Arachneversary – Five by Five

Our penultimate video for the Arachneversary. This is quite long, as all five writers contributed both thoughts and/or readings. We enjoyed it so much we’re thinking of doing it regularly. Featuring Joan Taylor-Rowan, Cassandra Passarelli, Katy Darby, Helen Morris and Sarah James.

Five by Five was one of our books celebrating the centenary of some women in the UK finally getting the vote. There’s nothing about voting in it, just women going about their (extr)ordinary lives.

You can buy a copy from our webshop

If you are quick you can still use our August discount code, ARACHNEVERSARY – it EXPIRES 31st AUGUST!

 

 

Lockdown Interviews no25: Joan Taylor-Rowan interviewed by Alex Penland

Author Joan Taylor-Rowan (Five by Five, Stations, London Lies)

interviewed by Alex Penland (Story Cities)

 

 

Alex:    How did publishing The Birdskin Shoes change your writing process? How did it alter your view of publishing?

Joan:    Firstly a bit of background. The novel was a finalist in a SpreadtheWord novel pitch competition. Buoyed by the response, I completed it and sent it to an agent. The first email from an agent was the kind you dream about – I have it pinned above my computer – but she said it needed work. I duly rewrote it, but despite the changes she decided not to take me on. I had an editor look at it, to give me insights into necessary changes before trying again. The editor loved it and suggested another agent who did take me on. At the time I wasn’t sure that she was the right agent for me, but bruised by my first encounter, it didn’t really occur to me to turn her down. She sent the book out to seven publishers but while they all liked it, no-one said yes.

I decided back in 2012, that if I really believed in the novel I should self-publish. Again I am not a techie so this was a huge learning curve and I was very proud of it. But what I hadn’t really thought out was the amount of work required in promoting it, and you really do have to be doing this full-time. There were a number of things I learned about the publishing process from this:

  • choose the agent who is right for your work, don’t just accept the person who takes it
  • just because that agent does not get a publisher don’t assume it’s not publishable. I found out later that agents do not approach everyone, only those publishers with whom they have built up a relationship
  •  once it was self-published, even with good reviews, no agent would then take it on, however that has changed now, but you have to show that it is successful
  • you can write a book that people love but you still might not get a publisher for all sorts of reasons, only one of which is the quality of the writing
  • at least by self-publishing the book it is not in a drawer under my bed, gathering dust
  • getting an agent seems like a miracle but even that is just the very beginning of a long and perilous journey

It did make me much more aware of the commercial side of writing – not that I think anyone should write with that in mind, but if publishing your work is your aim, you have to know and be aware of where your book fits in and what else is out there. It’s harder if you write literary fiction than genre fiction. I learned just how hard it is to write a novel, what a long process it is. It did make me much less judgmental about other writers. Just to complete a novel is a huge achievement. I prefer the intensity of the short story in terms of writing, but I read more novels than short story collections, because I enjoy the immersive quality of a novel.

 

Alex:   The stories in Five by Five are quite different from each other, one set in the 1970’s and one in the Mexican revolution. How did you come to write Bittersweet Like Pomegranates, and The Bet?

Joan:   I’ve always been fascinated by Manet’s painting  of The Execution of the Emperor Maximilian, which is in The National Gallery. It’s very large to start with, and the firing squad are life size. In the painting they are standing very close to the emperor and have already fired the shots so you are there  before he dies but after the bullets have left the guns. It made me wonder what it would feel like to have to stand and kill someone who was unarmed. The men are soldiers and are used to combat but this would be very different. I’ve spent a lot of time in Mexico and so I decided to read up about this emperor and what had lead to the execution. To a large extent he was a pawn and in fact was not bad as emperors go. He encouraged land reform for example.
I began to think about the moral dilemma a soldier might face, especially if he had a child. How might such an event affect him? How would he look his child in the eye? So that is how the story, Bitter Sweet Like Pomegranates evolved.
The Bet, a story set against the background of the conflict in Northern Ireland in the 1970’s,  is a little more grounded in my own experience. My mother was a Catholic from Northern Ireland, and my Irish cousin did send my tomboy sister a rubber bullet.  I can still remember the shock of seeing this enormous hard object when I was expecting something the size of a conventional bullet. It transformed my understanding of the news. When rubber bullets were fired, or people were hit with rubber bullets, I knew what that meant.  It represented a coming of age – a step into adulthood where suddenly something that seemed the world of a child – a squidgy bullet, is suddenly  revealed for what it truly is, a potentially lethal weapon. Luckily my grandpa was not killed with one, that’s where the fiction comes in. However we did all watch the Eurovision song contest, and I wanted to use that as a way of bringing in my mother’s mixed allegiance – she was both British and Irish and that caused her difficulties at times.

 

Alex:    Do you have a literary philosophy–something that you try to include in all your work?

Joan:    Hmm..that’s an interesting question. I really believe in the redemptive, life-saving qualities of art and literature, and a love of words and the imaginative life often feature in my stories, even though I don’t plan it that way.  I also like to learn something I didn’t know through reading, whether it’s about a different community or some area of knowledge and if I can I’ll try and get an interesting fact in.

 

Alex:    What are your different approaches to poetry and prose? Does one come more easily than the other?

Joan:    I rarely write poetry, although I used to in my twenties. In many ways I wish I did. I like performing my work, and having an audience. That’s much more likely with poetry. There are fewer opportunities for short story writers to have their work heard. However I have written lyrics for a musical based on one of my short stories (with a post-graduate composer who heard one of my stories at an event and approached me to collaborate.) I’ve also written lyrics for a pantomime for a friend who teachers A level drama. I enjoy writing lyrics as they are part of a narrative.

 

Alex:    Do you have any strange or funny writing stories? 

Joan:    After I self-published my novel, I had postcards printed which I left in various shops, galleries etc in London. As it was set in Mexico, I left some in a Mexican gift shop in the Columbia Road flower market in London. A year or so later I signed up for a digital textile class at The City Lit in London. I woman arrived late and breathless and the only seat left was next to me. We both opened our computers to display the images we had brought in to inspire our textiles – hers were of Mexican streets. I commented on them, as mine too were of Mexico. I was there a few years ago, I said, in fact I loved it so much I wrote a novel set there – The Birdskin Shoes. Her jaw dropped. I’ve read that she said. I picked up the card in a gift shop in Columbia Road flower market. I loved it! It was a real Twilight Zone moment.

 

 

Alex:    What do you have coming down the pipeline? What’s next?

Joan:    I’m completing an M.A. in Creative Writing at Chichester University at the moment, and I am working on a novel for that. I’ve also been sending a lot of stories out to competitions although they are a long shot but it makes me revisit and hone my work. I set up a creative writing course in Hastings – and I’ve really enjoyed teaching that and I’m hoping to do more once lockdown is over. I’m also working on a couple of children’s picture books with my sister who is a greeting card designer. Those will be in rhyme, so maybe I have not quite left the poetry behind after all.

You can buy all the Arachne books mentioned from our webshop, we will post them out to you.

If you would prefer eBooks, all these books are available from your usual retailer, now VAT free! We recommend Hive for ePub.

watch Joan read The Bet at Hither Green Festival last year – we would have been there this week, were it not for the cursed covid.

Lockdown Interviews: no7 Katy Darby interviewed by A. Katherine Black

Katy Darby author  (Five by Five, Stations, London Lies, An Outbreak of Peace, Shortest Day Longest Night, Liberty Tales,  We/She)

 

You can buy all the Arachne books mentioned from our webshop, we will post them out to you.

If you would prefer eBooks, all these books are available from your usual retailer. we recommend Hive for ePub.

 

Writing the Past: Katy Darby, the Tyburn Jig

Katy Darby reads her short story, The Tyburn Jig, from our anthology Five by Five, read at Writing the Past, our event for Hither Green Festival 2019 at Manor House Library. This was our 18th/19th century contribution.

Writing the Past: The Bet – video

Still got room for more Eurovision? Here’s a story set around the 1970 competition: The Bet, by Joan Taylor-Rowan from our anthology Five by Five, read on Saturday at Writing the Past, our event for the Hither Green Festival 2019

#WomenVote100 at the ballot box and on offer

All three of our #WomenVote100 titles on offer for one day only, to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the first female vote going into an actual ballot box on 14th December 1918

We/She Liars League stories by Women,

Five by Five, short stories by Katy Darby, Joan Taylor-Rowan, Cassandra Passarelli, Sarah James and Helen Morris,

Vindication Poems from Sarah James, Sarah Lawson, Elinor Brooks, Jill Sharp and Anne Macaulay

Normal price £28.97 still post free in UK – you have until I get to the computer tomorrow morning!

buy now

Five by five launches tonight

If you aren’t coming to Out of the Brew tonight for cocktails and stories in the garden, you’ll be needing this link, to buy the book.

If you are coming, see you at 7.30. Grab a drink and head into the garden where we will be setting up to read to you.

5x Five by Five freebie – blink and you’ll miss it

Someone at Arachne Press spilt tea on some books. Mainly because the floor is littered with boxes. Must tidy up. Anyway, tea was irredeemably spilt and instead of crying over it, we have tea-splattered books to give away.

Fortunately (for us) just 5 of them. Perfectly readable, just the edges of some pages somewhat stained, but can’t see anyone being willing to pay for them. Get in quick. (UK ONLY!!!)

If you haven’t already done so, please like our FaceBook page and follow us on twitter, then contact us here

We’ve found 4 more damaged copies so the offer is back on!

Well they’ve gone, but you can always BUY a copy from our webshop, or from your favourite local bookshop.

launch info for Five by Five

19th July at 7.30 we are launching Five by Five with four of the five authors (Joan Taylor-Rowan, Katy Darby, Cassandra Passarelli  and Helen Morris – Sarah James can’t make it), at Out of the Brew 306 New Cross Road, London SE14 6AF. FREE
In the garden if fine (It almost certainly will be)… there are rumours of themed cocktails.
Books for sale, authors to sign them. Everyone welcome

RSVP cherry at arachnepress dot com

Can’t wait? Word bookshop a few doors down from the cafe have stock in already owing to eagerness on their part and our distributors being super-efficient. Get down there and ask David for a copy.
(Reviewers copies available now – please ask)

Events in July in South London

 

Both our July venues are in New Cross, mid-distance between the stations – Amersham Arms is nearer New Cross, Out of the Brew is nearer New Cross Gate.

5th July Kate Foley is reading from A Gift of Rivers at regular feminist spoken word event,She Grrowls, upstairs at Amersham Arms, New Cross Road SE14 TICKETS here.

 

 

 

 

19th July at 7.30 we are launching Five by Five with four of the five authors (Joan Taylor-Rowan, Katy Darby, Cassandra Passarelli  and Helen Morris), at
Out of the Brew 306 New Cross Road, London SE14 6AF. FREE
in the garden if fine… there are rumours of themed cocktails.
books for sale, authors to sign them. Everyone welcome RSVP
Can’t wait? Word bookshop a few doors down from the cafe have stock in already owing to eagerness on their part and our distributors being super-efficient. Get down there and ask David for a copy.
(Reviewers copies available now – please ask)