The UK cover of Unsettled Ground has had a refresh! The colours have been made much brighter, so now you can see all the creepy-crawlies in more detail, as well as the rotting fruit. Also included is a new quote from The Times (the previous one was about Bitter Orange, and some readers found that confusing), and the Women’s Prize For Fiction Shortlisted ‘sticker’ appears permanently in the bottom right-hand corner. I love how the cover really glows now, which makes it very eye-catching. Do let me know what you think. At the moment this new cover will only appear on the ebook.
Another week, another 100-word flash fiction story inspired by a photograph. My story is below. Feel free to join in, and if you post yours on your website or on social media, link back here and let me know, so I can have a read of it.
A Great Guy
Let me tell you ‘bout my uncle Jack. He added a kitchenette and a bedroom to his place on Switcheroo Road and let the rooms out to men who stole from him, small stuff mostly: teaspoons and hammers, glasses and tobacco, and left without paying the rent. Each time he said it’d be different: this man was down on his luck; another was a great guy. Reckon he was in love with them all, just couldn’t admit it. Finally, that annex stood empty for five years ’til my aunt Rosie rented it. Although, course, she wasn’t my auntie until later.
For any Oxford / Oxfordshire-based people, I’m doing my first in-person literary event for a long time, at Blackwell’s Oxford on 21st July, with author Lucy Atkins (Magpie Lane). It would be lovely if you could join us. Tickets here.
I’m delighted to have been invited back to Arvon to teach fiction writing for a week in December 2021, this time with fellow author, Russ Litten. We will be at the Hurst in Shropshire from December 13th to 18th, and we’ll be focussing on the ‘elements of fiction’.
Any kind of fiction is composed of these core components: character, story, plot, setting and timeframe. There are also the more intangible aspects of powerful story telling, like creating a distinctive narrative tone or the building of a unique mood and atmosphere. Then, there is the alchemic process of bringing all of these elements together – how does character inform dialogue? How much does setting impose tone? How can you shape the emotional effect your work has on the reader? All of these questions and more will be held up for examination in a series of group discussions, writing exercises and workshops.
Visit Arvon’s website to find out more information and to book.
For those who don’t know, for over fifty years Arvon has been the UK’s home of creative writing. The organisation has three centres, in Devon, Shropshire and Yorkshire. And their residential and now, online courses, are led by highly acclaimed writers, and span poetry to playwriting, song to screenplay, fact to fiction, starting to finishing – and they offer grants to help with course fees for those who need it. Generations of writers have been inspired by their experience at Arvon. They offer a home for creative writing, where anyone, regardless of writing experience, can step away from their normal routine, immerse themselves in the creative process, be inspired by experienced writers and release their imaginative potential.
I’m very excited to be returning, and if you’re a writer (beginner or otherwise) looking for inspiration, support, and motivation, I hope you might be able to join me.
While I wrote Unsettled Ground, I listened to two pieces of music: Polly Vaughn (an old English folk song) sung by Tia Blake, and We Roamed Through the Garden, written by my son, Henry Ayling. Listening to only two songs for two years, it was probably inevitable that they were going to become part of the novel I was writing. But they had a bigger influence: Jeanie and Julius, the protagonists in Unsettled Ground became folk musicians.
I thought it might be interesting to create a playlist for Unsettled Ground, for those who are currently reading the novel or those who have read it already. I hope that this selection – which are all pieces of music I love – will help add to the atmosphere of the book.
Henry is an unsigned acoustic guitarist – teacher, performer, and composer – and therefore his song isn’t on Spotify. But you can listen to We Roamed Through the Garden, here: www.henryayling.com/music/ It is number five on this page.
The playlist below will allow you to hear a little of each song. Open it in Spotify to listen to all the songs in their entirety. And please do let me know which you might know already and if any particularly resonate. Happy listening!
Unsettled Ground will be published in the US on May 18 and I have lots of online events planned, where, from the comfort of my writing room in England, I’ll be talking about the book, my writing process, and what it feels like for Unsettled Ground to be shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction. It would be lovely if any US or Canadian readers could join me on Zoom.
See my list of online events.
I’m absolutely delighted and thrilled that Unsettled Ground has been shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction. The panel of five judges, chaired by Booker prize winner, Bernardine Evaristo whittled down the longlist of sixteen books to just six. You can find out more about the other shortlisted novels, and watch Bernardine Evaristo reading from Unsettled Ground, here. The winner will be announced on 7th July.
Unsettled Ground is available to buy in the UK from all independent book shops, Waterstones, and other online shops. If you’d like a chance to win the whole shortlist, Bloom and Wild, as well as Love Reading are running competitions to win all six novels.
The Women’s Prize has organised a 2021 Virtual Shortlist Festival over three days, where you can hear readings from all six novels, see author, Kate Mosse interview us all, and get the opportunity to put your own questions to the shortlisted authors.
I’m still doing a few more UK events for the publication of the book, and I have lots of online US events lined up. (Unsettled Ground will be published on May 18 in the US and Canada.) It would be lovely to see some of you at them. Click to visit my events page.
Unsettled Ground is published in the UK today, 25th March 2021. It’s had wonderful reviews from readers, book bloggers, and many of the national papers, including the FT and the TLS, with The Times calling it, ‘a beautiful and powerful tale’.
And I’m still pinching myself about it being longlisted for The Women’s Prize for Fiction.
If you’ve pre-ordered a copy, hopefully it will be arriving soon if it hasn’t already. If you’d like to buy Unsettled Ground you can do so online from Bookshop.org or from your local bookshop. I’ve got lots of online events arranged, and most of the bookshops that are hosting these are also offering a book included in the price of the ticket. See my events page for more details.
(Thank you to Olivia Partridge @ayoungwritersworld on Instagram, for this gorgeous picture.)
Unsettled Ground will be published in the UK on 25th March, and that evening, my local independent book shop, P&G Wells, will be hosting an online celebration at 7pm. In previous years of course, launch events for my novels happened ‘in real life’ both in London and Winchester. This time we’ll only be able to see each other via Zoom, but the big benefit is that people from near and far can join in.
There will be live music (technology permitting) from acoustic guitarist Henry Ayling, I will do a short reading, talk a little bit about the book, and there will be time for a Q&A. Wine and party hats optional. Tickets are either free or with a purchase of the hardback at a discounted price. Click here to book your ticket.
For North American readers I’m delighted confirm that I will be having an online launch on May 18th, hosted by McNally Jackson bookstore in New York. So you might want to wait and sign up for that one when I have more details.
Find out more about Unsettled Ground.
I’m thrilled to be able to show you the amazing US cover of Unsettled Ground for the first time. It was designed by Diane Chonette, the Art Director at my US publisher, Tin House, using art work by Valerie Hegarty. What do you think? Drop me a line and let me know.
The cover was revealed today on Entertainment Weekly’s website, and they have also published a sneak preview of chapter one. Read it here.
Unsettled Ground will be published in the US on 18th May 2021.
If you missed what the UK cover looks like, you can see it here.
I’m so excited to be part of the UK campaign to support bookshops throughout lockdown – #SignForOurBookshops. During the last lockdown, bookshops moved mountains to remain operational – taking orders online, or over the phone. They now face a second lockdown in the build-up to Christmas, their busiest sales period.
#SignForOurBookshops is a national show of support from UK authors, urging people to keep buying through bookshops by offering exclusive signed bookplates to stores and customers. Over 200 authors are taking part so far, including me!
The former Children’s Laureate, Chris Riddell, has designed bespoke bookplates for the campaign. Buying a #SignForOurBookshops book is buying a slice of positive history in a challenging year. What better Christmas present idea than that?
WHAT IS A ‘BOOKPLATE’?
It’s a signed label that you can stick into the front page of books, so it’s like having a personalised, signed, copy.
HOW TO GET A BOOKPLATE
I will send a signed, personalised bookplate to the first 50 people who buy one of my books through a UK bricks and mortar bookshop during lockdown.
This offer is a first-come-first-served basis. Just drop me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with a picture of your receipt (from a UK bricks and mortar bookshop) for one of my published books – Our Endless Numbered Days, Swimming Lessons, or Bitter Orange – and let me know your address and any particular dedication you would like on the bookplate. And I’ll post a book plate to you, free of charge.
AND PLEASE SUPPORT BOOKSHOPS!
If you buy a signed copy, do try and pick other books up while you’re shopping with that store. Books make incredible, thoughtful Christmas presents – even if they’re not signed.
Check out #SignForOurBookshops on Twitter and Instagram to see the hundreds of other authors who are offering bookplates.
On Thursday 12th November I’ll be appearing on Zoom with my literary agent, Jane Finigan from Lutyens and Rubinstein to talk about how we work together on my books. I’ll also be reading from Unsettled Ground, due to be published in the UK in January 2021 (and May 2021 in the US and Canada).
The event is being run by Blue Pencil, an editorial services agency who run writing retreats (where I’ve been a guest), and provide manuscript advice.
So, if you’re writing a novel, sign up to the event and come and ask me and Jane some questions. I’d love to see you there and I’m happy to answer any question about writing, getting published, or finding an agent. Click here to buy a ticket.
Blue Pencil are also running their Pitch Prize for unpublished authors, and the prize, for up to seven writers, is to be able to pitch your novel to Jane. More information here.