Jane Shemilt gave up a career as a GP in Hotwells to write her first novel. She is Richard and Judy’s Book Club’s autumn favourite and is published by a major UK publisher, so what is she doing at a pub in Clifton on a cold Thursday evening?
Novel Nights is a monthly literary evening hosted by Emma Smith Barton and Grace Palmer. Last month’s event had Anna Freeman presenting her debut novel The Fair Fight, alongside Mike Manson whose new book is about the 1831 Bristol riots. There was also a talk on tips for writers speaking publicly. Next month, November 20, it is the turn of Jane Shemilt to headline the event.
“I have been very lucky that Richard and Judy have supported Daughter, which along with the terrific publicity from Penguin has really shone a spotlight on the book.
“Novel Nights does something very different. Writing is isolating. Being alone can last, if you’re lucky, for hours and hours, days even. But everyone needs a tribe and the Lansdown pub on Novel Nights is where you can turn up and find it. No matter where they are on the writing journey, all writers get it. They share the passion which even your nearest and dearest can struggle to understand.
“Much thought goes into the planning and organisation of the evening, and there is always something of immense value to take away: from the reading and experience of the writer who is headlining, the open mic which follows or talking and listening to colleagues. The memory of that communality sustains until the next time,” says Shemilt.
Shemilt is a Bristol author who has based her novel in her home city and also Dorset.
“Bristol offers a vast landscape of creative possibilities. The city and the docks are redolent of history which different writers have brilliantly exploited. Anna Freedman in The Fair Fight and Chris Wakling in The Devils Mask are two good examples. Nathan Filer’s Shock of the Fall and Fergus MacNeill’s Cut Out are compelling examples of contemporary fiction based in Bristol.
“This is a city of many different places. Some of them tightly juxtaposed. In my book I used the sharp difference between the protagonist’s home and work to deepen her conflicted sense of identity. Despite having a short distance to travel she entered very different worlds, becoming someone else each time.
“Bristol novelists are lucky. We are not only blessed with great settings, we have another unique resource, Durdham Down Bookshop in North View [Westbury Park]. The last independent family run bookshop in the city is proactively and completely supportive of local novelists.”
Shemilt’s second book, which is set in Botswana and London, is currently being edited. Publication is next summer and the title is evolving. She has promised to let Bristol24/7 know before she tells Richard and Judy.