Jill Dawson – Wild Boy
Beg, borrow or steal a plot. Plenty of great novels are based on real events and Wild Boy is the perfect example of how to take a blurry historical event and turn it into fascinating and compulsive fiction. Based around the first documented case of autism, it explores early attitudes and medical approaches to the condition.
Also well worth reading on this site is novelist David Pearce's take on taught creative writing courses (he's less than impressed) and advice on alternative paths to publication.
Marian Keyes – The Other Side of the Story
For an insight into handling the bitchy, cut throat and not-for-the-faint-hearted world of publishing and literary agents, pick up a copy of the latest from one of Ireland’s sparkiest novelists. As well as exploring issues around guilt, infidelity and depression, not to mention sex and shopping, Marian Keyes' latest will guide you through the many and varied machinations involved with publishing a book.
Toby Litt – Finding Myself
Another witty insight into the world of writers as the hideous Victoria About sets up a literary hideaway in deepest, darkest Suffolk, intent upon creating a Big Brother type setting in which to spy on her companions who she intends to use as inspiration for her next novel. Possibly not the best way to endear yourselves with your friends and loved ones, but if you’ve hit a wall with your plot development, it might just offer a way forward.
Iris Murdoch – The Book & the Brotherhood
Now this is the way to go. Appear intellectual and clever to a group of your friends and they might just offer to sponsor you to write a book that they think is going to change the world. However, you’d better come up with the goods, or they might turn nasty as the protagonist of Murdoch’s novel found out to his cost. Still, nice work if you can get it.
Reshma S. Rhia – Something Black in the Lentil Soup
This comical and irreverent account of poetic rivalry should help to prepare anyone shortlisted for a literary prize. Featuring a host of sneering and sniping writers, hanger-onners and scholarly big cheeses, if it wasn’t for the money, the fame and the possible British Council trips overseas, it may even make the more tender-hearted among you run for the hills at the mere mention of the words Man Booker/Forward/Orange.
Dodie Smith – I Capture the Castle
If anything is likely to terrify a writer out of their writer’s block, I Capture the Castle is it. This tender story of a young woman’s coming of age is also an entertaining and inventive account of what happens when her father, who has achieved some literary fame with his first novel, is blocked and slowly but surely brings his family down into his pit of despondency with him. Their inventive cure for his literary lethargy may just be worth a try should things get desperate.
Barbara Trapido – Frankie & Stankie
Write about what you know is the long-standing piece of advice offered to fledgling writers. Well, it took Barbara Trapido a long time before she followed that advice, but her 6th novel neatly captures her South African childhood and is an absorbing piece of personal and political history.
Barbara Vine – The Blood Doctor
If biography is your bag, then the latest from Barbara Vine may offer some inspiration. Wading through the complex and mysterious family secrets of a Victorian doctor, historian and biographer Lord Nanther uncovers a number of unsavoury details that bring into question the role and the integrity of the biographer, conflicting loyalties and what we can ever really know about another person.