When is a book review any use?

November 13, 2012 at 11:29 am | Posted in Book Club Ideas, Literary Academy | 1 Comment

It seems of late that a lot of reviews of newly released fiction are over enthusiastic and vague leading readers in search of a compelling and original read astray.

Big literary figures comments appear on the backs of new novels celebrating fictional triumphs the like of which we have never seen before but often these claims turn out not to be true.

Clever marketing can lead readers astray and with an explosion of debut authors and a sea of fiction how can we pick a book that suits us?
While choosing a book can always be a risk, especially if the author is new, here is  Sarah’s Books list of ways to reduce this risk!

1. Trust yourself and follow your interests: no matter how attractive a book is or how compelling the marketing drive, if you’re not interested in political crime/vampires/chic lit/historical fiction you will not enjoy the book!

2. Take note of the publisher on the spine of the books you like. A favourite publisher of mine is Bloomsbury I know they are purveyors of fine interesting fiction that suits me.

3. Stick with reviewers that you trust. E.g The Guardian newspaper reviews and Eileen Battersby’s recommendations rarely let me down as I like their taste.

4. Get to know the booksellers in your local bookshop. They will be the most discerning and well read people and can make individual recommendations just for you.

5. If your local bookshop has a blog or does book reviews use them.

Michael Ondaajte interview for Mountains to the Sea Festival 2011

September 2, 2011 at 1:03 pm | Posted in Literary Academy | Leave a comment

Michael Ondaatje was interviewed last night as part of the DLR Mountains to the Sea Festival last night by the wonderful Belinda McKeon. His interview  fell on the first night of the festival and what a magical opening launch it was. Belinda introduced Michael describing his writing as achieving an unparralled dream like quality which is very apt. Michael read from his new novel ‘The Cat’s Table’  enchanting the whole audience and proved in the interview to be just as interesting and grounded a person as his books are. Sarahsbooks is looking forward to reading Michael’s new offering and invites reviews from anyone who has read it already!

Interview with Irish author Steven Callaghan

July 25, 2011 at 12:15 pm | Posted in Literary Academy | 2 Comments

1. How would you describe your latest novel ‘Fishing in Beirut’

       Fishing in Beirut is a novel about five characters who have come to Paris for different reasons. I intended it broadly as a story of desire, and more specifically as being about these five people trying to come to terms with themselves and their pasts. When I lived in Paris I felt intoxicated by the city pretty much on a daily basis. I wanted to really convey a sense of modern, day to day Paris to the reader also.


2. How would you describe your writing style in ‘Fishing in Beirut’?

       I think the writing style changes slightly depending on which character we are with. However, I wanted it to be quite sensual throughout. It is relatively plain in terms of language but the focus is very much on sights, sounds, smells, and physical and mental feelings. Also, exactly where in Paris a scene is taking place is always described.


3. Your novel takes place between European destinations what do these locations lend to the story?

        I would hope they lend the story a strong sense of place. They also help the reader get a fuller grasp of the characters by being able to associate them with particular cities.


4. What authors have inspired you?

I’ve certainly been inspired by authors as diverse as Don DeLillo, Cormac McCarthy, Natsuo Kirino, Fyodor Dostoyevsky  and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. However, I’ve been inspired equally, if not more so, by filmmakers like Jim Jarmusch, Abel Ferrara and Michael Mann, and musicians like Tom Waits, Kurt Wagner and Vic Chesnutt, in how I approach storytelling.


5. Do you have plans for a second novel?

       I’ve just completed my second novel. It’s set in Paris once again and I’m currently looking for a publisher!


6. What advice would you give a debutant Irish author?

       I don’t think authors tend to need advice from other authors on writing itself. The helpful advice is that which relates to the industry, regarding finding an agent, submitting to the right people etc. The whole process is quite trial and error, and I suppose my advice would be if you believe in your work, don’t give up. Do your research, keep submitting, and don’t lose heart if it seems to entire mainstream publishing industry is one big closed shop. Increasingly these days, there are all kinds of ways and means to get your stuff out there. I serialised Fishing in Beirut online before it ever came out in hardcopy. http://fishinginbeirut.com/

Fishing in Beirut now available in The Exchange Bookshop Dalkey

April 29, 2011 at 12:43 pm | Posted in Literary Academy | 1 Comment

Fans of up and coming Irish author Steven Callaghan will be pleased to know that the Exchange Bookshop in Dalkey is now stocking his debut novel ‘Fishing in Beirut’. Check out both the author’s blog and the bookshop website in the ‘why not check out’ section on the right.

Jonathan Franzen’s rules for writing

April 15, 2011 at 1:30 pm | Posted in Literary Academy | Leave a comment

“Rules for Writing”

In February 2010, Franzen (along with writers including Richard Ford, Zadie Smith and Anne Enright) was asked by The Guardian to contribute what he believed were ten serious rules to abide by for aspiring writers.[36] Franzen’s rules ran as follows:

  1. The reader is a friend, not an adversary, not a spectator.
  2. Fiction that isn’t an author’s personal adventure into the frightening or the unknown isn’t worth writing for anything but money.
  3. Never use the word “then” as a ­conjunction – we have “and” for this purpose. Substituting “then” is the lazy or tone-deaf writer’s non-solution to the problem of too many “ands” on the page.
  4. Write in the third person unless a ­really distinctive first-person voice ­offers itself irresistibly.
  5. When information becomes free and universally accessible, voluminous research for a novel is devalued along with it.
  6. The most purely autobiographical ­fiction requires pure invention. Nobody ever wrote a more auto­biographical story than “The Metamorphosis“.
  7. You see more sitting still than chasing after.
  8. It’s doubtful that anyone with an internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction (the TIME magazine cover story detailed how Franzen physically disables the Net portal on his writing laptop).
  9. Interesting verbs are seldom very interesting.
  10. You have to love before you can be relentless.[36]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonathan_Franzen

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