Friday 23 August 2013

Author Chat with Elizabeth Forbes & **GIVEAWAY** A paperback copy of Nearest Thing To Crazy

Those of you who follow my blog regularly will remember how impressed I was by Elizabeth Forbes' debut novel Nearest Thing To Crazy which was published by Cutting Edge Press in July 2013.

Those of you who haven't heard my ravings about this book should read my review.  Nearest Thing To Crazy is one of those stories that stick in your head for a very long time.  Clever, tense and as I've said before; a bit of a head-fuck.  It's one of my top reads of 2013 - it's excellent.

Cutting Edge Press is one of my favourite publishers.  Small, but yes very perfectly formed, they have a real talent for discovering exciting new talent.  Their book list is eclectic and exciting and I'm delighted to review for them.  Another great thing about Cutting Edge is that they are friendly, and personable, and human.  Through the wonderful world of social media, I've been able to form some great relationships with their publicist and with their authors.   Since my review first appeared back in June, I've had quite a lot of online contact with the author, and we've had some laughs and chats.  Hopefully, one day, we will meet in person, when I've wangled an invite to one of Cutting Edge's parties or launches!   So, I'm really delighted to welcome Lizzie here to Random Things, she's agreed to answer some questions for me, and Cutting Edge are offering a paperback copy of Nearest Thing To Crazy to one person - entering the giveaway is easy.  Fill out the Rafflecopter widget below, simple!   Good luck!

Now, over to Lizzie who has answered my questions :

What are you reading at the moment?
Elizabeth Forbes
I’ve just finished Tigers in Red Weather by Liza Klausmann. And I have also just read Isabel Ashdown’s Summer of ’76 because it’s set on the Isle of Wight where I come from, and I was about the same age as one of her characters during that long hot summer; so it was a great trip down memory lane. She’s not an Islander herself but she has really caught the detail of time, place and atmosphere.
 Now I am back in writing mode, so I’m dipping into books like ‘Stranger Than Fiction – When our Minds Betray Us’ by Marcus Feldman, and ‘Why Does He Do That’ by Lundy Bancroft. I’m also dipping into Andrew Motion’s ‘In The Blood’ about his unhappy experience at prep school.

Do you read reviews of your novels? Do you take them seriously?
Only if they’re good ones... No. Seriously, yes I do. Obviously it’s lovely to get four and five star reviews and it does hurt when someone throws in a one star. But books are like Marmite, and it would be very dull if everyone liked the same things. And good criticism is always worthwhile because I need to learn where I can improve my writing.

How long does it take to write a novel?
About a year all told, by the time it’s gone through first draft and then a massive tidy up, refining the plot and the writing. I re-write and re-write and change things every time I read through. I was still trying to make changes when the final proof arrived, and was very charmingly slapped on the wrists and told ‘enough’. My re-writing nearly always consists of cutting, making the narrative as clean and transparent as possible. I want the writing to be invisible, so that the reader hopefully finds it effortless to read – that’s not to say it’s ‘simple’ because I think the writing has to be good, otherwise the reader would notice, and be irritated by it and have their involvement with the novel interrupted. Bad writing is never invisible to the reader, in my opinion.

Do you have any writing rituals?
No, but I’d be grateful for some if anyone’s got any to share! I am the world’s greatest procrastinator, but oddly no matter what time I sit at my desk, I usually find that the words don’t start to flow until 4.00 pm. Before that I fiddle about researching on the internet, or reading, and trying to quieten my mind to reach the ‘writing’ level.

What was your favourite childhood book?
I think as a young child my favourite was Winnie the Pooh because he was loveable, silly and funny. All the characters are so endearing and still make me laugh: hunting for heffalumps and poor Eeyore losing his tale and being depressed about his birthday. A A Milne’s poems, too – the word play and rhythm is a great introduction to the joy of language for children. Of course, that was before we had Roald Dhal. And then I read Jane Eyre around the age of 10, which was so frightening, all that deprivation and cruelty, the cold, the rejection. We lived on the Isle of Wight, but my parents came from Yorkshire, and we would return to visit relatives. I knew how bleak the moors were, and the thought of poor Jane all alone, near death, out there in the freezing cold really caught my imagination.  And then to be rescued by St John who was so claustrophic and creepy.
I became obsessed with D H Lawrence, around the age of 12. I was a precocious youngster. I remember adoring Women in Love and the Virgin and the Gipsy, and then progressing to the gritty Sons and Lovers.  Lady Chatterley came a bit later (oops, no pun intended!).

Name one book that made you laugh?
Ha! Winnie the Pooh. Oh and McCarthy’s Bar by Pete McCarthy. Revisiting it now I’ve only just realized that he died in 2004. What a pity. A great writer and so incredibly funny.

Name one book that made you cry?
Well I recently read ‘A Fucked up Life in Books’ by Anonymous and it was so raw; stripped bare in its emotional honesty that I found it incredibly moving and my eyes welled up at times.  But I don’t cry easily with books because, annoyingly, I’m thinking about the structure, and how the author has done what they’ve done... I’m just too analytical I suppose.

Which fictional character would you like to meet?
Probaby Rebecca. To find out if she really was rotten to the core, or whether Maxim was making it all up to justify his actions.

Which book would you give to your best friend as a present?
J M Coetzee’s Disgrace to a man, or The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins-Gilman to a woman.

Are you inspired by any particular author or book?
Louise Doughty’s prose style is exactly how I would like to be able to write. I think she’s brilliant in terms of her realistic plots and her ability to express such a depth of consciousness in her characters. For the same extraordinary ability to access the ‘other’s’ consciousness I would say Henry James’s Portrait of a Lady and his portrayal of Isabel Archer.

What is your guilty pleasure read?
Anything about mental health, abuse, psychiatry – all of which I find fascinating and am able to say ‘it’s research’ – which, of course, it is! I suppose you could call it my ‘mind porn’.

Who are your favourite authors?
Probably those already mentioned – J. M. Coetzee, Ian McEwan, Dickens – and the other 19th century giants. Joseph Conrad gives me goose bumps. And Lionel Shriver and Maggie O’Farrell. Oh and not forgetting Jane Austen. And I think there’s so much good fiction around at the moment; so many extraordinarily talented writers.

What book have you re-read?
Coetzee’s Disgrace, because he crams so much about life and the human spirit into a fairly short book.  
Set against the background of the truth and reconciliation process in South Africa he manages to portray the weakness, the hubris, the stupidity of man; the excruciating and unnecessary pain we cause ourselves both individually, tribally and internationally, but he also offers us a glimmer of hope. I think his prose is excellent in the way that he manipulates form to intensify meaning. For me he is definitely a writer’s writer.

What book have you given up on?
I’ve just given up on a novel that’s been hugely hyped and is riding high in the charts right now, but I couldn’t possibly say what it is. Oh, and I have to confess I haven’t yet mastered Ulysses, apart from the Molly Bloom soliloquoy!

Elizabeth Forbes is on Twitter, and Nearest Thing To Crazy has a Facebook page.   You can also find out more about Cutting Edge Press at their website, or checkout their Facebook page and their Twitter account.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. I'm really keeping my fingers crossed on this one - it's been on my wishlist for an age and I really want to read it. I'm on a mission! I've read so much about it. Thank you for the chance to win a copy, Anne.

  2. It looks an excellent read, thanks for a great giveaway Anne. Karen

  3. I read an enjoyed your review of this book Anne - great giveaway -thanks:)

  4. GreaT giveaway!

    This is about the 4th time I've tried to comment so I apologise if multiples eventually show up!!