Last night I went to a meeting of the Abingdon Writers Group to which they’d invited author Ali Shaw to speak, and opened it up to non-members as part of the 2012 Abingdon Arts Festival. First we heard from several members of the group who talked about their experiences, the benefits of having a support group of other writers to critique their work and egg them on; we heard about some of their successes too which have been notable for a young group. If you’d like to find out more do click through to the link above.
In the second half of the evening Ali Shaw gave a reading from his fab new novel The Man Who Rained (my review here). He chose a lovely passage where Finn (the man who rains) shows Elsa canaries made from sunbeams – magical!
Ali talked a bit about his two novels and their inspirations. A vision of glass feet came to him on an escalator in Reading as the initial thought behind his first book The Girl with Glass Feet (my review here). That book was steeped in the fairy-tale traditions of Hans Christian Andersen.
The Man Who Rained draws its themes from folklore rather than fairytale which is full of “capricious weather characters” and the devil in all his guises. Ali told us how he had wanted to think about a time where the weather was more elemental in people’s life, and to bring that feeling into a contemporary setting.
He mentioned how he sees his books which, for anyone who hasn’t read him have a strong natural magic element, as general fiction – glad that there is an increasing blurring of genres these days, so that more books that would have been pigeonholed as fantasy gaining a general readership. He mentioned The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey as an example, (my review here). However, he added rather mischieviously, everything goes back to folklore and fairytale.
His third novel has just been delivered to his agent. It’s about a forest which grows overnight, and a man who has to find his wife in a world transformed by the primal power of nature. Powerful images indeed – sounds fantastic!
He also talked about how he writes, how the best ideas come from the back of his brain, and how he doesn’t plan out his novels before he starts. He encouraged the writers group, comparing its function to that of his Creative Writing MA, and urged them to keep writing and use the group.
Then he signed books, and I was delighted that he remembered me from his previous visit to Abingdon and my blog posts on his books. Nice guy, great writer and lovely books too.