“Im a Did Go Twis’ Up ina Im Head” – thoughts on #WorldMentalHealthDay

During the writing of Lucia’s War, I have a scene where Lucia, reunited with her brother, Reginald, is attempting to dissuade him from taking part in a mutiny at his barracks. Reginald, furiously resenting his English commanding officer, longs to withhold a salute from him. This alarms Lucia, who knows all too well what the consequences will be if he does that. She tells him of what happened when a salute was withheld (a series of events readers of White Feathers will recognise.)

In the original dialogue, I had her tell Reginald that this other person “went mad”. Lyeanne Beckford-Jones, who was sensitivity-reading the dialogue with particular focus because it was informal, between the two siblings, suggested replacing it with “im a did twis’ up ina im head”. I was immediately struck by how vivid, violent and cruel that imagery was, and how transitive compared to the anodyne phrase I had started off with. He twisted up in his head. *They* twisted him up in his head. It’s such an accurate description of what, according to my research, PTSD after war does to you. Permanently. Physiologically.

I was chatting to my dad the other day and he told me in his opinion the real strength of White Feathers was how accurately and horribly it portrayed mental breakdown and disintegration after the greater madness of war. As Ellen, a colleague and reader of White Feathers, once said to me. “He had changed too much” 💔

It’s my belief, based on a storyteller’s hunch rather than a historian’s data, that mental illness stigma ramped up seriously during the recruitment process for WWI, where accusations of malingering and emotional weakness got thrown around when men broke down after weeks and months of battle strain. It was in the interests of the top brass to stigmatise, pour encourager les autres, that was for sure. Spirits and souls were being broken and the unpalatable truth that repair would not be easy was an inconvenient one.

Today I want to hold some space for everyone who has twisted up in their heads because of externally imposed injustice, whether through war, social inequity, racism or calamity. Mental ill-health has always been a topic of interest to me and I don’t believe in shying away from reality.

I promise that I will continue to write about these injustices. And it will take more than the Irish Times clutching their pearls and saying with a sniff that I’m being MEANNN to British High Command to stop me.

Wishing you peace of mind and health today.

#BlackHistoryMonth – Kindle Promotion

From Thursday and throughout October, it is Black History Month in Europe. As well as being a tale of war, passion and motherhood, Lucia’s War refers to a lot of events and personalities who form part of Black British (and Caribbean) history during the WWI period. The book refers to the Coterie of Friends, an exclusive club for Black intellectuals and musicians founded by the composer Edmund Thornton Jenkins, whose symphony Charlestonia, mentioned briefly in the book, can be heard on YouTube. Such society also featured the decorated physician John Alcindor, who worked tirelessly to treat war wounded at rail stations in London. (On a personal note, he married an Englishwoman, whose family sadly disowned her for her choice.)

On a grimmer note, through the travails of Lucia’s brother Reginald with the British West Indies Regiment, the novel also touches on the mutiny at Taranto after the Caribbean infantry were kept in camp, and some even killed by British (white) officers.

It’s clear there was plenty going on and no shortage of interesting stories. War novels are in need of that. We can’t just have (a) boy goes off to the trenches or (b) woman gets to be spy with the French Resistance any more. I’m excited to see if writers like Mike Gayle and Lola Jaye are going to be in this space a bit more. I’ve already enjoyed the contributions of Kamila Shamsie, Isabella Hammad and Ruqaya Izzidien, though these writers are concerning themselves with different communities.

ANYWAY – In honour of Black History month UK/Europe, the Kindle edition of Lucia’s War is discounted to 99 pence sterling, or 1.08 euro. This discount will start from Friday and run through the whole weekend. Get it while it’s hot!

Lucia’s War – A Statement of Intent

Hello everyone! The paperback edition of Lucia’s War continues to pop up in bookshops around Ireland, slowly but steadily. It’s showing its face in my local gift shop in Cobh, Tertulia Books in Westport, and it will be popping up in Gutter Dalkey tomorrow. I’m confining it to bookshops at present to make it easier for them to sell there, so there won’t be a direct ordering online link just yet (though the e-book is of course always available on Amazon)

If this all sounds very strategic and calculating I can assure you it is anything but in practice! I have requisitioned bird feeder boxes from Lidl hanging about the house, and covered them in paper to conceal their original purpose and make them suitable for posting packages of book. Furthermore That Blasted Virus requires me to sign them wearing the same green gloves you saw me wear in the unboxing video, as well as masking up.

I will start updating the Lucia’s War landing page with paperback information as I order more and send more books out. It’s going to be quite dynamic as bookshops get added. Hopefully as word spreads and the book travels about the country I will be in a position to approach a nationwide distributor and ask them if they’d be interested in taking part. There is a reason for all of this.

I intend to submit Lucia’s War to the An Post Irish Book Awards, in the Popular Fiction category.

To me this is a waymark to help me focus on getting the paperback out. The rules require that shortlisted books be generally available around the country in October. That is what I am aiming for. There is no rule against self-published books, though I don’t know of any which have been shortlisted. That’s fine; for me the pleasure is in the challenge of being the first. I have no doubt in my mind from the feedback I have received, publicly and privately, that Lucia’s War more than meets any standard required, in production and in content. It deserves to be at least submitted, no matter what internal currents and ructions might be against it. And I have a mischievous spirit – I like to give things a go 🙂

There is also a bittersweet reason why I want to submit it. Simply this: White Feathers should have been there. It was not, and that’s ok, but I want to honour both books.

Wish me luck, folks!

Lucia’s War – Unboxing the Paperback!

I am delighted to present the paperback edition of Lucia’s War at long last. Many thanks to Richie at More Visual for the wonderful design and overall I’m pleased with the print job Lulu have done for the price paid. Because I am a complete nerd, I made…an unboxing video. I will add some pics later.

Also, I have not yet made the PB available online – for the moment I am sending copies to a small number of bookshops and then will tentatively order in some more. I am looking into various options such as using Lulu or maybe Amazon or Shopify. The costs of postage can be a bit of a bummer. But for the moment I will be definitely sending some copies to the wonderful Tertullia Bookshop in Westport and hopefully Gutter Dalkey, Cobh Gifts, and perhaps Vibes and Scribes. All tbc and will be updating on this shortly.

But here is my inexpert unboxing video in the meantime 🙂

Because It Appears to Need Saying

This is a more personal post. If you want to hear about the paperback, I promise you, it’s coming very soon! Otherwise, feel free to read on.

Last March, I made a bargain with myself, of sorts. I decided that if I were to continue with my writing life, it would no longer be at the expense of my mental health and self-respect. I would no longer pretend not to see the problems in the Irish literary world. I would no longer accommodate anyone who sought to gaslight me or others.

There were a few reasons for this. Behind closed doors, I was getting dog’s abuse and shaming from a powerful figure in said literary world for daring to express (civil) anger about something I had every right to feel angry about. At the same time I was being gaslit by other authors when I sought to tell my truth in a supposedly safe forum. And there was a whole other drama re the literary world I can’t discuss because of legal reasons.

Then I experienced a health crisis in my immediate family. And it jolted me to the core. I’d had enough of these time wasters. Looking over my blog entries, they had been making me ill for too long. And I said so, here: https://www.google.ie/amp/s/susanlanigan.com/2020/03/03/she-wrote-it-but-the-irish-literary-fiction-edition/amp/

So, the reason I’m returning to this is because I’m getting roared at again by folk in the literary world for the same thing – questioning the reviewing policy of a Certain Newspaper. It’s *always* that that gets the raginess out. Even threats of libel this time!

It is my personal belief, a belief I am entitled to express regarding a Certain Newspaper as an occasionally consuming citizen of its resources, a citizen furthermore of a free country, that reviews in the paper are on many occasions influenced as much by the relative social status of the author as the quality of the book, and on occasion by the unexamined prejudices of the reviewer. Others disagree, and that’s fine.

(To anyone who says, well I’m bitter because a Certain Newspaper trashed *my* debut novel, I will reply, “Certainly. That makes me see things I cannot unsee.”)


The upshot of this decision means that if I read a brief review of an Indian novelist’s work in a Certain Newspaper and it refers to “exotic sounds and smells” and compares the book disparagingly to A Passage to India, an almost century-old novel written about India by a white man, ignoring the entirety of Indian literature written since; if I read the same (white) reviewer shortly afterwards condemn a debut OwnVoices novel written by a British Bangladeshi novelist on the grounds that the characters are too decent, liberal and fair minded to represent Bangladeshi migrants properly, and that the book has “nothing new” to contribute to the migrant narrative, and one of her characters is a poor imitation of a well known character from a famous book by a rich white woman novelist – if I read these reviews and conclude from the substance of them that their content is racially offensive, is that honestly a contention that requires legal challenge? Should I just keep my mouth shut about it because of some fellow white people’s feelings?

A lot of people would say yes. They would say I should keep my mouth shut. But I’m sick of that. To hear some people talk, you would think there is some sort of party whip in the Irish writing world. In which case, you can call me Neasa Hourigan 😂

I’m not angry, not any more. I wish nobody any harm, not even the miserable folk who try to shame me. I don’t believe that for one to increase, the other must decrease. But I won’t be silent either. And respectfully, or otherwise, I am going nowhere.

Lucia’s War – One Month On

So the book has been out a month now – published, launched and announced – and it’s been an interesting contrast with the last time! In the meantime, Ireland has gained a new government, and of course the covid-19 epidemic has inevitably shaped this publication story, just as its 1918 counterpart affected the book’s storyline.

Also the nature of publishing something independently mean all the work is down to you. Sales and recognition are not going to come to you like you’re a pearl-pale waif with a work of wistful plotlessness and a six-figure advance – you have to go out and work hard for them!

Reviews

Life has inevitably got in the way of this – I’m pretty poor on time and mental energy right now – but I’m proud to say that Lucia has managed to win its share of praise. I have inserted a few of the reviews on the landing page but more keep coming in. I’m so grateful to the reviewers who have taken the time to put words to the page about Lucia’s War.

Podcast

Also the amazing ladies at Chick Lit 4 Life have done an entire episode on the book! To say I’m touched and delighted would be the understatement of the century. (There are also tangents on the Korean pop group BlackPink and a lovely reading of Warsan Shire.) It’s a very clever and artful podcast, and extremely funny. I would also recommend listening to the Mansfield Park episode and the other Austen ones (“Mr Collins cruising for b*tches!”) the link is above.

LoveReading

Later this month, LoveReading.co.uk will be doing a promotion with the book, so keep an eye out for that.

And with that, stay well everyone, and while a bombazine cloak and veil will not be necessary, a mask when indoors in public places would be an excellent idea 🙂

Curiosity piqued? Click here

Lucia’s War – New Live Date June 5

Hello all, just an FYI that Lucia’s War launch will now be on Friday 5th June, not Monday 1st June, to give time to get proofs uploaded. Those who have pre-ordered a copy will be notified. A virtual launch will take place on Friday evening GMT, details to be confirmed.

Thanks for your patience. The last few weeks have been so deprived of time to do even the smallest thing that I can barely manage this post, to be honest. Lockdown time has thieved me of the ability to do extra. Jobs left undone, the place is a tip… but as Mozart said in the film, “forgive me your Majesty, I am a vulgar man, but my music is not.” This is a special book and I cannot wait to share it with you all.

“A Symphony as Beautiful as It Is Violent” – Lucia’s War ARC Review

I’m proud to announce that Lucia’s War has won a Recommended Read Award from the Coffee Pot Book Club, along with a first review I could only dream of. I had to blog this as soon as I could, so elated I was after reading it.

A month or two ago, as an independent author green about the gills, I saw what a great service this blog was doing for similar authors such as Pam Lecky and Catherine Kullmann, and asked Mary Anne Yarde of Coffee Pot Book Club to review the ARC. She kindly agreed, and to my joy, she really liked it.

Some excerpts that are particularly heart-singing:

Oh, this book, where do I even begin? This is a story that swept me away in all of its brilliance. With soaring arpeggio’s that scream of disaster and triumph seemingly in the same breath, Lucia’s War is a novel that mesmerises. Lanigan has done the impossible and somehow weaved the language of music into this evocative story in such a way that it was almost as if I was listening to a poignant symphony that was as beautiful as it was violent.

and

We do meet some historical characters in this book […] but it is the attention to the historical detail where Lanigan excels. Like all gifted historical fiction authors, Lanigan has portrayed the era this book is set in seemingly without any effort. This is incredibly hard to pull off, but Lanigan has done it most admirably.  Lucia’s War […] is an exceptional work of scholarship. It is in all ways a historical fiction masterpiece. This is a book that is deserving of your time.

Read the full review here. Please note that it contains major spoilers for its predecessor, White Feathers.

Lucia’s War – Pre-Order Available

Delighted to announce that pre-orders are now available for Lucia’s War in e-book format. I’ve been working hard on this – and work continues to be done! – so it’s a delight to make this announcement.

Pre-order here for Amazon UK

Pre-order here for Amazon US

Also viewable on Goodreads if you would like to add it to your list!

I currently have the ARC being reviewed by the Coffee Pot Book Club so hopefully that will spread the word. I also have an ARC list who have received an electronic copy. I haven’t had the opportunity to do much marketing because I’ve had a full-time job, a lot of commitments and of course lockdown restrictions to contend with. So I’m ramping that up a small bit now.

But Where’s The Paperback?

I’m going to say this because it’s going to get asked – I have actually managed a good workflow with generating a PB with a very early draft and Richie the ever-patient designer at More Visual. But the process is pricey and I’d have to try it again with a local printer. I need to give myself a bit of financial breathing space because I’ve spent quite a bit on the editorial side, rightly so. And then there’s Spanish Flu Mark II which means all the bookshops are shut anyway. However I know there are many of you who prefer paperback and there WILL be one – it just might be three months down the line.

I honestly have no idea how this will all pan out. I hope as I learn on my journey I can share it. However it is a rather exciting adventure and I am so glad Lucia got her book. She so deserves it! I’m very lucky to have the wisdom of Liz (editor) and Lyeanne (expert reader) to keep pushing me onwards towards making this book the best it can be.

When’s the E-book out?

1 June. I did say 30 May but figured the other side of the weekend wouldn’t make that much difference. There’s plenty of work to be done but I think it’s a reasonable schedule.

So that’s it. Do please spread the word. And there’s a killer last line. Did I mention the killer last line? 🙂

 

Launch Date for Lucia’s War

Hello everyone,

As discussed on twitter and here, Lucia’s War will be soft-launched online on Saturday, May 30, 2020. This will be done via a Live Event. Time and other details tbc, but the event will operate under the presumption of full quarantine restrictions. I am hoping everyone can raise their glasses / Godspeed messages to the screen when this ship sails. (The opening scene is of launching warships!)

I doubt if a PB will be available as distribution channels are down at present. I have been able to hold a PB for a previous draft of the novel in my hands, and the printer isn’t Amazon KDP (not liked by booksellers, understandably!) so perhaps some limited distribution will be available. But ARCs will definitely be out in ebook format.

The ARC is taking longer to issue than planned for the simple reason that I am doing this myself, I recently resumed full-time work, and ambient conditions became severely inconducive for a while. My application to the Arts Council for a bursary was disqualified, so I must work outside writing and have a day job. This has always been the case for me, and I can live with it, but it’s caused me difficulty lately. I thank readers for understanding.

I’ve done a tiny bit of promotional work too, so I will highlight that when the time comes. Being kept from my work is a major block for a lot of that, especially so close to the end, but I know that one way or the other, it will be worth it.

Thanks all and please boost. I am but a small figure in a vast forest but as the quote says in Amadeus “Forgive me, your Majesty, I am a vulgar man – but my music is not.” I think Lucia would approve of that signoff.