Friday, April 13, 2018

Ghost haunts Edinburgh!

If the heroine of my latest book, Ghost, were a real person, yesterday would have been her 19th birthday. So it was rather fitting that 12th April was chosen (entirely coincidentally) for the rescheduled Edinburgh book launch, at Blackwell's.

The interview format is one I really like, as it's a bit more dynamic than me just standing there talking for half an hour! So fellow author Che Golden came along to ask the questions. I'm not sure whether to describe Che as "a great friend" or "my old nemesis"; our trading of increasingly inventive insults on Facebook has occasionally led other friends to message us, asking why we tolerate each other..! In real life, we do manage to get along without any name calling. I have even gone so far as to take Che over to Innerpeffray Library to check out the leper squint (you can read about this interesting excursion here). Anyway, Che asked me some excellent and interesting questions, and we managed to be (relatively) civil for a whole hour and a half! A big thank you to Che, to Fledgling Press for arranging the event, and to Blackwell's, and especially the wonderful Ann Landmann, for hosting it!

The photo of me and Che is from a review of the launch by the Bookwitch, who was in attendance along with Mr. Witch and Witch Junior. Other attendees included fellow writers Joan Lennon, Roy Gill, Philip Caveney and Alex Nye. Bloggers in attendance included https://portobellobookblog.com/ and https://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/.
There was also another visitor, a rather haunting one:


Those familiar with the Scottish book scene may be able to hazard a guess about who is underneath that sheet - yes, it's the irrepressible Kirkland Ciccone! It's certainly a first for me to have anyone attend one of my events in a book-themed costume. Perhaps it's just as well the book is called Ghost and not Bikini Babes from Mars...

Wine was consumed, books were signed, and bookmarks were bandied about. After that, we went for pizza to fortify ourselves for the trip back to Perthshire, which proved to be a bit more of an epic journey than I had planned. Somehow, being preoccupied with the book event itself, I had managed to overlook the fact that there is currently engineering work on the Stirling line after 7.30pm in the evening! Eventually we managed to get a late train to Polmont and from there we took the replacement bus. At midnight, we were looking at this view:


Yes: a red light, on a pretty much deserted country road. It seemed to stay red for ages and ages too. Nothing came the other way...not even a ghost.







Thursday, March 8, 2018

Dedication

Yesterday I had lunch at Corrieri's in Bridge of Allan with my friend Ann. I'm not posting a photograph of us having lunch, because Ann is a modest person and does not very much enjoy being photographed (especially not when she is in the middle of eating a dish of pasta). So here is a picture of a Corrieri's cup of tea instead. 


My new novel Ghost is dedicated to Ann, who was a huge support when I was working on it. Ghost took me longer to write than any of my other books, and the process was far more difficult. 
I think many authors probably have a tricky bit in the middle of writing a book; you start out feeling fresh and optimistic, and hopefully you eventually type "The End" with a sense of achievement, but somewhere in the middle your spirits sink like a poorly-made soufflĂ©. The plot seems ludicrous, the characters seem wooden, and the whole thing seems to be taking far too long. 
If you are an author who is reading this, and you never have that soufflĂ© moment, I salute you. But I always have one. And that is only during the first draft. Several rounds of structural edits later, I often start to wonder whether I can "write" at all, and other careers suddenly seem amazingly attractive: gargoyle carver, perhaps, or hermit-in-residence on a large country estate (NB that second one really does exist; they are called "garden hermits", apparently). 
Writing Ghost was a particularly grisly experience and there were points where it would have been easy to give up the entire project and tackle something else altogether. But when I was feeling at my lowest ebb, there were two people whose support kept me going: my daughter Iona, and Ann.  Both of them are mentioned in the acknowledgements; a previous novel, The Glass Demon, is dedicated to Iona, and so Ghost belongs to Ann. I would like to thank them both for "believing in" Ghost. 


Saturday, February 17, 2018

Hauntings - a.k.a. upcoming book events!



I am very pleased to say that the Edinburgh launch of Ghost at Blackwell's bookshop which was postponed because of the snow, will now take place on Thursday 12th April!


Langlands House is haunted, but not by the ghost you think...

On Monday 19th February, my new novel Ghost was published by Fledgling Press This is what it's about:

Augusta McAndrew lives on a remote Scottish estate with her grand-mother, Rose. For her own safety, she hides from outsiders, as she has done her entire life. Visitors are few and far between – everyone knows that Langlands House is haunted.

One day Rose goes out and never returns, leaving Augusta utterly alone.Then Tom McAllister arrives – good-looking and fascinating, but dangerous. What he has to tell her could tear her whole world apart. As Tom and Augusta become ever closer, they must face the question: is love enough to overcome the ghosts of the past?

In honour of the book's Perthshire setting, there was a launch event at the Perth branch of Waterstone's, where I was interviewed by the fabulous Helen Lewis-McPhee, who asked me all sorts of interesting questions, such as "Do you believe in ghosts?"




If you were unable to attend the Perth event, I'm delighted to say that the Edinburgh launch at the wonderful Blackwell's bookshop has now been rescheduled and you can get your free tickets here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/launch-ghost-by-helen-grant-tickets-42197817809

If you're within reach of Edinburgh, don't be shy - come along and say hello! Hopefully there will be time for questions too, if you have any...

I'm delighted to say that I shall also be appearing as an "esteemed guest"(!) at the Dublin Ghost Story Festival 2018, which runs from 29th June to 1st July. 

Details of the Festival are here: http://www.swanriverpress.ie/dublin2018.html

The guest of honour at this Festival is Joyce Carol Oates, and Reggie Oliver the actor, playwright, director and author will also be appearing, and delivering one of his superb ghost stories. So all in all, it looks to be a very exciting weekend! 

Other future events will also be announced via this blog and via my Twitter account @helengrantsays


Monday, October 2, 2017

Book news!!!

I'm absolutely thrilled to say that Prosecco corks will be popping this evening as I have some book news! I've nearly burst with keeping this to myself until now, but today my copy of the signed contract dropped onto the doormat. I'm therefore very pleased to announce that my new book Ghost will be published in 2018 by the fabulous Fledgling Press!

As anyone who's read any of my earlier books will know, I'm very much inspired by atmospheric real-life locations. My novels to date have all been set in Germany and Flanders. Ghost is the first set in Scotland, and specifically Perthshire, where I have lived since 2011. It is a particular source of pleasure to me that the book has been placed with a Scottish publisher.  

Since moving to Scotland, one of my greatest passions has been researching and visiting abandoned castles and country houses. Many of them were built in the nineteenth century and then deliberately unroofed or partly dismantled in the mid twentieth century when they became too expensive to maintain. I'm fascinated by these places, and I've often wondered whether somewhere there is an intact house, decaying slowly in the middle of nowhere with all its contents inside it. Who would consider living there, and why? That is where Ghost came from.

And now...Prosecco!


Thursday, March 16, 2017

Before The Internet Existed

Over on Twitter, #BeforeTheInternetExisted is currently trending. (Well, it's trending as I write this; by tomorrow something else will no doubt have overtaken it - #whatmycatjustdid or some such vital thing). I'm not sure I can confine myself to 140 characters on the topic of "What did we do before the internet?" so here's a blog post instead.

I'm not going to list all the things we did before the internet existed, and I'm definitely not going to go the full curmudgeon ("when I was a child we played outdoors on the main road/cleaned cars for a shilling/wrote 6 page letters to our grandmothers using a quill pen and parchment" etc etc). Personally I love the interwebz and cannot stay off it.*

One thing that I do remember with a certain fondness, though, is communicating with my loved ones when I was away travelling, in the days before smartphones, wifi, and - gasp! - even before internet cafes. Yes, dear friends, I have lived so long that I can remember such primitive times.

These days, when friends or relatives travel in far-flung places, they very properly post photographs to Facebook and Instagram the very same day. Sometimes they post them while they are actually doing whatever it is they are doing in those places. Back in 1992, when I travelled overland from London to Kathmandu on a Bedford truck, this was not so. Not only were there no internet cafes, the camera I took with me was one that had to be loaded with rolls of film, which were developed when you got home at the end of your trip. There was no Facebook yet, so the only way you could share your pictures with your friends was to show them the prints. You can imagine how time consuming that was. Nowadays, if I go anywhere interesting, I can show my snaps to 438 people with a few mouse clicks. Let us hope they are grateful. *cough*

In 1992 I did not have a mobile phone either. So the only way I could keep in touch with home was by using landlines (where I could get at one) or by post. Using a landline mostly meant waiting until we got to a city and then going to the telephone exchange, where I would pay extortionate amounts (in local terms) for a crackly two minutes talking to my boyfriend (now husband) in England. This was rather unsatisfactory, so mostly I used the post instead.

In the four months that I was away that time, I wrote to my other half pretty much every day, posting the letters whenever we got to somewhere with a posting box. I also wrote to my family. They wrote to me too, via a series of poste restante addresses that I gave them before I left. It was always rather a tense moment when we rolled into a town large enough to have a poste restante address, and went to see whether there were any letters! If there weren't any, it might be a wait of weeks before we got to the next poste restante, with no word in between.

I still have most of the letters exchanged on that trip. My husband kept all his, and I kept all the ones I received too. Nearly every single letter I sent on that trip and during my various other travels arrived safely. One from my mother addressed to me in Islamabad failed to turn up, and some postcards I sent from Uzbekistan took four months to arrive, but nothing else went astray.

Once in a blue moon I get all the letters out of the drawer where I keep them, and read some of them again. When I photographed them for this blog post (above), I picked out one at random and read, "I do not know when I will get to post this! We are rough camping on a hillside near Ephesus. It is dark and incredibly humid! This is our second attempt at a camp - we got moved off the last one by an irate farmer wielding a loaded shotgun (we know it was loaded because he fired a few warning shots)..." Ah, fun times.

Anyway, that's what we did before the internet existed.


Above: photo from the Karakoram Highway, taken with an old Pentax ME Super




* even though last time I used the word "interwebz", people actually wrote to me pointing out that "it is either the internet or the world wide web". Thanks.