Tag Archives: Katherine Langrish

Travelling to Narnia

My first memory from meeting Katherine Langrish seventeen years ago, is that at the age of nine she wrote her own instalment of the Narnia books, because to her mind there weren’t enough of them. I was glad, because I used to feel like that about some of my childhood books, but I never got past page two. That was in 2004 and she was in our neck of the woods to talk about her first children’s book, Troll Fell, a Norwegian style fairytale. In fact, the days of Katherine are all Before Bookwitch, since the third book in the Troll trilogy was published on February 5th 2007, one day BB, making Katherine a very early author acquaintance of mine.

Anyway, back to Narnia. While I believe she might have shown us her childhood book then, I have now seen pages two and three up close, being used for the endpapers of her brand new book From Spare Oom to War Drobe, Travels in Narnia With My Nine Year-Old Self (isn’t that a glorious title?). This is a book I’ve been looking forward to so much, despite it being about books I have not read and firmly believe I wouldn’t like, just because, well because I am convinced this is a really great book (with a quote from Neil Gaiman on the front cover), and because we say that you should write about what you know best. And I believe Katherine has arrived in Narnia, where she belongs.

It’s a gorgeous-looking volume, and one I’m very tempted to read, if only to learn more about Narnia. Half the population can’t be wrong, and in her online launch this evening Katherine mentioned Philip Pullman and his dislike of the C S Lewis stories, not totally disagreeing with him. The way I understand it is that it’s a pretty academic look at Narnia and its creator. It’s got footnotes. And the support of many literary names.

One of them, Amanda Craig, talked to Katherine about her book, as one big fan to another. It was quite enlightening and I really enjoyed their chat. I like people who like things that much. It’s good to look at stuff in-depth and to have sensible comments to make. I understand Amanda encouraged Katherine to write this book, after having read her blog Seven Miles of Steel Thistles, which is mostly about fairytales, and which has left me in awe of all Katherine’s knowledge.

This could have been a great launch in real life, but as it was, online made for a different great event, with many of Katherine’s peers peering out from behind their respective Zoom cameras. And the sun shone on her, forcing her to keep shifting her position.


The Greystones Press

It’s not every day that a new publishing company is born. The Greystones Press is a brand new publisher’s of quality books, started by Mary Hoffman and her husband Stephen Barber.

Very sensibly they are sticking to what they care about most, which is literature, art, music, history, mythology and fairy tales. This will sound silly, but I feel quite excited at the thought of this, in a world too full of publishing companies who concentrate on, well, other things. And it’s because they do, that people like Mary and Stephen are needed. They want to publish the kind of books that won’t necessarily appeal to everyone, or sell in vast numbers. (Although it’d obviously be nice if they did.)

We’ve got used to self-publishing by now. Authors who either can’t get commercially published, or who want to have some level of control over what happens to their books, publish either ebooks and/or print copies. But most of them don’t go all the way and start something that will publish other people’s books as well.

This is quite a brave thing to do, but then where would we be if no one tried something new occasionally? Mary clearly has a lot of experience after her years of writing over a hundred books. One of them, the one about David, is going to be part of their first list, and it’s a book that personifies what The Greystones Press stands for. They also have plans for translated novels later on, which I look forward to.

Among the other first books will be Seven Miles of Steel Thistles by Katherine Langrish, whose knowledge of fairy tales I have long been in awe of, and here she will expand on what she’s been writing about for several years on her blog with the same name.

Mary also has a YA/adult crossover book for The Greystones Press, called Shakespeare’s Ghost, which rather suitably will be published on April 23rd. Jules Cashford and Kate Snow complete the first list of books this spring.

Daughters of Time

I was in the middle of the story by Celia Rees in the anthology Daughters of Time, when the captain on my plane made an announcement. I looked up. ‘She’s a woman!’ I thought. I know. Stupid thought to have, but I did, and she wasn’t even my first female pilot. Then I looked at what I was reading, which was about Emily Wilding Davison, and I told myself off for my reaction. I’m ashamed of myself.

After that came Anne Rooney’s story about Amy Johnson, so there we had the second woman pilot of the afternoon. And of course, it felt completely normal, because I knew she was female, if you are able to follow my train of thought. I just hoped my plane and ‘my’ captain wasn’t going to crash as spectacularly as Amy Johnson did. Preferably not crash at all.

Daughters of Time

This collection of stories about women, and girls, from various times in the past, written by women and edited by Mary Hoffman, was published last year, so I’m rather late. I knew I’d love it, though, and I did.

Arranged in chronological order the book begins with Queen Boudica and ends with the Greenham Common women, with girls/women like Lady Jane Grey and Mary Seacole and many others in between. The list of authors reads like a who’s who in young fiction, and I’m now wanting to read more on some of these history heroines.

With my rather sketchy knowledge of some British history, I have also learned lots of new facts. I had never really grasped who Lady Jane Grey was, and now I have a much better idea.

This is the kind of collection you wish there would be regular additions to. Maybe not one every year, but I can see plenty of scope for more stories.

The second day

Here we are again. How did you get on yesterday? Did you have to queue for the toilets? No, I didn’t, either. Nor did I wear Lucy Coats’s pyjamas all day. (Not even part of the day, I’ll have you know.)

What did I do? I watched Mary Hoffman and Anne Rooney drink coffee. (It’s the personal touch that makes festivals such fun.) I watched Lucy Coats reading to three dogs.

And Sam Mills was interviewed by Tyger Drew (whoever he might be), and then she interviewed him back. I’m unsure of what Sam said to make Tyger want to poke his eye out, but there you are.

Tyger Drew and Sam Mills, ABBA festival

I entered competitions to win things. I never do, but then I seem to own most of the books on offer, so I’m best to let others, more needy than myself, win.

And here’s today’s programme for the ABBA online blog festival.

ABBA festival Sunday

I’ve got all my books ready to be signed today. It has to work!

And at least they aren’t starting too frightfully early. I might make it down to the kitchen for 10.30.

Bookwitch bites #56

All together now.

How I wish I could have popped over to Dublin last week. It was positively teeming with crime writers. I know it’s the latest vogue but this strikes me as exceptional. It was the launch of crime anthology Down These Green Streets; Irish Crime Writing in the 21st century, edited by our very favourite Declan, Declan Burke. (Sorry Hughes.)

Down These Green Streets

And I do realise some of you will find it a little hard to drop everything and pop in the Belfast direction for the NI launch tonight. But do try. I would. If I could. There are multi-signed copies of the book for sale from The Gutter Bookshop (which I believe is a lot nicer than the name suggests). I want one. It’d be the next best thing to having been there. But it’s this idea of actually paying…

It’s not just those criminally minded Irish who are ganging up. We have the History Girls. I’ve been hearing rumours for a while, and now they have got their act together. Almost. You can get them on facebook already. And from the 1st July you can enjoy their new blog.

The History Girls

They are girls who write historical fiction. I’m amazed they managed to get so many together for a photo, and very nice they look too. I understand they launched with a lunch, or possibly vice versa, at the home of Michelle Lovric. Should have known someone like Michelle would have an interesting house!

I suppose I shouldn’t ignore that large group of people who have their day tomorrow. The Daddies. We are an unfriendly kind of witch family, so don’t celebrate this kind of event at all. Not even with socks. (And he got a tie for his birthday, so there.) But can you really not go wrong with the books ‘advertised’ below?

Father's Day Penguins

Barnaby Booth

Feeling the need to finish on a softer note; here is Barnaby Booth. Barnaby’s human Daddy is Stephen Booth. I believe Barnaby (I trust you can work out who Barnaby is named after?) helps with the murdering around the house.

There’s a Viking on my sofa

It’s a well known fact that interviews come in threes, and we have finally arrived at my third one, which was actually the first to be done, but as we had set aside today for Katherine Langrish’s blog tour, she gets the honour of being last.

Katherine Langrish

I can’t believe how fast time goes, because it must be almost seven years since Katherine was first in my neck-of-the-woods on book business, and it feels more like last year. Luckily time has been kind to at least one of us, and it was really good of Katherine to call in at my house for her interview.

Katherine has been on my must-interview list from the beginning, and I’m very pleased to have had this opportunity. It’s great when a new author just gets better and better.

And it’s always good when an interview turns into a fun conversation, and Katherine really is interesting to chat to. She makes me feel almost educated.

The interview can be found here, and tomorrow the tour stops by on Mary Hoffman’s blog.

Oh, OK, so strictly speaking Katherine is no Viking, but her new three-in-one trollogy gives her plenty of Viking credentials. And I have to say that her husband David’s early concerns that ‘maybe his wife’s novel would turn out not to be very good’ proved totally unfounded.

I’m sure he didn’t really think that.

Västan om måne

Doesn’t that sound even better than West of the Moon? And WotM sounds much more exciting than Troll Fell, Troll Mill and Troll Blood, and they weren’t bad titles at all. So no complaints, but improvements are possible.

West of the Moon Banner

West of the Moon is the title for Katherine Langrish’s repackaged trollogy. The cover is pretty good, but so were the original ones. In other words, no complaints on the cover front either, and for a complainer such as your witch that’s not bad going.

The fact is that many of us find afterwards that something we wrote could maybe perhaps do with a little improving, pruning or other type of change. And Katherine has had the opportunity to abridge her trilogy slightly and see it published for an older audience, which I think is right. True, Troll Fell was suitable for younger readers but the other two were aiming higher.

So after some pruning and even some slashing, West of the Moon has seen the light of day and I’m more excited than I’d have expected to be. I think Katherine slashed the most in Troll Fell, which was for the best. All three books are very enjoyable, but they got better as the trilogy grew, so it’s good to see that there is more left of Troll Blood.

As a bit of a Viking myself I always felt right at home with Peer Ulfsson (oh dear, I just thought of one more thing I ought to have mentioned earlier…) and Hilde, the love of his life, and all the others back there in old Norway a thousand years ago. Troll Fell is a very traditional tale for us Nordic types, whereas Troll Mill counts as a new story set in old surroundings. And Troll Blood, where Peer and Hilde go to America, is totally new and fresh, and outstandingly marvellous.

Other than the vicious slashing, Katherine has worked hard at removing an awful lot of umlauts. I always wondered what on earth possessed her to spell Arne (nice normal name, that) as Arnë. There is a limit to dots, even for us weird people. That’s the power of blogging.

The trollogy is part of my early life in the wonderful world of books and publishing and author events. Katherine launched book one with the help of my nearby bookshop, and book two had a very similar fate. I could witness firsthand the new author and then see her return a year later, totally changed. ; )

Those trolls are special. Actually, the trolls are awful. It’s Peer and Hilde and the villagers that are special. Read and enjoy!

(Don’t know who the mysterious male on the new cover is, but he’s certainly a dream.)

In the papers

I could be forgiven for thinking that Facebook had spilled over into the Guardian these last couple of days. I was quite impressed with Lucy Coats’s rant about Martin Amis (with whom I’m not even remotely impressed) ending up in the Guardian, courtesy of Benedicte Page. Even more impressed to find that Lucy’s fame travelled on to all sorts of other grand, and possibly not so grand, publications. So what I’m really doing is joining in. Belatedly.

Lucy Coats

The ‘Facebook spillage’ comes from finding other Fb friends quoted, and I welcome their arrival in the world of ‘real’ news. There should be more stuff like this. Yes, they should ideally ask permission first, but at least we now have real people making sensible comments.

So, on the basis that you all know I read things backwards, I obviously read Friday’s paper after Saturday’s. (I have also saved up three weeks’ worth of Weekend to read, yes to read, some time. Not sure when.)

Friday’s Benedicte Page (such a suitable name don’t you think?) piece was about this giving away of one million books which, to be honest, I haven’t given as much thought as perhaps I ought to have. Yet again it featured ‘my’ Fb friends. I got so paranoid that I had to go and check whether this Benedicte and I share these friends. We don’t. We share some others, though.

I get the impression that someone is combing through people’s blogs to find newsworthy material. Feel free to come here for some first class blog-filler.

Though, setting the ‘borrowing’ aside, I’m glad that it’s not only journalists having a say. They only know so much, and maybe they are beginning to see the light.

Vikings, spots and sandwiches

I needn’t have worried. Katherine Langrish had recently travelled from somewhere sufficiently in need of a good clean that whatever the state of Bookwitch Towers I couldn’t possibly have matched it. (Or was she just being polite?)

Katherine Langrish

Katherine and husband and dog called round on their way home yesterday. I must say I find it awfully convenient when my interview victims make house calls. I just got up, got dressed, made a spot of tea and some of those Swedish style sandwiches that impress people more than they should.

Oops, shouldn’t have mentioned that. I mean, they took a very long time to make and it was a real strain. But, anything for one of my favourite Viking chroniclers.

The Troll books are soon to be re-issued and Katherine is arranging a blog tour in honour of the event, and that’s why we needed to meet up to do a Viking interview. That, and the fact that Katherine has de-umlauted all three books, purely on my say-so.

Katherine Langrish with Polly

Polly the Dalmatian took her master for a walk while we chatted, and then it was sandwich & cake-time. I like a person who, when offered cake and fruit, exclaims how long they’ve been eyeing the cake. (I just thought that since the only other Dalmatian-owner-cum-author I’ve interviewed in the comfort of my own house ate so many grapes, that I had better be fully equipped in case this turned out to be an unavoidable affliction. Cake-lovers are more than welcome.)

Luckily the Photographer had a gap in college commitments and made a brief, but intense, paparazzi thing before returning to the world of education. However, the doggy photo is mine, as it took place when Polly had a pre-departure drink on the drive.

The goings-on looked so suspicious that the next-door neighbour called round afterwards to check that all this car and dog business was above board.

It was.

Pretty Monsters

As I usually say; you know how it is. You email someone obscure-ish, asking them to send you a book, please. They say yes, of course and btw their wife has a book out too, and maybe I’d be interested in reading it? So this is all because Daughter and I went to Oxford in the summer and we had lunch with Katherine Langrish and Joanna Kenrick and Katherine recommended this obscure-ish book and I emailed for it and…

Yes, and wasn’t that a good thing? The wife’s book is short story collection Pretty Monsters and the wife is Kelly Link. It is still a read-in-progress, I have to admit. I’m about halfway in my self-inflicted period of horror and other lovely stuff. Pretty Monsters is pretty good. And monsterish. A monster just ate some American kid campers. I think. Most of them were pretty horrible anyway, so it doesn’t matter.

I had read a story by Kelly before, without remembering her name. I’m not sure which anthology it was in, but I recognised it when I came across it. Kelly has a seriously weird mind, or she writes as though she does.

Pretty Monsters

The stories are interestingly different. What’s not to like about digging up your dead girlfriend, or skinless, ferocious dogs? I’m enjoying this collection, and I space the stories out, so I can’t start a new one when I’ve just finished the one before. They need digesting, and the mind needs to rest between the different kinds of weird. But as someone said last week, the good thing about short stories is that you can read one per day.

Pretty Monsters is one of the new Canongate/Walker co-published books for a crossover audience.

At some point I will even read the novel I wrote off for in the first place. But it’s Halloween just once a year.