Wednesday, 30 January 2013

It's Novel Shaped

I am writing.
It's novel shaped.
There are five thousand words.
I am in the honeymoon period of novel writing - I truly love my idea.

Before, when stuck with the novel-that-we-must-not-talk-about, I thought I would not be able to find another novel-length idea. The thing with novels is that they don't need one giant idea. Novels need several ideas.

I want to write everyday but it doesn't work out that way, much. There are other things to do - full time job, chores, book reviews, this and that.

But every time I sit down I make a promise to try and write AT LEAST 250 words. It works. I have written over that minimum each time since the new year.

This novel is coming out in baby steps.

It's good to be writing. I have missed it.

I want to bottle up this feeling and open it up when/if the writing drought happens.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Book Review: How Should A Person Be?

How Should A Person Be?
By Sheila Heti
Published by Harvill Secker
Hardback ISBN - 9781846557545

How Should A Person Be? is a book that's hard to define. It feels part confessional journalism, part novel, part play, part memoir.

One thing is definite. This is a marmite book. There are going to be people who love it's eccentric ways and there are going to be people who want the book out of their house. For me, I half way between the two. There were parts that I enjoyed and there were parts that made me want to grab the characters and shake some sense into them.

Sheila Heti has taken parts of her life, merged it with fiction and become the protagonist within her novel. Through out the novel, Sheila attempts to answer the question of how should a person be?

One of the great things I liked about the book was the structure. Passages of the narrative are broken up with emails, letters and transcribed conversations. This gives How Should A Person Be? a feeling that it could be a book version of a reality show. I like books that take the normal beginning-middle-end and chop it up and feed it to the reader in interesting ways.

Sheila is highly self-conscious of wanting to be perfect to the point where she is unable to write a play or even move forward with her life without seeking approval first. She wants to reach a certain point in her life but is unable to create the 'perfect setting' to write the play.

One of the stronger parts of the book is the tension and friendship between her artist friend, Margaux. She records their conversations, hoping to find an insight into how women interact together, for a play that she plans on writing. Sheila struggles to find inspiration and looks at her friends, like Margaux who is a talented artist, for finding ways to help with find creativity and finding a purpose within her life. These parts of the novel brilliantly demonstrate the dynamics of a modern female friendship.

Sheila meets a man and has a sexual relationship with him. I wondered if he was her entry into the ugly competition that she set for her two artist friends. Both of them set out to create the ugliest painting. For Sheila, meeting Israel could be her exploration of the ugly side of life. He is dominating and has no respect for Sheila. She is just a prop for his life. This was the part of the book that I wanted to fling the book across the room as it was easy to see that he bought the ugliness and shallowness in her.

If you like books that don't like to be defined and you want a book that you could love and hate at the same time then you should definitely read this one.

How Should A Person Be? is available from your preferred online or offline book retailer. 

Thank you to the publisher for sending me a copy. 

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Book Review: The Explorer

The Explorer
by James Smythe
Published by Harper Voyager
Hardback - 9780007456758

Last year, I read James Smythe's The Testimony and I enjoyed it. Over the Christmas holidays I read his next novel, The Explorer and found it fascinating. The Explorer is one of those books that perfectly straddles both literary fiction and science fiction. This book is gripping, terrifying and compelling.

I don't want to give too much away with regards to the plot - all I can say is that Cormac (Is his name a nod to the writer Cormac McCarthy - I think it is - definitely an influence on Smythe's writing style) is a journalist aboard the 'Ishiguro' (another nod to another author who seems to have influenced Smythe's writing), a corporate run mission to go farther in space than any other manned-mission. All of the crew members except Cormac die within the first chapter. This may sound like a typical psychological science fiction plot but you would wrong. I thought that but the rest of the book changed my mind.

The Explorer is not only a book about exploring unknown space but it is also about exploring the human mind and the concepts of time, loss and death. Through out the book there is a sense of unease as the plot unravels, ravels and unravels. The reader becomes trapped within the mind of Cormac as he tries to cope with isolation and tries to deal with his purpose or lack of purpose on the mission, as well as his purpose in life. All he has to keep him company are the video clips of his dead crew members and photographs and clips of his wife.

The Testimony is huge in scope, has an ensemble cast of characters who are still connect to life and spreads its net over a huge area while The Explorer has one protagonist, is claustrophobic, contained and isolated. With The Testimony it was easy to put down as each section had a different character while The Explorer holds on to you until the very end. It was very hard to put down The Explorer as you want to know what happens next. There is no way you can guess the next twist in the plot!

The Explorer would appear to people who love the film, Moon, enjoy the concepts of The Time Traveler's Wife and enjoy character-based science fiction, like Cormac McCarthy's The Road or Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go.

I came across this quote while on Goodreads while I was reading The Explorer and it reminded me of the book:

"Two possibilities exist: either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying." - Arthur C. Clarke

You can buy a hardback or ebook copy of The Explorer from your favourite online or offline bookshop. 

Thank you to the publisher for sending me a copy. 

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

New Story Published: Why Don't You Ring?

I have had a new story published, well last week, but things have been busy on the blog so I thought I would schedule the post for a less busy week...

My short story, Why Don't You Ring? has been published by Theurgy Magazine.

After reading Raymond Carver's short story, Why Don't You Dance?, I was inspired to write my own story, exploring the reasons why the guy was putting his possessions out on his lawn. I also added an end-of-the-world edge to the story...

Here's the beginning paragraph to tempt you into reading more:

“I might kill myself if I have to listen to that bloody engaged tone one more time,” Norman said as he slammed the phone receiver back into the cradle. His fingers were sore from spinning the rotary dial all morning. The beige-coloured phone tormented him.

You can either read Why Don't You Ring? online here or you can buy a copy of the magazine here.

Theurgy Magazine are also looking for submissions for their next issue. They are interested in science fiction, fantasy, speculative fiction, the strange and the weird.

Friday, 4 January 2013

Guest Post: Andrew Kaufman's Imaginary Bookshop

I love all of Andrew Kaufman’s books and have talked about them on my blog in the past. I read and loved All My Friends Are Superheroes . I have also read and loved Waterproof Bible and I read The Tiny Wife all in one sitting, which is definitely a sign of a great book.

Yesterday I reviewed Andrew Kaufman’s book, Born Weird

Andrew has kindly agreed to pop over to Writer’s Little Helper and answer 9 questions on the subject of running an imaginary bookshop.


Hi Andrew, congratulations on the publication of Born Weird in hardback and The Tiny Wife in paperback and thank you for popping over to Writer’s Little Helper.

1. What would be the name of your imaginary bookshop?
Paper Tigers.

2. Where would your imaginary bookshop be located?
It’s two or three blocks from my house but there’s a tunnel, a secret tunnel that only I know about, which leads from a trapdoor in my kitchen to a revolving shelf in the bookstore. Late at night I take the tunnel and just sit in the shop, soaking it all in.

3. Would your bookshop have any special features? E.g. a performing stage, a cocktail bar, etc.
There would be a back room, with six or seven desks, and on each desk is a manual typewriter. Writers can rent a desk for five dollars a day and I’ll give them free coffee for as long as they’re typing. The only rule is that there’s no revision allowed - you can only go forward.

4. What would make your bookshop different from all of the other ones?
Buy a book, take it home, read it and the way it changed you would be expressed physically. If the book made your heart grow bigger, you’re heart would grow bigger. If it changed how you look at the world, you’re eye colour would change, things like that.

5. What sections would you have in your bookshop? And what sections would you ditch?
I think a big part of the fun would be constantly rearranging the sections. One week by colour, the next by plot structure, the next all the books with happy endings are on the left side and unhappy endings on the right. The thing I love about bookstores is that I rarely go into one looking for a specific title. I usually do this on line. A bookstore is about adding random chance to your reading list -- Paper Tigers would be organized to maximize this.

6. Every bookshop needs a display table. Which books would you have on your display table? Why?
The display table would be covered with every book I wish I wrote. So, Franny and Zooey, Catch-22, The Seamstress and the Wind, Never Let Me Go, The Middle Stories, The Girl in the Flammable Skirt, The Children’s Hospital, If On A Winter’s Night A Traveller, Cat’s Cradle, The Windup Bird Chronicles … let’s just go with the idea that it would be a really, really big table.

7. If you could run only one author event who would you have? You can pick a living or dead writer. What sort of event would they run?
Kurt Vonnegut, who’s one of my favourite writers, always claimed to love “The People’s Court” which is an American TV show which was, basically, a televised version of small-claims court. Sort of a pre-runner to Judge Judy and all those shows. I would love to have given him a TV, a remote control, three episodes and then had him illustrate what made him so fascinated by it.

8. A customer comes up to your till with a copy of Born Weird and asks you to give them a reason on why they should buy it. What would you say?

“Listen, I gotta tell you, I actually wrote this book, so I’m a little biased, but… weren’t you?

9. What sort of cake would you offer when launching your book in your bookshop?
Is scotch a cake?

Author Bio:
Andrew Kaufman was born in the town of Wingham, Ontario into a family of librarians and accountants, who wrote everything down. Wingham is the same town that Alice Munro was born in, making him the second best writer from a town of three thousand. His first published work was All My Friends Are Superheroes, a story following the adventures of a man turned invisible only to his wife. This novella, published by Coach House Books in Canada, has been translated into eight languages. His other books include The Waterproof Bible, The Tiny Wife and Born Weird. His wishes to state, once again, the family depicted in Born Weird in no way resembles his own, and any similarities are completely coincidental. He also writes for film and television, having completed a Directors Residence at the Canadian Film Centre. Kaufman lives in East Oz district of Toronto with his wife and their two children.


Andrew's website -

Follow Andrew on Twitter -

You can purchase Born Weird in ebook or hardback version from you preferred book retailer. 

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Book Review: Born Weird

Born Weird
by Andrew Kaufman
Published by The Friday Project
ISBN - 9780007441402

*** Pop by tomorrow as Andrew will be here answering the Imaginary Bookshop questions. ***

Andrew Kaufman, author of All My Friends Are Superheroes, The Tiny Wife and The Waterproof Bible is back with his latest offbeat novel, Born Weird. Technically this review should only be three words long. Those three words are 'I Loved It.' But I have a feeling that you may want to know more about this wonderful book.

Born Weird is a wonderful modern fairytale about the dysfunctional world of the Weird family. At the birth of each of her five grandchildren, Annie Weird, gives them a special power that she thinks will be a blessing. But as the grandchildren grew older the blessings have become curses that have ruined the way they react to relationships and emotions. The Weird siblings have called these powers 'blursings.'

"The room had the feel of a shipwreck, one that had sunk quickly, without warning."

Richard, will always keep safe, Abba will always have hope, Kent will beat anyone in a fight and Angie will always forgive. Lucy, a librarian who likes to sleep with book borrowers between the book racks has the power to never get lost. Lucy reminded me of the Librarian in Aimee Bender's short story, Quiet Please. If you are a fan of the way that Aimee Bender uses magic realism in a seemingly ordinary story then you will definitely like Born Weird.

On her deathbed, Annie sends Angie out on a mission to bring her brothers and sisters together so she can lift the 'blursings' before she dies. Their journey takes them across Canada to find each other and then collectively, the Weird siblings must search for the meaning in their lives and untangle the mystery behind their father's disappearance.

"She waited for an epiphany but all she felt were her hands getting colder." 

I really enjoyed the dialogue between the characters is sharp and very realistic of the things siblings say to each other. I like the way Kaufman takes the ordinary and makes the reader look at it in an extraordinary way.

"It was the exclamation marks that did it. This was the first time in her life that Angie was prompted to regurgitate by punctuation." 

Born Weird is an brilliant novel that is both hilarious and also touching when there are tragic moments. Andrew Kaufman is a mixture of two of my favourite writers, Aimee Bender and Douglas Coupland and I am already eager for the next book.

If you are looking for a heart warming book to get you through the cold, long nights of the winter then Born Weird would make the ideal prescription.

You can purchase Born Weird in ebook or hardback version from you preferred book retailer. 

The paperback version of The Tiny Wife is also out this week. You can read my review here.

*** Pop by tomorrow as Andrew will be here answering the Imaginary Bookshop questions. ***

The Publisher kindly sent me a copy. Thank you!