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Book Talk
Book reviews, author interviews and event previews for fans of the written word.
Category: Literature
Location: Scotland
Followers (20)
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Tune into Book Talk every fortnight for author interviews, readings and features with host Ryan Van Winkle or our monthly onlin...

by Scottish Bo...
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March 25, 2015 04:16 AM PDT

Our final Book Talk podcast features a pair of heavyweights from the world of crime fiction and a debut author we should all be sure to keep an eye on.
First up: Ryan Van Winkle has a chat with bestselling author Val McDermid and her partner in crime (research), forensic anthropologist Sue Black. Val has recently returned to her roots as a journalist with her latest book, Forensics: The Anatomy of Crime, a work of non-fiction. But although, in her own words, she usually ‘makes stuff up,’ she still does meticulous research, and for that, she turns to Sue. The pair met while guesting on a radio show years ago and have been friends and research partners ever since. Learn how the writer/expert relationship works, what Sue respects most about Val’s writing, and how they balance the dark aspects of their day jobs with normal life.
Ryan next introduces us to Kate Tough, whose debut novel, Head for the Edge, Keep Walking, deals with a woman’s ‘late quarter-life crisis.’ Kate talks about her inspiration, how she went from writing poetry and short stories to a novel and the invaluable assistance she received with it, and what you can expect from her at the upcoming Aye, Write! Festival in Glasgow.
Finally, Sasha de Buyl has a word with Nordic crime superstar Arne Dahl. Dahl discusses his latest book, To the Top of the Mountain, the third in the Intercrime series, and what he loves most about the crime fiction genre.

March 10, 2015 08:31 AM PDT

This month, our Book Talk panel turns its attention to the latest book by fantastic Scottish author, Andrew O'Hagan.

The Illuminations tells two stories; the first of Anne Quirk, a once-great photographer trying to reconnect with her past, and the second, of her grandson Luke, serving in the British Army in Afghanistan. Andrew O'Hagan has been twice nominated for the Man Booker Prize as has won the Los Angeles Times Book Award and the E. M. Forster Award from the American Academy of Arts & Letters

Joining Sasha de Buyl are Kaite Welsh (@kaitewelsh), journalist and chair of the Green Carnation Literary Prize, and Yasmin Sulaiman (@yasmin_sul), Books Editor at The List.

The panel discusses the novel's dual perspectives, the way the book explores the inner workings of a mind in the grip of dementia and the frustrations of the voiceless.

Through the podcast, they explore the two main characters and how they interact, the comparison between the beauty of art and the atrocities of war and the gentle lyricism of O'Hagan's style.

If you're reading, or have read, the book, what did you think? How do you think it compares to O'Hagan's previous work? We'd love to know what you thought - you can join the discussion in the comments below, or on Twitter @scottishbktrust.

Book Talk is also available on Soundcloud.

BookTalk is produced by Colin Fraser of Culture Laser Productions.

February 24, 2015 08:32 AM PST

This month, Ryan Van Winkle and our own Sasha de Buyl interview best-selling YA authors Garth Nix (@garthnix), Leigh Bardugo (@LBardugo) and David Levithan (@loversdiction) about returning to different worlds, crafting a series and creating characters that break the mould.

Garth Nix is the Australian-born author of the Old Kingdom series, the Keys to the Kingdom series and the Seventh Tower series. Written almost 20 years ago, Sabriel was the first book in the Old Kingdom series and told the story of a young girl tasked with making sure the dead stay dead. Though Garth hasn't returned to the world of the Old Kingdom since 2003's Abhorsen, last year's Clariel found him back there, this time several hundred years before the events of Sabriel. Garth talks to Sasha about what it was like to go back, and why he went there again.

Leigh Bardugo is the Jerusalem-born, LA-raised author of The Grisha Trilogy, a YA fantasy series that comprises Shadow and Bone, Seige and Storm and the third in the trilogy, Ruin and Rising. Shadow and Bone tells the story of Alina Starkov, an orphan who has to harness powers she didn't even know she had in order to save her best friend. The novel debuted on the New York Times bestseller list and the series has proved incredibly popular. Leigh talks to Ryan about crafting a trilogy, realising your potential and never taking a break.

David Levithan is the hugely popular American author of a number of YA books, including Boy Meets Boy and The Realm of Possibility, and books for adults including The Lover's Dictionary. In collaboration with Rachel Cohn, he wrote Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, which was adapted into a film in 2008. His newest novel Every Day tells the the story of A, a character that wakes up in a different body and in a different life each morning. David talks to Ryan about creating a character without physical characteristics, what makes us ourselves and the nature of love.

Podcast contents

00:00 - 01:02 Introduction
01:10 - 14:08 Garth Nix interview
14:09 - 22.39 Leigh Bardugo interview
22:40 - 36:27 David Levithan interview

Book Talk is produced by Colin Fraser of Culture Laser Productions.

February 10, 2015 07:49 AM PST

This month, our Book Talk panel turns its attention to the popular autobiographical graphic novel Persepolis, by French-Iranian author Marjane Satrapi.

With a title that references the ancient capital of the Persian empire, Persepolis is a coming-of-age tale that spans some of the most unsettled years in Iran's recent history. The first volume tells the story of Satrapi's life in Tehran from the ages of six to fourteen, during which time she experiences the Islamic Revolution and the devastating Iran-Iraq war. The second volume marks her adolescence in Vienna, and her struggle to reconcile the girl she was with the woman she is becoming.

Joining Sasha de Buyl are Damon Herd, PhD researcher at the Scottish Centre for Comic Studies, and Mona Vaghefian, Communications Coordinator for the Edinburgh Iranian Festival.

The panel discusses the graphic novel's popularity with a wider audience, the new insights that the book offers on the history of Iran and the outsider perspective that Satrapi seems to experience in both Iran and Austria.

Through the podcast, they explore their reactions to the honesty with which Satrapi writes about her childhood self, the dual existence of citizens during the Revolution and the book's place within the genre of autobiographical comic books, alongside such titles as Art Spiegelman's Maus and Joe Sacco's Palestine.

If you're reading, or have read, the book, what did you think? How do you think it contributes to the wider graphic novel community?

Have you seen the animated film that was released in 2007 - and if so, does the story carry over from the book?

Book Talk is produced by Colin Fraser of Culture Laser Productions.

January 28, 2015 02:05 AM PST

In our first set of interviews for 2015, Ryan Van Winkle talks to Lucy Ribchester, Lucy Hughes-Hallett and Elizabeth Gifford about suffragettes, mythology and the fascist poet who wanted to create his own utopia.

Lucy Ribchester is the Edinburgh-based author of the recently-published The Hourglass Factory, her first novel. As well as being shortlisted for this year's Costa Short Story Awards, Lucy is a previous recipient of a Scottish Book Trust New Writers Award. The Hourglass Factory tells the story of Frankie George, a young reporter who becomes entangled in the messy, passionate worlds of the circus and the suffragettes when she meets Ebony Diamond, a mesmerising trapeze artist using her skills to fight for votes for women. Lucy opens up to Ryan about her inspirations, the fascinating world of those early suffragettes and why it took her five years to finish the book. 

Elisabeth Gifford is the author of Secrets of the Sea House, a fascinating novel which explores the interaction between history and myth. Based in the Hebrides, the book looks at the mythology of the islands and of the sea, and what happens when the two appear to come together in the form of a dark discovery. The book enjoys a very definite sense of place, and Elisabeth chats to Ryan about the culture of the Hebrides, the link between the sea and those who live by it, and the responsibility she felt in dealing with such an interesting culture. Elisabeth's new novel Return to Fourwinds is out now. 

Finally, Ryan speaks to Lucy Hughes-Hallett, a Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction winner and author of The Pike: Gabriele d'Annunzio, a searing biography of the man who believed he was the greatest Italian poet since Dante. The book was awarded the 2013 Costa Book Award for Biography of the Year, and the subject matter is certainly eye-opening. d'Annunzio was a creative, daredevil and fascist whose life goal was to establish a utopia based on his political and artistic ideals. Lucy talks Ryan through the intensely thrilling world of this strange man and the way his life unfolded. 

Podcast contents

00:00 - 01:09 Introduction
01:10 - 13:19 Lucy Ribchester interview
13:20 - 19.08 Elisabeth Gifford interview
19:09 - 29:33 Lucy Hughes-Hallett interview

Book Talk is produced by Colin Fraser of Culture Laser Productions.

January 14, 2015 02:03 AM PST

This month, our Book Talk panel turns its attention to the wildly successful Wild by Cheryl Strayed. This highly personal, admirably honest memoir details the authors journey from a lost 26-year-old who thought she had lost everything following her mother's shockingly quick death from cancer. With nothing to lose, she made the impulsive decision to walk eleven-hundred miles of the west coast of America and to do it alone with no experience of long-distance hiking. It proved to be a journey that saved her life. In early 2015, the book became a movie starring Reese Witherspoon as Cheryl. What better time to feature it on Book Talk. Join host Claire Marchant-Collier and her guests Michael Merillo from Scottish Book Trust, who's walked the trail himself, and novelist Sophie Cooke.

December 19, 2014 04:20 AM PST

Jodi Picoult is the author of 23 books that have sold over 23 million copies. Her latest novel Leaving Time debuted at number 1 on the New York Times bestseller list. The book tells the story of Alice Metcalf, and elephant researcher, and her daughter Jenna. Following Alice's disappearance, Jenna uses Alice's diaries to find out more about her mother and what might have happened to her. Jodi speaks to Ryan about the research she undertook for the book - including learning how to run an elephant sanctuary in Tennessee and working with an elephant researcher in Botswana - and how she planned the structure of a book with multiple narratives.

Helen Macdonald's recent memoir, H is for Hawk, won the 2014 Samuel Johnson Prize for non-Fiction. After the sudden death of her father, Helen coped with her grief by returning to a childhood obsession and training a goshawk. "The goshawk was everything I wanted to be: it didn't know about grief, it was very solitary and it was also very powerful and full of rage... It took me a good few years to get enough emotional distance from that year to be able to write it as a book"

The book is a raw and very personal reflection of a traumatic period in Helen's life and her storyis intertwined with that of writer TH White and his struggles with the difficulties in his life and attempts to train his own goshawk in 1936.

Finally, Ryan talks to the author of one of his favourite books of the year, Stay Up With Me a short story collection by Tom Barbash. Tom explains how some of his stories were put together, and the power of drafting: "I do like the fact that I'm not quite getting at in the beginning".


Podcast contents

00:00 - 01:26 Introduction
01:27 - 14:10 Jodi Picoult interview
14:11 - 23:57 Helen Macdonald interview
23:58 - 38:11 Tom Barbash

November 26, 2014 03:39 AM PST

This month, the Book Talk panel has been discussing the 2014 Man Booker Prize winner, Richard Flanagan's The Narrow Road to the Deep North. Taking its title from one of the most famous books in Japanese literature, written by the great haiku poet Basho, Flanagan’s novel has as its heart one of the most infamous episodes of Japanese history, the construction of the Thailand-Burma Death Railway in World War II.

In the despair of a Japanese POW camp on the Burma Death Railway, surgeon Dorrigo Evans is haunted by his love affair with his uncle’s young wife two years earlier. Struggling to save the men under his command from starvation, from cholera, from beatings, he receives a letter that will change his life forever.

Joining Sasha de Buyl are Literature Manager at Creative Scotland, Jenny Niven, and former Booker prize judge and literary critic, Stuart Kelly.

The panel discusses the many different facets of a novel called ‘graceful and unfathomable’ by the Telegraph, including its many scenes of torture and violence and the stripping back of concepts of traditional masculinity.

Through the podcast, they explore what sort of book deserves to win a Booker prize and whether Flanagan’s Narrow Road has earned its weighty title. Despite winning the Man Booker Prize, the novel was nominated for a Bad Sex award. Were Flanagan's descriptions jarring for the panel?

Flanagan is seen as a powerhouse of literary fiction in today’s market – does he mark a turn in the tide for the ‘Culture Cringe’ generation of Australian culture?

If you're reading, or have read, the book, what did you think? How do you think it compares to Flanagan's previous books?

Book Talk is produced by Colin Fraser of Culture Laser Productions.

November 12, 2014 09:37 AM PST

In this edition of Book Talk, Ryan Van Winkle talks modern day crime with Martina Cole, 18th century science with Jack Wolf, and ancient Memopotamian stories with Irving Finkel.

Martina Cole is a legendary British crime writer. She's the author of 21 books, including her most recent novel The Good Life.

Cole discusses her background, how she stays up-to-date with the changing criminal world and her attraction to writing about criminals and prison life rather than from the police perspective: "I prefer writing from the perspective of the criminal, I think they're much more exciting people to write about... You know in my book who's bad and who's not."

As one of the most borrowed - and stolen! - authors in prison libraries, Cole also discusses her work in prisons and why she's encouraging prisoners to escape (with a book!)

Jack Wolf, whose debut novel The Tale of Raw Head and Bloody Bones, takes us back to 1750, a time where medieval superstition was on the way out and modern rationalist thinking on the way in. Wolf's protagonist, Tristan Hart, is a conflicted man caught between science and superstition.

Wolf talks about conveying the mental pain of the character and also how he coped with writing a novel while keeping the language of the book as authentic as possible. "You just write. It becomes as instinctive as speaking the language I speak now".

Finally, Ryan talks to Irving Finkel, a curator at the British Museum in London whose book The Ark Before Noah: Decoding the Story of the Flood looks at the origins of the Biblical story of Noah's Ark.

After deciphering a cuneiform tablet brought into the British Museum, Finkel discovered that it was the beginning of the flood story. While the story of Noah in the Bible is a universally known narrative, the tablet demonstrates that the ancient Mesopotamians knew a very similar story 1000 years before the Bible came into being.

Finkel discusses the strong literary link and striking similarities between the stories and his theory about how the Babylonian story developed into the biblical version that we know today.

Podcast contents
00:00 - 00:58 Introduction
00:58 - 10:22 Martina Cole
10:22 - 20:18 Jack Wolf
20:18 - 30:00 Irving Finkel

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