Friday Reads: This week’s prize round up – part 2

This week was our second week of getting to know the authors on this year’s shortlist. Enjoy!

Sheila Rogers, author of The Elusive Madonna

Sheila lives with her Geographer husband and a brown dog in rural Somerset, a haven of peace and sanity after twenty years in the classroom teaching French, German, Italian and Critical Thinking. She is a graduate of the University of Nottingham and subsequently studied at Montpellier University and at UCL, where she undertook research on the poet Petrarch. Language, whether at home or abroad, remains her most abiding interest; however, language is nothing without people, and travelling to new places, listening, watching, talking to strangers, sometimes eavesdropping: these are favourite hobbies. At home, life revolves around family and friends, dog-walking, reading, writing, crosswords and gardening.

The Elusive Madonna is both a historical novel and a love story with a difference. It is set in fourteenth century Avignon, city of burgeoning papal splendour, where Giovanni Laugello, a shy young Tuscan, has come to seek fulfilment as an artist. His secret obsession with a beautiful woman of dubious reputation, who becomes his artistic inspiration, leads to an unexpected outcome.

Read an extract from The Elusive Madonna here.

Christopher Branson, author of The Guiltless

Prior to fully focusing on fiction, Christopher Branson gained a First in Natural Sciences at Cambridge and an MA and PhD in Philosophy at Warwick, where he wrote a doctoral thesis on Nietzsche and Greek tragedy.  Although his first attempt at fiction was shortlisted for the Oxbridge May Anthology, it wasn’t until he was in living in Berlin on a DAAD scholarship that he seriously took up the pen, writing a first draft of The Guiltless over nine months.  He now lives with his wife and dog in South London, where he is a founding member of a local writing group and is two-thirds of the way through a draft of his second novel, a manic first-person comedy about a man in his late twenties with a broken heart, a meaningless job, and a number of poor lifestyle choices.

The Guiltless is a literary thriller set in London and Berlin.  It mixes Nietzsche, pornography and art. Wilson, a middle-aged philosopher scholar, is sent explicit images of a German ex-girlfriend from when he was a student.  His search to discover what happened to her takes him to Soho pornographers, London art exhibitions and seedy Berlin nightspots.  But as he becomes increasingly absorbed in this search of his past, he risks missing the very present danger that is facing his wife and daughter at home.

Read an extract from The Guiltless here.

J.L. Hall, author of The Paper Crane

J.L. Hall lives in London where she works part-time as a lecturer in fashion entrepreneurship and marketing, and has a small, non-profit consultancy where she mentors creative start-ups. She has been longlisted for the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize 2016 with her submission of The Paper Crane. In October, she hopes to take up her place at Birkbeck University on the MA Creative Writing, where she was longlisted for the inaugural Kit de Waal Scholarship.

Spanning four decades, The Paper Crane is an intimate study of love, war, sex, obsession and death in Thailand. It is an unflinching portrait of the ravages of betrayal on an unstable older female protagonist, and her wait for revenge.

Read an extract from The Paper Crane here.

Manini Nayar, author of The Patchwork Variations

Manini Nayar has published stories and articles in periodicals and anthologies in the UK, USA, India and Canada, including Boston Review, Parnassus:Poetry in Review, Words and Images, London Magazine, The Malahat Review, The O. Henry Festival Stories and Signals. She is the recipient of the Chelsea Award in Short Fiction; Boston Review’s (now Aura Estrada) Fiction Prize; the Andre Dubus Award; the BBC World Service Short Story Award; Individual Artist Fellowships from the Indiana and Pennsylvania Arts Councils. She has been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize, the Fish Short Story Competition, the Lightship Memoir Competition and the Katherine Anne Porter Short Story Award.

The Patchwork Variations explores a collection of related experiences around themes of exile, re-assessment and recovery; all these distinct and yet connected stories are held together in the history of an extended family once rooted in post-Independent India, now free to travel and make their lives as they spread across continents. This book is different from traditional immigrant narratives; it as a metaphor for the new global self — people without borders who remain aware of the persistence of history and tradition as they make their way through the realities of a fragmented modern world riven by acts of terrorism, racism, and political conflicts to create new, ever- evolving identities.

Read an extract from The Patchwork Variations here.

Magdalena McGuire, author of The Shape of Your Song

Magdalena McGuire was born in Poland, grew up in Darwin, and lives in Melbourne. She has a background in law and human rights and is now undertaking a PhD in Creative Writing at Monash University. Magdalena’s short stories have been published in Australia and internationally by The Big Issue, The Bristol Prize, and Margaret River Press.

The Shape of Your Song is a work of historical fiction set in communist Poland in the 1980s. While many novels deal with Poland in the context of World War II, very few examine the aftermath of the war: when communist rule was violently imposed by the Soviets, and when thousands of Poles fled the country for political and economic reasons. The Shape of Your Song is a vivid and intimate exploration of the struggles to make art and to find your place in the world – no matter where you are.

Read an extract from The Shape of Your Song here.

We have two more prize entrants to interview next week. Stay tuned for more details!



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