It’s my pleasure today to share a sneak peek from ‘Half a World Away‘ by Sue Haasler. I really hope this extract whets your appetite.
My thanks to Dome Press and Sue Haasler for allowing me to be a part of the blog tour for this brilliant book.
HALF A WORLD AWAY
As he reached the door of his flat, out of habit, he glanced down the stairwell and something caught his eye. Picking up the coal bucket he’d left by the door, he walked down the next flight of steps. The paper was lying crumpled in a corner, kicked and trodden on by various passing feet. He picked it up, glanced at it, and dropped it into the bucket as if it was toxic. He walked quickly back up the steps and almost forgot to breathe until he was safely inside the flat, door double-locked.
He took off his scarf, folded it neatly and placed it on the polished surface of the old hall table. Opening a drawer in the table he took out a notebook. The Yellowish pages were ruled in faint grey squares. Picking up a pen, he entered the date – April 17th 1987 – and the name of his elderly neighbour, Frau Bergman. Next to that he noted the time and the word COAL. There was nothing else to add, so he picked up a ruler, drew a neat line and then made another entry for her neighbours. Flicking back a couple of pages, he found he already had quite a few entries about these neighbours, the Schmidts. The son: who came and went at all hours of the day and had recently adopted punk clothing. The mother: who occasionally flaunted carrier bags from Western supermarkets. The father: who seemed overly fond of drink.
The piece of paper lying at the bottom of the empty coal bucket made him feel uncomfortable. He picked it out with a thumb and forefinger and placed it on the table. Who had brought such a thing in to his house? He’d bet it was that Schmidt boy from upstairs. He looked just the type to go round with his pockets full of this kind of rubbish. Peace? Disarmament? It was nothing but thinly-disguised propaganda against the state. Very poorly printed, too. He placed it between the endpapers at the back of the book, closed the book and replaced it in the desk drawer. Behind it were five other identical books, all full of information. Each little entry on its own was nothing. It was all about the patterns, the trends. It was about being observant and meticulous, ensuring nothing was missed. It was about safety.
Hearing the voices on the stairs, Detlef Ohm returned to the peephole and softly brushed the cover aside.
About ‘Half a World Away‘
East Berlin, 1987.
Alex is a talented saxophonist, flirting with ‘Western’ jazz as well as girls. When he meets Nicky – a beautiful English girl visiting East Berlin as an au pair – she makes him feel that his dreams could become reality.
Detlev’s love for his country has always been enough for him, until Alex makes him feel things he never thought possible. But what use is his passion when its object doesn’t even know he exists?
As Alex meets a new group of musicians, he moves closer to influences considered subversive by a state that has eyes and ears everywhere – and Detlev’s unrequited feelings threaten to endanger them all.
Sue Haasler was born and brought up in Co. Durham and studied English Literature and Linguistics at Liverpool University.
After graduating, she moved to London and worked for three years as a residential social worker. Since then, she has lived as an administrator for a disability charity, which recruits volunteer carers for disabled adults.
Many of the volunteers are from abroad and this is how she met her husband, who is from the former East Berlin.
Sue has written four books, ‘True Colours‘, ‘Time after Time‘, ‘Two’s Company‘ and ‘Better Than the Real Thing‘. ‘Two’s Company‘ was optioned for film by Warner Bros.
She has been commissioned by the BBC to write an authorized tie-in to ‘Holby City‘. She is married with an adult daughter and lives in London.
Posted in Blog Tour, Books, Writing
Tagged book, Books, commissioned, disability, disabled, English, film, graduating, Linguistics, literature, novel, novels, written
Lots of people don’t realise that although you may see work by a certain author on the bookshelves in your favourite shop, many writers still hold down a day job in addition to penning their next novel. In this series, we talk to writers about how their current – or previous – day jobs have inspired and informed their writing.
My friend and client, Chris Ord, has led an interesting life and he’s here to talk about how every job he ever had led him to writing his debut novel ‘Becoming‘.
I have worked in education most of my career. It has been a major influence on my life and my writing. The most important thing it has given my writing is discipline and structure. These skills are often underestimated. Yes, there are lots of factors involved, but I think these are the most important ones, along with self-belief.
I began my career as an English language teacher, living and working abroad, then taught at Warwick University before moving into education research and policy. I chose education because it represented freedom and that was something I craved as teenager. There weren’t many opportunities for young working class kids in the North East in the eighties. The pits were closing and industry was dying. The service economy hadn’t really found its way up north. Education was my way of taking some control of my life and escaping. After university I decided I wanted to give something back, help influence and inspire others. Education had changed my life, and I believed it had the power to do the same for others.
My move into education policy was my attempt to change the world, or at least a small part of it. I soon realised how misguided and naive I was. Things weren’t as I imagined or would have liked them to be. Education policy was all about putting young people into boxes, training them for the needs of UK PLC. It wasn’t about finding the talent or creativity of young people, but sifting and sorting, spoon feeding them Maths and English.
I believe every child is special. Everyone has a talent and something to offer. It’s the job of education to find that talent, nurture it and help it grow. Every young person needs to find their own sense of freedom and the best way to contribute to their community and society. Education is too narrow and it’s letting our young people down. This was one of the big themes I had in my mind when I gave up my career in education in 2015 and decided to write Becoming. I wanted to write a book about how I felt in my late teens, what my frustrations were, and how difficult it was to make the transition into the adult world. That’s what the book is about. It’s also about young people trying to find who they are, how the adult world treats them, how it fails them.
My eldest son gave me a wonderful piece of advice which I tried to follow – ‘I want to read books written about young people, but not for them.’ I tried to write from that perspective rather than trying to guess what might interest a young person. I wanted to write something exciting that I would enjoy reading, and hopefully others would too. I think if you try to second guess an audience you’re likely to fail. Everyone is so different and you only really know what you like. Just write from your heart and I think your passion and sincerity will come through.
Posted in Don't Quit the Day Job, Writing
Tagged advice, audience, book, Books, career, community, creativity, day job, education, English, interest, job, North East, read, reading, self-belief, society, story, university, working, write, writer, writing, written