Tuesday 30 April 2013

**Givaway Time** The River of No Return by Bee Ridgway - Interview and Book Giveaway

In January this year I was lucky enough to read an early review copy of Bee Ridgway's debut novel The River of No Return, you can read my thoughts here.

I have a paperback advance reading copy to give away, please enter by completing the Rafflecopter form at the bottom of this post.

The River of No Return is a brilliantly escapist and enchanting debut novel about forbidden love by Bee Ridgway and will be published by Michael Joseph, Penguin on May 23 2013. 

Featuring a time travelling Marquis and a mysterious organisation called The GuildThe River of No Return has the same magical and indefinable atmosphere as The Night Circus or The Snow Child. Impossible to pin down in terms of genre, this is cracking, good quality, story telling at its best. A book that demands to be read, talked about and shared, it was born from Bee’s desire to include everything she loved in one novel. 
Bee worked for a year in features at Elle Magazine in the US and went on to Cornell for a doctoral degree in English Literature. She is now a Professor of American Literature at Bryn Mawr university and the book is interwoven with subtle literary echoes from her favourite books. Bee is super intelligent and lots of fun to be around. She lives with her partner in Philadelphia and this is her first novel.   Find out more about Bee and the book at www.beeridgway.com
Bee kindly agreed to answer some questions for me, here we go:
What are you reading at the moment?  I just this morning finished The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. They gave it to me when I visited the Penguin offices in London and it kept me laughing on the plane all the way back to Philadelphia.  It's a wonderful comic romance, both hilarious and humane.  The male hero and narrator is on the Aspergers spectrum, and has a very difficult time reading other people's emotions or feeling empathy in a conventional way.  His perspective makes the experience of reading a romance marvellously off-kilter, and as a reader you learn to empathise, and even love, in a new way
Do you / will you read reviews of your novel?  Do you / will you take them seriously?  Yes, and so far it is one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do. The River Of No Return is my first novel, and it has only been out there for people to read and critique for a few weeks.  Learning how to read reviews and how to process them emotionally is proving to be a bit difficult.  No, rephrase. It is TERRIFYING.  But while the emotional side of it is hard, the fact is that I have been a professional book reviewer for years.  Once I get over the initial butterflies in the stomach, I can recognise when a review is going to be helpful to me. This is only partly because I need a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down!  It's also because - and I've learned this from years of teaching - it is easier to learn from the position of what is strong but could be made stronger, than from the position of what fails and is simply bad.  BUT - and this is very important - reviews are for readers, not writers.  I do read them and I try to learn from them, but I also think it is a privilege to see them at all.  I am not the audience for which they are intended, and if someone out there really didn't enjoy my book, I am sorry for it, but fair enough.  Different strokes for different folks!
How long does it take to write a novel?  All in all it was fifteen months between first sitting down to write and sending in the final page proofs.  I have never worked so hard in my entire life - the book went through many revisions - but I have also never had so much fun.
Do you have any writing rituals?  I didn't have an outline for my novel.  I tried to write every day until I hit a cliffhanger, either an emotional or an action-based one.  Sometimes that would be a ten or a fourteen hour writing day.  Then I would go to sleep, telling myself to figure out what came next in my dreams.  Almost invariably I would wake up fired up and ready to keep writing.  Once I was in the revision stage (or stages - it was completely overhauled and expanded several times) that completely changed.  But for getting that first draft down I wrote from cliffhanger to cliffhanger.

.  Check out the video below where Bee talks about her novel.

What was your favourite childhood book?  I had/have dozens and dozens.  I doubt I will ever read with quite such a feeling of magic and transporting joy as I did when I was a kid.  But let's see,  I think I was on a continuum between traditional masterpieces like C S Lewis' The Magician's Nephew (my favourite in the Narnia Series) and Daniel Pinkwater's far edgier Lizard Music, which is a surreal adventure about a misfit boy in a gritty magical version of Chicago.  Although now that I think about it, The Magician's Nephew is about a misfit boy in a magical verison of England so maybe not so different after all.
Name one book that made you laugh?  I love being surprised into a good laugh.  But the book that mde me laugh the most is a little-known 1948 memoir by Betty MacDonald called The Plague And I.  I found it in a charity shop in Sevenoaks and I picked it up because I have a secret love of plague literature.  Like for instrance, Daniel Defoe's A Journal Of The Plague Year.  Not a funny book, Mr Defoe's.  But amazing.  So I picked up this old, falling-apart green-and-white Penguin paperback thinking "this will be nice and grim".  It's about the year MacDonald spent flat on her back in a tuberculosis sanitarium outside of Seattle, Washington. Which does not sound funny, I know.  But trust me.  I laughed so hard my sides ached for a day and a half.
Name one book that made you cry?  I'm an easy crier, just like my Dad - so it isn't necessarily a gauge of anything!  But I had a real cry during the first scene of Elizabeth Fremantle's The Queen's Gambit.  It is written form the perspective of Catherine Parr's second husband, as he lies dying.  She gives up his pain and his passion in its entirety for a few pages, and never returns to him ..... you know you will lose him even as you begin to know and love him.
Which fictional character would you like to meet?  Jo March.  I'd like to give her a piece of my mind!
Are you inspired by any particular author or book?  All of them?  I mean, it's amazing that people write books, and they they invite people into them.  I'm also impressed by readers.  I love borrowing a book from a friend or the library and reading in the wake of other readers - other voyagers into the unknown.  But the question was about a particular book or author, and I suppose that today I am inspired by Philip Red Eagle. My novel is a big, frothy time travel story set mostly in London of 1815 .... it couldn't be more distant in tone and subject from Red Eagle's serious, emotionally harrowing time travel stories in Red Earth: A Vietnam Warrior's Journey.  His path to writing the two novellas in that volume was difficult.  Writing literally saved his life and I will always find that utterly humbling and incredible.
What is your guilty pleasure read?  When I'm feeling blue I reach for my beautiful old rag-eared paperback copies of Georgette Heyer that I collected from charity shops when I was living in the UK.  Especially her early novel, These Old Shades.  Surely someday the well of pleasure will run dry. But I hope not.
What book have you re-read?  See above!  But actually there are many to which I return again and again, both for pleasure and for my work.  I'm a professor, and I have to read the books I teach over and over again.  Each re-readig is a new experience.  I teach a class three or four times before I feel I've wrung it dry. Next year will be my last time teaching a course called American Girl.  It is a class that asks why girls and girlhood are so important to pre-suffrage American literature.  So of course we have to read Little Women, a book that I love and hate in equal measure.  I hope that this next time I teach the novel I will finally be able to reconcile my feelings.  But I think irreconcilable feelings was Alcott's goal when she wrote that dastardly book, darn her!
What book have you given up on?  There are a lot and most often is isn't the author's fault.  When it is something that I would say was a 'fault' with the book it's usually because it is a genre convention that just isn't to my taste.  I read a lot of books that fall under the umbrella of 'romance', but I'm picky about it, and I don't enjoy every variant of the genre.  For example, I just don't like romances where the heroine has to contend with another woman who wants to bring her down out of jealousy. Basically the evil stepmother plot really bugs me.

I'd like to say a huge thanks to Bee for answering my questions and giving such interesting answers
a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. Sounds a very interesting read :)

  2. This looks very interesting. I love your comment "this is cracking, good quality, story telling at its best". It evoked a smile and a desire to read this book!

  3. I love what she says about reading reviews of her books. I always wonder whether an author reads them all.
    Sounds an interesting book
    Great interview Anne

  4. 'Story telling at its best'. Sounds perfect to me!

  5. I loved The Snow Child and The Night Circus so this sounds right up my street!

  6. This sounds unusual and intriguing - thanks for bringing it to our attention and for the giveaway too.

  7. Thanks for the giveaway Anne, I am intrigued by this one!