Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Praise for Nirvana Bites and Trading Tatiana

As Nirvana Bites and Trading Tatiana are both on special offer at 99p each for the next week or so, I thought I'd post some reviews the novels received at the time when they were published. (In truth, several writer friends have ordered me to do this.) No links, I'm afraid, as these date back over ten years ago. However, I have managed to track down this on the wonderful Crimeficreader's blog (re Nirvana Bites) and this re Trading Tatiana. Also the late and much missed Maxine Clarke posted about Nirvana Bites on her Petrona blog.

Cath Staincliffe, Manchester Evening News
When unemployed Jen goes for an interview for a post as a researcher at the BBC she walks in on a scene of mayhem: a naked man stands on top of a ladder, his most private parts attached to a chain and his colleagues seemingly incapable of talking him down. But Jen recognises the man from his distinctive piercing as Stapled Stan, a regular on the S&M scene, and she persuades him not to jump. Stan, married to a high profile Tory MP, is being blackmailed and Jen is enlisted to try and find out who’s calling the shots. Assisted by fellow members of the Nirvana Housing Co-op, a handful of outlandish and damaged individuals who still manage to function as a collective, Jen becomes enmeshed in a world of murky dealing. Sustained by vegetarian feasts, regular spliffs and occasional flurries of direct action, the motley crew discover the trail leads them to the aquatic shop, Koi Korner. When Jen’s friends are on the receiving end of some very ugly violence things get a lot heavier. Comic crime caper from Alper who writes with panache and affection about the alternative worlds of co-operative living, new agers and fetishists. She’s very funny and … delivers a very entertaining read. A fresh voice we should hear more from.

Big Issue
A quick-paced and witty trawl through London’s sub-cultures.

Publishing News
A mix of funny, sad and astute.

Zaria Shreef, New Books Magazine
A funny, decidedly unpretentious thriller with a sub-cultural cast of characters and a fantastic heroine … From the first page NIRVANA BITES is a gripping, witty and distinctive read. It may stick in the throat of the old-school, anti-pc brigade, but its cast of lesbians, New Agers, animal rights activists and drop-outs is an engaging and refreshing alternative to the usual cast of fictional characters … An education for those who have no inkling of the S&M, drug and anti-capitalist scenes, it’s great fun.

Marcia Wellington, The Beaver
A hilarious whodunit set in the backdrop of the netherworld … A side to humankind that is dark and sinister yet, in spite of the negative environment, love and a true sense of family prevail. Woven into all this is a mystery to die for (some did) that kept me guessing to the end … It allowed me a peek into the dark, disturbing world of S&M, junkies and the otherwise fringe elements of society … A series of comical twists and turns … NIRVANA BITES is a definite must read for all mystery buffs. Otherwise it’s a good/funny/sad/whimsical book for those of us who just like a good read.

Tangled Web
Bursting with energy, NIRVANA BITES is a brilliantly observed comic triumph, and heralds the arrival of a highly individual and hilarious new voice. 

Give Me a Break
Becoming a bit fuzzy? Here’s a in yer face tale of blackmail, villainy, bondage and housing co-ops that really kicks. Get down to a bit of amateur sleuthing and have some laughs by all means, but wake up to what you know is really going on.

Daily Mirror
Look out for NIRVANA BITES by Debi Alper – dark comedy as Jen’s job at the BBC leads to bondage and blackmail

Families SouthEast 
Full of wild and whacky underground characters, involved in a weird world of eco-terrorists and S&M.

Magenta Publisher
Gripping stuff.

Gwyn Griffiths, Morning Star
Grim lives of desperate people told with love and humour. A 20th-century Welsh poet wrote that fiction, which is all lies, is closer than the historian to perfect truth. By that definition, the same would be true of the politician’s statistics. Those thoughts spin through the mind while reading Trading Tatiana, Debi Alper’s pacey, funny, heart-warming and ultimately tragic second novel. It is released at a time when Tony Blair and Michael Howard are out-bidding each other to show us all how tough they are – or will be – on asylum-seekers. They should read this novel. This is a political novel by a committed writer, writing from first-hand knowledge and detailed research. The snippets of information about the scale of what is done by those who live off the misery of others is enraging and heart-breaking. This is about the grim existence of desperate people clinging on at the brink, yet told with great humour and love. It is brilliantly written with all the underlying tensions of a terrific page-turner. Get out there, buy it and read it.
Catherine Hunt, Shotsmag
Here’s a welcome new crime writer … Alper’s theme isn’t original – she uses the current favourite crime, the traffic in prostitutes and the former iron curtain thugs who smuggle in naive, young girls, beat them up, terrorise them and then become their pimps – but her way of telling is refreshing. Her heroine and narrator is a thirty-something, ex-drug addict living the twentieth floor of a vile block of flats in the Old Kent Road. Jo Cooper has every right to be depressed and cynical but her voice is self deprecating, honest and optimistic. She vividly describes the sleaze and mess around her from the filthy, often broken lift, to the street battles between rival gangs. Multi-cultural London is her city and she loves everything about it but it is dirty, noisy and overcrowded so if people seek asylum there, she figures the place they leave must be hellish. Alper has a gift for voices; she can do Rasta, East End, posh, stroppy, anything at all. Her funniest scenes are those in neighbours’ kitchens when the women get together with their kids and chat. These are real characters not stereotypes and not to be disdained because they live in a grotty place. Moreover, they react to events and their thinking changes. She understands suspense, too. The pace is fast; as Jo gets further and further embroiled into what is patently a very dangerous situation, the tension increases, new characters get involved and the plot, as the cliché goes, thickens very satisfactorily.

Cath Staincliffe, author of the Sal Kilkenny mysteries and creator of Blue Murder, starring Caroline Quentin
‘My big fear is insanity. Everything else comes a long way behind.’ Ex-addict Jo Cooper is lonely, vulnerable and genuinely kind. She’s also brave and daft enough to offer sanctuary to a troubled teenage runaway. With compassion, humour and a strong sense of social justice Alper takes us for a walk away from the mainstream and into the seedier, needier, weirder side of London. An alternative, contemporary crime scene with the authentic flavour of life in the new, mean millennium yet there’s hope and belief too, in the potential of friendship and the possibilities of ‘families’ we choose rather than those we are born into.

Roz Clarke,
Debi Alper’s second novel, like “Nirvana Bites”, is set in the downtrodden areas of South London she knows well, areas of desolate high rise housing and vibrant street markets where silent desperation and glorious optimism walk hand in hand. Humour, tragedy, poverty and lawlessness are the daily diet of those who live in within the sprawling urban community and all these elements are evident in Debi’s blackly comic crime thriller. Debi writes with comic affection about the alternative worlds of co-operative living, new agers and fetishists. She has known the strong women who battle against the odds to survive and are knit into a supportive sisterhood. She has sympathy not condemnation for the junkies and the home boys. Debi has revealed that initially she wrote in episodes to read out at her writers’ group, that she didn’t know she was writing a novel. There’s something almost Dickensian in this approach, as there is in the element of social documentary she includes, in her characterisation and in the landscape against which her novels are set. Her photographer’s eye gives her writing a depth of detail and a reality that makes the story both stark and rich … her voice is fresh and bright and laced with a darkly delicious anarchic sense of humour.

Sparkling, fast paced and blackly comic.

Martin Tierney, Glasgow Herald
The second novel from the London-based writer is an unorthodox mix of comedy, kitchen-sink drama and dark thriller… Alper… move[s] the narrative seamlessly from the comic opportunities sexual perversion provides, to the darker, violent side of prostitution and sexual slavery.

Zoe Walker, South London Press
Alper’s portrayal of South London living is perhaps as honest a portrait as has yet been painted.

Fiona Hook, Big Issue
It’s funny how one thing leads to another. If Jo Cooper, ex-heroin addict and incurable helper of waifs and strays hadn’t decided to let the strange man she found on her roof in buttockless S&M gear into her top-floor flat in horrible, rundown Boddington Heights, she’d never have had enough money to take her neighbour’s kids to Brighton for the day. So she’d never have rescued a mystery girl from the thugs who were pursuing her, and the course of her life would have been different. The mysterious woman turns up at her flat … exposing Jo to a strange new world of illegal immigration and prostitution, where any victim who escapes must be ruthlessly hunted down. Its utter savagery is thrown into sharp relief by the everyday kindness of neighbours who band together to watch each other’s kids, the sweetness of agoraphobic Pete whose handmade candles Jo earns her living selling and the astonishing generosity and willingness to help of the housing co-operative she stumbles into in her quest for her visitor’s real identity. In trying to save her mystery guest, Jo finds her own salvation.

Love Reading
A blackly comic thriller where a London market trader finds herself plunged into the world of illegal immigration and teenage prostitution.

Trading Tatiana is a rapidly-moving novel that blends black comedy, soft politics and an array of well-developed characters to form a book that is immensely entertaining and packed with unexpected twists.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Over a decade later, the Nirvanans are back

As I draw closer to the publication of De Nada Nirvana, I'm feeling the excitement of releasing a new book into the world. Although each of my novels is able to stand alone, it's obviously best if people read them in sequence. And so ... drum roll ... I've reduced the price of Nirvana Bites and Trading Tatiana to 99p each for the next two weeks. Those links are to Amazon, but you can read extracts of both novels on my website.

I'm also taking this opportunity to look back at the amazing journey I had to publication, over twelve years ago now.

Unlike many debut authors, I hadn't been toiling away for years, I had no piles of unpublished MSs under my bed, and I had no ambitions to become a published author. I simply started writing a story to read out to my writers' group, with no idea that it would even be a complete novel, let alone any understanding about how publishing works. It's hard to believe that Nirvana Bites ended up being picked up directly by Orion and I was offered a two book deal with what nowadays would be considered a healthy advance. Nirvana Bites was published in 2002 and Trading Tatiana followed in 2005.

Trading Tatiana had a fraught journey, bless her. As the result of a series of unconnected (and sometimes tragic) events at the publishers, the novel went through four pairs of hands before landing up with an editor. The MS came back to me with comments and corrections made in all their different handwriting. I already knew that sales of Nirvana Bites had been decent but unspectacular. (This was pre-internet days, when word of mouth was much harder to access than it is now.) I also realised there was no one left at the publishers to promote my cause. By now, I was savvy enough to know that it was unlikely I'd be offered a subsequent deal by Orion and so I started the (some may say belated) search for an agent. (Worth noting that many long-established authors, including Val McDermid and Ian Rankin, have said their novels didn't take off until the fourth or fifth in the series and that if their career had begun a few years later, they would have been dropped.)

Ten years later and my agent had another three Nirvana novels. He loved each of them but, in spite of some near misses, he was unable to sell them to publishers who were unwilling to commit to a series in which the first two novels had already been published. Of course I was disappointed but you know what? It wasn't as bad as you may think. All authors go through rejection at some point. My career may have been arse-upwards to most others, but that didn't mean I could escape the inevitable pain. And what happened to me had been life-changing. Without that original deal, I wouldn't be doing what I do today. I've loved spending time over this last decade with other authors, polishing and perfecting their novels, crying with them when they get setbacks and dancing with them when they achieve success, in whatever form that may be.

But ... but ... I was still an author. I still had those unpublished novels and I still had people contacting me to ask when the next were coming out. Timing may have been instrumental in me not being offered a subsequent deal by Orion, but I'm also around at a time when I can bring those novels in front of readers by other means. The Nirvanans are back on the scene.

Now I need to adjust my thinking. Going it alone means that I need to wrap my head round pricing and promo and all that other stuff that I don't want to be taking up time and head space. I'm not good at this. It's not what I want to be doing. So don't look to me for answers about how to successfully publish and promote your own novels. I'll be crap at it. One thing I can do though, is write blog posts like this one and then FB and tweet the link. If you don't like the method, look away now.