A Story of Snow

A Story of Snow

A Story of Snow

It snowed yesterday, the first time this winter; I could smell it coming for days. I’ve always found snow magical, a transformational thing, but this snow before Christmas reminded me of other times of snow that have been transformational.

As a young mum, back in the 90s, I managed to wear out my hyperactive toddler at a mum and baby group, sufficient that both she and I could take a nap. It was February, in the north east of England and there was heavy snow that had laid, and I lived in a little street house with no central heating, so I huddled under the duvet and fell asleep. I woke with a pounding heart and tears streaming down my face after a dream that was so vivid it even included a soundtrack: Winter, from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. The dream was a short story that I then wrote down, entranced by its power and its vision. Later that year we moved to the Midlands where my husband began his theological training, and still so haunted by the dream and by that story that I realised it was not a stand-alone short but the first chapter of a novel. Writing in the evenings and when my daughter was at playgroup, I scribbled it down, longhand and when it was finished, I began querying publishers. The novel (entitled Winterborn) garnered plenty of interest, and a good number of publishers asked for the whole thing, but ultimately, it all came to nothing but tears and tantrums from me. I still have it somewhere, in both manuscript and typescript.

But that dream and that story, of snow and fear and heartbreak, stayed with me, and eventually came back to me in a newer, more powerful form, and with a complete tale (which Winterborn had been a shadow of) that gripped me and forced me to write it down, word for word as an inner voice dictated it to me. It took seventeen days of frantic, manic, painful (I got blisters) writing that I still count as some of the best days of my whole life. I discovered later that the process itself was called hypergraphia, and later still understood that it had not come out of nowhere but rather out of undiagnosed bi-polar disorder (bi-polar II for exactitude) that I now manage (more or less) without either drugs or medical support.

That novel, too, went round the publishers, with a significant degree of interest, and then failed to find someone who would take it on. Eventually, I published it myself five or so years ago, and while it has garnered almost exclusively wow reviews, it has never sold as well as other novels of mine. Despite that, it’s the novel that I most believe in, as having something extraordinary about it. I still believe that it ought to have been a huge success. But it hasn’t and that may be why the two sequels (both written, one needing only minimal editing before I could think of starting the process of bringing it to publication) still remain unreleased. Dr Johnson once said that no-one but a blockhead ever wrote a book without being asked to, and I am surely a blockhead for writing those sequels.

But it snowed yesterday and the smell of the air and the look of the sky reminded me of the book that still holds my heart. At this time of year, the virtual (and real) bookshops are jam-packed with happy, feel-good, heart-warming tales, usually romances, set in snowy locations and cosy corners of cafes, all written to enhance the festive season and give busy, stressed people a holiday from gritty reality. This is emphatically not such a book. I make no apology for that; the Christmas books I’ve mentioned are generally not books that appeal to me. But this nonetheless is a book about overcoming adversity and tragedy, though it’s almost the antithesis of a romance, and it might suit others who share my predilection for gritty reality and will take you on a journey that has stayed with almost everyone who has read it.

I’m going to share the first few paragraphs here:

He woke with no memory of the recent past, just a cold blank tiredness and a vague sense of disorientation. Lying still in the shadowy vestiges of sleep he tried to place himself in time and space, and as returning sleep rose to drown him again he noticed the blue-white clarity of sound in the cold room, the near fluorescent glow of the light through the partially shut curtains and the muffling of traffic sound on the distant road which all told him that the promise of those few tentative flakes the previous evening had been fulfilled. With the recognition that it had, unbelievably, snowed so heavily before Christmas, came the flood of memory that made a return to sleep impossible, and he sat up, eyes wide, in a room that was only partially familiar, with his heart thumping uncomfortably.

Outside, a layer of snow inches thick reduced a familiar landscape to a white featureless expanse, the leafless trees black against a dirty white sky that promised more snow on top of the already frozen layer. He touched the radiator by the window. It was having a negligible effect, despite being almost too hot to touch. The house felt icy cold when he went downstairs; he kept checking radiators just to reassure himself that the heating was on, that the boiler had not gone out in the night. High ceilings and large rooms took a lot of heating to achieve anything like modern standards of comfort, and much of the house had been built for people who would have lit large fires and worn heavy clothing of wool and fur at this time of year. He had lit no fires yesterday; the drawing room felt so icy he expected to see his breath in wreaths of mist.

The kitchen was better, the Rayburn still warming the large room. He drank water so cold it hurt when it hit his stomach, and then filled the kettle, craving heat. It wasn’t fully light, the reflective surface of the snow making a false dawn, and the bright strip light just seemed to make the shadows sharper. He made coffee, holding the mug with both hands, but while his skin warmed from the contact, it hardly touched the deeper chill. There was a gnawing emptiness his head recognised as hunger, but the thought of food made him feel slightly sick, so the hunger was ignored. He left the mug in the sink and went round to the front of the house where the car stood parked at an angle, marks in the snowy gravel showing hasty braking, and realised with horror that he had not shut the door properly, that the courtesy light was still on and in all probability the battery was flat. It was. A minute of turning the key in the ignition produced sad noises from the car and silent swearing from him.

He locked the car and went inside again, hands now numb from the cold. He could phone for Home Start, he supposed, but decided he couldn’t face it, couldn’t face waiting, so he fetched coat and boots, stuffed a few essentials into his pockets and set out for the bus-stop where the early bus took people from the villages into town. It was inevitably late, driving slowly over impacted snow that the gritters rarely reached on these back roads. Round and round the winding slippery roads, barely faster than a brisk walk, till the main road was reached, startlingly black after the white packed snow of the country roads. Then a few minutes till his stop; the hospital almost picturesque with its domes and humps of snow on insulated roofs, flowerbeds like plump white eiderdowns between salted paths.

To celebrate the start of Advent, The Bet is on offer at £1.99 (or worldwide equivalent) https://www.amazon.co.uk/Bet-Vivienne-Tuffnell-ebook/dp/B009ISHLYI/

An Advent offer

An Advent offer

I’m cutting the cost of one of my books for December/Advent, because the book starts just before Christmas.
It’s also, in my own opinion, my best book. Sadly, this is not reflected in sales. It falls between the cracks of genre and that’s never a place to be. Young male protagonist, a plot that is almost the antithesis of romantic fiction. However, it also contains a *villain* that some readers reckoned worse than Joffrey, a hero who’ll break your heart and characters you’d like to spend time with and who will all haunt you long after the book is ended.
Talking of which, there is a sequel, still gummed up in the works, but which I’d love to see out there next year. Needs a polish, a cover and some oomph from me to get it out.

The Bet is available in all Amazon stores, currently at £2.99 or local equivalent: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Bet-Vivienne-Tuffnell-ebook/dp/B009ISHLYI/. It’s also in a nice chunky paperback that would make a good Christmas present to someone who you think would enjoy it or even (dare I say it?) to yourself.

All but one of my books are in paperback. I’d hoped to get Square Peg out in time for Christmas in a paperback edition, but life has been..interesting. I’m hoping to release a new novel, Little Gidding Girl sometime early next year, and also a new collection of poetry; that’s being fiddled with to ensure it’s as good as I can make it. The poetry will (probably) only be in paperback, because it’s a much better way to publish poetry. You can dip into a paperback of poems much more readily than an e-book.

Reviews also very welcome, of any of my books. I’d love to see Away With The Fairies make it past 50 reviews by New Year; the myth has been that the Mighty Zon promotes books more once this milestone is reached, but while I suspect this is a myth, I’d still love to test it out.

Advent blessings to you all.

The Bet on Countdown

No, not the afternoon quiz show.

It’s six months since I last did a special offer for The Bet.

Here’s the blurb:

“Jenny likes a challenge and Antony is the biggest challenge of her life…

“Boys like you get preyed upon,” Antony’s father tells him in a rare moment of honesty and openness, but Richard can have no idea just how vulnerable his eighteen-year-old son truly is. From a family where nothing is quite as it seems and where secrecy is the norm, Antony seems fair game to the predatory Jenny. Her relentless pursuit of him originates in a mean-spirited bet made with her colleague Judy, Antony’s former history teacher, who has challenged Jenny to track him down and seduce him. Jenny is totally unprepared for Antony’s refusal to sleep with her or to have any sort of relationship other than friendship. She’s never met anyone quite like him before and her obsession deepens the more he rejects her. She’s no idea what he’s already been through and as far as she’s concerned it’s irrelevant.

Pretty soon, for both of them it becomes a much more serious matter than a mere bet and the consequences are unimaginable for either of them.”

The book will be a mere 99p for three days, before the price rises to £1.99 for three days, and then reverts to the original price of £2.90 (which I think is very reasonable anyway)

This is as close to free as I go. Have a read of the reviews because there are a good few where the reviewer says they didn’t think they’d like this book but as soon as they started they found themselves staying up too late just to read another chapter. I’ve had folks says they missed bus stops, were late for work, stayed up all night, reading it.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bet-Vivienne-Tuffnell-ebook/dp/B009ISHLYI/ref=la_B00766135C_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1452585867&sr=1-2

 

(A small plea from me: please, please, please share this post widely if you can, wherever you feel it’s worth sharing, on FB, in FB groups, Twitter and other social media, or direct to friends you think will enjoy the book. I have no budget for advertising and any help is greatly appreciated. Thank you.)

 

Summer Solstice Sale

Welcome to midsummer.

Long days and short nights

Reading in the shade, reading on the beach.

Reading on the train or on the ‘plane.

Reading by the pool, reading in the garden.

Just for a few days, The Bet is on sale for a measly 99p. You can’t buy an ice lolly for that, and an e-book won’t melt in the sun, but perhaps the hero might melt even the coldest of hearts. It goes up to £1.99 in a couple of days; you can buy a lolly for that but it might last 15 minutes if you try. Then it goes back to its original and very reasonable price.

Give it a try!

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bet-Vivienne-Tuffnell-ebook/dp/B009ISHLYI/ref=la_B00766135C_1_8?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1434874039&sr=1-8

PS For those who have read it and loved it, I’d really appreciate passing on this post by reblogging or tweeting or just mentioning it to friends, and reviews are always welcome.

 

Special offer for The Bet- very limited time offer

Over the next forty hours , The Bet will be on a Countdown sale on UK Amazon.

As a result of changes to VAT regulations (it’s complicated and so far I’m not entirely sure how it will work) coming in from the first of January, prices for e-books will probably be going up to compensate for the 20% VAT. This also means it may not be feasible to do these sorts of offers often if at all.

It seems insane to me that e-books are subject to VAT when paper books are not; I am hoping that this may change but as things stand it’s another thing that is chipping away at the earnings of authors.

Grab it now, if you haven’t already. And if you can pass this on to friends, family, Facebook, Twitter and other social media, I would be very grateful indeed, as I would be for reviews (good ones for preference!)

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bet-Vivienne-Tuffnell-ebook/dp/B009ISHLYI/ref=la_B00766135C_1_8?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1417680397&sr=1-8

Stop the press! The Bet now available as a paperback!

Do excuse the excited tone but I wanted to share the fact that almost two years after it first appeared as an e-book. The Bet is now out in paperback.

I did a fair bit of hair tearing because it proved a bit tricky to get the print size right and the cost as low as I could. I wanted to make sure that the print was of a size that didn’t mean reaching for the magnifying glass but my first attempt, though glorious, was too big really and therefore cost more.

Then I discovered that the title and my name on the original cover picture done for my by the talented Andrew Meek wouldn’t work as the cut-off point where art gets trimmed when the book is produced was well into the lettering. Thankfully I had both the original picture and an earlier version of the cover. I am considering whether to find a new cover as I’m no longer sure this one gives the right message about the book, but for the time being, I’m content with this one.

The Bet is available from Amazon UK  and all other Amazon stores, just change the UK in the URL to .com, . de etc.

Jenny likes a challenge and Antony is the biggest challenge of her life….

“Boys like you get preyed upon,” Antony’s father tells him in a rare moment of honesty and openness, but Richard can have no idea just how vulnerable his eighteen-year-old son truly is. From a family where nothing is quite as it seems and where secrecy is the norm, Antony seems fair game to the predatory Jenny. Her relentless pursuit of him originates in a mean-spirited bet made with her colleague Judy, Antony’s former history teacher, who has challenged Jenny to track him down and seduce him.

Jenny is totally unprepared for Antony’s refusal to sleep with her or to have any sort of relationship other than friendship. She’s never met anyone quite like him before and her obsession deepens the more he rejects her. She’s no idea what he’s already been through and as far as she’s concerned it’s irrelevant.

Pretty soon, for both of them it becomes a much more serious matter than a mere bet and the consequences are unimaginable for either of them.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bet-Vivienne-Tuffnell/dp/1500430315/ref=la_B00766135C_1_5_bnp_1_pap?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1406802442&sr=1-5

Limited time offer for The Bet ~ US only

From today, The Bet will be on special offer on Amazon.com for a princely sum of 99 cents for 3 days, before going up to $1.99 for another 3 and then returning to its very reasonable normal price of $3.

Because I can’t see the price in the US (Amazon won’t show me!) please keep checking until it does show the reduced price and the Countdown box.

Get it while you can, as I probably won’t be doing this again.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009ISHLYI

The Bet at a reduced price; time limited offer!

For a limited time only, The Bet will be available at 99p only. The price goes up first to £1.99 and then back to the original (and very reasonable price) of £2.94.

I’ve not used the Countdown programme before so this is very much an experiment. Please pass this offer on if you can, buy the book, tweet and share.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bet-Vivienne-Tuffnell-ebook/dp/B009ISHLYI/ref=la_B00766135C_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1397118432&sr=1-2

Valentine’s Day ~ love, or obsession and lust?

 

I thought that since it was Valentine’s Day I would offer something about love. I’m so far from being romantic as to be almost anti-matter to romance’s matter. But I do understand a little about love and about the things that sometimes seem to pass for love.

Obsession is often mistaken for love, as is lust and desire. But neither come anywhere near the real experience of love. Sadly, many settle for those three, believing that a combination of them is surely a close enough match for the experience of being in love or of learning to love. Much of fiction seems to focus more closely on those because to be honest, the drama and emotion they generate is also more enticing in these high octane times than the quiet experience of deep love or the soaring brilliance of requited grand passion.

I thought I would share with you a chapter from my novel, The Bet. This is from chapter 16. The obsession and the lust and the desire are there in spades.

Jenny became increasingly frustrated and isolated as the weeks went by without results; frustrated because Ashurst refused to sleep with her, isolated because she had to be very careful of what she said to her friends. She had mixed feelings about talking to Judy, who did occasionally ask her how the hunt was going, and then simply looked superior when it became plain success was eluding her.

I don’t know why I don’t just lie to you,” she said to Judy in their usual bar corner.

Because I can spot a lie at fifty paces,” Judy said smugly. “You’d be looking like the cat that got the cream if you’d really screwed him. Oh, don’t worry; you’ve got a while yet. First of March was the deadline, I think we agreed. But I’ll make it a thousand if you get him by Christmas.”

Kay wasn’t much use; Jenny could tell her very little that would make her feel better. She only hung round Jenny in the hope of leftovers, and she was obviously delighted that Jenny was not getting what she wanted for the first time. But Kay was her only friend who wasn’t a gossip, who wouldn’t tell the others how often she sat in some bar or other waiting for him to come in, how often she had to play the part of the plain friend being taken out for the evening.

You should call him,” Kay said one evening when it was clear he wasn’t going to be there.

I don’t have his number,” Jenny said hopelessly.

Kay made herself not laugh out loud.

You’re kidding, you must have his mobile number by now,” she said.

He doesn’t have one. Can you believe it? He must be the only kid not to have one. When I asked, he just shrugged and said he didn’t need one. I was so put out; I didn’t get round to asking for his home number and he didn’t offer.”

She didn’t add that he’d left immediately after that, clearly unhappy about the way she was pushing him.

How am I supposed to contact you then?” she’d called as he left the busy pub.

He’d not answered, just shrugged as he walked away.

He’s got to be gay,” she said another evening to Judy.

Believe me, he is not gay,” Judy said. “It’s all there in good working order. Why do you think he starts shaking every time you touch him or even go near him, if he doesn’t find you sexy.” She thought about it for a moment. “I shouldn’t give you any hints, really; it’s not in my interest really, but I’m a softy at heart. Try being kind, you know, back off obviously trying to seduce him. Oh, and I would also suggest you find yourself an extra lover if that Paul isn’t cutting the mustard enough. It’s a well-fed cat that catches the most mice, if you know what I mean.”

She was reduced to ringing him at work, relieved to catch him without the old man around.

I was thinking, I’ve not seen you around for a while,” she said. “Why don’t you come over to mine tonight and I’ll cook us both dinner?”

Sorry, I can’t. It’s very kind of you but the boss has gone home early sick and I need to work late, and then I’m meeting my father this evening.”

Well, later on then?”

I’m not sure when I’ll finish,” he said, but she could hear the doubt in his voice.

OK. What if I pop round to you after I’ve finished at school and before you need to go out, and I’ll bring something. I’ve been missing you. It’s been tough at work, lately. You’re so soothing. I always feel much more chilled when I can talk to you. Look I’ll come over as soon as I’ve finished at school, bring some sandwiches or something.”

That’s very kind of you,” he said. “Look, I’ve got to go now, but if you come round to the back of the museum, I’ll leave the gate to the courtyard on the latch and you can ring the bell at the back door and I can let you in.”

It was after six when she got to the museum; she’d gone home to change, and then had had trouble finding somewhere to buy sandwiches. All the lunchtime places were closed and she’d been obliged to go to the supermarket. The gate was unlocked, but when she rang the bell at the back door, the place seemed empty and deserted. Damn it, had he stood her up? She rang and rang again, and eventually she heard the door being unlocked.

He was in shirtsleeves, tie askew; his face and hands filthy, his hair full of dust, and a cobweb was draped from his ear.

Sorry, I was in the basement. I didn’t hear the bell at first, so I was hoping you’d still be here when I got up the stairs,” he said.

How did you get so filthy?” she asked as he let her slip past him.

Oh, am I? So I am. Sorry. The records said there was something we need for this new gallery down in one particular box, but it wasn’t where it was supposed to be at all, and I sort of got distracted. Come upstairs and I’ll try to get clean.”

He showed her into an office similar to that of the old man, but there were no stuffed animals, just more boxes and cartons.

Please make yourself at home,” he said, and then grinned. “Well, as much as is possible in this shoebox.”

How come you don’t have any of those dead things your boss has got?” she asked.

I put the owl and the badger in Greville’s office just to see how long it would take for him to notice, but it was weeks before he said anything. I think he assumed one of the cleaners had put them there. He just stuck the owl on his shelf and left the badger on the chair. Once I’ve got an idea what I can do with them, I’ll get them back. Look, I must wash. I didn’t realise what a mess I was in. There’s a kitchenette thing just up the hall if you’d put the kettle on for me. I won’t be long and then I’ll make us some tea.”

She followed him out along the corridor and when he had shown her the tiny kitchen, he vanished into another small room, from which, after a moment she heard the sounds of running water. She filled the kettle, then sat down at the small table and waited. The kettle had boiled by the time he came back, hair damp and rumpled but clean, face and arms clean, though his shirt was still grimy and damp.

You should keep a spare shirt here if this happens often,” she remarked.

I do; this is it. You should have seen the other one. I had a box fall on me this morning. Twenty minutes before I had a class coming in, it had something, well, organic and probably mammalian in it, but it had decayed rather spectacularly. There are some areas of the basement that are damp, and things are not in a good state in some of the boxes. So when I went to look for something, first I got all the dust from the lid, because I reached up just to see if I could check what was in it without having to go and get the steps, then I slipped and pulled it down and got the rest of the contents over my head. Greville was furious when I got back upstairs looking like, well, I don’t know what I looked like, with about five minutes to go before the class arrived. I did get clean in time though.”

He made tea as if he were in a hurry, and then they ate sandwiches in silence. She wanted to reach across the table and touch his wet untidy hair, but she stopped herself.

You seem ever so tense,” she said.

Do I? Sorry,” he said, and then hesitated. “I’m supposed to be meeting my father later this evening, and I do get a bit nervous. I never know quite what’s going to happen, there’s so much we never talked about and now… I think he’s trying to make up for lost time.”

She got up, to put the wrappers in the bin, then stood behind him, and decisively put her hands on his shoulders. He jumped a little as she’d expected but didn’t try to move away.

God, you’re tense,” she said, kneading at his shoulders. “Relax, I’m only trying to help.” After a minute, when she could feel him beginning to relax with the neutral touch, she said, “It’d help if you took this shirt off. I can’t massage so well through cloth.”

There was a moment when she thought he’d refuse, but her strong fingers were clearly easing some of the knots, and he surprised her by pulling the shirt off over his head, not bothering with buttons except the top two.

That’s better,” she said, leaning closer and digging her fingers firmly into the muscles, enjoying the chance to see him properly. He was slender but well-muscled, and his skin was very smooth, like a child’s, and as she leaned closer to him to concentrate on kneading his shoulders and back, she could smell his skin, sweet like a child’s with that primrose-like odour, overlaid by a deeper muskier scent. She could feel her own breathing quicken slightly. If she tried anything now, he’d never let her get this close again, at least not soon, so she simply rubbed and kneaded his shoulders and back and was gratified by his closed eyes and occasional small noises of appreciation.

There you go, that’ll feel better,” she said finally, and watched him pull his shirt back on.

You’re very kind,” he said, wriggling his shoulders. “I hadn’t realised how tense I was. Thank you.”

You’ve been very kind to me, so it’s about time I returned the favour,” she said, sitting back at the table and taking hold of his hand. He’d relaxed enough not to pull away, but she wondered if he’d kiss her. He was smiling at her; that was good. He’d been unusually talkative this evening; it might be a good moment to try and get a few answers.

Look, I can’t help noticing that you don’t seem to like being touched,” she said. “You jump if I so much as touch your shoulder, and when I’ve hugged you, you just seem to shake.”

He flushed very slightly, and she could see him become very tense again, as if he was expecting her to ask him again to go to bed with her. Then he smiled nervously and said, rather evasively,

I’m just not used to it.”

She looked at him quizzically and waited. Maybe silence would work better than specific questions. After a moment he squeezed her hand and let go.

I don’t know if you know, but I grew up mostly with my aunt and uncle and their family. My aunt isn’t big on cuddles, not even for small children. You know the sort; she kisses the air rather than the cheek? Not exactly a tactile family,” he said, trying to smile. “So I’m really not used to it and…” He stopped, clearly panicking.

It’s OK,” she said grabbing his hand again. “What about your mum? Did she not cuddle you when you were tiny?”

There was real alarm on his face, but he managed to control it.

I don’t really remember,” he said. “I left when I was about six. I don’t know if you know any of this, don’t suppose there’s any reason why you would anyway, but my mother killed herself in April, and I really don’t like talking about it, so if you don’t think me rude, I’d like to change the subject.”

He was obviously upset, so she got up, went round behind him and leaned over and put her arms round him and just held him, feeling the heat of his body and the slight tremor, and just whispered to him, “I’m sorry.”

He let her hold him for a moment, then stood up and held her back, standing together in a wordless embrace, until she turned her head up to him and he kissed her. She had been about to kiss him, but this was much better. She kissed him hard, pushing her tongue through his lips, feeling his mouth open to hers. Oh, yes, this was working. She very carefully undid a button on his shirt, and slipped her hand inside, feeling the smooth hot skin, feeling him shudder as she touched his nipple. He broke away from the kiss.

No,” he said.

Why not?” she asked, not moving.

He just shook his head. She looked at his eyes; the pupils were dilated so far that his eyes looked black, but he was barely looking at her.

I’ve got to go,” he said. “I need to change and I’ll be late. Thanks for the sandwiches; it was very kind of you.”

He’d suddenly changed from being clearly, even passionately interested, to being polite, distant, cold even. But when she passed him to get to the door, she could see he was still shaking. 

You can see more about the book at the following links, and check out the reviews. There are 14 excellent reviews on the UK site, 3 of which are also on the US site. You can download a free sample, if you have a Kindle or use a Kindle app for pc or phone. The price has been lowered too, to bring it in line with the prices of my other books.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bet-Vivienne-Tuffnell-ebook/dp/B009ISHLYI/ref=la_B00766135C_1_6?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1392225792&sr=1-6

http://www.amazon.com/Bet-Vivienne-Tuffnell-ebook/dp/B009ISHLYI/ref=la_B00766135C_1_6?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1392225792&sr=1-6

Tampa, banned books and why I am happy to have missed that boat.

Tampa, banned books and why I am happy to have missed that boat.

A couple of months ago I was alerted to the probable publication of a novel that had as a central theme one that readers of my novel The Bet will recognise. The basic synopsis of Tampa goes something like this: high school teacher is fixated sexually on fourteen year old boys. The book has been described as the sickest book this summer, likened to Lolita and has already been banned by some Australian bookshops. I read a Guardian article about it and the comments were as revealing as the article; many were a version of “This is depraved, filthy and disgusting- where can I buy my copy?” It’s alleged that the author Alissa Nutting has even forbidden her Catholic parents from reading the book.

One of the things that was mentioned in the article is the double standards the book exposes. While a male teacher perving on fourteen year old girls is reviled (and rightly so) there is less obvious repugnance for the reverse. Indeed, reading through comments it seems that there is a fairly widespread notion that most boys at that age are a raging mass of hormones and would welcome such attention.

When the first scenes of The Bet began to form, I was horrified and upset by them. The character who is the victim of this sort of attention is extremely distressed by it, and it’s only much later in the novel that the reason for this is addressed. What happens to him, and what has already happened, scar him probably irretrievably. It’s likely that a normal life is going to evade him for a very long time.

I’m maybe going to be called a prude and perhaps I am but I am heartily sick of everything being sexualised to such an extent that new kicks, new thrills are being sought to tickle palates that have become jaded. I chose to leave much of the sexual encounters in this novel very much to the imagination of readers: the old adage of show don’t tell springs to mind. Sex was not the primary motivator within the book: power was. Power over another human being who is vulnerable to being manipulated into situations beyond their control or desire. Yes, this is fiction, but fiction and so-called real life are far more than kissing cousins. One influences the other, bound together like an eternal Mobius strip.

What I sought to do with my novel was to delve into the mind and soul of a character damaged almost irreparably by having been captured by circumstances that turned him into a sexual toy, an object, a slave even. I lead the reader deep into the tragedy of his life and then I lead him into a place where light begins to dawn.

People might think I am merely jealous of the commercial success of Tampa and there is a wistful part of me that sighs and feels sad that The Bet has not been a wildly successful novel, charting on the New York Times best sellers list. I would not want Tampa to be banned because I believe in the right for literature to be uncensored, and because banned books still sell. But I will be honest and say I hope that once the furore is over, the reviews good or bad are written, this is a book that will be forgotten. It has already failed to engage in the implicit double standards our society applies to sex with minors. It has failed to engage in anything other than titillation and a pandering to the literary machine that demands more extremes.

I’ve joked before now of writing an X rated version of The Bet but I can say now that I am glad this was no more than a joke. To fill a book with gratuitous sex just in the hopes of selling masses is not something I aim to do. So while Tampa has probably sold more via pre-orders than The Bet may EVER do, I am proud of my work and of a story that has touched a lot of people very deeply. As a writer, that’s probably one of the things that gives me the most reason to continue writing. 

http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Bet-ebook/dp/B009ISHLYI/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1375190119&sr=1-4

http://www.amazon.com/The-Bet-ebook/dp/B009ISHLYI/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1375190119&sr=1-4