15 June 2017

Book Launch Guest Post: On Angel Aid and Optimism: Story-Telling in the Age of Trump, by Katrina West

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

A middle-aged saleswoman becomes a Hollywood star.
A spoilt celebrity becomes a suburban housewife.
An angel becomes a human being.

2016 was an annus horribilis with a series of terrorist attacks in Europe and elsewhere, the Brexit vote in the UK and political turmoil in the USA. It was supposed to be a one-off, a year when fake news and Murphy’s Law prevailed. But then came 2017, and things didn’t get any better.

So, if this is the new climate in international politics, what is it going to do for publishing trends? In other words, if Trump and populism succeed in the real world, who is going to shine in the fictional world? What kind of novels are going to sell well in this new era of gloom and division?   

Some say that dystopian novels will be the Next Big Thing in literature, that people need that escape from reality, however gloomy, to understand where we stand as societies and why. Who knows, maybe that is true – but I rather like the answers the thriller and science fiction novelist Dean Crawford gave in Joanna Penn’s interview the other day. They both predicted that there should be a resurgence in outrageously happy stories – in ‘cozy mystery knitting romance’, as Joanna Penn put it.

I couldn’t agree more with this, and maybe for this reason, already a few years ago, I started to envisage a fantasy series that is sunny and optimistic, full of hope. Called the Angel Aid series, these books are just as luminous as most fantasy books are dark. They are not just fantasy – no, they are first and foremost feel-good fantasy, and they narrate the human life of a former angel, and the rise and fall of a charitable agency in a small Tuscan village. There’s plenty of friendship, and sisterhood, and people lending a helping hand to other people. And of course, they make mistakes. And fall. But eventually, they get up again. Good prevails, in the end.

Happy endings are, of course, part of the menu. (How could it be otherwise?) But, mind you, not sickly sugary forced happy endings, but true-to-life, down-to-earth happy endings, where the characters get what they need, and not what they want.

In the first book of the series, The Thousand Tiny Miracles of Living Twice, a middle-aged suburban housewife wishes to die. But an angel hears her prayers, and makes her dreams come true. She is catapulted into the body of a Hollywood A-lister; afterwards, her life is full of red carpet events and glamour.

That is the start – the incident that sets everything into motion, and creates a strange kinship between a spoiled celebrity, a fifty-something housewife and an impish angel. The result is a series-long alliance, a peculiar community of humans and angels living on the hills of Tuscany, amidst vineyards and olive groves. They’re there to help people, to open doors, to nurture trust and hope.

Obviously, their path is full of problems and setbacks. But the chances are that they just might make it; that their Angel Aid project will change that sleepy Tuscan village in ways no one could have foreseen before.

And maybe – just maybe – if they can do it, so can we.

Katrina West

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About the Author

Katarina West is the author of Witchcraft Couture and Absolute Truth, For Beginners. She was born in Helsinki, Finland, into a bilingual family that in addition to humans consisted of dogs, cats, horses, guinea pigs, canaries, rabbits and – thanks to her biology teacher mother – stuffed owls and squirrels. She spent time travelling in Africa, Asia and Latin America, and went on to study at Queen Mary and Westfield College in London and the European University Institute in Florence, where she completed a PhD in political science and published a book based on it, Agents of Altruism. During those student years she started work as a journalist, and continued writing for various Finnish magazines and newspapers for over ten years, writing on various topics from current events and humanitarian issues to celebrity interviews and short stories. She also briefly worked as a university lecturer on humanitarian issues in Northern Italy. Katarina lives in an old farmhouse in Chianti with her husband and son and when not writing, she is fully immersed in Tuscan country life, from jam-making and olive-picking to tractor maintenance. Find out more at Katerina's website katarinawest.com and find her on Facebook and Twitter @WestKatarina.

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