Sunday 26 July 2020

June/July Articles Featuring Bronte’s Mistress

Oh my goodness! My debut historical novel, Brontë’s Mistress, comes out next week (!!) from Atria Books. There’s still time to pre-order your (hardcover, audio or e-book) copy before release day—you’ll find a list of suggested retailers here.

It’s time for another round up of recent articles the book’s been featured in, following on from the February/March and April/May editions. August promises to be even busier…

First—lists. Whose recommendation is more trustworthy than Oprah’s? I was beyond delighted that Brontë’s Mistress was included in Oprah Magazine’s round up of the best Fall reads. The Uncorked Librarian included the book in lists of the top 15 Powerful August 2020 Book Releases and the Most Anticipated Summer 2020 Book Releases. Living Read Girl suggested the book was perfect for a summer staycation, while Page and Palette had it as one of their virtual book club picks, and Forever Lost in Literature listed it as a “can’t wait” read.

Next—previews. Austenprose published an exclusive excerpt from Branwell Bronte and Lydia Robinson’s first meeting in my novel. What’s more, if you’re based in the US, you can read my first chapter on the book’s Amazon page. I also read an excerpt during a Facebook Live event with the 2020 Debuts group. You can check out a video recording here.

I was delighted to be featured in some local press back in my childhood home of Northern Ireland. The Carrick Times published a piece on the book, which also appeared in the Larne Times and News Letter. I even made it onto the Carrick Times front page in print!

On a serious note, I was quoted in a brave piece in Marie Claire penned by fellow debut author Leah Konen on the intrusive questions (women) writers are often asked. You should definitely check out her essay and, for the last time, no, I have not had sex with Branwell Bronte!

Lastly here are a few book reviews I enjoyed—from A Book Wanderer, Susan Monroe McGrath, Bless Their Hearts Mom, and Yaya Reads A Lot of Books.

If you’re interested in hearing more about Brontë’s Mistress, please consider attending my virtual launch event on August 3rd. All registration details can be found here. And to stay in the know about future events, follow me on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, or sign up to my email mailing list below.

Get updates on my novel - Bronte's Mistress

* indicates required

Tuesday 21 July 2020

How to support your writer friend

So your friend has written a book. That’s amazing! But maybe you’re not sure how best to support them, especially if you’re not a writer (or even a big reader) yourself. In this TOTALLY-NOT-SELF-SERVING blog post, two weeks before the publication of my own debut novel, Bronte’s Mistress, I’m sharing a list of ways you can show your friend you care.

This post assumes that your friend is published traditionally (not self-published or aspiring to publish), but let me know if you want additional posts talking about these scenarios too.

Buy their book

Writers need to sell books, so there’s no better way to support your friend’s career than by purchasing a copy. However, everyone has different financial situations, and, especially mid-pandemic, you might not be in a position to spend much on non-essential items. Here are some helpful things to note. If your friend is traditionally published, it doesn’t matter to them financially which format you buy their book in. Royalty percentages vary, so the dollar amount that goes to the writer is going to be similar whether you go for that glossy hardcover or the cheaper e-book. Similarly, if your friend’s book is on offer somewhere (maybe Amazon has reduced the price or another book retailer is doing a sale), this means savings for you, without hurting them. Their royalties are going to be calculated based on recommended retail price.

Borrow their book

If money is still an issue though, or if you want to read a physical book while embracing extreme minimalism in your home, consider borrowing the book from your local library. If they don’t seem to have the book, request it! This could mean a sale for your friend without you having to spend a dime.

Gift their book

Maybe you know your friend’s book just isn’t for you. It’s horror and you’re easily horrified. It’s a romance and you’ve never enjoyed the genre. That’s okay! Consider buying the book instead for someone else you know who might genuinely love it. It’s better that than nuking your friendship by leaving a one-star review. Speaking of which…

Write a (good) review

Sure, you may be a little biased, but if you loved your friend’s book and are comfortable doing so, shout it the world! Amazon and Goodreads are the two most important places for book reviews. Leaving a five-star review will take you less than five minutes, but will be a gift that keeps giving to the author.

Post on social media

Is your Instagram feed your pride and joy? Do you post to Facebook ten times a week? Now is your moment to shine. Book covers are writers’ number one marketing tool, so that pic of your friend’s book beside your morning latte is marketing gold for the writer. Just remember to tag them, as long as you’re not saying anything negative!

Attend their events

Writers with books coming out in 2020 are having to forego the typical book launch party, but this does mean their events are a much smaller time commitment and so easier for you to attend. Watch Facebook Live in your PJs or wave at your friend on Zoom. They’ll love you for it. (Speaking of which, you’re all invited to my launch event—all the info here!).

Invite them to your book club

Are you in a book club that would love to read your friend’s book? A lot of writers would be flattered and delighted to be asked to join a book club meeting for a Q&A. And you’ll get kudos for knowing a real life writer. ;)

Just be a friend

Launching a book can be stressful, so sometimes support can be simple as checking in. Maybe your friend would love to escape for a day or evening and talk about anything but their book? You know them best, so whether the foundation of your friendship is gaming, fishing, complaining, laughing, or drinking copious amounts of wine, you’ll understand instinctually what will matter most to them.

Do you want to support the launch of Bronte’s Mistress? Now you know how to…

Pre-order the book!

Attend the launch event (virtually)!

Message me on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter, if you want me to join your book club for a Q&A. J


For more updates on Bronte’s Mistress, be sure to subscribe to my email newsletter below.

Get updates on my novel - Bronte's Mistress

* indicates required

Thursday 9 July 2020

August 3 is my book launch party—and you’re ALL invited!

One of the only good things about your debut novel coming out in the midst of a global pandemic is that virtual events are more inclusive events. So, no matter where you live, I’m delighted to be able to invite you to the release event for Bronte’s Mistress, hosted by the famous Strand Book Store in NYC, but open to everyone via Zoom and Facebook Live!

What’s Bronte’s Mistress about?

Bronte’s Mistress explores the scandalous historical love affair between Branwell Brontë and Lydia Robinson, giving voice to the woman who allegedly corrupted her son’s innocent tutor and brought down the entire Brontë family.

When is the event?

Aug 3rd—the night before the release of Bronte’s Mistress. The local time will be 7pm ET. However, my family in the UK is making it a midnight watch party. If you’re In Europe, I hope you will too!

How do I RSVP?

Click here to RSVP to the Facebook Event, and make sure you fill in the registration form to get access to the Zoom details.

What will happen during the event?

I’ll be in conversation with Joy Goodwin, American Representative of the Bronte Society, about the novel and the true history of the Lydia Robinson/Branwell Bronte affair. We’ll then open up to audience questions. These will be submitted via the Zoom chat feature, so make sure you’re watching there, rather than on the Facebook Live, if you want to participate.

How do I buy a copy of your book?

You can pre-order Bronte’s Mistress anywhere books are sold (list of suggestions here). However, if you want to support the Strand for graciously hosting the launch, please order via this link.

Can I get my book signed?

The pandemic has made this tricky, but I’m hoping to sign bookplates, which will be included with purchases made from the Strand. Keep an eye on the Facebook Event for more details on this in the next few weeks. If I know you in real life, I can of course sign your book whenever I’m next able to see you!

Will there be wine?

BYOB is strongly encouraged. ;)

Oh no! I have plans on Aug 3. Will there be any other events?

There sure will! Check out the Events page on my website for updates on events (some have yet to be announced). I’m even doing a Facebook Live reading of a passage of the novel on Jul 25, i.e. prior to the launch event. I’d love you all to join that event too!

Still have questions?

Comment below, tweet me @SVictorianist, or message me on Instagram or Facebook. I hope to see many of you on Aug 3!

Saturday 4 July 2020

How Victorian Gothic is still inspiring writers today: a conversation with C.G. Twiles, author of The Best Man on the Planet

I can hardly believe it. The launch of my debut novel, Bronte’s Mistress, is now only a month away! The book, as the title might suggest, is a work of historical fiction, inspired by the lives and works of the Bronte family. It’s based on a true episode in the great literary family’s history, and three of the four siblings who reached adulthood are major characters in my novel.


But there’s another important way in which the novels of Charlotte, Emily, and Anne continue to impact writers and bookshelves today. They are pivotal to our understanding of the Gothic genre.


I recently chatted to C.G. Twiles, author of The Best Man on the Planet, which the writer describes as a ‘modern Gothic romantic thriller’. I wanted to know what Gothic means today, and how the Brontes can help us understand our more modern ideas of romance and suspense.


Thanks for chatting with me today about Gothic fiction and The Best Man on the Planet! What inspired you to write the book?



Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. I read it when I was 21, and, ever since then, I’ve wanted to write something similar.


The Best Man on the Planet isn’t a retelling, but more of an inspired update. After all, it was hard to think of a really dark secret that my ‘Mr Rochester’ (in my novel, Mr Foster) could have that would shock people these days. We’ve heard it all at this point. My title is ironic, much like The Great Gatsby. I was also tired of thrillers with the word ‘Girl’ in the title, so I came up with one that had ‘Man’.


I have a lot of other interests, like true crime and psychology, which I wrote about for years, and so these themes also ended up weaving their way in. And I’ve always wanted to write a big soul-mance romance. So I put all that into one book. A modern Gothic romantic thriller was the result.



How would you define Gothic fiction in particular?



For me, a house that has a sinister vibe is key to a Gothic novel. It can be a mansion, a castle, an urban apartment, or a double wide, but the dwelling is a witness to all the drama, virtually another character.


And then there’s often a Byronic hero, which of course comes from the poet Lord Byron. A dark, brooding, usually male, character, with some kind of torturous past that punishes his present.


But I would argue that while Gothic fiction often centres on the tortured psyche of the male, it is really about the psyche of the female, and how she deals with it. I look at it as the male being the dark part of her psyche.


There are exceptions of course—in Anne Bronte’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, the woman is the Byronic hero. And I haven’t read your book, Bronte’s Mistress, yet, but I’m imagining that in your novel, both Branwell and Lydia are Byronic: Branwell tortured by drink and a sense of failure, Lydia by her boring marriage and constraints of her class and era. Am I right?!



No spoilers here but you may well be onto something…


I find a lot of your answer really interesting, especially what you said about the central role of the Gothic house. One of the things that stood out to me when reading The Best Man on the Planet was the Gothic mansion in Brooklyn that your main character, Casey, finds herself working at. How did you go about characterizing the house? Is it a real mansion?



It is real! It’s a members-only club, called The Montauk Club, in Park Slope, Brooklyn. I basically described it to a T. While I was writing the book, a member allowed me inside (and bought me dinner—thank you!). You can read more about The Montauk Club on my website, I hope it will survive the pandemic given that it has currently stopped all events.


I suppose mansions are so central to Gothic novels because of the genre’s origins. These books were often focused on the secrets and depravity of the upper classes, and those people lived in castles, estates and mansions.



Speaking of the genre’s origins, do you have any favourite Gothic reads, whether classic or modern, you’d recommend?



I love anything by the Brontes. I also like middle-of-the road Gothic authors, like Dorothy Eden, and Ira Levin, who wrote Rosemary’s Baby and The Stepford Wives. In Levin’s stories, there are often sinister homes and strong heroines under duress. I was really into V.C. Andrews as a kid and read all the Dollanganger series, but I tried to reread it recently and couldn’t get into it.



And any favourite, or least favourite, Gothic tropes? Which can readers expect to find in your novel?



In The Best Man on the Planet, there’s crime, there’s love and sex (though not explicit), there’s a house that basically comes alive.


A couple of things I also did that aren’t common now in thrillers but were in Gothic fiction back in the day: I have a heroine with a strong moral centre; she is not an unreliable narrator. There’s a sense of humour threaded throughout. The Brontes were great, dry wits, and you don’t see much of that these days in thrillers; they’re all so serious from the first paragraph. But I’m not capable of writing without some humour.


I’m not a huge fan of the dark and stormy night trope. Charlotte Bronte made beautiful use of a storm sweeping in and splitting the huge oak tree after Rochester’s proposal to Jane, but I don’t think that can be topped, so I tend to stay away from storms. It just seems a cheap, easy way to try to get a thrill. How much more challenging is it to create a sense of dread under a clear, sunny sky?



Did you also find it challenging to deal with some of the digital realities of our lives today, when writing a Gothic with a contemporary setting?



Yes. It’s hard to give characters modern technology (cell phones, texts, emails and social media), and still manage to have the staples of suspense – like characters who can’t reach each other. If you think of that great scene in Jane Eyre where she and Rochester communicate telepathically, now they’d just text each other. Not as exciting! I kept making things happen and then realising it probably wouldn’t happen that way if there was a cell phone, so I went to elaborate lengths to get rid of modern technology.



What about our modern views on psychology? We’ve come along way in our understanding of the psyche since the 1840s!



I took the more up-to-date approach that our biology and brain wiring plays a huge role in our development, more than what our mother might have done to us at age five!


In the world I created in my novel, the brain scan has much more importance than the subconscious. I wanted to ask the question about the role our brains play in who we are—you hear about people who have a stroke and they are suddenly a completely different person! There are people who came out of strokes speaking with foreign accents, or whose sexual orientation changed, or who suddenly became math or musical geniuses.


So I wanted to explore that rather than the deep buried memory thing that so many thrillers are exploring. Who are we really? In the book, Mr. Foster has had a brain aneurysm that burst. He wakes up completely changed. Is he now responsible for the actions of the man he was before?



People will have to read your book to find out! Thank you so much for chatting for my blog and best of luck with The Best Man on the Planet.



It was my pleasure.



The Best Man on the Planet is available for purchase on Amazon now. Find C.G. Twiles online, on Facebook, on Instagram, or on Twitter.


Bronte’s Mistress is available for pre-order, in hardcover, e-book and audiobook, now, and will be published August 4. Click here to attend my virtual launch event with Strand Book Store NYC on August 3, wherever you are in the world. Want to stay in touch? Sign up to my email newsletter below, or connect with me via Facebook or Instagram, or by tweeting @SVictorianist.

Get updates on my novel - Bronte's Mistress

* indicates required