So here we go, one of those writer’s tag games.  The multi-versifying poet, performer, celebrant and sailor Sarah Hymas has asked me to share a little about my current writing project, and then pass the baton along. I’m going to keep this brief-ish, because really I ought to be working on my current writing project! Which is the second novel in The Gaia Chronicles series, and a sequel to Astra, which was published last month by Jo Fletcher Books. I will blog about Astra next week to celebrate the Brighton launch, and in fact I can’t say too much about the new novel, because that would spoil the ending of Astra. Sorry! But I can safely reveal that The Gaia Chronicles is a Science Fiction or Science Fantasy series, depending on whom I am trying to convince to read them . . .  The books are about a young girl,…

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For a poet, used to fretting over lines and images for months, writing a novel in a year is a fascinating, not to say teeny-tiny bit terrifying challenge.  I am enjoying it, though, and starting to really trust the process – there’s something immensely reassuring about the way the words flow onto the page, and one chapter springboards into another.  Though I do need lots of wiggle breaks, and online research time to answer questions like ‘what is artificial meat grown in?’*,  ‘are otters endangered in Anatolia?’** and ‘can renewables really provide for global energy needs?’*** I’m certainly in awe of those who write a novel in a weekend! It was also reassuring to find a good foster home for an early chapter of the book.  Subsequent drafts have already wrought changes in this growing girl, but if you’re curious about Astra, and can’t wait until 2014, she makes her…

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          To conclude my travel research for my second novel, Astra, I visited Iceland for a week. Astra is set in Mesopotamia in a new nation called Is-Land, a small state formed in the aftermath of a global environmental and economic collapse (we all know it’s coming, don’t we?).  In Icelandic, Iceland is called Ísland, but the country’s relevance to my novel reaches much further than superficial nomenclature.  Politically, Iceland is a interesting model for my own vision of an emerging small settler-state; its active volcanos suggest how Mesopotamia could appear during a period of geological turbulence; and its famous Sagas provide a rich seam of national myth-building for my storytelling instincts to mine.  In a short period I explored all three areas of interest enough to inspire new developments in Astra, and to dream of returning to a chalet in the Southern valleys to finish…

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    In our country a look a wave of the hand means the world In our country there are no terraces of paradise no rewards from ‘The North Gate’ Bejan Matur Wikipedia will give you all the background facts: 25 to 30 million Kurds inhabit the land between the Tigris and the Euphrates, a region known since antiquity as Mesopotamia; they have never enjoyed self-government but since the breakup of the Ottoman Empire have been the subjects of Syria, Iran, Iraq and Turkey. Kurds represent at least 20% of the Turkish population, and are the dominant population in the southeast of the country; Kurdish separatists have resisted assimilation into the Turkish state since the nineteen twenties.  From 1925-1965, Anatolia was declared a closed military zone in which Kurds were forbidden to read or write their own language and the very words ‘Kurd’ and ‘Kurdistan’ banished from Turkish dictionaries; from…

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So why Kurdistan?  As readers of previous posts may have gathered, I am here location scouting for my second novel, Astra. Without giving too much of the plot away, the book is set a century from now, after global warming has rendered much of the planet unfit for human habitation and the survivors of the catastrophe are slowly trying to reinvent civilisation.  To reflect drastic changes to coastlines wrought by the floods of the Dark Time, and to signify the start of a new era, they have changed the names of all Earth’s continents and nations.  When the book begins, the project of rebuilding is well underway, and Astra is a seven year old girl living in a new country called Is-Land, which has been settled by immigrants from all over the world.  Is-Land’s location is purposefully ambiguous; its citizens’ relationship to their new home has echoes of the history…

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So, after two days in Istanbul – during which I discovered all the trains I wanted to take aren’t running – I’m packed and ready to fly to Diyarbakir tomorrow.  This evening then, marks the end of the beginning of the first leg of my research trip to Kurdistan and Palestine.  Does that make tonight the right ankle of my trip?  Stick with me folks – I’ve had a little sun today, but I’m in a cool basement hotel room now, and the puns might get better…  In the meantime, here’s a puzzle for you, the significance of which will hopefully, like a line of Arabic calligraphy, merge into the shape of a transcendent whole.  (Or perhaps a pineapple, which according to one Turkish artist, is one and the same thing) But on with the game.  The day before I left England my friend Iain asked me to cite the…

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