her travel writing has won several awards, including the British Guild of Travel Writers New Travel Writer Award in 2014, and her short stories are regularly placed and shortlisted in competitions, including Bare Fiction, Fish, InkTears, Cinnamon Press and Retreat West.
A selection of her short fiction is showcased in the InkTears anthology, Death of a Superhero, and her first collection of flash fiction, Brightly Coloured Horses (Chapeltown Books), is now available on Kindle and in paperback. Follow her on Twitter @troutiemcfish.
About Retreat West
Retreat West Books is an independent press publishing paperback books and ebooks.
Founder, Amanda Saint, is a novelist and short story writer. She’s also a features journalist writing about environmental sustainability and climate change. So all Retreat West Books publications take advantage of digital technology advances and are print-on-demand, in order to make best use of the world’s finite resources.
Retreat West Books is an arm of Amanda’s creative writing business, Retreat West, through which she runs fiction writing retreats, courses and competitions and provides editorial services.
Initially started to publish the anthologies of winning stories in the Retreat West competitions, Retreat West Books is now open for submissions for short story collections, novels and memoirs. Submission info can be found here.