Author Guest Post: ‘Writing About Your Twenties in Your Thirties’ by Sarah Tierney #BlogTour #SandstonePress

As part of her blog tour for her newly released title, Making Spaces, the author has kindly written a short essay entitled ‘Writing about your twenties in your thirties’. I love that the author has clearly put a lot of herself into her main character, Miriam.
As a woman in her miiiiiid….late…. twenties, it’s nice to hear from someone with such a wonderful way with words that life really does get its sh*t together!


The author: Sarah Tierney

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Sarah Tierney completed the Novel Writing MA at Manchester University in 2001 and will have her first novel, Making Space, published in 2017. She can’t really account for the 16 years in-between except to say she did a bit of journalism, a lot of copywriting, and somewhere in there, wrote a short story, ‘Five Miles Out’, which was made into a short film by the director Andrew Haigh.

She spent her twenties in Manchester before moving back to her home town of Glossop, where she lives with her husband and daughter.

Website: http://sarahtierney.co.uk/


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Check out my review of the book here

 

‘Writing about your twenties in your thirties’
by Sarah Tierney

 

Miriam, the narrator in my novel Making Space, is about to turn 30. She’s ending her twenties without achieving any of those life goals you’re supposed to get sorted in that decade: a long-term partner, a steady career, a decent place to live.

Instead, her jobs are as temporary as her relationships. And her home – a tiny flat she shares with a friend she’s fallen out with – feels distinctly un-homely. She’s ready to leave those years of flux and instability behind, but she doesn’t know how to create something more lasting. The only permanent thing in her life is an unshifting feeling of failure.

In two months’ time, I’ll turn 40. But unlike the big Three-O, the approach of this milestone birthday isn’t beset by a sense of gloom. My life is much more stable than it was ten years ago. It has been for a while. It’s one reason I finally managed to finish a book.

I tried writing a novel when I was in my twenties but something always got in the way. A hangover usually, or a heartbreak, or a sudden influx of freelance work that ate up all my time. I’d re-emerge from those fugue states having lost all connection to my writing. I’d open up my manuscript and wonder who the characters were, and what it was I was trying to say.

And when I was in my twenties, the need for recognition – for a pat on the back from the rest of the world – was strong. I went into journalism and copywriting for the satisfaction of finishing a piece of writing in a day, and having an audience, and getting a pay-check.

When you’re writing a novel, you don’t have those things. You sit on your own in a room for hours, weeks, years, with nobody cheering you on and the end nowhere in sight. Most people you know assume that ‘writing a book’ is your excuse for not having a full-time job, or your way of avoiding the challenges of an adult life. If you want to feel successful, writing a novel is probably the last thing you should do.

So, for a lot of those years, it was the last thing I did. But by 35, I was leaving that stage behind. I cared less about what my life looked like from the outside, and more about how it felt to be living it.

When I started writing Making Space, I was newly-single and living alone in a flat that got the sun in the mornings. I had a steady part-time job, and an emotional life that wasn’t constantly freewheeling between highs and lows. Life was quiet but I was fine with that. I liked it. I was ready to begin.

I had my writing schedule, based on time spent at my computer rather than a word count. And without all the dramas and distractions I’d had in my twenties, I was able to stick to it. I gradually watched a few chapters grow into a full-length novel.

And what I found was that my fixed writing schedule – that guaranteed time spent at my desk in my own little fictional world – gave me the peacefulness and permanence I’d been craving all those years and hadn’t been able to find.

I wish I’d known it could be like that when I was younger. That if you can just keep your writing going by doing it regularly – even if only for an hour, a few set times a week – you’ll always have something fixed and stable to return to, no matter what chaos is unfolding in the rest of your life.

And from those few hours a week, something permanent will take root: a solid sense of accomplishment, or a book, or hopefully, both.

 

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Book Review: Making Space by Sarah Tierney

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Published by Sandstone Press

5 stars

Synopsis:

Miriam is twenty-nine: temping, living with a flatmate who is no longer a friend, and still trying to find her place in life. She falls in love with Erik after he employs her to clear out his paper-packed home.

They are worlds apart: he is forty-five, a successful photographer and artist and an obsessive hoarder still haunted by the end of his marriage. Miriam has an unsuccessful love life and has just got rid of most of her belongings.

Somehow, they must find a way to reach each other.


Reading this book was like reading poetry (except I enjoyed doing it), there isn’t a single thing about this book which isn’t beautiful. It’s terribly sad in parts but you can only sit back and enjoy the elegance of the author’s writing.

We read this story from the perspective of Miriam, a young woman whose life isn’t where she thought or hoped it would be at 29. She doesn’t have a stable career, a partner or even any friends – she lives her life day by day, without any satisfaction.
To make things clear here, a career, boyfriend and friends are things that she actually wants – there’s no assumption that these are things that every single 29 year old woman needs to be happy.

After a bad day at her temp job, Miriam throws out almost all of her sparse worldly goods so she can build a new identity. Trouble is, she doesn’t know who she wants to be.

The following Monday, she visits the house of Erik for work – a 45 year old man who is just starting to admit to himself that he has a hoarding problem. They’re on the opposite sides of the spectrum when it comes to their living habits, but they’re both lost souls who need a connection, in whatever form that might take.

You need to read this book for yourself to find out the story and pick up on the nuances, but the parts that I enjoyed the most were the conflicts between the two characters who desperately need to connect but can’t understand how the other half lives, so to speak.

The beautiful writing is what lifts this story up to a 5 star review for me, it’s so hopeful and moving. I’m not normally one for the mushy stuff, but this book really did make a great impression on me – it’s definitely going on the rainy day bookshelf to be re-read in future.

Pick up your copy:

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Review: Pecker Tracks by R.S. Dees

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Published by BookBaby

3 stars

Synopsis:

It’s 1979 and fifteen-year-old Ronny and his pals are all virgins. In fact, they’ve rarely spoken to real, live females. That all changes when Mary Ellen comes to town. Ronny and his friends, six-fingered Melv and mutton-chopped Butch, are charmed by the Texas girl who is staying with her aunt for the summer.

Mary Ellen, a year older than the boys, is beautiful and confident—two things the boys are not—and seemingly out of their league. She befriends the trio who find themselves tumbling over each other for her affections, all the while doing what they do best: fishing for lunkers, catching frogs, evading the cops, and jamming to seventies rock anthems.

Ronny appears to be winning the race, and falls the hardest for Mary Ellen. Their relationship blossoms as the summer progresses, but Ronny begins to suspect everything is not as it seems. His suspicions are confirmed the day after Mary Ellen leaves town when Ronny learns of a gut-wrenching deception. And later, he’ll discover an even greater surprise.


Happy Release Day!

Now this book is outside of my usual wheelhouse, as I’m sure you can gather from the synopsis. So please take that into account when you see my rating of the book.

What the synopsis doesn’t tell us is that this book is very centred around fishing. As in, most of the book is about a bunch of teenage boys going fishing all summer, it’s idyllic and entertaining an’ all but it doesn’t really tie in with your expectations based on the book’s description. As one would expect from a book about teenage boys in the 70s, this story entails a healthy quantity of dick jokes (it is called Pecker Tracks, after all), staring boobs and setting fire to farts.

In my opinion, the romance element takes a back seat to the storyline of boyhood hijinks. It’s not sensational enough a plot element to drive the story forward it’s more of a ‘here’s a thing that happened’ which keeps the story along its pleasantly meandering course. This is a lazy Sunday of a book rather than my usual Friday night vampire massacre read.

Dees’ writing style is impressive and he brings to life that whole last-summer-of-childhood feeling, though I feel like he’s made the classic debut author move and put in too much detail. I know the expression ‘killing your darlings’ applies to just this situation – you love every single word you’ve written and got everything just right, but then those damn readers go and think that you’ve put in too much. You can feel the author’s passion for the things that he writes about, especially the fishing and small town living.

If you’re looking for a feel good nostalgia read, particularly if you’re a die-hard fishing fan, pick up this book!

Review: Hyper by John A. Autero

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5 stars

Synopsis:

“Evil doesn’t have a problem finding the middle of nowhere.”

People are being savagely murdered on Decontamination Depot 315 and Charlie Kennedy needs to figure out who’s doing it. Is it the most logical choice, the prisoner visiting the depot who happens to be a convicted multi-murderer? Or is it the goody-two-shoes from Kansas who seems to be everybody’s best friend? Or maybe the soldier from the Russian crime syndicate? And don’t forget about the thug from the south side of Chicago. To make matters worse, the culprit has programmed the depot to self-destruct unless Charlie can figure out some way to stop it.

No matter how far mankind travels into deep space, evil will always be at his side ready to twist his moral compass one hundred and eighty degrees.

HYPER is a “who-done-it” that will keep you wondering until the very last page!


 

This book surprised me at every turn. Even the cover looks like something I wouldn’t normally read but the author approached me directly so I took the time to read over the synopsis and I was ready to give it a go.
I’m so glad that I did because by the end of the first chapter, I was hooked. By the end of the second chapter, it was a different book entirely and I was hooked again.

Autero absolutely nails his characterisation. His chapters alternate between the small cast of characters, I sympathised with each and every one of his characters which is what brought the suspense to a knife’s edge when it came to figuring it out whodunnit.
The author is clearly very experienced when it comes to engineering and machinery, which is what makes the space station element of this so natural. Does the story need to be set in space? No. Does it totally work in outer space? Yes.
His description of the engineering aspects clearly come from a place of expertise – I’ll admit to skimming some of the more descriptive passages, but that’s just because I’m lazy and not particularly mechanically minded. If sci-fi mechanics are your catnip, this is going to do good things for you.
For me, the thing that brought the whole story together was the idea of evil coming from within, that you had to decide who was killing off the other characters based on their moral compass.
It’s amazingly well written, with the clues seamlessly laid out throughout the narrative until they all make sense at the very end without any gaping plot holes. It’s so easy to leave a couple of threads untied at the end of a whodunnit that it’s notable that this one didn’t!

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I finished this book in 24 hours and was delighted to discover that the author has a couple of other books that I can dig in to.
Sci-fi, mystery and horror fans- pick up your copy today!

Review: Two Nights by Kathy Reichs

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Published by Simon & Schuster

3 stars

Synopsis:

#1 New York Times bestselling author Kathy Reichs steps beyond her classic Temperance Brennan series in a new standalone thriller featuring a smart, tough, talented heroine whose thirst for justice stems from her own dark past.

Meet Sunday Night, a woman with physical and psychological scars, and a killer instinct. . . .

Sunnie has spent years running from her past, burying secrets and building a life in which she needs no one and feels nothing. But a girl has gone missing, lost in the chaos of a bomb explosion, and the family needs Sunnie’s help.

Is the girl dead? Did someone take her? If she is out there, why doesn’t she want to be found? It’s time for Sunnie to face her own demons because they just might lead her to the truth about what really happened all those years ago.


I have read some of Reichs’ books in the past, though I think they were all part of the Temperance Brennan series. 

It’s odd, but no matter how much I want to love these books (and I do really enjoy her stories and her mystery building), I just can’t seem to get on with her writing style. Reichs writes in very short, sharp sentences that just don’t get through to me.

It’s the action and mystery that makes this story and the characters aren’t relatable enough for me to really get involved.The main character in this book, Sunday Night (a nod to the mandatory silly name in cosy mysteries), is a troubled ex-police officer with a shocking past. She’s been enlisted by her friend to take on a private case to investigate the disappearance/possible murder of a young woman whose background bears similarities of her own.

Sunday is your stereotypical tough female protagonist, she’s unbelievably badass, sarcastic and fearless. 

During the course of her investigation, she finds herself being drawn into something much bigger than she could have imagined. 

As ever, my main hook when it comes to books is being able to identify with the characters in any meaningful way and honestly, I couldn’t. The mystery was well written and the story suspenseful as well as satisfyingly well researched but I’m going to finally do myself a favour and just appreciate Reichs as my hero for creating Temperance Brennan. The series Bones got me through A-level science as I binge watched my way through all night revision sessions. I’m going to have to accept no matter how much I wish it wasn’t so, her writing just doesn’t do it for me.

I say ‘going to have to accept’, but I have no intention of accepting it graciously. I’m going to bitch and moan about somehow being too defective to enjoy the way my favourite stories are told. It’s a weird problem for any reader to have – has anyone else ever felt this way?

If you’re a Kathy Reichs fan, I’m certain you’ll love this book – this book takes on some very dark issues and is non-stop action throughout.

Review: Boys Don’t Cry by Tim Grayburn

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Suicide is the single biggest killer of men aged 20-45 in the UK. Depression and undiagnosed mental illness are huge contributors to these deaths as they’re often more difficult to diagnose in men. And those men don’t tend to talk about the typical symptoms or visit their doctor.

Meet Tim.

For nearly a decade he kept his depression secret, it made him feel so weak and shameful he thought it would destroy his whole life if anyone found out.

And Tim is not alone.

After finally opening up he realised that mental illness was affecting many men around the globe – and he knew that wasn’t ok.

A brutally honest, wickedly warming and heart-breaking tale about what it really takes to be a ‘real man’, written by one who decided that he wanted to change the world by no longer being silent.

This is Tim’s story, but it could be yours too.


First off: I love the title. It pretty much sums up the entire book and my thoughts on why men struggle so much more with the stigma of mental illness. Boys don’t cry. Boys don’t don’t say they’re struggling. Boys kill themselves.

This is a tough book to review, as memoirs always are but especially so because this is about such a tricky subject matter. If you don’t 100%  enjoy/approve of a memoir, you feel like you’re casting judgement on the author’s life which is something that I just can’t do.

So let’s put this as delicately as possible…

The purpose of this book means so much to me, it’s about reaching out to younger men and telling them that it’s time to speak out about depression. Rather than keeping it to themselves and hating themselves for the feelings they’re having, talk to someone: a doctor, a stranger, a loved one, your dog…. Anyone! Say it out loud and you’re getting somewhere.
Depression is only made worse by not understanding it and by being ashamed of it. You wouldn’t be ashamed of a broken leg so don’t be ashamed of this.

The first three quarters of this book is Grayburn explaining how depression affected him – from before his diagnosis, to his problems with medication and finally being ‘outed’ when his girlfriend found his pills in his bag. This part is so necessary – a regular bloke talking about his regular life and how he felt knowing that depression was controlling his life, but not knowing that he could discuss it with people.
The last part of the book got a bit more philosophical and had ideas that I didn’t totally agree with, or rather, had elements missing. I personally believe that the author puts too much emphasis on communication and therapy as the cure for depression, I’m in the camp that sometimes depression really is just an imbalance of chemicals in the brain which leads to the mood problems and unwanted thoughts, which would explain the hereditary element (I’m biased on this point, I come from a family that struggles with depression – we all have different life experiences but most of us end up in the same dark place).

On that train of thought, I also think that current anti-depressant medications need some serious upgrading – with all the side-effects, they’re pretty much a blunt instrument for the most important organ we have.

Baaaaack to the book though, the writing style has a debut novel feel to it which I think is perfect in this case. The rawness of the writing is what makes you feel like you’re sat in the pub with a mate who’s telling you the story of his life and how he finally reached a happy point in his life. ‘Brutally honest’ is something I think we’ll be hearing a lot of when it comes to this book, Grayburn bears his soul – warts an’ all. He fesses up to things like being a bit put out that his wife wasn’t as enthused about their first tour once she found out she was pregnant- society demands that we immediately bring our hands to our faces and say ‘surely not!’ then you realise that you’d absolutely feel the same way if it was you. Nobody is that bloody selfless and the way you feel about things doesn’t change the second you find out you’re going to become a parent.

This book is probably the most important one I’ll read this year, I can’t recommend it enough for those lads out there who are pretending that they’re not struggling with depression or any kind of mental illness. You might be able to connect with this book in a way that you can’t with people you know, so please give it a go.

If you’re like me and you’re terrified that the doctor is going to tell you to man up, not believe you or just throw drugs at you and kick you out of the door: it’s not like that at all. It took me [an undisclosed and appalling number of] years to grab my lady balls in both hands and go to see my GP about my own depression, her response took my breath away. She was sympathetic, kind and listened to me when I said I wanted to try alternative therapies before anti-depressants. She didn’t push me to do anything or get all touchy feely, she was just… brilliant. The best thing she did was make sure that I didn’t just disappear after our appointment, she kept checking up on me so I couldn’t hide under my bed for the rest of my life. If your doctor does anything less: they’re crap and you should find a new one! The problem is with them, not you.

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https://www.mind.org.uk

If you’re ready to talk to someone but don’t know exactly how to have the conversation: call these guys. They’ll talk you through what to expect with your doctor, work etc and make sure you don’t get shafted – I can’t recommend them enough.

Review: Sins of the Flesh by Eve Silver (Sins series book 3)

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Synopsis:

The blood of the Underworld lord of evil runs through soul reaper Malthus Krayl’s veins. Raised to fight for survival and to kill for victory, he can destroy anyone who poses a threat. As he searches for the one responsible for his brother’s murder, he refuses to succumb to any distraction…until his sworn enemy crosses his path and tempts him beyond all reason.

Calliope Kane, a Daughter of Aset, has a personal hatred for soul reapers. Their savage attack against her family still haunts her. But only Malthus can help her find the traitors of her kind, and only she can help him hunt the source of betrayal amongst the reapers. As they unite, the danger grows closer…and the passion between them ignites.


This series is just getting better and better with each installment. Anything that Eve Silver writes from this point on, I’ll read. If she writes ingredient lists for the back of a new breakfast cereal, I will read it. If she writes a full blow-by-blow account of paint drying: I. Will. Read. It.

This time it’s Mal, son of Sutekh that’s finding himself a strong woman to call his very own. Sure, it’s getting a little formulaic that one brooding supernatural male is finding himself a badass woman to give his heart too and that may at some point become boring, but not yet!

The badass woman in this instance is Calliope Kane, mentioned in Sins of the Heart as Roxy Tam’s mentor. I hadn’t considered her as a likely love interest for this series given her hatred for soul reapers, but that’s something that’s actually dealt with in this story. Calliope isn’t my favourite heroine in this series (3rd of 3 as it happens) but Mal may be my favourite of the brothers, he doesn’t have the same anger issues or possessiveness as his brothers but seems to be more practical and reserved when it comes to forming new relationships.

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This book was considerably more plot centric than the last, which not only drew me back into the main conspiracy but also raised the ante for sexual tension. I’m firmly in the camp for delayed gratification when it comes to literary sexy times, it gives the reader more time to get to know the characters and their motivations so that by the time they finally get down to it, it’s just that little bit more satisfying.

In this installment of the Sins series, Eve Silver reminds me how good she is at creating suspense and intrigue. This time round we learn more about the hierarchy of the Sisters of Aset, before all the characters we’ve met thus far are thrown together. I can’t say that the final reveal was completely unexpected, but it was so satisfying that I don’t care.

Again, the most wonderful things about the relationships between the Krayl brothers and their mates is that all the relationships are built on respect, even if they are a little feral when it comes to protecting them from the dangers that come with being connected to Underworld royalty.

I can’t freaking wait to read the next book in the series, which is going to be an unknown quantity now that one side of the conspiracy has been resolved! I’m hoping that the romance side is going to be different this time for the sake of variety, but I know that the action side of things is going to be fantastic.