Sealskin is out there today!
The paperback went on sale this morning, and the audiobook as well. It's been a flying start, with so much support and fabulous reviews, not just from the bloggers on the tour, but others too, and a daily tweet-storm of good wishes. And there was an extra push when both Amazon and Kobo brought the ebook price down to 99p for Valentine's weekend. For three dizzying days, Sealskin got to number one in two categories, and became an official bestseller. In Mythology it got to number two, basking in the limelight focussed on Neil Gaiman's newly-released Norse Mythology, which will no doubt top the bill for weeks to come. I'm very happy with that!
The blog tour continues until the end of the month, and the official London launch is on March 8th at Goldsboro Books, followed by the Exeter launch at the fourth Exeter Novel Prize awards ceremony on March 25th. I'll be there with Sealskin to show the six shortlisters what can happen. The longlist is up now on the Creative Writing Matters website at www.creativewritingmatters.co.uk, but no-one will know who the next winner is until the judge, Broo Doherty of DHH Literary Agency, announces it at the ceremony. Meanwhile, congratulations to all on the longlist! I'm looking forward to meeting some of you on March 25th.
The Sealskin blog tour starts today and runs throughout February, courtesy of the tireless Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books. Kicking off with two posts, one from Emma Welton at Damp Pebbles here: damppebbles.com/ and one from Steph Rothswell at stephsbookblog.com/. They have some lovely things to say, and there's already been a lot of retweeting.
I am amazed and slightly overwhelmed at the response so far. Huge thanks to everybody who has taken the time to like, share, retweet, review and otherwise share the launch of Sealskin. It's yours now, too.
The book is almost out there now. You can pre-order it on Amazon HERE and the e-book will be available from 22nd December, while the paperback launch is scheduled for mid-February. And in the meantime, here’s a link to Writing Magazine, and an excellent article by Margaret James about Sealskin: https://www.writers-online.co.uk
I’m learning along the way, and one interesting thing is that – for my publisher, Orenda Books, at least – e-publication is much less important than the ‘actual’ book. It enables people to start reviewing, and generates a head of steam before the launch.
I’d imagined that e-books were overtaking real books in importance, but it seems to be the opposite. Certainly, most readers I’ve talked to say they’ll wait for a real book, preferably signed by the author. I have one of the earliest Kindles, and it’s no pleasure to read on it, but even with a state-of-the-art, backlit, large print and touch-screen model, I’d still rather read a book.
That may change in time, but I’m not sure I want it to. I remember an animated film from childhood, in which when a book was opened, a landscape sprang out peopled with characters, roads winding away into the distance, birds flying past; a whole reality that was different from the one waiting inside the next book.
For me, books are like that. Taking my chosen book in hand, looking at the cover and then opening the first page, is all part of the journey; a ritual, like checking you’ve got your passport, tickets and money before you set off on your travels. And when you get to the end, you pause for a while – if it’s been a satisfying read – before closing the book and laying it aside. If I’m not quite ready to leave it behind, I keep it to hand for a few days, to remind me as I go on with other things.
You can’t do any of that with an e-book. But still, it’s been a long wait, and I’m ready now – I think! – for people to read Sealskin. So here we go…
There's still time to enter!
I'm Chair of Exeter Writers this year, and we're eagerly awaiting the final total of entries for this year. The competition closes on 28th February, and although we usually get hundreds of entries, there's always room for more.
Our competition is a little unusual, in that all our members take part in the judging process, and we award marks to each story - anonymously, of course - so that readers' bias is eliminated, and the cream rises to the top. Take a look at our website, www.exeterwriters.org.uk, for rules and an entry form. You can see some of the past winners there too, or buy our anthology, 'The Coastal Zoo', which is a collection of winning stories and contributions from members of Exeter Writers. The prizes are good too!
Here's a press release about my novel 'Sealskin':Orenda Books Signs Stunning Retelling Of The Selkie Legend By Debut Author Su Bristow
Posted at 11:41AM Tuesday 13 Oct 2015
Karen Sullivan, publisher of Orenda Books, is delighted to announce the acquisition of World English Language rights for debut author, Su Bristow's Sealskin, in a deal negotiated with Broo Doherty of DHH Literary Agency.
Karen says, 'I was swept away by this simply beautiful book – a flawless retelling of a legend that features in the folklore of so many nations. Set in a Scottish fishing village, Sealskin is an exquisitely written, subtle story of a small community's response to difference, studying the nuances of personal relationships and how an outside influence recasts and fortifies social ties. Every character, every relationship, every aspect of the setting and the story is finely drawn, with a compelling timelessness that is at once relevant and able to transport us to a different world. Su has an extraordinary talent for exploring social dynamics, tradition and the innate human capacity for forgiveness, acceptance and care, and this is an exceptional book on many, many levels.'
Broo Doherty says, 'I am absolutely delighted to have sold Sealskin by Su Bristow to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books. It is a magical and elegiac novel, based on an age-old myth but told with a modern twist. I know that it is in safe hands, and it will be published with confidence and enthusiasm, Orenda's trademarks...'
Sealskin will be published in early Spring 2017. For more information, please contact Karen@orendabooks.co.uk.
What can I add to that? Except, wow!
And here's the long-awaited picture of me in a hat. No, it wasn't my own wedding. My gorgeous daughter Rosie got married to Paul, my new son-in-law, and together they created one of the most joyful parties I've ever been at. They're good at friendships, these two, and that's a treasure that will be worth its weight in gold over the years to come.
Here they are, just after making their vows. At their request, I spoke at the ceremony, and since people have been kind enough to ask for the words, I give them here. Anyone is welcome to use them - though you'll have to change names and places - but please tell me if you do. I'd love to know!
Two generations ago in Suffolk, Ray Gardiner married Joan Smith. Down in Surrey, Percival Dickinson proposed to Moraig Maclauchlan, and was accepted. Only a few miles away, though the two couples did not know each other, the wedding took place of Una Vincent and Nicholas Bristow. And in south London, not far from where Rosie and Paul live today, Gladys Padley and Alfred Howell celebrated their union. Four couples who could have no idea, as they made their marriage vows, that the choices they made would lead directly to this moment.
And with each step back through the generations, the number of names doubles. Back before living memory, before records began, people whose names are lost to history were plighting their troths, tying the knot, jumping the broom, handfasting or exchanging rings; weaving a carpet of many colours that unrolls from the far distant past to you, Rosie and Paul, and to the ground under your feet.
With the vows that you have just made, the weaving passes to you. Sometimes it will be a magic carpet ride, and sometimes the colours will fade and the patterns grow threadbare, and you’ll wonder why you ever took up this task. But don’t forget, when things get tough and you’re tempted to blame each other, that this is much, much bigger than the two of you.
All those marriages, and the ones you’ve witnessed in your own lifetimes, and the ones yet to come, are woven out of hope, of faith in the future; of love. They celebrate continuity, and the strength of human connection. And we, the friends and family you’ve invited to share that celebration, are all part of the weaving. We’re here to witness your vows, to share your joy, and to be there for you when you need us.
So now, as you step forward hand in hand into the future, may your hopes and dreams begin to take shape. Be your best selves as often as you can; and when you can’t, be gentle with each other. Remember that you’re not alone. Be bold, use bright colours, make new and beautiful patterns together. May you weave well.
What would you pay for a secondhand book in a language you couldn't read? It's lost its cover and several pages. There are holes where it's been partly burned and chewed by rodents, scribbles in the margins and stains of various kinds. And if you bid anything less than £1,000,000, you'd be way off the mark.
The book in question is the Exeter Book, written in 970, which makes it the oldest surviving manuscript in Old English. That it survived at all is something of a miracle. It was given to the library at Exeter Cathedral by Bishop Leofric, but they pretty soon forgot how to read it. It's been used as a cutting board, a press for gold leaf and a stand for a gluepot, and in the Civil War it was turfed out with the whole library and offered for sale in the cathedral yard. If a local physician hadn't hidden the books until it was safe to return them, they would all have been lost.
Now, it is kept in a climate-controlled repository, and brought out once a month for the public to view. It felt like a kind of pilgrimage going to see it; a small homage to the shrine of literacy. And what's inside? A series of poems and some elaborate riddles; a small sample of what people were reading at the time - or, more likely, what they were reciting to each other. Very few were able to read, and those who could read and write usually wrote in Latin. It's likely that the author - whose name we will never know - was a collector of stories, an editor rather than a writer. But that doesn't matter at all. Whether we re-tell old tales or present them as all our own work, we're following a long and honourable tradition. And it may be a challenging time to try for publication, but we don't have to prepare the parchment, make the ink and the pens, write painstakingly by candlelight, and then bind the whole thing in calfskin. It's good to be reminded.
I’ve been handed the baton in this writing blog tour by Cathie Hartigan of www.CreativeWritingMatters.co.uk/cathies-blog, so here goes.
1. What am I working on?
My novel, ‘Sealskin’, is now with an agent. Winning the Exeter Novel Prize – see http://subristow.weebly.com/1/post/2014/03/exeter-novel-prize.html … has meant that getting published is a little more likely. It also means that I am in some demand to write articles, do blogs, tweet, and find my way around the social networking scene. Luckily, I have very good guides!
My regular weekly herbblog at www.subristow.co.uk continues, and I’m also updating the Exeter Writers website in my capacity as secretary. What else? There’s always the ongoing business of polishing up short stories for competitions. Oh, and the next novel is tugging at my sleeve…
2. How does my work differ from others in its genre?
I like retelling old stories; the best ones are full of resonances, and each telling brings out something different. But I’m probably closer to Angela Carter than Sheri Tepper. It’s not about spinning fairytales for me, it’s about looking more closely at human dilemmas and how we try to solve them…or not.
3. Why do I write what I do?
I love fantasy, and the extra dimension it brings to the business of being human. The best fantasy isn’t escapist, it has a heightened sense of reality. My role model for living – and working as a herbalist – would be Terry Pratchett’s Granny Weatherwax! Maybe I’ll turn into her one day.
4. How does my writing process go?
It’s not at all systematic unless I’ve got a deadline. I do it at any time of day, wherever I am. Watching my partner play cricket yesterday, for instance. It unsettled the other players a bit; they thought I might be writing about them. Little did they know…
Next stop on the tour is with Cathy Edmunds, at http://catherineedmunds.blogspot.co.uk/
I'd been warned, as a first-timer, to expect the devastating noise level, stunning frocks and extraordinary shoes. They were nearly all women, of course, but I talked with all kinds of people, from a bestselling novelist whose books you can find in supermarkets to a newcomer, partway through her first novel and just testing the waters.
My own novel isn't a romance, strictly speaking, but as long as your story features relationships in some form, which includes just about everything except hardcore science fiction, the RNA offers support, critique, networking and a huge body of experience to draw on. There were seventeen people this year in line for the Joan Hessayon prize for first novel to be published, and their work included everything from fantasy to comedy, from historical to mystery to - of course - good old-fashioned romance. Maybe I'll be standing in that line next year; who knows? Fingers crossed...
A literary micro-festival in Salem chapel at East Budleigh this weekend, with a real cross-section of writing on offer. I went on Sunday, and listened to talks from best-seller Graham Hurley, Carnegie medal winner Mal Peet, and readings from the work of local romance writer Rosemary Ann Smith and poet John Payne. But the stars of the show were the goth twins, Cat Lynx Raven, reading from their novel 'Bleeding Empire' which was longlisted for the Exeter Novel Prize.
Why did they have such an impact? They made us laugh, they are gorgeous to look at, and they know how to perform for an audience. At the end of the day, they sold quite a few books, too. Something to ponder for all of us; doing the rounds of the festivals seems to be the way to go these days. It's a bit late to acquire an identical twin, but