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"Just be who you are, calm and clear and bright." - Richard Bach, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah

The Rental Heart giveaway!

One night, sitting cross-legged on cushions with the lamps painting the traveller’s skin in licks of honey, the empress hears a sound like a heavy curtain pulled back, and knows it is the sound of fate. She has been a beast for so long, and she is tired of trickery and glamour. She wants only this: to rest, to breathe, to live as if it were a choice.

—from “Tiger Palace”


9781907773754frcvr.inddOne of many awesome things about my Hawthornden residency last year was getting to know Glasgow-based writer and literary editor Kirsty Logan. During our time at the castle Kirsty wrote hard and read voraciously, and I could always count on her for great book recs. (Gossip from the Forest is still patiently waiting its turn.) During our last week at Hawthornden we each read from our works in progress, and I was enthralled by the first chapter of Kirsty’s novel, The Gracekeepers, the story of a floating circus in a world where land is scarce and acrobats have to perform for their food. You know I’m not a huge fan of straight-up literary fiction—as I always say, I get enough real life in real life—so dipping into Kirsty’s imagination is a dark and clever treat.

Twenty-fourteen has been a fantastic year for Kirsty—not only has she published her first story collection, The Rental Heart and Other Fairytales, but she also found out that The Gracekeepers will be published by Random House on both sides of the Atlantic! The novel is coming out in the spring of 2015, and I’m crossing my fingers Kirsty and I will be able to coordinate an event or two.

And in the meantime we have The Rental Heart, which subverts classic fairy tale tropes to delightfully disturbing effect. Here’s an excerpt from “The Gracekeeper,” the jumping-off point for the novel of nearly the same name, in which people mourn their dead for only as long as it takes a caged bird to die:

Weeks have slipped by on my chunk of land and today is the Resting I have been sickening over for months, for always. I choose the biggest grace I can find and rub at its cage until it gleams like fresh pennies, but tears are salted and I must repolish three times before it is ready. I did not visit and now I cannot look at what is in the box, to see her eyes misted over and her jaw sunken back. Instead I say the words over and over in my head until they lose all meaning.

I wonder now why other Resting parties let me say the words. They let me recite them like poems learned at school, knowing that I do not apply them to the scrap of person in the wooden box or to the burning star of their loved one’s memory.

So I look down at the box, and I say the words, and for the first time I understand them. My last link to the world has gone. I know what it means to be a stranger.

I’m excited to be giving away a copy of The Rental Heart, which Kirsty signed for me at her launch event last month at Looking Glass Books in Edinburgh. Playing “this or that” with McCormick Templeman was terrific good fun, so we thought we’d do another round. (For straight-up interviews and advice for aspiring writers, check out the links on Kirsty’s press page.)

Typing or longhand? Typing, because I am lazy. I do keep a longhand journal though.

Dragons or unicorns? Unicorns, because SHINY.

Faeries or mermaids? Mermaids, because they’re sexy but will destroy you.

Cyborgs or astronauts? Cyborgs, because I’m too claustrophobic for spaceships.

Mojito or margarita? Mojito, because sugar plus alcohol is always good.

Wise Children or Nights at the Circus? [since Kirsty has been compared to the great Angela Carter!] Oh, tricky! Let’s say a Carter omnibus containing both (cheating, I know…)

Mountains or sea? Sea, because it calms me and brings me back to myself like nothing else can.

Perrault or Andersen? Andersen, because he was a very curious man and his stories are darker than most people realise.

Invisibility or immortality? Invisibility, because I am nosy and want to know everyone’s secrets.

Halloween or Christmas? Halloween, because nothing beats a truly scary story.

Castle or spaceship? Castle, because claustrophobia.

Raspberry trifle or double chocolate cake? Trifle, because all the layers mean every mouthful is different.

Time travel: backward or forward? Backward, because I don’t think you could go forward and then come back home again.

(…And I’ll ask this again since it elicits emphatic reactions…)

Gaiman or Pullman? Pullman, because I want to be friends with Lyra.



On the staff picks shelf at Foyle’s.


To enter the giveaway, all you have to do is leave a comment answering one of the above “this-or-thats.” As always, tweets, RTs, and Facebook shares garner extra entries. Contest closes Friday, May 30th at 5pm ET.

Please note that because The Rental Heart is not yet published in the U.S., I’d prefer a reader outside the U.K. to have the chance to read and enjoy this lovely book. If you are in the U.K., please feel free to enter on behalf of a friend. Thanks so much!


Thanks so much to everyone who entered—”this-or-that” inspired some really beautiful responses!

12 Comments to The Rental Heart giveaway!

  1. Jen's Gravatar Jen
    May 26, 2014 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    Ooh, I’ve been interested in this book (and now I’m also interested in the Edinburgh bookstore… sigh).

    I’ll answer Gaiman to your “Gaiman or Pullman” question – he’s definitely one of the writers who influences me most.

  2. May 26, 2014 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    Invisibility or immortality? Invisibility, because mourning a beloved is crushing.

  3. May 26, 2014 at 11:58 pm | Permalink

    Castle – my Scottish roots will always lead me down the stone castle path.

    Mermaids – for their song.

    Christmas – because everyone should have an opportunity to start brand new, like a child.

    Sea – I’m a Cancerian born on the coast of Central California. Sea water is in my blood.


  4. Heidi's Gravatar Heidi
    May 27, 2014 at 7:11 am | Permalink

    Typing or longhand – longhand, because I love the feeling of the words slipping through my fingers onto a crispy piece of paper, noticing the newly formed blotches on my fingers of the pen’s ink, which inspires me to write more……!!!!

    Dragons or unicorns- unicorns….because living in Nairobi, Kenya I believe I’ve seen many dragons already, especially in the traffic (hie-hie).

    Christmas or Halloween- Christmas for sure, because living in Africa there is nothing so imaginative as white Christmas with reindeer and snow. With lots of hot cocoa and the playing games with the elves.

    Warm wishes… I would love to read this magical contribution…ahhh!

    Asante sana (thank you in Swahili)

  5. May 27, 2014 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    Typing or longhand?

    Typing. For getting creative I need to combine tactile sense and being really fast to catch the flow of thoughts — and that’s only possible with typing (although I want to start sketchnoting. Perhaps a different approach for getting back to longhand :)).

    Lovely giveaway and thank you so much for sharing it with the MoM group!!!

    Hugs! Kati

  6. Kate's Gravatar Kate
    May 28, 2014 at 11:41 pm | Permalink

    Dragons – I could breathe fire, enough said.

    Faeries – I learned how tough it is to be a mermaid from Ariel.

  7. Sierra's Gravatar Sierra
    May 29, 2014 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

    time travel: Back… because my whole life I have glorified and romanticised the past, but the longer I study history I wonder, if there aren’t some things that we take for granted now ( I want to travel back and then return to the present with a new sense of perspective and sense of self to better understand the present… the way travel anywhere can do.

  8. Brian's Gravatar Brian
    May 29, 2014 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

    Castle. Because I’ve never been to one. And there are ore castles than spaceships …

    Best of luck on the story collection!

  9. May 30, 2014 at 7:58 am | Permalink

    Dragons or unicorns? Dragon(s), of course, my anagramic siblings!

  10. Melanie's Gravatar Melanie
    May 30, 2014 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    Invisibility or immortality: Invisibility, for never-ending people watching and total autonomy all over the world.

  11. Vincent White's Gravatar Vincent White
    May 30, 2014 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    Castle or Spaceship: As a kid i loved castles. They were adult forts built right, not weak blankets draped around a bunk bed…Those adult builders meant business and knew how to keep monsters out. But monsters could eventually find their way my answer is a spaceship so i can leave the monsters far below where they will never reach me.

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Hi! I'm Camille. I only write stories that could never ever happen in real life, though I do believe in real-life magic. If we were in the same room I'd fix you a cup of tea, but for now we'll have to settle for a virtual connection. I'm really glad you're here.