Out Now…

A long-lost plant hunter’s journal leads Evangeline to Chile on a quest for the World Tree. Can a tree heal her past? When Evangeline comes across a Victorian plant hunter’s journal at Kew, it is the sign she’s been waiting for. Its author, Edwin ‘Chile’ Morgan, claims to have discovered a living myth:  the World Continue Reading

Magic mode: magic(al) realism and the author

If you are confused by the term ‘magic realism’, you’re not alone. The wide variety of novels and short stories all claiming to be magic realism can be bewildering, ranging as they do across romance, family saga, historical fiction, fantasy, science fiction, surrealist, fabulist, slipstream, absurdist and weird fiction. How can this be? In literature, Continue Reading

Lost & Waiting: the Exhibition

Art is all around us. From the masterpieces in a museum to an advertisement, from cinema to a shoe style, from a conversation overheard to an obscure news article, the choice between tea or coffee, a choice of career, in science and nature, in the kitchen, at the station, art is inspiration.

As a writer, I might come across a picture on social media, or a news article may pique my interest. Often without realising it, these things plant the seed of an idea in my head. Over time, the idea germinates and comes to fruition in my writing.

I find it helpful to squirrel away pictures, video clips and articles which stand out to me. Later, if looking for inspiration, I turn to my folder of treasures and curios.

When writing a character—and settings can be characters as well—I find it helpful to have one or more pictures displayed on my desktop, to help bring them to life.

Usually, my fictional characters are a hybrid between various pieces of inspiration.

For example, the character of Victor, the art-collector in my novel, LOST & WAITING, was inspired by an advertising campaign popular in the ’80s, an Italian actor of the ’50s, a friend’s Mexican father, the audio guide of a Spanish cathedral, and an anti-hero of gothic literature.

The following art or artists appear in LOST & WAITING.

See also my blog on music as a muse.

Lost & Waiting: the Playlist

I prefer to write without external distractions, but I frequently play music as a precursor to writing, to access a certain mood.

Perhaps this is why music often finds its way into my work.

Evangeline, the protagonist of LOST & WAITING, has been unable to listen to music since she suffered a stillbirth. Everything changes when she embarks on a plant hunting expedition to Chile.

Not all the tracks listed here appear in my novel, but they were there in its formation.

For more on music as a muse to writers, see my review of Tyler Keevil’s talk on the subject for NovelNights, Bristol.

See also my blog on art as inspiration.

Paradise Rot

by Jenny Hval, Marjam Idriss (Translator) Hyper-sensual, surreal and as intense as bletted fruit. Norwegian student, Jo, arrives in a new country to study biology. The strangeness of her new life becomes stranger still when she finds accommodation in a former brewery. The building is rotten to the core. Through its paper-thin, partial partitions, Jo Continue Reading

The Hearing Trumpet

Leonora Carrington Effervescent, hilarious and life-affirming. Marian Leatherby, 92, is given a hearing trumpet only to discover her family wants to pack her off to an old peoples’ home. On arrival, Marian’s dread turns to wonder. The facility comprises a collection of fantastical dwellings in which the larger-than-life residents live. Marian soon becomes embroiled in Continue Reading

Boy, Snow, Bird

Helen Oyeyemi A wicked stepmother, a bullying rat-catcher father and Snow White in 1950s-60s small-town America. Oyeyemi writes with a style as naïve as any fairytale, and just as magical. Like all the best folklore, Boy, Snow, Bird has something lurking, dark and dreadful, bullying below the surface. In this case, it is racism, racial Continue Reading

Killing Commendatore

Haruki Murakami, transl. Philip Gabriel and Ted Goossen A male thirtysomething artist at a crossroads in his life discovers a painting in the attic. A bell mysteriously rings in the woods in the dead of night, always at the same time. Then, one by one, characters from the painting make an appearance. This has everything Continue Reading

The Old Drift

Exuberant Zambian historico-futuristic matrilineal saga-of-sorts. In following the matrilineal lines, Serpell redresses history written by the victor/man. So, less about politics and more on the domestic front, less about wielding power and more on the receiving end. The hysterical realism mode (typified by a strong contrast between elaborately absurd prose, plotting, or characterization, on the Continue Reading

Thus Were Their Faces

Silvina Ocampo Weird, surreal, shot through with the blackest humour, and quite breathtaking. A retrospective of the short stories of Silvina Ocampo, spanning almost fifty years of her prolific writing career. Ocampo was denied Argentina’s National Prize for Literature for the reason that her writing was ‘desmasiado crueles’. This collection represents those stories deemed ‘too Continue Reading

Black Leopard, Red Wolf

Marlon James Ribald, packed to the gods with African myths but not easy. Tracker’s quest, to find a missing boy, becomes a search for identity. Black Leopard, Red Wolf is a masterclass in the art of writing dialogue. James’s quick fire repartee brings his array of characters to life. The novel is extraordinarily inventive, populated Continue Reading

Mr Fox

Helen Oyeyemi Myth and mysogeny: how we are shaped by the stories we tell. Oyeyemi’s anti-hero is a 1930s writer, Mr Fox, with the habit of killing off his heroines. When one of his characters, Mary Foxe, steps from his pages to question his motives, a writing duel ensues. His wife, Daphne, is jealous of Continue Reading