One part of Autumn I love is the plethora of literary festivals. There’s nothing better than breaking out of writing confinement to talk for an hour to a captive audience. Future events include:
20th September: Riverside Book Circle, Sunbury.
29th September: Cranbrook Literary Festival www.cranbrookliteraturefestival.com
October 1st: interviewing Louis de Bernieres at the Henley Literary Festival
October 5th: interviewing Sebastian Faulks at the Wimbledon Bookfest
October 17th: Spies, Seduction and the SS at the Surrey WI literary lunch
If you’re having a relaxing summer break, lying back on a sun-lounger and contemplating what to read, what better place to transport yourself than the grimy, dangerous, nerve-shredding mean streets of prewar Berlin? All five of the Clara Vine novels are in the Kindle summer sale, each for just 99p. Get them while you can – who knows how long summer will last?
In Berlin last week, I dropped into the Altes Nationalgalerie to see Caspar David Friedrich’s famous Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog. I’ve always loved this image of a figure seen from behind, gazing beyond the abyss to a distant peak. It’s often seen as the perfect representation of the Sublime in art, created at a moment of high Romanticism, portraying the individual contemplating the awesome power of Nature. The solitary individual stands on a precipice, facing an unknown future. Then it dawned on me that the lone figure, seen from behind, facing distant dangers, remains a pretty popular image – if only on the jacket of numerous novels, including, it must be said, Faith and Beauty and Solitaire. Never let it be said Clara Vine is not Romantic.
I’m booking a number of events this Autumn, but here’s one for anyone who finds themselves in Kent on September 29th!
All Winter I’ve been engaged in an intense, head-down finishing of my standalone novel, provisionally titled The Typewriter, much of it set around the Battle for Berlin in 1945. At last I’ve come up for air and I now have a busy Spring of bookshop events. The very talented David Young, author of the Karin Müller detective series, set in Cold War Germany, and I will be talking about Spies, Seduction, the SS and the Stasi, and the many ways in which Berlin inspires our fiction. There are a number of events to come, but the first are:
7pm, February 21st: The Pitshanger Bookshop,141 Pitshanger Lane, London, W5.
6.30pm, March 1st: Haslemere Bookshop, 2 Causewayside, High Street, Haslemere GU27 2JZ
7pm, March 7th: Warwick Books,24 Market Place, Warwick, Warwickshire CV34 4SL
April 19th: Crawley Wordfest, Crawley Library, Southgate Avenue, Crawley
Do come along – it would be great to meet, talk and of course sign books!
And here’s where it all started – Winterfeldtstrasse 35 – Clara Vine’s Berlin apartment in Schöneberg as it looks today…
One of the most amazing moments for a writer is seeing her book in a foreign translation. Beside the fact that it’s always a bit unbelievable, there’s the mystery of what a foreign readership will make of it, and how good the translation will be (and indeed how you’ll ever know if it’s a good translation). Philippe Bonnet, who has translated previous Clara Vine novels, is always fulsomely praised by French readers so I’m thrilled he has worked on Faith and Beauty, which is out in France in February. The other great pleasure is seeing how foreign publishers visualise the jackets, and I love this one from J.C.Lattès. Also just out is Kedros’s Greek edition of The Winter Garden, with a very seductive take on Clara Vine…
I’m thrilled that The Pursuit of Pearls became a #1 bestseller in its category on Amazon.com after a promotion! To celebrate, here’s a 1939 day dress of the kind Clara Vine wears. Note in the background the dramatic white pillars that were erected on Unter den Linden in 1936. The dress appears in a wonderful exhibition of everyday life in 1937 at the Markisches Museum in Berlin – well worth a visit.
It was so interesting to see this piece about Tom Hanks’ love of antique typewriters. They are such beautiful machines and even though I type straight onto a computer now, I hammered out my earliest stories – concerning a bear called Edgar – on an Olivetti and the sensory appeal of it has never left me. Something about the zing of the carriage and the rip of the finished page, to lie in a stack by your side, is forever associated with writing in my mind. Which is perhaps why this antique Underwood plays such an important role in my forthcoming standalone novel.
The perennial question. But filming a documentary called The Nazi Invasion, due for broadcast in December, it was interesting to speculate on the extraordinary degree of planning that had been put into this question. Some of it was ridiculous – like von Ribbentrop’s idea of having Cornwall as his personal domain – and some just chilling, like Himmler’s decision to restrict education for conquered people to a very simple level, involving adding up to 500 and writing their names. We did the filming on the hottest day of the year and the producers found an appropriately dank cellar in which to fire their questions…..
The saying goes, a historian tells you what happened but a novelist tells you how it felt. I’m always interrogating myself about the rights and wrongs of setting novels in the past and particularly around such a sensitive part of the past as WW2 Germany. So I found this long, perceptive article by Hilary Mantel about why she writes historical fiction totally fascinating. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/jun/03/hilary-mantel-why-i-became-a-historical-novelist