Thursday, 31 March 2011

Book of the Month (March)

I've read an awful lot of books this month - and in February too (I kind of, maybe, forgot to do a Book of the Month for February so I'm combining the two here). I read a lot of great books this month. In spite of that, though, picking this Book of the Month was surprisingly easy.

My pick?

George R. R. Martin's Game of Thrones.

The first in an ongoing series, this novel is epic/high fantasy, full of politics and intrigue and a lot less magic that you might expect from the genre (which in my opinion, was a good thing here, as the whole epic/high fantasy magic thing can get old fast). Here's the Amazon summary:

The first volume of George R R Martin's glorious high fantasy tells the tragic story of treachery, greed and war that threatens the unity of the Seven Kingdoms south of the Wall. Martin unfolds with astonishing skill a tale of truly epic dimensions, thronged with memorable characters, a story of treachery and ambition, love and magic. Set in a fabulous world scarred by battle and catastrophe over 8000 years of recorded history, it tells of the deeds of men and women locked in the deadliest of conflicts and the terrible legacy they will leave their children. In the game of thrones, you win or you die. And in the bitter-cold, unliving lands beyond the Wall, a terrible winter gathers and the others -- the undead, the neverborn, wildlings to whom the threat of the sword is nothing -- make ready to descend on the realms of men.

And if that summary happens to sound good to you, guess what? It's so, so much better than it sounds!

I'll be honest: I had vaguely heard about this series and Game of Thrones a couple of years ago, and more recently when Steve, who is a fan, asked me if I'd ever read it. But I never actually took much interest in reading it, because I'd hit my aversion-to-epics phase. I used to love high and epic fantasy when I was fifteen, sixteen. I wrote high and epic fantasy. Then I went off it. Maybe it was because everything I read started to sound corny and repetitive. In six years, I think the closest I've come to reading an loving a novel in this genre would be Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel books and even then I think those gripped me because they were different.

I'm happy to say Game of Thrones has given me back my faith in the genre. I finally started reading it this month, after learning about the HBO TV series based on the novel. When I saw the trailers, and saw that Sean Bean and Lena Headey were starring, I couldn't resist. And, like any good reader, I decided to read the book first.

I think I'm a bit obsessed. With the characters more than anything else. Specifically Cersei and Jaime Lannister. This is a series full of fantastic characters. You know the whole good-evil thing? Yeah, forget about it. Very few of the characters in Martin's series are entirely good or entirely bad - most don't even lean either way. Cersei and Jaime, for example, are twins. At first, you might think they're horrible, ambitious people. But there's so much more to these characters and I just love them. I might even be in the minority on this one, with other readers outright despising them. But that's a good thing because there's nothing quite like a rabid, divided fanbase to prove how a character can get under your skin.

And on another note, there is very little magic and sword-and-sorcery in this series. It's almost entirely about power, and politics, and love, and intrigue. Which sets it apart from most of the novels in the genre.

And that is my quite incoherent view of this series - and this novel in particular. I read Game of Thrones and then, within days, read its three sequels and am now desperate for the fifth book. And these are monster-sized books. But so compelling.

Friday, 25 March 2011

New Title!!!!

Many of my regular readers will have heard me yammer on about my debut novel. For those of you who are new or who missed those posts, my YA debut will be published next year by Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins.

Obviously, this is the most exciting thing for me! But to add to that awesomeness is this - the novel now has an official title. When I first wrote it, it was called ECHOES. Then it was called WOVEN when my agent sent it out to editors. And now it has a brand new and super-shiny real title.

It's called A Torrent of Light.

But wait! It's not just a title. It's from a quote.

Life and death appeared to me ideal bounds, which I should first break through, and pour a torrent of light into our dark world.

-Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

I love that quote. It captures so much of the mood and essence of both novels. A TORRENT OF LIGHT revolves around the concept of stitching life from scratch, creating clone-like beings called echoes - and it was rereading Frankenstein at university that first sparked off the idea. So it's doubly special for me to have a title with part of that quote in it.

And as if all of this isn't enough, the book deal is now up on Publishers Marketplace too.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Reader Request: Security Blankies

First, I have to apologize for how sporadic my blog posts have been lately. Honestly, I can't even remember the days when I used to blog seven days a week! I wish I could still do that, but I haven't got as much time on my hands anymore. That said, I'm going to try and work up some kind of blog routine with regular features and posting days - more on that soon.

As for today's post, it's something many of you will be familiar with as I'm pretty darn sure I've seen other 'writing aids' posts out there. But blog reader Jamie sent in an email asking me to talk about my most-needed writing aids, so here it is. 

Some kind of drink
I would add 'and something to nibble on', only, after this post, I think we all get the idea that I can go hours without nibbling simply because I've forgotten to.But I do need something to drink: be it hot tea, water, a fruit smoothie, Coke or something extremely alcoholic. Any of the above goes. 

Again, my 'how I work' post will have showed you that I can listen to the same song for hours on end without noticing it, but even so, I need music to work. Sometimes I listen to a playlist for a particular book. Sometimes I just listen to the same song over and over because it has the right mood or atmosphere or because I've just tuned out. Either way, when I'm writing, I usually have a totally outdated version of Winamp open alongside - or Youtube. 

My laptop fan
Because my laptop is an absolute piece of tripe and overheats if you use more than one measly program at once. I can't begin to tell you how many times I have had to rewrite paragraphs because my laptop's turned off before I could save something. No fan, no work.

Note to self: must get new laptop when I am rich and famous. 

Goes without saying, doesn't it? Or so one would think. Sadly, I have fallen prey to the whole 'taking your clothes off for a shower, then sitting down to check an email before going in, then being struck by a brilliant flash of inspiration, then writing whilst scarcely clothed for the next three hours' syndrome. This would not be a problem, except writing while scarcely clothed means that when you return to reality, your fingers are stiff with cold and your butt hurts.

Familiar with this? No? Sigh, I must just be weird. 

Visual inspiration
This, I must admit, is not always necessary, but it helps me no end. I like having something moody or atmospheric to look at while I'm working. When my brain starts to drift away, looking up at the visual something pinned behind my laptop often brings me straight back to totally-inspired-and-raring-to-go. Right now this inspiration is a print I found after some random browsing online:

I think it's eerie and sensual and beautiful. The photo is by Heather Landis and she has some other great work uploaded at that link.

And that's my list of security blankies, my cannot-do-withouts when writing.

What do you need at hand when you're doing your thing?

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Giveaway winner announced!

Last week I interviewed Talli Roland and offered a signed copy of her novel The Hating Game to a commenter. I said I'd announce it sometime this week, so here it is. After some trial and error with picking a name out of a hat (literally - you'd be surprised how many names accidentally fall out of hats), the winner is...

Bish Denham!

Congratulations, Bish! Could you email me your address? (

That's all for today, unfortunately, but stay tuned for another Reader Request post and a review of the new Frankenstein play later this week.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

An episode in the saga of How Sangu Works


1.30 PM: Wake up

1.35 PM: Fall back asleep

1.40 PM: Wake up and play games on iPad or, if very lucky, read a bit of a book (or a whole book. Why not?)

2 PM: Turn on laptop, because laptop takes at least twenty minutes to start up properly. Then go get dressed and brushed and whatever else. On busy days dressing and brushing is optional. Pity postman.

2.30 PM: Check emails. Return blog comments that arrived overnight/day. Write up a blog post if I have time, otherwise glance over my favourite blogs and Twitter stuff.

2.45 PM: Find a song I really want to listen to right now. Usually a song that fits what I'm about to be working on.

2.47 PM: Start writing/editing/revising/tweaking/proofreading/tearing hair out.

3.50 PM: Notice that I received a text message half an hour ago. Odd. Why didn't I hear that? Hmm. Forget to reply to text message because brain is fully lost in book-world.

4.10 PM: Realize I'm hungry. Even odder. Have I not eaten today? Oh. Why didn't I? Hmm. Forget to eat because brain is fully lost in book-world.

5 PM: Brain aches. Eat a plum.

5.15 PM: Steve rings to say he's leaving work. I mumble, most irked about being disturbed while brain is fully lost in book-world. Steve tentatively inquires about text messages that were not replied to. I say 'hmm? What did you say?'

6 PM: Look around wondering where Steve went. He's been quiet an awfully long time. 

Oh. He hasn't come home yet.

6.20 PM: Steve comes home and kisses me on the top of my head, over the back of my chair. Refrains from pointing out the fact that I look like a deformed crab, hunched over laptop with alarmingly bad posture.

6.30 PM: Look around wanting to know why Steve never hugged or kissed me when he came home. He sighs. I give him a hug and we manage to have a proper conversation lasting a whole three minutes. I go back to writing/editing/revising/tweaking/proofreading/tearing hair out. Brain aches. Odd. Why am I hungry?

7 PM: Steve shouts at me for only eating a plum all day. I make up for it by taking a two-hour break and watching TV with him and eating Too Much Dinner. And dessert. We have real conversations and sprawl half on top of each other on the sofa to watch TV.

9 PM: Return to manuscript. Brain does not ache. In fact, brain wants to know why Characters One and Two aren't kissing yet.

9.30 PM: Realize I haven't put a new song on since 3 PM and must do so because Steve is heartily sick of hearing the same thing over and over. Change song and play it for the next three hours.

4 AM: Turn off laptop. Brain aches.

4.10 AM: Shower. Wash hair. Trip out of shower and into bedroom, where Steve is asleep on my side of the bed. Make him move. Get in bed.

4.30 AM: Can't sleep. Bloody nuisance. Read a book. Or poke Steve and demand entertainment.

6 AM: Finish book. Stop poking Steve. Sleep.

8 AM: Wake from comatose condition to Steve kissing me goodbye as he leaves for work. Swat him affectionately and descend back into the depths of corpse-like slumber.

12 PM: Postman knocks. Stumble downstairs and offer winning smile.

12.10 PM: Comatose.

1.30 PM: Wake up. And start all over again.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Reader Request: Great old Britain

Ah, England. I live here now. I don't think I ever expected to. As a teenager, I always expected to move to the US instead. Funny, that. But living in England hasn't diminished my memory of first visiting, back when it was strange and new. Vix asked me to describe my first impressions. So here they are.

I was exactly fourteen days away from my twelfth birthday when I first arrived in the UK. On holiday, with my parents and my brother. We rented the most gorgeous flat in London for twelve days, went to the theatre, did some sightseeing, took a day trip to Stratford-upon-Avon.

But what did I think of England?

1. The milk was amazing. No, really. Milk in Bangalore did not taste like this. I was in awe.

2. For the life of me, I couldn't figure out what half the words meant. This was England, right? Home to English? So what the hell was a haggis and why didn't I know this word? What, for the love of Heathcliff, was a spotted dick? Let me tell you, my eight-year-old brother and I could not say those words without giggling.

3. Holy hell, it's light at ten o' clock! At night, I mean. It was May. It got light at about five in the morning and got dark after ten at night. I was bewildered. Flabbergasted. In India, whatever the season, it never stays dark later than about seven in the morning and never stays light later than about seven in the evening. With about a two hour window for sun-up and sundown. Light at 10 effing PM was a novelty.

4. Strangers called me 'love'. There you go, love or cheers for the seat, love or got any change for this, love? I thought it was sweet.

5. The weather didn't shock me. And that shocked me. Sure, it was a lot colder than it had been in Bangalore, but it wasn't colder than Bangalore winters. What was all the fuss about this bitter English cold, then? Reminder: it was May. Of course it wasn't that bloody cold. Boy, did I realize how naive I'd been when I turned up for my first year of university seven years later.

I'm sure there are other things that really struck me or stood out for me when I first arrived in England, but I can't think of them now. These are my highlights. And they continue to be highlights. I love being here. I'm always surprised.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Interview with Talli Roland - and Giveaway!

The thing you simply must know about Talli Roland, if you don't know it already, is that she loves cupcakes. Okay, so maybe that's not the thing you must know, but it is pretty darn important. Other important things include the fact that she is the author of the awesome The Hating Game - and she happens to be an incredibly lovely person too.

On with the interview!


Hi, Talli! Your debut novel The Hating Game will be out in paperback tomorrow (09/03/2011). Can you tell us a little bit about the book?

The Hating Game features Mattie Johns, a man-eating woman who decides to go on a dating game-show to win the prize money she desperately needs to save her recruitment business. She thinks she’ll sail through the show no problem… but little does she know the male contestants aren’t just anonymous strangers, they’re her very unhappy exes. Add in an ambitious executive producer whose career depends on stopping her from making it to the end, and you have the recipe for lots of on- and off-screen drama!

I've read the book - and loved it! One of the things I found most interesting was your protagonist Mattie. You almost love to hate her when the novel starts and there's a great change in her as the story unwinds.

What put you onto writing someone like Mattie? How much of her did you draw from personal experience, if anything?

I’m so happy you enjoyed the book – thank you!

I had so much fun writing Mattie, mainly because her thoughts are so direct and she certainly doesn’t pull any punches. But underneath her tough persona, she’s actually very vulnerable. I think everyone has an outer shell they use as protection. Mattie’s just happens to be a bit thicker than most!
Okay, serious stuff. You're being sent off to a desert island with three books and an unlimited supply of wine. What are the three books?

Thank goodness you’re giving me an unlimited supply of wine! Okay, well, hmm… One of the books definitely has to be The Time Traveller’s Wife. I could read it over and over – it’s such a beautiful story. Next up, Emily Giffin’s Something Borrowed because she does such a great job giving the typical ‘love triangle’ story a modern twist. Finally, I’d take an English-Arabic dictionary, so when I’m finally rescued from the island I can stun my in-laws with my mad language skills.

I'm totally with you on The Time Traveler's Wife, but my favourite choice there is the English-Arabic dictionary. Brilliant!

What's the worst thing about being a writer? What's the best?

There’s one thing about being a writer that’s both the best and the worst: being your own boss. I love setting my own schedule and knowing I’m in control of my future – and being able to sneak a cheeky glass of late-afternoon wine, if I want! On the flip side, it’s pretty damn scary. There’s no safety net to catch you if you fall, and if you don’t get the job done, there’s no-one to blame but yourself!

That scares the heck out of me too! What advice would you give an unpublished, aspiring writer? What's the best piece of advice anyone ever gave you?

I know it sounds like a giant cliché, but don’t stop writing. Seek out help and advice from other writers, go to workshops and conferences if you can, but just keep writing! The best piece of advice I’ve heard is from Nicola Morgan, who runs a wonderful website called Help! I Need a Publisher. She said it’s not enough to be persistent – you need to be able to learn from your mistakes as a writer to get better! It sounds obvious, but that was a light-bulb moment for me. I’d written a few novels without really taking the time to assess what I was doing wrong and how to improve.

And finally - what would you do if you were trapped on a dating show with your ex-boyfriends?

I’d run away screaming and begging for mercy! I am nowhere near as brave as Mattie.


See? Isn't she lovely?

Thank you so much for that interview, Talli, and for being so fabulous to know. 

Now as I mentioned in the interview, The Hating Game releases in paperback tomorrow (Kindle edition available already here). UK readers can probably find the book in most stores, but here are a couple of places you can find it online too: here's the book on and on The Book Depository (I got the latter link via Talli's blog). Congratulations on your release, Talli!

And, to celebrate the release of the paperback and the amazingness of having your debut novel out in the world, I am giving away a copy of The Hating Game, very kindly signed by Talli! 
All you have to do to be eligible is leave a comment on this interview. I'll pick the winner at random in about a week.

Stop by Talli's blog this week, if you haven't already - she's giving away tons of books to celebrate her launch week!

Happy Tuesday, everyone!

Friday, 4 March 2011

The Soundtrack of Your Life

It's a Friday. It's not a day for deep thinking. My brain is aching enough from intensive revisions and the knowledge that it's a gorgeous day outside, but I am stuck indoors. So here, I'll throw out a fun and random question instead: 

If you could pick any musician/composer to write the soundtrack of your life, who would it be?

Extra points for giving your reasons too, like explaining the mood you'd see your soundtrack setting and giving us examples of the musician's/composer's work!

My pick? Hans Zimmer.

For those of you who don't know who this is, he composes music for movies. Some of his soundtrack hits include Gladiator, the background music in The Lion King, Angels and Demons and pretty much every other amazing piece of film music ever. Yeah, I love him a little bit. His soundtracks are always so emotional and sweeping - moving from light to heart-pounding to angsty - and he often has an awesome violinist playing along.

Then again, maybe it's my book's soundtrack I'd like him to compose, not my life's. I suspect this may well be a case of author-character confusion. So feel free to choose the soundtrack for your book instead of your life if that's more appealing!

Who's your pick?

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Reader Request: Changes

Well, I got so many great suggestions and requests in response to my You Tell Me post on Monday that I've decided to kickstart the requests today. At last count I had 9 suggestions in the comments and 6 emails, so I have more than enough to cover the next ten weeks and beyond!

Having picked a topic at random, today I'm going to be talking about Alex J. Cavanaugh's. He commented with:

Are you ready for the changes being a published author will cause in your life? 

The short answer: no. Not even a little bit.

The slightly better answer:

Being published is a huge thing, as anyone who has been/will be/is trying to be will understand. It's the thing many authors spend years working towards. I know I did. And given I spent roughly seven years getting to this point, you'd have thought I'd be prepared. I've read the blogs. Done the research. Read countless novels in my genre. Written and rewritten and written some more. So why on earth wouldn't I be ready for the changes being a published author will cause in my life?

Quite simply, it's because those changes are beyond anything you (probably) expected. 

Some are tiny little adjustments, like remembering that there is an agent and/or editor on the other end of cyberspace that you can email or chat to anytime you need help or advice.

Others are bigger changes, like being the kind of writer who only writes when she wants to and feels inspired for seven years (ahem, me), only to discover that now it's work, it's a real job (though certain ladies on buses may not agree) and, like any other job, you've got to do it even on days when you don't fancy it.

Now short of selling film rights for millions (ha!), shooting straight to the top of every bestseller list within a week of the book's release (double ha), and receiving invitations to every awards ceremony for the next ten years (triple?), I don't think there are many single changes that will completely alter your life. The experience of being published, of making that dream come true - yes, that changes your life. 

But the actual consequences of being published? No, I think it's very possible that these changes won't exactly shake the foundations of life as you know it.

My book won't be out until the latter part of 2012, so I don't actually have any idea what changes actual publication will cause in my life. Maybe I'll have to reorganize my work schedule so that promoting my book takes up a huge chunk of it. Maybe I'll be able to tell someone who asks that I'm an author, and they'll ask me what I've written, and I'll tell them, and they might actually recognize it. Maybe I'll have to get used to bracing myself for bad/hurtful reviews.

I don't know. So I'm not ready for that.

On the other hand, I think I'm coping pretty well with the changes having a book deal has caused. It's not easy waking up, wanting to go back to sleep and forcing myself out of bed because I have to work on my book, but I do it and I'm getting used to it. It's tough dealing with the pressure of deadlines and knowing that every time I 'finish' a round of revisions, my work will be scrutinized by at least two other people - and that it might be deemed not good enough. 

And it's amazing - and unsettling - to feel like I made it. Not to fame, not to fortune, but I've made that dream come true: I have a book deal. I've spent so long thinking 'I haven't made it yet, but I'm trying' and 'I'll never make it' that it's a huge change to realize it's happened at last.

So am I ready for the changes being a published author has and will cause in my life? No, not really. But it hasn't stopped me having fun with it.

I don't think you need to be ready for the changes. Just enjoy bumping and bouncing along.