Thursday, 25 October 2012

Author interview: Pamela Terry

Sometimes you read a blog and wish for that blogger to write a book. You know in your heart it will be the most magical book – the sort of book that you simply can’t wait to read, the sort of book you can sink into at the end of a long day, the sort of book that is pivotal to a lazy Sunday, a picnic by a stream, a favourite armchair in a patch on sunlight. And so you click on their blog and hope one day, one day – and now that day is finally here! Pamela Terry, the writer behind the lovely blog From The House of Edward, has turned her beautiful words into a book, and I’m so very pleased for her, and for us!

Pamela and Edward
I’m also delighted to welcome Pamela (and Edward!) onto my blog to celebrate. Let's find out more...

Can you describe your book to us? 
The book is a collection of essays on a wide variety of topics, but mostly centering on how taking notice of the seemingly insignificant bits of life can make the world turn in a more beautiful and meaningful way.   I really wanted the book to be something beautifully made, something lovely to look at and delightful to hold in one’s hand and I’m thrilled to say that I think it turned out to be exactly that.

Where would we be ideally sitting reading your book?
Snuggled up in a four-poster bed on a rainy night or under a tree in an ancient forest would be ideal, I suppose.  But I’m happy to think you could dip in and out of this book anywhere from the breakfast table to the train.

What made you decide to turn your blog into a book?
To be honest, it never occurred to me until I began getting letters requesting it.  Those letters got more and more frequent so I decided to pull away from the novel I’m working on and make it happen.  It was a lot more work than I expected but now that’s it’s done, I’m really glad I did it.

How did you choose what posts to be included – is there a theme? 
The book is divided up into seasons, but I wouldn’t say there is a specific theme apart from the joy of discovering beauty in the quotidian parts of life.  Of course there are stories about Edward, my big white dog, scattered throughout.  He is a sweet and constant reminder of all that is good and after all, the book is named for him.

Will there be additional material for a long-term blog-reader to discover? 
Actually, all of the pieces have been reworked a bit and there are a few new things as well.  The editing process took much longer than I anticipated.

Describe where you like to write? 
I have a big, fat chair in my library that is covered in a velvet floral that I love. I sit cross-legged in that chair with my laptop. The room is lined with books and a couple of favourite paintings.  There is a hand-painted mirror on the wall by the door that I purchased at a tiny little shop in Paris years ago and carried home in my suitcase wrapped up in shawls and sweaters.  There is a long window over the desk to my left that I like to leave open; I can’t see out of it from my chair so it’s not distracting, but I can hear the birds singing and the wind blowing.  Edward is usually asleep at my feet.

What’s currently on your desk?
Far too much, at the moment.  There’s a spool of antique velvet ribbon and a skein of blue-black wool.  Several journals and a collection of favourite pens that, sadly, I keep losing.  A framed photograph of Jacqueline Bouvier when she was a little girl.  Something about her direct stare into the camera serves to remind me that we are born with our essential natures, we only embellish or strip away as we get older.  Eyeglasses.  My property tax bill... evil thing that it is.  And a photograph of Shilasdair yarn shop on the Isle of Skye, the setting of which is, to me, pure heaven.

What gives you inspiration? 
Just about everything, I’m afraid.  The way a snowfall changes the light in the house.  The individual personalities of trees.  Wind.  The colour of a perfect strawberry.  The way grass feels on my bare feet.  The rainbow of book spines on a library shelf.  The Highlands of Scotland.  Edward’s smile.  Adele’s voice.  Cinnamon.  Wit.  Really, inspiration is constant in my life.

If you could time-travel for a day, where would you go?
I was completely besotted with Elizabethan England when I was a little girl.  To wander around Windsor Castle or Hampton Court on a day when the Queen herself was in residence would be amazing to me.  And let’s not forget, Shakespeare would be around somewhere as well!  If I were only there for one day, my chances of getting in serious trouble would be greatly diminished.  I’ve read Wolf Hall... I know how precarious life was then!

Like me, you are a big fan of autumn / fall. What does this season mean to you?
Perhaps it’s because the summers are so sweltering where I live, but autumn signals the start of a new year for me each time it rolls around.   I love everything about it - the fragrance of woodsmoke in the air,  the brisk weather, the colours, the clothes, the food.  It’s a very sensual season.   And it doesn’t hurt that Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas are celebrated during this time as well.  Every day in autumn seems like a treat to me.

What are Edward and Apple doing right now? 
Edward is asleep on the floor beneath my chair, with his head resting on my feet.  Apple is in the window seat in the next room keeping a constant vigil for her nemesis, the dreaded squirrel.  Upon spotting one, she will let out a yelp that will bring Edward running.  That’s Apple’s job as she sees it.  She’s the sentry, Edward’s the enforcer.

What song always makes you get up and dance around your kitchen?  
Have you been peeking in my kitchen window??  My husband and I are serious kitchen dancers!  Our last slow dance in the kitchen was to Because by the Dave Clark Five.  I highly recommend that one.  For fast dances, which both dogs join in on by the way, you really can’t beat Bruce Springsteen’s Cadillac Ranch.  Oh, and Son of a Preacher Man by Dusty Springfield is especially good when you’re making soup.

Do you have any guilty pleasures?
Fresh flowers, pedicures, great old country house hotels and coffee ice cream.

If you could be an artist, who would you be and why?
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to paint!  I’d probably choose Lord Frederick Leighton. I adore the romantic atmosphere of his paintings; I could stare at the folds of the lady’s green dress in The Painter’s Honeymoon for hours. And as a huge added plus, if I were Lord Leighton, I would get to live in that exquisite house of his in Holland Park.

If you could live inside a work of fiction, what book would you choose, and why?
It’s tempting to say Harry Potter, of course.  To ride into town on a broom is outrageously irresistible.  I’d love to work in Mulberry’s flower shop, like Miss Pym in Mrs. Dalloway.  I’d spend my days looking out the window at that perfect London morning, surrounded by lilies and lilacs.  Or living inside Swallows and Amazons would be delicious. And, if you could remove the crazy lady from the attic of Thornfield Hall, I’ve always thought Jane Eyre wouldn’t be bad.  But I think I’d have to choose Mary Poppins.  To live in long ago London with the sense of grand possibility that she provided would be wonderful.  Imagine jumping into paintings!

Thank you so much, Pamela! I really enjoyed reading your answers.

It's a book! A real book! Yay!
Book details

From The House of  Edward
Essays by Pamela Terry

Available now from Pamela's website:

Blog details

Follow Pamela and Edward's adventures...

From The House of Edward

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Book review: The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

I have a flurry of book reviews waiting in a line to be published. I chose The Age of Miracles to go first as it pushed its way to the front wearing a sparkly feather boa, tapping its watch.

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Published: June 2012

I enjoyed this book so much that I let friends borrow it, and they in turn told their friends, and so the ripples of reader recommendation slowly widened like the hours of the day in this apocalyptic novel.

What would happen if the day grew longer than 24 hours? This is the question at the heart of this novel, and it is a very clever, original concept. I especially like the way the author told the story from a 12-year old child’s point of view, as in a way a child has to be more accepting – they have to fall in line with however their parents have chosen to deal with the situation. So we see life from our narrator’s narrow angle – how school would continue, how those all-important first romances still blossom, how the adult world strives to keep control. Perhaps using a child protagonist saved the author some headaches – as a child isn’t expected to understand or explain the scientific realities of such an event – and so we never know why this happened, what caused it, or how it can be solved, either. Like the child, we have to also fall in line with the part the author wants to focus on – the actual event, referred to as ‘The Slowing’.

As epic dystopias go, or even disaster fiction, The Age of Miracles is surely up there on a grand scale. I realised that halfway through I couldn’t remember the protagonist’s name – but it didn’t matter, really. This is one of those stories where the idea eclipses the characters. There is a part where the narrator feels the need to mark her name in wet concrete to show she was there – and this to me is allegorical of her character’s part in the story – I as a reader need to remember she’s there, too, despite my fascination with discovering how civilisation adapts to a precarious situation. But the author understands this, and so she gives her characters compelling but quiet parts to play – from skateboarding pragmatic Seth to Sylvia, the hippy pianist trying to continue on clock time.

There is page-turning build up of tension throughout this novel, although the inevitable ending swiftly becomes apparent – an idea so rooted in reality cannot conceivably support a fantasy conclusion. The movie rights have been optioned by River Road Entertainment (Brokeback Mountain, etc) so it will be interesting to see how they approach it, as there isn’t a hero, or a satisfactory Hollywood finale. Instead we are left to imagine what happens after, and as such the premise lingers for a very long time.

As a debut, this was a fantastic read, and I’ll definitely be looking out for the next story from this author.

The author's website:

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Desk stories

A Magic Door
My 9-5 work desk is totally chaotic, I realised.

To the left the surface is covered with various work papers, underneath which is my A5 planner diary, open on this week, a pen lodged down its spine. My iPhone is charging, my glasses case is abandoned (I don’t need glasses, ok? *squints*), my hair-band is escaping to a new land under the keyboard.

My monitor is propped higher on various medical books (work-related) and is also home to a calendar, a pencil sharpener, and a branded fluffy pink hippo key-ring with soulful purple eyes.

There are various post-it notes stuck around the monitor, some work-related reminders, some doodles. One is a magic door. I haven’t decided quite where it leads yet, but it's obviously been waiting there a while, since the date of the photo is saying April.

A Fortune Teller
Next to the monitor is an origami fortune teller. Let's choose our fate for today... Pink, 1, and number 4... 'A new opportunity is coming your way'. Oh, how exciting! I think I need one. Actually that is the nicest of the fortunes, I seem to recall. Others include developing a coffee-related facial tic, and being the office plant killer.

To the right of me are various pen-lids (who eats my pens?), fluorescent markers, Tippex, scissors, a stapler, and Pritt stick. There is also a slim bottle of Rescue Remedy (dusty), really ancient herbal teabags, salt, mustard, and Gaviscon. (Are they related?) A banana and a tangerine waits for tea-time. Headache pills lurk beneath a flyer for a vintage fair.

Discarded Metro newspapers litter the outer reaches of the desk, along with a doodle of an unhappy girl. A full glass of water and an empty mug are by my side - my priorities are always caffeinated. On the shelf two origami boats are filled with conkers (horse chestnuts). On the wall there are doodles – mainly of me strangling computers, a postcard telling me to ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’, various Nemi cartoons cut out from Metro, a Bauhaus exhibition leaflet, and Waterhouse’s Pre-Raphaelite Miranda, still waiting for her ship to come in.

I feel this desk is far too telling of my emotions!

What’s on your desk?