Who Are The People in the Castle?

Tue 12 Apr 2016 - Filed under: Not a Journal., | Leave a Comment | Posted by: Gavin

The People in the Castle cover - click to view full sizeIt has been eight years since we published our first Joan Aiken title, The Serial Garden, and five (where does the time go?!) since the second, The Monkey’s Wedding, was released. Today is the publication day for our third Joan Aiken collection, The People in the Castle: Selected Strange Stories.

The book came about because Kelly and I had been talking to Joan’s daughter, Lizza Aiken, for a while about what fun it would be to make a selection of favorite stories from across the many, many collections Joan published — there are twenty-eight collections listed in the front matter of The People in the Castle, and that does not include some of her kid’s collections. (See all Joan’s books here.)

So Kelly and I went back and read as many of the collections as we could, which was obviously the most enjoyable part of the project and something I recommend replicating — you can usually find loads of her books at the library. Kelly has a better memory than me, so she would say something like How about story “x” from this book? or I love story “y” from that book and I’d go back and read it yet again and soon Kelly and I and Lizza came up with dream lists of stories we’d like to include. Of course the lists were too long and there was some horse trading (how about we drop these two stories but add this one? etc.) and in the end we had a list that satisfied everyone of twenty dark, funny, oddball, sometimes heart-wrenching stories. And now: they are a book!

We received finished copies of the book from the printer just in time to take with us to the AWP Conference in LA and we had the great pleasure of selling out of it very quickly — that cover has the magic pick-me-up quality that all publishers and authors everywhere are always searching for.

Kelly wrote an introduction to the collection:

“The particular joys of a Joan Aiken story have always been her capacity for this kind of brisk invention; her ear for dialect; her characters and their idiosyncrasies. Among the stories collected in this omnibus, are some of the very first Joan Aiken stories that I ever fell in love with, starting with the title story ‘The People in the Castle,’ which is a variation on the classic tales of fairy wives.”

The whole introduction — as well as the title story — is available for your reading pleasure on the Tin House blog and Kelly’s introduction segues beautifully into Lizza’s introduction, “The Power of Storytelling: Joan Aiken’s Strange Stories”:

“Joan Aiken once described a moment during a talk she was giving at a conference, when to illustrate a point she began to tell a story. At that moment, she said, the quality of attention in the room subtly changed. The audience, as if hypnotised, seemed to fall under her control.
‘Everyone was listening, to hear what was going to happen next.’
From her own experience, whether as an addictive reader from early childhood or as a storyteller herself, learning to amuse a younger brother growing up in a remote village, by the time she was writing for a living to support her family, she had learned a great respect for the power of stories.”

 Publishers Weekly gave the book a boxed, signed review: “There’s so much to love about this slender collection… The juxtaposition of mundane and magical…feels effortless and fresh. The language is simply splendid, so evocative, as though the stories were actually very dense poems. And it brilliantly showcases Aiken’s affectionate, humorous, deft portrayals of female characters… Aiken’s prose is extraordinary, impossible to do justice to in this small space. Her skill with the language of folk tales—specifically the oral storytelling native to the British Isles—is unparalleled.”

If you’d like a taste, try “The Cold Flame” which is available on Tor.com. This story makes me shiver and laugh every time.

Get your copy today: Small Beer · Weightless · Powell’s · IndieBound

Sale options:

  1. The People in the Castle (hc) + The Monkey’s Wedding (hc): $38
  2. The People in the Castle (hc) + The Monkey’s Wedding (hc) + The Serial Garden (pb): $50


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