It’s not very often that I feature a book because of a Twitter conversation, but I’m delighted to do so today. I was taking a break the other day, and noticed a tweet in my timeline, from Simon Van der Velde, that really made me smile…
Although he’s absolutely right – I’m sorry, but I just can’t take on any new reads for a while – I was really intrigued to find out more Backstories, out on 25th March and promised to be “the most original book of the year”. And it’s not only Simon saying that. The Daily Mirror quote was “Ingenious idea, brilliantly executed” – and then I remembered reading a review from Linda Hill on Linda’s Book Bag where she’d called the book “fabulous” (you can read the whole review again here). And as if that wasn’t enough, I also noticed that 30% of all profits will be going to Stop Hate UK, The North-East Autism Society and Friends of the Earth.
So let’s take a closer look…
Dreamers, singers, talkers and killers; they can dazzle with their beauty or their talent or their unmitigated evil, but inside themselves they are as frail and desperate as the rest of us. But can you see them? Can you unravel the truth?
These are people you know, but not as you know them. Peel back the mask and see.
Backstories is a unique collection of stories each told from the point of view of a famous, (or notorious) person at a pivotal moment in their lives. The writing is literary but accessible and the voices vividly real.
The settings are mostly 60’s and 70’s UK and USA, and the driving themes are inclusion, social justice and of course, nostalgia – but the real key to these stories is that the protagonists’ identities are withheld.
This means that your job is to find them, leading to that Eureka moment when you realise who’s mind you’ve been inhabiting for the last twenty minutes.
Here’s Simon to tell us more about his quest…
“Whatever happened to, all of the heroes” The Stranglers 1977
I was twelve years old when I first heard this song and although there was something in the feral tone that grabbed me, I didn’t really understand it. I do now. I get the angst and the loss and the emptiness, which why, in Backstories, I aim to answer the question. So join me on my quest, and together we’ll uncover the fears and passions and prejudices that made our heroes what they were, and perhaps catch a glimpse of ourselves along the way.
Whatever happened to all of the heroes? They turned out to be human beings, in all their diverse glory.
And here are a few more quotes, in praise of Backstories…
‘Unique, astonishing and magical, Backstories is the most entertaining book I have ever read.’ (The Book Magnet)
‘Backstories is a thrilling and at times shocking read that bravely addresses the fundamental questions of human identity.’ (Dr Sara Northey, Director Forensic Psychology, Sussex)
‘Truly unique. When I wasn’t reading it, I was thinking about it.’ (Echoes in an Empty Room)
‘Elegant and frequently raw, Backstories thrums with life and meaning.’ (Linda’s Book Bag)
‘Humanity shimmers at the heart of every tale…and it is this that resonates, long after each mystery has been solved.’ (Caroline Ward Vine, winner of the Costa Prize)
‘Tightly written, technically accomplished, light-footed, wryly ironic and genuinely affecting. Excellent stuff.’ (Professor Graham Mort, Director of The Centre for Transcultural Writing and Research)
Sadly, I still can’t fit in the reading, and I’m rather sorry about that. But Simon has promised he’ll be in touch again around the planned publication of Backstories II in August – and I’ll be rather looking forward to it…
About the author
Simon Van der Velde has worked variously as a barman, laborer, teacher, caterer and lawyer, as well as traveling throughout Europe and South America collecting characters for his award-winning stories. Since completing a creative writing M.A. (with distinction) in 2010, Simon’s work has won and been shortlisted for numerous awards including; The Yeovil Literary Prize, (twice), The Wasafiri New Writing Prize, The Luke Bitmead Bursary, The Frome Prize, and The Harry Bowling Prize – establishing him as one of the UK’s foremost short-story writers.
Simon now lives in Newcastle upon Tyne, England, with his wife, labradoodle and two tyrannical children.