A Conversation with Karen Jay Fowler

Until full-blown success arrived, Karen Joy Fowler certainly weathered her share of literary failure, but also built a solid reputation for herself as an unusual, thoughtful and inventive writer. It took her two and a half years of constant rejection to sell her first novel, Sarah Canary, published in 1991. This was an experience she found both bewildering and instructional. Some twenty-five rejection letters and at least one change of agent left her wondering what to make of the book’s excellent reviews, prize nominations and citation as one of the New York Times’s notable books of the year. ‘If the book was so good, why had no one bought it ? And if it was not so good, why say it was ?’ [Read more...] in Authors and extracts

An Everywhere

Heather Reyes

By Heather Reyes

The title is from a John Donne poem stating that ‘love’ can make ‘one little room an everywhere’. I had a bad time during my first three-month round of chemotherapy and was largely confined to ‘one little room’. But through reading I was able to bring countless worlds into that room: far from feeling confined, I felt on a continuous adventure. I cannot imagine how I would have coped, psychologically, otherwise [Read more...] in Authors and extracts

Something Rhymed

Emily Midorikawa and Emma Sweeney

Each month of this year, we’ll be profiling a different pair of female writer friends and challenging ourselves to complete an activity based on a prominent feature of that particular relationship…we wanted to set ourselves this challenge because – unlike the famous pairings of Byron and Shelley, Coleridge and Wordsworth, or Fitzgerald and Hemingway – we’d noticed that the literary pals of some of our most well-known female authors have often been overlooked. Did Jane Austen have a writing friend, we wondered? What about George Eliot? [Read more...] in Authors and articles

Wicked Game

Adam Chase

By Adam Chase/Eve Seymour

Rightly or wrongly, there is a perception that women cannot write as convincingly and authentically as men about guns, weapons, biological, or otherwise, explosions, flying off in helicopters, tearing off on motorbikes and security service issues. Off the top of my head, I can think of a couple of female writers who do just that extremely well: Meg Gardiner and Zoe Sharp, and apologies to those not included. However, to write this type of blood and guts, all action thriller with a male protagonist and write it with a first person narrative definitely pushes certain ‘you can’t do that’ buttons [Read more...] in Author and articles

Almost English

Charlotte Mendelson

Almost English is a book about The Ugly Years – the awkward adolescence that pretty much everybody went through. It’s about those searing first crushes; it’s about being an outsider and trying everything you can think of to fit in.

In a tiny flat in West London, sixteen-year-old Marina lives with her emotionally delicate mother, Laura, and three ancient Hungarian relatives. Imprisoned by bizarre rituals, foods and expectations, by her family’s crushing exuberance and their fierce pride, she knows she must escape. Only the place she runs to – Combe Abbey, a traditional English public school – makes her feel even more of an outsider. [Read more...] in Authors and extracts

Shine Shine Shine

Lydia Netzer

Bubber’s name is an homage to Carson McCullers and her character Bubber Kelly in The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. Bubber Kelly was one of the most interesting characters in that wonderful novel, to me — the way he yells, how smart he is, and yet his helplessness in the face of circumstances. I wonder what this strange kid, Bubber Kelly would have been like, had he been born in contemporary times, in suburban privilege [Read more...] in Authors and extracts

A.M. Homes wins 2013 Women's Prize for Fiction

Much of the fiction has been set in Westchester, in the bedroom communities and suburbs that hug New York City. This is Cheever country, Richard Yates country. Homes has cited the latter as an influence, also Grace Paley, who taught her for a while, as did Angela Carter. But in answer to a question about style and content, she cites John Steinbeck as a model: ‘I never want the fiction to be difficult to read, in and of itself. The ideas could be complicated but the object is to make something that anybody could read. [Read more...] in Authors and extracts

A Bright Moon for Fools

Jasper Gibson

Follow the northern coast of Venezuela east until you get to the Paria peninsula and there, on its very tip, is the Caribbean village I made my home: Macuro. When Columbus arrived there, the only place where he set foot on the mainland, he thought he had found the literal garden of Eden. I too was faced with a biblical vision: a dirty, bearded man who looked like he had been struck by lightning. I turned on the taps. It was time to shave, to clean up my act, and this village took me in. [Read more...] in Authors and Extracts

The Painted Bridge

Wendy Wallace

If the Victorian woman’s experience of mental illness or asylums – not necessarily congruently – is much written about, it is perhaps not surprising. Through much of the nineteenth century, women could be pronounced ‘mad’ for a great many emotional and physical states, including post-natal depression, dementia, alcoholism, depression and unsanctioned sexual behavior. The powerlessness of the Victorian woman was nowhere more evident than in the asylum, where at the pronouncement of two – invariably male – doctors, she could be detained indefinitely. If it seems scandalous now, it also seemed scandalous, to some at least, then. [Read more...] in Authors and Extracts