Blog

All about…Fairest Creatures by Karen Taylor – a new thriller

Here’s a new blog from another of our incredibly talented library members, Karen Taylor, who has just published her latest novel – a thriller!

Penzance is the inspiration for my new thriller Fairest Creatures. And the Morrab Library is where I researched, wrote, and edited so much of it.

 

One of the things I learnt on the Creative Writing MA course I went on at the University of East Anglia was how place can be a character. I hope that this comes through in my writing. So many of my ideas were formed on early morning jogs by the sea – and later turned into prose and plot as I hit the keys in my Penzance apartment or in the Literature Room at The Morrab. The library gets a key scene in Dark Arts, the Crime Fiction book I wrote at UEA as my dissertation. But there are so many other places that Cornish readers will recognise in Fairest Creatures – from the Jubilee Pool café, Turks Head and Admiral Benbow to the small, terraced houses lining Bread Street and the panoramic Gurnard’s Head promontory.

Another key inspiration is the art world, so much a part of Cornwall. Although Fairest Creatures is about a serial killer — this is no ordinary predator. He’s someone more interested in wielding a paint brush than a knife. His obsession with the preservation of beauty is his driving force.

I would say that writing the book was one of the easiest parts. It’s a cliché, but once you get into a story and its characters the book almost writes itself. And I had the time. I came up the with the idea in February 2020 on a stormy night in Penzance. I sent the first pages off to the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger competition and, within months, I had been longlisted for the prize, just after the shutters came down on life as we knew it. The first Lockdown. Keys and captivity feature in the book; being locked in my house made writing one of
my only escapes. But all things pass. Restrictions eased, my book found a publisher and I found the perfect local artist to illustrate my cover.

I knew that the right cover was crucial. My publisher and I had gone through 100s of stock photographs, and we couldn’t agree on any. And then in June this year I went to the Penzance Studios exhibition and discovered Janine Wing. Or, rather, one of her striking portraits caught my eye. The intensity of the look and the mystical style was perfect for a book about art and unknown and sinister forces. Janine agreed to create a new portrait reflecting the book’s central themes.

 

I have written for a living since my early twenties, as a journalist and editor. But Fairest Creatures realises a lifetime ambition to be a published author. It seemed only right that I would launch the book in Penzance and at the best Library in the whole world.

Fairest Creatures is available to borrow at the library and to buy at independent and major book sellers.

Celebrating National Poetry Day

The 6th October is National Poetry Day and as Morrab Library has a close affinity to poetry we felt we should celebrate this with a special blog from one of our library members…
You cannot be a member of the library for very long before you notice a whole room dedicated to poetry, an extensive (and growing!) collection of poetry itself alongside biographies of poets.  Furthermore there are many poets among the members and every fortnight a poetry reading group meets in Gods’ room.
Here are two poems which celebrate libraries…

My First Memory (of Librarians)

Nikki Giovanni, 1943 –

This is my first memory:
A big room with heavy wooden tables that sat on a creaky wood floor
A line of green shades—bankers’ lights—down the center
Heavy oak chairs that were too low or maybe I was simply too short
For me to sit in and read
So my first book was always big

In the foyer up four steps a semi-circle desk presided
To the left side the card catalogue
On the right newspapers draped over what looked like a quilt rack
Magazines face out from the wall

The welcoming smile of my librarian
The anticipation in my heart
All those books—another world—just waiting
At my fingertips.

And here are two modest haiku about our own library from the author of this blog:

Sixty thousand books
Rooms of calm
surrounded by Palms, magnolias

In twenty eighteen
He opened the Morrab door
To heaven on earth

                 

“I Saw Red” by James Lee:  Transforming the Story of the Minotaur into a 21st Century Novel

The latest novel by Morrab Library member, James Lee, was published earlier this month.  I Saw Red is a retelling of the story of The Minotaur set in modern-day Spain. In this blogpost, James explains what inspired him to write this book, and reflects on why the wisdom within Greek myths is still as relevant today as it was thousands of years ago.

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Do you know the story of The Minotaur?  The one about the monstrous creature who is conceived out of Queen Pasiphae’s lust for a beautiful white bull?  And about how King Minos locks The Minotaur in a labyrinth? And then, with the help of his girlfriend, the Greek hero, Theseus, bravely confronts this terrifying creature, before disappearing off on another adventure (typical!), leaving Ariadne to while away the years with Dionysus instead?

The plot is so simple that most of us are taught it as children, but, like so many Greek myths, the story of The Minotaur is saturated in deeper meanings.

For example, the idea that a woman’s desires can lead to the conception of a monster says so much about men’s fear of female sexuality. And all of us know what it feels like to be imprisoned in a physical or psychological ‘labyrinth’. Also, if he really is such a hero then why does Theseus leave without Ariadne? Is the path of the hero/heroine ultimately a solitary one?  And, after going through all that trauma, why would Ariadne hook up with a crazy-wisdom god like Dionysus?  Madness!

Once you start to scratch beneath the surface, it becomes apparent that the insights and wisdom in this myth are as relevant today as they were three millennia ago.

But why did I set most of this novel in Madrid?  Partly because I lived there during the noughties, so I have strong memories of that time. Also, because of everything that it has witnessed over the years (the Spanish Inquisition, the rise and fall of the Spanish Empire, the Napoleonic invasion, the civil war, the post-Franco burst of creativity etc), Madrid is a highly charged and slightly haunting place. Of course, the bull has an iconic status within Spanish society, so setting a retelling of the story of The Minotaur in Spain makes sense for this reason too.

I hope that you enjoy reading I Saw Red as much as I enjoyed writing it.  Digital and paperback versions are now available on Kindle + Amazon.

And if you would like to keep up to date with my thoughts and work as a writer, then feel free to follow my Facebook page @jamesleeauthor