The Palace of Curiosities

Rosie Garland on stage in the Museum’s Victorian Gallery

Last night I was lucky enough to be working an event as part of my ‘regular’ job that coincided with my interests as a writer. As part of the Manchester Literature Festival, Rosie Garland – author of The Palace of Curiosities‘ – did a reading in Manchester Museum‘s Living Worlds Gallery. The setting was perfect and I couldn’t help but rest my eyes on the taxidermy lion as Rosie read a section about Jambo – the circus lion in her novel. It was also well supported by a group of Victorian sideshow performers who created a fantastic atmosphere and set the tone for Rosie’s reading wonderfully. 

As I was working, I didn’t take my notebook with me so don’t have a detailed record of the questions asked and answered by Rosie. However, I really enjoyed her reading and the character she provided for the words written. As an author she actually performed her writing and I could detect the ambience of each scene by the way her voice wove itself around the words and the tone she used. I found her easy to listen to as a result. 

What struck me most was the immense challenge she faced in becoming a published author. She spoke of how difficult it was to find someone to publish The Palace of Curiosities, even with two agents. It wasn’t until she won the Mslexia Novel Competition in 2011 that the story got it’s chance to be introduced to the world. Therefore, it’s unsurprising that she offers the same advice to all budding novelists out there that we are, by now, familiar with: Don’t Give Up.  

Having won the Mslexia Competition, Harper Collins not only offered to publish The Palace of Curiosities but also contracted her to write a second book. She did, of course, have other novels finished and awaiting their chance, but the publisher insisted they wanted something fresh and Rosie admits that this was probably the best choice for her writing. This novel, set in the 14th Century, has just gone through a third round of edits so it’s on its way to becoming her second published novel. 

After the signing I was fortunate enough to chat to Rosie for a short time. I found her not only charming but also interested. She genuinely listened to me and when I asked her what had kept her going when it didn’t seem like her book was ever going to be published she answered with a plain and direct: ‘Bloody-mindedness’. 

She spoke about how she couldn’t stop writing even if no one ever got to see her work – something I have to say, I agree with. She was fortunate to have very supportive friends and the dedication inside the opening page reflects this: To everyone who believed I could get here, even when I didn’tThis, I have to admit, is one of the more touching dedications I have seen in a long while. 

You can buy Rosie’s book on Amazon here.

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One response to “The Palace of Curiosities

  1. Pingback: Take Heed and ‘Don’t Give Up’ | Cat Lumb: The Struggle to be a Writer

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