Monday, 31 December 2012

Best Presents

My favourite present of Christmas 2012 was this Diary of a Wimpy Kid do-it-yourself book, completed by Alice, wrapped using about half a roll of sticky tape and signed: 'To Carys, follow your dream, from Alice, A.E Bray.'

Best. Present. Ever.


Best grown up present was this handbag from Neil. 

The children think it's hideous.


The best presents I gave this year were the books of tokens I made for the children. I was thoroughly fed up with the commercial side of Christmas and decided to try to do something a little bit different.

There are tokens for ice creams, new books, staying up late, choosing dinner, foot massages, sports events, baking etc. The children seem to like them, although it's hard to tell when I'm being humoured nowadays because they've all got so good at it.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

The Next Big Thing

Several writing friends tagged me in The Next Big Thing during the month of November and I declined on each occasion because I was busy marking essays. Today, my friend Jenn Ashworth tagged me (correction - she linked to me because she thought I'd already done it) so I decided it was about time I got on with it. All I had to do was answer the questions below:

What is the working title of your next book?

It doesn’t have a working title. I’m not being coy, it really doesn’t have a working title. I am sort of worried about it, but it’s pretty far down my list to things to worry about – somewhere beneath climate change and the fact that I haven’t finished buying the children’s Christmas presents.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I think the idea came from the resurrection stories I heard as I was growing up, like the one below, written by a Mormon called Matthew Cowley.

I was called to a home in a little village in New Zealand one day. There the Relief Society sisters were preparing the body of one of our Saints. They had placed his body in front of the Big House as they call it, the house where the people came to wail and weep and mourn over the dead, when in rushed the dead man's brother. 

He said, "Administer to him." 

And the young natives said, "Why, you shouldn't do that; he's dead." 

"You do it!" 

This same old man that I had with me when his niece was so ill was there. The younger native got down on his knees, and he anointed the dead man. Then this great old sage got down and blessed him and commanded him to rise. You should have seen the Relief Society sisters scatter. And he sat up, and he said, "Send for the elders; I don't feel very well." Now, of course, all of that was just psychological effect on that dead man. Wonderful, isn't it--this psychological effect business? Well, we told him he had just been administered to, and he said: "Oh, that was it." He said, "I was dead. I could feel life coming back into me just like a blanket unrolling." Now, he outlived the brother that came in and told us to administer to him.

What genre does your book fall under?

I think it would probably be described as literary fiction. A chapter of the book was published as a stand-alone story in my collection Sweet Home – read it and find out!

What actors would you choose to play the parts of your characters in a movie rendition?

Oh gosh, I have no idea... maybe Jude Law with slicked down hair and glasses for the dad and a bare-faced Kristin Scott Thomas for the mum – I don’t really see the character’s faces as I write, but I have an idea about the shapes of their bodies and the way they move. Hmm, that’s quite strange actually...

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Nooooo! This is the question people always ask when they find out I’m writing a novel and I squirm and prevaricate and avoid it at all costs. Erm, it's a story about family and about miracles that don't and do happen following the sudden death of a four year old girl.

That's terrible, but I've just got back from a midnight Christmas shopping trip so it will have to do.

Will your book be self published or represented by an agency?

I don’t plan to self publish, so I’m hoping someone else will want to publish it – fingers crossed.

How long did it take you to write a first draft of the manuscript?

I’m just finishing it at the moment and I’m sorry to say that it has taken me more than eighteen months which is pretty slow

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I really don’t know. I hope someone will read it one day and make a comparison.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I don’t know – gosh, these are hard questions. Maybe it’s a grand farewell to my belief in the miraculous and a concession to it at the same time

What else about your book might pique your reader’s interest?

The book is about family and grief. It's horribly funny in parts (I hope) and horribly sad in others (that's definitely true - I can do horribly sad). Oh, and there's a handcart, some spoon-playing, a massive wad of cash and a secret box of dead insects.

I'm supposed to tag other people now but I'm not going to because it's nearly Christmas and I think almost everyone I know has already done this. What I'll do instead is link to all the writers who asked if I would join in (hope I remember everyone).

Cassandra Parkin
Rob Roensch
Alison Lock
Norman Hadley
Lane Ashfeldt
AJ Ashworth
FC Malby
Elizabeth Baines
David Hartley 

P.S. The picture at the top of this post is of Southport beach where some of the important scenes in the book take place.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

'An impressive first collection' and other lovely stuff

Today Sweet Home was reviewed at Bookmunch. I was a little bit nervous about this particular review because although I don't know the reviewer personally, I read her reviews and I respect her opinion. Fortunately, she liked Sweet Home.
'It’s an impressive first collection with enough range that, despite the recurrent themes, it doesn’t feel at all repetitive. A catalogue of parental horror and humour, it’s full of precise and startling imagery. An excellent stocking-filler this Christmas.'
Read the full review here.

Earlier in the week, science fiction writer Chris Beckett reviewed Sweet Home. I really like Chris's writing. Not only is he an accomplished short story writer (his new collection The Peacock Cloak is out next year) he is also a brilliant novelist, so I really enjoyed reading what he had to say about my stories.
'It’s a difficult thing too, I think, to write about family life, which unlike wars and love affairs and murders and all the other staples of fiction, does not tend to come with a beginning, a middle and an end, but follows a daily cycle, on and on for years.  But it’s a trick that Carys Bray pulls off in various ways.' 
Read the full review here

Also published this week is an interview I did with the online lifestyle magazine FemaleFirst. They asked me to write a synopsis for every story in Sweet Home which actually took quite a long time. They also asked me what I like about short stories and which short stories I like to read.

PhotoThe greatest accomplishment of the week so far was probably making a Christmas hat with Alice who needed one for her class party. I managed not to be too bah-humbug about the fact that she didn't tell me until bed time and even though there was glitter everywhere and I didn't get any writing done, we had fun.

Monday, 10 December 2012

A Christmas Bargain

A reminder that Sweet Home 
(the ebook, not the cupcake) 
is currently available for 77p  
at Uk Amazon and for 99c at  
U.S Amazon. That's less than 
5 pence per story - bargain!

Thursday, 6 December 2012

I chat to the Open University

The Open UniversityI did my BA with the Open University and I loved it - it really was a life-changing experience. Last week I spoke to the Open University about writing and studying and today they've published the interview on their News and Features Platform.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Salt Publishing Christmas Offer

Salt Publishing have a special Christmas offer on 6 Scott Prize winning short story collections. Each collection is now available for just 77p. In the case of my collection that's less than 5 pence per story - an absolute bargain.

Product Details Product Details

Product Details Product Details

Product Details Product Details

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Guest Editing Lancs Writing Hub

The Lancashire Writing HubDuring December I will be guest editing the Lancs Writing Hub.

We've got some good stuff happening in the lead up to Christmas. Award-winning blogger Ben Judge will write about why it’s not good to know too much about our literary heroes, Sarah Schofield will discuss how to go about fictionalising real places and I’ll be interviewing Rodge Glass about his latest novel, Bring Me The Head of Ryan Giggs.

The Lancs Writing Hub is an excellent resource, particularly for local (north-west) writers. I felt a bit like an evil genius as I fiddled about with the enormous Wordpress control panel/dashboard earlier today. I'm hoping to get my head around everything a.s.a.p and I will try very hard not to break anything during my stay.