Sandwiched between the lively Circus Tent and an excitable bunch of six year olds dressed as Disney princesses, I did a turn at Victorious festival and read from 'Oskar'. The audience, perched on hay bales, seemed to appreciate it, even though I had to holler at them through the microphone to make myself heard. Had a good old dance for afters at The Happy Mondays on the main stage, followed by Gaz Coombes.
It was a delight to read out my short story, commissioned for this year's festival, on a crazy hot Saturday in a cool tent in Queen's Park. The inspiration came from John Blandy, a local artist who has been painting the same lime tree, from the same spot, every day since 1997.
He’d been watching the man for over 20 years now. Almost every day the thin, angular figure in the green cap was rooted to the same spot with his easel and Tupperware box of pastels, in front of the old lime tree in the park.
He liked the fact that he knew almost nothing about the painter, not even his name. But for three hours each morning, they both did their work, separated only by the glass of his study window, which faced west onto the park. He, shuffling words around until they became novels or essays or articles, and the painter silently applying pastels to the paper.
They say that every writer tells the same story over and over again, just in different ways. Similarly, the painter was telling the same story, from the same angle, yet always different due to the constant shift of light and seasons.
Over the years he had learnt to see the lime tree through the eyes of the painter: the joyful burst of its tiny brown buds in spring; the luscious bloom of green in summer; the golden drift of leaves in autumn and in winter, the stark grey branches, stripped bare like bones.
In his 20s when he had travelled to India and read a lot more books, he’d been fascinated by the philosopher and writer Krishnamurti. One particular phrase had stayed with him - ‘the observer becomes the observed’. He still thought about it from time to time, turning the meaning over in his mind: when we trulylearn tosee something, then the boundaries between ourselves and that which we are seeing, will dissolve.
That morning, in the delicate mauve light of the midsummer dawn, the man was out especially early. Although his easel was set up, he wasn’t painting. Instead he stood completely still, contemplating the tree.
Pausing from the overdue essay he’d been grappling with, he noticed that the figure’s usual sharp lines were blurred, as though someone had smudged them with their thumb. He thought it might be a smear on his spectacles, but when he glanced towards the nearby bandstand, that was as clearly defined as ever.
He kept looking up from the desk, and each time he saw that the figure was becoming hazier. Usually he would pause for his first coffee an hour after starting work, but this morning he pulled on his jacket and hurried down the stairs.
He was almost at the park railings, when he saw that the man was no longer there. Only his easel and box of pastels remained on the grass. He walked quickly through the gates and along the path, scanning left and right. In the distance a lone jogger in a red tracksuit was stretching by the children’s playground and he could hear the thud of a tennis ball on the court by the café.
He reached the lime tree, setting his feet in the two worn patches of brown earth, where the painter usually stood. The piece of white paper backed with hardboard and clipped onto the easel was blank.
He stared at the tree, seeing it once again through the painter’s eyes: the vibrant green draping the upper branches; the small heart-shaped leaves threaded with tiny veins; the mottled, brownish-grey bark.
He walked towards the tree and laid a hand on its trunk, feeling the cool, solid mass beneath his fingers. A sudden shift of cloud, and the lower part of the tree was dappled with sunshine. For a moment, he thought he saw the familiar outline of a thin, angular face in the pattern of the bark, but seconds later the sun slid behind a cloud and it was gone.
It's a pretty sturdy line-up this year, which includes Zadie Smith, Tessa Hadley, Philip Hensher, Stephen Frears, Eleanor Catton, Shami Chakrabarti, Joe Dunthorne ... and me. I will be reading from my new YA novel 'The Spectacular Vision of Oskar Dunkelblick' at 3 pm on Saturday as well as hosting a debate on digital publishing at 1.30 pm.
Tickets from : https://qpbookfest.com
My second novel, this time for Young Adults, is being released on 27th September 2018 (by RedDoor). It's the tale of Oskar, the ultimate teenage loner, who hates being touched and whose eyes are always itchy from acute conjunctivitis. He perks himself up by painting other people's misery. But one day, during a not-so-routine eye test, his bleak perspective is blown apart when he tries on a pair of very unusual lenses. The world he suddenly glimpses is filled with beauty, love and wonder - and Oskar is furious!
But those lenses have opened his inner eye. Slowly, much against his darker nature, Oskar's behaviour starts to change, in ways that his worst nightmares could never have predicted...
WhitLit 2015 boasts a plethora of illustrious authors including Kate Mosse, David Nicholls, Patrick Gale and Penny Vincenzi. But this year the organisers have also programmed a special Writers’ Day on Saturday 9th May in the Whitstable Castle click on the image to read more...
Thrilling news. Cinema Lumière made a good old dent in the Amazon contemporary romance giveaway list. So a big, fat thank you to everyone who downloaded the Kindle edition over the weekend of 22nd Feb. Very, very grateful!
Cinema Lumière has been hitching a ride on the London tube as part of the brilliant Books on the Underground scheme. The idea is simple - and delightful. 20 books are cunningly placed on assorted tube trains, and if you spot one which takes your fancy, you can pick it up, read it, Tweet about it, then pop it back on whichever tube you happen to be when you're done. Genius.
"An extraordinary, funny, soul-warming book" Sainsbury's magazine
Who says synchronicity doesn't exist? After a chance conversation in a cafe, where I overhear someone talking about a features writing workshop, I sign up and trundle along. And guess what?
Click on the image to read more...
Here's your chance to get an early Christmas present: I'm running a giveaway on Goodreads until December 15th. 10 winners will be picked at random. Click on the Goodreads logo to the left for more info and to request a copy.
Book Launch @ Waterstones, Notting Hill. Tuesday 25th November 6.30pm
Waterstones are celebrating Cinema Lumière by giving me a second launch. There'll be all sorts of delights on offer, from fine wines and free cinema tickets to accordion players and dicky French accents. Do come!
Click on the image to enlarge, and for more info
This novel is charmingly crafted and full of characters that are both likeable and believable. It shows us that we all have our problems and our failings, but we can all love and be loved in return. Not without risk, but because of it.
Cinema Lumière in the press - Absolutely Notting Hill magazine follows Hattie around Portobello to snuffle out her favourite haunts.
What started out as a small gathering of family and mates to celebrate the sending out of Cinema Lumière into the world, ended up as a brilliant 80-people party, with the Mayor, The Evening Standard and even one of my favourite directors... click on the link above to read more and see photos from the event