The March Violets singer Rosie Garland
As well as being the front-woman of one of the most prominent bands in the early-80s Leeds post–punkscene, The March Violets, Rosie Garland is a published novelist, has battled cancer and now has been long listed for one of the most prestigious prizes in debut literature.
Rosie’s fourth novel The Palace of Curiosities is now competing or the £10,000 Desmond Elliott Prize. But the road to success has been lined with obstacles.
She said: “This is my fourth novel and the tale of how I got to it was a lesson in perseverance. I was being told by publishers that “it wasn’t what they wanted” or being told to completely re-write the whole thing. I completely lost confidence in my ability.
“It took a cowardly agent not getting back to me to realise that if anything was going to happen I was going to have to do it myself.
“I entered a novel competition for Myslexia, a magazine for female writers and The Palace of Curiosities won the whole thing, with my third novel coming in second place. I thought you know what, maybe I can write! It
Finding out I’d been long listed for the Desmond Elliott Prize was a dream come true.To be listed among some amazing authors too is such an honour.”
The March Violets began in 1981 after the original band members met at Leeds University. They came along at a time when the post-punk wave was rife in Leeds, alongside the Sisters of Mercy, Three Johns and Red Lorry Yellow Lorry.
Rosie said: “I grew up in London but as soon as I got the chance I moved to Leeds aged 18. I still think of the day now as something of a major homecoming. It was around the time when punk was turning into post-punk and I felt like I’d landed on the right planet. Leeds was where all the best bands came from!”.
Rosie toured with the Subversive Stitch exhibition in the 90s and won the Dada Award for Performance Artist of the Year compering as her alter-ego Rosie Lugosi the Vampire Queen. Rosie’s interests have always lied within the alternative, and this comes out in spades in her latest book The Palace of Curiosities.
She explains: “I’ve always been interested in the idea of outsiders. Obviously with a lot of my interests in performance and alternative cabaret the reading about the history of the people in that world was a pleasure. I tried to tell the tale from the point of view of the characters rather than somebody looking in. I tried to really get under their skin.
“The book is set in the days of the early Victorian side-show, it is written from the point of view of two people. Eve, a girl covered in hair and Abel, the flayed man. Both are outcasted from Victorian society and their fates entwine. “
The Violets played a reunion gig in 2007. But Rosie developed throat cancer in 2009 and was forced to undergo chemo & radiotherapy, losing both her voice and her hair.
However in December 2009 she was given the all-clear and the band are back together.
Rosie said: “We were only interested in reforming if we were going to produce new material. If we were going to do this we would not become a tribute to ourselves.
“There are problems such as our guitarist now living in the US, and obviously my battle against cancer didn’t help but it feels nice to be back in the saddle again.
I can’t say too much about it just yet but we expect it to be released in autumn. In terms of gigs, though I’d say the possibility of a Leeds one I’d say is more than likely.”