Friday, July 10, 2015

Hotel Arcadia and the AMAZING #wherebooksgo Give Away


UPDATE, July 29th, 2015: NEW BOOK added to the #giveaway: Really pleased to add a copy of Hwang Sok-Yong's Princess Bari by Periscope Books to the #wherebooksgo giveaway today. The winner will be announced on  AUGUST 15th!

I am particularly pleased because Periscope is a fabulous new indy publisher and I absolutely LOVE this book. It is my favourite read of 2015 so far. Not only does Sok-Yong create a wonderful resilient heroine but also weaves in magic, fable and politics with lyrical ease. The novel is both timeless and topical as it follows the migrant heroine from Korea to London, and is both poetic and hardhitting.

We already have announced the first winner, and more coming up in the weeks ahead. So take a pic of Hotel Arcadia wherever you are reading it and email, tweet, or instagram it with the #wherebooksgo hashtag for a chance to win Princess Bari AND more wonderful books (see below for the full list).
UPDATE, July 24th 2015: We have just hit 125 pics and have our very FIRST winner for the #wherebooksgo giveaway. Allen Anderson wins a copy of David Ross's hilarious Last Days of Disco for this glorious photograph from Shorre Acres National Park, Oregon, USA.


There are still TWO more copies of David's wonderful book to be won. We also have a copy of Paul Hardisty's debut thriller set in Yemen, The Abrupt Physics of Dying as well as a SIGNED copy (exclusive first edition hard back) of Ragnar Jonasson's Snowblind.  And we are adding one of my favourite reads of 2015 on Monday so keep an eye out.

#wherebooksgo is a fun crowdsourcing project that traces my new novel, Hotel Arcadia's travels around the world with the readers. It is really simple: readers take a picture of the book wherever they read the book – at home, travelling, somewhere familiar or exotic – and post it on Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag. Or they send it to me on Facebook, or email it.



The idea behind #wherebooksgo is both sentimental as it was what I wished to do while reading Paul Sussman’s  novel, The Labyrinth of Osiris, after he had passed way, and romantic as I have always wanted to know where books went with their readers.  So when Hotel Arcadia came out, I requested readers to send in their photographs; I love getting a glimpse into their lives, and minds, which is both a joy and a privilege and one that would be impossible without technology and social media.

Over the last few weeks, readers have been sending pics from across the globe and the hashtag looks a lot like my dream list of places where I – not just my book – long to go. And I am getting to know readers from across the world who are so disparate and diverse and yet connected by their love of reading. The project remains is simple: send in photo of Hotel Arcadia for the #wherebooksgo collection, but now there are PRIZES!

UPDATE. July 13th 2015. We have hit 120 pics though the protagonist of the photograph should not be reading any of the books on our giveaway list. Instead she gets a copy of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, probably far more appropriate for her.


The very lovely Orenda Books has joined in to give away some amazing books for the next milestones for #wherebooksgo photos!!!

For the most fun, wonderful, gorgeous photographs to come in till we get to #149, there are fabulous books to be won, including THREE copies of David F Ross’s AMAZING The Last Days of Disco 

The 150th photo wins a copy of the CWA-shortlisted thriller The AbruptPhysics of Dying by Paul Hardisty, set in Yemen as is some of Hotel Arcadia.

And the 175th photograph wins a signed copy (exclusive first edition hard back) of Ragnar Jonasson’s bestselling Snowblind.

And lest you think, these are all you can get, nope! There are more wonderful books for readers by LOTS of amazing writers coming up as #wherebooksgo takes Hotel Arcadia to more places. 

PS: I will be honest: Most books included in this give away are (and will be) by writers I enjoy reading. I know, not fair, but I assure you, they are BRILLIANT! 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

A Chat With The Artist Taxidriver: Politics, Structured Bigotry and Life In General

So last month I was approached by the Artist Taxidriver - the performance artist Mark McGowan - to have a chat about structural prejudice, future of Britain, and life in general. I was quite surprised when he reached out to me on Twitter but found myself very intrigued. The interview was the most unusual one I have done. We sat in the car chatting while the iphone mounted on the dashboard recorded us. Here are the videos of our chat:


For the record, I was totally impressed by how well prepared Mark was for our chat. He had pages of notes and had probably researched everything but my tax records! As a former journalist who was trained to research thoroughly, I felt an instant kinship with his preparation. Also having been on the other side, I have to say that Mark was more prepared than pretty much any journalist that has ever interviewed me.



It was also a unique interview because Mark pretty much uploads the videos without editing which gives the conversation both an honesty and added pressure because there is really no going back from one's statements. On the other hand, the format also means the discussion can be more in-depth than the 'sound bite' formats available on mass media.  


As we discussed all sorts of issues, from sexism and racism, to general elections, the strengths of Mark's preferred format became clear. Discussion could be both far ranging and in depth: we were not limited by the issues that plague the infotainment that has over-taken our screens. I can see why and how this format could provide a viable and interesting alternative to discussions in mainstream media. Once again socmed FTW!



Apparently we enjoyed chatting so much that we kept going for nearly an hour. Mark said it was the longest interview he had done. But I take the blame for that....I am chatty even at the worst of times.

Mark also warned me that I should not look at the comments below the video as youtube can be a 'cess pit.'  For once and probably given my own experience of misogynist online abuse, I have followed the advice extended to me. I recommend you do the same! 


All in all, it was the most unusual but interesting interview I have done and thank you Mark for inviting me.  You should also check out Mark's other work

Thursday, February 26, 2015

On Memory, Writing and Learning Stillness

This post was written in the run up for the publication of the Dutch translation of Hotel Arcadia. The Dutch and English editions are now available for pre-orders from the links above. I wrote this current post for Hebban.nl so you can read it in translation here.  I had a quite an unusual childhood and it continues to impact my writing today, in terms of themes, styles and content. I hope the customary readers of the blog will find this post interesting. And perhaps new readers will get a little insight into my life and my writing.


One of my earliest memories is of sitting near a bonfire, amidst mounds of snow, watching Tibetan soldiers clean their weapons.  Even now, in my mind’s eye, I can see the eerie brightness that snow creates at night, the orange-red licks of the flames, and the glint of metal against the olive green of the uniforms. Over the fire, a massive petrol can had been repurposed for a cauldron into which all leftovers were chucked, and its perpetual bubbling yielded the most delicious ‘everything’ soup.  And most of all, I remember the terror and sorrow, although I only understood it as an adult.

The year was 1971, and the soldiers were part of a specialised unit of the Indian army that my father led. They were heading to war and many – and I have never stopped missing them – never returned.

Another memory rises. From later in the decade. Of a bamboo hut with dirt floors and a freshly dug snake trench.  At night, I would peer through the green mesh that formed the walls, watching for the wolves and foxes that came to forage in the garden.  When we came home from playing, my mother would make us stand beyond the snake trench and empty out our pockets before letting us into the shack. With no toyshop for miles, wildlife – often of the creepy-crawly kind – tended to be our playthings.

Much has changed since those early days of living in cantonment towns and remote border posts.  By the time I entered my teens, my father had changed his job, albeit still within the Indian government. Instead of isolated villages on the Indo-Tibetan border, we started moving to places like Islamabad, New York, Windhoek.

Yet some things remained the same as the family grew, and moved. My parents were always most excited about travelling, exploring, learning, and these are loves they passed on to me. I remember learning basic Swahili by candlelight with my father in that bamboo shack because he was being prepared for a posting that never materialised. And then doing the same in light of a storm lantern for Urdu, and then in the brightness of an camel skin lam, and with greater difficulty, for Xhosa.

For many years now, I have travelled on my own, although my parents get perhaps more excited about my trips than me.

I used to think that those early days had been left behind, that I had outgrown those early memories. But increasingly my writing goes back to those impassive, kind faces that I loved and lost as a child. I want to know those lives, if only in my fiction, and learn about what they loved, wanted, feared. And I want to understand where they found that silent, unending well of courage.

A final memory. I am five and the Tibetans are teaching me to remain still. They are soldiers and monks so the lesson is two-fold, for physical survival and spiritual progress. I protest that stillness is frustrating, difficult, may be even futile. They tell me I can only master the enemy, the world, and myself when I learn to be still.  In my writing, and my life, I am still trying.