guardian first book award – joys of a book group

I have the great good fortune to be a member of a book group, we all met last year when judging the Guardian first book award for Waterstones, liked each other and carried on meeting once a month after. When the Guardian award came around again this year some of us got chosen to be on the official judging panel and those of us who didn’t formed an alternative reading group alongside.

Having experienced both ways of judging them I feel I preferred our alternative group, we did spread the reading process over a few more weeks but we still read all 11 books on the Longlist, we critiqued all of them and selected our winner. We also decided to hold an awards ceremony and so we cheekily contacted all the authors in the book award and asked them if they wanted to be involved, not really expecting many replies. We got some lovely e:mails back saying people couldn’t attend but we also managed to arrange skype conversations with 2 of the authors, Matthew Thomas and May Lan Tan.

As a judging group we had mixed feelings about these authors, most of us enjoyed Matthew Thomas’s, We are not ourselves, even though it just missed out on our top 5. We felt it was a really readable book that tackles the difficult topic of Alzheimers really well, and we had great discussions about the characters in the books especially the main character Eileen. With May Lan Tan, the official group enjoyed her collection of short stories more than the official group did and we all felt she had maybe been let down with the way the book was presented.

On our Awards night this week we chatted to both these authors and they were both genuinely lovely people who spent a good amount of their time chatting to us, even with technical difficulties at times. We learnt a lot from the discussions, including that life as an author even one selected for a prestigious awards such as the Guardian doesn’t mean you hit the big time financially, all the longlisted authors could really use your support in getting their books heard of. We also managed to share a passion for reading and chat about favourite authors and influences with both authors which was really enlightening. It was great to hear that they both have a next work in the pipeline and I know that as a book group they both have new followers who will be eagerly looking out for their next novels.

It was great to see that they both have an excellent sense of humour about their writing and life as an author as well. We asked May Lan Tan how she felt about being nominated for the bad sex award for her book and she said that had it have been closer to the first book award she’d have attended the ceremony which is ace.

Guardian reviews for their books posted below

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/mar/14/things-to-make-and-break-may-lan-tan-review

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/aug/27/we-are-not-ourselves-matthew-thomas-review-novel

We all know that when we love a band or music group that they earn more money from their tours and merchandise than they often do from the music, and I think with current times Authors are starting to realise that they need to make themselves a presence both on social media and in the real world to ensure that they garner more sales for their novels and to ensure that they gain interest, there are more books published in a year than even I can read (and I’ve read 276 books this year so far) so authors are having to find ways to stand out in the crowd, by agreeing to talk with us I think these guys are showing the pleasant side of authors, they care about the people who take time to read their  work and this shows in the way they use their time to talk to a lowly book group in Leeds UK, hopefully this blog (and the links below to their work) will show others that there are genuinely pleasant authors out there, I have met others in my travels, Elly Griffiths and Peter May stand out as other genuinely nice people as well as excellent authors, and maybe encourage some more sales for their books (we are not ourselves, and things to make and break, Amazon links below)

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Are-Not-Ourselves-Matthew-Thomas/dp/0007548214/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1417594551&sr=8-1&keywords=we+are+not+ourselves

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Things-Make-Break-May-Lan-Tan/dp/1909585017/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1417594579&sr=8-6&keywords=things+to+make+or+break

Also if you love reading join a book group, its one of the genuine highlights of my month and its great to meet people with similar crazy habits and love of reading.

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