Behind the scenes – serpentstail pr Rebecca Gray

I meet rebecca via twitter she works for serpents tail ,who publish some wonderful books including a lot of world fiction .I asked Rebecca for a interview via e-mail she agreed ,I want to do a series of interviews with people working behind the scenes at piblishing house to get the books we all love published .any way here are rebeccas answers .

Many thanks for doing this Rebecca ,want to do some behind scenes of people in publishing for blog to show hard work you do .

black water rising

  1. introduce yourself and what is it you do at Serpents tail Rebecca ?  I split my time between editorial and publicity. My job has changed quite a bit over the last few years, because as I’ve done more editorial work for Serpent’s Tail, my publicity work has become more focused on Profile, which is brilliant. I’ve discovered that as well as the fiction I’ve always loved, I’m also a huge fan of popular science writing (Michael Brooks’ 13 Things That Don’t Make Sense especially) and all sorts of things I would never have read on my own. That’s one of the great joys of publishing I think, you’re always pushed to have an open mind.
  2. what is the P.R process that goes into publishing a book ? It very much depends on the book, but extends from announcements when the book is bought to working with the author all through publication and beyond. Publicity has always had the potential to just go on and on, but with the growth of the web there are now so many possibilities that publicists need help from authors more than ever. So while we approach the press, TV, radio, blogs, festivals and so on, what we can’t do is the kind of networking that authors can do online – that has to be authentic. The most obvious example is Stephanie Meyer, but Kate Pullinger and Michael Brooks have a really positive online presence too. The other thing is that it’s invaluable when authors contribute their own ideas and, when relevant, are willing to talk about how real life influenced their writing.
  3. what has been you biggest success with serpents tail ? We Need to Talk about Kevin is definitely our biggest seller of all time, and the book that has had the most attention. It’s the kind of book that lingers with you long after you’ve finished it and definitely made me think differently about parenthood. But there are masses of books that we’re deeply proud of or that have garnered a lot of attention, or both. We’re just putting out our first four classics, with more to follow, which I hope is a big statement about those books we’ve published over the years which really stand the test of time (which, by the way, is really a test of what readers love – obviously we think all our books are classics in the making). One of those is …Kevin and the other three are The Book of Disquiet, Shoedog and Devil in a Blue Dress. I could carry on like this all day, mentioning David Peace’s Red Riding quartet, Attica Locke’s Black Water Rising on this year’s Orange shortlist, Jonathan Trigell’s Boy A…

    We need to talk about kevin

  4. Is there a book that got away so to speak ? Depends whether you mean one that someone else bought or one I wish we’d got more attention for. The former would be Jasper Jones, which Windmill are publishing now-ish I think, and which I really loved and offered on. They offered more money and in that situation you have to be philosophical – so few writers get big advances that you can’t grudge it when they take the money, although I would have loved to be publishing it.
  5. what is your favourite book you’ve been involved with ? There are too many, without even thinking about those writers I worked with before I came to Serpent’s Tail, but Amanda Smyth’s Black Rock will always have a deservedly special place in my heart, primarily because it’s beautiful and sad and really a perfect novel, and partly because it was the first book I edited.

    black rock amanda smyth

  6. what is your favourite book /writer ? I know it’s utterly pathetic, but I’m not really a list person. My mind just goes blank.  Without my shelves to prompt me, I’ll tell you about some old favourites, with the conscious exclusion of work-related titles: The Death of the Heart by Elizabeth Bowen is heartbreaking and skewers the agony of not fitting in; The Tortoise and the Hare by Elizabeth Jenkins made me cry until my face and neck were greasy with tears; Jilly Cooper is a genius – especially Rivals; Cold Comfort Farm and I Capture the Castle are essential to any shelf; Dorothy L Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey rocks; The Woman in Black made me nauseous with fear (A Good Thing); Lisa St Aubin de Teran’s The Hacienda is an extraordinary memoir by a woman far braver than me; and a token man – Tim Guest’s memoir My Life in Orange makes a tragic childhood immediate and an amazing source of insight. Plus every child should read Carbonel the Witch’s Cat – a more perfectly arch and wry cat never lived.

Want the Serpent’s Tail ones now too?

  1. what impact will digital publishing have on serpents tail do you think ? Oh, save the easy ones for last. I honestly have no idea – hopefully it’ll mean greater diversity, with people reading print and/or online, every book ever published being available to buy electronically, narratives that don’t even look like novels with music and pictures and links, greater word of mouth, people being able to self-publish if they can’t find a publisher but also a longer-term consolidation of the importance of publishers, whether of writing or music or journalism. I have this idea that the self-starting (this is a word I would never normally use but it seems to fit here) can co-exist happily with the professional (deliberately not saying corporate), and that when we all get used to the ‘brave new world’, there’ll still be an appetite for people who devote their careers (in publishing, often their lives!) to finding great books and giving them the best treatment, from editorial to marketing. If anything, the wealth of material to choose from will make this even more necessary. I feel that this is already happening now – there’s a good feeling about the fact that people who love reading can now be in touch with authors and people in the industry via social networks. However, I feel I’m on shaky, too-Utopian ground, so if you want to talk more about this, you could request an interview with our digital publisher…

many thanks Rebecca .

Young Hitler by Claus Peter Hant with James Trivers and Alan Roche




Young Hitler Claus Hant


Claus Peter Hant is a tv writer from Germany that worked for many years on der bulle von Tolz a german police series set in bad Tolz the clips i watched were a bit like pie in the sky .He has had access to the most complete collection of material relating to the life of hitler in the institut fur zeitgwschitche in Munich  and has used a number of years research to compile the material for this book ,which he has written with the help of two english writers (James Triver and Alan Roche)  in english ,as he would struggle to get it published in germany . 

The book – 

We start of with the young hitler in wien (vienna) as a struggling artist ,with what would seem an opened mind but as we progress we see his standpoint become narrower and narrower as things happen to him and he starts to fail as an artist and not be taken seriously ,also you hear about the idea for a supreme Reich of german speakers the tattooing of the arms of gypsies is mentioned ,then one day he just disappears and sells his books ,next time we meet him is on the eve of the first world war he is in the army and is a lance corporal he has to do some menial jobs like paint the officers mess and is disgusted by his fellow solders loose morals and the way pets are being eaten ,he then wins an iron cross for his bravery ,which he thinks is tainted by how it was awarded .The last time we catch up with hitler is post first world war in a mental hospital for his nerves and extreme views that seem to have wildly change ,he is released and travels to munchen (Munich) which is utter chaos with warring on the streets as political movements struggle ,he joins a group devote to honouring the old northern european tribes that happen to have a swastika as their symbol . 

Dolferi was fixated on this “Reich” the fantasy Reich instilled in his mind by his favourite history teacher in school ;an empire that would unite germanic Austria with Germany . 

“tattooing a number on the forearm of gypsies “said elephant “would make it far easier identify them as with automobiles “. 

two quotes from the first part of young hitler in pre world war one vienna the ideas that made nazi party were being planted . 


My view – 

This book worried me when i first got it ,but was heavily compelled to read it to see what turned hitler in to the monster he became ,i also saw it as a wonderful bookend to the film downfall which i enjoyed almost completing the circle of a life .Hants writing is wonderfully clever and transports you to pre war vienna ,through the war and the horror of the trenches to the chaos of post war Munich .There is a wonderful insight in to the time and the making of a monster its like a huge jigsaw puzzle you can see the parts slipping into place ,the appendices and research for this book are vast you can see the time taken to make this as realistic as possible a truly special be of narrative non fiction writing . 

Links – 

quartet site  

young hitler page 

Juan Ramón Jiménez poet

As national poetry month is nearly over I d thought i d highlight another poet i like Juan Ramón Jiménez (1881-1958)  the andalusian poet who used the french pure poetry style and wrote quite short poems he won the nobel prize in 1956 and is regarded as one of spains greatest poets .These poems were translated by J B Trend and J L Gill in the sixties .

Juan Ramón Jiménez


    a stream is flowing in the depths

      of my spirit ,undermining me

      I can hardly maintain

      my strength.No help comes to me

       from Heaven .Even stars

       decive me :none are there

        above me ,only below me ,in the depths ..


            Am i ? i shall be !

      I shall be – turned to a ripple

    on the stream of memory . . .


     With you ,flowing water !


       Juan Ramón Jiménez                                                                                                                                      

world cup of writers

world cup of writers

I am a huge football fan and the world cup is one of my favourite things to watch so over the last few weeks i ve been thinking of a way to combine my love of reading and football so i decide on a tour of the countries qualified for the world cup .The idea is to highlight writers and also add my own memories of watching the team in the world cup .Now with a few of the qualifiers i ve not read anything so i will note this on the post  and do research in to writers there .I may also ask some fellow bloggers to write posts for me .so the qualifiers are –

  1. Australia
  2. Japan
  3. North Korea
  4. South Korea
  5. Honduras
  6. Mexico
  7. U.S.A
  8. Denmark
  9. England
  10. France
  11. Germany
  12. Greece
  13. Italy
  14. Holland
  15. Serbia
  16. Slovakia
  17. Slovenia
  18. Spain
  19. Portugal
  20. Switzerland
  21. Algeria
  22. Cameroon
  23. cotes de ivorie (ivory coast)
  24. Ghana
  25. Nigeria
  26. South Africa
  27. Argentina
  28. Brazil
  29. Chile
  30. Paraguay
  31. Uruguay
  32. New Zealand

A wonderful selection of writers have already sprung to my mind to Highlight and many memories of matches watched .I m starting soon even thou it is a few weeks away the world cup its going to take some time to work through all 32 teams on at a time .

Can you suggest any writers from any of the qualifers ?

caine prize shortlist

Ken Barris (South Africa) The Life of Worm, from New Writing from Africa 2009

Lily Mabura (Kenya) How Shall We Kill the Bishop? from Wasafiri No53, Spring 2008

Namwali Serpell (Zambia) Muzungu, from The Best American Short Stories 2009

Alex Smith (South Africa) Soulmates, from New Writing from Africa 2009

Olufemi Terry (Sierra Leone) Stickfighting Days, from Chimurenga vol 

The caine prize has been announced today set up in memory of michael caine of booker it awards a prize to best writing in africa this year there was over a hundred entries

last years was E C osundu from Nigeria


The queen of palmyra by minrose gwin



The Queen of Palmyra by Minrose Gwin

Minrose Gwin is the professor of english at North Caroline ,she has publish numerous non fiction books mainly about the women’s role in the south of america and southern writing also editing the literature of the american south .she has also done a lot on the civil rights movement in the sixties .This is her debut novel and is out on harper perennial this week .she grew up in a small town in Mississippi in the sixties .so tackle some of the ground that is in the novel

The book –

the book follows florence Forrester and one summer in 1963 ,Flo ‘s home life is rocky a disappointed mother Martha  who is the towns cake lady making wonderful smelling cakes the wonderful lemon cake is her specialty .there is Flo’s bigoted father a burial insurance salesman and a racist that has rub off a little way on his daughter  , Flo escapes at her grandparent and with their servant Zenie thus named after the queen of Palmyra ,Flo spends time with zenies family then one day a catalyst arrives in the form of Eva Green a relative of Zenie ,Eva studies and is educated and works for naacp ,this causes stirrings in the town and Eva is attacked in a graveyard ,the police are unwilling to help .Flo and Eva grow close and Flo escapes the trauma of every day life with the stories of Zenie and love she gets from her .all this against major even ts in mississipi itself .

My view –

Minrose has written a truly wonderful book you can sense that Minrose  herself must have walked in Flo’s shoes at some point and have had friends from both sides of the town she grew up in  ,she is amazing with details describing Martha cooking the cakes the wonderful lemon cakes they just float of the page and left me wanting to taste this masterpiece of a cake .The violence is handle just  right not over the top but enough to make you realise how hard it was from african americans in the south in the sixties ,I think everyone should have a copy of this on their bookshelves to sit next to kill a mockingbird and why the caged bird sings ,it is that good unbelievable for a debut novel to be so complete and well written .

Links –

harpers  page

Minrose Gwin talking

100th post

Some triva bits for 100th post –

  1. I am tall over 6ft
  2. I m married
  3. I ve owned two dogs Winston and much missed Merlin my first dog
  4. I grew up with cats Siamese and moggys
  5. I love coffee
  6. I don’t drink milk or cream
  7. I know makton (sign language for learning disabilities )
  8. best day ever my wedding day
  9. Worst day losing Merlin
  10. Best work day getting life story of person i support published
  11. I own over a 1000 cds
  12. I  have a large book buying habit
  13. I live in a small house
  14. I lived in germany
  15. Favourite bookshop barter books alnwick
  16. Missed book shop peak books Chesterfield
  17. Favourite book cover english patient first paperback cover
  18. favourite album cover unknown pleasures -joy division
  19. favourite film wings of desire
  20. favourite tv comedy fraiser
  21. favourite tv show band of brothers
  22. I own over 40 Dylan albums
  23. I love holidays in Algarve
  24. I love to visit art gallery’s
  25. I don’t drive
  26. I suffer from dsypraxia
  27. I m very forgetful
  28. I ve a photographic memory
  29. Favourite holiday honeymoon in Torquay
  30. Soulmate my wife
  31. I love to cook
  32. I m untidy
  33. First album brought paul hardcastle (sad i know )
  34. first good album brought housemartins london o hull4
  35. I read the times every day
  36. I get T.L.C every week
  37. longest book read don deillo underworld
  38. My father reads thrillers and westerns and reads loads more than me
  39. My wife likes true life books
  40. I m fairly shy

there a bit more about me and last meme post for a bit ,Thanks for all making me welcome to blogging .stu


world cup is coming

Well I ve had two books through the post this week and brought one myself the books are –

World cup wishes by Eshkol Nevo-the israeli writer  is the grand son of a former israeli minister,the book follows for friends to france 1998 ,which was a great world cup the first truly global cup .it follows their journey through the traumas and bonds that have kept them together since they where kids ,Nevo got high praise for his last novel Homesick ,looking forward to this book ,as i start getting excited for the world cup .

Offside by Tom Palmer -this is the third in a series of books that follow Danny Harte a football fan and detective ,this time he travels to Ghana on the case of   a corrupt agent ,this book is designed for young readers and the african football angle appealed to me when Sarah at bookrabbit offer it me ,plus i don’t read a lot of teen books so this will be a real change and again is wonderful for world cup build up .

Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges -well Argentine is a hot bed of football so ,a book by their greatest writer seemed apt ,Borges wrote truly unique prose hard to classify ,but without a doubt a huge influence on latin american and world lit .

Are you looking forward to the world cup ?

footnote –

Persephone biannually

Also in the post this week was my first ever Persephone biannual .The twice yearly magazine from Persephone books a great short story from Irene Nemirovsky from their new collection out soon ,also was lovely to see Claire at paperbackreader on the bloggers page ,deserved she does so much to promote this lovely company and there beautiful books .

A private affair by beppe fenoglio

A private affair

notes -Beppe Fengolio (1922-1963) this is one of a number of novels published by Beppe this one was published after his early death at age 40 ,he was one of the leading lights of the neo realism movement post world war two that produced great films like bicycle thieves ,this work also contains his other main theme the rural area of  northern italy and is the setting for this book .his most famous book is Johnny partisan that was also published after his death in 1968. 

the book – 

follows a young partisan Milton  as he returns Langhe area of northern Italy , in search of a sweetheart Fulvia  that he meet in Torino  and had been writing to during the war on arrival he talks to a local inn keeper in the village   and finds that in his absences that Fulvia had been an affair with one of his friends Giorgio a fellow partisan .He then finds out that Giorgio had been captured by francos fascist forces and is in prison he then sets out to find him and what has been  happening between Giorgio and Fulvia whilst he has been away fighting ,along the way meeting the disintegrating face and places of the war ravage italy .til he himself runs in to some fascists in some woods … 

his mouth half open ,his arms hanging by his sides,Milton stood looking at Fulvia’s villa ,all alone up there on the hill that slopped towards the town of Alba .His heart stopped beating :indeed it seemed to have absconded inside his body . 

the opening of private affair translated from italian by Howard Curtis 

my view – 

This book seems to float along as i followed Milton on his quest so to speak through a broken and divide italy towards the end of the war in Italy ,Beppe seemed to have trodden the ground he wrote about which adds to the realism of this book ,the translation is fluid from Howard Curtis .The use of Milton for the name of the main character also made me think of Milton’s poetry and there is an echo of it in the losing and then trying to find Fulvia ,a sort of personnel paradise lost and regained in Italy .The hell element been the war ravage Italy .

best european fiction 2010 -belgium (dutch)

Peter Terrin

Peter Terrin -from the novel – the murderer -born in 1968 Peter is considered one of the leading voices of his generation of Flemish writers often compared to Kafka and Wilfred Frederick Hermans and Albert Camus and has twice been nominated for the Belgian book prize ako . this short piece follows Ferdinand in a unnamed place and unnamed time he talks about his neighbours and why he’d murder them as curfews are in force he sneaks about in the shadows . This story remind me of Kafka a bit as your dropped in nowhere and don’t really know whats going on ,it also reminded me of the beligan film man bites dog there is a similar coldness in Ferdinand to the main character in man bites dog .There is only this it appears available in english at moment .I hope if this an example of his writing it is translated soon in to english .

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April 2010


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