The Killer

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by Kathleen

Unless you’re born cute you will die before the year ends. I was never cute. Or perky, adorable, funny, cuddly, regal, or even enigmatic. No stars or stripes, no boots or diamonds, amusing ears, no fascinating markings…nothing cute. My eyes are not hypnotic or wise; they’re not blue, green, or gold. I’ve heard them described as “muddy.” How I envy the lustrous all-blacks or fluffy whites, even the silken tans. Who abandons such beauty? Some hard-hearted beasts, because among us vulgus, you can always find absolutio perfectioque. (All cats like Latin.)

A fat, rapacious raccoon almost ate me alive but I was scooped up, taken to a clinic, inspected, and given shots. Orange, male, domestic was duly noted. Not-cute is probably not on their checklist. But there I was, a baby kitten at the rescue clinic, and nobody said, “Oh, how cute!”

Lynnette lives with twenty-five stray kittens. Each of us gets six months to hook a human. The agency runs an ad in the grocery’s coupon circular so people come looking. If you’re cute enough, a person takes you into their life. They care for you, and about you, till death do you part. Otherwise, after six months, Lynnette apologizes and sheds a tear, but there’s a limit. The supply of stray kittens never ends. Dura lex sed lex. The big sleep.

So now I’m five months old and huge, obliterating any cuteness I did not possess when small. I can leap to the ceiling molding and hang there. But rather than impressing people, it disturbs them. If I rub against their leg, I annoy them. My mew sounds like whining and my purr grates. Nuzzling with another kitten, I seem aggressive, not playful. Sitting proud and still only emphasizes my lack of noble bearing.

But then, mirabile dictu, I am saved! A man comes to Lynette’s kitten coop with what could be a human version of me—except cute. The big, cute, blond child lunges for me: “This guy’s the one. Tom the Bomb.”

In the car, the boy talks to me. “You’re a killer, Tom. You’re gonna kill those mice like a bomb hit them.”

 Their apartment is riddled with mice that sneak beneath the floor and behind the walls. Every day when the family leaves, I go on attack. Imagine how good it feels ripping those rodents apart. My God-given claws are Weapons of Mouse Destruction. Swipe, swipe, swipe: I pile the carcasses by the door so the family knows I’m doing my job. This morning I’m staking out a crack in the bathroom baseboard. My hunch says a nest of babies. Cave felem.

Interview with Catherine Banner - Part Two

The View From Here Interview:
Catherine Banner (part two)

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by Jen

Catherine started writing her first book, The Eyes of a King, when she was just 14 years old, and its publication in 2008 drew vast media attention for the then 19-year old, hailed as the next J. K. Rowling. Random House signed Catherine for a three book deal. Rights to Catherine’s books have been sold to 13 countries around the world and the book is already a bestseller in the UK. Catherine lives in Cambridge and is reading English at University. Her second book, Voices in the Dark has just been released by Corgi, an imprint of Random House.


In 2006 your portrait photograph was displayed in London’s National Portrait Gallery - the theme of the exhibition: the most exciting young talents in Britain. It has been remarked that you may be the next J K Rowling. How do you manage your own expectations and that of your publishers with that sort of coverage?

I find publicity daunting, though it’s a big honour to be praised as a writer too. I think in the end, the publicity doesn’t change anything, and so that makes it easier to deal with. What I care about is the writing, and with my publishers I’m working on the story itself, and the way it’s going to look as a printed book. Publicity and media attention end up becoming totally separate from that. I think readers were able to recognize that the comparison with J K Rowling was something that came from media publicity, not the actual book, and still read it on its own terms. The two books are very different. I don’t look at much of what’s written about my books because it’s too strange, and so I really just focus on the writing, and it seems to all work out.

One of your Amazon reviewers says, “Like the best wines, she needs to be lovingly matured”. Do you have any support from your agent or publisher, particularly since you started writing commercially so young?

They have both been very supportive. I’ve had the same editor for the whole trilogy, and she knows the books very well and also knows a lot about writing, so the editorial process has really helped me. My agent has kept a lot of the pressure off me while I’ve been writing, which I’ve appreciated. One part of that was the decision to publish The Eyes of a King later so that I could spend the time I needed on the second two books in the trilogy, and finish sixth form. My publishers have also been understanding about deadlines now that I’m at university. Writing has always been a long-term plan for me, and I think that’s something they both share. If I wasn’t published, I’d still be writing the same books – but I know the publication process has made me a better writer, and I’m very grateful for that.

What do you think you will be writing in ten or twenty years?

I think what I’m writing will be different, but the concerns at the heart of it will be the same – the relationships between characters, the way people try and make sense of their world, their personal struggles. I know I want to still be writing, but I don’t know which ideas will take shape over that time.

As a writer, one is often told, read widely, write every day. What are your recommendations for aspiring authors, starting out in today’s world of publishing?

I’m still at the start of my career as an author, so I can’t say too much. I think it’s different for every writer. Reading and writing are both things that have helped me a lot, but the reality of the story came first, the pictures I had and the characters’ voices. I wanted to write because of the story that came to me, so then it became a question of finding the right voice, saying what had to be said in a way that was authentic. It’s something that doesn’t rely on an academic knowledge of writing but is much more intuitive. But I’ve read a lot about writing, and that helped too. I know some authors don’t like to read books on writing, so it doesn’t work for everyone. But I think if you can see how other people are tackling other problems, you can start to question your own practice and develop it.

Do you consider yourself a Fantasy writer, or YA author, or something else?

This is a difficult question. I don’t read very much mainstream fantasy, and I didn’t consider the book to be fantasy when I wrote it, at least not completely. But I think there are fantastic elements in a lot of books, at least a concern with the magical – and this was something that always captured my imagination. For me it was a search for the best way to tell the story, and along the way The Eyes of a King became the story of a young adult character, living in a world in which the possibilities of magic are entertained much more on the surface than they are in ours. Whether this makes it a young adult fantasy book I’m not sure, but I’m happy for it to be defined like that.

Who is your target audience, did you have one in mind when writing and do you think it is important? For example, in Germany you are published with Penhaligon, the first publisher aiming fantasy at broader age groups than YA, targeting an adult audience of between about 18 and 30.

I didn't have a target audience in mind. I find it difficult to write for someone at a distance from my own vantage point, which I guess is why my characters are becoming older with each book. I always feel that I’m writing for whoever wants to read the story. So I like the fact that some readers have seen the book as fantasy, some as realism, some as a young adult book and some as an adult book. Some of my publishers have seen the books as crossover or adult fiction, some as young adult books. It’s something that I think becomes clear once you see which readers the books speaks to, and maybe it’s quite hard for an author to judge. So it’s exciting that different publishers see it appealing to different groups of readers.

Do you often hear feedback from your readers?

The most exciting feedback I’ve had is from people who seem to have really identified with the book in some way, who seem to share some feeling I had about the story when I was first writing it. It’s especially amazing and moving when this comes from someone thousands of miles away who I would never have known otherwise. I think that’s really when the book becomes complete. At that point even criticism is encouraging, because it’s exciting to see people engage with the book and turn it into a conversation, and you can learn a lot as a writer from it.

Does your study of English, including any particular writer or book, have any great influence on your own writing?

I applied for English mostly because I wanted to study writing as a craft in more detail. I’m very glad to be studying; it’s really been invaluable. I think they both influence each other. But the authors I most admire – George Eliot, Derek Walcott, Raymond Carver – aren’t writers who have much in common with each other, or whose work influences me directly. I think what I’ve learned is much more indirect. It’s about what it means to be a writer in the world. And also, studying very great writers makes me want to keep writing better myself.

Do your university peers make any comments on your writing life?

It’s not something people usually find out about me directly. Some of my university lecturers still don’t know. But mostly people say kind things and don’t make too much out of it. Growing up, my friends always had interests and passions, and that’s something that still continues at university, so it’s something I have in common with them.

Studying at Cambridge and writing books for publication can’t leave you much spare time. Do you wish for anything more?

I don’t feel burdened by the work I’m doing – or work too many hours more than full-time right now. Sometimes it’s busy, but the most important thing to me is always the people I care about, and in the end that puts the rest into perspective: deadlines can be moved, and work can be caught up, as long as the most important things in life are all worked out. I think I’m lucky that both my university teachers and my publishers have been very understanding about balancing the two commitments. The good thing about writing novels is that it’s something I work on steadily, hour by hour, alongside the rest of life. Of course there are points when I work twelve or fourteen hour days for a full week to finish a draft. I think it’s a bit inevitable with such a long project, which occupies so much of your mind, but luckily it doesn’t happen too often.

Are there any issues which feature in Malonia that you would like to address in real life?

Writing has always been about telling stories for me, so within the books the issues come from the characters, not the other way around. So I do feel like real life is the place to address those things practically. I think that’s part of the reason why I don’t write full-time, so I can keep that balance. I’m hoping to work in education or in the charity sector after I finish university, but also to write, and I think the two will always remain separate but balanced.

How much are you required to drive your own publicity and promotion, or to what extent do you get involved?

For Voices in the Dark I’ve been doing some email interviews, which I find really interesting – the questions always make me think about writing in new ways. I also went to Canada when the book was launched there. It was amazing to talk to people there who had read the books, and something I really appreciated, especially since I don’t generally fly much for environmental reasons so the trip was a great experience too. I don’t do very much publicity, mainly because I spend so much time already on writing and university work. But my website is about to go online which I’ll add to over the coming weeks. It will hopefully be a way to talk to people more directly about writing.

I believe you have started work on your third book in the trilogy. Can you tell us anything about it?

I’ve just finished a first draft. The book takes place 17 years after Voices in the Dark, at another moment of crisis in Malonia, when the family are once again struggling to stay together. But this is the book where some of the questions about magic and the family’s destiny are finally answered.

Assuming you were on Desert Island Discs, favourite piece of music, which book and which luxury object would you like to take with you and why?

I would choose Snow by Red Hot Chili Peppers, because it reminds me of a lot of happy times. For the book I’d take Middlemarch by George Eliot. There are so many stories within it that it would be a good choice for a desert island. For the luxury item I’d take a photo album with pictures of everyone I love, so I wouldn’t start to forget how they look while I’m stuck on the island.

Many people go through much of their life dreaming of becoming a published author. What other dreams do you still have?

For writing, I think I still have the same aspirations, to constantly improve and to keep finding new stories. I see writing as a journey, and publication is a part of it, but writing hasn’t stopped for me because of that. And personally, I’m very happy now so I hope that continues. If I can spend my time with the people I care about then that’s the most important thing.

Bibliography: The Last Descendants Trilogy
The Eyes of a King - ISBN 9780552556590 (May 2008)
Voices in the Dark - ISBN 9780552556613 (March 2010)
Author images courtesy of Simon Trewin.

The Land of Dreams: Confessions of a Creative Writing Tutor

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by Shanta Everington

It was my first day teaching creative writing. I looked across the desks at the crowd of unreadable faces and my palms began to sweat.

Would I live up to their expectations? What would they make of my rather unliterary accent? Would they ask me questions I didn't know the answers to?

I was back at Margate Dreamland circa 1979. Desperate to have a go. Not quite knowing what to expect. Feeling the adrenaline rush as I stepped up to take my turn. But there was no safety bar to keep me in check and no-one sitting next to me holding my hand.

It began.

I began introducing myself and the programme for the day. Talking too fast. Forgetting my lines. Trying to keep smiling. Feeling my stomach lurch as we crept higher and higher, hearing that awful grinding and clunking noise that made me wonder if I was about to career off the tracks and go tumbling through the sky.

I stopped talking. I'd finished my spiel. Issued my instructions for the ice-breaker exercise. I hung there on the precipice, listening to the silence, swinging in the air.

Someone raised their hand. And we were off. Hurtling down down down, eyes squeezed shut, heart hammering, teeth gritted against a silent prayer.


The day passed in a blur. Jumping from ride to ride, feeling braver, floating higher. At the end of the afternoon, students thanked me, said what fun they'd had, how much they had learned. And I wanted to do it all over again.


I look across the desks at the crowd of faces and my palms begin to sweat. The woman at the front, with the pearl earrings and paisley scarf, is smiling at me. The young man at the back, tipping his chair back, juts out his chin.

His eyes ask: Will I live up to her expectations? What will she make of my rather unliterary accent? Will she ask me questions I don't know the answers to?

I smile at her. At him. Telling him, it will be okay. There is bravado during the ice-breaker. Much nervous laughter.

When he reads out his writing, he can barely lift his head, his forehead stuck to the page by an invisible string. He lifts it just high enough that I can see his colour spreading. He reads quietly. Quickly. He writes well. With honesty. Not dressed up in clever language. But pared down to the raw truth.

He looks up and the offerings start to come. Slowly at first. Things people liked. Vivid images, unusual phrases, interesting analogy. I tell him how good his writing is, what potential it has. And then the real gifts. How he can make it even better, by cutting the amount of telling and using more showing.

And he wants to do it all over again.


I currently teach creative writing with The Open University in London. I like being able to help demystify writing techniques and help students improve their writing. The best thing about the job is being able to inspire and motivate others to try things out and take risks with their writing.

I love seeing a student's inhibitions fall away and their confidence soar. You can't beat the feeling you get when a student feels secure enough to stop trying to be 'writerly' and begins to find their own distinctive voice. And you hope in some small way that you were part of that.

The funniest things creative writing students have asked me? Have you done this before? (This was NOT on my first day!) Do you earn a full-time living from writing now? (If only!)

Find out more about creative writing courses at the Open University at

Picture credit:

Interview with Catherine Banner - Part One

The View From Here Interview:
Catherine Banner

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by Jen

Catherine started writing her first book, The Eyes of a King, when she was just 14 years old, and its publication in 2008 drew vast media attention for the then 19-year old, hailed as the next J. K. Rowling. Random House signed Catherine for a three book deal. Rights to Catherine’s books have been sold to 13 countries around the world and the book is already a bestseller in the UK. Catherine lives in Cambridge and is reading English at University. Her second book, Voices in the Dark has just been released by Corgi, an imprint of Random House.

Tell me a bit about when you started writing. When you finished your first book what made you send it to former Children’s Laureate, Michael Morpurgo?
I started writing The Eyes of a King almost by chance. I didn’t plan to write a book at first, but the story kept developing over a couple of years and it ended up turning into one. Michael Morpurgo was an author I’d admired while I was growing up, and I knew he did a lot to encourage young people in writing. So I sent him a few pages and asked, if he had time, if he would mind reading some of it. I was surprised and very grateful that he did. He sent me some encouraging words, which were part of the reason I continued writing.

Did you show your family or friends your writing when you began?
I didn’t tell anyone much about the book until it was finished. I still don’t show what I’m working on to anyone until I’ve finished a draft. It’s mainly because the story tends to evaporate if I tell other people about it, almost like it’s been written already. My family and friends were very encouraging, which I especially appreciated since they didn’t know anything about the book.

You are represented by the agent Simon Trewin. Many authors would be nervous meeting a well known agent. Did you know who he was when you met?
I knew who Simon was, but I wasn’t considering sending him the book when I first met him, so I suppose that made it less daunting. He’s also a kind and approachable person. I first met him at a talk about writing, in Cambridge. Afterwards I went up and asked a question about some of the things he’d been speaking about. He asked if I wrote, and when I said yes, he suggested I could send him some pages – a few other people who had been at the talk were also sending him their work. I wasn’t expecting anything to come of it, but I thought I might get some advice, so I sent them off, and everything happened from there. It turned out to be a very lucky meeting.

How much luck do you think writers need, or do you think you make your own?
I think there was a lot of luck involved in becoming a professional author for me – at least being in the right place at the right time. In terms of writing, luck seems to be right at the heart of it too. Most ideas come to me quite suddenly. I try and think about everything and question everything, and I guess sooner or later stories take shape out of that.

How much do you write in one session?
If I’m working on a first draft I write a large number of words in one sitting because a lot of that work is rough, but then I often put it away once I know the story and start again. A proper draft progresses at a few hundred words a day, or a couple of thousand if the work starts going really well. But I’ll still go back and revise each scene up to ten or twelve times.

Can you take us through the steps behind one of your books getting published? How long does it take to write a book from opening line to final word, the editing, and final submission?
It takes me about two years to write a book right now, though it’s getting longer all the time. Once I finish my draft, I send it to my editor and she sends back comments and impressions. I work on it for another few months using her suggestions – usually she highlights problems or questions, which I then try to solve in whatever way seems fitting with the story. Then the book gets copy-edited and the proofs are printed. The cover design is completed around this point too. After those things are all checked, the publishers print the first advance copies. It’s been exciting to see how many people are involved in turning the manuscript into a book; it’s really a collaboration. The part of writing I enjoy the most is probably the stage when I've planned out the book and can start to write the first proper draft in more detail, because that's when the story starts to come to life and unexpected things happen. But I like all the stages; it's also exciting to work out the first ideas, and to see the book come together at the end.

What edits were you asked to make and how did you deal with them?
Most of the suggestions have been about structure – the balance of different characters and elements, or the pacing of one scene against another. One example of something that came out of the editing process was a cut I made to the first two hundred pages of The Eyes of a King. My editor had suggested they could be streamlined, and highlighted a few parts that seemed less necessary than others. So I went through it several times and it came out much better, a much tougher and more solid story, just from cutting maybe 10 or 12 pages worth of material. I don’t find it as difficult to receive the criticism as I might have expected. My editor’s questions about the books have been really valuable, and they aren’t prescriptive, which is something I really appreciate. One of the first things she said was that her comments were only suggestions. I end up addressing most of them anyway, but sometimes in quite unexpected ways and so it’s a really helpful process. It’s a way of seeing the book with new eyes.

You have grown up in the age of the Internet and web networking. Do you use any web tools as a writer and what would you recommend?
I write mostly on an old laptop with Word 92, and also draft some parts in longhand first. I find it easier to concentrate on the words that way. But I still rely on the kind of corrections you can make with a computer. It makes it easier to move sections around and work on the book as a whole, and I often think about how different the whole process of writing must have been in the past. I don’t have Facebook or Twitter, but my author site will be up and running soon at

Do you rely on spell check and have any pet-typos?
I don’t think my old computer has spell-check – but when I format the book on a modern computer I notice all the mistakes. Anything with double letters perplexes me. I use the word dishevelled about once or twice per book and struggle with it every time.

How do you manage your characters and plot - which comes first? Do you ever find that your characters run away with the story, and if so, what do you do?
For me the characters come first – but really, the characters are the plot. Especially because these three books are the story of a family, and their rise and fall over three generations, so the plot is really about the things they are fighting for and whether they succeed or fail. The characters act unexpectedly quite often. It’s what brings the book to life, so I usually let it happen. But I do a lot of work on the characters first, trying to capture their voices, their ways of thinking, so that when they do take over the story it doesn’t end up going in directions that don’t make any sense. Sometimes spontaneous changes have led to really important parts of the story. One example is the character of Maria. She first appears in The Eyes of a King when the narrator Leo meets her on a flight of stairs. That was exactly how she appeared in the story. I was writing the scene, and saw someone appearing there in my mind’s eye, so I began describing her the way Leo would see her. Her whole character came almost at once, and now she’s really at the heart of the trilogy.

I particularly liked the line in Voices in the Dark, "And if tears signified anything, my brother was baptized a thousand times.” Do you have a favourite line from your two books so far?
I think because I spend so long getting into the characters’ voices, it’s hard to step back and look at the lines. They seem almost inevitable by the time I finish a book. But maybe in five or ten years time I’ll be at more of a distance from the story and will look back and have particular favourites.

The book jackets are striking. Do you get involved in the design process?
I’ve really liked the designs so far too. The publishers ask me about the general design, but apart from that it’s a surprise to see what the artist creates. I think it’s a very different kind of image to the ones that an author has in their mind. But luckily I’ve been very happy with the covers. The designs add a new dimension to the book, so it’s been exciting each time to see the drawings taking shape.

Publishers want more of the same and writers often want to do something different each time. How do you deal with this clash?
I haven’t felt too much of a clash. The books aren’t what you might expect from a trilogy, since the three stories are a long way apart in time and the narratives are personal, not epic. And in addition to that, the books are not quite fantasy and not quite realism, and somewhere between young adult and adult. I’ve found the publishers very respectful of this. I think the expectation about books repeating other books is sometimes more of a problem once they go out into the world. I suppose when people look for shorthand ways of describing a book it ends up being constantly compared to other pieces of work. Ideally, I think, both the author and the publisher would like the book to have space to breathe.

You are now 50% older than you were when you began writing The Eyes of a King. Do you still like inhabiting Malonia?
Malonia has changed as I’ve written about it. Whenever I describe the settings, what I’m really describing is the way the characters inhabit them and try to make sense of their surroundings. I see Malonia as a version of the real world, a kind of possible world where people believe in different things and where their struggles are more on the surface, but where the most fundamental experiences are shared. The setting is one of the things I can see most clearly, but it looks different through the eyes of the three different narrators. So I’ve tried to capture that, and that also makes it interesting to return to.

Your characters all appear to suffer, and there is a fair share of teenage angst. Do you think your character writing has evolved at the same time as your own emotional life has developed?
This is an interesting question. I think it’s true that different problems seem more important to me each time I begin a new book. This is partly the reason each character takes up the story a year older than the last – in The Eyes of a King Leo is 15 at the start, in Voices in the Dark Anselm is 16. And their struggle with the world they inhabit is different each time. But it’s not something that really reflects changes in my own life, because I think I’ve always been trying to describe the same struggles.

“All those years, I thought I was unhappy. I don’t think anymore that I was,” Leo reflects in The Eyes of a King, looking back on his teenage self. How much of yourself do you put into Leo?
I don’t write autobiographically – an important part of the writing for me is trying to see the world through the eyes of a character who has a different viewpoint. I think that’s partly why the three narrators are male too. But I do write about a lot of the things that I feel are of importance. So some of the things the characters care about or think about will be things I’ve thought about too.

Part two will follow on Thursday in which Catherine discusses being hailed as the next J.K. Rowling and how she handles the publicity as one of the most exciting young talents in Britain.
Bibliography: The Last Descendants Trilogy
The Eyes of a King - 9780552556590 (May 2008)
Voices in the Dark - 9780552556613 (March 2010)

Author images courtesy of Simon Trewin.


Part two of this interview can be found here.

Publishers' View Agreement

The Bookseller broke the story earlier today about a new agreement between The View From Here and 14 publishers including Random House, Bloomsbury and Penguin Books.

Under the Publishers' View Agreement The View From Here will work with key people in the industry from around the world to help publishers identify fresh new talent.

"We look forward to working more closely with The View from Here, a creative, forward-thinking magazine that will help us spot and promote new talent."
Alessandro Gallenzi – Publisher and Managing Director, Alma Books

Each publisher has entered into an agreement whereby they will appoint a key member of their staff to read the printed edition of The View From Here every month, with a view to looking for talent they'd be interested in working with.

The Publisher's that have entered into the agreement are:

Random House, Bloomsbury, Canongate, Penguin Books, Fourth Estate, Faber & Faber, Little Brown Book Group, Legend Press, Alma Books & Tindal Street Press

Unbridled Books and Milkweed Editions

Text Publishing and Allen&Unwin

"We're very keen to work with The View From Here and look forward to reading the magazine each month."
Bloomsbury Publishing

Mike French, the Senior Editor of the magazine, said, " We want to build on our reputation for championing and encouraging the best emerging writers and poets and the Publishers' View Agreement gives us the means to achieve that. Historically, literary magazines have been a way for talented writers to get their work out there and get noticed by Publishing Houses but we wanted to build on this and have a clear structured channel so this process wasn't left to chance."

In a climate where literary consultants advise writers to avoid the slush pile at all costs this is a new and exciting way to get noticed.

And unlike many routes to bypass the slush pile, it doesn't involve hours of networking every day to get noticed and more importantly the process does not take a fee from authors at any stage of getting their work infront of the editors, and in some cases, directors of the publishing houses. In a climate where access to those with influence normally comes with a price tag ( literary consultancies will often take a cut from an author's advance if they represent them ) the Publishers' View Agreement means effective help for writers without seeing them as a source of income. And as the majority of writers earn comparatively little we believe this is a socially responsible scheme.

If you're a writer and are interested then visit our submissions page here. Good Luck!

Review of The Blasphemer by Nigel Farndale

Reader Logoby Grace

The Blasphemer
Nigel Farndale
Publisher: Doubleday

I have to admit, I always judge books by their covers and the content always seems to live up to the cover image. This is certainly true of Nigel Farndale's The Blasphemer. Its cover is a mesh of music, war, people, travel, and a turtle. This is a pleasing graphic summary of the content of the novel which weaves parallel narratives through space and time via classical music, World War 1, family lineages, mysterious strangers, tragedies and travels, not forgetting the turtle!

The narrative is split primarily between Daniel Kennedy's life in present day London, and Private Andrew Kennedy's life as a World War 1 soldier in France. Daniel Kennedy is passionate, young, modern and troubled. On the outside, Daniel is a staunch atheist achieving international fame for his godless philosophy and for a newsworthy act of heroism. On a personal level, however, Daniel struggles with the consequences of cowardice and the experience of a (possibly religious?) vision.

Private Kennedy is Daniel's great grandfather and his story is breath-taking. His journey from solider to survivor, via tragedy and accusations of cowardice is truly beautiful, and the subtle links to Daniel and the 'present day' storyline do not patronise the reader. In fact, there are so many subtleties and nuances that I was desperate to re-read the book immediately to uncover the references I must have missed first time round.

I love narratives that weave in and out of each other. Farndale's 3rd person narration allows the reader into the very depths of each character's story. The narrative viewpoint chops and changes between characters at crucial moments of revelation, leaving the reader trapped in suspense for the entire novel. In addition, minor characters are allowed to flourish with their own storylines throughout the novel, meaning that there is always a new perspective just around the corner. Farndale introduces new perspectives right up to the last stages which builds, in equal measure, excitement, momentum and frustration.

Although I have identified Daniel and Andrew as the protagonists of the novel, Farndale has developed a satisfying variety of characters and has placed them in their own unique cultural, historical and emotional contexts. There are simply so many characters in The Blasphemer (most of whom play critical roles in the multi-layered narrative) that it is impossible to identify the most important ones. The characters are finely interlinked with each other's lives, and so one character just would not be the same without another. Farndale's attention to detail in his ability to relate the characters to each other to the point that their livelihoods depend upon each other's decisions and actions creates a thoroughly well executed novel.

My favourite character is Whetherby, an old, complex and eccentric bitter Catholic who is malicious and selfish. He is the Vice Provost at the university where Daniel is a lecturer. Whetherby's sinister, deceitful nature propels the plot and makes for gritty, enjoyable reading. He's the 'baddy', but not a fairytale baddy; he's very real, believable, and therefore terrifying. His actions are shockingly immoral and a joy to read about! The evil undertones that Whetherby provides are a perfect backdrop for the debate between theists and atheists which occur throughout the novel.

There are a few elements of this book that really made it stand out from other novels I've read recently. Firstly, I loved the revelation that both Daniel and Private Kennedy, three generations apart, were in equal measure cowards and heroes. Farndale's exploration of this incongruity fascinated me because of the impact these two labels have on reputation and personal relationships. Farndale expressed this tension within and between the characters superbly and, on the whole, indirectly. Instead of directly referencing the tension, Farndale creates a subtle yet clear atmosphere for the reader to pick up on. I really appreciate this approach; the skill it takes from the author and the authority it gives to the reader.

I also enjoyed the common factors in both the World War 1 narrative and the present day narrative. Daniel and Andrew shared a family bond and the battle of hero vs coward. They were also guided by a mysterious vision, and both triumphed in adverse circumstances. But their lives are linked by more obscure elements, like Mahler's 9th Symphony and a turtle shell. These elements don't just exist to create a link between past and present, but they travel through time and evolve to have a new impact in their new context. Farndale evolves these inanimate objects through the generations and they begin to play a part in the story. In fact, they are so important that they change the lives of the characters.

Another element that I loved was the major significance the minor characters play in the plot development, particularly Hamdi and Major Morris. I'm not going to explain much about these characters because I don't want to ruin their ethereal presence and mystery within the novel. Farndale devoted very few 'column inches' to them, but they are the most haunting characters in The Blasphemer; their mystery and complexity sticks in your mind after the last page of the novel. Farndale is clearly skilled in creating well-rounded and intriguing characters.

I also really enjoyed some rare but brilliantly funny moments of situational comedy. The most cringeworthy being an awkward meeting Daniel has to have with his daughter's class teacher regarding his daughter giving her teacher gifts and cards. Daniel has to endure this meeting knowing that he is the anonymous gift-giver, not his daughter! His partner Nancy concludes the meeting my saying 'We'll have a word with her [Martha]', all the while Daniel is squirming with embarrassment.

The characters wrestle with moments of heroism vs cowardice; belief vs scepticism; and love vs self. They are all engaged in a battle of ideas and consequently Farndale has executed deep, engaging and realistic dialogues between characters.

So, if the cover of The Blasphemer catches your attention, pick it up and read it! You will find within its pages great characters and conversations; moments of revelation, hope, despair and unity; a plot to really get you thinking and a desire to read it over and over again.

Count Homogenised - Laura Solomon

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by Laura Solomon

As a child, my favourite television programme was A Haunting We Will Go. A Haunting We Will Go was written and screened during the 1970s and ‘80s. The main character was a vampire called Count Homogenised. Normal vampires drink blood; Count Homogenised drank milk. Whenever he got thirsty, the Count would break into the fridge, steal all the milk and cackle to himself as he drank. The Count was invisible to adults, only children could see him. The Count always got away with his crimes and was never punished for his transgressions.

My older sister Margie and I used to play our own version of A Haunting We Will Go. Neither of us wanted to be the-kid-who-can-see-the-Count-but-isn’t-believed; we always wanted to be the Count.

“I bags being the Count.”

“No, I bags.”

“I’m older than you,” my sister would say. “I’m the one that gets to choose.”

“You were the Count last time, it’s my turn now.”

And on it went. Truth be told, my sister was a better Count Homogenised than I was. The fake fangs we used sat in her mouth more comfortably, the cape fitted more neatly about her shoulders. My mouth was too small for the fangs, my shoulders too slender for the cape. She would steal milk from the fridge and tip it down her T-shirt. I was a petite blonde; Marge was brunette and more solidly built. Marge’s Homogenised had a sinister edge; you got the feeling that any day soon he would tire of drinking milk and take to draining the blood of little girls. My Homogenised drank the milk and then apologized to the children who could see him for having done so. He felt guilty for his sins. My sister’s Homogenised felt no remorse; the deed done, he was off to the next fridge.

I was a better victim though. I did bewildered well.

A Tale of Two Halves (in two halves)

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by Jane Turley

by Gary Davison

publisher: PaperBooks 2009

From: Jane Turley
To: Gary Davison
Subject: A Tale of Two Halves

Dear Gary

I’ve been reading your novel A Tale of Two Halves. I’ve found it fascinating to read about Jay and his teenage gang. It is such a gritty story line. Of course there weren’t any children like that at my school but I often saw them from the Bentley.

Anyway, I was totally gripped and wondering what D’s vicious dad does next and then I reached page 72 and it was blank. In fact, the rest of the entire book was blank!

I suggest you contact your publisher and tell them there is a major printing error. Also, I’d like a replacement copy.

Kindest Regards


Ps: Unless you want my copy back, I’ll use the blank pages for my recipes.


From: Gary Davison
To: Jane Turley
Subject: RE: A Tale of Two Halves

Hi Jane

I know this may difficult for you to comprehend but A Tale of Two Halves is meant to have empty pages. It’s a competition. Work it out.



Ps: I’m surprised you cook anything remotely edible that needs recording.

From: Jane Turley
To: Gary Davison
Subject: RE: RE: A Tale of Two Halves

Dear Gary

How does the competition work then? Am I supposed to guess the ending or purchase numerous copies and hope one has the elusive second half? Or maybe if I find a complete copy I win a prize?

If so, what’s the prize? A night out in Newcastle?

Affectionately Yours


Ps: I really enjoyed your novel, Streakers. I couldn’t stop laughing. Then I woke up.

From: Gary Davison
To: Jane Turley
Subject: RE: RE: RE: A Tale of Two Halves

Hi Jane

The prize is not a night out in Newcastle. The prize is a contract with PaperBooks.

Of course, an intelligent person might have deduced that the empty pages are where the story is to be continued.

Up Yours


Ps: I really enjoyed your blog. I couldn’t stop crying. Eventually I slept.


From: Jane Turley
To: Gary Davison
Subject: RE: RE: RE: RE: A Tale of Two Halves

Dear Gary

That’s an amazing prize! PaperBooks are very innovative and original, I’m impressed.

So how come they choose you to write the first half?



Ps: Can anyone enter this competition?

From: Gary Davison
To: Jane Turley
Subject: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE A Tale of Two Halves.

Hi Jane

Yes, it's a fantastic prize. PaperBooks are indeed very innovative and original.

That’s why they chose me to write the first half.

I’m also handsome, intelligent and, fortunately, very good humoured.



Ps: Anyone can enter the competition. Unless their first name is Jane. Otherwise the author, whose first name is Gary, will take a gun to his head.


From: Jane Turley
To: Gary Davison
Subject: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE A Tale of Two Halves

What type of gun?


From Gary Davison
To: Jane Turley
Subject: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE A Tale of Two Halves

You always have to have the last word don’t you?


From: Jane Turley
To: Gary Davison
Subject: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE A Tale of Two Halves



Gary Davison lives in Newcastle and is the author of Fat Tuesday and Streakers. As well as writing part time he runs his own business and plays golf with a poor handicap. He doesn’t own a gun.

To read our interview with Gary click here.

To read our review of Fat Tuesday click here.

For full details of The Tale of Two Halves competition visit the PaperBooks website here. To visit Gary's blog click here.

The Transformational Power of Literature

by Sharon Blackie

When I decided, three years ago in a dreary Sunday-afternoon Edinburgh café, that I wanted to set up a small publishing company, I had one idea in my head: to publish the kind of books that once upon a time had changed my whole way of thinking about who I was, about the world and my place in it. The kind of books I couldn't seem to find in bookshops any more - and certainly not on the High Street book chain '3 for 2' tables. Books of the kind that I kept being told weren't even being published now, because big publishers were abolishing the literary 'midlist' and were focusing almost exclusively on potential bestsellers instead. On books that weren't too risky; books of the kind that people might like to buy because they'd already bought that kind of book, and several others just like it, in quite large quantities. Books that were, above all, safe.

But those books weren't what I wanted to read. I wanted to read more of the kind of books that I began to discover in my late teens and early twenties: books that had something important to say about the way we live - or maybe about the way we die. What kind of books am I talking about? Well, let's start at the beginning. I grew up on a typical all-girls-grammar-school diet of Jane Austen and John Milton. With a hefty dose of Shakespeare, of course - but only the historical plays or the comedies. All that changed when I was studying both English and French Literature for 'A' level. In one fell swoop I went from Pride and Prejudice (I'm sorry, but I'm one of those irritating people who consider Jane Austen books as historical curiosities, no more taxing intellectually than the average light romance) to Hamlet and DH Lawrence's The Rainbow. From Molière's Le Misanthrope to Albert Camus' L'Etranger. In that heady summer when I was just turned sixteen, my whole view of the world shifted and tilted and has never stood still since.

This wonderful process of discovery continued throughout my twenties and well into my thirties. It included contemporary writers: Doris Lessing, Janette Turner Hospital, John Fowles. Every book I read by these authors and others like them showed me a new way of looking at the world; every one of them changed me in some way. Change and growth are essential; it's how we know we're still alive. Many of the books I bought during those years have travelled all around the world with me as I've moved from place to place. They're treasures.

And now? In these early years of a whole new century? Well, now I hardly know what to read any more. Instead, I wait avidly for a new novel by one of those old favourites - by Michael Ondaatje or Margaret Atwood - and while I'm waiting I read and re-read those old familiar books that once upon a time had the power of transformation. A power that I'm never going to find in the books on contemporary publishing lists, or by scouring today's book review pages, looking vainly for something that's going to even surprise me.

Two Ravens Press was born to try to fill that gap. To publish work that takes risks, whether with language or structure or - heaven forbid - idea. Work that steps out of the same old clichés we've now come to associate with North London suburbs or country houses or inner-city slums. Work that goes beyond the small and repetitive up-close-and-personal account of individual or family or work relationships and gives us a wider angle on the world. Work that tells new stories, presents new mythologies, new ways of living. As Two Ravens Press' fiction editor, when I look at the submissions that land in my email inbox I actively don't want 'the next Jodi Picoult', no matter how many books she might sell. So what do you want? is the frequently plaintive reply, from author and agent alike. And to me, it's very simple: as the photographer Diane Arbus said, 'It is what I have never seen before that I recognise.' I want to be surprised. I want to know that, even though I'm now in my late forties, I can still be shown a new way of approaching the world. That a book can still change my life.

Because a book can. It happened recently, while reading the entire collected works of Cormac McCarthy. A writer I'd never really thought of reading until now; a writer that, if I'd read him ten years ago, I would have responded to differently - maybe not at all. But a writer whose books have already had an enormous impact on my life and on the way to go next. On the way to be next.

That's what I want from literature. As my new hero McCarthy once said, if a book doesn't in some way deal with the bigger issues of life and death, I don't want to read it. I'm not even sure it's literature. I believe that the aridity of much modern writing springs from living in a world where most of us have so many options, where we are so comfortable, where there is so little at stake, so little that can impact on whether we live or die - for most of us who live in the western world, that is. And increasingly we find that we have to step outside that western world to find something new. Challenging fiction has gone east, has gone into war zones, or has vanished into the past - a phenomenon which may explain the increasing demand for intelligent historical fiction. But every time I open another email enquiring whether I'd like to publish a novel, I find it in me to hope that I'll find something unique. Something that is going to change me, or change others. And the greatest satisfaction of all comes from holding in my hands a Two Ravens Press book that I've picked out and published, that I believe has done just that.

Sharon Blackie’s roots are in the north-east of England and in Edinburgh, though she has travelled all over the world and lived in France, Ireland and America. She now lives on a lochside croft in the north-west Highlands of Scotland with her husband and a growing collection of livestock. Originally trained as a neuroscientist, Sharon has worked in a variety of corporate consultancy roles, practiced as a psychologist, and is now a publisher, having established Two Ravens Press in November 2006. Once upon a time in the great American south-west she struggled to obtain a pilot’s licence to overcome a fear of flying. This experience became the foundation for her first novel, The Long Delirious Burning Blue. Sharon is currently the recipient of a Writer's Bursary from the Scottish Arts Council to work on her second novel, The Bee Dancer.

Photo credit top: alicepopkorn

Visit Two Raven Press here.

Home - Jennifer Dworschack-Kinter

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by Jennifer Dworschack-Kinter

“The Little Mermaid,” written by Hans Christian Anderson and first published in 1837, is a fairy tale about a young mermaid who longs for a human soul, and the love of a handsome prince. In pursuit of her love, she gives up her home under the sea, her identity as a mermaid, and her voice. When the prince breaks her heart, the mermaid has a chance to reclaim her life, but must kill the prince in order to do so. She can not bring herself to kill him, even though he has broken her heart, and so she dies instead.

Beth uses both hands to twist the wire in front of her away and up, so that the pale blue glass hanging from it catches the sun and reflects itself subtly onto the wood below. She steps back to look at the sculpture. It’s by far the largest she’s ever begun. The driftwood she gathered for its base is huge and gracefully gnarled, stretching itself upward like petals on a wooden tulip; she has built it up with smaller pieces, drizzled it with sand, and attached bits of smoothed beach glass to it with curls of wire. She loves it already. Beth closes her eyes for a moment, and the sounds of the lake outside, quieted all morning by her preoccupation with work, rush into the room. Beth takes one deep breath, lets it out slowly, then another, listening to the softly splashing waves, the aching cries of the gulls. She does this until she feels herself dissolve, until there is no difference between her and the lake outside. It’s been a long morning, and it’s time for her to stop working. She looks out the window at the lake, quiet today, a gentle expanse of blue. Time for a swim.


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by Kathleen

Without explanation, Niles moved out. The next morning Alison arrived at her cubicle early and Jill the secretary listened sympathetically. “Just don’t tell the boss.”

Their squat, jowly boss trod the office in constant anxiety that his all-female staff might detonate into mass hysteria at any moment.

Alison swiveled away from her computer when he said good morning, blotting her silent tears.

“Are you—” he cringed, “crying?”

“Not audibly.” Alison’s voice sounded calm despite the tears, remedied by many tissues.

Later, her boss tsk-tsked. “Still weeping, Alison.”

“My eyes water before the computer screen, which doesn’t seem to mind.”

“I mind!” he said. “How can I work surrounded by caterwauling women? Jill thinks you’ve suffered a romantic setback.”

“She shouldn’t think that,” Alison said.

“Our healthcare policy provides for trauma suffered off-site. Jill has arranged appointments for you after lunch with a therapist on the tenth floor. Emphasis on therapist, Alison—nobody here thinks you’re psychotic.”

That afternoon Alison waited opposite a table bearing a small bronze sculpture trickling water. Vivaldi resounded from above.

A door opened: A plump man in a green turtleneck, and huge brown hangdog eyes. Sitting behind his large desk, he leaned forward, full of concern. Through her tears, Alison said that after she and Niles had lived together for eight years, he had dumped her without preliminaries.

Watkins the therapist pushed a box of tissues toward her. “Coping with unexpected loss, many people spend their first few sessions weeping. The walls are soundproof.”

During the next session, Alison wept but managed to explain that Niles had always been unfaithful, relied on her for money, and had poor hygiene. “A keyboard player.”

Watkins nodded. “A keyboard player.”

Alison’s boss kept asking, “Cured yet?” This only opened Alison’s tear ducts, which sent him scurrying inside his office.

Soon, however, she no longer cried when telling Watkins she still missed Niles; her sadness being followed  quickly by relief.

Her next visit, the waiting-room Vivaldi as baroque as ever, Alison heard Watkins through the supposedly soundproof walls.  “Why so hostile, Lenore? I work hard; our life is comfortable. I love you; I love the children.”

After awhile, he welcomed her inside—trick of light?—it looked as if his huge brown eyes were brimming. He listened to the ongoing litany of Niles’ idiocies and suggested she take up something fun. He hadn’t tried it himself but by all reports salsa dancing was very enjoyable.

It was fun, Alison discovered, and the men tended to be in good shape. 

Weeks later, planning to thank him, Alison distinctly heard him weeping through the closed door. “That’s unfair, Lenore. I love you. I love the children. And I’m begging you: do not do this.”

When he welcomed her in, mopping his eyes, his voice choked. “Please, excuse the delay.”

Collapsing behind his desk, he dropped his head and sobbed. Alison circled behind him and patted his heaving back. “Don’t hold back. These walls are soundproof.”

Issue 21 of The View From Here on sale now

 Gorgeous, Eye Catching, Coffee Table Worthy! The View From Here - The Best of the Best in the new and emerging literary scene!

Issue 21 on sale with our interview with Stona Fitch only available in the printed edition. Stona Fitch is the author of original, powerful, and disturbing novels that have attracted an international following. He is also the founder of the renegade Concord Free Press, the world's first generosity-based publisher. He talks about both his writing and Concord Press in a candid interview with TVFH's Senior Editor, Mike French.

Order here  for $5.49 plus P&P for USA & Canada.

and £4.99 inc P&P for UK delivery directly on site here ...

Delivery address:

Interviews with ...
Stona Fitch,
John Dickinson,
Megan Taylor.

Original Fiction by:
William Falo,
Rebecca Stonehill,
Steven Harris,
HJ Hampson. 

Original Poetry by:
Sergio A. Ortiz,
Bruce McRae,
Puma Perl,
Matthew Friday,
Lark Beltrans,

Guest Writers:
Helen Miles & Sharon Blackie.

Flash Fiction by Kathleen Maher

Rabbit Writer monthly cartoon from Naomi Gill.

Book Reviews of
WE by John Dickinson,
Little Hands Clapping by Dan Rhodes.

with original art by Fossfor.
ISSN 1758-2903

Buy an annual or 6 month subscription today for yourself and save money off the cover price. Just click here !

Novels in Conflict

by Assaf Gavron

The success in recent years of the Israeli cinema, notably Academy Award nominations for "Beaufort", "Waltz with Bashir", "Ajami" and "Paradise Now" (a Palestinian movie produced and filmed in Israel,) together with the Grand Prix Award at the Venice Film Festival for "Lebanon," a Golden Globe for "Bashir" – and more – has reopened the debate among Israeli writers and film-makers, concerning what we should be writing about.

All the films listed above deal with war, or with Israeli-Arab relations. Add to them a string of novels that have had success overseas, such As Ron Leshem "Beaufort," David Grossman's "Until the End of the Land," and my own "CrocAttack!" And we have what can be seen as a trend of works relating to the Middle East conflict that do well outside Israel.

After the celebrations died down, there has been a sort of backlash. The question the critics are asking: is this all we can write about? Is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict our only claim to fame? Aren't we in danger of becoming a one-trick-pony? Can't we write other stories? Aren't we in fact educating the world to expect this one-dimensional voice?

Then, when it was noticed that some of these films and books did not do as well in their homeland as they did outside of it, a whiff of opportunism tickled the nostrils: is it possible that young Israeli artists are choosing this subject consciously in order to achieve international success? One very respected and successful writer said in an interview recently that he suspects some writers are choosing to write about the conflict as a way of breaking through abroad. Moreover, say the critics, it is too obvious and too painful: digging into pain and blood, shooting and then crying.

Of course, if the writer writes to please his potential publishers and readers, or to fulfill what he thinks is expected of him, that is wrong. But I feel the critics of Israeli conflict-writing miss a very important point: it is interesting. It is fascinating. Our fucked-up reality is heaven for story-tellers. Sure, families and adoptions and relationships and friendships, and all the things that make up life, can - and should be - the stuff of novels, but how can you be satisfied with those subjects when you have such a treasure trove of material on your doorstep?

A good writer can write about drying paint, shoe laces, or anything he wants, and make you drink in every word, but he must be interested in his subject, and even passionate about it. For some writers in Israel, the conflict is too close, too immediate, too frightening, too hard - and too real - to use for fiction, but for others, there is no more fascinating subject-matter than the conflict, with all its complexities, absurdities, passion, and emotions. By grouping all these works as "conflict stories," the critics are doing a great injustice to the impressive and original aspects that these works reveal, for example the breathtaking visual and sound design of "Bashir", or the clean, disturbing minimalism of "Beaufort".

It took me some time to get around to realizing this. My first three works of fiction took place outside Israel. The characters were Israelis, but they traveled to distant places. But then came the surreal period of daily suicide bombings and I felt I simply couldn't evade writing about it. I couldn't turn my back on it anymore. So I started writing what became "CrocAttack," a tale of two young men, an Israeli and a Palestinian, caught-up between 21st-century hitech and biblical hatred, between the modern and the ancient, between the slowness of life and its unbelievable speed. I had to write – if not for any other reason – for myself, as a postcard to my future, which will remind me how we lived at the beginning of this century.

A few years later I read an interview with Jay MacInerney, in which he said he felt the same way about 9/11. Norman Mailer had advised him, he said, to wait ten years before writing about such an event, to let the dust settle, to get the right perspective. But he couldn't wait. And nor could I. And I feel the same way about the novel I'm working on now, which is set in an illegal Jewish settlement on the Palestinian West Bank. Yes, at times it's stressful, it's heavy, it's sad. Maybe after I finish my current book I will need a break – possibly a romantic comedy in which violence doesn't exist. But for now, this is what I need to write. If I sound apologetic, I don't mean to. I think I am lucky to be in a position to write about the lives of people as history is forming and burning around them: some wounds are made for scratching. And some of those scratches turn out the most powerful sensation.

Born in 1968, Assaf Gavron is the author of four novels, a collection of short stories, and a nonfiction collection of Jerusalem falafel-joint reviews. His fiction has been translated into German, Russian, Italian, French, English, and more, and has won prizes, been adapted for the stage, and optioned for movie development.

He is also a translator of fiction. Among his highly regarded English-to-Hebrew translations are J. D. Salinger's Nine Stories, Philip Roth's Portnoy's Complaint, and Jonathan Safran Foer's novels. Gavron is also the co-translator of his own book Almost Dead from Hebrew to English.

Assaf Gavron was the chief writer of the prize-winning computer game Peacemaker, and he has also contributed to numerous newspapers and magazines, writing on subjects ranging from sports to politics, and from music to food.

CrocAttack! by Assaf Gavron is out now, published by Fourth Estate

To visit Assaf's site click here.

Photo credit Assaf: Moti Kikayon 
Photo credit top: Noyes

Welcome New Crew Member - Christopher Barrio

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by Michael J. Kannengieser

It is my pleasure to introduce the new photographer for The Front View for fiction, Christopher Barrio. After graduating college in 2009 with a BFA in Film/Video production, he now works full time as an Instructional Technology Specialist.

Christopher is a talented film maker and he is part of a team of young professionals who’ve formed a video production company called Collective 47 Productions. They have several projects which they are producing at this moment and their futures are very promising.

A native of Long Island, from Valley Stream, New York, Chris adds a youthful, vibrant, and modern style to his films and videos. Using photography, he creates bold images which accent the fiction at The Front View. Chris is dedicated and hardworking, and brings his skills and distinctive ideas to the forefront for each assignment. I am proud to welcome Christopher to the crew, at The View From Here.

- Photograph by Darren Hartman