Event: Edinburgh Writers Showcase


(a Polaroid from the NC500 trip – sands near Drumbeg)


(the cove at Smoo Cave, Durness)


A wee quick post to bring you the news that one week from today, on Thursday the 29th from 6.30pm, there’s an event at the lovely Golden Hare Books in Stockbridge, featuring Ever Dundas (Goblin), Martin MacInnes (Infinite Ground), Kaite Welsh (The Wages of Sin) and me (Flesh of the Peach – if I haven’t gone on enough about that). Tickets are just £4, available here.


A reminder if you are Edinburgh Book Festival bound this year  – I’m appearing with Meena Kandasamy on the 15th of August from 7pm and tickets to that event are on sale now.


It’s pretty thrilling – all these events. And it’s midsummer, muggy nights & dim thunder roaring over the city last night. The memory of the highlands fading to blues already like the photographs above.


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The Unsung Letter No. 23

And this week, Heather McDaid of 404 Ink brings us a graphic novel on a refugee’s journey a topic that couldn’t be more relevant in our tumultuous world:


Barroux’s style is bold, dark and striking; colour is used sparingly and pierces through in moments of hope or happiness, but then the darkness of his work becomes all-consuming as it fades slowly away. Sarah’s translation of Bessora is equally sparing – it remains focused on Alpha, his journey, and the stories of those around him as he travels further and further afield.


As usual, read the whole thing in your inbox – if you haven’t signed up, here’s the place to do it. The Unsung Letter is a weekly missive from a different book lover each time singing the praises of an undersung book by a living author.


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Papertrail Podcast Interview + Interview for the Caledonian Novel Award Blog


D and I have been away for the past few days, spending my birthday on the NC500, the route around Scotland’s three coasts (from above Inverness). Now we’re back, and I can share some things which appeared while I was mostly beyond the reach of navigable internet.


Firstly, here’s a written interview for the Caledonian Novel Award:


Welcome, Helen, and huge congratulations on the very recent publication of your first novel! Flesh of the Peach is an intense, candid story of a woman confronting grief, loss, and an, at times, harrowing childhood, and is set in New York, Cornwall and the American Southwest. Which parts of the novel did you find the easiest and the most difficult to write?

I think the easiest parts were the sections on how Sarah (my protagonist) would spend her money – they are flash-fiction fantasies inserted into the main body of the text, and not haunted overmuch by the more emotionally wrenching elements of the rest of the novel. The hardest parts were any of the ones I had to edit extensively, as I find editing the most arduous part of writing. So that’s every other section, really. It takes a long time to get it right, from feelings to getting characters to pick up a coffee cup.


Read more in the link above.


Next, make yourself a cup of tea for the Papertrail podcast interview, in which the host and I discuss three books I picked for examination + the line between whimsy and horror + how other works inspire my writing.



Finally – by the time this post goes live, tickets for the 2017 Edinburgh International Book Festival will have gone on sale and you can come along to see Meena Kandasamy and me in conversation with chair Lee Randall talking about our fiction on the 15th of August. Buy tickets for our event here!



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The Unsung Letter No 22

I immediately fell in love with the novella and Gurba’s narrator Desiree Garcia when I read it earlier this year. I devoured most of the book whilst waiting for a flight and during the subsequent airplane journey itself – actually the perfect place to absorb this novel which has a main character grappling with all the things going on inside her head as well as around her. 

Read more – subscribe to The Unsung Letter, a weekly missive on an underhyped book, sung to the rafters by a different writer/critic/book pusher each time. This week it’s New Zealander Andrea Quinlan.


Just a quick one this week  – I’m off to Leeds to read at Blackwells with three other debut novelists. Also – yesterday the Edinburgh International Book Festival catalogue was released: check out who is in it! Tickets go on sale next Tuesday, and a link will be here then.

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Reading in Leeds – 14th of June

From the eventbrite page


I will be reading in Blackwell’s Leeds on Wednesday, with Clare Fisher (All the Good Things), Luiza Sauma (Flesh and Bone and Water) and June Taylor (Losing Juliet) at 6.30pm. You can get free tickets here, and we’ll be talking about the road to publication and our writing and generally answering any questions that come up. A reminder – the Goodreads giveaway of Flesh of the Peach ends on Tuesday at midnight, GMT. It’s open to residents of the UK, Canada, USA and Australia.


I’ll also be in Manchester that day, mooching around bookshops and fortifying myself with cups of tea. I love Manchester but haven’t been in years, so this is very welcome. Before heading through to Leeds, I’m going to be meeting up for a session with The End of All Things podcast, which is one of my absolute favourites. Recommended listening for writers and readers who like a slice of political awareness with their fictions.


And then and then – another event coming up in Edinburgh at the end of the month. But more later. The sun is out, and it is not the end of all things yet, though half this complicated Year of Our Lord 2017 is behind us. Always more rushing towards us like a shadowy wave. Take a breath. Take a sip of tea. Wait in the sunshine. Listen to a podcast episode while your hands do other, easier, work.

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The Unsung Letter No. 21

This week’s Unsung Letter brings us an insight into the beautiful silver thread that can join reader and book, the thread of personal connection brought about by the right letters strung along in front of our eyes.


On paper it sounds like a bit of a misery memoir: girl comes home to Orkney follow stint in rehab for addiction, trying to heal herself through writing and being close to nature. But Liptrot’s story is anything but miserable: she finds that her life is full of resonances that for years she was too busy to hear, but now echo to her from unexpected corners and reverberate through her new self. If this sounds rather dippy-hippy and saccharine, Liptrot’s writing isn’t that either: it’s bright and clear and incisive, knife-sharp. There is also inherent danger in her story. It is the tale of one living so close to the edge of the normal world that the drop seems at times inevitable.


Read more here.

The Unsung Letter is a weekly tinyletter featuring one new(ish) under-hyped book, sung to the rafters by a different writer/poet/critic/book-pusher every time.


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London trip (+a reminder)


At the Geffrye Museum of the Home


I’m back from my second London trip – and what a trip it was. On Saturday I came into London to beautiful summery skies and a sense of possibility. The photo above shows where I ate my lunch before heading to be interviewed for the Paperchain Podcast with fellow writer and alumna of the University of Glasgow’s CW PhD Gillian Best (author of The Last Wave). We sat in Fabrique, where you can get cardamom buns, in good strong light and shadow, watching hipsters come and go with their coffees. The podcast featuring us will go up in a couple of months I think, when the second season of the podcast begins (links when that happens, though you can enjoy yourself now with the entirety of season one, and I recommend it!). The Paperchain Podcast is interesting in that each guest has to write a piece exclusively for their interview, based on a prompt from another guest. Gillian had ‘Cake Flamenco’ (provided by the last guest of last season) while I worked from hers – Jeff Goldblum. I did indeed write a story based on the man, myth and legend.


After the interview the day was free – so I met up with C, who was kindly hosting me. We took an easy night of it in her lovely, plant filled flat in North London but at around 11.30pm the news hit of the terror attack at London Bridge. C checked around with her friends, while I didn’t even think to check in with others – sorry if I frightened anyone. We stayed up late, listening, submitting to the scrolling 24 hour news, the mis-reported bits, the vagueness. The night wore into Sunday.


Wincing slightly, I made my way with C through London. Some snapshots of the strange, uplifting things we found:



Snowman House, on Abbey Road (where the studios are)



This clown was just down from Snowman House – don’t be alarmed! He said hello, and was quite cheery. He was sitting outside of a party supply shop, and just down from that, a man was stuffing an improbably number of inflated balloons into his small red car. I wondered briefly if it makes it any lighter. C pointed out it would probably be hard to see properly while driving. We carried on our way, stopping in a Japanese supermarket for snacks for later, and in Tiger, which is one of my favourite ‘everything’ shops. It’s like a cross between Ikea and Woolworths (RIP).  Then it was off to a video interview with Naomi Frisby, of the amazing The Writes of Women blog. The whole blog is great, but especially worth a visit for her monthly roundup of notable articles, interviews and essays by women. Gillian Best was being interviewed too, but separately this time. I for one had a grand time with it, and thought Naomi’s questions were really insightful and incisive. When the interviews go up, I’ll post links here.


After that, Gillian and I wandered around London. The streets were busy, the air a little cooler. We wandered into bookshops, had dinner with C, and then the three of us headed for The Barley Mow, a Shoreditch pub, for the Listen Softly London event. We heard readings from poets who explored urban landscapes, bad relationships, the language of flowers, and poignant thoughts of the stars that are overhead always through even city light pollution.

A print bought at the Moomin shop


On Monday I had the day to myself before the flight home, so I wandered London, going into bookshops, an all-gluten-free bakery called beyond bread, and the Moomin shop (it was everything I hoped for) and meeting with my friend J, before almost missing my flight home after the train to Stansted was stopped (a fire alarm at the airport) and my bags were double searched (a misplaced aerosol can) and my bag burst. But I made it!


Today the rain is falling steadily and I have work to catch up on. What a weekend to have lived through. Thanks to everyone who hosted me, palled about, offered me an interview, answered my bookish queries, bought my novel, came to hear me read and generally made this trip so great.


Lastly – a reminder in case you’ve missed it or not entered yet, Freight is giving away two copies of Flesh of the Peach on Goodreads. You have until the 13th to enter (it’s free and very straightforward). The giveaway is open to residents of the UK, Canada, US and Australia. If you’re not a fan of risk and would like to read it, the novel is available on Book Depository for a tenner with free shipping.


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