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Welcome to The Literary Pig's blog - a safe haven for all those afflicted with
the unbearable urge to write.

Monday 26 March 2012

The Radleys - a review

The Radleys by Matt Haig was a summer bestseller for 2011 and one of the most popular selections for the TV Book Club.  I read it over one weekend as once started it was impossible to put down again.

This novel is about a suburban family attempting to live a normal existence in a typical sleepy English village and coping with all the pressures of modern life.  But The Radleys have genuine skeletons in the closet which they are straining to keep secret.  Without giving too much of the plot away this is story about a family of abstaining vampires trying to overcome (or rather subdue) their true natures and failing... And if you can remember what it feels like to be a teenager then just imagine the horror of enduring adolescence suffering both acne and an insatiable craving for blood.
The writing is tongue-in-cheek with an intelligent, quirky sense of humour, but still oddly believable and doesn't stray into pure fantasy.  With short, snappy chapters frequently changing between key characters and their perspective, you are quickly sucked into the the Radleys world and simply have to keep reading.  As all the reviews declare this is a real 'page-turner'.
If you're a fan of the TV drama/comedy Being Human then you'll devour this book, preferably with a nice hot cup of tea and not a glass of rhesus negative.

I loved this book and am keen to read more of Matt Haig's work.  The Radleys gets a FIVE pig rating.
Do also check him out on twitter: @matthaig1 as he often tweets some hilarious one liners.

Other novels by Matt Haig:

  • The Last Family in England/The Labrador Pact (2005)
  • Dead Fathers Club (2007)
  • Shadow Forest 2007)
  • The Possession of Mr Cave (2008)
  • Runaway Troll (2008)
  • The Radleys (2010)

Monday 19 March 2012

Escape to the Country with Patsy Collins

Patsy Collins writes a fun Blog filled with writing competitions.  Her crime novel Escape to the Country is out on 30 March 2012, click here to read all about it and how the novel came to be published.  You may have read Patsy's short stories in magazines such as The Weekly News, Take a Break Fiction Feast, Woman's Weekly to name a few.  Patsy has kindly taken time out of her whirlwind author schedule to answer some questions posed by the LitPig...

Q: What and when was your first ever writing success?
In 2002 I won a £20 book token in a 40 word story run by the local council.

Q: Up until the novel what has been your biggest writing achievement / success?
That depends how you measure it. The most money I've had was £1,000 for a poetry competition win. The prize was presented at a dinner in the house of commons which was a wonderful experience. (Link here, just in case you're interested! http://scotscare.com/a-london-scot-poetry-competition )

Q: Okay, I know you're bursting to tell us all about it... what was the inspiration behind your novel  'Escape to the country'?  And how did this novel come to be published?
Nooo, I'm not bursting to tell you about the inspiration - because I don't really know where the idea came from. I rarely do know, even with short stories. I was born on a farm though and have driven tractors, milked cows, delivered calves etc so maybe it was all just an excuse to make use of that?

The second part is much easier to answer. I won a novel writing competition and publication was the prize. There were more than 600 entries so I'm very pleased to have been selected.

Q: I know you are a runner, tell me some of your running habits and does it help the writing?
Ha! You've been fooled by my tweets! I wheeze my way through a very feeble jog whenever I can't make up with an excuse. Fortunately I'm good at making things up!

It helps with the writing by clearing my mind - after the first 20 minutes all I can think about is continuing tp breath.

The picture right is where Patsy likes to run.

Q: When 'Escape to the country' is dramatised for TV who would you choose to play the main characters?
Leah - Rachel Hurd Wood 
Aunt Jayne - Kate Winslet
Duncan - Benedict Cumberbatch (but he'll have to eat a lot first as he's too skinny) or Eddie Redmayne
Adam - Rupert Penry Jones or Richard Armitage
Jim - Dominic West
You'll have spotted I have two choices for each leading man. Obviously that means I'll have to take the contenders on location (a hay barn) and, er, audition them.

Q: And if you have a launch party who would you like to swap literary gossip and clink champagne glasses with?

The characters should be ones from the book as I couldn't have done it without them. I'd pick Aunt Jayne, Jim and Adam because that combination might well prove amusing.
The writers would be Agatha Christie, Christopher Lloyd (garden writer) and June Hampson (crime writer and my writing tutor) as they've all inspired me.

Doh! I should have picked teetotallers so there was more bubbly for me.

Q: And finally do you have any words of wisdom to impart to other writers eager to see their 'babies' make into it print?
Read. Learn. Write. Edit. Submit. Continue until the desired result is achieved.

Sound and sensible advice from Patsy - this is all we can ever do as writers.  Keep writing and you may too find success like Patsy!
Can't wait to read the book... Wishing Patsy all the very best with the Spring launch.

Sunday 11 March 2012

The funniest book in the universe

'Don't Panic' were the words emblazoned on a home-made poster stuck on the indoor writer's bedroom door.  These words and the works of Douglas Adams kept her sane (well relatively) throughout her tortuous teenage years.  Today would have been Adams' 60th birthday (11 March 1952 - 11 May 2001) and the world over will be remembering his quirky sense of humour and probably still mourning his loss to comedy writing.  Sadly he died of a heart attack at the painfully young age of 49.

The indoor writer first discovered The Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy while revising for her O'Levels (yes she's that old), when it was a hit radio show.  The books also got her through many tough times during A'levels and university.  And  the well-read tatty copies still cheer her up.  You can't fail to read this book without laughing out loud.
Hitch-hiker started as a BBC radio comedy in 1978.  The resulting published trilogy (Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, Life the Universe and Everything) sold over 15 million copies.  The series was also released as records/cassettes, a TV series, stage plays, computer games and a film (2005).  There were a further two books written in the series: So Long and Thanks for all the Fish, and Mostly Harmless, but in our opinion they never lived up to the surreal, almost perfect comedy of the original.

Douglas Adams also went on to write several books in his Dirk Gently Holisitic Detective Agency (currently dramatised on BBC4, next episode Monday 12 March at 9pm) and co-wrote Last Chance to See with Mark Carwardine, which is funny but also a tragic warning on the conservation of disappearing species.  He was a scriptwriter for Doctor Who and this year the novelisation (by Gareth Roberts) of Adams' 'lost' Doctor Who story Shada (written as a six part special when Tom Baker played the Doctor, but filming was never completed) will be published.

If you've never read The Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy then I urge you to give it a try.  It still makes me laugh, even when I can quote whole passages verbatim.  And don't forget to wave your towel on 25 May (official Towel Day).

Monday 5 March 2012

March competition madness

March is a mad month for writing competitions with many having closing dates throughout the month.  Here are few of my favourites specially selected for:
Women writers

Funny writers (for those writing humorous stories not for funny/odd writers - well let's be honest all writers are pretty odd, it's part of the job description)

Children's writers

Mslexia Short Story Competition - check website for full terms and conditions

  • Closing date 31 March (postal or online entries)
  • For women writers only!
  • Up to 2,200 words on any theme.  Story must be previously unpublished and not won or under consideration in any other competition.
  • Judge: Tessa Hadley
  • Entry fee - £10 per entry (cheque or online payment)
  • 1st Prize - £2,000 + week's writing retreat at Chawton House Library (East Sussex - lovely location!), day with a Virago editor.
  • 2nd Prize - £500, 3rd Prize - £250 and £100 for 3 other finalists, plus winning stories published in Mslexia magazine.
  • You can listen to last year's winner on the website, interestingly this is written in second person.
CheerReader Quartely Competition - check website for full terms and conditions
  • Closing date 15 March for Spring competition (next one is Summer - closing 15 June).
  • Up to 1,500 words any subject genre BUT story has to be amusing/witty/funny (you can read previous winners on the website, Winter winner had some lovely one-liners).
  • Must be original and previously unpublished stories.
  •  Entry fee - 5euros by paypal only, stories must be emailed as Word attachments.
  • Winner gets 100 euros plus publication on website.
  • Note: for this story they want font Arial 10pt (I noted this because indoor writer typically uses Times New Roman 12 pt!).
- check website for full terms and conditions
  • Closing date 31 March.
  • You must be a previously unpublished (for profit) writer of children's fiction.
  • Up to 2,000 word story suitable for children of any age group up to teenage, can be short story or the first 2,000 words of novel/longer story.
  • 1st Prize - £2,000, 2nd - £300, 3rd - £200.
  • Postal entries only.  UK entries - £3 per entry (though 10 2nd class stamps are preferred).
  • Include an entry form.
Worth noting this competition received about 2,500 entries in 2011.  The indoor writer's novel opening reached the shortlist, which meant it got into the last 300... so clearly there are an enormous number of  children's writers out there (and this is a global competition - winner came from New York for 2011).

Good luck if you enter of these and let me know how you get on...