Sunday 26 November 2017

CWA Anthology of Short Stories #MysteryTour from @OrendaBooks - My Life in Books with @Anna_Mazz

Crime spreads across the globe in this new collection of short stories from the Crime Writer's Association, as a conspiracy of prominent crime authors take you on a world mystery tour.

Highlights of the trip include a treacherous cruise to French Polynesia, a horrifying trek in South Africa, a murderous train-ride across Ukraine and a vengeful killing in Mumbai. But back home in the UK, life isn't so easy either. Dead bodies turn up on the backstreets of Glasgow, crime writers turn words into deeds at literary events, and Lady Luck seems to guide the fate of a Twickenham hood. Showcasing the range, breadth and vitality of the contemporary crime-fiction genre, these twenty-eight chilling and unputdownable stories will take you on a trip you'll never forget.

The CWA Anthology of Short Stories - Mystery Tour, edited by Martin Edwards was published by Orenda Books on 15 November 2017
I love short stories and this collection is superb. I read and reviewed it here on Random Things a few weeks ago.

As part of the Blog Tour, I am delighted to welcome Anna Mazzola, one of the contributing authors, to Random Things today.
Anna is the author of The Unseeing, published by Tinder Press in January this year. She joins us to talk about the books that are special to her, and have inspired her, in My Life In Books.

My Life in Books - Anna Mazzola

My life has been defined by books. They have been my joy, my inspiration, and sometimes my refuge.

Here, in chronological order (starting with me as a 5 year old), are the ten books that have had the biggest impression on me.

 I was obsessed with this book as a small child – its eccentric cast and defiant heroine. I spent several weeks dressed as Alice, drinking from small bottles marked ‘Drink Me’ and generally driving my parents to distraction. It may have been where my fascination with caves, tunnels and secret passages began, and it’s part of the reason that my second novel, The Story Keeper, is about dark fairy tales and things underground.

I read The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe when I was 6. It was the first time I realised how magical the experience of reading could be – something that took you into an entirely new, snow-covered world. I then read as much fantasy as I could get my tiny hands on (Diana Wynne Jones was another great favourite), but Narnia was my first love. My little sister was born that year and, funnily enough, her middle name is Lucy.

I’ve read a lot of 19th century novels and decided I could only pick one for this list. It had to be Jane: the woman who insists on being heard, despite being ‘poor, obscure, plain, and little.’ As a girl, I was horrified and gripped by the episode in the Lowood School. Maybe that was where I first learnt that in order for us to be drawn into a story, we must put our protagonist through terrible things.

I first read Lolita when I was about sixteen and remember thinking, ‘Oh, so this is what fiction can do’. Lolita is a tour de force of style and narrative. And it’s depraved. To make the reader not only persevere through, but to enjoy and marvel at such a terrible tale was a conservable achievement. First published in 1955, Lolita has lost none of its power to shock and awe.

Margaret Atwood is the writer who has had the biggest influence on me. Her writing is so astonishing and immaculate that I often find it difficult to write after reading her books. (Same with Mantel’s). It feels there is no point in even trying. Alias Grace – with its enigmatic heroine, its dark humour, and its clever patchwork structure – is my favourite. I first read it when I was in my 20s and I’ve read it 4 times since then, so it’s not very surprising, that my debut novel, The Unseeing, also happens to be about a real 19th century woman accused of a terrible crime.

‘Some things you forget. Other things you never do.’ Beloved was the first Toni Morrison book I read (while I was at university, studying English) and it’s the one that’s stayed with me the longest. A devastating retelling of a true story about slavery and obsession in 19th century Kentucky, Beloved is a horrifying masterpiece.

Du Maurier has been a significant influence, particularly in relation to my second novel, which is set on the Isle of Skye. I went back to her books recently because I wanted to capture that sense of foreboding and that idea of the house itself as a significant presence.

I’ve listed Rebecca, but I really can’t decide between Rebecca and My Cousin Rachel. Both are masterclasses in the art of storytelling. Du Maurier writes in a way that is both literary and accessible, and which leaves us with a sense of uncertainty and of things not being entirely resolved. I think that’s why, like Rebecca herself, they continue to haunt us after their ending.

I love all of Sarah Waters’ books, and The Little Stranger comes a close second, but Fingersmith remains my favourite, featuring a wonderful cast of villainous characters, brilliant use of 19th century slang (‘Pigeon, my arse!’) and the most marvellous twist.

It was the book that made me realise that this was what I wanted to write: literary crime fiction with a gripping plot.

I discovered Shirley Jackson fairly late, and quickly devoured everything she wrote. Deceptively simple, terribly effective. We Have Always Lived in the Castle is her final and best novel, but I also love her demented short stories. If you haven’t read her yet, you’re in for a real treat.

Such a clever, clever book. You are slowly drawn into the world of Scottish spinster Harriet Baxter and only gradually do you begin to realize what that world really is. I foist this book onto everyone, as it’s not just a guide to how to write an unreliable narrator; it’s also a lesson in how to read.

Anna lives in Camberwell, London, not far from where the murder at the heart of The Unseeing took place. The Unseeing is Anna's first novel. She is currently working on her second, which is about a collector of folk tales and fairy lore on the Isle of Skye who realises that girls are going missing.

Anna studied English at Pembroke College, Oxford, before becoming a criminal justice solicitor. She divides her time between writing, reading, lawyering, and child-wrangling. 

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1 comment:

  1. Oh my God so many of my all time favourites are on this list and it's made me want to read them all again!