Life-changing literature

I have dreamt in my life, dreams that have stayed with me ever after, and changed my ideas; they have gone through and through me, like wine through water, and altered the colour of my mind.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

I first read Wuthering Heights as a teenager, and since then, I’ve read it many more times – on each reading I see something fresh. Reading this book has indeed altered the colour of my mind. It inspired my second thriller, The Stolen Child, which is set on Ilkley Moor, not far from where the Brontes grew up,

To hear more about my thoughts on this story, head over to the Royal Literary Fund, where I talk about life-changing literature. 

I feared these books would be dull, staid and part of the establishment that I was so busy rebelling against; and then I read Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte.

https://www.rlf.org.uk/showcase/sanjida-oconnell-lcl/

What have you read that’s changed your life?

 

 

 

Interview with Historical Fiction Reader

…one of the scenes I lost, which I pine for, is where Joseph is in a small canoe, floating down a river lined with boats full of orchids that are for sale.

I’ve just been interviewed by Erin Davies, aka the Historical Fiction Reader, about my latest historical novel, The Priest and the Lily.

Erin had some interesting questions. The one above is the answer to: Which scene ended up on the cutting room floor?

There were many, but I particularly loved the opening scene, described above, although, it was, ahem, probably too flowery.

She also asked me about my inspiration, my characters and what fantasy cast I’d pick!

The rest of the interview is here

Let me know what you think!

 

 

Marketing and Me

‘I don’t much like it. Marketing is about selling & writers, as we know, are about writing and reading. They’re generally not known for their ability to get you to buy a Prius when you wanted a Yaris’

 

I’ve recorded a podcast about having to market myself for The Royal Literary Fund – publishers expect authors to promote themselves these days, as I’m sure you know!

If you’re a writer, how do you feel about it?

‘Hyping one’s novel can sound boastful. Secretly, most of us hope we’re Dostoevsky, whilst being plagued by doubt. There is an allure, in these days of posts & tweets, of becoming a writerly recluse’

 Let me know what you think. You can listen here:  buff.ly/3liP3ra 

Red Hot Chilli Writers Podcast

I had a wonderful chat with two of my favourite crime fiction writers, Vaseem Khan & Abir Mukherjee, for their Red Hot Chilli Writers podcast – out today!
 
Luckily I had two books to talk about, ONE YEAR LATER, as well as THE PRIEST AND THE LILY. We talked about camping in lockdown, as well as arriving in Outer Mongolia with only the clothes I was wearing, as my luggage had been left in Russia…
 
 
Hope you enjoy it!
 
 

The Priest and the Lily – the inspiration for my novel about men and flowers

Many of our most common and beautiful garden plants have come from far-flung locations throughout the world, brought to us by intrepid explorers who have literally risked life and limb in their search for the rare and exotic. Our gladioli originally came from South Africa, rhododendrons from the Himalayas, the monkey puzzle tree is indigenous to Chile, the regal lily was discovered in China and many of our most exquisite orchids originate in the Amazon. The stories of some of these men – for they were mostly men – who travelled the world in search of flowers, and got themselves into scrapes – attacked by bandits, gored by a bull, capsized from a canoe, fell off a cliff – inspired my story, The Priest and the Lily.

Set in 1865, just after Charles Darwin published The Origin of Species, on his radical theory of evolution, The Priest and the Lily is about a Jesuit priest, Joseph Jacobs, who sets sail from Bristol for Outer Mongolia. Joseph, passionate, idealistic and driven, wants to discover rare plants and animals and make a name for himself in scientific circles back in Britain. The young priest is accompanied a Buddhist monk and a horseman; as they travel across the steppes, he hears stories of an astonishingly beautiful white lily. Finding this lily becomes his dream. But to discover where it grows, he will encounter many dangers, for he will have to face the savagery of the White Warlord, a Chinese General intent on seizing power in Mongolia, as well as the far more powerful Yolros lama, the living incarnation of the Buddha. And in his quest for the lily, Joseph will meet a woman who will show him something far more precious than a flower. 

I spent years researching my story – and travelled to Outer Mongolia, where I had my own mini adventure. We were due to spend three weeks travelling by jeep and horseback in order to meet the tribe I was going to write about in my novel. Unfortunately, my luggage ended up in Russia, and I had to set off in just the clothes I was wearing! Thankfully I was wearing my walking boots!

Mongolia is stunning: it is a country of seemingly endless skies and steppes, with incredibly hospitable people. At the time of writing this blog, we’re in the grip of COVID-19, and everyone in the UK as well as many other countries, is currently in lockdown at home. I hope that my novel can, in some small way, help take our minds off this situation, transporting us to a country and a time far from own immediate experience, and perhaps, too, allow us appreciate what Joseph comes to realise – that it is love, which is more important than anything else on this earth. 

 

Thank you to Victoria Goldman for hosting this blog on her website: Off-the-Shelf Books.