Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Haunted Event: The Dublin Ghost Story Festival 2018

Last weekend saw the second ever Dublin Ghost Story Festival, organised by the indefatigable Brian J. Showers of Swan River Press. I was unfortunately unable to attend the first one, so I was absolutely thrilled to be invited to take part in this one, alongside some very illustrious guests including Joyce Carol Oates and Reggie Oliver. Other guests included Andrew Michael Hurley, author of The Loney, winner of the 2015 Costa First Novel Award and the British Book Awards Book of the Year 2016, plus V.H.Leslie, Lisa Tuttle, Rosalie Parker, Nicholas Royle and Ray Russell. So it was a varied and impressive event for lovers of supernatural fiction! On Saturday I moderated a panel comprising Joyce Carol Oates, Reggie Oliver and Andrew Michael Hurley, which was a bit nerve racking, especially as I had never taken part in a festival panel before, let alone moderated one - and with the guest of honour on it...! However, the audience was a friendly one and it seemed to go alright. (At any rate, I didn't call Joyce "Reggie" by accident or vice versa, as I was afraid nerves might lead me to do!)

Above: me with Nicholas Royle (left) and Reggie Oliver (right). Photo by Gerry Hayes. 

Above: Joyce Carol Oates reading from her work. 

The Festival began with a pre-festival reception on Thursday evening and then ran from Friday evening through to Sunday afternoon, with a range of panels, readings and signings, as well as an interview with Joyce Carol Oates. The panel discussions included such interesting topics as "overlooked favourites" and "how do ghost stories work and when do they simply fail?" There were also a number of publishers and booksellers offering a simply mouthwatering range of volumes. I regret that I am not in the market for early editions of the ghost stories of M.R.James (sob!), but I did pick up several ancient paperback anthologies of spooky tales. There was genuinely something to suit the pocket of every ghost story lover, and plenty of treasures to yearn hopelessly after, in a suitably Gothic manner! I was pleased to see that amongst those attending was Zagava, who recently republished the first issue of the early German fantasy mag The Orchid Garden with a translation into English by yours truly.

Above: The Orchid Garden - German/English, from Zagava press

I thoroughly enjoyed the Festival. People are sometimes sniffy about "genre" fiction so it was wonderful to be with those who really appreciate a well-written eerie tale - and who understand that a ghost story may be far deeper than a cheap thrill. It was also brilliant to exchange reading recommendations with people who are really immersed in ghostly literature - I came away with a small stack of books, including a copy of The Loney, which has queue-jumped to the head of my TBR pile. I was delighted to meet Sean Hogan, director of The Devil's Business, a film I have watched three times and thoroughly recommend. I am thrilled to say that I also met John Connolly, who was not officially at the Festival this time, but who dropped by anyway - his two Nocturnes volumes are great favourites of mine and I was finally able to shake his hand and tell him how much I loved reading both of them.

Brian J. Showers should be congratulated for organising such a successful event. On Twitter (below), he said that he had had "an incredible weekend". So did we all!

Credit: the Dublin Ghost Story Festival artwork at the top of this post is by illustrator Alisdair Wood.

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


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