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Virtual Book Club: Angelena Boden introduces Edna’s Death Cafe

Today, I’m delighted to welcome Angelena Boden to Virtual Book Club, my interview series which gives authors the opportunity to pitch their novels to your book club.

Angelena describes herself as having a touch of the north wind in her nature. Her free spirit has taken her all round the world, living and working, absorbing new cultures and languages. Her greatest fantasy was to have a magic carpet to go anywhere on a whim. Retirement at sixty made her anxious and miserable so she channelled her frustrations into writing fiction. Three years and three books later, she still suffers from imposter syndrome when she describes her (third) career as an author.

Her new release is Edna’s Death Cafe (release date 5 September 2018). 

“Religious fanaticism clashes with Victorian spiritualism as Edna’s meetings trigger lively conversations on the fragility of life, anxiety over dying, cost of funerals, and making sure long-lost greedy relatives don’t benefit from inheritances.

Soon, a series of events begin to unfold which threaten to undermine Edna’s livelihood and the Death Cafe meetings. These events just happen to coincide with the arrival of a mysterious stranger into the village.

Who is she and why is she so hostile to Edna?”

Q: What is it about Edna’s Death Cafe that you feel makes it particularly suitable for book clubs?

The novel tackles the themes of death, dying, funerals and legacy in a sensitive but humourous way. It should open up gentle conversations in book clubs about some of the issues, and encourage readers to explore end of life matters, bereavement and grieving without having to make it personal.  The mystery woman who arrives in the village presents the community with a dilemma, thus adding an extra dimension to the Death Cafe meetings. I feel readers will connect to, and feel for, the key characters who weave their own stories of loss into the mix.

Q: What was the seed of your story? 

I took the concept of the International Death Cafe movement, set up by Jon Underwood in 2011, and wove it into a story. Anyone can set up a Death Cafe, and I’ve attended a number of them over the past year, so I imagined an eighty-year old woman with an established tea-shop, starting one in the village after the sudden death of her partner. It was a way of coming to terms with loss and helping others to do the same.

“A witty, engaging and beautifully told story about a subject that we often shy away from – dealing with the realities of death. Despite the seemingly dark subject matter, it made me laugh out loud (OK, I snorted!), but also made me pause for thought. Highly recommended.” ~ Review by Sara 

Q: The protagonist in the Edna of the book’s title. What five words would you use to describe her?

Big-hearted, witty, pragmatic, feisty and determined. She is almost eighty.

Q: Where is the book set and how did you decide on its setting?

It’s set in Derbyshire, my home county. I chose an area of the Peak District known as the Dark Peak because of its raw stretches of moorland and granite boulders which provide an atmospheric backdrop to the novel. My happiest memories as a child are tramping the hills with my Grandad.

Q: George Saunders wrote about not wanting to be the guy whose own gravestone would read, “Afraid to Embark on Scary Project He Desperately Longed to Attempt.” Does this sound familiar?

Oh definitely. My three novels to date have been controversial but I think Edna’s Death Cafe touches the parts of us that trigger the greatest anxiety. As someone who suffered from thanatophobia after my father’s death in 2013, I found that being able to really talk about my own fears of non-existence helped me embrace the message of the Stoics. ‘I am endeavouring to live every day as if it were a complete life. I do not indeed snatch it up as if it were my last; I do regard it, however, as if it might even be my last.’  Seneca

Edna, having graduated in philosophy at the age of seventy-five, draws on some of the wisdom of the Greek and Roman philosophers in her meetings, but in way everyone can understand. I am a signed up member of modern Stoicism!

I was told by a number of people in the publishing industry that they loved the storyline and that the writing was fresh, original, and imaginative. Some wanted to take it on but they didn’t feel they could sell it/find a publisher. I know that I’ve tackled this subject in the best way possible to raise awareness and so I’m hoping that by self-publishing I can prove them wrong.

Q: You have had experience of both traditional and indie publishing. How do the two compare?

This question leads on nicely from the previous one! I’ve used Matador for the preparation of Edna’s Death Cafe – copy editing, cover design, formatting for the e-version and they’ve consulted me at every step of the process. My first two novels were taken up by an indie publisher with an enthusiastic director at the helm but I feel that their focus is constantly shifting to new releases and there is little engagement once your book is old news. In both cases, the author has to be marketing and media savvy and keep expectations realistic if not low. With publishers being so risk-averse, and bookshops for that matter, I feel that self-publishing will be the most attractive option for those writing out of the box. Matador are bringing this book out to my timetable and that’s a real bonus.

Q: With the number of self-published books increasing by 59% last year alone, it’s increasingly difficult for authors to make their books stand out. How do you go about this?

To be as professional as possible. Invest in the editorial service once you are ready to publish. Hire the best designer and marketing professional you can afford. Engage with your readers and be friendly and courteous to everyone on social media. Treat readers and valued and loyal customers and concentrate on writing the best book possible each and every time. Fate will do the rest.

The novel will be available from September 5th 2018 on as an e-book. Plans for the paperback are underway.

 https://www.troubador.co.uk/bookshop/contemporary/ednas-death-cafe/

Want to find out more about Angelena and her writing?

Angelena would be very happy to talk to book clubs about Edna’s Death Cafe either in person or on Skype.

She can be contacted via her website where she uploads regular blogs and on Twitter  The Mountain Writer @AngelenaBoden

If there’s anything else you’d like to ask Angelena please leave a comment.  

***

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