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OUT NOWWriters of colour have long comp- lained that publishers have rejected their novels for being either‘too Black/Asian’ or ‘not Asian/ Black enough’. Coming from white publishers, the default to stereotype rightly raises hackles among BAME writers. Butwhen it comes to ‘authenticity’, BAME writers are not alonein the firing line, even if they are writing about their own community: working-class contemporary fiction is open to stereotyping as well, as début novelist Lisa Blower found out.‘One of the reasons why the book didn’t get picked up by a bigger publisher was that a lot of people said that they found it too working-class,’ she explains. The book is Sitting Ducks, a smart, funny and punchy novel about contemporary working-class life in the pottery town of Stoke-on- Trent. ‘They also thought it was too angry and too political.’Like the characters she writes about, Blower knows how to turn a perceived fault intoa virtue. When independent publisher Fair Acre Press picked up the book for publicationthis summer, she was inspired. ‘I used [the criticism] for the strapline: “If you’re not angry, you’re not listening”,’ she says.DEBUT INTERVIEWLISA BLOWEREarly rejection of Lisa Blower’s authentic and funny début Sitting Ducks proved inspirational, as she tells Danuta KeanA bright, witty woman, Blower wears her academic credentials lightly: she has a PhD and lectured in Creative Writing at Bangor University. Sitting Ducks was written out of her frustration at never hearing working-class voices, like her own, in fiction. ‘It is about telling the stories of people that wouldn’t otherwise be told,’ she explains. ‘These are working- class families trying to exist on even less than before.’The plot revolves arounda mother and son who wage their own personal war against a system determined to crush them, and a corrupt landlord who has everyone in his pockets. To add a sharp sense of immediacy, it is set during the 2010 General Election.Inspiration came from local newspapers. ‘I read a number of articles about a council initiative in Stoke-on-Trent where they started selling off houses for £1 [provided buyers paid to renovate their property],’ Blower recalls. ‘The line was that this would bring about regeneration, but what it created was landlordism, because tenants found that the loans you needed to purchasea house for £1 were out of their reach. As a consequence whole terraces were acquired by landlords who then put rents up.’Exploitation of the poorshould infuriate, but Blower handles her rage deftly. The novel is not a polemic. A fan of Alan Bennett, she has the same ear for dialogue and characters that are sympathetic, human and funny, but not laughable. Tory councillor Roy Dingwall isdescribed with a precision that nails his vanity and corruption and draws a wry smile; in one scene an attempt at seduction is relayed with a deadpan eye for detail that makes the reader chuckle with embarrassment and pity.Blower’s voice will be familiar to every woman who has ever chatted round the kitchentable – and with good reason:it is the earth in which her talent developed. ‘I grew upwith my nan, my mum and aunties gossiping round the table without any awareness of how funny they were,’ she says. ‘But they were also very wise.’ Her comic timing is innate, although she says the advice that to write good comic proseSitting Ducks by Lisa Blower (Fair Acre Press)More débuts with political commentary below...How I Became a North Korean by Krys Lee (Faber)Début novel from gifted short story writer Lee about three people who meet on the borders of China and North Korea. Though North Korea is central to the novel, universal themes of family, love, freedom and the ties that bind us to others are upmost.Breach by Olumide Popoola and Annie Holmes (Peirene) In the Calais refugee camp known as The Jungle an illusion is being disrupted: that of a neatly ordered world,with those deserving safety and comfort separated from those who need to be kept out. Interweaving short stories tackle one of the great scandals of our age.BLOWER'S PITCH‘If you’re not angry you’re not listening. It’s the 2010 general election. Labour has lost its footing and the country is in disarray. But somewhere in the arse pocket of Stoke-on-Trent, a mother and son are waging their own campaign against the state, the system and predatory landlord Malcolm Gandy to remain in their council-owned home....’mslexia Sep/Oct/Nov 2016 65


































































































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