Cover Reveal for Mary’s the Name

ross-sayers-bio-photoAnyone who is a regular reader of this blog, or follows me on social media, will know that I’m a huge fan of Roddy Doyle. Paddy Clark Ha Ha Ha had a big influence on me as a writer and one of my favourite books is The Butcher Boy by Patrick McCabe. I also recommend The Good Son by Paul McVeigh which is another book by an Irish writer with a child as a narrator. It’s easy to spot the theme!

I enjoy reading and writing black comedy which features settings I can identify with and focuses on endearing characters. So perhaps it’s not hard to understand that when I was wearing my Cranachan Publishing ‘hat’ I was very excited when we received a submission from a new Scottish writer, Ross Sayers. His debut novel, Mary’s the Name, is told from the point of view of eight-year-old Mary and her story stole my heart.

The blurb explains why I wanted Cranachan to publish Mary’s the Name.

“When me and Granpa watched James Bond films, he told me not to be scared because people didn’t have guns like that in Scotland. That must’ve been why the robbers used hammers.”

Orphaned Mary lives with her granpa, but after he is mixed up in a robbery at the bookies where he works, they flee to the Isle of Skye.

Gradually, Mary realises that her granpa is involved. And the robbers are coming after him—and their money. Mary’s quirky outlook on life, loss, and her love of all things Elvis, will capture your heart.

Full of witty Scots banter, Mary’s the Name will have you reaching for the hankies, first with laughter, then with tears

Mary’s the Name is a very special book and needed a very special cover. My business partner, Anne Glennie, is the design guru and the pressure was on her to create a cover that lived up to the contents.  Anne describes the process behind the final cover…

marys-the-name-pitch-cover-002“The initial cover concepts all included child-like handwritten fonts for the title. As the narrator, Mary’s eight-year-old voice brings the text to life – it seemed to make sense to allude to this on the cover. However, despite several images and concepts, we failed to capture Mary’s energy. We then took a different tack, trying a more stylised cover. Mary loves music and plays her keyboard throughout as she hopes one day to become a concert pianist – so we mocked up several piano themed covers – and all agreed on a very simple, but striking, black and white cover depicting some piano keys. Then we left it to the side, to marinate.

But something wasn’t right. We hadn’t captured Mary’s essence – or any essence – the cover was too plain and too simple – it was definitely a case of style over substance. Covers need to intrigue or attract readers, to generate some sort of response. It was back to the drawing board – again! We reviewed the initial concepts with a fresh eye… and the image of Mary and her granpa by the edge of the sea under a stormy sky was the definite winner. It encapsulated the relationship which is central to the story, it provided a clear setting – and the storm clouds foreshadowed the events which would unfold. With a change of font and colour – we had a cover that we all loved. And the funny thing? We’d come full circle – choosing in the end the very image that we’d started with in the first place.”

mtn-ebook-cover-finalWe’re both chuffed to bits with the result and the main thing is, Ross is too! Here’s his response to the cover…

“We considered a lot of options, but I couldn’t be happier with the final result. I love the evocative landscape and the way the pink really leaps off the page.”

What do you think? Do you love it as much as we do?

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James Kelman – Voice over Narrative

download (1)Readers of the blog will know that I’m a frequent visitor to book festivals all over Scotland. This summer, I went to the Edinburgh International Book Festival to see one of my literary heroes Roddy Doyle. I loved his novel Paddy Clark Ha Ha Ha and because I had tickets to see James Kelman at the Linlithgow Book Festival I assumed that Kieron Smith, boy would be a good starting point for my first taste of his work. I desperately wanted to enjoy the book but after 100 pages I was struggling with the stream-of-consciousness monologue and craved a conventional story arc.

Kieron-Smith-BotyI understood what Kelman was trying to achieve in Kieron Smith, boy with his clever use of language to create an accurate character study and I admire his intellect as a writer but as a reader I’m not ashamed to admit that I wanted to be entertained by Kieron’s antics as I had been with Paddy’s.

And yet although I put the novel aside for now, I was keen to see the man behind the headlines as Kelman is renowned for his controversial views and there was an uproar when he won the Booker Prize in 1994 and one of the judges, Rabbi Julia Neuberger, denounced the book as “a disgrace”.

download (2)After reading from his latest novel, Mo Said She Was Quirky, the audience at Linlithgow got an insight into the passion that drives Kelman to write honestly about the disenfranchised underclass who receives little attention in contemporary fiction. He aims to “cleanse language” and get rid of needless description to concentrate on action and movement.

An audience member asked how he responds to the critics who often slate his work. His answer was, “ F**k them!”

It was a heart-warming reaction for me on a personal level after just receiving some negative feedback on my last novel. It is clear that Kelman is not a people pleaser and he immediately shot up in my estimation.

downloadHe left me gobsmacked again when he told the audience that he is currently working on seven novels and around hundred short stories, not to mention essays! He advised any writers to see themselves as artists and to use their computer as an artist would treat their studio by having lots of art work at different stages in the creative process. This was interesting for me as I’ve always operated on the ‘one-thing-at-a-time’ mindset believing that by doing that I’d have 100% focus on a project. As I’m currently editing my novel, I haven’t continued to dabble in writing short stories at all but maybe I should be more flexible and this would enhance my creativity.

Listening to James Kelman was a privilege. He is a fascinating writer and even within a short time slot he made me think of how value laden individual words and phrases can be. His example was that in Glasgow, at five foot nine, he’s classed as a “big” man in Maryhill but a “wee man” a mile up the road in Bearsden. And he asked us to think about what the description “pretty girl” really means? We all have different interpretations of beauty and these examples of using language with care will help inform my word choice for my novel’s main character.

I plan to give Kieron Smith, boy another go with a more sophisticated outlook and with a better knowledge of the genius behind what appears a non eventful story. James Kelman doesn’t have a reputation for writing easy-to-read books and this is not necessarily a bad thing, since often the most rewarding fiction is the most demanding.

As a reader, do you like a challenge? As a writer, do you have many projects on the go or several?

Roddy Doyle’s Jimmy Rabbitte is Back

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Chuffed to get my mitts on a copy of Gutter magazine.

images (1)I’d like to think of myself as being strong-minded but I’ve never claimed to be physically strong. And yet, I was able to drag a man of 15 stone to Edinburgh yesterday for my annual trip to the Edinburgh Book Festival (although the incentive of going for a meal and a visit to the NTS’s  Georgian House made him less resistant).

This year was especially exciting for me as I got the buzz of walking into the on site bookstore and seeing a book which featured one of my short stories on the shelf. I’m very proud to be in the latest edition of Gutter magazine along with a stellar line-up of Scottish writers. But the main reason I hauled my hubby to the EIBF was to see one of my all-time favourite writers – Roddy Doyle.

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My favourite one of the EIBF deckchairs. The Alexander McCall Smith quote is so very true!

Coming from a working class background myself, Roddy’s work appeals to me both as a reader and as a writer. I have the utmost admiration for his affectionate writing about family life, together with a dry sense of black humour that is conveyed to the reader mostly through the use of dialogue.

In 1993 Roddy won the Booker Prize for his novel Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha. The book was praised for Doyle’s ability to write convincingly in the language of his main protagonist, Paddy Clarke: a ten-year-old boy living in Dublin in the 1960s. I reread this book as part of my ‘Reading Journal’ for my MLitt course and was blown away by his skill.

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Ireland’s master storyteller.

In a first person narration, Paddy describes things in a childlike manner and this makes the writing simple and yet so effective. “The jellyfish was still floating there, like a runny umbrella.”

Genius!

The relevance of the title of the novel only becomes apparent at the very end when Paddy suffers from the social repercussion of his parents’ breakup with the loss of friendships. When his former friends taunt him with jeers of, “Paddy Clarke- Paddy Clarke- has no da. Ha ha ha!” you cannot fail to be moved. Even more poignant is when Paddy is forced to mature beyond his years, “I didn’t listen to them. They were only kids.” It’s a brilliant book along with another one of my favourites,  The Woman Who Walked Into Doors.

imagesAnd now, 26 years after he wrote The Commitments, Roddy Doyle has written a sequel to his bestselling Barrytown Trilogy with The Snapper and The Van. He has returned to Jimmy Rabbitte Jr, manager of The Commitments in the original book, to create a new story set in modern-day Dublin. In this opening night event he introduced us to The Guts and I doubt fans will be disappointed. Roddy’s wit is as sharp as ever and he had the audience in stitches with his patter.

I can’t wait to read it!

Is Roddy Doyle one of your favourite writers too? Do you find that your own social background draws you to particular writers?

 

Mustang Sally‘ must be one of the most murdered songs at family weddings and karaoke nights. But go on, click on the link, you know you want to… Give it laldie!

“Listen!
All you wanna do is ride around Sally
(Ride Sally, ride)”