Thoughts From The Bold Strokes Books Festival May 2018

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All You Need Is Love – Panel Discussion with Anna Larner, VK Powell, Renee Roman, Mickey Brent, Aurora Rey, Gun Brooke, Dena Blake and Barbara Ann Wright (L-R)

Why love stories as opposed to any other kind of story?

I write love stories because it’s simply in my heart to write stories about a woman falling in love with another woman.

I can still remember feeling very lonely and isolated by my sexuality, not seeing myself portrayed positively in literature, art or the media – so to now write stories about women falling in love means the world to me.

Also love is such a rich subject matter to write about. How a person reacts to love tells us so much about them. It draws out a person’s values, bringing out the best and the worst in all of us.

Why do you think romances get such flack from the other genre writers? Are they just jealous?

Some people argue that if a writer chooses to write lesbian romance, accepting that they are working within its formula, that their ambition as a writer is limited in both depth and scope by such a focus, and that the subject of romance is superficial.

I wholeheartedly disagree with this. There’s nothing superficial about attempting to capture the romantic essence of love. It is incredibly hard and takes tremendous skill.

A well-written lesbian romance which brings joy and consolation is a success and surely a book should be judged by the impact it has on its readers.

Like every other story romances can be boiled down to finding reasons why two attractive people cannot immediately have sex and ride off into the sunset together. What do you layer your stories with to make them unique while still hitting the must-have romance tropes?

I’ve been privileged to be part of a local Heritage Lottery funded project called ‘Untold Stories’ recording the oral histories of older LGBT people in the Leicestershire area. What I learnt from this experience is that our sexuality is so personal, our experiences are so varied, however there are certain common themes.

Lesbians throughout history and today have struggled with self-acceptance, family acceptance and society’s acceptance.

And I want to capture this on the page in an engaging and entertaining way.

So in Highland Fling I write an authentic representation for those lesbians who discovered their sexuality at a time when there was no such thing as ‘glad to be gay’ and how this defining experience colours their choices. But as with all hard subject matters there is great poignancy in the humour that can be found.

For my current work in progress Love’s Portrait, I write a contemporary love story highlighting the need for visibility of our LGBT history. This is set in the context of a museum when often the sexuality of the subject matter is omitted. I know we are not just our sexuality but it is a big part of how we experience life and it shouldn’t be airbrushed out or overlooked.

Have you ever tried to write a couple who just didn’t work? What did you end up doing with this story if so? If not, what is it that makes your couples always work in the end?

The main characters in Highland Fling, Moira and Eve, on paper shouldn’t work.  They are very different women – different ages, different geographical background, different lifestyle, and have made different life choices. Highland Fling hinges on this very tension.

But when you find ‘the one’ you fight for love, you compromise, you see the other person’s perspective, and you want to make things better.

So how I make them work is that Eve simply gets Moira, she fundamentally understands her. Eve is wise beyond her years and has a way of simplifying and unpicking the complex.

“All we have is right now, and I want to spend all of my right nows with you.”

It is Eve’s compassion that builds the bridge between them and it’s her dogged determination to fight for their love that wins the day.

If you have multiple sex scenes in your works, how do you keep them from being monotonous? If you have any couples who have been together for a long time, how do you keep their relationship fresh and exciting?

Each sex scene is fused into the emotional journey of the characters. When they give in to their innermost needs these scenes are the critical turning points in the story.

Sex is not just sex it is the story itself.

Have you ever written a couple who got along so beautifully, you were a little jealous? Has another writer’s work every made you feel this way?

In my current work in progress Love’s Portrait museum curator Molly Goode and benefactor Georgina Wright are really lovely together.

Molly’s passion and determination to uncover hidden histories and champion diversity within the museum sector wins the respect of her bosses and the heart of the woman she loves.

Yes, many authors work. Here’s three examples – Quinn & Honor in Radclyffe’s Fated love; Poppy & Rosalyn in Clare Ashton’s Poppy Jenkins, and Liza & Annie in Nancy Garden’s Annie on My Mind.

Photos from the Bold Strokes Books Festival, May 2018…

 

 

 

© 2016 All rights reserved. No reproduction without written permission.

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Love’s Portrait – Teaser

Love's Portrait - Anna Larner 2018

Context of extract:

Museum Curator Molly Goode (central character) has just attended a museum funding meeting with her boss Evelyn Fox and the Chairman of the Trustees Mark Drew. Her suggestions that the museum should focus on more diversity and community based projects are rebuffed in favour of securing the ongoing patronage of the Wright family, headed by Georgina Wright (central character).

Molly returns to her desk defeated and dispirited.

 

Molly returned to her office, dropped her notes back into the bin where they belonged, and slumped onto Fran’s desk with a heavy sigh.

“You’re sitting on my sandwich.” Fran pushed at Molly’s hip encouraging her to stand.

“I’ve sat on your lunch? Oh my God, could this day get any worse?” Molly held Fran’s baguette, squishy in her hands. It was now less buoyant baguette and more flatbread and pretty much summed up her morning.

Fran stood with a groan. “Want anything from the cafe?”

Molly looked down, crestfallen, and shook her head.

“I take it the meeting wasn’t exactly a great success.” Fran placed a motherly hand on Molly’s shoulder.

She couldn’t bring herself to mention the annex let alone that she had prompted the idea of a dedicated exhibition in the first place. “Honestly it was chilling to hear them. Everything’s about money or status to them. I thought museums were for and about the people.”

“You’re sounding more like a social historian every day,” Fran said, with an approving nod. “Although isn’t the art world, your world, all about that-status?”

“Not for me.”

“Good for you.” Fran placed her hands on her hips. “I think we need cake.”

“Have lunch in the square with me?”

“Sorry no can do, I’ve a shopping list longer than David Attenborough’s career. But I’ll see you later. So what will it be-Victoria Sponge or better still eclairs?”

Molly mustered a smile. “How about both?”

“Good choice.” Fran turned back at the door. “Do you remember what I said to you when you first started at the museum that you will always feel disheartened if your approach is to work against them?”

Molly nodded.

“The trick, if there is a trick,” Fran frowned slightly. “Is somehow to find a way to achieve what you believe is right but that still delivers for the powers to be.”

“So is this how you handle Evelyn?”

“On my good days, yes. On my bad days lots of rude words shouted at the top of my lungs in the privacy of the ladies loo.”

Molly giggled. “Right. Noted.”

The instant Fran closed the door Molly was engulfed by images of the Chairman with his expression of vacuous power on his face, his mane-like hair swept back, his tie tight against his collar moving with his throat as he spoke. He was confident in a bullish way that suggested at his heart he was insecure. His insecurity made him dangerous, and if she was not mistaken, that was likely the source of his power and influence-not his knowledge, not his experience, but the fragility of his ego, charming when stroked, ferociously defensive when challenged.

Evelyn seemed to be a master at managing him, stroking to calm and cajole. She appealed to his competitive nature by presenting the museum as a place of excellence. A leading institution indeed. She was the consummate manager of people.

Molly closed her eyes at the image of Evelyn with her pen raised to silence her. Her temper rose. She needed to find a place to shout rude words.

Leaving the frustrations of her meeting behind, she headed to her sanctuary, a small public garden next to the museum. Aptly named Museum Square, the simply designed square patch of civic ground was bordered on two sides by parked cars. A collection of benches placed around the inside edge of the square separated the grass from wide borders. A diagonal path, broken up by tree roots, stretched across splitting half way along to encircle a large horse chestnut tree. This tree marked the seasons, signalling the changing patterns of the year. In winter, bare and stark against white skies, the tree seemed to shrink, huddled with those brave or crazy enough to stop awhile and sit. In spring tentative buds relaxed in the welcome return of the first rays of sunshine. In summer students rested against its weathered waist reading their books in the cool shade of branches laden with the soft flutter of green leaves. And in autumn the debris of crushed conkers bashed free from its branches litter the ground evidence of battles won and lost and of time passing as the empty husks curl and brown.

She cherished those moments spent sitting on her favourite bench eating her sandwiches with her lunchbox at her side and with the sprawling horse chestnut her faithful companion.

Basking in the calm stillness of the beautiful September day, she took off her shoes and let the grasses brush against the soles of her feet. Tipping her head she lifted her chin to the cloudless sky. The air was changing from the dry sandy notes of summer to the sweet musk of autumn. The leaves above her were fading and their greens had softened to mossy shades from vibrant lime. Even the midday light beaming through the canopy seemed weaker now, less luminous, its strongest rays falling on another person sitting on another bench, in another square, in another land.

 

*Now available to pre-order at the Bold Strokes Books webstore*

 


© 2016 All rights reserved. No reproduction without written permission.

 

 

My Heart Will Surely Burst

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Honestly, I’m not sure when I was last this excited as I am so looking forward to the upcoming BSB festival in Nottingham 5th & 6th May that I worry that my heart will surely burst.

These three words perhaps best explain why I am so excited: kinship, inspiration, and joy.

I’m thrilled by the thought that I will be spending time with people who might just say “Yeah you’re not the only one I feel that way too,” about writing, about reading, about life. The consolation I might feel when realising my writerly quirks are not quirky at all, and that I might not carry alone those worries I feel on dispirited days. The opportunity I might have to share an understanding of those moments of joy that keep us going, as we chat and laugh over a coffee or maybe a pint or I don’t know a bottle (or two) of wine.

I’m in awe with the thought that I will be spending time with people who are properly inspiring; those with the talent to combine blue sky thinking with a care and attention to the detail of things. To have the company of people who dare to dream and who have the courage to be open and to write from their hearts.  To hang out with those who support writers to write, who understand that writing is a shared endeavour, a magical union of publisher, editor, author, and reader.

But most of all perhaps, I can’t wait to say a heartfelt thank you, to my colleagues, to readers, and for the opportunity to make history together as we participate in such a landmark event.

So see you in a couple of weeks and if you see me bursting with wonder and delight you’ll know why.

Bold Strokes Books Festival – 5th/6th May 2018

As always I’m really looking forward to attending the annual Bold Strokes Books festival.

This year thirty three authors from around the world will be descending on Waterstones, Nottingham on the 5th/6th of May to celebrate all that is great in LGBTQ fiction.

Tickets are available now. £3 per day redeemable against any book purchase.

Looking forward to seeing you there!

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attending authors

*** Bold Strokes Books is a boutique imprint producing quality fiction that pushes the envelope to present immersive, unique, and unforgettable reading experiences. ***

Gay’s The Word and LFest – Finding The Way In

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Finding the way in is at the heart of everything isn’t it?

Be it finding the way in to a confusing car park or a poorly signposted building. Or indeed finding your way in to establishing the common ground of a friendship or perhaps most importantly to the heart of the one you love.

Finding the way in is not only at the heart of life, it is at the heart of writing. It is that moment when a writer’s creativity sparks, igniting an imagined scene or character or dialogue. It is where the story begins.

I remember reading an interview with author Nancy Garden explaining how she found her way in to writing Annie on My Mind with a single line of dialogue.

“One rainy day…the words ‘It’s raining, Annie’ popped into my head. I know it sounds weird, but something told me that at last this might be the beginning of the book, although I didn’t know who was saying ‘It’s raining’ or who Annie was. But nonetheless that was how Annie on My Mind was born.” 1

Nancy’s explanation resonated with me as my debut novel Highland Fling began as much with a line of dialogue as with the setting of the Scottish Highlands. I could hear my main character Eve saying tenderly to her lover Moira, “You can touch me if you want”.  These few words began a paragraph of writing, which then became a page, which eventually developed into a novel.

In a similar way my short story “Hooper Street in the anthology Girls Next Door: Lesbian Romance became the destined home for a phrase that had loitered in my head, potent yet aimless: “It was a Tuesday when…” The line now continues “I first met Abbie.”  “Hooper Street had already been loosely drafted before those homeless words gave the story the purpose and orientation it needed. It peculiarly felt like those five words were fated to belong in the story, but that at some point they had been separated from it, like a dream half forgotten and then suddenly fully remembered.

For sometimes ideas, words, and images conjured by the imagination are so fleeting, that the writer is left chasing the memory of something, constantly editing and refining, working to get as close as possible to the perfect creative form just out of reach.

Despite the writer’s efforts to capture their imagination onto a page and to craft the perfect story, the ultimate meaning of a work lies with the reader. After all, the words and images that connected the story to the writer will not be the same words and images that connect the story to the reader.

All a writer can do is guide the reader in the direction we hope they will travel. But in the end, as it should be, the joy is the discoveries you make for yourself, the satisfaction of finding your own way in.

You will find me, should you wish, reading from Highland Fling and “Hooper Street and chatting more about writing at Gay’s The Word Bookshop, London, on 13th July, and at L Fest, Loughborough on 22nd July.

I look forward to seeing you then.

  1. p254, A Conversation with Nancy Garden, interview with Kathleen Horning, Annie on My Mind, 2007 Edition, FSG

 

© 2016 All rights reserved. No reproduction without written permission.

Highland Fling by Anna Larner

Les Rêveur

Fantastic Debut Novel by Anna Larner

Synopsis

Eve Eddison describes her ideal woman to her best friend, Roxanne, over pints in their local pub a few days before she travels to the Scottish Highlands. There she falls head over heels for an enigmatic local, Moira Burns, and the usually reticent Eve wants more than a holiday romance. Forestry officer Moira Burns has no intention of letting go—either of past pain or for present pleasure. If that means she misses out on her chance at happiness, so be it. Convinced Eve is headed for heartbreak, Roxanne advises her to let Moira go…but has Eve found her ideal woman at last?

From the breathtaking Highlands of Scotland to the buzz of a Leicester gay bar, family and friendship are tested to breaking point, as letting go proves painfully hard.

My Review

Firstly I’m Scottish so a Lesbian Romance set in the highlands…

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States of Independence – 11th March 2017 at Clephan Building, De Montfort University, Leicester.

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Come say hello and maybe buy a book. Hot of the press copies of Highland Fling will be available (£10) before general release!

Bold Strokes Books authors Robyn Nyx and Brey Willows will also be attending with their books too!

The eighth States of Independence will take place on Saturday 11 March 2017 at Clephan Building, De Montfort University, Leicester. 10.30am – 4.30pm.

If you can’t make it but would like to purchase a copy of Highland Fling let me know (postage and packing will apply).


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