Cake competition!

My Mother’s Secret is out in paperback! To celebrate, I’m launching a competition.

As I’m sure you’re aware my love of cake has made its way into My Mother’s Secret. Not only is the protagonist, Emma Taylor, a baker, but quite a few kinds of cake are mentioned throughout My Mother’s Secret.

So what better way to celebrate the paperback release than with cake and prizes!

I’ll be holding a competition on my Facebook page from the 7th – 14th of October to see if anyone can guess how many types of cakes there are in My Mother’s Secret! The winner will receive a signed paperback copy of My Mother’s Secret and a £10 voucher to spend in Hart’s Bakery! I spent quite a bit of time at Hart’s Bakery when I was researching My Mother’s Secret, and ‘Kate’s’ (the bakery that Emma Taylor works at) is based on it, so it only seems fair to let you indulge there too!

All you need to do to enter is post your guess on my Facebook page and tag @SanjidaKayAuthor with #MyMothersSecret. If you add a photo of your favourite sweet treat you’ll be entered TWICE!

The competition ends on the 14thof October and I’ll be selecting the winner the following day.

Good luck!

 

 

Diversity in Fiction

I’ve written as a Jesuit priest in Outer Mongolia, a nine-year-old in inner city Bristol, a child abductor, an angry teenager, a man in his twenties, a Victorian lady trapped on an island in the Southern states of America at the turn of the Civil War. I’ve written about slaves, Buddhist lamas, racketeers and drug addicts, accountants and artists, actors and academics. As a writer, I want to tell any story I’m moved to, from the perspective of any character I wish, regardless of their race, religion and culture – or perhaps because of it.

My own background is that I’m half Bangladeshi, half Irish and grew up in Africa, Ireland, England and Wales in a Protestant-Catholic household, only distantly knowing the Muslim-American side of my family. Yet I rarely, if ever, read about anyone from a culturally diverse background in British fiction. 

Many years ago, when Zadie Smith burst on the literary scene with White Teeth, and Salman Rushdie was still in vogue, I thought the situation was about to change. Cut to the present day. The long lists for most literary awards are still filled with white authors. The multi-culturalism this country is famous for is rarely represented in literature. You can buy a Dansak, raw sauerkraut, Thai green paste and a Za’tar rub in your local supermarket, but have you found a novel where the majority of characters represent the Nigerian-Welsh, the British Somali, the Ukrainian-Bristolian and the Russian-Irish kids in my (Asian-Irish-Scottish) daughter’s class?

In my own genre, crime, BAME (Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority) writers only make up 4% of all authors. Mixed race characters and authors are still few and far between. Worse, according to a report, Writing the Future, commissioned by Spread the Word and edited by Danuta Kean, which was published in 2015, BAME writers are often pressurised to produce characters and settings that conform to white middle-class stereotypes of racial minorities, and the places (‘exotic’, ‘gritty’) they believe them to live. Publishers tell me that my market, like that of the majority of writers in this country, is largely 35-55 year-old white women. Yet in a scant thirty years, it’s predicted that one in five people in this country will be from an ethnic minority.

For me the situation is a broader issue.  As Kean says, ‘The big elephant in the room is class and socio-economic background.’ Those in the publishing industry, including agents, editors and people running literary festivals, are overwhelmingly white, middle or upper class. They, unlike many BAME candidates, are often educated privately and attended Russell Group universities (at a time when only 7% of the UK population has been privately educated and only 1% attended an Oxbridge University). Furthermore, BAME would-be publishers are frequently from families who can’t afford to subsidise them for a year or so as an unpaid intern in London. Kean comments, ‘Change is cosmetic and has not been structural or institutional.’

In other words, it’s not simply that British and American literature is not ethnically diverse, but that the very people deciding what is to be published and how it should be edited are largely not from diverse backgrounds, either in terms of their culture or their class. In this country, the children that borrow most of the books from libraries are British Asian…and yet, and yet, as adults, Asians are not buying or reading books. I’ve rarely attended an event where I was not in the minority solely down to my skin colour. And I’m still not reading books or seeing screen plays where the main characters are British Asian, so maybe this sector of the population are giving up because they are so overwhelmingly underrepresented in British fiction.

I think it’s fantastic that there are now initiatives to encourage more BAME writers into fiction, but until the publishing industry itself becomes more representative of the population as a whole (and pays interns and junior staff  better), I fear these small shoots will not produce the multiplicity of multi-coloured blooms we crave.

 

One Year Later

As My Mother’s Secret has been wending its way into the world, I’ve been working on another psychological thriller. It’s called One Year Later

One year ago, the Flowers family gathered at The Pines, a rambling farmhouse in Somerset, to celebrate the youngest child’s third birthday. Tragically, the day before her birthday, Ruby-May drowned in the garden pond while her grandfather, David Flowers, was meant to be looking after her.

One year later, Ruby-May’s anniversary is fast approaching. The three Flowers siblings, Nick, Bethany, and Amy, who is Ruby-May’s mother, decide to hold the anniversary of the child’s death on a remote island off the coast of Italy. They’ve barely spoken to each other for a year, and none of them have seen their father, David, since the funeral. This is their chance to heal and come together as a family before it’s too late.

But as the extended family, including partners, children and hangers-on, gather in what appears to be an idyllic location, a rural farmhouse next to a stunningly beautiful beach, David shows up, still refusing to admit he was culpable. As the tension escalates, buried secrets will be uncovered…and not everyone may make it home…

Originally called The Anniversary, the novel is book-ended by scenes in Bristol and Somerset, where I live, but most of the action takes place on a tiny island off the coast of Italy. Sadly, I didn’t manage a research trip, as my husband pointed out I’ve been to Italy more than enough times to satisfy most normal people, and I should just do what writers are meant to – use my imagination. Fortunately, the weather this summer is breathtakingly-hot, which helps, although I would much rather be on a beach than at my desk.

One Year Later will literally be out one year later…August 2019. Just in time for your summer holiday.

 

 

Coming Soon – The Stolen Child

My second thriller, The Stolen Child, is out soon: 6 April! And I’m delighted to be able to reveal the cover to you!

 

The Stolen Child is set on Ilkley moor, where I grew up. It’s about a couple, Zoe and Ollie, who long for a baby but are unable to have one. They adopt a child from birth, a little girl called Evie. A few years later they have their own child, a boy called Ben. The story begins when Ben is two and Evie is seven. Evie’s starting to realise that she’s different from the rest of her family, and beginning to understand what it means to be adopted.

One day she receives a card addressed to My Daughter. Inside it says:

                           Seven years ago, you were stolen from me. 

                           Now I’m coming to get you back. 

                                                              Love, your Daddy.

 

I’ve been fortunate to have had some wonderful pre-publication comments:

 

‘The Stolen Child captivated me, terrified me and left me deeply moved.’ Holly Seddon

‘Beautiful terse writing and the build to the shattering climax is palpable.’ Peter James

‘Gut-wrenching… The Stolen Child succeeds as both a fast-paced thriller and a haunting tale of a fragile family.’ Peter Swanson

‘Grips to the very last page… I couldn’t put it down.’ Amanda Jennings

 

I hope you enjoy it! It’s available for pre-order from Amazon.