Last Friday, I delivered copies of my two novels, I Am a Muse and The Book of Thoth to the bookshop at Athelhampton House near Dorchester, in my adopted county of Dorset. This is such an honour and for me, a dream come true, in a way. Growing up in a small town in the middle of France, I was in love with (English) manor houses and castles, books and the English language. Now I am the author and publisher of two novels in English which are on sale in a Tudor manor house! Result!
The current owner of the house, Giles Keating, is himself an author and has written the first in a series of historical books for young readers inspired by the history of the house (read more about Anne of Athelhampton HERE). Of course, the building has links to local literary hero Thomas Hardy, born almost literally round the corner from the house. Hardy was a frequent visitor to the house and was there for dinner when WWI was declared. Hardy wrote his poem “The Dame of Athelhall” about Athelhampton House.
This beautiful historic house is in many ways the ideal home for my books. It has had a long and eventful history, enough to inspire many novels!
I Am a Muse is a book about art and artists, and the house has many links to creative, literary and artistic endeavour. Between 1949 and 1957, it was the home of the dancer and actress Marika Rivera who had married the publisher Rodney Phillips and had trained under the famous pioneer of modern dance Isadora Duncan. Marika was the (estranged) daughter of the famous Mexican artist Diego Rivera, but it is her mother, the prolific Russian painter Marevna, whose presence brought a genuine artistic cachet to the estate. Before moving to Athelhampton with her daughter, Marevna had been part of the Parisian artistic community in the Montparnasse neighbourhood where she befriended and worked with many famous artists and writers in the 1910s and 1920s, including Braque, Chagall, Cocteau, Gorki, Max Jacob, Léger, Matisse, Modigliani and Picasso among others.
I was then thrilled to see several pictures of Marika taken at Athelhampton by one of my favourite photographers, Angus McBean! Below is one of the pictures in the series taken by Angus McBean at Athelhampton. Credit: ARTSY.NET
Before the Phillips owned the house, it was purchased in 1929 by newspaper magnate Lord Rothermere for this ex-daughter-in-law, the beautiful Mrs Harmsworth, who invited a string of glamorous and talented individuals to stay with her at her rural retreat, including Noël Coward, Douglas Fairbanks and many more… This most glamourous of owners brought art deco (and electricity!) to the house, and you can still see her bedroom kitted out in that style then you visit the house.
But I do believe that out of my two novels, The Book of Thoth is probably the one most at home there. Whitemoor Hall, the main location of the book, is a manor house with a murky past… Just like Athelhampton House, it has a Great Hall and monumental fireplaces, service stairs, dark corridors, wood panelling, a rose garden with sun dials and, crucially, GHOSTS!
On Friday, we were invited to visit the house and gardens and stayed for hours – there are too many beautiful and interesting details in every corner of the house to mention – but I have to mention The Library. I just fell in love with it, and we spent over 30mn looking at the spine of all the amazing vintage and antique volumes on the shelves.
It was difficult to resist picking up the books and leafing through them! I could easily have spent the whole day in there, and therefore, I’ve decided to use the library at Athelhampton as inspiration for that of Genius Loci, the manor house in my work-in-progress The Right Place (oh yes, I love a manor house, and therefore there’s also one in my third book!)
Unfortunately, my phone is old and capricious and I couldn’t take as many pictures as I would have liked as my storage filled up rather quickly… You will have to visit the house yourself to really appreciate the building and get your imagination fired up by the history of this most beautiful building… Mine certainly was!
After two and a half years of lockdowns and playing hide and seek with a virus, it is a strange feeling to feel like things are moving again in the right direction, albeit slowly and in challenging conditions (there's a war on a cost of living crisis, which is never good for people who trade in "non-essentials"... selling books is very, very challenging!)
In other news, I have picked up the manuscript of The Right Place again and intend on completing Draft 1 on schedule by the end of December 2022...
I have also been looking for events to trade at - promoting my books and Arcane Publishing and selling some of my pre-loved, vintage and rare books... Watch this space, I might be able to make some announcements soon!
There is a blog about Marilyn Monroe on the Arcane Publishing website. In it, I talk about Marilyn and my love of classic Hollywood movies. Read all about it HERE.
The sublime PJ Harvey is back out into the world, and she's talking about my adopted county of Dorset! Basically, what she says is the inspiration behind my third novel The Right Place which I don't seem to be able to complete... Sadly, it's going to be a little bit stop and start as I am on deadline for some freelance work I'm doing...
Go and read The Observer article HERE. And I don't know about you, but I'm saving to buy the illustrated version of her book, Orlam...
I have been doing some line editing on what I have written so far of Draft 1 of The Right Place.
I am quite happy with it so far, but find it difficult to put together and am not sure how to move the story forward. I don't have writer's block but some kind of performance anxiety... So many things have been interfering with my writing and have stopped me from writing entirely for such a long time that I find it tricky to easy myself into the writing process again. I just need a long spell of free writing time, which I hope will come from early May.
Unfortunately, I cannot "throw" myself into writing because I am a slow writer who needs the mental space to write - in order to be able to sit down and resume my story, I'd need to know that I have a clear run of several weeks, otherwise it just won't happen. I really envy those writers who can sit down anywhere and just get on with it, in whatever environment.
I personally need peace and quiet and can only listen to music which is relevant/related to what I write. No writing in the café down the road for me - which would be a bit tricky anyway as it's located on the extremely windy seafront overlooking Chesil Beach!
I might have a few announcements to make soon about events, watch this space!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO US!
I cannot believe that it has been 10 years since I founded Arcane Publishing!
I am immensely proud of the two novels I have written and published so far on the imprint, and I cannot wait to publish my third novel The Right Place and start work in earnest on my fourth book...
We have done a lot in those ten years.
I have written, edited and published two novels thanks to the help of @bigstevepoet and of course artist, designer, antiques and vintage trader extraordinaire @mattartpix
It's not easy to develop a very small business when you have a tiny budget but we have kept our independence and we do everything on our own terms.
So now in 2022, after two years of pandemic, we have a lot of plans...
We will publish our third book, The Right Place, in late 2023.
Work has already started on our fourth book, Hell Lane: A Barton Stacey Mystery.
We will be developing our pre-loved, vintage and rare books business further this year with events and hopefully at some point in 2023, an online shop. And we'd love to find a brick and mortar temporary home too!
Watch this space for further announcements!
I was back at St Catherine's Chapel today.
Some key scenes of my forthcoming novel, The Right Place, take place there, at the top of Chapel's Hill and in the surrounding landscape. I was glad to see that people still come and leave prayers in the small recesses in the wall. I have written them into the novel... I am just resuming writing this week, still a lot of work to do to complete draft 1.
The Right Place is inspired by the lyrics of "The Wind", a song by PJ Harvey about this very chapel.
"These little hollows, carved into the southern wall of the exposed chapel, would at times reveal so many snapshots of human stories. Kat had often stood in front of them and quietly read the messages, which were sometimes accompanied by a few extra items: coins, ribbons, feathers, small candles, and always dried butterfly wings, tragically decaying and mixing with the stone dust on the rough surface of the recesses... Sometimes there were pictures that would stare back at you almost too intensely. Kat often wondered about those people who carried on appealing to a saint who had fallen out of favour in the late 1960s. What were their names? Where did they come from? What had led them to the little chapel at the top of a hill? Had St Catherine been their last resort, the ultimate support they had sought when nobody or nothing else could help them? Had they been granted the divine support they had sought within those walls? Had it at least brought them some level of comfort? "
The Right Place by Carya Gish, extract of draft 1. Pub date is late autumn 2023.
After a long period raising funds for Arcane Publishing and its next projects and a couple of weeks abroad visiting family, here I am back in Blighty about to start work on my third novel The Right Place.
I am also planning on working on several related projects over the next few weeks and months: in addition to completing the manuscript, I have to sort out various promotional material for Arcane and its publications, and start planning an online website for the pre-loved/vintage and rare books side of the business. I am also thinking about booking some events to promote the imprint and my books, and sell some pre-loved books!
I've gone back to reading at last (I didn't open a book between early September and late December and only had two weeks to do a bit of reading over the Xmas holidays) and my reading list is long and bilingual!
I have just finished Leila Slimani's brilliant and devastating Chanson Douce (Lullaby is the English language title).
And I have just started Raynor Winn's The Salt Path and find it difficult to put down. This book is an absolute gem.
Now on future reads which will form the background to my own writing over the next few weeks:
I only discovered Tom Cox's and his fabulous books recently. I have already read the un-putdownable 21st-century Yokel and Ring The Hill and once I have finished The Salt Path, I'll get back to Tom's books and will read my way through Help The Witch, his first fiction book (short stories).
Whilst in France, I picked up a book of local myths and legends: Corinne Duchene's Contes et Legendes du Berry - I am going full-on folk horror as my fourth novel will be inspired by the genre.
More news soon!
Don't forget to check out my Instagram account - pictures of books, walks, nature, Dorset and inspiration.
I think therefore I write.
All Art Books Cinema Culture Events Idea Ideas Inspiration Inspirations Literature Music People Places Promo Publishing Reading Reviews Self Publishing Self Publishing Self-publishing Society Theatre Thoughts Working Work In Progress Work In Progress Writing Writings