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Posts tagged ‘Stephanie Bretherton’

10 of the Best Books I read in 2019

It’s 2020! I’m not sure how we suddenly arrived at 2020, but here it is. A new month, a new year, a new decade.

And many, many new books to read. Yay!

2019 was a stand out year for me in both reading and writing  (see next week’s post for more about that). I met many great books, and authors, for the first time. In this post, I’m listing my Top 10 of 2019. I’m dividing them My Way, in alphabetical order by genre, because numbers are too hard, don’t you think? I’ve already made a resolution to do a top 20 at the end of this year … 10 is too few!

All of these books found me with a permanent smile of pure enjoyment on my face, cover to cover. Except when things got scary, of course. I recommend them all, especially if your taste in reading matter matches mine.

Dystopian

I thoroughly enjoyed A Wrong Turn at the Office of Unmade Lists by Jane Rawson, which is set in a future Melbourne with recognisable characters, a neat twist of time-and-space travel through a folding map, and a great deal of wit. It’s tender and thoughtful and clever. I loved it. This was one of my Aurealis reviews.

Fantasy

Too many to choose from, of course, when we start talking about my favourite genre. However, for sheer ingenuity and enjoyment, I’m nominating Desdemona and the Deep by CSE Cooney. I loved every baroque word of this glorious adventure. I reviewed this for Aurealis and named it one of my two favourite ‘books of the year’. Yes, we were allowed to choose TWO.

Only two! LOL

Middle Grade

This was quite a crowded field for me this year. The story which has lingered longest  is Voyage of the Dogs by Greg Van Eekhout. I just loved the Barkonauts on the crippled spaceship Laika trying their best to find a home. Dogs and space travel. How could I resist? Read my review here.

Historical Fiction

This is of course another favourite genre for me, which always makes it difficult to choose. Yes, I know: all these are difficult to choose. Right up there is The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker. I am a dedicated reader of Barker’s wonderful writing, and this did not disappoint. A clever and touching re-telling of the Trojan War story. Read my review here.

Re-Read of the Year

Even with so many new books to devour, I regularly go back to old favourites (as described in my little visit to Sandra Danby’s Porridge & Cream blog!). There’s something ultimately comforting about meeting old friends again and seeing them reach their satisfying conclusion. My favourite re-read of 2019 was Cotillion by Georgette Heyer. I hadn’t touched this for quite a while and I’d forgotten how much I love Freddie and Kitty. Talk about a feel good story! When I feel low, I read Heyer.

Romance

This year it was Probably the Best Kiss in the World by Pernille Hughes. I loved the slightly prickly heroine Jen and the irresistible setting of Copenhagen – not to mention the divine Dane, Yakob. Sassy, engaging, and very satisfying. Read my review here.

Sci Fi

My second nominated ‘book of the year’ for Aurealis was Icefall by Stephanie Gunn. Maggie and her wife Aisha travel to the planet of Icefall so that Maggie can climb the mountain that nobody has ever survived … I was enthralled! Space, diversity, adventure, romance, and AI. Perfect.

Science-History-Speculation

Yes, how to categorise this book? I absolutely loved Bone Lines by Stephanie Bretherton. Science, pre-history, suspense, survival, adventure, mystery … all intelligently written and wrapped in an engaging novel. Read my review here.

Series Conclusion

I was lucky enough to read the whole series for Aurealis this year, and Queens of the Sea by Kim Wilkins was a fabulous conclusion to a sword-and-sorcery adventure about five royal sisters. My favourite is of course Bluebell who is the warrior sister, with her own special magic.

Witchcraft

Can you believe I’ve started reading some witchy books? My 2019 favourite was The Lights Go Out in Lychford by Paul Cornell.  This short novella, which I reviewed in Aurealis, is very well crafted and great fun, and definitely makes me want to read more about the Witches of Lychford. You’ll devour it in one gulp and come up slightly scared, mostly reassured, and looking for more.

That’s the list for 2019. I’ve already started a list for 2020, but more about that next week. In the meantime, happy reading, happy writing.

Stephanie Bretherton has the Last Word

Bone Lines, Stephanie Bretherton’s debut novel, considers what it is to be human by engaging us in the lives of two women, separated by millenia. Stephanie is a wonderful communicator who has a fascinating backstory of her own – Born in Hong Kong to a pair of Liverpudlians, she is now based in London, but manages her sanity by escaping to any kind of coast, particularly far west Cornwall.

LWOTW: Welcome, Stephanie, it’s lovely to meet you. Thanks for sharing this Q&A about writers and writing. Tell us about when you first realised that you are a writer.

Stephanie: Probably the first time I got an A for a school composition! Those kind of dopamine hits can become as addictive as sugar. Just as well, really, as I have struggled with ‘numbers’ all my life. Words, on the other hand, have been my friends. It’s amazing what you can do with them, from creating and escaping into your own imaginary worlds, to coming back out into the ‘real’ world and communicating ideas, forming friendships, entertaining people, making them feel good.

If I had lived in the times of the prehistoric character in my book, Bone Lines, I would have been a rubbish hunter but would probably have made myself useful as the storyteller of the tribe.

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That’s a great thought. You are obviously good at imagining yourself into the texture of your stories. Do you rely more on dreams, imagination, and planning?

I use all three. A dream might inspire, or help solve a problem, but that’s more passive. Active imagination is the key driver. Planning tends to come retrospectively, if that makes sense. I reverse engineer the planning once I have a character, a world, a theme, an idea that has been allowed to run free and take its own shape.

I love that notion! Reverse engineering planning – brilliant strategy for the imaginative writer! What’s the highlight of your writing career so far?

I have always worked with words, communication or ‘storytelling’ in one form or another, and there have been quite a few thrills and spills along the way, from reading the weather report on Hong Kong television to building my successful ‘boutique’ communications agency. But creative writing fiction in particular has always been my first love and publishing a book was a lifelong goal. So undoubtedly bringing my debut novel Bone Lines out into the world last September, as exciting and terrifying as that journey has been, has to be the highpoint so far

I’m glad you mention the terror. It’s something writers don’t always expect, but it’s certainly there, hiding among the joys and delights. What are you most looking forward to at the moment?

Three weeks unbroken chill at my bolthole in Cornwall in the summer, to rest, write, walk and play. I am very blessed to have found a corner of the world that fills my soul. I’ve had a rather nomadic life since childhood (though I have always been drawn to a coast) and I while recent generations of my family are not from Cornwall (we are misplaced Scousers) and I’d never spent much time there before, I had the strangest sense of ‘coming home’ when I visited friends near Land’s End three years ago.

I had a small inheritance after my widowed mother had died, and I found a tiny place near the sea that weekend, put in an offer on the train back to London and knew it would gradually become ‘my soul’s landscape.’ I still have to spend a lot of time in London for work, but whenever I can get back to Cornwall, it’s just magic. The perfect place to write. (And I really need to crack on with book two.)

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That sounds divine – but yes, we need Book Two. (I’ll put aside thoughts of Poldark for the moment…very distracting…) If you could say one thing to aspiring writers, what would it be?

If it’s what you want to do so badly that you are prepared to make sacrifices of your time, ego, cash flow, personal life, and sometimes what feels like your sanity, then just keep writing – whether you are ever published or not.

If you have something that has to be said, a story that has to told, a head full of characters demanding to written about, if you feel most ‘yourself’ (and at peace with yourself) when you are writing, then write, write, write. But there are no guarantees. Anything can happen and you can get lucky, but it’s a hard profession in which to make either headway or money. On the other hand it’s also a wonderful profession to be a part of. You can also self-publish – but do that as well as you can too. All readers deserve your best, most professional work.

Do the work, learn the craft, take advice from those whose track record speaks for itself. Work with a good editor. If you can, pick a genre. I haven’t really yet, so am no example, but it will help when it comes to selling to the industry and then marketing – and know that marketing is a huge part of being an author too, so start to learn those skills as well. Nothing will just come to you though. Take rejection on the chin. You are unique, but you are not ‘special’ (yet) – writing is graft, but worth every minute, at least it has been to me.

Wonderful advice, thank you! And finally: Who would you be if you were a fictional character?

Atticus Finch, and Scout. The father in The Road, and his kid. Cathy and Heathcliffe. Pip, Abel Magwitch, and Estella. Or Joe and Biddy. Luke, Han and Leia. And Chewie. My Dr Eloise and all her lost lovers, and John, the priest. My ‘Sarah’ and all her ‘children.’ Aren’t we all the characters we have ever loved, learned from, or imagined?

LWOTW: Indeed we are! Writers and readers are the most changeable, and perecptive, of humand. Thank you so much for speaking with me, Stephanie, it has been pure joy.

Stephanie’s important links:

Stephanie’s Website is at http://stephaniebretherton.com/

Bone Lines is available online at all the usual places such as Book Depository