Cover artist


Teresa Villegas, artist, book illustrator and writer is responsible for the beautiful cover on The Birdskin Shoes.  I chose the image because of its Latin American feel and because the design of birds and banners was so glorious.  It took me a long time to find what I was looking for.  I'd seen one or two artworks that I liked but they lacked that extra something.  When I discovered these paintings I knew I had what I needed.  I drew up a contract with Teresa allowing me (for a one-off sum) to use the image for promotion purposes and the cover of the book, and her work is acknowledged in the book. Graphic designers then turned her image into a book cover.
 It turns out that Teresa Villegas and I both spent time in the same town in Mexico in the same year.  I love the idea that we may have passed each other on the street. Please look on her website to view more of her gorgeous work and www.amazon.com for her book, Loteria!


As featured in the The Observer - well maybe...

Having read a piece on a new novelist (26) inThe Observer, who it appeared could do everything but fly, I decided to write  one all of my own. My tongue was slightly in my cheek but all of it is true especially the part about the book having bestseller written all over it (well not literally of course, at least not yet).

Ah, a debut novelist.  But isn't it virtually impossible for anyone to get their first book published?
Self-publishing is the real deal now, do you think publishers need to sit up and take note? Having won short story awards and had several stories on Radio 4 Joan Taylor-Rowan has just self-published her first novel -The Birdskin Shoes (through Amazon).  It is rather brilliant.

OK, we've got our reading glasses on: more detail please. The Birdskin Shoes is a marvellous tale of love and redemption that transports the reader from the grey skies of rural Ireland to the dazzle of the Mexican circus in the company of Joey, a young man with a remarkable gift but a guilty conscience. Taylor-Rowan is half-Irish and has travelled extensively in Mexico - but has never performed in a circus. She has been up the Amazon on her own though and also has a PhD.

But writers often struggle after their first novel don't they? Pah! She has already plotted her second and is in the middle of the research - a story of alienation set in the heyday of Space exploration.  She also has a book of short stories ready for publication.

Words words words. What does she do in her spare time? Paying a mortgage is of course a prime concern so she works full-time teaching Art and Design, but she still manages to make and sell textile artworks, run the occasional pop-up ice cream parlour and write the libretto for a musical based on one of her short stories with a young composer who is currently performing his own songs on E4's Playing it Straight.  She also has just started to learn swing dancing - after all the body needs a bit of fun too.

She says: I think if I picked up this book, I'd say, "why hasn't anyone published this yet – it has bestseller written all over it! - plus the most beautiful cover on Kindle."  Her favourite writers include Carol Shields, Annie Proulx, Laurie Lee, Truman Capote and Carson McCullers.

We say: If only she was young and moody-looking we might feature her, but at her advanced age (52) she might not live long enough to prove us (and Waterstone's) right.

The Birdskin Shoes is available now at www.amazon.co.uk

Or read Ms. Taylor-Rowan's blog through http://www.joantaylorrowan.com


New Short Story


This story was selcted by Storytails back in July and you should be able to hear it through this link, let me know what you think.

Absence makes the art grow stronger

Baby didn't look quite as I'd hoped when I lifted her Kindle blanket so I decided to do some additional work.  As with any child, it's very hard to know when to stop interfering and let them be. Each time I go back and read something I've written there is a word or phrase that still niggles.  Sometimes it's because I've become overattached to a metaphor and I'm going to shoehorn it in whether its right or not; sometimes the pace is wrong, or the word not quite accurate enough. 
But absence makes the art grow stronger. After a couple of weeks I finally downloaded and read my own book as a new reader would. I read the first page and knew I had to fix it.  Luckily with e-books you can make changes and then upload again.  I spent two night playing with words, paragraphs and rhythms until it felt right.  It's the first page after all, it's got to grab the reader and give an immediate sense of the book's style and mood.
You might think that to have got to the stage of publication and not sorted the first page was somewhat remiss but I assure you, that page had been worked and reworked more than a hundred times - and that is the problem.  Like a piece of pastry it had become overworked and grey. It had lost it's spring and I'd lost the ability to see it.
The new beginning I hope, has the reader actively involved with the earthquake along with the character; in the first edition the reader was watching along with the character which I think was less effective.  If you have bought it already and want to read the new beginning use "Look Inside" feature on Amazon. (And by the way this is about the fifth version of this post, having found numerous changes were required when I looked at it this morning.)


It's an e- Book!

I've finally delivered, after a long labour.  Mother and offspring are doing nicely. It was a little late - but the first ones usually are. The formatting looks clear and the cover in colour looks splendid. I can't quite believe it and keep smiling to myself everytime I think about it. So many decisions to be made, pricing, method of payment, DRM (Digital Rights something) I did think it might never happen.  I hope you buy it, read it and love it and if you do let others know and please leave a comment here and on Amazon. If you hate it you'll have to ask Amazon for a refund.
I've had one written review:

"A wonderful tale about love and redemption set in a Mexican Circus. Joan Taylor-Rowan writes with great freshness and assurance, and her descriptions of the 'cirqueros' and circus life are pitch perfect. I LOVED this book; and it deserves every possible success." - (Katie Hickman, award-winning travel writer and best selling  author of A Trip to the Light Fantastic - Travels with a Mexican Circus, The Pindar Diamond, The Aviary Gate.)


It's a Miracle

This is from a collection at the Wellcome Foundation - fantastic place on the Euston Road full of marvels. Exhibition on until February of ex-votos - Mexican paintings to thank various Holy Beings for prayers answered. This mother prayed to St Francis for her son to return home and he did - as he looks dressed for Studio 54 we might well ask where he has been...
Some wonderful  prayers though...
"In the middle of my suffering I invoked with intimate truth at the core of my heart the Powerful Queen of the Mexican Nation, Our Mother of Guadeloup who cured me..."

Two fantastic film clips, one from a man who rescued a woman from the earthquake of 1985 by using his back as a leverage point for a crowbar to raise a concrete door, and he survived without breaking his back. Very moving witness to human courage. And from the sublime to the ridiculous a woman invoked Senor de Villaseca because she couldn't make round tortillas.  Her prayers were granted and she made an entire basket full of them and called all her family to witness it. 


Creature comforts...

 CAPTAIN COSTENTENUS   The Tattooed PrinceCaptain Constentus, claimed to have been tattooed against his will in Burma (almost certainly untrue although his tattoos are certainly Burmese in style) and was a great attraction in the Barnum and Bailey circus in 1870's, reputedly earning $1000 a week. I noticed in the summer the incredible amount of people who are heavily tattooed now, sporting everything from gorgeous Japanese style flowers and fishes to futuristic anime inspired creatures.  I'm sure he could have incorporated his nipples into the design in some more imaginative way. I've never had a tattoo but if I sell 1000 copies of my novel I must just do it.  Why am I so interested in tattoos - you'll have to read The Birdskin Shoes to find out. Found this image at www.thehumanmarvels.com.