Gavin Extence is on Radio 2’s Drivetime Book Club Feb 23rd

Jacket ImageWe love Gavin Extence and his new book ‘The Mirror World Of Melody Black’ (it’s on order) is the next featured book on Simon Mayo’s Drivetime Book Club on Monday February 23rd.  

Abby is an aspiring journalist, an indifferent daughter, a cohabiting girlfriend; a ‘normal’ woman in her mid-twenties. But something sets her apart from everyone else. It allows her to achieve complete truth and clarity. Something that no one else could ever understand. But the very thing that sets Abby apart could destroy her. And then she meets Melody Black.

Gavin Extence draws upon his own experiences to depict an unsettling, at times hilarious, but most of all truthful account of what it’s like to live with bipolar disorder. He brings to the fore questions like where is the line between sanity and insanity? At what point has someone gone off the rails? And what is the difference between passion and mania?

Gavin was born in 1982 and grew up in Lincolnshire. He was a keen chess player as a boy, winning several national titles. He began writing his first novel after he had completed his PhD in Film Studies and was unemployed. His debut novel, The Universe Versus Alex Woods, was a Radio 2 Book Club choice in 2012.

Gavin says: When I write, I like to work with the cat on my knee. It started with my debut. When I was writing it, I couldn’t afford to run the heating, so she’d sit on my knee all day and we’d keep each other warm. Since then, I think we’ve probably clocked up several thousand hours working together. It’s an arrangement that suits both of us.

If I hadn’t become a writer, I would have wanted to be…a librarian. I love being surrounded by books. It makes me feel very grounded. I also love being able to recommend a great book; if I really enjoy something, I immediately want to share it.

 One thing that people don’t know about me is I crashed the car on my first ever driving lesson, about two minutes after starting the engine. I pranged another car – a parked car – at about 5mph. I’ve never told anyone that because it felt too embarrassing. But this seemed like a good place to unburden myself. The book that inspired me to write is A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving. (Or that’s one of them. There are about a dozen!)

 If I could be any cartoon character, I would be… …Wile E. Coyote. I admire his persistence. You need a lot of that to write.


The thing I love most about words is they can create an entire world out of thin air.

Things Gavin Knows

The universe versus Alex WoodsAn evening with Gavin Extence, author of ‘The Universe versus Alex Woods’

 Author Gavin Extence came to Central Library last night as part of the Read Regional campaign to connect readers and authors. What a treat it turned out to be. I am a veteran of author events and this one stood out with fascinating questions and insights from Gavin on the craft of authorship, how and why he got started, the road to getting published and his ‘champagne’ moments along the way.

Gavin’s debut novel, The Universe Versus Alex Woods, which has a 5 star rating from Leeds readers has been described as Mark Haddon meets Kurt Vonnegut and ‘A fairy tale for rationalists’ by the Guardian. The evening started  reading from the author giving us a flavour of the book. If you haven’t read it, here’s what it’s about:

A teenager drives off the ferry at Dover with an urn full of human ashes on the passenger seat (of his friend Vietnam veteran Isaac Peterson) and a bag of marijuana in the glove compartment. Stopped at customs, he turns up Handel’s Messiah on the stereo to try to avert an epileptic seizure and is taken away by the police. Meet 17-year-old Alex Woods, born to a clairvoyant mother who conceived him with a stranger somewhere near Stonehenge. At 10, Alex was hit by a meteorite that hurtles through the roof of his home in Somerset and leaves him with a brain injury. Alex feels chosen, rather than damaged, by his fate.

Writing the book – In response to some fantastic questions from a knowledgeable audience, we learnt Gavin started writing again (he wrote until he was 13 then stopped) to keep himself sane while looking for a job- he’d finished a PhD in film studies at Sheffield university in 2007 just as the recession hit. His wife eventually told him he should concentrate on writing full time and he did. On the plus side, recently writing up his PhD helped with the discipline of writing and the research which he did in Sheffield Libraries! Not fancying selfpublishing because he’s not someone who could ‘put himself out there’ to promote a book, he sent the manuscript off to lots of publishers, and eventually Hodder accepted it.

Champagne moments – One along the way was making it as Richard & Judy Summer Read 2013 – 100’s of books are supplied by publishers then whittled down to a long list of twenty from which Richard and Judy select. The exposure is great and it means people buy the book. Another was meeting Asa Butterfield and his mum (she has an alert set up for when his name in mentioned on the web) for a coffee. She contacted Hodder after seeing an interview in the Observer saying Asa would be ideal to play Alex. The film rights have been optioned, so here’s hoping ..

Read Regional is a promotional campaign that connects writers living in the North East and Yorkshire with their local readers. They partner with library authorities throughout the region to hold author events and to ensure brilliant books by northern authors are stocked in libraries. This is our second year working with Read Regional in Leeds and we are incredibly excited about the 11 titles on the 2014 list, which include literary and genre fiction, children’s novels, and poetry by new and established authors. You can find out more about all of the authors and their books here.

Almost 80 events are taking place this spring at libraries, festivals, and through the Read Regional book group network. Further events in Leeds:

Celia Bryce: Pudsey Library on 10 April 2014 2.00pm

Cara Brennan evening of poetry at Chapel Allerton Library 23 April 7-8.30pm

Rebecca Muddiman: Moor Allerton Library on 6 May 2014 6.00pm

Lynette Falconer – Reader Development Manager, Leeds Library and Information Service

Two great author events

alexWe’re really lucky to have two great author events coming up this and next Wednesday in libraries. Gavin Extence, author of ‘The Universe versus Alex Woods’ and Alison Taft, author of ‘Shallow be thy Grave’ and ‘Our father who art out there –somewhere’ and more will be at Central Library and Headingley Library, as part of the Headingley LitFest, respectively.

Gavin will be at the Central Library on Wednesday 12th March at 6.30pm (till 7.30pm). Event is free but ring to book

Alison will be at Headingley Library for ‘Lily Appleyard in Paris’ on 19th March at 7pm. It’s £4, to book

Gavin Extence was born in 1982 and grew up in Lincolnshire. As a youngster, he was a keen chess player, winning several national titles. He began writing his first novel after he had completed his PhD in Film Studies and was unable to find employment. The Universe Versus Alex Woods which is rated 5 stars by 6 readers, tracks wilful teenager Alex, who has a fascination with science and astronomy came about after he was put into a coma by a falling meteorite. When he breaks a window in next door’s greenhouse, his mother insists that he offers to help out his elderly neighbour. A remarkable friendship develops the youngster and the reclusive Mr Peterson, Vietnam veteran, amputee, dope smoker and dedicated fan of Kurt Vonnegut. The novel won Waterstones 11 literary prize for his first book

 taft Alison Taft was born and raised in Burnley and dreamed of becoming a writer ever since reading Harriet the Spy by torchlight under the bedcovers, aged eight. After completing a degree, she lived in Crete and spent time in the Middle and Far East. In the mid-nineties she was a keen supporter of the free party network. She has worked in a variety of jobs but after being sacked once too often for gross insubordination, Alison decided to heed the words of one employer who described her as ‘unmanageable’, and became a full time writer.

Alison now lives in Leeds with her partner and two children. She spends her evenings at the computer, sipping mint tea and plotting her revenge.

‘Shallow be thy Grave’  Half-sisters Lily and Fiona haven’t had the easiest of relationships – hardly surprising when they discovered each other’s existence only a year ago. But when Fiona disappears, and it’s all Lily’s fault, Lily knows she has no choice but to fly to Paris and track the wayward seventeen-year old down. Accompanied by her best friend Jo, Lily soon uncovers her sister’s secret life in the French capital. What does Fiona’s employer, the suave M. Beaumont, know about her disappearance? Who is the mysterious Bridget, and why is the Shadow Minister for Justice involved? As communism collapses around them, Lily learns disturbing truths about sibling rivalry, the international sex trade and the dark side of herself. Is Lily too late to save her sister and restore her fantasy of what a happy family should look like? Time is running out.