Today I am absolutely delighted to welcome you to my Blog. I do hope you are sitting comfortable because the post today is a bit of a long one! Not only have I got a review for Guest by SJ Bradley, she also kindly answered some of my questions.
I am taking part in this Blog Tour to read and review Guest and also to help with a shout out and to the Morcambe & Vice Crime Writing Festival. Before I get into share my review and also the fab Q&A with the author let me share some things about the festival…
It started in 2016 and is held at the Morecambe Winter Gardens and is described as ” weekend ‘full of warmth, wit and wisdom’, authors, speakers and guests from across the globe flocked to the sunny seaside for a weekend filled with criminal shenanigans.” This year it is being held on Saturday 28th & Sunday 29th of September. All details about the attending Authors, booking tickets and the program of events can be found on WEBSITE – TWITTER – FACEBOOK
Now let me share the synopsis for Guest by SJ Bradley
Samhain is a young, angry and bewildered squatter living in an abandoned hotel in the North of England. One day he receives a message: his father – a man he never knew – was an undercover policeman infiltrating the Green movement in the 80s. What’s more, he finds out that he too is now a father.
Sam leaves for Europe, pursuing freedom and fleeing his responsibilities: but finds it impossible to escape. Guest is a story of disillusionment, protest, and eventually, redemption.
This is the story of Samhain as he reaches a crisis point in his life. Yes he is an adult but he needs to be an adult. He needs to learn that his actions have consequences and that peoples feeling are important. He needs to learn to take on responsibilities instead of ignoring them or running away.
In someways Samhain is immature and he has never really got to grips with taking a more responsible role. He has lived in squats and with his band has done music gigs around Europe. He has a more carefree lifestyle and while this does suit him, things from his past are now coming to light.
The author has done a fabulous job creating Samhain. She has used her own experiences to create a story that I suppose you would call a coming of age style for Samhain. Using her own knowledge gives a much better insight into his lifestyle and the things he experiences as he walks through life.
This book is more in the literary fiction style and the author has a really lovely way of writing. There are lots of beautiful lines that at times border on the poetic side. This gain is another thing I really like and it makes for a lovely read.
The story is in someways simple but beautifully told. It is about a young man who has reached a crossroads in his life. It is slower in pace and this works very well with the style the author writes.
I really enjoyed this and I would recommend it to readers who like literary fiction, coming of age, and dilemma elements to their reads.
Now you have seen the synopsis and read my thoughts on the book. So it is time for the Author
Interrogation ahem… Q&A Section of my post today…
When you originally had the idea for this book did the story go as planned or did it take it’s own path?
Luckily, it largely went as planned. Before I started, the characters and their stories were so well-formed in my head, that everything just sort of fell into place as I went along. Samhain, his best mate Frankie, their long-suffering pal Marta, and Samhain’s ex, were all so familiar to me that I found I knew exactly how they’d behave in given situations, and how they’d help each other… or not! Above anything else, it was clear to me that everyone, even his ex-girlfriends, had a lot of affection for Samhain, despite his many failings.
Did any of your own interests or experiences show up in the story?
At one point in the book, Samhain and Frankie go off on tour with their band around Europe in the back of a splitter van. They play gigs in squats, in crappy bars, and sleep on people’s floors, and sometimes Samhain wakes up wondering where he is. When I was younger, I had some of the same experiences. A friend and I had a band, and we mainly toured in the UK, setting our own gigs up, playing gigs in flats and squats and bars, and sleeping on people’s floors and on one memorable occasion, on a coffee table (don’t ask.) Playing a tour like that is so much fun, especially when you’re young, because you never know what you’re going to get. We did a few gigs where we literally played to six people: the sound guy and the people in the other bands, but there’d be other nights where we’d play to a hundred or more people, and it would be amazing. One night we played this gig in a village hall in the middle of nowhere, and hundreds of school age teenagers showed up. This was in the days when it was still fairly easy for kids to get hold of booze. Imagine a hundred pissed-up teenagers singing and doing a conga around the village hall, then later forming a human pyramid that almost touches the ceiling. Another time, we played a gig in somebody’s flat. The host of that gig worked in a fancy dress shop, so he had access to glitter cannons, which he set off at the end of the gig. I dread to think how long they had to spend hoovering the next day.
The drawbacks of DIY touring are the tiredness and the long drives. I’ve been on tours where you had to pack the van a certain way to get the doors closed, and only one person really knows how to do it, and I’ve also been in situations where I’ve left my towel or something else important behind, and haven’t been able to go back and get it. When you’re in a strange place and in a rush to get out, because you need to drive hours to the next gig, and you’ve usually got loads of stuff to take – the instruments and leads and everything that you need, and all of your personal stuff as well, your sleeping bag and washbag or whatever else you’ve got – it’s a bit too easy to forget something in the rush out of the door, as Samhain does at one point in the book.
All of that stuff was from my own experience. The stuff about squatting, and activism – that was from spending a lot of time in DIY social spaces and around the fringes of green activism and anticapitalist activism in my 20s. I wasn’t much of a hardcore activist myself. When I started to write the book, there wasn’t a ton of stuff written about undercover policing, apart from Paul Lewis’ excellent book “Undercover.” More stuff has started to come out now in the public enquiry, and there’s a lot of information on the Police Spies Out of Lives website, too.
What’s interesting to me, anyway, is that most of the police infiltration was done to nonviolent environmental activists and groups. These were groups who were doing the work of Extinction Rebellion 20 and 30 years ago, long before Extinction Rebellion existed. Now, of course, we’re seeing huge protests and increasing public support in favour of the same sorts of ideas – getting carbon neutral, stopping the rise in global temperatures, stopping fossil fuels, more use of renewable energy sources. Those ideas seem to have become much more mainstream and urgent, probably because we’re seeing the effects of what environmental activists were talking about all those years ago.
What are you working on at the moment and what are you planning for the future?
I’m writing a novel set in an outsourced prison in the Nottinghamshire border, and I have tentative plans to write a horror novella, too. I’m poking away at a few short stories as well. Short stories are how I started out, and I love writing and reading them. I don’t know when any of them will be published. I also have vague future plans to try and find an agent, too.
A few fun questions because I am nosy… What do you do when you are not writing?
Writing is a thing that takes up a lot of my free time! However, when I’m not writing, I’m organising the North’s only dedicated short story festival, The Northern Short Story Festival (www.bigbookend.co.uk/nssf) and a DIY writers’ social night called Fictions of Every Kind. Being busy is kind of my ‘thing’, but I do try and take a bit of time off every now and again. I’ll go and watch films, hang out with the cat, or go on rambles with my husband.
Do you have a favourite reading spot?
The place I read most often is probably on the sofa at home, but I like reading in the library too. I save short stories to my phone and read those whenever I’ve got a minute. For me the key thing is to always have something to read, no matter where I am!
If I could wave a magic wand, what would you wish for? It can be anything, otherwise what would be the point of a magic wand!!
Can I have three?
Well why not, Aladdin had three wished from the genie in the lamp!
My first wish is for less inequality. There’s too much poverty in the UK. At one end of the scale you’ve got billionaires owning houses in London that they don’t even live in, because they have homes elsewhere, and at the other, you’ve got people with disabilities being mistreated by the benefits system, and people using food banks. Nobody should be having to struggle for a basic standard of living. People can’t even afford their rent. They’re choosing which bill to pay every month. Nobody in this country should be having to live like that. So that would be my first wish, end poverty and inequality.
My second wish, and this probably doesn’t sound very exciting, is for there to be more buses and trains. In my wish these buses and trains always run on time, and they make it easy to get where you’re going. They run all night, so you can always get home safely, and the carriages and seats are always clean. Every journey, no matter where you go, only costs £1. Let’s throw in a free cup of tea, too. A free cup of tea and a friendly dog to pet. Luxury!
My third wish is obviously for everybody to either buy my book, or check it out of the library, and to think it’s wonderful, and to tell all their friends about it…
Thank you so much SJ, I love your answers and I completely agree with your buses wish. Less inequality would have such an impact on so many peoples lives who are at the lower end of the income bracket.
Your answer to what experiences you have brought to the book is amazing, now I have read the book I can see how your DIY Gigging helped with the story. I do hope other people buy or borrow your book as I thoroughly enjoyed it. I wish you all the best with The Northern Short Story Festival and I hope you have a fabulous time at Morcombe & Vice xx
SJ Bradley is a writer from Leeds, UK, whose short fiction has been published in the US and UK, including by Comma Press. She is a K Blundell Trust Award winner, a Saboteur Award winner for her work on Remembering Oluwale, and was shortlisted for the Willesden Herald Prize.
Her first novel, Brick Mother, was published in 2014 by Dead Ink Books, and was shortlisted for the Gladstone Writers in Residence award and her newest novel, Guest, was published in 2017 by Dead Ink Books.
She is fiction editor at Strix Magazine, has held residencies at West Yorkshire Playhouse, First Story and Alton Towers (Liminal Residency) and is director of the Northern Short Story Festival.
Check out all the other Book Bloggers, Authors and Organisers that are taking part in the tour...
Wow! Well done for getting through this very long post today 😊I loved putting this together and also for those wonderful answers to my questions. I would love to attend this festival and I will be
stalking keeping my eye on Twitter and Facebook for photo’s of the event.
Many thanks for reading my post, any likes or shares are always appreciated 🙂 😘