I’m so delighted and amazed that Unsettled Ground has won the Costa Novel Award 2021. It means a huge amount that Jeanie’s and Julius’s story will be more widely read, and it’s simply a wonderful privilege for the book to be chosen from so many entered and of course the brilliant shortlist. More information about the awards can be found here.
Unsettled Ground will now go forward for the Costa Book of the year where it will be judged against the other category winners: biography, first novel, children’s, and poetry. The overall winner will be announced on 1st February.
Winchester paperback publication event
On 13th January I’ll be celebrating the publication of the UK paperback of Unsettled Ground at Waterstones in Winchester. There are limited tickets to keep numbers low, so if you’d like to come, please do get yours soon. They are £3.00 each (including a glass of wine) and are available either by emailing email@example.com or by dropping into the High Street shop. More info here. I hope to see you there.
I’m thrilled to let you know that my fourth novel, Unsettled Ground has been shortlisted for the Costa Book Awards. This prestigious annual prize, which is fifty years old this year, awards prizes for books written by UK and Irish authors, in five categories: Novel, First Novel, Biography, Poetry and Children’s Book. One of the winners from these categories is selected as the overall Costa Book of the Year.
Unsettled Ground is one of four books in the Novel category, the winner of which will be announced on 4th January 2022. The five category winners will then be considered for the £30,000 prize announced in early February. You can read more about the prizes here, as well as seeing which other books are included in the novel category.
With this and the shortlisting earlier in 2021 for the Women’s Prize for Fiction it’s been quite a year! Keep your fingers crossed for me.
And if you’re in the UK and you’d like to buy a signed and dedicated copy of the hardback of Unsettled Ground, or any of my other books, click here.
This November and December, in time for Christmas, I’m offering UK readers a chance to buy signed and dedicated copies of my books, whether for yourself or as a gift. You can buy a single copy, several of the same book, or a combination. Find out more about Our Endless Numbered Days (paperback), Swimming Lessons (paperback), Bitter Orange (paperback), and Unsettled Ground (hardback). Once you’ve let me know which book or books you’d like and what you’d like me to write in them, I’ll calculate the cost of the books and the postage, email you a secure payment link, and once you’ve paid, I’ll get the books in the post. Simple.
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.
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’.
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.