Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Close Reader Encounters!

Here is a picture of me at a book signing for The Housemaid's Daughter, but lately the world of facebook, blogs and online book clubs like Goodreads is bringing farflung author and reader into close proximity - digitally - despite the physical distance between us.

I have had numerous online conversations with readers from all over the world.
And what do they say?
Very often, they want to tell me they've enjoyed the book, or wish to share an anecdote that mirrors an incident I've described. But the most insistent communications come from those who want to find out what happened, or will happen in life-beyond-the-book, to a particular character - especially when I have chosen leave his/her fate to the reader's imagination.

Ada's daughter, Dawn, leads a short, brilliant life before she dies of an unspecified disease. Many readers have contacted me, desperate to know if their suspicions about her life and untimely death are correct. Likewise with Phil, who is Ada's best friend and the young son of Cathleen and Edward Harrington. What really happened to him, they want to know, when he leaned out of the window of Cradock House to watch Ada hanging washing on the line...
Even Ada wonders...
Why did God take Phil so soon? When there was such a long world ahead of him? And why had he not called out to me in the garden below?

While I'm happy to share many aspects of the book's background, some things need to be kept a secret! After all, if there was no mystery, a character would be too easy to understand. And it would take away that delicious uncertainty, that frisson that keeps us all awake at night...
Did he really do such-and-such?
Did she?
You decide!

Saturday, 27 December 2014

The USA Paperback arrives!

I am thrilled to say that The Housemaid's Daughter will be published in paperback in the USA in the New Year - the 6th January 2015, to be precise!

Up until now, the book has been available as a hardback in the US, but now comes the more affordable paperback. The cover has been tweaked slightly, but it still offers the same arresting image of a young woman against an African landscape.

I hope that this new edition will build on the success of the hardback, and extend the book's reach even further. The e-book version for iPad, Kindle, Kobo and various e-readers, is, of course, still available. And, if you have the time, you could listen to the story on CD, read by Bahni Turpin and Cat Gould in a fascinating "performance" brought out by Blackstone Audio. It lasts an indulgent 15 hours, over 13 CDs...

If you are in the US and you see a copy of the new paperback in a bookshop, please post a pic on The Housemaid's Daughter facebook page. I like to see evidence!
And please keep spreading the word into 2015!

Happy New Year!

Thursday, 4 December 2014

A real book for Christmas?

Here I am in a South African bookshop with a copy of The Housemaid's Daughter.

Are we still giving books as presents? Or have so many of us moved on to e-readers that the physical book is threatened with extinction?

There's no doubt that e-readers are extremely convenient, especially when we travel. I remember hauling suitcases groaning with books in the past, but now I can download my reading list for a holiday in no time, and it only weighs an iPad's worth...

But I must confess that I still love a physical book. There's something about turning pages, about flipping back to a part that you liked, even about turning down the corner of a page (sorry!) to mark a particular spot. A book in the hand conveys so much more than its constituent pages.

Gutenberg invented the printing press in the 1400s - but did you know that he wasn't the first to do so? The Chinese developed the technology in about 1040, then passed it on to the Koreans. They produced the first metal "movable type" printing in 1234. Once printing became established, the growth was phenomenal. Fifty years after Gutenberg's breakthrough in Europe, printing presses across the continent had already produced some 20 million books.

Let's keep the modern presses rolling!

Friday, 21 November 2014

Waves of Paintbrush Grass...

In The Housemaid's Daughter, Ada sees the African veld unfolding before her eyes when she looks out of the window on the top floor of Cradock House.

And once she leaves the suburban streets and walks through it, she is forever enchanted.

All about me the earth is clothed in waves of fragile grass with golden paintbrush tips. From where we stand in their yellow, tickling midst, I can look straight up at the koppie and watch the sun wander across the brown stones and make them shine.

The distant mountains, the endless sky, the distinctive plants that survive a harsh climate... the veld becomes a place of refuge and solace.
Later in the story, she passes on her love of untamed reaches to her grandson, Thebo.

I show him the furry dassies that sunbathe on nearby rocks.
He follows shiny ants along tiny paths.
He giggles at the grasses that tickle his legs as he runs.

And when Ada must bury her daughter, Dawn, she chooses a wild setting that reflects Dawn's mercurial character.

The cemetery is not fenced in but is open to the Karoo veld.
Low bushes and wild, golden grasses surround her.
The koppies look down on her, the Groot Vis (river) murmurs to her.
The trains heading for more exciting places go past where she lies.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

The Housemaid's Daughter in Foyles

Is Foyles the most famous bookshop in the world?!

Founded in 1903, Foyles is still the go-to bookshop in central London. It's moved over the years, most recently from 113 Charing Cross Road to a magnificent new building at no. 107 in June of this year.

I visited over the weekend and was captivated. There are 200,000 books, arranged over 4 floors in a wonderfully light-filled space. 200,00 is a lot of books - they require 4 miles of bookshelves which would stretch from Battersea Power Station all the way to the Tower of London! And the open display offers the best browsing I've come across in any bookshop... deliberately so, say Foyles, to allow for the "serendipitous discovery of new books".

I wandered amid architecture, music, photography, history... and spotted The Housemaid's Daughter!

When you've exhausted yourself along those many miles of shelves, head for the top floor and a stunning cafe.

By the way, can you see what I found, serendipitously of course, just below my book?

Friday, 17 October 2014

Website Shorts (2)

I wonder if you know that The Housemaid's Daughter has a website? No? Read on.

These days, it's not enough simply to write a book! Readers want to know the background to the story, what inspired the author, and what is special about the setting. I know that I would have loved to go behind the scenes of some of my favourite books/authors of the past... Daphne du Maurier, Gustave Flaubert, Nevil Shute...

On the website you'll find the family history that spurred me to write the novel, the geography and geology of the Karoo region of South Africa where the action takes place, the music that becomes Ada's signature piece - in fact, you can listen to a recording of the haunting Raindrop Prelude at the same time.

There's also an update on the latest published translations, and a variety of media articles and pictures from my travels to promote the book in the UK, South Africa, Canada and further afield.

Have a glance at the comments from readers, and see what the reviewers say, from the likes of National Geographic and USA TODAY right through to Bookworm Ink. And do have a listen to some of the radio interviews, especially the hilarious one with Sue Grant Marshall on Radio Today!

Nip onto and see what you find!

Friday, 19 September 2014

The Housemaid's Daughter in 10!

We've reached a milestone: 10 languages!


Plus a couple of large print English versions.

For me, what's fascinating is the variety of covers. In most cases they have been designed to reflect the African heritage of the book - sometimes boldly, sometimes more subtly. But occasionally a publisher has taken a completely different tack, as with the Italian version. And beautiful it is, too. Several translations have paid homage to the music by including watermark musical notes in the background.

But the real difference between the covers lies in the human element: the portrayal of the heroines of The Housemaid's Daughter, Cath and Ada.
Sometimes they are both missing (Chinese and Spanish), sometimes Cath is romanticised (French), sometimes Ada has been made contemporary (Dutch) and sometimes - wonderfully - both have been caught in a moment of joy (Polish).
What do these interpretations say about national traits?
I wouldn't presume to know!
I'm just astonished at the creativity on display.

There are still a few translations to go... so watch this space!