Bookseeker Literary Agency

Introducing authors and publishers.


A conversation with Sarah Dunant

1Paul writes:

Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending a public conversation between Dr. Monica Azzolini and historical novelist Sarah Dunant, at the School of History, Classics & Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh, and of speaking to her briefly afterwards. The event was primarily a promotion for the most recent novel in her series dealing with the Borgias – In the Name of the Family.

Sarah Dunant cut her literary teeth writing ‘thrillers’ which, she said, taught her the art of storytelling. She is a historian by education, and loves historical research. Research, when produced for academic consumption, however, tends to be published by university presses and remains within the academic sphere, with an academic readership. Fiction, on the other hand, liberates the subject to a wider readership, and while Sarah does not write instrumentalist novels, she is well aware that her readers are learning whilst enjoying an absorbing novel. So she makes sure that her research is exhaustive.

3It has often been said before when it comes to history – “Where are the women?” We have the impression, due to ‘taught’ history seeming to be a procession of great men, great battles, great events, that half the world’s population is invisible, and that this invisibility is somehow uniform throughout history. Sarah presents Renaissance women to us in her novels – in convents, as courtesans, at court – living unexpectedly rich and varied lives, even though they may be distanced from direct involvement in the ‘great events’. Lucrezia Borgia is almost invisible, except for the gossip put around by enemies of the Borgias. Pinturicchio’s depiction of St Catherine of Alexandria may be the closest we have to a portrait of her, but as a dynastic asset she was arguably as important as her father Rodrigo and her brother Cesare. Although she was only thirty-nine when she died of natural causes, she outlived them both.

Sarah Dunant, who says she is always “willing to take on the real history,” read to us a passage from her novel, describing the process of serving as a witness to the consummation of Lucrezia’s marriage at Ferrara. There was no description of the bride’s feelings and thus no kowtowing to the stereotypical idea that women writers ‘do’ feelings, but rather an account of the ‘bodily bureaucracy’ that goes with a dynastic match.

2In the Name of the Family introduces to Sarah’s readers to a young Florentine diplomat – Niccolo Machiavelli. This is a name that often strikes a chill – after all, the adjective that derives from his name is used to describe the ruthless and amoral wielding of political power – but a recent book by Erica Benner, Be Like the Fox, reveals a staunch believer in republican liberty and a scrupulous recorder of the realpolitik of Renaissance Italy. Sarah’s portrayal of him is that of a relative youngster, who has a wife back home who seems quite fond of him, and who worries about whether his attire is smart enough for his surroundings, whether his doublet is straight, and so on. He is a man who has been chosen for his diplomatic job because he shows much promise, but the wily observer has yet to emerge. Writing The Prince is many years ahead.

To Sarah Dunant the Renaissance is an era of “red hot modernity.” She is well aware that its cruelty and beauty are not two separate aspects of the time, but are interwoven, along with all the daily banalities.

I would like to thank Sarah Dunant, Monica Azzolini, and of course the University of Edinburgh for hosting the event.

__________

Courtesy note: Sarah Dunant is represented by Aitken Alexander Associates Ltd.


‘The Solar Wind IV’ finds a place in the heart.

solar-wind-ivReviewer Colleen Chesebro recently had the following to say about the fourth in the Solar Wind series by Lyz Russo:

Volume Four brings the pirate assassin, Federi, and his wife, the lovely genetic engineer/musician, Paean, back together at long last. When these two are apart, the Solar Wind never rides smooth on the waves beneath its bow. Something is off, though, and Federi’s gypsy intuition is pushed into overdrive to figure out what is wrong.

Suddenly, a new threat surfaces when Dana, an alien from the planet New Dome, arrives aboard the ship with an agenda all her own. The hauntingly beautiful Dana disrupts the newfound relationship between the Captain and Perdita when it is revealed that she is Rushka’s mother. Perdita is stunned and watches, filled with fury, as the Captain succumbs once again to Dana’s evil charms. Meanwhile, Rushka, pregnant with her first child remembers the cruelty she suffered at the hands of her alien mother when she was a young child.

And, if that wasn’t enough drama, mutant creatures are menacing the crew, threatening their very lives. The beings can’t be destroyed, and they regenerate themselves from a single living cell. They multiply into the thousands with only one thing on their mind – to kill. When one of the creatures attacks Federi, the team battles for his and their lives looking for solutions to save the world from certain destruction.

lyz-russo

Lyz Russo

Perdita is the key to protecting humankind from Dana’s malevolence. If they can save Federi, there is still hope…

I have been reading the Solar Wind Series for some time now, and I must say, I enjoyed Book IV, Raider, the best! The characters have long ago found a place in my heart. Once again, it is the relationship between Paean and Federi that steer the crew into new adventures. The addition of space travel and the ability to beam to any location in an instant added another layer of mystique to the plot.

Lyz Russo has created a science fiction series that continues to entertain and invite the reader into the world of the Solar Wind, and its crew. This futuristic pirate fantasy is one of my favorites!

Read more about Solar Wind IV here.


A great review for Lyz Russo’s ‘Freedom Fighter’!

Lyz Russo’s Solar Wind novels form a series of futuristic adventures – it would be unfair to hang the simplistic label ‘fantasy’ on them – that take its principle characters on a journey of piracy and political intrigue, mystery and mayhem, revolution and romance, through an unfamiliar seascape. Latter-day Romany errants cruise the currents of the yet-to-come, running from and striking back at the world’s ruthless rulers, the Unicate. That, and more, is what the reader gets in the pages of these books. The original Mystery of the Solar Wind was the book that the word ‘unputdownable’ was invented for, and each sequel has pushed the envelope a little further.

The third book in the series, Freedom Fighter, was recently put under scrutiny by writer and reviewer Colleen M. Chesebro, and it received an almost perfect score, 4-and-a-half stars! Believe it. Click on the picture below to read the review for yourself on Colleen’s lively blog…

freedom-fighter-lwi


Carmen Capuano secures a publishing deal with an American publisher

carmen2We’re very pleased to announce that Carmen Capuano (pictured right) has secured a publishing deal for her novel Ascension. The book will be released by American publisher Uncial.

We’ll give you more details when we have them.

Meanwhile Carmen has been hard at work giving talks to the public and readings from Split Decision. We hope to continue to have good news to pass on about Carmen, and about our other authors.


A review of ‘The Assassin’by Lyz Russo

It’s well worth sharing this review of Lyz Russo’s novel, part of her wonderful fantasy series. The review comes from the ‘Goodreads’ site.

sw2flat400.jpgCaptain Radomir Lascek and his band of unruly pirates, sailing upon his ship, the Solar Wind, continue to hide from the Unicate and their evil associates. However, there is more at stake now. Two data capsules in the Captain’s possession explain that the Rebellion is on a similar path as the Unicate, and both forces could spell the end of the world if the Captain doesn’t act soon.

When the Captain’s secret station in Antarctica is attacked, he is forced to take matters into his own hands. He employs Federi, the part-time gypsy chef/master assassin and Paean, a ship’s musician and budding genetic scientist to embark on a mission to assassinate as many of the top Unicate Officials as they can. Reluctantly, Federi teaches Paean the art of killing, something the fifteen-year-old finds to be a necessary evil in this futuristic world they are forced to survive in.

Struggling to deal with the burgeoning feelings he has for Paean, Federi confronts the “killing animal” that dwells within his heart. He knows he has the soul of an assassin. His greatest fear is that he will lose the love and admiration from the young girl, a certain loss he knows he could not endure.

As the story unfolds the reader discovers Federi and Paean share a type of gypsy intuition, a mystical connection that belongs only to them. This psychic ability blossoms into a deep love between the two, even though Federi is much older than Paean. This is gypsy love at its finest, and I was bewitched by the touching love story that drew me deeper into the adventure.

The book is long but filled with so much intrigue and suspense you gladly read on to unravel the various mysteries that are part of the whole adventure aboard the Solar Wind. For me, this book delves deeper into the characters and gives you a glimpse into the mechanics of their personalities. I like these pirates. Their humanity speaks to me. I can’t wait to dive into the third book in the series, Freedom Fighter. Stay tuned…

STAR-4.5


Pitlochry, as the dread hour approaches…

theatre

Brightly lit though Pitlochry Festival Theatre might be at night, buzz though festival-goers might around such visiting celebrities as Ronnie Browne, Gregor Fisher, and Charlotte Green, there comes a time when a hush falls over the handful of brave ones who stay behind for the storytellers’ lock-in. Collars are turned up at the suggestion of icy fingers at the neck, and there are anxious glances over the shoulder at the hint of a presence walking through the River Room. Attention is then fixed on the storytellers – actors Dougal Lee and Helen Logan – as though to draw comfort from them. But there is no comfort there. They have us under their spell!

article2This is how it is at every ‘Fearie Tales’ event during Winter Words. Eight chilling tales are read to us in four late-evening sessions. The stories themselves are selected from submissions by contemporary writers from Scotland and beyond. On Friday 12th of February I was there myself. I spoke above of a lock-in, and indeed one of the stories told to us was set at a remote inn after drinking hours, where a stranger told the small company of the nightmares that had beset him since he was a child, as we feared for his mortal safety. The scene in the cold morning light, however, was a plot twist that stunned…

To an extent you never know what to expect at ‘Fearie Tales’. I was there in anticipation of hearing client Marie Marshall’s ‘The Ice House’ – was that you, Marie, lurking by the door of the River Room, flitting away when the applause came? Really you are too shy.

article1‘The Ice House’ was read by Helen, who put layers of character into her reading. The story itself was a tribute to M R James, arguably the greatest writer of ghost stories in the English language. James himself makes an appearance in the story, as an avuncular mentor to the narrator – a young, female, law student at the time of the action – and provides, though he doesn’t realise, the denouement in the form of a letter. The story takes us, via a discussion about humankind’s deepest terrors, a sense of dread in a lonely place, and the delirium of a fever, to the revelation of a brutal crime. The construction of the story is very Jamesian – a typical Marie Marshall emulation – and the sense of period and place is perfect. I do hope there will be some way in which this story can be read more widely, whether Marie places it on her web site, where she does showcase a handful of her stories, or in a collection.

I shall be back in the River Room at Pitlochry on Saturday 20th, when another client’s story is due to be performed. This time it will be by Lucy P Naylor, the Queen of Quirk, and the action will range from a Dundee ‘pletty’ to the city’s ancient Howff graveyard.

The canny short-story-writer knows to pen and submit something written with Dougal’s or Helen’s voice in their ear, to structure their story to suit reading aloud, and to consider each actor’s strength in characterisation. Nothing facile gets through the selection process at Winter Words, and you know that by the time each ‘Fearie Tales’ session comes, that you will hear what is probably la crème de la crème of the Macabre. The festival as a whole is worth a winter break here in the Scottish Highlands.


Client’s book reviewed

fmcuhHard on the heels of news of our client Marie Marshall’s success at Winter Words comes a review from an enthusiastic reader of her YA vampire novel From My Cold, Undead Hand. Here’s an extract:

“… Marshall does a fantastic job with creating an alternate world for us, where the action happens at a breakneck pace. From using technology that isn’t developed yet, to using weapons not designed yet, to using language and phrases not spoken yet, she creates a universe that is strangely familiar to us, yet it’s a place where you have to watch your back or you’ll be dead. Vampires aren’t glamorous, it isn’t romantic to meet a vampire in the alley behind the school, and they most certainly don’t sparkle. Marshall also does a remarkable job of tying in the classic vampire novel, Dracula, but makes you believe that it’s all real. This is a book that will leave you breathless for more!

You can read more about it here.


An evening of chills in Pitlochry

Ice House

Well, more a series of evenings, as the ‘Fearie Tales’ stories get under way at the Winter Words festival in Pitlochry, on Friday 12th February. The Friday and Saturday evenings of each Festival weekend are rounded off by a brace of macabre or ghostly tales, the winners of an annual competition run by the festival organisers.

One of the most consistent story-writers in the competition is our client Marie Marshall, whose weird stories have been amongst the winners almost without a break since 2008. Her stories, each with a Scottish setting, have included:

Chagrin – in which an elderly man is haunted by the memories of an old love every time he sees anyone with red hair.
Vae Victis – the testimony of a Roman Legionary on the Empire’s northernmost frontier, of a nameless terror that comes in the midwinter night.
Place of Safety – the tale of a young man who loses his love to a magician.
On The Platform – waiting, waiting for morning, but who is the ghost and who the ghost-hunter?
Da Trow i’ da Waa – a writer, having taken a remote cottage in Shetland, finds truth in Carnacki’s saying, “There can be no safety when the monster breathes through wood and stone.”
Voices – the audio diary of an Australian academic on a Highland mountain-top, listening for Random Voice Phenomena.

This year’s winning entry from Marie is The Ice-house, in which a young woman awakens an old evil in the dunes of Tentsmuir. If you want to hear it read aloud by Scottish actor Helen Logan, make your way to the Pitlochry Festival Theatre and grab a seat in the River Room for 9.30pm.

Marie hopes to have a collection of her short stories published this year, so watch this space!