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The Twelve Days of Christmas: Day 2

Posted on December 02, 2015 by Yen-Yen Lu

To get us into the festival spirit here at Inpress we've been looking back at some of our favourite books from 2015. It's...

In February came two unique stories of mystery and betrayal: one told through a collection of poems and the other from one of Croatia’s best-known writers. 

Rebecca's Choice: Judas by Damian Walford Davies

A shattered Judas Iscariot – that byword for betrayal – tells his own story in this compelling and finely wrought poetry collection. We follow Judas over the course of five days as he moves through first-century Jerusalem trying to make sense of the bewildering events surrounding the life and execution of Jesus. But this is a man for whom the Arab-Israeli conflict is as urgent as the tension between the Romans and Jews. Emphasising our compulsion to create, and challenge, gospel truths, Judas gives voice to man caught up in the promise and violence of history. Buy it here.

Yen-Yen's Choice: Farewell, Cowboy by Olja Savičević
Farewell, Cowboy is a modern and hard-hitting novel by Olja Savičević, one of Croatia’s best-known writers. Dada returns to her home town on the Adriatic coast and tries to unravel the mystery behind the death of her brother Daniel. In search for clues, Dada meets an array of eccentric characters and passionately falls in love with the young gigolo Angelo, who is a part of a film crew shooting a Western on the nearby prairie. Slowly and painfully she learns the truth behind her brother’s death and finds that she has been betrayed by someone close. Buy it here.

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Read All About It: 'Star-Shot' by Mary-Ann Constantine

Posted on October 19, 2015 by Yen-Yen Lu

From Seren comes the fantastical debut novel Star-Shot by Mary-Ann Constantine. With Cardiff’s National Museum as the starting point (both as Constantine’s inspiration and in the novel), Star-Shot is a subtly supernatural story taking place in the urban setting of an alternate Cardiff which contrasts with the paranormal forces that are taking hold of the city.

Constantine has previously been published by Seren with a collection of short stories, All the Souls. Wales has often appeared as a backdrop in Constantine’s stories so it’s not surprising that Star-Shot takes place in Cardiff, though it is a Cardiff unlike the one we know. The novel is made up of short concise scenes - there is a symmetrical structure to each section where links between characters and events become more obvious as the reader continues. Each section normally takes on one perspective of a different character, whose voices are presented with subtle distinctions from Myra, who is captivated by the National Museum building, to Teddy, a young boy whose father teaches him about the stars.

The novel features illustrations by Clive Hicks-Jenkins, who was inspired by organic and celestial shapes, evident on the cover. 

Tell me about the origins of Star-Shot. What/who inspired and influenced the novel?

It began with the image of a girl on a bench with a building behind her. I knew how it would it end – someone walking towards her from behind – and thought it was a short story. It surprised me by growing. Once the building clarified itself as being the National Museum in Cardiff, the story developed from there; so the short answer is that the building inspired the novel.

You have previously been published by Seren with collections of short stories. What are the differences in your process for writing short stories and your process for writing a novel?

The process was different somehow. It seemed to use a different part of my brain. Stories take a lot of patience to fish up, and happen more slowly. This seemed to unroll in relatively short scenes, many of them quite conversational; once I knew who was talking, I found the individual scenes relatively easy to write, though I almost never wrote more than one at a time. Perhaps it’s more cinematic than the stories.

What is the importance of place in your writing, in your short stories but particularly in Star-Shot?

Place is crucial to Star-Shot, since a great deal of the action happens in a very circumscribed area around the museum; I spent a lot of time walking round and round there, and got to know it very well…The other place in the novel is a kind of rural counterpoint, an unspecified location up in the hills – west and beyond. The descriptions of the pond draw very much on my own garden in West Wales.  Speaking more generally I’d say place was one of the fundamental elements of my writing – but that is true of so many writers. Places often wake up a feeling in me which will later become a story.

Star-Shot is available on our website for just £8.99. Seren are also running a competition for the chance to win a signed copy of the book. For more details, check out their Twitter.

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Dark Mermaids by Anne Lauppe-Dunbar

Posted on October 16, 2015 by Yen-Yen Lu

Out this month is a thrilling debut novel on the GDR doping scandal, Dark Mermaids by Anne Lauppe-Dunbar, published by Seren. Set in 1990, a year after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Officer Sophia Künstler is called on to investigate the death of her old friend Käthe, whose beaten body is found in Sophia's local park.

In order to look into the caseSophia is forced to return to her childhood home in the former German Democratic Republic. As she reluctantly delves into the sordid Stasi secrets of those she grew up with, Sophia uncovers a web of horrors about her own abusive past as a child swimming star in the GDR. But her hunt for the truth has not gone unnoticed by those close to her, people who still have too much to hide.

Shortlisted for the Impress and Cinnamon First Novel Prize, Dark Mermaids is a shocking story of the horrors of 'State Plan 14.25' and a political system that doped its youngsters to sporting superhero status, and then left them to fend for themselves. 

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