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Thursday, 26 June 2014

Author interview



Want to know more about A Song for Issy Bradley? Have a listen to this interview.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Newspaper reviews and other fun stuff

I was (metaphorically) biting my nails as I awaited press reviews of A Song for Issy Bradley. They have been trickling in and so far I've been very lucky - people have said some lovely things about the novel. 

Grace McCleen's Guardian review described it as ‘A skilful and empathetic dramatisation. The fact that it deals with such distressing subject matter without falling prey to sentimentality makes it all the more admirable.’

'Bray demonstrates the comforts of faith - the magic, hope and imagination - as well as its restrictions. This is an impressive debut from a compassionate, wise and original new voice,' wrote Suzi Feay in The Independent.

The Times reviewer, Carol Midgley said, 'I couldn't leave it alone. Bray writes with such clarity, intelligence and authenticity that it feels as if an old friend is telling you the story, that the characters are people you know.'

Christie Hickman in The Sunday Express said there was 'An astonishing lightness of touch and real humour woven into the sadness... A stunning, unmissable debut.’  

The Sunday Mirror described it as 'funny and vividly written,' while the Sun picked it as 'an early contender for book of the year.'

As if all that wasn't lovely enough, I've been out and about this week. First to Plackitt and Booth in Lytham where I did a reading and answered questions about the book. 


And then to Radio Lancashire, where I spoke to John Gilmore about writing.


Finally, this arrived. 


I'm not sure whether there's a wall in the house that's big enough or whether (if I find a wall) the children will ever speak to me again... but I'm planning to find out.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Book Launch

We had a lovely night at Broadhursts bookshop in Southport. Thank you so much to all my lovely friends and family who came to wish me well. Here's a few photos.









And here's a link to Robert Sheppard's account of the evening. 

Thursday, 19 June 2014

The most fortunate creature

Remember that bit in Pride and Prejudice where Jane says, 'I am certainly the most fortunate creature that ever existed... How shall I bear such happiness' ? Well that was me today, wandering around London with the lovely Charlotte Bush, spotting tube posters of my novel and listening to my phone ping as wonderful book bloggers Tweeted about my novel. 

I'm afraid I lack Jane Bennet's goodness, so I'm pretty convinced I don't deserve this happiness, and, unlike Jane, I shan't be asking whether I can bear it, as I'm sure I can. 



Here I am in Fubar Radio on the Mark Dolan Show. Having watched some of Mark's comedy work, I was quite nervous about talking to him. Although A Song for Issy Bradley is (I hope) quite funny in places, I'm not very spontaneously funny (writing funny scenes can take me *days*). However, Mark was very charming (and extremely tall) and I had a great time. 



After lunch it was off to Front Row for an interview with Samira Ahmed. We talked about all sorts of things, including polygamy, Islam, women's roles in Mormonism and how to write prose that is both funny and sad. 


Here I am with Jo Good from BBC Radio London. This interview unexpectedly opened with an audio clip from HBO's Big Love. That was a surprise! We chatted about football, children and grief. 

Then it was back to Random House where there's a lovely display made of quotes about the novel and cut-out birds.

Today, I am certainly the most fortunate creature that ever existed. 

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Things I'm up to

Over the next couple of days I'll be really busy. This evening I'm going to London and while I'm there I'm hoping to see one of the Issy Bradley posters that are up at various underground stations. 

Here's a picture from a friend. How fantastic is that?!



Tomorrow I'll be on Fubar Radio from 11 o'clock with comedian Mark Dolan. Afterwards I'll be recording an interview with Front Row's Samira Ahmed and then I'll be on BBC London with Jo Good, just after 4 o'clock.

On Friday I'll be recording an interview with Cathy Macdonald of BBC Radio Scotland and an interview with Monocle FM. Then at 2:30 I'll be on LBC Radio with Julia Hartley-Brewer. 

Afterwards I'll be hurrying home to make cakes for my book launch which will be on Saturday from 5:30. 


I'm quite excited, but I'm also tremendously nervous. Off to pack my suitcase...

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Heart in Boots


I discussed being nervous about press coverage in a recent post: 
I'm nervous about reviews and nervous about interviews on live radio, but most of all, I'm nervous about the features that various journalists are writing about me - features that will, inevitably, concentrate on my Mormon upbringing. As a writer I choose my words carefully. On the few occasions I have written about Mormonism I have edited and revised my words, attempting to take a nuanced position that is, at times, both critical and conciliatory. It is absolutely terrifying to know that, on this occasion, my words will be chopped up and reassembled by people who understand nothing of those nuances; that when I'm asked about the good and bad things about growing up Mormon, or parenting as a Mormon, or the role of Mormon women, the good things may be omitted from the final piece, and that a sub editor, not the journalist who interviewed me, will write the headline, making it as melodramatic as possible. Just rereading this paragraph makes me feel nauseous. 
My heart sank into my boots when I saw the headline of an interview in the Guardian yesterday. The interview itself took the form of a very long, informal chat with my lovely friend Sarah Franklin in which I talked about my expectations of motherhood and the numerous ways in which I failed to live up to them (including once baking a perfect Thomas the Tank cake for a party and then refusing to let any of the children eat it). 

If you ignore the headline - please ignore the headline - you'll see that I talk about my decision to prioritise motherhood over education, based on what I understood to be right as a teenager, 20 years ago. Did I get it wrong? Perhaps. I certainly don't think there's such a thing as Mormon Motherhood; I don't think that there's one, homogeneous, prescribed way for Mormon women to do things. Some texts may imply that there is, but there are always counter-examples

The very last thing I wanted was to enter the Mormon version of the Mommy Wars. And I certainly don't condone or agree with the really unpleasant, trollish comments that have appeared at the bottom of some reprints of the interview.

I find it very difficult to talk about the church in interviews because there is tremendous nuance in how Mormons approach so many issues, and that nuance isn't going to be picked up by non-Mormons (or by sub-editors at newspapers who write melodramatic headlines). Ultimately, I can only talk about my own experiences, which haven't always been positive -  but I know lots of fantastic women, including my own mother, who have found fulfilment and enjoyment in the church. 

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Broadhursts Window


Today's happy thought - this is the window of my local bookshop, Broadhursts J

Friday, 13 June 2014

Some Early Reviews


I'd like to say a massive  THANK YOU  to all the kind readers who've written early reviews of A Song for Issy Bradley. If I could make a cake for each of you, I would! 




No matter what you thought of the novel - whether you loved it, whether it left you cold, or you felt somewhere in between - I really appreciate the fact that you took the time to sit down and write about it. 

Here are a few quotes from some of the reviews (if you click on each reviewer's name you'll be transported to their brilliant blog/website):

I loved A Song for Issy Bradley. It's wry, smart, human, and, rather miraculously avoids mawkishness. And, ultimately, it's moving and comforting in a way that makes sense even to the agnostic.
- Nick Hornby in The Believer magazine.  

This is a book about family, any family, who has to conjecture enough faith to miraculously resurrect itself from the abyss after having lost one of its own.
- Rana Asfour.

This book is not about a death. It may make you cry, but it is just as likely to make you laugh in recognition or in sheer delight. 
Jeanette Greaves.

This is a gorgeous book, fully deserving of the place it's had on all sorts of 'best book' lists over the last few months. Read it.
Sarah Jasmon.

It's a wonderfully written book. Beautifully observed. But the emotional impact was extreme, and I didn't like the ending, it felt like it was missing the last page almost.
- Jax Blunt

It is a book that shows how hearts can be shattered by loss and how only family can put things back together. It is a brave, sometimes funny and often deeply moving novel that deserves every success. 
- Dan Powell.

Bray handles the content sensitively and truthfully, but most of all I'm stunned that this is only her first novel. I'm sure this won't be the last we hear of her.
- Bex Dawkins.

An impressive debut delves into the life of a family of Mormons after their youngest child dies. Wonderful characters and excellent writing. Recommended.
- TheBookBag.

This isn’t a book about death. Nor is it a book about organised religion, although it gives an interesting and clever insight into both of those things.  It’s a book about family, and about love, and about what that really truly means. It’s beautiful.
Jo Wilkinson

There are some more reviews here, written by a group of Lovereading members. 

Thursday, 12 June 2014

One week to go and other nervous things

It's one week to publication day. Yikes! I can't believe it's almost here. All sorts of exciting things are happening and appearing - like the little character quotes (below) that are being Tweeted by Windmill Books. Twitter users can retweet them to win a signed copy of the book.


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Of course, while it's an exciting time, it's also really, really scary. I'm nervous about reviews and nervous about interviews on live radio, but most of all, I'm nervous about the features that various journalists are writing about me - features that will, inevitably, concentrate on my Mormon upbringing. As a writer I choose my words carefully. On the few occasions I have written about Mormonism I have edited and revised my words, attempting to take a nuanced position that is, at times, both critical and conciliatory. It is absolutely terrifying to know that, on this occasion, my words will be chopped up and reassembled by people who understand nothing of those nuances; that when I'm asked about the good and bad things about growing up Mormon, or parenting as a Mormon, or the role of Mormon women, the good things may be omitted from the final piece, and that a sub editor, not the journalist who interviewed me, will write the headline, making it as melodramatic as possible. Just rereading this paragraph makes me feel nauseous. 

Yesterday I found an 'interview' online that quoted me, despite the fact that I'd never spoken to the journalist concerned. I suppose it wasn't a big deal - he hadn't put any particularly objectionable words into my mouth (just jumbly, rubbish-sounding ones) - but the fact that he'd felt entitled to put any there at all niggled at me all day. Worried that it was a foretaste of things to come, I wrote a Facebook message to my Mormon friends, alerting them to the fact that they may see me being interviewed about growing up as a Mormon in the coming weeks. I asked them to give me the benefit of the doubt, knowing that some of the words may not be my own. My friends outdid themselves with supportive, kind messages.

I was reading these lovely messages from Mormon friends last night when the New York Times broke the news of the likely excommunication of Kate Kelly, founder of Ordain Women and of my friend John Dehlin, founder of Mormon Stories and Stay LDS. It was such a strange experience to be faced with the generous, inclusive messages of Mormon friends on one hand and the absolutist, authoritarian dictates of the institutional church on the other. It reminded me yet again, that although I have very little use or respect for the institutional church, some of my favourite people in the world are, and always will be Mormons.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Book Covers

Glenn O'Neill who designed my book cover discusses the process in a piece at WeLoveThisBook. He talks about taking pieces of text and searching for matching images and ideas. I really enjoyed reading about the process and especially seeing some of the other versions of the cover (see below). 




This week the American cover has been finalised. It's very different from the English cover - brighter and funnier too, somehow, perhaps hinting that it's not a sad book. I really like it.



Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Interview with Liane Carter

Earlier this year I taught a publishing seminar to undergraduates at Edge Hill. I felt I needed to learn more about self publishing and as a result I've been speaking to some writers who chose to self-publish their work. Today I'm interviewing teacher and children's writer Liane Carter whose book The Dream Devils has just been published.

When did you start writing?

I used to make up mini stories for my students and they would be character in the stories and they kept telling me to write a book. I'd already been badgered for a long time by my husband and my friend so I started. I'd written poetry and songs since school. I went on a self-editing course with Cornerstones and then worked with Renni Browne who has taught me so much about editing.

You write for children, what are your favourite children's books?

The Dream Devils
Roald Dahl. I love and reread his books over and over. Michael Morpurgo books although they make me sob. I just love how it's like you are sat on his knee and he's telling you the story. 'Elsewhere' by Gabrielle Zevin. Oh my. What a cuddly blanket of a book. I read it on repeat and may have read it 12 times now. I've lent it to people and gifted it to people. I love Madeleine L'Engle's 'A Wrinkle in Time'. 'The Tail of Emily Windsnap' by Liz Kessler, 'Wolf Brother' by Michelle Paver, Harry Potter.

You decided to self-publish. Was this a difficult decision? 

I was hesitant because I knew how much work was involved. A publisher was interested initially and was so excited about my writing that when they decided they didn't want to pursue it, I sent it back to my editor and asked if she thought it was worth publishing and if she would do a line-edit.

Do you design your own book covers?

No Gwyneth Ashcroft a great designer did the cover. It's great being able to give ideas and be involved in the process and changes. However, she's the genius behind it, not me.

How did you manage the publicity for your first book, The Chronicles of Joya?

I did book signings in Borders and Waterstones, visited over 50 schools and did writing workshops showing reluctant readers and writers that writing can be fun. And it was such a joy in the schools. The kids were fantastic and so were the staff. And when you get emails via the website and Facebook from kids and parents about how their grades have rocketed since the workshop, that they are laughing out loud reading a book, that they are writing because I've inspired them too, oh my, that rocks my heart sideways.

The Dream Devils is Book 1 in a series. How many books will there be, and have you planned the next book?

There will be three. Yes, the second book is outlined and the beginning and ending written. I started the first few scenes and had to walk away because it's so tense. Exciting! And the beginnings and endings are also written for book 3. Oh, I just love the ending.

Thank you Liane, and good luck with The Dream Devils.