One month until DARK CHAPTER is out…

Yes I can’t *quite* believe it, but there’s less than 4 weeks to go until my debut novel Dark Chapter is available in the UK and Ireland. The hardcover arrived last week….

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In the meantime, 1000 Londoners launched their short film of me as part of their ‘Century: 10 Decades x 10 Women’ series.  1000 Londoners are an award-winning project, showcasing short web films about, well, 1000 Londoners.  It’s an honour to have been profiled by them, and especially to be their featured Londoner for the week of May 4-10.

On May 16th, I’ll be speaking at a pre-launch event for Dark Chapter, as part of UK Says No More Week, organised by Hestia to raise awareness about sexual and domestic violence.  There will be 30 advance copies of my novel available to buy, so book your free spot here — space is very limited!

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This follows a successful pre-launch event at Waterstones Piccadilly on April 30, where I’d been invited to read in the New Crime Writing slot as part of the Writers of the World Unite Festival.  Many thanks to those who came and bought advance copies of Dark Chapter!  There wasn’t a spare seat in the house, and the reaction was fantastic… and very encouraging for this somewhat nervous first-time author.  You can watch a clip of me reading the prologue to Dark Chapter here:

Earlier in April, I was on a much-needed holiday in Spain where I got to wander around fantastic places like the Pyrenees and Cuenca on my own.  But I’d also been invited to Barcelona to attend the 25th anniversary celebration of my literary agents, The Pontas Agency.  It was truly magical to meet other Pontas authors who had all been flown in from around the world and were being represented by such a uniquely passionate group of agents.  We got a fair amount of press coverage within the publishing industry, and I’m quoted in this article from Publishers Weekly.

Anyway, things just kicked into a higher gear in advance of Dark Chapter’s UK publication date, so watch this space for more news on events and media coverage….

A Lancôme campaign, a live TV interview… People, remember my book!

We’re still in the buzz of International Women’s Day 2017, so I am very honoured (and slightly amused) to have been chosen by Lancôme as one of 40 powerful women to be featured in the My Shade My Power campaign for their new line of Teint Idole Ultra Wear foundation. 

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Wait, what? As their foundation comes in 40 shades of skin tone, the new campaign features 40 diverse women who have been impressive in different industries and professional fields. Very humbling to be in the same group as cultural icons like Gurinder Chadha, Bonnie Greer, and Malorie Blackman. The campaign will be in the UK and Ireland all spring, and you’ll soon see posters and handouts in stores as well!

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Aside from makeup ads (for which I did NOT get paid, but this underpaid writer could definitely use the money), I’ve been pretty busy writing and speaking.  I’ve started writing for Media Diversified, and my article on Hollywood’s Awards Season Obsession with Rape and Sexual Assault was quite popular.  It’s true: each year, prestige pictures roll out with plum roles for actors to play rape survivors and rapists (and hopefully win awards), but how well do these films reflect the lived reality of rape and sexual assault?

I was in New York and Boston earlier this week, and did a live TV interview with i24 News — on their program ‘Stateside’ with David Shuster.  The Marine photo scandal is still raging in the US, so they asked me to comment and gave me a chance to talk about my upcoming novel DARK CHAPTER.

Guess I can tick ‘live TV interview with international news channel in Times Square’ off my list!

In Boston, I’d been invited to speak at my alma mater Harvard’s 50th Anniversary Symposium for the Folklore and Mythology degree.  Yes, that’s what I got my BA in, and it was truly wonderful and reaffirming to talk about the impact of a humanities education on my life and how I am still using storytelling (to a very large degree!) in the work that I do.

Finally, my red-eye flight landed back in London on International Women’s Day, and I somehow made it through five hours of class to chair a fascinating panel discussion that evening for The Malala Fund.  This was on the importance of girls’ education worldwide, and followed a charity screening of the documentary ‘I AM MALALA.’  I had the chance to speak with an impressive panel of women working on gender equality, including representatives of Women 4 Africa, Educate Girls, The Malala Fund.

But there will be plenty more of such panels this weekend at the sold-out 7th annual Women of the World Festival at the SouthBank Centre.  It turns out I’m speaking/chairing at FOUR different events over the next few days there (all on rape and sexual assault, of course).   

Saturday, March 11, 3pm: Deciding Whose Story Gets Told 

Sunday, March 12, 11:30am: Q&A panel following the World Premiere of ‘Foreign Body’

Sunday, March 12, 6:15pm: Chairing the Discussion Group on Giving Testimony about Sexual Assault and Abuse

Tuesday, March 14, 5:30pm: Chairing a 7pm Discussion Group following South of Forgiveness

This last event is the re-programming of the controversial TED Talk speakers Thordis Elva and Tom Stranger (a rape survivor and her rapist who share the stage), which generated an angry online petition to have the event moved out of the WoW Festival.  WoW, to their credit, moved the event and have felt it was important to enable conversation with survivors to hear their thoughts on the topic.  So it promises to be a heady, but vital discussion.  Hope to see some of you at the SouthBank this weekend!

US Cover reveal & some exciting buzz for DARK CHAPTER

New year, new cover for my novel.  Here we go with the cover reveal for the North American edition of DARK CHAPTER:

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Similar in feel to the UK edition (Legend Press), but with a bit more emphasis on the human element.  I’m a fan of both.  Hopefully, readers will like them, too!  In the US and Canada, DARK CHAPTER will be out with Polis Books in September 2017.

BUT the UK/Irish edition will come before that — in fact, it’s out on June 1st!  We’ve already been getting some really strong endorsements from other authors, thinkers, and activists who’ve gotten advance copies of the book.  Most excitingly, DARK CHAPTER was included on Cathy Rentzenbrink’s list ‘Ten Smashing Debut Novels to Look Out For in 2017’ for Stylist Magazine in the UK.   It’s up there along with George Sanders’ debut novel LINCOLN IN THE BARDO, BROOKLYN by Yaa Gyasi, and a number of other titles which have gone on to become bestsellers already.  A screenshot of our listing is below (although they got the publication date wrong), and the full list is available here.

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DARK CHAPTER was also included in another list of ‘Tremendous Books to Look Forward To in 2017’ on Bookwitty.  There, it’s listed alongside the latest by Mohsin Hamid (THE RELUCTANT FUNDAMENTALIST), Bernhard Schlink (THE READER), and Pulitzer Prize winner Viet Thanh Nguyen (THE SYMPATHIZER).  So no pressure or anything…

Watch this space for more buzz about DARK CHAPTER as the year rolls on!

Cover reveal for DARK CHAPTER!

At long last, here is the cover reveal for the UK/Irish edition of my novel, DARK CHAPTER!

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In earlier versions of the design, the woman’s hair was blonde, so there was a bit of a tussle to ensure she was depicted as a woman of color, but we got there in the end!  I’m quite pleased with it: ominous, yet also somewhat redemptive in feel.  Hopefully, it says intelligent literary suspense to you.

Legend Press will be publishing the novel in hardcover 1st June 2017 in the UK/Ireland, and I look forward to seeing what over cover designs will be like for the other countries.  We’re just about to sign off on the final edit, so I’ll finally be putting to bed a novel I started writing three years ago.  (In fact, during NaNoWriMo 2013.)

In October, I also won 2nd place in the SI Leeds Literary Prize for the unpublished manuscript of DARK CHAPTER, which was a great honour.  Here’s myself and Jamilah Ahmed, the 3rd prize and Reader’s Choice winner, at the awards ceremony at the Ilkley Literature Festival.   Amita Murray won 1st place, and I can’t wait to see the writing from all the shortlisted authors being read out there.

Off the back of the SI Leeds Literary Prize, I had the wonderful opportunity to meet US author Paul Beatty when he was in London for the Man Booker Prize Ceremony.  He eventually WON the Booker Prize for his hilarious novel THE SELLOUT, four days after this photo was taken!  Here he is at the Waterstones Piccadilly with me, SI Leeds shortlisted writer Stella Ahmadou, and the legendary Margaret Busby, who was the UK’s first black publisher back in the 1960s.  So inspiring for an encouraging, down-to-earth, bold and incisive writer like him to have won the UK’s top literary prize.

With Man Booker Prize winner Paul Beatty!

With Man Booker Prize winner Paul Beatty!

Upcoming readings for the SI Leeds Literary Prize

So, I’ve made it onto the shortlist for the 2016 SI Leeds Literary Prize!  The prize will be awarded on Wed, Oct 12th at the Ilkley Literature Festival, at a reading and event with Malika Booker.  On Sunday, Oct 9th, we’ll also be reading as part of the London Literature Festival at the SouthBank Centre, where award-winning writer Bernardine Evaristo will chair an important discussion on diversity in publishing and writing. Come join us at either event!

I already had a fantastic time at the first SI Leeds Literary Prize event at the Rich Mix on September 19th, which was hosted by Sunny Singh. It was a pleasure meeting the other shortlisted authors, each of whom has a unique and valuable perspective in her writing — and I look forward to seeing them again at the upcoming events!  Here’s all of us on stage at the Rich Mix event:

On stage looking a bit awkward at the Rich Mix!

On stage looking a bit awkward at the Rich Mix…

I’m shortlisted for the unpublished manuscript of my upcoming novel Dark Chapter, which my agents will be representing at the Frankfurt Book Fair.  Here’s their pre-Frankfurt newsletter.  They’ve been wonderfully supportive of me for the past year, and we’re all looking forward to the novel’s publication in 2017 in multiple countries!

In other news, I’m continuing to meet with other activists and artists on the issue of sexual assault and consent, both in the UK and elsewhere.  On September 16th, I attended the first-ever Being the Story event, which focused on storytelling to advance social justice and humanitarian causes.  I was asked by the organizers sounddelivery to write a guest-blog on my own uses of storytelling to address sexual assault, and you can read it here.

US & UK book deals for my debut novel!

YES – it’s finally, actually happening!  I am absolutely beyond thrilled (and relieved) to announce my debut novel, Dark Chapter, will be published worldwide next year — in North America by Polis Books and in the UK/Ireland by Legend Press.  Both are dynamic independent publishers, which have been going from strength to strength in recent years. So I am very pleased to be part of these teams on both sides of the Atlantic, and to work with them on finding innovative ways to connect with audiences.   After all, one main reason I wrote this novel was to start a more public conversation about the many angles to sexual assault — and I’m glad to have two fantastic publishers make that possible in my home countries. My agents were thrilled to close these deals – here’s their announcement!

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And here’s the Polis Books announcement.  They call my novel ‘bold, riveting, and above all, human.’ I’m liking those words!  I was very lucky to have these words of praise from New York Times-bestselling author Marti Leimbach:

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Marti’s novel Age of Consent is out now, and the encouragement of other authors and advocates on this issue has been vital for me.

In Sweden, Norstedts (publisher of Stieg Larsson, Margaret Atwood, and Elena Ferrante, among others) have already signed up to publish Dark Chapter.  So watch this space for news on publication dates and more publishers!

A Swedish book deal & my current PhD research at the LSE

Happy 2016!  This update is very overdue, but I haven’t had much spare time these past few months, ever since starting my PhD.  But more on that later…

The first bit of exciting news is that my debut novel Dark Chapter has its first publication deal — it’ll be coming out in Sweden in Spring 2017 thanks to Norstedts, one of Sweden’s most prestigious publishing houses.  They also publish Margaret Atwood, Elena Ferrante, Colm Tóibín, and they discovered Stieg Larsson, so it’s not bad company to be in! The deal was listed at the top of Publishers Weekly Hot International Book Properties in November. I’m looking forward to publishers making the book available in other countries… I hope you are, too!

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Alongside my creative writing, I’ve begun my PhD at the Department of Media and Communications at the London School of Economics. I’ll be researching the impact of social media on the public dialogue about rape and sexual assault — a very topical subject, and obviously, one which I feel strongly about, given my own experience and exploration of the issue. You can watch a video and read an article on my research here:

At the end of October, I spoke at the Feminism in London Conference, as a nominee for the annual Emma Humphreys Memorial Prize.  I didn’t win in the end, but it was an honor to be at the awards ceremony, both as an Individual Award nominee and as a representative of the Clear Lines Festival (nominated for the Group Award).  To have the chance to meet the other shortlisted women — and hear about their collective efforts working against gender-based violence — was nothing short of inspiring.

Me and Kate Llewellyn representing Clear Lines

Me and Kate Llewellyn representing Clear Lines

Speaking of Clear Lines, we have begun to release videos from the festival online.  You can watch them for free here, including videos of me speaking on the panel about news coverage of sexual assault, commenting on what it’s like to have your own rape reported in the media.   There’s also videos from our Spoken Word Night, featuring some very talented poets, and more videos will pop up over the next few months.

You can read my end-of-2015 round-up here.  Looking forward to what 2016 will bring!

Shortlisted for the CWA Debut Dagger

A quick update, which is that I’ve now made the shortlist for the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger 2015, for my upcoming novel Dark Chapter.  Which means I can now officially use that nifty logo you see right here.  Other authors shortlisted for the Daggers this year (albeit, not the Debut Dagger) include Dennis Lehane, Kate Mosse, and Dashiell Hammett… so overall, not bad company to be in!  (Yes, Dashiell Hammett’s been dead for a while, but some short stories of his were recently discovered and published for the first time.)

You can read the full shortlist here.  The winners will be announced at the CWA Dagger Awards on June 30th in London, to mark the the end of National Crime Reading Month.  Which reminds me, I should probably read a crime novel this month…  Does Crime and Punishment count?  I THINK SO.

Longlisted for the CWA Debut Dagger!

Another surprise recognition in the genre world… I’m thrilled to have been long listed for the Crime Writers’ Association (CWA) Debut Dagger Award 2015.  This is for the opening of Dark Chapter, my debut literary novel which I’ve been working on for…oh, a year and a half now. (The re-draft is 85% finished.)  So it’s good to be getting some recognition for all my work on it!  You can read more about the long list here.  The CWA is perhaps best known for the Gold Dagger, which in the past has been awarded to Val McDermid, Sara Paretsky, and Ian Rankin, among others.  Anyway, the shortlist will be announced May 15th at CrimeFest. Fingers crossed…

Also, a flash fiction piece of mine is now available to download on the nifty Quick Fictions app.  I wrote ‘Nabateans’ after my trip to Jordan last summer, and it’s now one of the many bite-size stories you can download and read while commuting, waiting, or for random in-between time. Each story is 300 words or less!  Quick Fictions is supported by Myriad Editions, and can be downloaded for only 79p here.  (Apparently, it’s ranked No. 5 among the UK’s paid apps.)

MA Portfolio FINISHED & Research in Ireland

Ah, the big news is I handed in my portfolio (aka dissertation) for my MA in Creative and Life and Writing at Goldsmiths — and am now DONE with all the requirements for that course!  The deadline was at 4pm, and I handed it in at 3:45.  (I consider this progress: as an undergraduate, I would have been frantically racing down the department corridor at 3:59.)

Here’s a nice literary shot of my final portfolio, with some of the random books that influenced it.   However, I think I’m most proud of somehow managing to cite the Moscow car chase scene from The Bourne Supremacy in my Critical Commentary.

The portfolio was comprised entirely of extracts from my upcoming novel, Dark Chapter, which I have been researching heavily this summer. In August, I made my second 2014 trip to Belfast and ended up staying for nearly two weeks, living with a very hospitable family on the Falls Road and hanging out at the Feile an Phobail, the annual West Belfast arts festival.  Lots of great debate and discussion, where I got to learn more about the fascinating (and harrowing) history of that part of Belfast, plus literary readings and a very diverse line-up of musical acts.  There’s nothing quite like watching Boyzone perform in a circus tent, when you’re in a crowd of 4,000 Irish women going mental!

More importantly, the trip was a really genuine way to soak up the atmosphere of West Belfast, where much of my novel is set.  I had a lot of illuminating conversations with forensic psychologists, social workers, solicitors, community organizers, the West Belfast Partnership Board, the Public Prosecution Service of Northern Ireland, the Probation Board, the Belfast Travellers Support Program, and I went to visit The Rowan, the spanking new SARC (Sexual Assault Referral Centre) in Antrim, which serves all of Northern Ireland. Now I just have to make sure all this somehow makes it in to my novel.  Wish me luck!