Sarah Fairbairn meets local Alice Slater, who’s celebrating a high-profile deal for a book about books, set in the ‘stow…
Writing in Waltham Forest seems to be going from strength to strength.
Just last month, it was announced that Leyton resident Alice Slater will have her debut novel published by Hodder & Stoughton. Entitled Death Of A Bookseller, the novel has been described as ‘deliciously dark’. It is a crime thriller, set in an imagined bookshop nestled halfway down Walthamstow Market.
It’s due to hit shelves in spring 2023, but Alice’s name may become familiar before then. She currently co-hosts the literary podcast What Page Are You On? with former E17 resident and author Bethany Rutter. The podcast is a fun exploration of the two writers’ reading habits, full of witty insights on everything from post-apocalyptic novels to the classics.
Having lived in the borough since 2012, some may even remember Alice as a bookseller herself, at the Walthamstow branch of Waterstones on Selborne Walk.
“Bookselling is the entire backbone of my book,” Alice says. “It’s about two booksellers with very different values, the ethics of ‘true crime’ and who really owns the stories we tell.”
The bookshop she’s created to host the story, however, is a world away from Waterstones. This fictional store “struggles to stay afloat, and over the years it has become increasingly neglected”.
The novel’s synopsis reads: “Roach, a bookseller and a loner, is content to spend her days hoarding true crime proofs, listening to murder podcasts, and sneering at the predictable tastes of her ‘normie’ customers.
“That is, until Laura joins the bookshop. Everyone loves Laura, with her neat outfits, literary tote bags, and beautiful poetry. But Laura has a dark side that only Roach can see, and when Roach uncovers her tragic past, curiosity blooms into obsession…”
Despite having an MA in prose fiction from the University of East Anglia, Alice says she feels lucky to have secured such a well-established publisher for her first novel.
“Writing is such an insular process, and it’s just such a wild ride to suddenly have a team of people who are invested in your work,” she shares. “I’m still really early in the process but honestly, it’s an absolute dream.”
And as she works through her edits, I ask Alice if she has any advice for anyone thinking about beginning to write their own novel.
“Read deeply, write whenever you feel like it and trust your instincts as a reader to craft something you’d like to read yourself. There is no magical formula, just vibes.”
Death Of A Bookseller will be published by Hodder & Stoughton in Spring 2023