Tag Archives: biographical fiction

Signed with Linen Press – In the Blink of an Eye

Sometimes something just feels right. 

Having toiled for what has seemed like aeons over my fictional version of the Hill and Adamson partnership, I looked at what I had a few weeks ago and realised it was finished – maybe not totally ready for publication, but the beginning and end felt right and the middle wasn’t far off. Most of the writing was polished (one chapter had just won a prize.) Suddenly  it felt like the story I wanted to tell. As I made some minor revisions to the opening chapter, a new title popped into my head.

In the Blink of an Eye

I liked it.

For fun I decided to enter the MS into a competition and discovered writing a synopsis (usually the worst job in the world) had become a piece of cake. After all this time, the feeling of something coming together was  overwhelming. So much so that on an impulse I sent the whole proposal off to the owner of a small press (we’d chatted over coffee last year) to see what she thought. I had a reply straight away saying the proposal was strong and she was looking forward to reading the sample.  Within a day Lynn Michell of Linen Press got back to say she would like to read more and (my approach had been fairly casual)  did I want her to consider it for publication?

By now I was feeling more confident about this book than I have ever done. I had an inkling if Linen Press said no,  someone else might say yes. But who would that be? I could have  gone looking for other, bigger publishers.  That of course would mean finding an agent. The whole process could take months or years – with no guarantee of success. There were other small presses but what did I know about them? Linen Press (recently described as ‘the new Virago’), might be small, but it’s celebrating its tenth birthday this year. Crucially, I liked what I’d seen of its list,  particularly Avril Joy’s Sometimes a River Song, a beautifully written and produced  book  which I mentioned not so long ago  and has since won an award in the People’s Book Prize. Not many small presses had this kind of charisma.

To cut to the chase, I said yes, please consider it. Lynn read it and  liked it – a lot! Within a week  we had ourselves a deal. The rest is not history, it’s the future! If all goes well,  In the Blink of an Eye will be out next year. 

You can read about the book in its new guise on the Linen Press site.  While you’re at it,  cast your eye over the rest of their lovely list. I think you’ll like the look of it.

linen press logo

FINE WRITING FOR WOMEN, BY WOMEN

Feels like a good place to be.

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Mrs Hemingway – at last, great biographical fiction

Mrs Hemingway coverRecently there have been quite a few novels that have taken real life stories as their inspiration but Naomi Wood’s Mrs Hemingway  is one of the few I’ve come across that has delivered the satisfaction of a convincing and well-crafted fiction along with the feeling of reading about events that did or could have taken place. The ‘could have’ is important. The author reminds us that this is fiction and I don’t know if Pauline ‘Fife’ Pfeiffer wore a dress of black feathers to seduce her friend’s husband or if sleazy bookseller Harry Cuzzemano ever existed. But something in the way it is written convinces me that the story is true to whatever facts are already known. In other words this book has the feeling of reality without being a slave to it, which I think is a hard act to pull off. It’s also an absorbing and well-paced read  in which we can feel the torpor of summer in Antibes, the claustrophobia of Cuba and the peculiar anarchy of post-liberation Paris.

The book gains momentum by focussing on the moment when each of the wives sees another woman come into view and realises her time with Hemingway is coming to an end. Because of this structure, the story skips backwards and forwards in time, and during each episode past events are also recounted, so that once or twice  I was confused and had to make a point of reading the date/place chapter headings with care. Other than that I was swept along in the stories of four very different women and the one man who held them – and many others – emotionally captive.

Maybe the book gains from not speaking in the voice of Hemingway himself but letting us see the effect he had on others. It had certainly made me eager to find out more about Hemingway’s life and work – which must be the best test of this kind of fictional biography and  Naomi Wood’s website is a great place to start. As a writer, I confess to being just a tad envious of the author’s funded research to all these fabulous places, but also uplifted to know that a task I was beginning to think was impossible, actually can be done.