April Writing

March was very busy and I’m hoping to get some settled writing done this month. I’m working in two opposite directions – the future and the past – and trying not to go mad with that!

I’m editing a book called The Midden with Jenni Nurmenniemi, which relates to the Frontiers in Retreat art and ecology research project. I have just returned from Helsinki and a very productive meeting with Jenni and the book designer, Serge from NODE. The book will be published in the summer and includes essays by Taru Elfving, Emma Itaranta, Jenni Nurmenniemi, Jussi Parikka, Antti Salminen and myself.

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My Water Age workshop with children at Annatalo Art School, Helsinki

I’m also finalising a series of books, The Water Age, that I will self-publish, which are the culmination of my own work in the Frontiers in Retreat project. One book is a collection of my future fictions. The other two books present art and writing workshops, one for adults and the other for children. More on the publication dates for those coming soon.

And work on the final book in my historical trilogy, Conquest, published by Impress Books, is underway. The new novel, The Anarchy, is set in 12th century Europe and focuses on the Welsh princess, Nest ferch Rhys and the continuing struggles between the Welsh and the Normans. I have a couple of guest blogposts coming up this month on M.K. Tod’s A Writer of History and Mary Anne Yarde’s Myths, Legends, Books and Coffee Pots. Her first guest this month, is Tom Williams, a British writer who has written a novel about a man he describes as ‘the James Bond of the Napoleonic Wars’. If you are interested in historical fiction this sounds like a good read.

Making It Up

“EXOPLANÈTE LOT“
11ème Parcours d’art contemporain en vallée du Lot
présenté par la MAGP centre d’art, du 3 juillet au 4 septembre 2016
www.magp.fr

(Photographie : Yohann Gozard ©)At Falmouth University Thursday 22 March 11.30-13.00 giving the keynote presentation in the Research Students Symposium. How do we make something from nothing? How do we get from the blank page to the book or the artwork? I will focus on the development of my future fiction, Meanda, set on a water planet. The symposium is open to the public, with other presentations by postgrads. Places are limited. If you would like to attend please contact jemma.julian@falmouth.ac.uk. Image shows an extract from Meanda installed on the GR36 Compostella path in the Lot Valley, France. Photo by Yohann Gozard.

Experiencing Suspense

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Can I get through treacherous snow and howling winds in the UK today to reach the Gers in south-west France for a weekend workshop with a group of delightful writers?

If I make it, we plan to consider narrators, voice, tense, creating characters, creating suspense, settings, and constructing fictional worlds.

That should be enough to keep us busy for a couple of days.

 

Writing in exile

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In my interview published today on The Displaced Nation, author Harriet Springbett talks about being an English writer living in France:

‘When I go back to England and see bookshops stuffed with books, or blogs featuring new books every day, I feel intimidated. Writing stories suddenly seems rather pointless and I wonder what I can possibly add to the overloaded bookshelves. Then I come home to France and it feels rare and right once more. France is my cocoon. If I lived in England, I’m not sure I’d be a writer.’

Harriet’s Tree Magic is published by Impress Books. She is currently writing a story set in the Pyrenees.

The photo shows the tiny chapel at Alendo in the Pyrenees.

 

1,000 years back and 1,000 years forward

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Some readers of my posts may feel confused by the polarised nature of my activities: on the one hand writing early medieval fiction and the other hand writing future fiction about exoplanets and other life poetics. I get quite confused by this paradox myself!

However, the medieval historian Henry of Huntingdon, writing in the 12th century, was happy to address readers in the third, fourth and fifth millennia. ‘If mortal generations are prolonged so long as that’, he said. He addressed readers 3,000 years ahead of his own time – ‘I who will be dust in your time have made mention of you in this work, such a long time before your birth’ – because he believed in history’s redemptive potential for both the present and the future. So I guess I shouldn’t worry about my own polarities too much.

For more contemplation on the topic of history and the future see Amanda Jane Hingst’s excellent book on Orderic Vitalis, The Written World, which I was delighted to just buy in the wonderful Raven Secondhand Bookshop in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

 

My most recent historical novel is Conquest: Daughter of the Last King (Impress Books, 2016) set in 12th century Wales, England and Normandy. I’m working on the sequel now.

Last year I published a future fiction novella, Meanda, and am now working on a new collection of future fictions inspired by aquatic flora and fauna.

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Top image by Jean Le Tavernier, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=74516

Bottom image: Algae in Iceland, Zooetics Future Fictions Summit. Photo: Nomeda Urbonas.

Simon Mawer interview

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My interview with acclaimed novelist Simon Mawer was recently published on The Displaced Nation site. Mawer’s fiction has received a slew of prizes: The McKitterick Prize for his first novel, Chimera; The Glass Room was short-listed for the Booker Prize; and Tightrope won the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction. He has lived in Italy for many years and finds his imagination is fired by the extraordinary and the unfamiliar.