A Quickie with Stephanie Butland

Tell me about your latest book and why we should read it?

‘The Curious Heart Of Ailsa Rae’ follows Ailsa in her first year after receiving a life-saving heart transplant. She’s always wanted to be ordinary – but adapting is harder than she thinks. She learns to tango, finds her father, argues with her mother, gets involved in a production of ‘Romeo and Juliet’… – and starts to listen to her bold new heart. Read it if you’ve ever felt as though adulting isn’t all it was cracked up to be! 

If someone was to write your life story what would the title be?

‘Word by word’. Everything I love in life is wordy: I grew up always reading, I’ve always loved writing, the playwrights I like (Stoppard, Shakespeare, Churchill) and the musicians I listen to (Leonard Cohen, Belle and Sebastian, Frank Turner, Florence Welsh) are clever with words. I rarely listen to word-free music and I have always been grumpy in places where the music is so loud that you can’t talk. And the art of writing is, for me, one of taking every word and making sure it belongs where I’ve put it, that it’s absolutely the best word to do that job.

What’s the strangest fan question or request you’ve received?

The strangest interaction was definitely a man who told me, before a joint author event, that he was only there to see the other author! Afterwards he came up to me, bought a book for his wife, and said ‘I liked it slightly more when you read a bit out’. Which I am counting as a win.

If you could co-write with anyone in the world (alive or dead) who would it be?

Please may I have two? Jane Austen and John Updike. They showed me the kind of writer I wanted to be.

Tell me something nobody else knows about you (yet!).

I have quite a little crush on Douglas Henshall.

Finally please recommend 3 books that you have recently read and tell me why you’ve chosen these.

Emily Wilson’s new translation of Homer’s The Odyssey. It’s so clever and beautiful – she has brought an immediacy to the text that keeps you on the edge of your seat even though you know what’s going to happen. It made me think a lot about what it is to be homeless, to be stateless, to have to live on your wits, to have everything snatched from you.

‘Black Water’ by Louise Doughty. For me this is an example of the craft of writing at its best. This story of a man coming to terms with a terrible event is mesmerisingly told; it builds and builds brilliantly. I felt as though I was there. There were times when I was almost reading through my fingers because I couldn’t bear it!

‘Mansfield Park’ by Jane Austen, which is probably my most re-read book. I love the characters – their understandable flawed-ness – and the way the tale unfolds. Plus, Austen tells us so much about the wider world, while seeming never to stray past the ha-ha.

Who is Stephanie Butland? Stephanie Butland is the author of beloved bookshop tale ‘Lost For Words’ and her new novel ‘The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae’, released in ebook and paperback 19th April 2018 (available for pre-order now).

Stephanie lives in Northumberland, close to the place where she grew up. She writes in a studio at the bottom of her garden, and loves being close to the sea. She’s thriving after cancer.

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