Today’s guest blogger is Aruna from the The Literary Shed. Welcome to the RNA blog Aruna!
Can you tell us a little bit about The Literary Shed? What made you start it?
LS: Well, in London I had a garden space where I wrote and edited and my late brother used to call it ‘The Literary Shed’. So, when I decided to set up a site celebrating words in any form, it was the obvious name. It’s also a nod to Virginia Woolf’s ‘a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is going to write’ – she’s a huge inspiration and she had a rather fetching shed at Monk’s House! The site is basically my way of highlighting things I love through reviews, Q&As, articles and other media (when I have time!). When it launched it was through a lot of kindness from the romance and historical writers’ community, here and in the States.
You have a linked site The Library of Scents can you tell us a bit about that?
The Library of Scents is a curated collection of literary-related room fragrances made from 100 per cent pure essential oils and mixed in small batches by me. Everything in them is natural and environmentally friendly. The scents are based on the premise that our favourite books, the ones that live in our heads, have a created landscape and smell is an important part of that, so I chose three of my Old Familiars, the novels I go back to again and again – Jane Eyre, Alice and The God of Small Things – with three very different worlds, and developed scents around them. I launched them just over a year ago and they’re sold from the site (www.theliteraryshed.co.uk) and through a few independent shops. People have been very kind and they’ve been really well-received, particularly the Kerala scent – which is great as it’s dedicated to my late mama, too. In December, we launched ‘A room of one’s own’, dedicated to Virginia Woolf. And as I was brought up to give back, a percentage from each sale goes to a literary and women’s charity each year.
What’s the best and worst thing about running a blog?
The best, the amazingly supportive literary environment – bloggers, publishers, marketing and publicity, etc. – and the joy of reading and reviewing some truly amazing books and interviewing some great authors. The worst, time. I had great notions of doing wonderful things like making films and music and writing articles on my favourite authors, graphic designers, and so on, but time is the issue. The reviews take half a day, at least, to write and the interviews take a fair amount of research so I’m nowhere near as prolific as I would like to be. It’s a pleasure doing it though.
Do you ever read just for fun or do you review every book you read?
Yes, I do read a lot for pleasure and for work as well – I’m an editor and writer – and sometimes I just want to savour the books I read. I’ve just finished the last J.D. Robb (Nora Roberts) and have bought Robert Macfarlane’s Underland, which is gorgeous and a book that forces me to slow down as a reader, as pretty much each phrase is lyrical – and I’m reading Damian Barr’s new novel which is great but gruelling in parts, as well as having a couple of cookery books on the go and a Mary Stewart or two to dip into.
What was your standout book of 2019 so far (assuming you can choose!)?
Gosh, difficult. Am I allowed two?! … Jane Harper’s standalone, The Lost Man, which I think is as good, if not better than the truly excellent The Dry, and Ambrose Parry’s The Way of All Flesh, which is historical crime-fiction at its best, I’d say.
Are there certain genres you prefer to cover?
The Literary Shed was set up to celebrate genre fiction and romance and crime, in particular, which are great loves so those are the preferred genres. We do review a lot of women’s fiction/literary fiction, too. When we first set up our initial reviews were pretty much all romance/historical romance and the interviews were with authors such as Caroline Mortimer, Kate Perry, Anne Gracie, Mary Jo Putney. Now, it’s more a mix of romance and crime, mainly, although recently it’s been more of the latter, just because of what we’re being approached to review and what we accept. We don’t review everything, just things that appeal, especially as the reviews are always honest, but reasoned, and they are quite detailed. There’s a lot of excellent writing, particularly in these genres so there’s much to read.
If you were able to host a fantasy dinner party for your favourite authors (alive or dead), who would you choose as your guests and what would you prepare for them?
Gosh, off the top of my head – Jean Rhys (Wide Sargasso Sea’s one of my favourite books), Jane Austen (because she’d be entertaining and probably slightly scary), Harper Lee (just because…), Raymond Carver (favourite short story writer), Georgette Heyer (who’d have a story or two and is an Old Familiar), Nora Roberts (because she’s fantastic, an Old Familiar – and alive), Nigel Slater (ditto, and he could rustle something up if I got stuck) and Antoine de Saint-Exupéry(The Little Prince, what more can I say, and hopefully he’d tell me what happened to his plane), Mary Beard (because I love her) and Neil Gaiman (because he’d be so entertaining). A big dinner. And for food, not knowing what they eat, I’d go pescatarian/vegan and have poached salmon, vegetable tarts, beautiful salads with interesting seasonal ingredients and great cheeses, exotic fruit sorbets, good chocolate (who doesn’t like chocolate?). And a lot of alcohol. I’d make them bespoke literary scents and have those as gifts.
We often ask industry professionals what they consider to be the next “big thing” – what do you hope to see in 2019/2020?
Do you know, I hope there isn’t one. At the risk of sounding contentious, I hope we can just concentrate on publishing great, interesting, innovative, beautifully produced books at affordable prices by new and established writers that don’t necessarily have to fit into an accepted genre. Or lead to the creation of a new subgenre. I think the danger of the ‘next big thing’ is that it sets the trend for what gets published and that can be an obstacle to a lot of really good writing and really talented authors reaching the audiences and having the success that they deserve.
That’s my favourite answer to the ‘next big thing’ question so far! Thank you for visiting us today, Aruna. All the best with The Literary Shed.
A. Vasudevan is a writer and editor with more than 20 years’ experience in UK and US publishing. She is founder of The Literary Shed, a site that celebrates beautiful words in any form. You can find out more about her in the following places:
Rhoda Baxter writes feel good stories about strong women and nice guy heroes. She especially likes it when they make her laugh. She also writes multi-cultural romances as Jeevani Charika. You can find out more about her award nominated books and mentoring services on www.rhodabaxter.com