A Lover of Books

Archive for the day “March 6, 2017”

Extract from ‘The Gift Maker’ by Mark Mayes


I hope you all enjoyed my interview with Mark Mayes.  There are many more to come.  I have an exclusive extract from ‘The Gift Maker’ for you to read, but first here’s the book blurb.


Book Blurb

‘Gifts ought to be free, but they never are. They tie you to the wishes of others. To your own sad expectations. To the penitentiary of your dreams.’

Late one night, Thomas Ruder receives a strange package: a small blue box. Another such item is delivered to his friend Liselotte Hauptmann. These ‘gifts’ will change their lives forever. In the far-off border town of Grenze, a play is to be performed at the Sheol Theatre. Reynard the impresario expects a very special audience. Thomas and Liselotte, together with their friend Johann, are drawn into Reynard’s seductive web, as Daumen, the gift maker, must decide who his master really is.

The Gift Maker is a story about identity, about fulfilling your dreams and becoming the person you always were … at whatever cost.



Extract from ‘The Gift Maker’


Interview with Mark Mayes


I am delighted to have Mark Mayes on my blog for this event.  His debut novel, ‘The Gift Maker’ was published last month and it is getting a lot of positive reviews.  Mark very kindly answered my questions.


I’ve heard so many good things about your book, ‘The Gift Maker’.  Can you tell me a bit about it please?

Thank you so much, Sonya, for inviting me onto your wonderful book blog to talk about The Gift Maker, and about writing more generally. I appreciate this opportunity so much. Well, The Gift Maker is a debut novel, and I would say it straddles several genres, in that it has some fantastical or magic realist elements, but it also might be considered a literary novel ( I hope). It comprises a quest, or rather several interlocking quests, undertaken by several characters. In addition, a romantic theme runs through the narrative. So, quite a mixture, I’d say. I’ve been overjoyed with the reception thus far, and very glad that readers have not found the blend of elements confusing or overwhelming.

I won’t recap the blurb here, but will say that themes of identity and the exploration of the purpose of an individual life figure strongly in this story. The theme of personal responsibility also comes up; as does that of how much we should be for ourselves in life, fulfilling our own needs, contrasted with how much we ought to be for others, and the concomitant requirement to adapt to a shared world.

The three young people in this novel, Thomas, Liselotte, and Jo, each of whom are given a gift by the eponymous gift maker, Daumen, have important discoveries to make about themselves, and their resolve and sense of honour are very much tested. There is a maxim that character is revealed under pressure, and this application of pressure is what I attempt to bring to bear throughout the story, so to enable the said characters to question themselves, and (hopefully) overcome obstacles, leading to personal ‘growth’, or possibly even moments of enlightenment.

Both fairy tale and mythical tropes play a part in The Gift Maker, and as these are ancient forms of storytelling, I hope some of the symbolism employed may resonate with readers on a subconscious level. Lastly, for some light relief, I have attempted to leaven some of the scenes with humour, albeit somewhat of a dark(ish) nature.


I absolutely adore the cover.  Did you decide what you wanted it to look like?

The cover was really down to Matthew Smith, founder and owner of independent publisher Urbane Publications. Matthew very kindly gave me a selection of cover ideas to look at, and as soon as I saw the open hands and the butterfly, I knew this would make an excellent cover. I love the muted colours and overall texture of the image. Moreover, it expresses a dichotomy of action – are the hands releasing the butterfly, or are they seeking to trap it? This mirrors nicely some of the themes/motifs that are laced throughout the narrative.


Where did you get your ideas from for this book?

When I began it, I didn’t know I was writing a novel. I assumed I was writing another short story, as I’ve been writing stories for quite a while now. All I had was the simple idea of a man in bed being woken in the night by a knock at the door. It might seem a bit vague, but from there I just followed my nose, as it were, and gave my imagination free rein. The characters seemed to appear, as did the setting, bit by bit, and before I knew it I’d gone beyond the traditional length of a long short story (i.e. beyond eight thousand words, say), and thought, Oh, goodness, this could be a novella, or even a novel. I don’t really know where ideas come from, or at least the kind of ideas that might be apparent in this novel – perhaps they have an amalgam of sources – memory, imagination, dream, other stories, the collective unconscious, and some mysterious element, guiding you, for some reason that cannot be discerned.


How long did it take you to write?

About two years, including drafting and editing, although there were some gaps during that period due to various life events and situations, and working other jobs. Often, the editing stage can take quite a long time, but that’s all to the good, I feel.


What would you do if you met any of the characters from your book for real?

I love that question, and the potential for that to happen is quite fascinating. Accepting a multiverse theory, or allowing for an infinite number of universes or realities, perhaps every character from every book or play is out there somewhere. I don’t know. Thinking about that leads to needing a lie down in a darkened room.

If I met one of the characters from the book, I would hope it might be in a neutral sort of place – perhaps a bar, or sitting on a park bench. I would try to keep calm, and pass the time of day, hoping they might reveal things I didn’t know about them, which amounts to an awful lot.


Can you relate to any of them?

Yes, all of them to some extent, except maybe some of the meanies who work at the slaughterhouse in Grenze, but even with them you have to try and get under their skin to some extent. The one I most relate to is Thomas, I suppose. The truck driver character, Peter, also seems to be quite popular, and I can see why. He’s honest, uncomplicated, and has a very good heart – and he likes chocolate!


Can we look forward to more books from you?

I very much hope so. I’d love to one day have a collection of poems, and a collection of stories. I am also working on a longer story just now, but it’s at an early(ish) stage, to be frank. I’d love to do more with my songs eventually (and some co-written songs) – perhaps make a CD, and see if some other musicians could play on the tracks, and do it properly, in a studio. Might need to come up on the horses first.


Where do you do most of your writing?

During the writing of The Gift Maker, I moved a few times, but in each case I did the writing at a desk in my bedroom, fortified by a constant drip of tea and ridiculous amounts of biscuits. Occasionally, I would sit in cafes or a pub, and think about how it was going, or indeed where it might go. Simply going for walks, or waking up first thing, ideas for a scene or a problem that needs ‘fixing’ can just simply come to you – most often when you stop striving for them, I find.


Have you found social media useful?

I think especially these days it is vital; vital to build relationships with readers, and readers who are bloggers, and with more general marketing matters. Great for connecting with other writers, who are usually voracious readers, too, of course. Getting news of a book ‘out there’ relies a lot on social media these days, and word can spread very effectively. People have been so very kind – individual readers, and especially book bloggers, who really are a wonderfully supportive community in themselves, and are part of an invaluable network that gets other people turned on to new books as well as older ones. Social media is also an important means of promulgating such an event, to hopefully create a bit of a buzz.


If you had the chance to live your life again would you still write?

That’s a great question, as are they all, Sonya – and the answer is an unequivocal yes. The only change I might make is to start earlier. I didn’t read much as a child, outside of comics, and only began to develop an interest in writing around the age of thirty (although I had written some songs prior to then). Having said this, things happen the way they do for a reason. In my twenties, my passion was for acting, and nothing really could have got in the way of that at the time.


What do you like to do in your spare time?

In my spare time I love to read – pretty much anything, although I really want to go back and read a lot of the ‘classics’ that I haven’t as yet tried. There’s only so much time, I suppose. I do consider reading an indispensible aspect of the writing ‘journey’ – for inspiration, connection with language, and simply to immerse oneself in worlds created by imaginations and sensibilities other than one’s own. A reader is also a time traveller.

I would love to learn other languages, or at least little bits of them; and then to read some stories and poems in their original incarnation. I keep trying.

I enjoy walking – which can also aid the imagination, as mentioned above. Just a nice gentle pace for me these days due to the old knees. I pretty much drink tea all day – not sure if that’s a hobby, more of an addiction, but not the worst you could have, I suppose.

Music is the other main thing I love, specifically playing the guitar, singing, and writing songs, or singing songs by other songwriters. I’ve been doing it for quite a while, and in the last couple of years have been active on Soundcloud – a site I love, as it has such a wonderful community of musicians, songwriters, poets, storytellers, and spoken word aficionados.


You are given the challenge of staying on a desert island for a month.  You are only allowed two books.  What would they be?

I know on Desert Island Discs you are given the Collected works of Shakespeare for ‘free’, as it were – but if I didn’t have that on offer, then I’d surely like the Bard as one of my two chosen books. The second book would be either Lao Tsu’s Tao Te Ching, or Basho’s complete haiku – I think either of those could put me into a nice contemplative state of mind.



Urbane Author Page: http://urbanepublications.com/book_author/mark-mayes/

Urbane Book Page: http://urbanepublications.com/books/the-gift-maker/

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/pumpstreetsongs

Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Gift-Maker-Mark-Mayes/dp/1911331779/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=14767072

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33398102-the-gift-maker

Blog: https://darklingilistenblog.wordpress.com/

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/Mark_J_Mayes

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/MarkJMayes


Guest Post by Matthew Smith


First up, a guest post by Mr Urbane himself in which he talks about books and gives this event a nice mention.



There are a number of challenges and issues that tax the mind of the average publisher. Putting aside the editorial, design and production demands for a moment (and the industrial levels of coffee consumption), the key driver for all of us – publisher and author alike – is, of course, book sales. Namely, how the hell do you secure more of them?

The key of course is discoverability. I firmly believe there is a readership for every book (much to my accountant’s horror) and Urbane prides itself on taking a risk or two with its books rather than simply churning out genre fodder. The author has poured heart and soul into creating a voice – so give that uniqueness wings, don’t twist and turn it to mimic all the other voices already yelling in the same room, a room that’s getting smaller and smaller by the day.

But how does that impact on discoverability, if your books don’t fit the nice, neat little genre boxes that have been established in the risk-averse bookselling channels? And more importantly, if you haven’t got a pot of gold to spend on adwords, Amazon advertising, Facebook or ‘securing’ a thousand reviews the week of publication – and you haven’t made your book look like Girl on a Train (homage number 38) – how do you give that book the profile it deserves?

For Urbane the answer lies in a long term ‘strategy’ (sorry, hate that word, we’re creating books, not pumping out products) to connect directly with an ever-growing readership, and recognise that it’s the individual reader that counts, not whether we have ‘targets’ of 5,000, 10,000 or 20,000 sales. Find a new reader, ensure they receive a book that is deserving of their attention and commitment, and chances are they will not only discover another Urbane author but also find us another reader or two.

Don’t get me wrong, if I had a squillion pounds and could buy success for all Urbane’s authors I would – goodness knows they deserve it. But that’s not the world we publish in – every sale is earned, every reader is appreciated, ever piece of feedback is gold.

And how do we find those new readers? Yes, by ensuring books are visible in the relevant channels. But primarily through our growing network of advocates and supporters. The most important of whom are the bloggers and reviewers who have given, and continue to give, so much time and effort on behalf of Urbane and its authors.

Which brings me to this latest Urbane event being put together by Sonya. Urbane hasn’t requested or managed this event. It has been entirely conceived, created and managed by A Lover of Books. It is not an advertorial, it is not a contrived ‘marketing piece’, but rather a genuinely collaborative attempt by an established book reviewer and blogger to give Urbane authors a chance to reach a new audience.

And frankly I am in awe of such efforts on behalf of our small independent company. Every single post, every single comment, every single piece of feedback – and every single new reader – that results from this wonderful event is the lifeblood that keeps Urbane alive and thriving and growing so we can continue to bring you new books and new voices. Urbane – and I suspect lots of indies like us – could not survive without the support of advocates like Sonya. And I, and Urbane’s authors, will be eternally thankful for her generosity of spirit and unstinting efforts on our behalf.

So, please enjoy each and every post over the coming days and do let Sonya have your feedback (and a thank you or two). And remember, with every click, every read, every piece of feedback, every mention, YOU are driving discoverability for our books and authors. We can’t do it without you. And frankly, we don’t want to.

Thanks everyone x


Welcome to My Urbane Blog Event


I’d like to welcome you all to my Urbane Blog Event. Last year’s event was so successful that I decided to do another one. Matthew Smith, the founder and owner of Urbane Publications really does have an eye for great books and through social media I have been following his publishing journey. I am still in awe at just how many books are being published. I only have to blink and another one is out. Since my last event I have had the pleasure of meeting many of Urbane’s authors and I hope to meet many more.

As you will see from the picture above my books have increased considerably in number. This is a collection I will always treasure and I will of course still keep adding to it. I do wish bookcases were elasticated and could expand in size though.

I would like to thank all the authors who are taking part in this event for taking the time to write guest posts and for answering my questions. It’s been nice getting to know all of you that little bit more. I also think it’s very important at this stage to thank my lovely husband, Richard. Without his support I would not have been able to do this event or much blogging for that matter, and it would be impossible to read as much as I do. He really is unique and actually enjoys helping out around the house thus freeing up lots of time for me. He also doesn’t mind if the light is on in the bedroom at night whilst I read. Thank you darling husband. You are my soulmate, best friend, everything rolled into one.

I hope you all enjoy this event. I have lots coming up over the next two weeks. This is your chance to find out all about Urbane’s authors and their wonderful books.


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