Book Review: Six Stories by Matt Wesolowski

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In 1996, 15-year-old Tom Jeffries goes missing while on an outreach expedition to Scarclaw Fell. His mutilated body is found the following year by the son of the land’s owner. Twenty years later, no-one has been brought to account for the seeming crime and Tom’s story becomes the subject of a series of podcasts by renowned journalist Scott King, who likes to investigate so-called ‘cold’ cases. Interviewing the members of the Rangers group with whom Tom visited the fell, King sets out to get a clearer picture of the events that led to the tragic death of the teen.

Wesolowski’s book is no straightforward crime novel; it is a psychological thriller, Gothic novel, series of podcasts and an in-depth exploration of the motives behind human behaviour all rolled into one. Structured as six interviews with Tom Jeffries’ friends and acquaintances, the novel explores their different perspectives on the events leading up to Tom’s disappearance, each ‘story’ giving the plot another subtle twist. While each take on what might have happened to Tom is different, each podcast gives the reader another set of clues. Thus, Wesolowski successfully builds a bigger picture that enables the reader to ‘see around’ the characters’ limited viewpoints. Are Tom’s friends telling the truth? Or is there more to what happened than they are revealing?

With folkloric tales of terrifying creatures on the fell, Wesolowski also dips into the supernatural in this novel. Indeed, his atmospheric and highly detailed descriptions of the novel’s setting carry a strong link to 19th century Gothic literature. The contemporary structure of the book, however, most certainly gives Six Stories a modern twist, ensuring its appeal to the 21st century reader. If you are a fan of podcasts, particularly the seemingly much revered Serial, then this book is for you. If you are not a podcast fanatic (as I’m not) then the traditional murder-mystery aspect of the novel is still very much likely to appeal. In other words, Six Stories has something for everyone.

Six Stories is published by Orenda Books and is available to buy now.

Author Interview: Louise Beech

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I recently caught up with Orenda Books writer Louise Beech to ask her about becoming published, current projects and her inspirations.

Tell us about your journey to becoming a published writer.

Oh, it was lo-o-o-o-ng! But I think always believing and never giving up paid off. It took more than eight years, four novels, four plays, fifty short stories, multiple newspaper columns, millions of rejections, the odd competition shortlist, and a few tears to get a book deal, which I finally did in 2015 with Orenda Books. The best thing about all that work is that I already had four complete novels when I got my deal, so I was ahead of myself. And luckily my publisher, Karen Sullivan, is going to publish them all.

Your first novel How To Be Brave was inspired by the life of your grandfather. Why did you feel you had to tell his story?

The phrasing ‘had to tell his story’ is so apt. Because I did. It was bursting out of me. By that I mean that I had always wanted to write Grandad Colin’s story but wasn’t sure how I’d do it. Then, when my daughter Katy, who has Type 1 Diabetes like Rose, refused to have her daily injections, I began telling her his incredible tale of bravery, just as Natalie does with Rose. I knew that was how the story should be told – as a story within a story. I hoped not only to portray his incredible bravery, but to inspire others during dark times, and to educate on how serious a condition Type 1 Diabetes can be.

 Your publishing journey has progressed very quickly with your first novel released in 2015 and your third Maria in the Moon due for release very soon. What has surprised you most since you became a part of the publishing industry?

I always knew – and accepted and was prepared for – that a great deal of hard work would be involved. But it still hits me sometimes how much there is to do. The writing is only one aspect of it. There are edits, proof reading, promoting (often on social media), events, travelling, meeting people, networking, and reading other books. And of course you still have your family, and I still have a day job. I don’t yet earn enough to only write, despite the fact that it takes up 24 hours of my life! This is why you MUST love it. And I do. There is nothing at all like writing. It has saved me, quite literally, at times.

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What are you currently writing?

I have just finished the (possibly) hundredth draft of a book that will be my fourth, called The Lion Tamer Who Lost, which is essentially a dark and tragic love story, with a bit of a twist. Not all hearts and romance, I assure you. And now I’ve just started what I hope to be book five, which is loosely called Star Girl, and involves the brutal murder of a local pregnant woman, and how it affects those around her.

What inspires you to write?

Everything! Music. Dreams. Conversations. Real life. Hardship. Love.

Tell us about your writing routine? Do you write every day?

It isn’t always possible every single day, especially when I work long hours or am away on book tours for days at a time. I do need to get a laptop for those long train journeys so I can do it then also. At the moment, I only write on my home computer. When I’m home, I write anywhere between one hour and five a day. I’m strict. I sit. I ignore social media. Put music on. And go…

What are you reading at the minute?

I just finished Exquisite by Sarah Stovell (wow, what a book!) and started The Last Days of Leda Grey by Essie Fox. I always have a book or two on the go.

Where do you see yourself in ten years’ time?

Writing, definitely. I’ll write until my ideas dry up or my eyes fall out, whichever comes first. I see myself having had a huge bestseller by then (a girl can dream!) and maybe, who knows, one of my books will have been made into a film. Whatever I’m doing, it will be with the same passion. I assure you of that.

Maria in the Moon will be out on Kindle on 15th August and can be pre-ordered now from Amazon. The paperback version will be out on 30th September.